thumbnail of Utah: The Struggle for Statehood; No. 3; The Cauldron
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<v Narrator>Tonight on Utah, the struggle for statehood, the federal government and the territory of Utah have a shattering collision over religious freedom and political control. Internal dissent and external criticism make the future of Utah one of the nation's most hotly debated issues in the 1886 presidents. The Supreme Court and Congress target life in the territory and dreams of statehood all but vanish in conflict. <v Announcer>Utah, the struggle for statehood was made possible by a major grant from Thiokol, a pioneer in the development of solid rocket motors for aerospace and precision fastening systems for aerospace and industrial markets worldwide. Thiokol symbolizing the American spirit of exploration.
<v Narrator>On September 2nd, 1877, a funeral was held for Brigham Young in the massive Tabernacle in the heart of Salt Lake City. Fittingly, Young had dictated every aspect of his funeral and burial, one last set of directives to the Mormon people he had led for more than 30 years. <v Susie Young Gates actor>He could be stern when occasion demanded, but he was the wisest, kindest and most loving father. The bond between my father and me was as close as if I had been the only child. I shall always be grateful that I was born. His daughter, Susie Young Gates. <v Narrator>But in death, as in life, Brigham Young produced sharply divided opinion, national magazines, printed cartoons mocking the loss felt by his plural wives, and locally, the rambunctious Salt Lake Tribune offered a snarling obituary. <v The Salt Lake Tribune read aloud>The world knows that Brigham Young was a very unworthy specimen of humanity, but he was groveling and selfish in his instincts that he was unscrupulous in his choice of means to carry out his purposes and that he abused the most noble opportunities of usefulness. The Salt Lake Tribune.
<v Narrator>The Utah territory, was sharply and deeply divided as it considered a future without its central founding figure. <v Jean Bickmore White, Political Scientist>But in fact, there were really two separate economies and there were two separate social cultures. And obviously there was a very different there was a great gulf with very different ideas of religion on each side of that particular gulf. <v Michael Quinn, Historian>It's a situation which in which Utah became the national manifestation of of a conflict over federal authority. And Brigham Young died just at the time that the US government had ceased. It's, it's reconstruction of the south. And Utah was the next obvious target. <v Reverend Dewitt Talmage>At the death of the Mormon chieftain. Is the time for the United States government to strike, turn the vast temples into arsenals and let Phil Sheridan after them give him enough troops. And he will teach all Utah that 40 wives is thirty nine too many. Reverend DeWit Talmage.
<v Narrator>In this highly charged and uncertain atmosphere, leadership of the Mormon people and the immediate future of the Utah territory fell on the shoulders of John Taylor. <v Tom Alexander, Historian>John Taylor is an extraordinarily intelligent individual, extraordinarily gifted, and in many ways, he has a kind of sense of future economic development that's missing in Brigham Young thought. And yet he's intensely loyal to what he perceives as central principles in the church. <v Narrator>Blunt and even combative, Taylor would refuse to yield ground on deeply held principles, regardless of the outcry beyond the territorial borders. For Taylor, the Utah territory and the nation, there was no more symbolic principle than polygamy. From the moment the Mormon Church publicly acknowledged plural marriage is a principle of its religion, in 1852, the nation had been gripped by a morbid fascination of what was called the peculiar institution often portrayed in the national media as thinly disguised harem building in the Wild West. The mislabeled concept of polygamy was a deeply held religious principle among Mormons.
<v Dr. Eleazar Ship actor>We are accused of being downtrodden and oppressed. We deny the charge true. We practice plural marriage not, however, because we are compelled to, but because we are convinced that it is a divine revelation and we find in this principal satisfaction, contentment and more happiness than we can obtain in any other relationship. Dr. Eleazar Ship. <v Carol Madsen, Historian>So beginning with that principle, you know that women entered into that particular form of marriage believing it was the right thing to do. I don't think any of them ever liked it. I think that they many of them were determined to make the very best of it. <v Sadoe Jacobson actor>If anyone in this world thinks plural marriage is not a trial, they are wrong, Sadie Jacobson. <v Narrator>While national fascination settled on men like Heber Kimball, who claimed more than 40 wives in reality plural marriage was never practiced by a majority of Mormons. It was, however, fully practiced by church leadership, including church president John Taylor, and was a primary target for critics of the Mormon Church as the decade of the 1880s dawned.
<v Harriet Beecher Stowe actor>To the women of America. Let every happy wife and mother who reads these pages have her sympathy, prayers and efforts aim to free her sisters from this degrading bondage. Let all the women of this country stand united for them. There's a power and combined enlightened sentiment and sympathy before which every form of injustice and cruelty must finally go down. Harriet Beecher Stowe. <v Narrator>The debate often raged over the heads of the plural wives of the Utah territory, a group that included some of the most eloquent and politically active voices of the 19th century women's movement. <v Martha Bradley, Historian>On the one hand, they had this they had this urge, this impulse in them to speak for the rights of all women, to call for better lives, for all women. At the same time, they also were the clearest, most passionate proponents for this doctrine that seemed to contradict everything that the national movement was pushing for. <v Narrator>Polygamy had endured for almost 20 years since Congress passed the law of Justin Morill outlawing its practice in 1862. But now Congress clamored for a new crackdown. John Taylor, however, was adamant. Polygamy was a principle and the Mormon people would not yield on principle. As if to underscore the theme of dedication and commitment to their faith, a party of Mormon settlers set out in 1879 on the most remarkable journey of the Pioneer era, working their way across the harsh, slick rock of southern Utah. Two hundred and fifty settlers sought passage to the last unsettled corner of the territory in the land south and east of the Colorado River. They would be forced to lower their wagons through a small notch in the rock down sheer cliffs to the banks of the Colorado River across the river. Then up the other side.
