Thomas Fitch, Jr. (1838-1923)

Tom Fitch was Nevada's Representative in Congress (March 4, 1869 - March 3, 1871)

Life and Times of

1865 Tom Fitch Article  |  1870 Anti-Cullom Bill Speech  |  Tom Fitch, later in life

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Vol. ?                                              New York City, August, 1865.                                              No. CLXXXIII.



(by Tom Fitch)

Carry yourself in imagination far from the centres of civilization, over weird wastes and savage wilds, to a point where the 116th degree of west longitude intersects the 42d degree of north latitude. The head-waters of the Owyhee -- there a small river or brook -- are gurgling a mile or so behind you; your right foot presses the golden sands of Idaho; your left is under the spiritual jurisdiction of Brigham Young; while at your feet the unerring eye of science marks out the northeastern corner of the new State of Nevada. Travel thence due west for a hundred miles, over rugged mountains, lofty buttes, and patches of desert and valley, and you reach the Mica Hills, glittering in the sunlight like cones of gold; thirty miles more in the same direction will bring you to the divide between the waters of the Columbia River and the Great Basin; a hundred miles more still due west, and you are in a wondrous country of petrified trees -- stony finger-points of the antediluvian past -- of sparkling streams, translucent lakes, high mountains, and gloomy cañons. Then you have a range of granite mountains to cross, and forty or fifty miles more carries you to the northeastern corner of our young State, where, in the vicinity of Nye's Lake and Roop's Lake, 7000 feet above the sea, 250 miles from the initial point, and where the 120th line of west longitude crosses the 42d parallel of north latitude, the State of Oregon stretches to the north, and Lassen County, California, faces you on the west. Southward thence along the 120th longitudinal line, with California on your right, and Nevada on your left, pursue your course. You will need the wing of an eagle and the eye of a bee to follow this line. The sombre Sierras, crowned with tresses of pine, frowning with battlements of barren rock, wrinkled with mighty cañons, and set with a tiara of glittering lakes, will be your companion for hundreds of miles. You skirt the western border of Honey Lake, and pass over the centre of the inland sea of the Sierras -- Lake Bigler, or, as it is now called, Lake Tahoe, from the Pahutah designation of Big Water. About thirty miles from the northern end of this lake, some ten miles from the eastern shore, at a point where the 120th line of west longitude intersects the 39th parallel of north latitude, the boundary line strikes off in a southeasterly direction, at an angle of about 45 degrees, following the sweep of the Sierras for 200 miles to a point where the 37th parallel of north latitude intersects the 117th line of west longitude. Thence across a region seldom or never trodden by the foot of man; along the line of desolate Arizona, with the burning sands of the distant Colorado heating the air to intensity -- sixty miles -- to the spot where the southwestern corner of Nevada joins Utah and Arizona; thence 300 miles due north along the Utah line to the point of commencement.

These are the boundaries of Nevada – battle-born child of the republic, thirty-sixth star of the American constellation. As are her boundaries, so are her varied physical aspects within those boundaries. Three hundred miles north and south, and 250 miles cast and west, of an elevated plateau between the Sierra Nevada and the Rocky Mountains, is the general description of Nevada, but what pen shall do justice to the wonderful details? The man who loves the wild in nature, who delights in contrasts, and seeks strange sights, will not visit her soil in vain. He will behold a land of rugged mountains,


still bearing the marks of the volcanic fires by which they were upheaved from the chaotic gloom which stretched out before the morning ere God said, "Let there be light." He will stand by the side of a hundred springs or geysers, ejecting boiling water impregnated with mineral, potent in the cure of diseases as the pool of Bethesda of old, and as sulphurously and unpleasantly suggestive of a region not to be mentioned to ears polite as the most orthodox Puritan could desire. He will travel through lovely valleys blossoming in emerald beauty, and, crossing a river, find himself in a region of awful sterility, blasted by the breath of the Almighty, with no drop of water to cool the desert air, and no living thing to stir the stillness which has brooded there since the dawn of creation. He will enjoy a delicious climate, and an atmosphere balmy as the breath of June, occasionally alternated by a rigor that renders the name of Nevada, or "snowy," not altogether inappropriate -- by snows which last until late in May, and blasts that hurl the giant pines of the mountains in a demon waltz to the music of the shaking hills.

The new State, boisterous in patriotism, and exulting in a majority of nearly two to one for Abraham Lincoln, with a clause in her organic law declaring that "the paramount allegiance of the citizen is due to the Federal Government," comes bursting into the Union without the decorous delay of long courtship that preceded the "sealing" of her sisters. Five years ago and the State of Nevada was only Carson County in Western Utah, uninhabited except by a few Mormons at Genoa in Carson Valley, and hurried through by the California bound emigrant as a sort of Valley of the Shadow of Death through which it was necessary to pass to reach the promised land. To many it was a valley of death indeed, as the skeletons of men and cattle that line the banks of the Humboldt still testify. Silver was the vivifying power that caused this lotus flower of the mountains to burst forth full-blown upon the national stem to which her war-crimsoned sisters are clinging. In 1859 silver was discovered upon a spot in the mountains east of Carson Valley, where now the City of Virginia stands. A few hundred pioneers crossed the Sierras that season and hibernated in the hills through the winter. The following year (1860) the value and permanent character of the silver-bearing quartz ledges was partially demonstrated and a considerable emigration attracted. In 1861 expensive toll roads across the Sierras were completed, mills erected, machinery transported, and the foundations of Nevada, or, as it was then familiarly called, "Washoe," permanently laid. The developments already made proved that along the base of Mount Davidson, under the streets of the future metropolis of Silverland, for a distance of two miles from Cedar Hill on the north to Gold Hill on the south, there meandered immense, and, in point of depth, seemingly inexhaustible veins of rich silver-bearing rock, running parallel to each other, and called -- after the discoverer of silver -- by the generic name of "the Comstock Ledge." There was no good reason why these same veins should not be discovered for miles north and south of their present points of boundary. There was no good reason why a hundred other "Comstocks" might not be found, or why every quartz ledge might not be of equal richness. The busy era of adventure, enterprise, and toil was followed by the era of "wildcat." From October, 1862, until March, 1864, speculation ran riot, and the Territory of Nevada was converted into one vast swindling stock exchange. The rich developments upon this famed Comstock Ledge, the growing exports of bullion from the Esmeralda region, discovered in 1861, the glittering promise from quartz ledges discovered in Humboldt County, and the rich assays of "chloride" rock from the Reese River country, whose mineral wealth was discovered in the autumn of 1862, all exaggerated tenfold, frenzied the public mind upon the subject of silver mining, and a feverish gambling excitement usurped the places formerly occupied by legitimate and prudent adventure. Hundreds of companies with capitals -- on paper -- of from $500,000 to $5,000,000 each, were formed every month in California and Nevada. Every merchant and merchant's clerk, every mechanic, every laborer, every servant girl, in every city and village on the Pacific coast, was in possession of a pocketful of stock not inappropriately designated as "wild-cat." A grocery importer in San Francisco complained that he could not get his business properly attended to, because his book-keeper and assistant were President and Secretary, and his salesmen and porters Trustees of a flourishing mining company, and the necessities of the stock market deranged the due delivery of sugars and teas. Montgomery Street, in San Francisco, and C Street in Virginia -- which had now become a city of 20,000 inhabitants -- were thronged from morning until night with crowds buying and selling stock, chaffing each other, and exhibiting specimens of quarts. Three stock boards, with rooms magnificently furnished, were in full operation in San Francisco. Sacramento, Marysville, and Stockton, each had their stock board. In Virginia City there were four, and transactions to the amount of hundreds of thousands of dollars were often made in an hour. A report of a "rich strike," a report of a mine being "salted," an alleged discovery of the Comstock, a rumor that the Supreme Court would grant an injunction, a rumor that the Supreme Court would raise an injunction -- any or all of such would affect the value of prominent stocks from 20 to 100 per cent. in a day. In this whirl of mad excitement Virginia City most profited. Hotels, boarding-houses, stables, and hay-yards were filled to overflowing. In stages, in buggies, on horseback, muleback, and on foot thousands flocked across the mountains to swell the excited throng. A few brought their families, and $100 in gold per month was demanded and freely


