The United States Democratic Review/Volume 43/Issue 2/What Can Be Done with the Mormons?
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Volume 43, Issue 2 (October, 1859): What Can Be Done with the Mormons?
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This question involves a problem second to none in the interior affairs of our country when considered with regard to existing difficulties and in its important bearing on our future history.
We do not propose in this brief article to enter into minute details of the past history of the Mormons, or into all the present difficulties connected with the Mormon question. The facts in the main are so well understood—we might almost say felt—by every class of our citizens, and in every section of the country, that as an argument such details would be supererogatory. There is scarcely a man or a woman in the United States, however ignorant some may be of other matters of interior policy, that does not know there is a deep-seated ulcer in the body politic on this American continent, festering and spreading in a lamentable manner, which it is necessary to cure or remove. The history of fanaticism in all ages, and the history of this peculiar people especially, show that persecution or violent measures short of extermination cannot eradicate such an evil, but would rather tend to increase it. Nor is it probable in the least degree that temporary expedients can do any good. The application of military coercion is like a blister to a sore, it will irritate and inflame, but not cure; and the emollients of concessions and kindness may soothe for a time, but the scrofula of Mormonism is irradicable by any such means. It will break out again and again till the whole body becomes deformed and disgusting. Your political doctors and your military doctors are of no use. Quackery cannot touch the disease, and the ordinary means in practice cannot reach it. If then it cannot be cured, and it be spreading over the body, what shall be done? What only can be done but to amputate? Cut it off, cut it off—remove it from our sight.
This, then, leads us to the question, how can this be done? or is it possible to do it at all? We have heard of several remedial schemes or projects. And the Mormons have at different times, through certain of their agents and through little outgivings of some of their chiefs, entered into the question of leaving the United States under certain contingent circumstances. At one time Central America was spoken of as a possible future home of this strange people, and we believe Col. H. L. Kinney and others made some efforts at negotiation, at another time Sonora and Lower California, and again the Sandwich Islands. No serious efforts, however, were made, nor did the Mormons enter heartily into any project or negotiation. The time of their extremity had not come, and no feasible practical plan had been matured by them, or had been laid before them for their acceptance. It is fortunate, perhaps, this was so, for had the Mormons removed to any of the places named, it would have been but a removal of the evil from us for a time, or but to a limited extent, except perhaps as to the Sandwich Islands. Still there would be difficulties for the government of the United States in the way of permitting or facilitating their removal to these islands. The government of the Sandwich Islands, though native, is a regularly established government, and so recognised by the nations of the world. It would, undoubtedly, under a just apprehension of the consequences of such a movement to its existence or to its sovereignty over any island of the group where a settlement might be made, protest against it, and appeal to the United States and other powers, as other feeble states have done against the fillibusters, for prevention and protection. Serious complications and difficulties would be the consequence. So it might be said also of a removal to any part of Mexico or Central America. Besides, the evil would be too near us, and in a part of the world that may probably become a part of the United States. We could not, therefore, favor the removal of the Mormons to any of these named parts of the world.
Of all the projects spoken of, one has been recently projected which appears entirely unobjectionable in any of these points of view, and which has many other features to recommend it, and which, we are assured, is acceptable to the Mormons, provided they can acquire the means and facilities to carry it out.
The plan is to remove to an island in the Pacific Ocean, where there are but few native inhabitants, which does not belong to any civilized power, on which are no colonies or constituted government, and which abounds in valuable natural productions, has a rich soil, and is large enough for an extensive community. This island has been sufficiently explored, and some of its harbors surveyed for the express purpose of treating with the Mormons and with the United States Government on the subject. The Mormon chiefs having been made acquainted with the nature of the island, and all the circumstances connected with its independent position and geographical location, have received the information and proposition with much favor. The only question with them appears to be how they may reach and establish themselves on this island. They have not the means, and cannot possibly acquire sufficient means for such a gigantic undertaking, unless they could sell their property in Utah; private individuals would not buy their property while they remained in Utah; and they cannot remove from Utah until they acquire means by the sale of their property. This is the dilemma in which the Mormons find themselves, whatever may he their disposition to remove. Under these circumstances, will not the Government of the United States—will not Congress—have the wisdom and foresight, and, indeed, have the economy, to avail itself of such a favorable opportunity, buy out the Mormons—buy their bonâ fide property—for what it is worth, at fair valuation, and thus give them the means to leave the American continent? And it is but just, if this deluded people desire to go, that we should pay them for their improvements. The United States Government cannot wish to avail itself of the misfortunes or fanaticism of this people, to use their property, to take their improvements, without a compensation, even could or would the Mormons voluntarily abandon it. But, as we said above, they have not the means to go, unless the Government buy their improvements. Will Government do it? If it act agreeably to the universal will of the American people it will do it, and that promptly, as soon as Congress meet. It is no party question, and cannot be made one; and the voice of the whole country would exclaim, "Let it be done," "Let us get rid of such a great evil, such a costly evil, in so easy a manner, and at such a small cost."
Extraordinary as the project may appear at the first view of it, and as gigantic as may be the undertaking to remove sixty or seventy thousand people to new home, thousands of miles across the ocean, it is a feasible and a practicable one, and has been well calculated in all its bearings. Though the matter has not been made public, the parties who started it have been a long time preparing for this stroke of humane and patriotic policy. They are not politicians or lobby speculators, but highly reputable merchants and shipowners. The project will be fully matured in the course of a few months, and then the government will be called upon to consider it. The national gratitude will be due to the projectors; they will be the instruments of removing from our Christian country, and from civilized communities, a plague-spot which is disgusting, an evil which is costing millions a year, and which would cost an incredible sum to keep it in check, and of doing all this in a humane and honorable manner, without giving a shock to the principles of our Constitution or the freedom of our institutions.