<v Charles Red actor>Severn span of horses were used so that when some of the horses were on their knees fighting to get up to find a foothold, the still erect horses could plunge forward against the sharp grave. The worst stretches could be identified by the dried blood and matted hair from the four legs of the struggling ?inaudible? Charles Red. <v Narrator>The path became known as the Hole in the Rock, a tangible act of courage in settling the San Juan region of the Utah territory, and a reminder of the dogged determination of the unique people of the territory to hold to their path in the face of obstacles. <v Narrator>In 1878, the mining town of Alta burned to the ground. In Salt Lake City, the editor of the Tribune was jumped by a mob outside his office and beaten with brass knuckles. But for nearly 150000 residents of the Utah territory, the big story was in Washington in its Capitol hearing room. The Supreme Court had just finished listening to arguments in the case of George Reynolds vs. the United States. For years, the Mormons had argued that their practice of polygamy was protected by the Constitution as a matter of religious freedom. On January 6th, 1879, the court of last resort provided an answer.
<v Morrison R. Waite actor>To permit this would be to make the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land and, in effect, to permit every citizen to become a law unto himself. Government could only exist in name under such circumstances. Morrison R. Waite, chief justice. <v Tom Alexander, Historian>What they say is that, look, you can believe anything you want to, but you can't practice things that the sense of the community believes are detrimental to the community. It's a kind of difference between belief and action. <v Narrator>Certain their trust in the Constitution would be vindicated, the decision instead placed the Mormon church beyond the protection of the Constitution. <v Eliza Roxie Snow actor>Let us plant the seeds of devastation in a thriving, peaceful, industrious community. Let us tear asunder that mighty shield of the rights of conscience. Our glorious constitution does say if the Supreme Court of the United States. Eliza Roxie Snow.
<v John Taylor actor>God is greater than the United States. And when the government conflicts with heaven, we will be ranged under the banner of heaven against the government. I defy the United States. I will obey God. John Taylor. <v Narrator>President Rutherford B. Hayes viewed the Supreme Court decision as removing any doubt about efforts to crush polygamy, and he took it as a mandate to go after the Mormon church. He ordered his secretary of state, William Evertz, to take all steps necessary to bar future immigration of Mormons to the United States. <v The London Examiner read aloud>Mr Abbott's informs Europe the bigamy is punishable by law. The truth, however, is that the United States, after many years of unavailing effort, find themselves utterly unable to crush the Mormons. The London Examiner. <v Narrator>The national mood turned ugly. Mormon missionaries were beaten and one Joseph standing was murdered by a mob in the south. In the face of the onslaught, Mormon Church President John Taylor defied the federal government.
<v Michael Quinn, Historian>And John Taylor set the church as an institution and the Mormon people individually and on a course of of collision with the federal government. <v John Taylor actor>They can imprison or shoot any number of us. There will always be somebody left to carry on the work. John Taylor. <v Narrator>In the eyes of the nation, the future of the Utah territory was inseparable from the Mormon Church and at the start of the 1980s, the territory and the church became the target of a national crusade. <v Reverend Dewitt Talmage>Mormonism will never be destroyed until it's destroyed by the guns of the United States government. <v Narrator>The most strident voice belonged to the Reverend DeWitt Talmage, a popular and animated minister based in New York.
<v Reverend Dewitt Talmage>If the Mormons submit to the law all right, if not, then send our troops and let them make the Mormon Tabernacle their headquarters. And with cannons of biggest four thunder into them, the seventh commandment. <v Narrator>Soon, religious organizations throughout the country had adopted polygamy as the nation's greatest social evil. <v The American Baptist Home Mission Society>Be it resolved that we, in full accord with our patriotic and Christian citizens, confidently expect a continued and persistent efforts for the execution of this law. The American Baptist Home Mission Society, Saratoga Springs, New York. <v Narrator>The national media of the day turned its full attention to the Utah Territory. News magazines depicted polygamy is nothing more than slavery for women. The Mormon Church is a savage and alien breed capable of ruthless acts of barbarity. Church religious practices performed in the endowment house were portrayed as the sinister rites of an evil secret society.
<v Reverend Dewitt Talmage>When the people of the United States come to understand that the instant a man passes the threshold of the endowment house, he renounced his allegiance to the United States. That will be more men interested in extrapolating this foul institution. Dewitt Talmage. <v Narrator>In an era of anti foreign sentiment, the Mormons were paired with Roman Catholics as a dangerous, disloyal faction or with Asians as an alien culture devouring the American spirit. Above all, the media portrayed the Utah territory's Mormons as disloyal to the nation. There was little effort to allow a Utah response to the charges. It was a firestorm of popular criticism that forced its way onto the national political agenda. In the fall of 1880, President Rutherford Hayes traveled to the west, stopping in Salt Lake City. He spent his time with the non Mormon community and listened intently to their horror stories of life in the Utah territory.