paid for a cabin of four or five rooms, and three times that amount for a decent cottage. In Austin, Reese River district, the bubble was inflated to even a greater extent. Men bought town lots for $400 a front foot in a spot where twelve months before only the cry of the coyote disturbed the primeval stillness. On these lots buildings were erected with lumber purchased at an expense of $500 in gold per 1000 feet, and the building readily rented for a monthly sum equal to 10 per cent. of the cost of the building and ground. Of every hundred who invested in mining stock ninety-nine never saw, or intended to see, or designed to work the mine. To sell out, to speculate, to gamble was the object of all. What wonder that when the bubble burst, as it did late in the spring of 1864, the distrust and disgust was as wide-spread as the disaster it brought. Gould and Curry tumbled from $6400 to $840 per foot; Ophir from $4000 to $400; other leading stocks in proportion; while the numerous "wild-cats," quoted at from $20 to $200 per share, descended irrevocably to that sum which can only be designated by a cipher. All over the mining districts of Nevada may now be seen hundreds of partially opened mines once of known and recognized value, but now utterly valueless, or with shares of only a nominal value in the stock market. The sound of the pick is heard no more in their deserted galleries; their shafts are caved in or partially filled with water; their disheartened, disgusted owners will not even pay a small assessment to preserve works already constructed from devastation and decay, and yet the mines are as rich as ever; the ledge is perhaps just beyond, waiting only the Midas touch of patient industry to uncover its glittering deposit. Silver mining, like every other business, requires to be managed as a business and not as a speculation. The people of the Pacific coast have discovered this by bitter experience, and the dark cloud of despair and hard times which settled upon Nevada after the wild-cat babble burst is slowly beginning to fade away. The Mexican proverb, that "it takes a mine to work a mine," has become a truism; for when a quartz ledge promising richness is "struck," and discovered to prospect well, the troubles of the discoverer are about to commence. To run a tunnel or sink a shaft, often blasted through solid rock four or five hundred feet, will require six months' labor of five or six men. If water be struck, as is generally the case, expensive pumping machinery will be needed; then drifts and galleries must be cut and timbered up for protection against caving, and all generally before pay ore can be profitably extracted. To open, drain, and thoroughly prospect a first-class silver mine, with miners' wages at the present rates of $4 in specie per day, will cost from $50,000 to $100,000 in gold. Is it a marvel that Comstock, the discoverer of all this wealth, is mining with indifferent success in the Boise country; that Gould, the locator of the great "Gould and Curry Mine," is cutting shingles for subsistence; and Chollar, the locator of the Chollar Mine, now worth between $1,000,000 and $2,000,000, is prospecting still for "a pile?"

It is true that many silver mines, opened at a cost of $100,000, yield $1,000,000 in gold and silver each year, and pay annual dividends to their stockholders of over 100 per cent. upon their original cost, nevertheless considerable misapprehension exists concerning the profits of silver mining. Twenty per cent. of profit upon the gross value of the bullion extracted is esteemed as very rich, and few mines will average as much. The Gould and Curry Mine, situated in Virginia District, produced during the autumn, winter, and spring of 1863-'64 about three quarters of a million of dollars in bullion bars each month; the dividends to the stockholders during the same time were about $200,000 per month. There are dozens of small claims yielding from $25,000 to $100,000 in bullion each month, and paying their owners a profit of from $1000 to $6000 per month. The effect of such a tax as was proposed at the last session of Congress of 5 per cent. upon the gross proceeds" would be to close most of such mines. Ore has been found yielding $2000 in silver to the ton of quartz rock, but $100 per ton is very rich, and the great mass of the best claims yield on an average not over $40 to $50 per ton. When it is remembered that the charge for milling or reducing rock is from $20 to $25 per ton, and that it costs from $5 to $15 per ton to excavate the quartz, raise it to the surface, and haul it to the mill, it will readily be seen that the silver bars which generous Nevada poured into the treasury of the Sanitary Commission were the result of a toilsome and expensive process, and not picked up by the way-side.

The character of the mining in Nevada, requiring a large outlay of capital before return, has produced the present system of incorporated companies. This system was originally designed for the laudable purpose of concentrating the capital of many to undertake expensive works for which individual means would be totally inadequate; but it has in many instances been widely perverted from the original design, and used as a vehicle for swindling speculative purposes. Brown and his four friends discover and locate a quartz ledge, taking up five claims thereon of 200 feet each, with 200 feet extra for the discoverer. Labor enough is performed upon the ledge to comply with mining laws and hold it for one, three, or six months. Forthwith a company is formed and incorporated. Brown is made President, Jones Secretary, and the other locators Trustees. Beautifully engraved stock is placed in the market, and given away or sold for one, two, or five dollars a share. A small assessment of fifty cents or one dollar per share is levied to pay the expenses of incorporation, and of commencing a shaft. Sometimes succeeding assessments of five, ten, and twenty-five dollars a share are levied, and the development of the mine vigorously prosecuted; oftener, however, all work is suspended as soon as the original holders have succeeded


in getting rid of their "wild-cat" stock. In those cases -- few in proportion -- where heavy assessments have been paid and mines thoroughly opened, it would be safe to estimate that from one-third to one-half of the money expended has been wasted in high salaries to officers, squandered in the erection of useless and expensive brick offices and houses for superintendents, or misappropriated in unnecessary works. Litigation has also been a fruitful source of outgo and corruption. A mine never becomes valuable in Nevada without starting half a dozen litigious claimants after it. Companies are incorporated to prosecute "fighting titles." If a compromise be not effected, then heavy fees to counsel, large sums to scientific "experts," enormous bribes to witnesses and jurors, and, as has been often asserted, to judges, follows, until the stockholder is fain to imagine his silver mine a species of incorporeal Oliver Twist, continually "asking for more," and yielding no return. It is an evidence of the real wealth of Nevada, that, in despite of half of the ore-yielding claims being tied up by injunction, pending a determination of title -- in despite of enormous expenditures and waste -- in despite of the flocks of "wild-cats" and the thousands of "honest miners," whose object is to sell and not work their claims, the yield of bullion has continued to steadily increase. A new system of procuring capital to work silver mines has recently been devised, and meets with some success, as indeed it should, because it obviates the objection which many entertained against buying into a company whose trustees might at any time perform the not uncommon antic of levying a heavy assessment, depreciating or "bearing" the stock in the market, and as "freezing out" the poor holder. The new system is to make a liberal estimate of the actual expense of opening a mine and placing it in dividend-paying order; to issue full paid stock upon this basis, and sell it outright for a sum sufficient to meet the required expenditure, the owners of the ledge receiving a portion of such stock in payment for their interest. Suppose that it will cost $100,000 to open a mine, then stock to the amount of $200,000 may be issued, one half paid to the owners of the ledge for their title and the other half sold at par. With the money obtained from the sale the mine is placed in paying order, and all parties draw large dividends. This process is decidedly preferable to the present plan of continuous assessment and "selling out" of delinquent holders. If the mine so developed be of even average value it can scarcely fail to return from 10 to 20 per cent. per month to the investor, and silver mines are unlike gold mines in that they are inexhaustible, and may be worked for generations when once opened.

