Should the Saints Bedfellow with Politics?
Now that it appears the presidential candidates are being selected and the sectarian "whores and harlots" come calling on the would be "Kings of the Earth", I reflect on the sorry record of the temporal authorities in latter day Zion in letting the Saints build up the Kingdom of God. For the benefit of visitors, I am copying here a letter from James J. Strang, published in the Northern Islander on 01 June 1856 - a mere 19 days before his murder at the hands of apostates and criminals. I will let readers draw their own conclusions.
"The 6th day of April, 1830, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was organized at the town of Fayette, in the State of New York, consisting of only six members, two of whom, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, were Elders; being the only true and living Church existing by the commandment of God on earth.
The members of this Church, guided by revelations of God, have always sought to come out from among unbelievers, and be separate. Knowing that others were offended with their religion, they endeavored to avoid giving offence by removing from among them, keeping the commandment, 揅ome out from among them, that ye be not partakers of their sins, and receive not of their plagues.�o:p>
Almost immediately after the organization of the Church, the Saints commenced assembling at Kirtland, Ohio, for a temporary rendezvous; but at the same time a few went up to Missouri, to locate a permanent residence, and selected the site of Independence, Jackson county, as their future home, and commenced a settlement there.
Agreeable to a commandment which God gave them, they purchased large quantities of lands of the government of the United States , and paid the full price therefore to the officers of the United States , the ministers of your predecessors in office. Upon these lands our breth璻en, the saints, made extensive settlements, continually showing themselves the most indus璽rious, peaceable and law-abiding citizens of that section of the country.
At the time of which we speak no one among them was accused of any violation of the law, or of a want of at璽achment to the constitution and government of the United States , or of the state of Missouri .
Notwithstanding these facts, and the legal rights of our brethren, a numerous meeting of cit璱zens of Missouri was held at Independence , in Missouri , which decreed the expulsion of the saints from that part of the State. This meeting issued a manifesto to the public, giving to the world the reasons for banishing from their neighborhood a numerous class of citizens; the entire church of the Latter Day Saints.
In giving these reasons they stated that our religious senti璵ents and domestic habits were incongruous with theirs, and that it was necessary for their happiness that our brethren should leave; and as the grievances of which they complained were not recognized by the laws, and the saints had not violated any existing law whereby they were subject to regular prosecution in the courts, therefore they would take redress into their own hands, and compel us to leave the country, peaceably if they could, forcibly if they must.* This decree was carried out by the expulsion of the saints from Jackson Co., Missouri.
*The western Monitor, of 2d August, 1833 , contains this manifesto. We extract from it the following:The evil is one that no one could have foreseen, and is therefore unprovided for by the laws, and the delays incident to legislation, would put the mischief beyond remedy.
It requires no gift of prophecy to tell that the day is not far distant when the civil government of the country will be in their hands. When the sheriff, the justices, and the county judges will be Mormons, or persons wishing to court their favor from motives of interest or ambition.
We do hereby most solemnly declare:--
That no Mormon shall in future move and settle in this county.
That those now here, who shall give a definite pledge of their intention within a reasonable time to remove out of the county, shall be allowed to remain unmolested until they have sufficient time to sell their property and close their business without any material sacrifice.
That the editor of the `Star' be required forthwith to close his office, and discontinue the business of printing in this county; and as to all other stores and shops belonging to the sect, their owners must in every case strictly comply with the terms of the second article of this declaration, and upon failure, prompt and efficient measures will be taken to close the same.
That the Mormon leaders here, are required to use their influence in preventing any further emigration of their distant brethren to this county, and to counsel and advise their brethren here to comply with the above requisitions.
That those who fail to comply with these requisitions, be referred to those of their brethren who have the gifts of divination, and of unknown tongues, to inform them of the lot that awaits them.
After adopting this manifesto a committee was sent to exact a pledge of compliance from the Mormons, and on their refusing to give it, It was unanimously resolved by the meeting, that the `Star' printing office should be razed to the ground, the type and press secured,� which was immediately done.