<v Rutherford B. Hayes actor>Polygamy will not be abolished if the enforcement of the law depends on those who practice and uphold the crime. It can only be suppressed by taking away all political power of the sect, which encourages and sustains it. The right to vote, hold office and sit on juries in the territories must be confined to those who neither practice nor uphold polygamy. Rutherford B. Hayes. <v Narrator>Jumping on the mandate. Territorial Governor Eli Murray attempted to throw out the 1880 election of George Q. Cannon as Utah's delegate to Congress. Cannon had beaten his non Mormon opponent by a 15 to one margin. But Murray, closely aligned with the territory's aggressive anti Mormon voices, had called Cannon an illegal alien. Congress honored Cannon's election, but fierce public sentiment and the media's characterization of the Mormons as a malevolent movement against America that set Washington inmotion against the Utah territory. In March of 1881, a 50 year old former union army general and minister in the Disciples of Christ took the oath of office as president of the United States. In his short inaugural address, James Garfield spoke of home, church, flag and country and demonstrated the new national prominence of events in the Utah territory.
<v James Garfield actor>The Mormon Church not only offends the moral sense of mankind by sanctioning polygamy, but it prevents the administration of justice through the ordinary instrumentality of the law. <v Narrator>The Utah territory was stunned by Garfield's inaugural attack, but letters poured into Garfield urging him to move forward with the crusade. <v William T. Vail, MD actor>My dear sir, I have read your most excellent inaugural address. Nothing would distinguish your administration more honorably than in factual suppression of this monstrous religio political barbarism of Mormon polygamy. God bless you, William T.. Vail, MD, Manhattan, Kansas. <v Narrator>Garfield served only 200 days before being assassinated, but his vice president, Chester Arthur renewed the call on Congress to solve what was being called the Mormon question. <v George F. Edmunds actor>The government of the territory of Utah is one by polygamist in defiance of the statutes of the United States and all civilized Christian understanding. The object of the bill is to take the political power in the territory out of the hands of this body of tyrants. George F. Edmunds.
<v Narrator>A senator from Vermont, thought he had the answer for the Mormon question. George Edmunds introduced a law aimed at attacking polygamy and destroying the Mormon political presence in the Utah territory. In 1882, Church Representative Don Henry Smith watched Congress' final vote on the Edmunds Act. <v John Henry Smith actor>The Republicans were filled with venom and were bent upon the accomplishment of their purpose. God, our father must judge these men for their evil design, and I doubt not. He will do so in his own due time. John Henry Smith. <v Narrator>The bill barred, broadly defined polygamists from voting, serving on juries or holding political office. And it fashioned a prosecutor's loophole ?inaudible? proving multiple marriages by creating the new crime of unlawful cohabitation. <v Jane Snyder Richards actor>What a sin it would be not only to deprive wives of what they consider their lawful husbands, but to brand their children as illegitimate. Jane Snyder Richards.
<v John Taylor actor>We do not wish to place ourselves in a state of antagonism nor act defiantly toward this government, but we cannot sacrifice every principle of human right. We are not craven and have not learned to lick the feet of oppressors. We will contend inch by inch, legally and constitutionally, our rights as American citizens. John Taylor. <v Narrator>But the Edmunds Act had immediate consequences for the Utah territory. Governor, Eli Murray, through nearly 200 elected Mormons out of office and replaced them with mostly non Mormons in Congress delegate George Cannon was told by the House of Representatives to leave the body, much to the delight of an editorial cartoonist. <v George Q. Cannon actor>It is now said that a law of Congress has been enacted, which prevents me from taking my seat, that by the operation of this law, I am excluded and the seat is to be declared vacant. I pity any gentleman who, with nothing but popular sentiment to sustain him, is willing to trample upon the Constitution and the law to strike down a people against whom popular sentiment is strong. George Q. Cannon.
<v Narrator>The popular sentiment also crushed another bid for Utah statehood brought to Congress by Cannon's replacement, John T. Cain. Cain, a Mormon who did not practice polygamy, had urged leaders to drop the image laden label of Deseret after nearly 25 years of failed efforts to gain admission. <v John T. Cain actor>We tried three times to get admission as a state under the name of Deseret and failed Deseret may be a sweet name, but it has a sting John T. Cain. <v Narrator>But the 1882 bid for statehood, like its predecessors, came at the worst possible time. Rather than admit Utah to the union, Congress intended to exert even more direct control over the territory. For in 1882, a five member commission arrived from the East to administer the political future of the Utah territory. They were called the Utah Commission, and their first step was to create a test oath for voters.
<v Test Oath>I solemnly swear that I do not live or cohabit with more than one woman in the marriage relation. Utah commissioned test oath, 1882. <v Tom Alexander, Historian>The admin's act said that if you were a practicing polygamist, you couldn't vote, you couldn't hold public office. The oath simply was a way of affirming that. <v Narrator>Thousands of Mormons were stripped of the right to vote, a move cheered by the non Mormon Liberal Party of Utah. <v Liberal Party statement>For the first time in the history of this territory, it has become possible for her free citizens to cast their votes with a certainty that they will be fairly and honestly counted. The Edmunds bill has made it possible for an election conducted in this territory to be something more than a farce. <v Tom Alexander, Historian>And what the the commission does is to appoint about a third of the election officials from the Mormon community, a third from the apostate community, that is people who had left the Mormon church and a third from the the Gentiles, but that gives the the non Mormons you see a majority among election officials and it allows them at certain critical junctures to manipulate the elections in such a way that you can disfranchize Latter day Saints.
