History of Utah, 1540-1886

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History of Utah, 1540-1886  (1889) 
by Hubert Howe Bancroft

Contents[edit]

See also the expanded table of contents.

Preface[edit]

In the history of Utah we come upon a new series of social phenomena, whose multiformity and unconventionality awaken the liveliest interest. We find ourselves at once outside the beaten track of conquest for gold and glory; of wholesale robberies and human slaughters for the love of Christ; of encomiendas, repartimientos, serfdoms, or other species of civilized imposition; of missionary invasion resulting in certain death to the aborigines, but in broad acres and well filled storehouses for the men of practical piety; of emigration for rich and cheap lands, or for colonization and empire alone; nor have we here a hurried scramble for wealth, or a corporation for the management of a game preserve. There is the charm of novelty about the present subject, if no other; for in our analyses of human progress we never tire of watching the behavior of various elements under various conditions.

There is only one example in the annals of America of the organization of a commonwealth upon principles of pure theocracy. There is here one example only where the founding of a state grew out of the founding of a new religion. Other instances there have been of the occupation of wild tracts on this continent by people flying before persecution, or desirous of greater religious liberty; there were the quakers, the huguenots, and the pilgrim fathers, though their spiritual interests were so soon subordinated to political necessities; religion has often played a conspicuous part in the settlement of the New World, and there has at times been present in some degree the theocratic, if not indeed the hierarchal, idea; but it has been long since the world, the old continent or the new, has witnessed anything like a new religion successfully established and set in prosperous running order upon the fullest and combined principles of theocracy, hierarchy, and patriarchy.


With this new series of phenomena, a new series of difficulties arises in attempting their elucidation: not alone the perplexities always attending unexplored fields, but formidable embarrassments which render the task at once delicate and dangerous.

If the writer is fortunate enough to escape the many pitfalls of fallacy and illusion which beset his way; if he is wise and successful enough to find and follow the exact line of equity which should be drawn between the hotly contending factions; in a word, if he is honest and capable, and speaks honestly and openly in the treatment of such a subject, he is pretty sure to offend, and bring upon himself condemnation from all parties. But where there are palpable faults on both sides of a case, the judge who unites equity with due discrimination may be sure he is not in the main far from right if he succeeds in offending both sides. Therefore, amidst the multiformity of conflicting ideas and evidence, having abandoned all hope of satisfying others, I fall back upon the next most reasonable proposition left—that of satisfying myself.

In regard to the quality of evidence I here encounter, I will say that never before has it been my lot to meet with such a mass of mendacity. The attempts of almost all who have written upon the subject seem to have been to make out a case rather than to state the facts. Of course, by any religious sect dealing largely in the supernatural, fancying itself under the direct guidance of God, its daily doings a standing miracle, commingling in all the ordinary affairs of life prophecies, special interpositions, and revelations with agriculture, commerce, and manufactures, we must expect to find much written which none but that sect can accept as true.

And in relation to opposing evidence, almost every book that has been put forth respecting the people of Utah by one not a Mormon is full of calumny, each author apparently endeavoring to surpass his predecessor in the libertinism of abuse. Most of these are written in a sensational style, and for the purpose of deriving profit by pandering to a vitiated public taste, and are wholly unreliable as to facts. Some few, more especially among those first appearing, whose data were gathered by men upon the spot, and for the purpose of destroying what they regarded as a sacrilegious and pernicious fanaticism, though as vehement in their opposition as any, make some pretensions to honesty and sincerity, and are more worthy of credit. There is much in government reports, and in the writings of the later residents in Utah, dictated by honest patriotism, and to which the historian should give careful attention. In using my authorities, I distinguish between these classes, as it is not profitable either to pass by anything illustrating principles or affecting progress, or to print pages of pure invention, palpable lies, even for the purpose of proving them such. Every work upon the subject, however, receives proper bibliographical notice.