Nevada is still largely in debt to California -- indeed how could it be otherwise? The freight alone on goods, machinery, etc., hauled across the Sierra mountains during the year 1863 amounted to something more than $13,000,000 in gold. It would be safe to estimate that the original cost in California of the articles for which this freight was paid was not less than $27,000,000 in gold; making $40,000,000 of imports, while the yield of silver and gold for that year was less than $20,000,000. To this $40,000,000 must be added the large sums of ready money sent over for investment in buildings, mines, mills, etc., and it will readily be seen that the people of Nevada are still greatly in debt; although 1864 has produced a larger yield of bullion and the amount of articles purchased in California has greatly decreased, both because of the diminished demand for heavy castings of machinery, and the increase of home agricultural and mechanical productions. Nevada will pour from $25,000,000 to $80,000,000 of silver into the treasury of the world during the year 1865; and when the completion of the Central Pacific Railroad, to a point near Virginia City, shall afford facilities for cheap transportation, which will justify forwarding the lower grade of silver ores to the Sierra mountains for redaction, the present annual yield of silver will be trebled. There are hundreds of mines in the mining districts within five to twenty miles of the Carson River now lying idle and unworked, which are capable of yielding many million tons of ore that will produce 20 or 25 ounces of silver to the ton. Such mines are now valueless because -- as has been before stated in this article -- the charge for reduction at the mills is not less than from $20 to $25 in gold per ton. In the Sierras, thirty to fifty miles distant, where wood and water is abundant, the same rock might be profitably worked for from $5 to $10 per ton; and a railroad could drive a most lucrative trade by transporting it for $5 per ton.

If Nature has denied to Nevada the fertile beauty, the smiling prairies, the green verdure, and the wooded hills of more favored States, she has amply compensated for the deficiency by most munificent and peculiar endowments in other directions. Silver and gold will not be the only exports of this State when the Pacific Railroad shall have hewed for her a highway to the rest of the world. Several companies are now supplying her people with fine salt of the very purest character found in an immense bed, hundreds of acres in extent, about sixty miles from Virginia. This salt is very fine and pure, perfectly crystallized, and needs no other preparation for market than being shoveled into sacks. The value of this inexhaustible supply may be estimated when it is known that salt is used in all quartz mills, and is an article of prime necessity in the reduction of silver ores by the present process. Immense beds of natural potash, sulphur, and alum, perfectly pure and ready for use, have been discovered in various portions of Central Nevada; all these are of course valueless at present, but must some time become of great value. Bituminous coal of a very fair character has recently been found in several localities, and there is no doubt of the existence of large beds of this indispensable article for fuel and manufacturing purposes.


Nevada, although peculiarly a mineral country, is by no menus destitute of agricultural lands. The business of farming, however, must for many years be limited in extent, inasmuch as her great distance from navigable streams connecting with the ocean, her isolation behind mountain barriers, and her utter destitution of railroad facilities forces her farmers to rely exclusively upon the mining population for a market. Washoe Valley, Carson Valley, and the Truckee meadows, all upon the western border of the State, already produce grasses, cereals, and vegetables enough for the mining communities adjacent, and have still many thousand acres uncultivated within their borders. The Reese River country upon the eastern border of the State, Humboldt to the north and Esmeralda to the south, also contain many fertile valleys. As there are necessarily large quantities of barley and hay used for the vast number of animals employed in transportation of freight across the Sierra Mountains, and as the long road across these same mountains acts in the nature of a protective tariff, the farmers have hitherto been among the most prosperous members of the community. Prosperity is not difficult to the owner of natural meadows yielding from one and a half to two tons of hay per acre, selling on the ground for from $40 to $50 in gold per ton, with corresponding prices for barley, potatoes, and all articles of dairy or farm produce. The country being new there has as yet been but little attention paid to orchard gardening. The altitude even of the lowest valleys being some 4000 feet above the sea, and the seasons late, it is not probable that Pomona will ever smile upon Nevada as she has beamed over all the broad valleys of the Sacramento and the San Joaquin; but the apple and the pear can certainly be most profitably cultivated, the hardier varieties of peach can be made to grow without difficulty, while the volcanic nature of the soil upon the mountains renders it peculiarly adapted to the growth of the grape. In Nevada as in California artificial irrigation must be resorted to in order to raise crops, and here again a difficulty in the path of agricultural development presents itself. The great mass of the water collected in the Sierras pours down their western slope, forming springs and rivulets in abundance, which, in their progress toward the Pacific ocean, are carried into every town by the great flumes or ditches constructed for mining purposes until every mining village in California is now embowered in shrubbery. In Nevada, however, comparatively but little water descends from the Sierras, and the mining being almost exclusively quartz mining, there are none of these life-giving, grass and flower-bringing "flumes." In Virginia City, for instance, a town of 20,000 inhabitants, all the water possible to collect is needed for other purposes than irrigation, and there are not fifty shrubs or a hundred square feet of grass in the entire city. Artesian wells or an aqueduct from Lake Tahoe, thirty miles distant, will probably finally furnish the means of correcting the unsightly appearance of Nevada's chief city.

Virginia, being 6400 feet above the sea level, is literally "a city set upon a hill whose light can not be hid." "Croppings," or surface developments of quartz ledges, were discovered running along the side of Mount Davidson about 1500 feet below its summit, and from 500 to 800 feet above its base. Here Virginia sprang into being like a mushroom, but has gradually changed its fungous character of a mining camp, until it has become in four years a thriving city of brick and stone edifices, containing more than 20,000 inhabitants, with theatres, churches, public halls, three daily papers, aldermen, city indebtedness, and other public improvements. Gold Hill, adjoining Virginia to the south at the head of a cañon running down to the Carson River, contains from 5000 to 6000 inhabitants, and boasts of its daily paper. Austin in Lander County -- Reese River District -- and Aurora in Esmeralda, distant respectively 180 miles east, and 120 miles south of Virginia, are each of about 5000 inhabitants. Carson City, the State capital, situated in a valley at the base of the eastern slope of the Sierras, contains 2500 to 8000 inhabitants, while Dayton, Washoe City, Star City, Unionville, and Silver City have from 1000 to 2500 each. Many families reside in all these towns, and Nevada is changing very much for the better in all her social characteristics. In 1862 a distinguished divine, who visited "the land of sage-brush and silver," and examined the great Ophir mine and the numerous small excavations resembling those dug by gophers and called mines by courtesy or in ridicule, said, on his return to California, that "Washoe" was a land of "Ophir holes, gopher holes, and loafer holes." The latter have not entirely departed; but the halcyon days of the desperadoes and cutthroat gamblers have gone, it is to be hoped, forever. In 1860 and 1861 the refuse ruffianism of California flocked over to the new Dorado. The sound of the pistol was almost as frequent upon the streets of Virginia as the clink of silver from a hundred gambling-hells that lined her principal streets. "A man or two for breakfast," was the staple; and the first inquiry of the morning made by the sober merchant or the tired sojourner to the man about town was, "Who was killed last night?" The hard times which succeeded the financial crash of the spring of 1864 drove this undesirable class of citizens to "fresh fields and pastures new." Virginia is now orderly and well governed, while an increase of churches and schools tells the talc of growing civilizing tendencies.