They then settled in various counties on the north side of the Missouri river, but continual collisions took place, till finally they were banished from the State by authority of a mandate guilty issued by Lillburn W. Boggs, acting Governor, distinctly commanding that the saints (in derision called Mormons) be banished from the State, or exterminated. We are perfectly aware that this mandate of the acting Governor was unauthorized by the law, and in violation of the constitution of the State of Missouri .
But the Legislature of that State, in failing to impeach the Governor, and by appropriating the money to pay the expense of executing his order, has affirmed and adopted the act as the crime of the State. In accomplishing this expulsion ten thousand persons,, men, women and children, were plundered of their possessions, exiled from their homes, and driven in destitution, hunger, and want, in mid winter, to a distant land, passing much of the way in the midst of hostile foes, who not only refused them shelter and food, but kept them in continual danger.
Many were separated from their families and incarcerated in prison, whence, after long deten璽ion, they escaped only by paying large sums of money to prison keepers, judges and lawyers, as the price of their enlargement. Besides a feeble few, who, after learning that their perse璫utors were without compassion, were slain while defending their wives, their children and their firesides; eighteen persons, unarmed, and engaged in the worship of God, were murdered unresisting, and in cold blood, in the early part of these persecutions; one of them a mere child, who died mixing together the words of his prayer to God, and his supplication for merely from his murderers; another, an old man, bowed down with suffering and sorrow, scarred with the wounds he had received fifty-seven years before in defense of American liberty and American independence; all yielding up their lives for the name of Jesus, and the witness of the gospel. Others, at different times, shared the same fate; how many, we know not.
Subsequently the saints settled in great numbers in the State of Illinois, and built up, besides many villages, the city of Nauvoo, at one time the most populous city in that State. At their first settlement they were kindly received; but after building up flourishing towns, becoming numerous as a religious people, and strong in their political influence, religious prejudice, political interests and commercial rivalry combined together to destroy them.
On this occasion our persecutors sought to justify their violence by accusing the saints of enormous crimes, and the most astounding corruptions. That these accusations were utterly unfounded is clearly shown by the fact that with courts, jurors and prosecuting officers constantly and assiduously selected from among our persecutors, few of the saints were ever prosecuted on criminal charges, and very few indeed ever convicted.
That the best informed and most intelligent men of the nation are fully aware of their entire innocence, is shown in the fact that territorial government has been organized under an act of Congress, possessing as full powers as any other territorial government can, organized under the jurisdiction of the United States; giving its entire executive and legislative power to the same people then exiled; and the men among them who exercised most influence and control in their affairs, and who if they were criminal were most guilty, have received the offices of Governor, Marshall and Secretary of a Territory, as well as numerous minor appointments under the United States government both Whig and Democratic administrations.
The very high character given them by Senator Douglass who presided over the criminal courts of the Mormon District of Illinois, during the period of their sojourn there; by Col. Kane of the United States army; who witnessed their expulsion; and Captains Stansbury and Gunnison, of the Topographical Engineers, who spent a year with a large body of them in their new mountain home, have dissipated all suspicion in the minds of intelligent men that they had given any occasion for the harsh treatment which they received at the hands of the people of the State of Illinois.
The unequivocal testimony of Thos. Ford, Governor of Illinois, at the time of their expulsion, who was present most of the time at the scene of action, is that their character and conduct were far better than those arrayed against them.
Nevertheless this persecution was carried on until our fellow servants, the prophets, Joseph and Hyrum Smith, were martyred; the houses of hundreds of the saints burned down before their eyes; the entire community amounting to 25,000 banished from that section of the State, and four millions of dollars worth of property sacrificed.
After the banishment of the Saints from Illinois, a few of them came into Michigan, and commenced settlements on the Islands of the Great Lakes, then uninhabited, but occasionally occupied by roving borderers, engaged in fishing and selling liquor to the Indians, in violation of law, and in criminal courses still more reprehensible.
The attempt to build up permanent and populous communities in the midst of these valuable lake fisheries, especially at Beaver Island, where there is an excellent harbor, and every facility for an extensive and prosperous commerce, excited the jealousy of those who at Mackinac had for a long time monopolized the entire Indian and fishing trade.