<v Narrator>After one year, the Utah commission filed an enthusiastic report to Washington. <v Commission report>No person living in polygamy has been permitted to vote at any election or to be voted for any office. Fifteen thousand persons have been disfranchized to the operations of the law as administered by this commission. <v Narrator>The Utah commissioners, viewed by Mormons as an affront to political freedom, were viewed as heroes on the other side of Utah's religious chasm. But for national voices clamoring for a final solution, the notion of a slow and steady political victory was not enough. <v Reverend Dewitt Talmage>In my opinion, nothing but a great national revolution will ever touch it. The days for peaceful solutions of this question of past Mormonism is gathering momentum. A few batteries on a hill east of Salt Lake might want to put a quietist on this great outrage, but not now. God only knows by what national exhaustion the curse is to be excavated. But go it must. Reverend DeWit, Talmage.
<v Narrator>The Utah territory was in turmoil, the split between Mormon and non Mormon had never been greater federal authority and power were on one side. A substantial majority of the territory's population seeking to chart their own path was on the other. Then in December 1883, the president of the United States proposed a drastic step. Chester Arthur called for the territory of Utah to be dissolved, wiped away with instructions to start over. The move would wait for the wheels of justice to grind forward. <v Charles Zane actor>If you do not submit, of course, you must take the consequences. But the will of the American people and the law will go on and grind your institution to powder Judge Charles Zane. <v Narrator>To the Mormon people of the Utah territory, Charles Zane was another in an endless series of federal judges bent on crusading against polygamy. But Zane was the first judge backed by the full force of the Supreme Court and the new Edmunds act. Together, clearing the way for the most widespread and comprehensive prosecution of any religious group in the annals of American history. In 1885, the momentum of the law collided with the immovable force of Rutger Closson, a Salt Lake City man with two wives. Closson was indicted for polygamy and illegal cohabitation. Under the Edmunds Act, Closson claimed the federal courts were stacked against his religion, since juries routinely were made up entirely of non Mormons. But there were no sympathetic ears. He was found guilty. Prior to sentencing, Judge Zane gave Closson an opportunity to publicly renounce polygamy with the clear intent of going easy on Closson if he did.
<v Rutger Closson actor>I regret very much that the laws of my country come in conflict with the laws of God. But whenever they do, I shall invariably choose to obey the latter. If I did not so express myself, I should feel unworthy of the cause I represent. Rutger Closson. <v Tom Alexander, Historian>That doesn't sit very well with Judge Zane and so he throws the book at him. <v Narrator>Zane sentenced Clawson to four years at hard labor in the territorial penitentiary in Sugarhouse. It was a dark, dank fortress that kept its prisoners in large holding pens. <v Rutger Closson actor>As I approached the prison door a strange and fearful noise reached my ears, which fairly made me shudder. Before entering, I caught such expressions as get the rope, hang him and we'll fix him. While the air was rent with profanity and wry bald laughter. <v Narrator>Rutger Closson was soon joined by hundreds of Mormon men convicted in the court of judging. The prison population swelled somewhere in their 60s when sent to prison, and some were immediately rearrested if they attempted to see their polygamist families on release. At least one prisoner of polygamy, 64 year old John Johnson, a Swedish immigrant, would die in prison of pneumonia. Much to the disgust of Charles Zane and the other federal officials in Utah. The prisoners were treated as heroes in the community, but the Mormon defiance of the federal prosecutions was dealt a stunning blow in 1885 when John Sharp, religious leader and prominent railroad figure, was hauled before Judge Zane.
<v Tom Alexander, Historian>Zane does essentially the same thing with him that he did with most of the other people who came before his court. He asks if they're willing to give up the practice of plural marriage. And to the surprise of many people in in the community. John Sharp says he'll obey the law. <v John Sharp actor>I acted according to the dictates of my conscience. I do not renounce my religion or any part thereof. I simply give up the practice of polygamy because the United States law forbids my indulging in it any longer as long as I am a citizen of the United States. I do not see how I can do otherwise. John Sharp <v Narrator>Sharp was stripped of his religious office and ostracized by his fellow Mormons. <v Angus M. Cannon>When a man professing to be a Latter day Saints will cower before our enemies and beg for mercy, forgetting or renouncing the promises of God. He is a contemptible hypocrite. Angus M Cannon.
<v Narrator>At about the same time, William Cluff resigned his church office. Rather than give in to the mounting pressure to take a plural wife. Utah convulsed under the crackdown, the number of federal deputy marshals more than doubled for polygamists. It was a reign of terror as marshals kicked down doors in the middle of the night. <v Memorial to Grover Cleveland>Children are questioned upon the streets as to the marital relationships of their parents. Families are dragged before commissioners and grand juries and on the pain of punishment for contempt are compelled to testify against their fathers and husbands. A memorial to President Grover Cleveland. <v Narrator>The petition to President Grover Cleveland went ignored for the Mormons refused to yield to the law to exact a measure of revenge, the church controlled Salt Lake City Police Department set a trap for federal officials in 1885, enlisting the services of a prominent prostitute. The police kicked down the door when the woman was entertaining a low ranking federal appointee. The police dragged the red faced officials to court, only to have Judge Charles Zane throw the case out. His reasoning, to the astonishment of the polygamy prisoners, was that the court should not get involved in private conduct. It was a time when principle took many forms, when the heroes of one view were villains of another. When Utah society was deeply and divisively split. Desperate times in the Utah territory giving birth to desperate measures.