In 1860 a war broke out between the whites then in Nevada and the Pahutah or Piute Indians. Parties of miners out on prospecting expeditions were attacked by these savages, who are a brave and warlike tribe, very unlike the miserable Diggers of California. Many settlers, miners, and savages were killed, and an expedition from Virginia of a company of volunteers resulted in the defeat and almost entire


destruction of the company by the Piutes under Winnemucca. Peace was soon after made; and to-day dozens of these savages may be seen upon the streets of Virginia splitting cord-wood and packing water for food and clothing, or seated in the street, playing cards for half dollars in emulation of their white instructors.

In the winter of 1860-'61 Nevada was organized as a Territory by Act of Congress, and James W. Nye, of New York, appointed Governor. The first Territorial Legislature met at Carson City in November, 1861, and enacted a code of laws for the government of the Territory. Population continued to rapidly increase, and the second Territorial Legislature in the winter of 1862-'63 passed an act providing for an election of Delegates to a Convention to frame a State Constitution in case the people should vote for calling such Convention. They did so vote almost unanimously in September, 1863, and the first Constitutional Convention assembled at Carson City in November of that year. Some six weeks were consumed in framing a Constitution, which was submitted to the people on the 19th January, 1864, and refused ratification by a vote of about five to one. The causes of its rejection were manifold. The Democracy opposed it with their party organization because of a clause in the Bill of Rights declaring "that the paramount allegiance of the citizen is due to the Federal Government." The Union men opposed it both because a most unacceptable ticket of State officers had been nominated, and because of a disbelief in the ability of the people to support the expensive machinery of a State Government. Perhaps the greatest source of opposition to it, however, originated in the fact that the Constitution as framed contained a clause declaring specifically that mines and mining property should be taxed equally with all other property. This was an entirely different theory from that which prevailed in California, where mines have always been exempted from taxation, and was construed by the great body of the miners to mean, not that the ore taken from the mine should be taxed, but that the right to search for a mine, the hole in the ground, the prospecting shaft, the expectation of a rich quartz vein, the substance of silver hoped for, the evidence of gold unseen, should be taxed. The miners, therefore, went bodily against the Constitution. In March, 1864, Congress passed an Act to enable the people of Nevada to form a State Government, wisely providing therein for an election of Delegates to a Constitutional Convention and a day certain for holding the Convention, else might the disgusted and State-weary people have paid no attention to the opportunity of obtaining sovereignty. As it was, a sickly sort of election was held in June, when not one-fourth of the popular vote was polled, and in July the members of the second Constitutional Convention assembled in Carson City, with every body laughing at them for laboring to form a State Constitution which was "certain to be rejected," and none so poor to do them reverence. A legislative chamber, or court-room, being empty, they were allowed to take possession of it, and the Territorial Secretary donated them a very few quires of paper. A pony purse was made up among the members to buy candles, an obliging saloon-keeper was decoyed by promises of future legislative payment to act as Sergeant-at-arms, and the Convention commenced its deliberations. The papers throughout Nevada generally ridiculed the proceedings, and advised the members to go home; but they persevered amidst discouragements, and in three weeks the present excellent Constitution was produced. The rocks which wrecked its predecessor were carefully avoided. Mines were especially exempted from all taxation except upon proceeds; the rate of taxation on property was restricted for the first three years to one per cent.; the salaries of all public officers limited, and admirable checks placed upon public expenditure. The new Constitution grew in popularity from the hour of its birth. Miners favored it because only the proceeds of the mines could be taxed. Merchants favored it because a State organization would enable them to enjoy the benefits of a specific-contract or gold-currency act. Attorneys favored it because the Territorial judicial system was so entirely inadequate to the necessities of litigation, and the Territorial judges so utterly odious to the people, that more courts and new judges became a prime necessity, unobtainable except at the price of Statehood. Politicians favored it because of the many State offices to be striven for. Last, but not least, the great loyal heart of Nevada was fired by patriotic appeals to add another star to the banner, and exhibit to the world a renewed confidence in republican government, even while the field of azure which bears our national symbols was trembling beneath the vibrations of war.

And thus a constitution of State government, with a "paramount allegiance clause," but slightly modified from the first Constitution, was adopted in September, in a time of general financial depression, with a unanimity greater than that which characterized the rejection of its predecessor in a time of general prosperity and excitement.

We have given in this hasty sketch an imperfect outline of the political, financial, and social history of Nevada. So fruitful of events has been the life of the young State that a detailed history of men and things would occupy volumes instead of pages. The future of Nevada presents the outlines of a glowing picture, on which we might love to dwell but that we are dealing with facts and not fancies. To the emigrant, bringing with him either a small capital in money, or the wealth of honest industry contained in a pair of strong, willing arms, no more certain opportunity can present itself for the speedy acquisition of a competency than settlement within her borders. Whether he engage in agriculture or mining, he can not fail. Unlike California, unlike any gold-bearing country


in the world, silver mines are inexhaustible, and, as a rule, grow richer as they descend into the earth. Not one in a hundred of the silver-bearing quartz veins of Nevada are worked or even prospected. The production of the precious metals is yet in its infancy, while -- with numberless lodes of copper and iron -- production of the baser metals has not yet been attempted. When science shall devise some process to extract the gold and silver which now is wasted in reduction; when railroads convey ores to the vicinage of abundant supplies of fuel and waterpower in the Sierras; when this new State shall furnish yearly from its bowels a sum great enough to control the exchanges of the world, and cause even the great national debt which this war has evoked to melt before the silver current as icebergs dwindle in the warm flow of the Gulf stream -- then shall the citizen of Nevada, pointing to her patriotic motto of "All for our Country," look back upon the days of territorial immaturity and pupilage, and of early statehood, and bless the pioneers who created an empire in the wilderness, and laid the foundations of a mighty commonwealth upon the summits of sterile hills.

Note: The illustrations are from pages 268-69 of the April 24, 1869 Harper's Weekly.

View March 22, 1870 Congressional Response:
by Hamilton Ward   by Charles Pomeroy

[ 1 ]

T H E   U T A H   B I L L.







Delivered in the House of Representatives Feb. 23, 1870.

The House resumed the consideration of the bill (H. K. No. 1089) reported from the Committee on the Territories in aid of the execution of the laws in the Territory of Utah, and for other purposes.

Mr. Fitch said:

Mr. Speaker, that the provisions of this bill reported by the Committee on the Territories, rigidly enforced, would put an end to polygamy in Utah is intrinsically probable. That the destruction of polygamy is a wise and laudable purpose may be readily conceded; and if such destruction were all that is involved it would be my duty to advocate this measure instead of opposing it; but knowing something of the Mormon country, and something more of the peculiar character and motives of the people inhabiting that country, I am impelled to the conviction that this bill, if enforced as law, would provoke consequences most prolific of misfortune and entail results altogether unapprehended.

