Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States

Edited by: Lalor, John J.
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New York: Maynard, Merrill, and Co.
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Includes articles by Frédéric Bastiat, Gustave de Molinari, Henry George, J. B. Say, Francis A. Walker, and more.
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UTAH, a territory of the United States. Its area was a part of the first Mexican cession (see ANNEXATIONS, IV.); and at the organization of the territory, by the act of Sept. 9, 1850 (see COMPROMISES, V.), it contained 220,196 square miles. Since its organization it has been largely reduced by portions which have been taken from it and added to Colorado, Nebraska, Nevada and Wyoming. It is now a compact, nearly square territory of 84,476 square miles. Its population, by the census of 1880, was 143,963, so that it is the most populous of the territories, if we except the District of Columbia. Its capital is Salt Lake City, and its governor (1880-84) is Eli H. Murray.


—The American territorial system (see TERRITORIES) is essentially and altogether an adjunct to the federal system. A more complete antipode to the mercantile colonial system of a century ago could hardly be stated or imagined. The American territory is practically under the absolute control of congress; and yet it is never thought of except as on the way to self-governing statehood. It is useless, indeed, is worse than useless, unless it is considered as an inchoate state. And yet here is a territory, already containing the full voting power of a congressional district, whose possible statehood not only is unconsidered, but would be considered only as a worse peril to American institutions than its present absolute government. The territory of Utah is the anomaly of the American system; and the question of its proper treatment is one of the most serious and perplexing problems of American politics. It has two distinct aspects, that of Mormon polygamy, and that of the Mormon hierarchy. In considering them, two features of the American system must be constantly kept in view. 1. The subjects of marriage and divorce are exclusively state concerns. Congress may forbid polygamy in a territory, but, as soon as the territory becomes a state, its legislature acquires entire control of marriage within its jurisdiction. If any of the present state legislatures should abolish their penal laws against bigamy, and either expressly or tacitly permit plural marriages, there is no power outside of the voters of the state which could intervene. 2. Once a state, always a state. When a state once secures the power of self-government, whether by surprise, by secret purchase, or after deliberate consideration, no power can legally revise the action of congress in the admission: even congress is unable to reconsider its action, and the state is equally unable to forfeit its position, except by expressly abandoning its statehood and expressly demanding a return to a territorial condition. (See RECONSTRUCTION.) Mr. S. G. Fisher, as cited below, some twenty years since stated and advocated what he considered as the right of congress to expel a state, or the right of a state to secede with the express permission of the same congressional authority which admitted it: but this view has never been accepted. One of the fundamental provisions of the constitution is, that not even an amendment shall be passed to deprive any state, without its consent, of its equal suffrage in the senate. The population of a state may diminish to almost nil, or its moral conditions may be shocking to the rest of the country, but its statehood must continue as long as it demands it.


Mormon Polygamy. The growth and conditions of this institution have been elsewhere stated. (See MORMONS.) The revised statutes of the United States prohibit polygamy in the territories, and jurisdiction of offenses against the prohibition is in the federal courts of the territories, with a power of writ of error, by act of June 23, 1874, from the United States supreme court to the supreme court of the territory. This was found ineffectual from the difficulty of obtaining evidence; and the stringent "Edmunds Act" was passed March 22, 1882.


—The provisions of the Edmunds act are, in general, as follows: 1. The offense of bigamy (U. S. Rev. Stat., § 5352) is restated, and made punishable by fine and five years' imprisonment. 2. Cohabitation with more than one woman is made a misdemeanor, punishable by fine and six months' imprisonment. 3. Jurymen may be challenged for being guilty of bigamy or of unlawful cohabitation, or for believing it right to commit such offenses. 4. The president is authorized to grant amnesty for past offenses. 5. The issue of Mormon marriages up to Jan. 1, 1883, is legitimated. 6. Bigamy, polygamy and unlawful cohabitation are made bars to voting and to eligibility for election or appointment to any office under the territory or the United States. 7. All the registration and election offices of Utah are declared vacant. 8. Five commissioners are to be appointed by the president, with exclusive power to appoint subordinates for the purpose of registering voters, conducting elections, receiving or rejecting votes, canvassing and returning votes, and issuing certificates. 9. More opinion as to the right of bigamy or polygamy is not to be a bar to a seat in the legislature.


—The first election held under the provisions of the Edmunds act resulted in an almost exclusively Mormon legislature, devoted to the maintenance of the corporate right of the church of latter-day saints to hold and enjoy its wealth. It is very evident, that, while polygamy is to be retained as a distinguishing mark for a peculiar people, it is to be practiced only by those who have an exclusively ecclesiastical ambition, and that the church will always take care to have monogamists ready to care for its political interests. No one can suggest any further step in the direction of the Edmunds act, except to make opinion a bar to a seat in the legislature. And that would mean the temporary abolition of legal government for Utah, and the relegation of government functions to the moral control of the church, through its unofficial courts of arbitration.