<v Michael Quinn, Historian>Prominent people in every community, every town ended up going into hiding to avoid arrest, but it wasn't just the men. Their polygamist wives went into hiding and their children had to go into hiding because a child could be arrested and forced to testify against its father and that that testimony of a child could also send the father to jail. <v Agnes Ross Kelly actor>They didn't know what their name was. They didn't know where they lived. They didn't know who their dad or mother was. The deputy marshals would corner the kids and get them to tell who their dad or mother were and where they lived in order to track down polygamists. Agnes Ross Kelly. <v Narrator>It was life on the Underground, a network of safe Mormon havens designed to keep polygamist men and women one step ahead of federal marshals that were swarming through the Utah territory. <v Michael Quinn, Historian>The underground involved thousands of people all the way from husbands who who were 70 and 80 years of age to mothers with babies in arms, their mothers who were pregnant, seeking to avoid the possibility of arrest. And for this community of of polygamist families, the eighteen eighties was the nightmare decade.
<v Emma Westerman actor>Not long after we were married, the officers got after me and I never was able to stay anywhere more than a few weeks at a time. I never had a place to lay my head that I could call my own Emma Westerman. <v Narrator>Capture meant the territorial penitentiary in the Sugarhouse section of Salt Lake City, and by 1886, more than 300 men had gone to prison for polygamy. It was a time of convulsive symbolism, the same summer that the Statue of Liberty was rising in the harbor at New York, offering a welcome to the huddled masses. Immigration officials in the same harbor were attempting to weed out Mormons from the new arrivals for deportation. In a dramatic gesture of reconciliation, Governor Caleb West went to the penitentiary and offered a pardon to the inmates if they would simply sign a letter promising to obey the law banning polygamy. <v Lorenzo Snow>Governor, I am not in conflict with any of the laws of the country. I am here wrongfully convicted and wrongfully sentenced. The law has been wrongfully and illegally administered. Lorenzo Snow.
<v Narrator>If Governor West offered the olive branch, the courts threw down the gantlet. Deputy marshals ransacked the construction site of a Mormon temple in Manti, searching for polygamists. Plural wives were soon targeted by federal prosecutors and were sent to prison on contempt of court citations if they refused to testify. But an even worse fate found one polygamist in December of 1886. <v William Thompson actor>This morning, at about 11:00, I undertook to rearrest Ms. Dalton. He, having escaped from the officers last spring, he was on horseback. He turned his horse and started to get away. I fired with the intention of shooting over him. William Thompson, deputy U.S. Marshal. <v Narrator>The warning shots struck Edward Dalton squarely in the back. His was the first violent death in the struggle over polygamy and produced outrage among the Mormon people outraged that blended with the confusion of their daily lives and the uncertainty of their future in the Utah territory. Church President John Taylor was offered only one night ahead of the deputies as he slipped from house to house in the territory, but in the messages he slipped out for reading in church meetings, he refused to budge on polygamy.
<v Epistle from first presidency>Our enemies during the past half year have pursued with greater vindictiveness and more flagrant disregard of law and justice than at any time previous. That which has been accomplished furnishes, but little cause for gratification to those who have been engaged in the inhuman task of persecuting a people for the practice of their religion. An epistle from the first presidency. <v Narrator>The anti polygamy crackdown, convinced hundreds of residents of the Utah territory to consider abandoning the United States rather than their religion. Once again, Mormon wagon trains were in motion. The first teams heading south to Mexico to flee the Utah territory, the United States and the reach of national law. <v Tom Alexander, Historian>Mexico becomes the best refuge for polygamists, and the reason for that is that the Mexican dictator, Porfirio Diaz, sort of looks the other way. <v Narrator>The next wave of pioneers left the Utah territory for the north, settling just over the national border in Canada. Francis Lyman led a delegation to the Canadian capital arguing that Great Britain should extend the same religious protection to Mormons that the empire afforded polygamous cultures throughout the world.
<v Jessie Embry, Historian>A group of the Canadian settlers there went over to Ottawa and said, we'd like to bring our plural wives here. And the prime minister, John McDonnell, just sort of laughed at them and said, no way. And so when they went back, rarely did men take both plural wives to Canada. Usually they kept a wife in the United States and took only one wife to Canada <v Narrator>For a time the colonies in Mexico and Canada seemed destined to accept the entire Mormon population of the Utah territory, nearly 200000 people. Because of the conflicts that rocked Utah on a daily basis. Utah Mormons decried persecution, while non Mormons demanded tougher strikes against the church. The emotions boiled over on July 4th of 1885. Seven Flags, many on prominent church buildings, had been lowered to half staff. Angry crowds squared off around the flagpoles.