Among these results may be included, first, the temporary obstruction, if not the complete destruction, of the great overland railroad. Next, Utah would be returned to the desolateness which once reigned supreme upon her soil. Again, the growing industries of a vast country would be checked, and the development of the Pacific coast seriously retarded. Beyond all this, thousands of brave men would be slain, and millions of treasure expended. Notwithstanding the opinions of the gentlemen who appeared before the Territorial Committee, I fear that the people of Utah would regard the passage of this bill as a declaration of war, and would prepare with all the fury and earnestness and zeal of fanatics to enter upon a contest most bitter, protracted, and bloody. The result of such a contest no man can doubt. One hundred and forty thousand people, however self-sustaining, however isolated, however favored by position and circumstances, could not maintain themselves against the power of this Government. The Mormons would be exterminated or driven out of Utah. But, while polygamy thus destroyed, adultery thus delocalized, concubinage thus scattered, with virtue and desolation reigning supreme in a waste where only the jargon of the savage disturbed the stillness, the rebuking verdict of a tax-burdened people would be that the result accomplished was not worth the sacrifice involved.

I agree with the distinguished gentleman from Illinois, the chairman of the Committee on the Territories, that we ought not to shrink from the expense of a just and necessary war, waged for an adequate cause. But I ask gentlemen now the question, with which the country will vex them when through the operations of this bill a Mormon war shall have been precipitated upon us: what is there in such a contest appealing to either the judgment, the conscience, or the patriotism of the people? Does it not lack all the elements which inspire men to go forth to battle? I am not unmindful of the deep disgrace to the nation that the barbarous social practices of the Asiatic should be unblushingly pursued among a Saxon people in this noon of the nineteenth century. I condemn this folly of the Mormon creed. I am filled with amazement and pity at the voluntary degradation of the Mormon women. I compassionate while I abhor that spirit, be it a spirit of sensuality or of sacrifice, which ignores and repudiates that holiest impulse of our nature, that sweetest gift of God, that sacred passion which no man can feel at once for two women, which no woman can entertain for him she does not believe to be exclusively her own.

But the question we consider is a practical and not a sentimental one, and we

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must deal with facts as they exist. This polygamic community has been nursed into strength by the tolerance of this Government. We have given them title to their lands; we have recognized them in various ways; we have permitted them without interference or warning to collect adherents and gain recruits from all parts of Europe. Their numbers have swelled beyond our apprehensions. History nowhere makes mention of a colony of equal age more industrious, more united, more powerful, or more self-sustaining. They have towns containing thousands of people, with newspapers and telegraph lines, factories and foundries hundreds of miles south of Salt Lake City. They are industrious, thrifty, temperate; they are free from every vice comparatively, except polygamy, and that, according to their creed, is no vice, but a religious duty.

They believe in their faith as deeply as the Mohammedan believes in his Koran or the Christian in the crucifixion of his Redeemer. Assail that faith with armies and you will consolidate and strengthen and infuse them with more ardent zeal. The gentleman from Illinois (Mr. Cullum) believes that they will make no resistance. Sir, have they faced the storm and the savage, the desert and disease, to be turned from their tenets or driven from their convictions by an act of Congress? Would any sentiment less earnest than passionate, zealous, fanatical belief have induced a people to go to such a distance from the centers of civilization; to accept such contumely and undergo such sacrifices and such toil? Gentlemen are in error if they suppose that no other purpose than unbridled indulgence in gross animal sensualism carried the Mormons to a life of privation and labor in Utah. If such alone had been their purpose perhaps they might have achieved it with less cost, less effort, and less unpleasant notoriety, without crossing the Mississippi river. The tree of degraded sensuality roes not bear the fruits of thrift and industry and temperance.

I do not intend to apologize for the unlawful acts of that people, but I desire that the House shall understand exactly what we will undertake if we pass this bill. If it is attempted to enforce its provisions there will be war. If it is enacted as law there will be extensive preparations for war. I know that such is not the opinion of the witnesses upon whose testimony the committee have predicated their action. But I appeal to the judgment of gentlemen, I appeal to that history which some one has well said is "philosophy teaching by example," if it is not probable that a people who believe in their religion as devoutly as do the Mormons will fight, and if need be die in the effort to preserve it from annihilation; and so determined, shall we expect them to await our action or hope that they will postpone hostilities until the first company of the forty thousand troops provided for in this bill can reach even the borders of Utah? Sir, they are a practical people. Independently of their peculiar religious views they are perhaps the most practical people on earth. They have made social science a study; their industries are co-operative; their self-abnegation and voluntary submission to discipline are unparalleled; their organization and aptitude for toil are only equaled by the honey-makers, whose dwelling-place and whose habits furnish the symbol and motto for their territorial coat of arms -- a beehive, with the legend, "By industry we thrive."

As I stated before, they would regard the passage of this bill as a declaration of war, and panoplied by a purpose only less dear to them than life itself, they will hasten to fortify and provision and arm themselves. They will promptly proceed to cut off all means of communication with the outside world. With their facilities for organization they could destroy hundreds of miles of the great overland railroad in a week. They could maintain a contest for months, perhaps for years. Of course we could finally conquer them, because we could exterminate them. But it would cost us millions upon millions of treasure; it would cost us thousands upon thousands of lives; it would cost us the interruption of that travel which is permanently growing in importance, and which promises, if undisturbed, to fulfill the cream of Columbus and make America a new highway to the Indies.

Sir, the suppression of polygamy would be purchased at too great a cost. I appreciate the argument of the gentleman from Illinois (Mr. Cullom) that the honor of the nation should be preserved at whatever risk, and the majesty of its laws vindicated at whatever cost. These are heroic sentiments, and claim a share of our reverence whenever we may deem that the honor of the nation is in jeopardy. But I conceive that the moral exigencies of Utah call for no such squandering of blood and treasure as seems to be involved in the conditions of this bill. Polygamy, while it is bad enough, offers no challenge except to the educated sentiments of a people. It makes no interference with the controlling power, nor asks the nation to be responsible for its existence, its advancement, or its destiny. It assails no

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ccchuman right; it assaults no human privilege. If the question of national unity or human freedom were involved I would stand here, as did the Representatives of the people in the Thirty-Seventh and Thirty-Eighth Congresses, and vote money in countless millions and men in numberless hordes. But this is a question of no considerable importance at last, though we have sometimes sought to make it appear so. It represents a religious megrim which has assumed an obnoxious form, but which contains the elements of its own destruction, which interferes at last with the tastes and prejudices rather than the interests of mankind, and which does not rise to the dignity of a political question. It is simply the case of a handful of men and women who choose to govern themselves in their own way, and who, with one odious exception more grievous to themselves than to us, seem to have made of their method an undoubted success. We might make diligent search to find a community more peaceful, industrious, or thrifty, than these Mormons. We might look in vain elsewhere than in Utah for cities without a brothel or gaming-house.

Polygamy and slavery have sometimes been called "twin relics of barbarism." That was a taking phrase in the Chicago platform of 1856. It had a resonant chime; it made a good rallying cry. But while polygamy and slavery may have been twin relics of barbarism in the sense that they were of equal antiquity, and were both capable of being sustained by scriptural authority, they were not equal in present importance or in possible consequences. Slavery rested upon compulsion and drew its vitalizing force from oppression; polygamy depends upon persuasion and leans upon its own distorted interpretation of the divine philosophy. Slavery was incorporated into the civil, political, and social framework of fifteen Slates; polygamy is a pariah which has fled to the desert for a home. Slavery was the basis of a vast industrial system; polygamy is an excrescence upon a promising industrial experiment. Slavery prevented a free press and prohibited free speech; polygamy is unable to prevent the publication of an anti-Mormon paper in Salt Lake City, and anti-polygamy meetings are held within sight of the residence of Brigham Young. Slavery, grown arrogant by tolerance, assailed the nation and defied its laws; polygamy, feeble and subject, obeys every statute except that which threatens its existence, and seeks obscurity beyond the reach of civilization.