The wretched men of the borderers who had sought a home beyond the haunts of civilization, that they might indulge in unrestrained debauchery and enjoy impunity in crime, could only regard settlers who sought good order and legal government as invaders and enemies. They early exhibited a hostile disposition, and a determination to prevent the establishment of legal government.
As early as 1849 we were subjected to numerous injuries, for which it was impossible to obtain redress. Women were insulted, and men assaulted with impunity. At the same time a concerted effort was made throughout the lake country to render us infamous, by telling false tales upon us. The numerous whiskey dealers on the fishing grounds, whose entire income was derived through criminal means, joined by most of the merchants at Mackinac, who were most seriously alarmed at the growing up of a commercial rival at Saint James, engaged in the undertaking and enlisted the officers and men on nearly all the boats and vessels in the upper lake trade, by means of their acquaintance with them. Every manner of false tale was thus continually put afloat, and no matter by what falsehood originated, was circulated through respectable newspapers, on what was taken for good authority.
By such means, in a short time the mass of the public were persuaded that the Saints at Beaver Island were the offscourings of all things, and the dregs of the inhabitants of the earth.
Under these circumstances, with no means of becoming generally known to the public, except through the representations of those thoroughly enlisted against us, in 1850, extensive preparations were made throughout the fishing region for an armed assault upon us, by a force more than four times as numerous as we could furnish for defense. The Saints were thoroughly schooled in the practice of nonresistance, and were unarmed.
But by the prophecies and commandments, it appeared that having three times fled before their persecutors, it was now our duty to withstand them, and that in doing so God would give us the victory. We resolved to repel force with force, and return blow for blow, and stroke for stroke, publicly announced one determination and prepared for the issue; and our enemies gave way without bloodshed.
In 1851 they succeeded in enlisting the United States government in a violent and lawless crusade against us, in the course of which immense quantities of private property was seized, and taken from us; numerous individuals were arrested on charge of felonies and misdemeanor of almost every manner, and carried prejudged and foredoomed, to distant places for trial, in the courts of their enemies; the United States military and naval force was put in requisition to awe our families in the absence of nearly all the men, while numerous armed bands of our persecutors were left to roam undisturbed through our settlements, taking and destroying what they pleased, and insulting and assaulting when they would.
From all these perils God delivered us. Every one of the accused were acquitted. Though numerous persons were assaulted and cruelly beaten, every one recovered. Only a small portion of the property which had been taken from us was ever restored; but the justice of our cause was vindicated by the decision of the proper officers that we were entitled to all of it, and the actual loss was by the outright stealing of public officers.
While these acts were going on, a few people from Mackinac, and a numerous horde of border ruffians, sometimes under pretence of legal process, but oftenest by mere force of arms, seized nearly all the movables of value possessed by our population. For these acts we pursued many of them at law to final judgment, who have abundance of executable property, but in very few of these cases have we been allowed to make collections on executions.
This persecution resulted in separating our enemies from among us, and leaving us the undisturbed occupancy of a territory sufficient for our use for many years to come; and at the next session of the Legislature acts were passed for establishing the necessary municipal authorities in that territory, organizing town and county government, and a regular judiciary.
Irritated at this, and suffering a great loss of trade by our growing prosperity, the people of Mackinac set on foot an armed invasion, for the avowed purpose of resisting all legal government in the county of Emmet , a purpose not concealed, but declared in the resolutions of their public meetings, and published in the newspapers.
A conflict ensued in which several of the Saints were wounded, and several thousand dollars of property destroyed; but the invasion failed, and the invaders fled as the wicked often do, when no man pursued. The criminals engaged in this invasion were duly indicted, but by the connivance of officers and citizens they were able to escape a trial and have gone unpunished. But their flight from this region left us in the enjoyment of peace and undisturbed order.
But the action of the State Legislature, at its next session in cutting up the county of Emmet , legislating its officers out of office, and denying a judiciary to the new county of Manitue , indicated a settled determination to deny us legal protection, and secure from punishment those who had committed crimes against us.