<v John Taylor actor>We enter our solemn protest against such iniquitous acts as are being perpetrated here. John Taylor. <v The Salt Lake Tribune read aloud>It was the Mormon method of expressing their hatred of this nation and their contempt for its power. They will not be able to escape the consequences of their treason. Let us hear no more of Mormon love for the Stars and Stripes. The Salt Lake Tribune <v Narrator>Governor Eli Murray reported the incident to Washington, claiming it was definitive proof of the disloyalty and treason rampant in the Utah territory. <v Eli Murray actor>A crisis is now at hand, which must have one of two results. The government either must yield its claim for continued supremacy over one of its territories, permit its power to be broken and the law is nullified. Or there must be a surrender to the rightful authority of the government upon the part of the majority of the people. Governor Eli Murray. <v Narrator>Amid the calls for war, George Q. Cannon worked feverishly behind the scenes in Washington to defuse the crisis, serving as an unofficial prime minister for his church Cannon attempted to convince President Grover Cleveland to soften attacks against the Mormons.
<v George Q. Cannon actor>If the purpose of the administration is to persecute the Mormons for their religion and to impress them with the idea that their object is to destroy them because of it, it would be difficult to adopt a better plan. George Q. Cannon. <v Narrator>The best Cannon could do was slow the process for public opinion and political will were snowballing against the Mormons and the Utah territory in the late 1880s. As the new year of 1887 arrived in Washington, Congress was swamped with proposed laws attacking polygamy and political imbalance in the Utah territory. Senator George Edmunds of Vermont was back with the new bill, seething over the fact that his first law in 1882 had failed to break the will of the Mormon Church. The chairman of the powerful House Judiciary Committee, Jay Randolph Tucker, offered his own version aimed at stripping Mormons of virtually any political rights in the Utah territory. Debate raged over who could be hardest on the Mormons in Utah. The only concession was offered by Representative William Scott of Pennsylvania, who proposed delaying any new law long enough for the Mormons to change their ways.
<v John Taylor actor>We desire it distinctly understood. We accept the terms of Scott's amendment as a political necessity. And that in doing so, we neither yield nor compromise an iota of our religious principles. John Taylor. <v Narrator>The Scott amendment was brushed aside, the bills of Edmunds and Tucker were combined into one far reaching legislative attack against the Mormon Church. <v Tom Alexander, Historian>The main thing, I think, is that it begins to attack the church's property rather than simply church members. The act allowed the federal government to confiscate any property that wasn't used exclusively for religious purposes, <v Narrator>The Mormon Church scurried to shield its holdings from the government, creating secret trusts and selling businesses to individual church members from controlling stock and its cooperative stores to the regional telegraph. But the Edmunds Tucker Act of 1887 was much more. It placed education under federal control, dissolved the territorial militia, challenged the legitimacy of children born in polygamy and Section 20 denied the women of the territory the right to vote. Non Mormons, now about 30 percent of the population in the territory, cheered the Edmunds Tucker act as a means of breaking church control. In an effort to head off the law's sting, Mormon leaders launched a renewed and desperate bid for statehood, including a constitution that outlawed polygamy. It formed Utah's sixth bid for admission to the union.
<v Jean Bickmore White, Political Scientist>So they held this convention and they wrote the Straight-faced plank about with penalties for polygamy. Well, who believes that? Who believes that when the following year the Mormon leader gets up and says it's always going to be with us. <v The Chicago Tribune read aloud>The proposed constitution is a flimsy, transparent trick. Once in the union, polygamy would be relegated to the control of the state power. To admit Utah with that constitution would be a monstrous blunder when polygamy is dead, it will be the time to admit. The Chicago Tribune. <v Narrator>Mormon's thought they had the support of President Cleveland and his fellow Democrats in Congress, but it withered under the national criticism of Utah's 1887 Constitution. <v Edward Leo Lyman, Historian>The Democrats get cold feet about delivering statehood. And there are very good reasons why the congressional Democrats cannot see any concessions on polygamy by the church. They're talking about concessions, but in actual fact, they haven't made any. And so Congress does not back the president in delivering statehood. And when they fail in that. The church will start looking for other friends and putting their eggs in the other basket.
<v John T. Cain actor>I believe the Democratic Party, by its cowardice on the Mormon question through its refusal to admit Utah with an anti polygamy constitution, has lost the control of four states, which the Mormon people could have given it Utah, Idaho, Arizona. And Wyoming, John T. Cain. <v Narrator>But the offer of votes in the sparsely populated mountain West was not enough inducement to have Democrat or Republican turn away from the greater political capital of crusading against the Mormons and the Utah territory. <v George T. Curtis actor>I am perfectly convinced that public opinion has become so crystallized on what is called the Mormon question that it is idle to expect to modify or change it. I have never known anything in my life that presented such a phenomenon. You are a mere handful of people, 150000 against 50 or 60 millions. And those millions have made up their minds that polygamy shall be exterminated. George T. Curtis, Washington, D.C..
<v Narrator>Curtis was working for the Mormon Church as a lobbyist in Washington, laboring to stem the tide of anti Mormon laws and losing the battle because of public opinion. Having failed with legal and political maneuvers, the Mormon Church started to explore the darker side of 19th century American politics, the political payoff. <v John W. Young actor>It is better to spend a little than to lose a great deal. My conscience is clear in paying men to do right, but not to do wrong. John W. Young. <v Narrator>John W. Young was a son of Brigham Young, an apostle in the Mormon Church, and by 1886 was orchestrating a campaign in Washington to buy influence in Congress and launder the church funds through a front company. <v John W. Young actor>This campaign is going to cost us a great deal of money. I have laid plans the best I could to have a strong hold upon public men and have organized a company that I have felt to be indispensable to make a covering of our movements John W. Young.