All laws of the United States and of Utah are obeyed in Utah except the anti-polygamy act. The very witness upon whose testimony the committee have framed this bill averred that in all criminal or civil actions where polygamy was not involved he never met a fairer people; that in suits between Mormons and Gentiles Mormon juries do impartial justice.

The truth is that our system of government is unfit to deal with a problem such as the Mormon question presents. Our Government rests upon the virtue and intelligence of the people. Our Government is conducted in public. Ours is a government of opinion framed into laws; and laws unsustained by opinion are apt to remain unenforced. Every county of every State and Territory is in some extent self-governed and independent. If the people of any county tacitly agree that a particular crime shall not be considered a crime if committed within that county, what is to be done about it? If grand juries persistently refuse to find indictments, or petit juries regularly return verdicts of "not guilty" for that particular crime, there is no way to reach the matter or punish the offenders through the ordinary processes and means permitted under a republican form of government. There is no power vested in executive or judge to take offenders beyond the limits of their State for trial. Cases of this character can be reached only by finding such evidence of an armed and general conspiracy to resist the laws as to authorize the suspension of civil authority within the infected district and the interposition of military rule. The remedy is expensive, and its frequent use most dangerous to republican government, it should never ne resorted to except in extreme and desperate cases. I do not believe that the present is such a one.

But, it may be asked, shall we do nothing? Shall we allow this defiance of the authority of the United States to continue? Shall we permit Brigham Young and his followers to pursue the practice of polygamy without any earnest effort to suppress it? I answer, sir, that I believe polygamy has run its course. I believe that the railroad which deprived the Mormons of their isolation has struck it a mortal blow. Every locomotive bell resounding through the gorges of the Wahsatch mountains is sounding its death-knell. I believe in the persuasive power of progress and the logical force of attrition. I believe that for want of the invigorating element of truth the institution will fall to decay. I do not believe that a practice which is at war with the interests of society, hostile to the spirit of the age, and opposed to the instincts of human nature,

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can, even when sustained by religious convictions, maintain itself against the silent, insidious, persistent, resistless, assaults of the social forces arrayed against it.

Already, since the railroad was completed, a schism has grown up in the Mormon church which its president seems powerless to heal or subdue. They have given the women the ballot; and howsoever the Mormon wife may vote now; howsoever she may vote to maintain her social status or minister to her physical wants; howsoever religious convictions may impel her, or iron circumstances restrain her; howsoever ignorant or poor she may be, sooner or later the assaulted, imprisoned, outraged instincts of human nature will arise and vindicate themselves. The house will be overturned upon the heads of the captors. Possibly, indeed, they who but now have given the ballot to the women of Utah have led a blind Samson to the pillars of their temple.

Utah is no longer isolated. In that fact alone the days of polygamy are numbered. So long as an iceberg remains locked in polar fields it dares the assaults of the elements; but when the salt summer waves come stealing up from the south they detach it from its surroundings, they float it away, they eat out a piece here, and crumble away a fragment there, until some day its foundations are gone and it tumbles with a crash into the ocean; and the process is repeated until there is nothing left to mark its existence save a chill in the water, which the Gulf stream speedily eradicates. Sir, this social iceberg has stood in the midst of the great American desert, swelling its frost-bound proportions, for a quarter of a century; but the railroad has unmoored it from its fastenings, and it floats without rudder or pilot in the surrounding ocean of civilization. A wave washes down from the railroad and makes a schism in the church. Adventurous miners find precious metals in the vicinage, and another wave rolls in from the East or West and makes a chasm in the family circle. Thus the elements of destruction are busy about it. Some day, not far off, death will claim the great organizing executive brain which holds it together, palsying the mighty will and hushing the potent voice that led willing men and women through trackless and untrodden ways. Neither do I believe that the majestic march of events shall be long stayed or obstructed even perhaps till that fate which awaits us all shall have executed its plans. I predict that the sagacious mind of that great Mormon leader, Brigham Young, grasping the prophesies which start from every foot-print of progress across the land he has redeemed from sullen void, will strangle polygamy by a revelation.

But whether this prediction shall be verified or not polygamy is doomed. Natural causes will work its speedy decay. The disintegrating forces within itself will destroy it. The consciences, the impulses, the very passions of mankind conspire against it. But if we assail it in such a spirit of violence and venom as we exhibit toward the vices of no other community; if we recklessly change the jury system, and in order to erase this one blot upon our national escutcheon provide for a violation of all the practices and usages of republican government; if we attack it as this bill proposes, with packed juries backed by lines of bristling steel, we shall consolidate while we would scatter; we shall unite forces which we would dissolve; we shall intensify the elements we would destroy; we shall vitalize if we shall not perpetuate by every means of officious unjustifiable persecution the tenets we would expunge or wholly destroy, unless, indeed, at immense cost of life and money, we hurl against polygamy so much of armed force as to exterminate those who practice it. Would any member of this House, actuated by the commonest impulses of humanity, susceptible to ever so great a sentiment of charity for the weaknesses of his kind, feel justified in exterminating a fellow-man because he violates and defies the religion of his fathers? Has the great Author fashioned all men of like perceptions and possibilities?

I call the attention of the patrons of this bill to the fact that we sit here and vote money and protection to the useless, brutal, murderous savage, whose highest instinct is bloodshed and plunder, and whose natural infidelity is only equaled by his imperviousness to the influences of mercy, while they propose, without so much as a scrap of endorsement from the people, to vote away their resources upon an idea which reacts only upon itself, and which cannot long survive under the glare of this reformatory age.

But, sir, if we deliberately elect to precipitate this Mormon war, right or wrong, let us reckon the requirements. We must select our bravest men and put them in the front-- men who will fight well upon abstractions -- men who will fight for the lust of blood; for the inspirations of patriotism, of national faith, or even of political liberty, are all wanting. By the half-hearted, intermittent method upon which we kept the Seminoles at bay, and are failing to keep the Apaches innocent of Saxon scalps, we shall never subjugate

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the Mormons, but may rather win to them recruits and adherents from all parts of the earth.

Mr. Speaker, this bill, with all due respect to the Committee on the Territories, is as inoperative, as ill-considered, as worthless for all practical purposes in detail as it is generally unwise, and premature. I propose to scan briefly a few of its provisions. Section three provides that there shall be appointed for each judicial district of the Territory a deputy or an assistant United States attorney. Section four makes it the duty of the district attorney of the United States to attend in person or by deputy all the district courts in the Territory, to prosecute all criminal indictments returned to said courts. Section twenty-five takes away the present criminal jurisdiction of the probate or county courts, and gives the United States district or territorial courts exclusive jurisdiction in criminal cases. Mr. Speaker, I find on an examination of the statutes that the salary of the United States district attorney for the Territory of Utah is $500 per annum. Where can there be found a, lawyer who will take such a position. Where can there be found a, competent attorney who will agree to devote all his time to practice in these courts, and pay his traveling expenses, and prosecute all criminal cases for $500 per annum and a doubtful amount of fees?