The materials for Mormon church history are exceptionally full. Early in his career the first president appointed a historiographer, whose office has been continuous ever since. To his people he himself gave their early history, both the inner and intangible and the outer and material portions of it. Then missionaries to different posts were instructed to make a record of all pertinent doings, and lodge the same in the church archives. A sacred obligation seems to have been implied in this respect from the beginning, the Book of Mormon itself being largely descriptive of such migrations and actions as usually constitute the history of a people. And save in the matters of spiritual manifestations, which the merely secular historian cannot follow, and in speaking of their enemies, whose treatment we must admit in too many instances has been severe, the church records are truthful and reliable. In addition to this, concerning the settlement of the country, I have here, as in other sections of my historical field, visited the people in person, and gathered from them no inconsiderable stores of original and interesting information.


Upon due consideration, and with the problem fairly before me, three methods of treatment presented themselves from which to choose: first, to follow the beaten track of calumny and vituperation, heaping upon the Mormons every species of abuse, from the lofty sarcasm employed by some to the vulgar scurrility applied by others; second, to espouse the cause of the Mormons as the weaker party, and defend them from the seeming injustice to which from the first they have been subjected; third, in a spirit of equity to present both sides, leaving the reader to draw his own conclusions. The first course, however popular, would be beyond my power to follow; the second method, likewise, is not to be considered; I therefore adopt the third course, and while giving the new sect a full and respectful hearing, withhold nothing that their most violent opposers have to say against them.

Anything written at the present day which may properly be called a history of Utah must be largely a history of the Mormons, these being the first white people to settle in the country, and at present largely occupying it. As others with opposing interests and influences appear, they and the great principles thereby brought to an issue receive the most careful consideration. And I have deemed it but fair, in presenting the early history of the church, to give respectful consideration to and a sober recital of Mormon faith and experiences, common and miraculous. The story of Mormonism, therefore, beginning with chapter iii., as told in the text, is from the Mormon standpoint, and based entirely on Mormon authorities; while in the notes, and running side by side with the subject-matter in the text, I give in full all anti-Mormon arguments and counter-statements, thus enabling the reader to carry along both sides at once, instead of having to consider first all that is to be said on one side, and then all that is to be said on the other.

In following this plan, I only apply to the history of Utah the same principles employed in all my historical efforts, namely, to give all the facts on every side pertinent to the subject. In giving the history of the invasion and occupation of the several sections of the Pacific States from Panamá to Alaska, I have been obliged to treat of the idiosyncrasies, motives, and actions of Roman catholics, methodists, presbyterians, episcopalians, and members of the Greek church: not of the nature or validity of their respective creeds, but of their doings, praising or blaming as praise or blame were due, judged purely from a standpoint of morals and humanity according to the highest standards of the foremost civilization of the world. It was not necessary—it was wholly outside the province of the historian, and contrary to my method as practised elsewhere—to discuss the truth or falsity of their convictions, any more than when writing the history of Mexico, California, or Oregon to advance my opinions regarding the inspiration of the scriptures, the divinity of Christ, prophecies, miracles, or the immaculate conception. On all these questions, as on the doctrines of the Mormons and of other sects, I have of course my opinions, which it were not only out of place but odious to be constantly thrusting upon the attention of the reader, who is seeking for facts only.

In one respect only I deem it necessary to go a little further here: inasmuch as doctrines and beliefs enter more influentially than elsewhere into the origin and evolution of this society, I give the history of the rise and progress of those doctrines. Theirs was not an old faith, the tenets of which have been fought for and discussed for centuries, but professedly a new revelation, whose principles are for the most part unknown to the outside world, where their purity is severely questioned. The settlement of this section sprung primarily from the evolution of a new religion, with all its attendant trials and persecutions. To give their actions without their motives would leave the work obviously imperfect; to give their motives without the origin and nature of their belief would be impossible.

In conclusion, I will say that those who desire a knowledge of people and events impartially viewed, a statement of facts fairly and dispassionately presented, I am confident will find them here as elsewhere in my writings.

Authorities consulted[edit]

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1923.

The author died in 1918, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 80 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.