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TO THE HONORABLE HENRY L. DAWES, GEORGE F. HOAR,
WILLIAM W. CRAPO, BENJAMIN W. HARRIS, AMBROSE A. RANNEY, LEOPOLD MORSE, SELWYN Z. BOWMAN, EBEN F. STONE, WILLIAM A. RUSSELL, JOHN W. CANDLER, WILLIAM W. RICE, AMASA NORCROSS, GEORGE D. ROBINSON, Senators and Representatives of Massachusetts.
GENTLEMEN, — To you in the Congress of the United States, representing Massachusetts, in which State I am a voter, and therefore one of your constituents, I desire to express some thoughts on the existing so-called Mormon problem. I address you in this open letter, rather than in a private one, hoping thereby to reach, besides your own, other candid and intelligent minds. Judging from items in newspapers and somewhat irritating articles in religious journals, one might at first glance infer that the whole nation was inflamed, with good reason, against the Mormons. But closer observation has led me to think that the excitement is a manufactured one; kindled and kept alive in the cities and larger towns, mostly by ministers, priests, and zealous members of sectarian churches. They denounce polygamy, a social and religious institution of the Mormons, as a "crime," an “evil,” an
an “evil,” an “abomination,” a “stigma,” and use many other strong epithets and appellatives to express their detestation of the Latter-Day Saints and their peculiar marriage institution. But I have not yet seen any clear and candid arguments against the Mormons, or their polygamy, that justify the censures so profusely and ministerially showered upon them. Epithets, used as weapons of offence, dis
close, unconsciously to themselves, the real character of those who utter them. They may be scandalous, leaping like demons from perturbed and angry passions, or they may be truthful and angelic in their origin, emitted from wisdom's sphere. A lavish use of opprobrious appellatives as surely, and sometimes more deeply injures him who utters them, than they harm the object to which they are applied. “That which proceedeth out of the mouth, this defileth the man,” said the great Teacher of morals and religion, to the Pharisees and Scribes of his day. With these reflections there also comes to my mind the remark of an eminent living American, that “Ministers, as a rule, know but little of public affairs, and they always account for the actions of people they do not agree with, by attributing to them the lowest and basest motives. This,” said he, “is the fault of the pulpit, always has been, and probably always will be.” Believing that the existing and the prospective hostile legislation against the Mormons is unconstitutional and unjust, that it is un-American and persecutive, I respectfully and earnestly implore you representing Massachusetts, where
6. Freedom's battle once begun,
to heartily help those Mormons now struggling against great odds, for their own civil and religious liberty; help them, I urge, because thereby you help to maintain and defend the American, the natural, the human right to the free exercise of religion throughout the United States. Their cause is that of religious freedom. Whoever hesitates now in the battle, thereby shows that he does not understand the question in issue, or does not appreciate its importance. No welcome ever awaited the advent of any Christian sect into the world. Each and every one has been derided, or oppressed and persecuted, not so much by non-religionists, as by other sects of professing Christians, chiefly by their priests and officers. As now of Utah, so of the home of the Founder of Christianity, it was doubtingly asked, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” Roman Catholics persecuted Protestants, and the different sects of Protestants have persecuted each other, and attempted to strangle each successive sect at its birth. Driven by oppression from their native land to the stern and rock-bound coast of New England, not even through suffering brought to a perception of toleration and soul-liberty, the Puritan Congregationalist persecuted the Quakers and the Baptists. At a later day, as the Universalists, the Shakers, the Methodists, and the Unitarians denominationalized, so each sect received its baptism of abuse, misrepresentation, or persecution, from the elder members of the Christian household of faith.
Not thus was it in the better days of certain pagan religions. The Greeks, besides welcoming many known gods, inscribed an altar “to the unknown god." The Romans built the Pantheon, sacred to many gods. Thereby they manifested not only toleration, but mutual respect for one another's religious beliefs. Directly contrary to brotherhood, sadly intolerant has been the Christian religion, as administered by its popes, its bishops, its priests, ministers, and preachers. Dungeons and gibbets, stakes, shackles, and flames, fines, imprisonments, and proscriptions, stand out vividly distinct upon its history. Hildreth the historian says, that “horror of toleration is an inherent and essential characteristic of every theocracy.” Theocracy is the opposite of democracy. The author of “ The Natural History of Fanaticism" mentions “enthusiasm inflamed by hatred” as the cause of this intolerance; but Rev. Dr. Francis Wayland, formerly President of Brown University in Providence, R.I., in his “Limitations of Human Responsibility,” ascribes this “ atrocious wickedness," for so he designates it, to mistake on the part of the persecutors as to the limits of their personal responsibility. Are not these intimations from wise and devout Christians as Dr. Wayland and Rev. Isaac Taylor were known to be, sufficient to induce the ministers, editors of religious papers, and other church-members now actively instigating animosities, pains, and penalties against the Mormons, to consider, to reflect whether the fault may be — not in the Mormons, but in themselves, that they are persecutors? Will not you, honored Senators and Representatives of Massachusetts, consider whether the territory of the United States, extending from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from the frigid to the burning zone, may not be vast enough to contain, and the Constitution of the United States wisely interpreted (as Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, or Benjamin Franklin would have interpreted it) broad enough to secure justice and the blessings of civil and religious liberty not only for all Christians (the Mormons claim to be Christians), but for a great multitude which no man can number out of all tribes, peoples, and tongues, to dwell together in peace, provided that they do justice, and infringe not on one another's equal rights ?
In considering the Mormon problem, it should be known that many intelligent and unprejudiced persons who have visited and dwelt among the Mormons, for the special purpose of observing their social and religious institutions, their morals, industries, habits, and manner of life, have published the results of their observations, and their testimony is before the world. Much evidence might be given, but let that of one unusually intelligent and truthful witness here suffice as a fair sample of more that might be given. Capt. John Codman, widely known in Boston and New York as a traveller and a man of intelligence, independence, and integrity, in the small volume entitled “ The Mormon Country," which he published some few years since, thus speaks of them and their religion:
“I don't believe in their revelations, and God forbid that I should be understood as attempting to justify polygamy. But for all that, if I knew that the press, supposing it to notice this little book, would abuse me unmercifully, and if the “forty thousand parson power' of all the pulpits should come down with its anathemas, I will say this : In all my voyages and travels about the world I never before passed three months in a community more industrious, honest in dealing among themselves and with others, quiet, inoffensive, loyal to government, temperate,