These sections of the bill just cited evidence to me the struggle between reform and reduction which has been going on in the minds of the members of the Committee on the Territories. The committee wished to be at once virtuous and economical. They conjectured the House might possibly wink at a public scandal, but would certainly glare with pitiless eye upon a proposed public expenditure, and so with that same touching confidence and devotion which inspired those who drop money into the box for the heathen, feeling that their duty is performed whether the heathen ever get a cent or not, the committee provided for district attorneys and did not provide any compensation for these district attorneys.

If no gentleman shall be found willing to prosecute polygamists without pay, and merely for the comfort and joy of the transaction, it is not the fault of the committee. Mr. Taffe. I should like to ask the gentleman a question on that point.

Mr. Fitch. Yes, sir.

Mr. Taffe. What are the salaries paid to district attorneys in the Territories all over the United States? Is not this salary higher than usual?

Mr. Fitch. I understand that this office is one mainly of fees.

Mr. Taffe. Is not this higher than usual?

Mr. Fitch. I will answer the gentleman if he will permit me. In the States the fees amount to a considerable; sum, but no such duties are imposed upon United States district attorneys in any other part of the country as are proposed to be imposed by this bill, which obliges them to attend to all criminal prosecutions in all the courts of the Territory. The gentleman will observe that this bill takes away the criminal jurisdiction of every court in the Territory except the United States courts.

Mr. Strickland. Is there any Territory where the probate courts have criminal jurisdiction?

Mr. Fitch. Yes, sir; they have jurisdiction up to a certain degree. I believe in all the Territories they have criminal jurisdiction on all cases of misdemeanors, and I believe in a certain class of felonies. But it is not the duty of the United States district attorney to do that which this bill provides the United States district attorney for Utah most do -- namely, to prosecute criminal cases in the United States Territorial district courts; that duty always devolves upon local district attorneys elected by the people and paid by them.

Now, sir, section seven of this bill provides that the United States marshal and clerk of the United States court shall select the jury. It removes this delicate and responsible task from the usual arbitrament of chance. It takes it from the judge who might be unwilling to pack a jury, even to convict a polygamist, and places in the hands of the ministerial and executive officers of the court the dangerous and responsible power of selecting a jury to pass on the lives and the liberty and property rights of the people. Why not do away with the farce of a jury draft and make the marshal and the clerk the jury? The result would be the same, and the process less troublesome and expensive.

I doubt very much, sir, if under the provisions of this bill a panel of thirty-nine men for grand and petit jurors can be obtained in Utah. Mormons are excluded from the jury, and the Gentiles are not numerous. Section ten of this bill provides that no person shall be competent to serve either as grand or petit jurors who believes in, advocates, or practices bigamy, concubinage, or polygamy; and upon that fact appearing by examination, on voir-dire or otherwise, such person shall not be permitted to serve as a juror.

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Webster defines concubinage as the act or practice ameliorating the ascerbities of bachelor life without the authority of law or legal marriage. These are not the exact words of Webster. His definition is a little clearer, but I prefer my form of expression. Gentlemen who wish to be entirely accurate can hunt up the authority.

Now, I doubt if thirty-nine men could be found in Utah able to take such an oath. Of course in the Springfield district of Illinois there would be no difficulty in obtaining a jury under such restrictions, though I fancy they would thin the panel even there. But Utah is a frontier community where men are not subjected to wholesome social restraints, and where, in this particular, at least, they are measurably destitute of a shining moral example.

Section fourteen of this act places polygamy and concubinage upon a par with murder, in that it deprives parties accused of these offences of the benefit of the statute of limitations. Permit me to place this law in working harness, that we may mark its operations and scan its harmonious proportions. A citizen of Springfield, Illinois, hitherto virtuous and respected, takes up his march across desert and mountain toward the golden land, and tarrying in the vicinity of Salt Lake City, falls in with an emigrant train, and being decoyed by the wiles of some sun-bronzed and languishing Delilah, departs from the path of rectitude. Years roll by. It is a wild sally of his youth, perhaps repented and forgotten, or, it may be, forgotten without the repentance. But, behold! after all these years complaint is made; a requisition issues; he is taken before a jury selected by a most responsible Salt Lake clerk and marshal, convicted of concubinage, and the next we hear of him he is at hard labor in a military camp, a ball and chain attached to his ankle, suffering the compunctions of an outraged conscience and studying the mysteries of that peculiarly impartial ethical code known as the Cullom bill -- a bill whose triumphs will be seen on the deserted site where once flourished a deluded and misguided people.

Section nineteen is better than its predecessor, for it compels all officers, territorial or local, in entering upon their duties to take an oath that they will not hereafter practice bigamy, polygamy, or concubinage. Perhaps if such a law had been in operation fifteen years ago one of the witnesses upon whose musty testimony the committee seem to have relied would not have remained long enough in Utah to have acquired that information on the Mormon question of which he seems to have possessed himself. I allude to Judge Drummond.

The receivers to be appointed under section thirty of this act, who are to take charge of the property of convicted polygamists and divide its proceeds among their former wives, are the only official persons in Utah not required to take this vow of virtue. The omission is significant, to say the least. Let me call the attention of the House to the absurdity of this thirtieth section. It proposes to confiscate all property of all persons convicted of polygamy for the benefit of their wives. Why, there is no property in Utah save that which depends upon the peace and prosperity of the people. There are no accumulations of wealth. There is no coin to any considerable extent in the country. Lands and flocks and herds compose the bulk of the Mormon possessions. Let there be sixty days of war, and all the property left in Utah would not sell for enough to furnish a week's subsistence to the women in Utah.

Oh, but this bill proposes that the Secretary of the Treasury shall appropriate or expend the sum of $100,000 for the relief of the forty thousand concubines to be taken from their protectors -- about two dollars and a half each! A munificent appropriation! Enough, with economy, to give them about three days' rations each! And, sir, what will you make of these forty thousand women whom it is proposed by this bill to take from those who now support and protect them? What position will they occupy? Which of you will open your doors to them or invite them to sit by your firesides or even labor in your kitchens? The flimsy barrier that protects them from the very depth of social degradation is the fact they are wives by custom existing in Utah. It is a pitiable position, but it is better than that of their unhappy sisters whom necessity rather than vice has driven to the streets of your cities and the wards of your hospitals and prisons. Sir, this is not the place to discuss that social evil which keeps pace with the stately steps of civilization, and bears aloft its putrescent glow by the side of her starlit pathway; neither is it the time to legislate for that smaller social evil which excites our attention because it is the only vice which stains a community otherwise most virtuous, most peaceful, and exemplary. Take the children of Utah and scatter them homeless and hopeless waifs

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through the arteries of your great cities; take the women of Utah and place them in the splendid dens that line the thoroughfares of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington; take the men of Utah, return them to the Atlantic States, and make them casual customers of those women they now support and protect, and how much will Christianity have gained, how much will society have been benefitted, how much will the honor and power of the nation have heen vindicated and strengthened?

Mr. Speaker, I do not intend that my position upon this matter shall be misrepresented to my constituents or to the country. I regard polygamy as an evil to be discouraged and a violation of law which should he if possible prevented. I simply doubt the wisdom of the means selected to achieve that result. For the coercion and misrepresentation and fraud with which the Mormons have sometimes sought to carry out their purposes there will come a day of reckoning and repentance. For the murderers of Mountain Meadow the God of justice holds in his hand some terrible retribution. But because of crimes some of that people may have committed in the past, nor yet because of their refusal to obey the laws we have made for them alone, I am not willing to plunge headlong into war. If there be those upon this floor who desire to confiscate the property of these outcasts, who consent to give their men to the sword and their women to the bagnio, and who are ready to meet the just reproaches of a tax-burdened and humane people, they must proceed without my help. I am not willing to look upon the ruin of the great road which forms the keystone of the arch of the highway around the world. I am not willing to destroy the channel through which my people hope to receive the life-currents of empire. I count the cost and I count the result, and I am not willing to pay the price of reaching that result. I will not vote for this bill which will add millions to the debt and thousands to the muster-roll of the nation's dead, and in the name of a people who have burdens enough to bear and kindred enough to mourn. I protest against the passage of this most unwise and ill-considered bill. I yield the remainder of my time to the gentleman from California, (Mr. Sargent.)