<v Narrator>In Salt Lake City. The centerpiece temple, was nearing completion, but the upper levels of church leadership spent a great deal of time discussing Young's lobbying scheme. <v Hebridge A. Graham actor>The labors of John W. Young at Washington and in New York were fully discussed, and in addition to the money already sent him, it was voted to send him another five thousand dollars. All of the brethren present expressed their lack of perfect confidence in the manipulations of Brother Young. Hebridge A ?Graham?. <v Narrator>Once again, the political wisdom of George Q. cannon was called forward. Cannon had developed a relationship with California railroad baron Leland Stanford. Stanford, looking to secure political influence throughout the West, had offered the expertize of his railroad lobbyists to the Mormon Church. Hiram Closson became the church's Go-Between with the Stanford political machine. <v Edward Leo Lyman, Historian>And Closson is sent to San Francisco to clarify the details with Stanford and sends notes back to the presidency, including telegrams saying, yes, they're willing, if you're willing to pay some money to subsidize newspapers. That's the key.
<v Narrator>The lobbyist urged the church to bribe newspapers, arguing that public opinion would shape the will of Congress. <v Hebridge A. Graham actor>President George Cannon stated that the parties with whom they were negotiating could secure the leading papers of New York and other cities to write articles in favor of our admission to the union for the sum of seventy four thousand dollars in cash and an additional seventy thousand dollars after we are admitted. Hebridge A. Graham. <v Narrator>The decision made Hyram Closson confided to his journal the amount of payoffs delivered to American newspapers. <v Hyram Closson journal>The New York Times, ten thousand dollars, The New York Sun, ten thousand dollars, The New York Evening Post. <v Edward Leo Lyman, Historian>And it's amazing how fast public opinion toward the church changed in the late 1980s. It was an important movement. The church paid out at least 150000 dollars, perhaps in two different years, to subsidize newspapers to be more fair to them. It wasn't really a dishonest thing. It was a common thing at the time.
<v Narrator>Newspapers in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and San Francisco suddenly fell silent on the Mormon question. But a major cash donation to the reelection campaign of Grover Cleveland backfired when Cleveland was beaten by Benjamin Harrison and Congress was not about to repeal its attacks against the Mormon Church. The battle for the hearts and minds of the nation, by whatever means necessary, was only a small part of the big picture for the Mormon Church and the Utah territory. Statehood was still far from reach, and the struggle for the future of the territory was ready to reach its peak. On July 30th, 1887, the U.S. attorney for the territory of Utah filed suit against the Mormon Church to sieze church property. Federal deputies swept down on church offices, raiding the president's office, the tithing office, the Office of the Perpetual Emigrating Fund, that church run organization that had brought tens of thousands of immigrants to the territory. They seized every financial record they could identify. The deputies occupied Gardo house built by Brigham Young and used by President John Taylor as an official residence. They raided the endowment house, the site of ceremonies sacred to the Mormon people, including marriages. The deputies prowl Temple Square and spoke openly of the day. They would seize the temples.
<v The Deseret News read aloud>It is strange that men of education should imagine that wrestling from the Mormons their church property would have any effect upon a single feature of their religion if the church were stripped of every vestige of wealth, if all its places of worship were destroyed, if it were left without a dollar of money, it would remain as strong and united and full of force. The United faith and devotion of its members are more than money and mightier than earthly possessions. The Deseret News. <v Narrator>But the bluster could not hide the fact that the raids were precipitating a financial crisis for the Mormon Church, with deep implications for 70 percent of the territory's population. As if to illustrate the religious conflict that threatened to tear the Utah territory apart. A delegation of non Mormon women had made their way to Washington under the leadership of Angie Newman. <v Carol Madsen, Historian>And her concern was that Mormon women were, in effect, brainwashed into their religion and that we should not be angry with them or try to fight against them, but that we should look upon them as a cause in which we can rescue them from the shackles that bind them in this terrible condition of plural marriage. So let's find a way for them, she said to to give them some reprieve from this because they have nowhere to go. They're stuck in these bonds.
<v Narrator>The women urged Congress to fund, in effect, a federal rescue mission for the wives of polygamy. <v Angie F. Newman actor>It's a well-known fact that there are many who would voluntarily abandon polygamous relations if facilities for self-support were provided. Angie F. Newman. <v Narrator>Congress funded what was known as the Women's Christian Industrial Home in Salt Lake City, opened the doors and waited for the flood of disaffected polygamous wives. <v Carol Madsen, Historian>I think the records show that no more than 10 or 15 women at a time, including their children, entered the home. It was not a successful venture. And of course, the Mormons capitalized on the fact that it didn't serve the purpose for which it was established. <v Narrator>It was one of several signs of the resolve of the Mormon people to resist the federal crackdown. George Q. Cannon, a member of the church's ranking first presidency, went to prison for five months on charges stemming from polygamy. But one of the most powerful messages from these years in the cauldron came from the underground. In July 1887, Church President John Taylor died in hiding. At this time of conflict, tearing at the future of the Mormon Church in the Utah territory, spiritual leadership passed to 80 year old Wilford Woodruff.