For all these wrongs the laws and institutions of the country offer us no redress. It is vain to answer that such acts are contrary to law, and that the courts are open to us. There is a law in the land stronger than statutes--more potent than the usages of courts. The will of the masses, however vicious and partial, no matter by what influences produced, has been able to trample on all precedent, and ride down all law. It has done more. It has produced legislation according to its wishes, in violation of all constitutional securities; and not merely contrary to precedent, but destructive of natural right.
This unrecognized law, found only in the will of the masses, has been enforced in destroying houses, offices and valuable papers of some of the most distinguished citizens of the country, public buildings of various kinds, printing presses and rail roads owned by wealthy companies, churches and convents of the most ancient and numerous religious denomination in the country, and to overthrow contracts which had stood the vicissitudes of two hundred years, the ordeal of civil war and national revolution, though defended by the sanctity of constitutional and statute law; usages older than the language we speak; the power of a great State; the wealth that seven generations of thrift had accumulated; and backed by an aristocracy made honorable by deeds of benevolence, justice, patriotism and valor as boundless as the sources of its greatness.
If these cannot resist the power of this new element of national and state government mob law, how shall we? We are aware that our name is cast out as evil, as a kind of apology for the uncounted injuries which have been heaped upon us. But you will not forget that in early times among all the most polished nations the name christian was looked on as a name for fanaticism and debauchery; that the learned Greeks and victorious Romans held them cannibals, and that, even now, in half the civilized and christian nations democracy is considered synonymous with anarchy and lawlessness--how justly, you can judge.
And if the sanctity of the ancient christian faith, and the greatness of your nation have not protected them from these aspersions, what shall protect us from equal wrongs? We protest against this nearly universal practice of assuming that we are guilty of great crimes, as an excuse for denying us the regular protection of the government in our legal rights. But when we examine the evidence of the truth of these assumptions, they are most conclusively falsified.
Joseph, the martyred prophet, whose blood stains on the jail at Carthage are as indelible as those of Jesus on the cross, has been arrested thirty-nine times on criminal charges. Thirty nine times he has been tried in the courts of his enemies; many times at the bar of men who advocated his murder. And thirty-eight times, in such courts, at the bar of such men, has he been acquitted.
The only offence of which he was ever convicted is that of unlawful banking--an offence committed with impunity by other men in nearly every State in the union. Nor did he escape conviction by the testimony of his brethren. Such men would stop their ears against it. If this is not a sufficient vindication of him as a law-abiding man, no array of facts could be.
That the charge on which he was finally arrested and imprisoned was merely trumped up for the purpose of seizing upon him and detaining him till a convenient time for his destruction, is as clearly proved as any fact whatever in the history of the country.
And when we add that his murderers were indicted, arraigned and acquitted at the instance of their own friends, without any attempt to introduce the necessary evidence against them, and merely for the purpose of interposing a legal bar to their punishment, in some more healthy period of the public mind, we think it will not require argument to convince all mankind that, the State of Illinois has adopted that murder as its own.
In this place, during the persecutions of 1851, ninety-nine men were arrested on false charges, taken to distant places and tried in the courts of their accusers, and though prejudged and foredoomed, were every one of them acquitted.
For all these wrongs we are denied redress. We have not forgotten that there are tribunals in which causes partially similar in kind, immeasurably less in aggravation, are sometimes examined, perhaps occasionally righted. But these tribunals are closed against us by the law now, and at all times by the power of that law already referred to, which is above statute, precedent and right.
If a period cannot be put to these wrongs, then there is presented to the world the melancholy spectacle of the greatest republic on earth, a christian nation, acknowledging itself powerless to judge; unable to protect the right; a nation on whose righteousness half the earth rest the hopes of man, confessing that there is a power above the law, riding down the constitution, which stalks abroad to plunder and banish the citizens, and none to rebuke; murders the unoffending innocent, and none to say, "why do ye so?" which sanctities its deeds of violence, even in the eyes of religious men, by blackening the fame of the glorious dead, with the name of crimes which in their life time it dared not attempt to prove, even in its own tribunals.
The administrators of the government have been appealed to in vain. Unless the wrongs redressed, they must rest on the nation forever, and bring down the wrath of God on those who have done, and those who have permitted them? If you fear not God, how will you answer to mankind and to posterity, for such a desecration of republicanism, in a christian country.