—As a final remedy, it has been proposed to adopt an amendment to the constitution, prohibiting polygamy in the United States, and empowering congress to enforce the prohibition. An amendment to that effect was introduced at the opening of congress in December, 1883, but has not yet been acted upon. It may be that such an amendment, with appropriate legislation to back it, might solve the problem and make it safe to admit Utah as a state. But considerable caution should be felt in coming to this conclusion after our experience with the fourteenth and fifteenth amendments. They were supposed, at the time of their passage, to be so carefully framed that they had transferred the protection of the civil rights of the enfranchised negro race to congress. But the supreme court has decided, in effect, that these civil rights were primarily under the protection of the states; that a diminution of the power of the states must be express to be valid; that these amendments gave to congress only a veto power over unconstitutional state legislation; and that individual offenses are still in the domain of the states. Why may not the proposed anti-polygamy amendment meet the same fate? Suppose that Utah is admitted after the amendment is passed; and that her legislature as carefully refrains from passing laws permissive of polygamy as from punishing polygamy by individuals. May we not then find that the sixteenth amendment is as much of a practical delusion as its two predecessors? And it will then be too late, it must be remembered, to return Utah to a territorial condition. Surely the hazard of such a chance is too great to be taken.


—The only alternative seems to be to limit the sphere of the states by words that can not be mistaken or evaded, and to add to the powers of congress that of exclusive legislation, by general laws only, on the subjects of marriage and divorce within the United States. Utah might then be admitted with absolute safety, for no legal argument could emasculate such an amendment. Bigamy and polygamy would then be federal crimes; and no marriage would be valid, or its issue legitimate or capable of inheritance ab intestato, unless the marriage had been contracted according to the forms prescribed by a federal statute. Growth of population, wealth and culture in Utah would only increase the force of the influences, material and moral, which would aid the amendment to enforce itself. This remedy, succeeded by the immediate admission of Utah as a state, seems to the writer the only remedy for polygamy in the territories which holds out a fair promise of final and permanent success. It is open to the objection that a two-thirds majority in both houses of congress, or simple majorities backed by the president, might force free-love on the United States. But, if that time should ever come, all would be lost; and our posterity would be too busily engaged in guarding fundamental interests to have time to spare for Utah. The danger is on a par with that of the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus; and is only one of a class of dangers which a democratic republic must meet and surmount or die.


The Mormon Hierarchy. Federal officials, who have honestly endeavored to execute federal laws in Utah, are almost unanimously of opinion that a greater danger than polygamy is in the Mormon hierarchy, supported by the immense resources of rigidly exacted tithes, bulwarked by the fanatical obedience of the people, and willing, if it could see its way clear, to turn secret into open rebellion. Governor Murray, late in 1883, gave very forcible expression to this view in a newspaper interview, and urged strongly that the whole territory should be placed under an absolute military despotism until the hierarchy should be crushed out. One who has not been upon the spot must speak with diffidence upon such a subject. But, from all the information open to reach, it seems probable that this view is only the natural outcome of unsuccessful contest, and that the fate of the Mormon hierarchy is conditioned by that of Mormon polygamy in the following fashion—Polygamy seems to be primarily purposed to make the Mormons a "peculiar people," to give them a sense of homogeneity which the other elements of their "faith" will not supply, and thus to secure an obedience founded on faith rather than on force. Secondarily, it has divided the Mormon leaders into polygamists, with church ambitions, and monogamists, with political ambitions. To the polygamists are given the present and future honors of the church, and the pleasure and profit of managing an enormous church revenue, without responsibility of accounting, except to the hierarchy. To the monogamists are assigned the present political honors of the territory, and the future political honors of the possible state. It is plain, from the results of the Edmunds act, that the monogamists, though at present of a humbler rank, are not only important, but absolutely essential, to the polygamists. Without the political auxiliaries, the hierarchy would be powerless; with them, it can endure patiently, labor, and wait with hope. To cut off the political auxiliaries would be to cut off hope. It seems to the writer, then, that the mistake has been in aiming all operations at the polygamists, while every blow fell harmless on the monogamous shield before them. The true policy would be to strike at the monogamists, to push them into a compulsory choice between their allies and their own hopes of political preferment. What blow would do so more effectually than the passage of the marriage and divorce amendment, followed by the admission of Utah as a state? If a record of conviction for bigamy, or for aiding a bigamous marriage, is to be a bar to office-holding, to citizenship, and even to voting, how long will political leaders, in the hot conflicts of real state politics, hold to an organization which can not even provide them with votes? Whichever side the church takes, it must bring votes in its hands. Mormonism is a democracy of revelation, in which a revelation is tested by its general acceptance. A new monogamous revelation would thus be the inevitable result of the gift of statehood, if we could give it safely; and such a revelation would only result in the disappearance of the Mormons as a "peculiar people," and the downfall of the hierarchy. Separate the political monogamists from the ecclesiastical polygamists by the marriage and divorce amendment; fling the apple of discord among them by granting statehood and introducing state politics; and it seems evident that the problem of the hierarchy will be found to be only an outgrowth of the problem of polygamy, and that they stand or fall together.


—It is not intended to make polygamists and ecclesiastical leaders exactly coincident classes. Some of the ecclesiastical leaders are certainly monogamists, but they are exceptions.


—Authorities will be found under MORMONS. See 9 Stat. at Large, 453 (act of Sept. 9, 1850); Fisher's Trial of the Constitution, 173.


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