<v Narrator>Forty years had passed since the first pioneers entered the Salt Lake Valley. More than 200000 people now called the Utah territory home. Salt Lake City had entered a new era. The first telephone exchanges were serving the downtown business district. Public transportation moved people through the busy streets and serviced the growing financial community. Higher education had taken a great leap forward, with the University of Deseret graduating its first class in 1886. Brigham Young Academy and Provo was soon to enter its own new building on the Academy Square. But every corner of life in the territory was under the cloud of the conflict between the federal government and the Mormon Church. It even stretched to Idaho, where the territory had instituted its own test oath to bar all Mormons from political participation, prompting the Mormons of Bear Lake to protest to the president. <v Mormons of Bear Lake>It is un-American to prescribe and disenfranchize any citizen for merely belonging to any sect or organization. Our case is a desperate one and demands immediate attention.
<v Narrator>But President Benjamin Harrison demanded a hard and fast Mormon statement renouncing plural marriage before he would consider a lenient course. And church president Wilford Woodruff sent dramatically mixed signals first in 1888. <v Wilford Woodruff actor>We are not going to stop the practice of plural marriage. Until the coming of the son of man. <v Narrator>And then reversing direction in 1889. <v Wilford Woodruff actor>I have refused to give any recommendations for the performance of plural marriage since I have been president. And have instructed they should not be solemnized. <v Narrator>Congress rejected the confusion of the statements, along with Utah's latest bid for admission to the union. <v Committee on Territories statement>It is the sense of the Senate that the territory of Utah ought not to be admitted into the union as a state until it is certain beyond doubt that the practice of plural marriage, bigamy and polygamy has been entirely abandoned by the inhabitants of the territory. And until it is likewise certain that the civil affairs of the territory are not controlled by the priesthood of the Mormon Church. The Committee on Territories, U.S. Senate.
<v Michael Quinn, Historian>What brought about the the end of the impasse was the fact that Wilford Woodruff was faced with not just the potential, but the reality that the federal government would grind Mormonism to dust over this issue of the continued practice of polygamy. And by 1890, it became clear that the federal government was in the process it wasn't just going to one day. It was already dismantling Mormonism piece by piece. <v Narrator>Wilford Woodruff, the Mormon Church and the Utah territory were at a crossroads as the decade came to an end. <v Wilford Woodruff actor>Thus ends the year 1889 and the word of the prophet Joseph Smith is beginning to be fulfilled, that the whole nation would turn against Zion and make war upon the Saints. The nation has never been so full of lies against the Saints. Today, 1890 will be an important year with the Latter-Day Saints and the American nation.
Utah: The Struggle for Statehood
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No. 3
The Cauldron
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PBS Utah (Salt Lake City, Utah)
The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia (Athens, Georgia)
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Episode Description
This program tells the story of how Utah became a state. This is episode 3, The Cauldron. This episode covers how continued conflict between Utah leaders and the Federal Government over religious freedom and internal conflicts within the territory made statehood seem impossible. It is broken up into segments which detail the aftermath of Brigham Young's death, the principle of plural marriage, responses to congress outlawing polygamy, national backlash against Mormonism, Congress's crackdown on polygamists through the Edmunds Act, the trials and imprisonment of men who practiced polygamy, polygamist families going into hiding, Mormon settlers moving to Canada and Mexico, another bid for statehood, Mormons lobbying in Congress and to sway public opinion, the Federal Government raiding and seizing Church property, and the Church facing eradication by the Federal Government. Interviews with historians are interspersed with historical reenactments, drawings, documents, and photographs from the period, and quotes from important diaries and journals.
Series Description
"January, 1996 marked the 100th anniversary of Utah's admission to the Union. Starting three years in advance of that date, public television station KUED of Salt Lake City committed unprecedented station resources to crafting a documentary series to [chronicle] the state's long, embattled path to the nation's 45th star. "The resulting documentary, UTAH: THE STRUGGLE FOR STATEHOOD, debuted in January, 1996 to critical acclaim and record-setting public television audiences. Drawing on twelve outstanding historians and more than eighty community leaders serving as guest narrators, the documentary emerged as a powerful story of epic issues balanced with intimate portraits of common people in uncommon times. "Adopted by the Utah State Office of Education to teach history in the public schools of Utah, UTAH: THE STRUGGLE FOR STATEHOOD is consistent with the highest standards of integrity, balance and service in American broadcasting. The program demonstrates the unique and durable contribution a television station can make to the education of the public when it merges foresight and commitment with its technical abilities to document the past as a means of understanding the present."--1996 Peabody Awards entry form.
Part 3 of 4 In honor of Utahs centemial, the 4 part series chronicles the states 50-year path to becoming the Unions 45th state on January 4, 1896.
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Producer: Verdoia, Ken
Producing Organization: KUED
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Identifier: cpb-aacip-ce0d771b414 (Filename)
Format: DVCPRO: 25
Generation: Master
Duration: 00:57:47:00
The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia
Identifier: cpb-aacip-554e2f46d2b (Filename)
Format: Betacam: SP
Duration: 1:00:00
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Chicago: “Utah: The Struggle for Statehood; No. 3; The Cauldron,” 1996-01-04, PBS Utah, The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 28, 2022,
MLA: “Utah: The Struggle for Statehood; No. 3; The Cauldron.” 1996-01-04. PBS Utah, The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 28, 2022. <>.
APA: Utah: The Struggle for Statehood; No. 3; The Cauldron. Boston, MA: PBS Utah, The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from