For all these wrongs we do not ask a grant of lands, nor a State or Territorial government--We acknowledge that we have had enough of these. We shall never sell the lands of our brethren and ourselves, the inheritance of the martyred and of their children, for new grants of which we are equally liable to be deprived by some new act of violence.
There is now in the States of Missouri and Illinois four millions of dollars worth of houses and lands purchased with the money and produced with the skill and industry of our brethren the saints, which they are not permitted to occupy.
Courts, State Legislatures, and State executives are deaf to us. When we speak, they cannot hear. When we ask justice, their faces are turned from us. True, when they do speak, their voice is for us. But it comes after the deed is done, or it is so faintly heard that the lawless do not think it earnest. The forms of law hold us as victims, and the power that is above law overwhelms us. Thus have two of our prophets died in the hands of public officers, and under the destroying protection of a State Governor, personally superintending the proceedings, and no one act of public indignation has rebuked the deed. By every form of .judicial proceeding known to the laws of the land, the perpetrators have been legally shielded from the punishment which the law itself denounces against such crimes.
The fact that our brethren are the owners of large tracts of land, purchased of the United States, and secured to us by the name and seat of the President, which they have never sold, and which they are not permitted to occupy, by the powers actually existing, and that our brethren have been banished and murdered, and their persecutors are unrebuked, and posi璽ively and legally screened from punishment, is as indelibly stamped on the history of the country as the declaration of independence, or the victory of Buena Vista.
We do not ask compensation in money or land for the blood of the dead, or the persecutions of the living. The lands we have been robbed of, we shall continue to claim for the banished, and for the widows and orphans that murders have made, till the day when the judgment of God shall be revealed on the nation, and his wrath no longer slumbers; and they shall go up and possess it, though the nation ceases.
But these things admonish us that we are not to expect peace or protection in the midst of the people who have done us this iniquity. Both by the commandment of God and from the necessity of our situation, we are seeking a home in a land where religious sects and political parties are far removed from us, a land uninhabited.
We have not been suffered to live with other men. Shall we not be permitted to live alone? God made the earth for all men. Of the vast all he has given us a few little islands. They are the work of his hands; not man's. Why should man sell God's work?
For nine years our communities have dwelt here in peace among themselves. The few small schisms which have arisen, have yielded to the ordinary course of discipline, and the wrong doers have either amended or departed from among us, doing us very little injury, except as they were abetted by public officers, religious boobies, the newspaper press, and bands of lawless men. Yet we are pursued from day to day with continual threatening. An effort is continually made to convince us that we are to have no rest forever.
Three times have we fled before our persecutors, because we would not repel injuries by force. We understand by the word of God that it is our duty to flee no further. We do not learn from the divine writings that it is our duty never to resist evil deeds. The time has come when forbearance is no longer a virtue.
While men around us have for years threatened us with fire and blood, and we only asked legal justice, they have been continually commended for the forbearance, and we continually menaced with invasions, expatiation and death.
We have ceased to take to ourselves any trouble about these matters. We have known for years what our persecutors seem so anxious to impress upon us, that, when the public vengeance is waked up the law will not protect us and that among an angry people innocence is no shield.
We do not expect Governor or President to protect us against mobs. We live in the continual assurance that any one of us might be murdered in a neighboring county, and not a magistrate could be induced to issue process against the murderer.
Yet we trust in God. We walk in conscious security. We laugh in bitter scorn at all these threats. And we tell these wolf hounds, marshal your myrmidons, and send them along, to make a spoil of beauty and booty, as soon as you please. We bid them a bloody welcome to hospitable graves; over which, each year, we will pile stones, with a muttered curse, against the day of the resurrection of damnation.
We will neither purchase temporary peace and future calamities by dishonorable trafficking with political jugglers, nor will we yield our homes to enemies. If we live, here will we live. If we die, here will we die, and here shall our bones be buried, expecting in the resurrection of the just to possess the land forever, and dwell with the righteous during the lifetime of the Eternal.
God judge between us and all men.
Saint James, June 1, � .