Remarks of Hon. A. A. Sargent.

Mr. Sargent. Perhaps after the able and exhaustive argument of the gentleman from Nevada (Mr. Fitch) it will break somewhat upon the current of emotion which pervades the House for me to attempt in less eloquent phrase to enter my protest against the passage of this bill. I speak, as does the gentleman from Nevada, with all the more earnestness upon this subject in that I verily believe that if this hill shall pass Congress and be enforced the result of it must be most deleterious to my own people. I can see in the near future, with this bill upon our statute-book and enforced by an army of forty thousand men, that we shall again be isolated from the ready communication which the liberality of Congress has furnished to us by means of the Pacific railroad, and the new tides of business that are now pouring through this great channel will be damned up indefinitely.

The first movement of the Mormons, when they shall believe that we are in earnest by an attack like this, will be to tear up hundreds of miles of the Pacific railroad and to destroy all the property upon it within their reach. And their next step, in emulation perhaps of the act of which they are alleged to be guilty in the Mountain Meadow massacre, will be to let loose upon the people of plains and the frontier settlements the wild savages, which scarcely need their incitement to bring war upon our borders.

If gentlemen believe that, although the number of this people may be small, less than two hundred thousand, they will not defend themselves by all the means in their power, they certainly have paid no regard to the lessons of history. If they do not know that a people actuated by strong religious impulses are the most desperate in defense Of that which they consider their rights, their religious beliefs and practices, they are likely to have a rude lesson from the operation of this bill.

History is full of examples, which I might quote if l had time, of communities, fanatical it may be, but the more dangerous because fanatical, who have fought to the last extremity, who have seen their homes desolated, their men cut down in battle, their people perish by privation, in order to defend themselves in the right to exercise their religious belief, no matter how grotesque that might be or how different from the ordinary current of men's ideas. Juggernaut has his martyrs as well as Christ. The Thug dies with the same complacent hope of heaven as the Christian, and fights as desperately for his faith.

The gentleman from Illinois (Mr. Cullom) said the other day, in bringing forward this bill, that the committee had thousands of letters predicting that this bill would lead to a war if enacted into a law. Did not the gentleman believe those representations? Did not they have an effect upon the Committee on the Territories? Does he believe that these men, following a leader which he says they revere as Christ upon earth, as a revelator, priest, and king, these people who look upon this not as a mere question of policy, but of religious right and practice -- does he believe that they will not rise up in order to oppose the Government in its effort to put down this institution in

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their midst, and defend themselves in that which they believe to be their right? If that is the opinion of the committee and of this House, then there is a fearful mistake, and it is from the fear which I have that this mistake may be committed that I beg the House, in the name of my constituents, to pause and consider well before we are thus brought to the brink of this great danger.

I do not think there is any necessity for this bill. As the gentleman who preceded me (Mr. Fitch) his said, I think that the elements of disintegration are already at work in Mormon society. During the last long recess of Congress I visited Salt Lake City as a part of the recreation of that period. While there I conversed with Mormons, and with Gentiles. I found the prevailing opinion to be that upon the single thread of the life of Brgham Young depends the existence of the Mormon community as now organized, at least the continuance of polygamy. It was said there confidently by Gentiles, and not denied by but rather admitted among the Mormons to me, that there was a growing distaste among the Mormon women against polygamy. It was said that the daughters of Brigham Young themselves refused to marry Mormons, and sought every opportunity to cultivate the acquaintance of Gentile young men there, and preferred them in marriage, however much it might be against the opinion of their father. The continuance of polygamy depends largely on the consent of the women there.

Again, we have seen a little cloud, perhaps no bigger than a man's hand, in the way of a schism which is growing up in Utah. As the gentleman who preceded me has said, if we oppose them by war we unite them in the most, desperate contest; we arm them with implacable vengeance against us, and all traces of a schismatic division will cease.

The gentleman from Illinois (Mr. Cullom) says, and very properly, that the Mormon community is made up largely of foreigners, of men who have not been educated to our ideas, and who have not our attachment to our Government and to our institutions, who, on account of some measures which we have passed, already look upon the Government of the United States is their enemy. How much will it take to inflame these people and unite them in war against us? But let me tell gentlemen that the theater of that war is distant, notwithstanding the Pacific Railroad is running by their doors; and it will be more distant still when, after the war has commenced, these people shall have broken up the great Pacific railroad and made the transportation of troops and supplies difficult and expensive. Untold millions of treasure will be swallowed in the pit of war that is opened before us. We need to be patient in the treatment of this great evil, infamous and detestable as it is. Time, intercourse with the outside world, the influx of our own citizens for the purposes of trade, &c., into Utah, are all that is necessary in order to solve this question.

During the last year or so Brigham Young, as a part of the policy of his church, and in order to consolidate his power, inaugurated what were called co-operative associations; and it was made the duty of every Mormon to trade with those associations under penalty of excommunication. Policemen were stationed st the doors of Gentile establishments in order to ascertain what Mormon dared to trade with Gentiles instead of these associations, but the result was an entire failure. The Mormons looked upon this as an attempt to oppress them. They had sufficient sense of their rights as citizens to resist this attempt. These co-operative associations failed. The Gentile merchants could afford to sell more cheaply on account of their larger capital or their facilities of intercourse with merchants in the West. From these causes that attempt of Brigham Young proved simply a nail driven into the coffin of Mormonism; and these nails are being driven every day. The presence of the miners in the neighborhood, the influx of strangers by means of the Pacific railroad, the publication of an opposition paper there, the facility with which books and pamphlets are sent there, the fact that preachers of any denomination are allowed to express their views, even in the Tabernacle, and to talk against polygamy, the fact that the Vice President of the United States, standing recently on the piazza of the hotel at Salt Lake City, before an immense audience of Mormons, proved out of the book of Mormon itself that polygamy is a crime and was forbidden as such in the earlier and purer days of the church -- I say all these facts go to show that there is hope for the Mormon community, and that we need not plunge the nation into war in order to do away with this nefarious system.

Now, sir, there is one feature in this bill to which the gentleman from Nevada (Mr. Fitch) has not referred, and to which I wish to call the attention of the House in the minute left me. By one section of this bill the new-born right of the Mormon women to exercise the suffrage -- which must be believed by members of this House, and is certainly by many intelligent men, to be the very means of disintegrating this polygamous system -- is taken away from them. The Mormon Legislature conferred that right; but now comes the Committee on Territories and says that Mormon women shall not have the privilege of voting at the polls. By this bill the power of voting is confined to males, l say let us try the experiment there; let us give an opportunity to these women, at any moment they may desire, to so throw off this system and to so control the election of officers as to accomplish that result.


Cunningham & Mcintosh, Printers.

Notes: (forthcoming)


Thomas Fitch, Jr. -- in the 1880s

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last revised Oct., 2014