A Retrospective Glance

By Elder Moroni L. Pratt

Since reading the “Utah bill,” which has recently passed the Senate at Washington, I have been reflecting and pondering in my mind what the feeling would have been in the bosom of our forefathers, those grand old statesmen and patriots, could they have seen what would transpire in the first century of the great Republic which they fought so bravely for, and displayed so much skill in framing, and labored with such zeal to maintain. When we consider that it was persecution and oppression by religious bigots that drove their sires (the pilgrim fathers) from their homes across the trackless ocean to far off America, to seek a place of refuge in a free land; when we see their bitter hatred of tyranny and despotism and taxation without representation; the jealousy of their oppressors over the prosperity that attended them in their homes, resulting from well-directed labor combined with economy and the blessing of heaven, we can surely understand how those men with the law of freedom in their hearts and aided by divine inspiration could frame that sacred instrument the Constitution of the United States, and unfurl the banner of freedom and extend a general invitation to the oppressed of every land to come and partake of the fruit of liberty, made a thousand times more dear through tyranny and oppression, endured in monarchical Europe.

But pause a moment. What means this 12,000 to 15,000 free American citizens being driven from one of the sovereign States of this great Republic? Can it be that they are thus persecuted for their religious belief here in this Christian land! And why are those free-born American citizens torn from fathers, mothers, wives, and children, bound in chains and thrust into prison? Can it be that they are deprived of their liberty because they have dared to worship God according to the dictates of their own conscience in this boasted land of liberty, where religious freedom is guaranteed to all, regardless of sect or creed? And when an appeal is made to the Chief Executive of this great nation for redress of their wrongs, did he come boldly to the front in the spirit of patriotism, honoring the oath he had taken to support the Constitution, and seek to redress those wrongs? Hear him: “Your cause is just, but I can do nothing for you.” Yet this is America! Yet we are Americans!

Glancing back at the history of that persecuted people, we find their leaders betrayed into the hands of armed legions, acting under the order of the Governor of the State, and told that their doom is sealed, their die is cast, and that they will be shot tomorrow at eight o’clock in the morning, without trial, without due process of law. But this summary vengeance by a military despot is too much for the brave General Doniphan, who declares it to be nothing but cold-blooded murder, and in positive terms informs them (the modern military Neros who constitute the court martial) that his brigade shall be on the march at seven in the morning and will not stay to witness such an atrocious crime. This bold movement on the part of General Doniphan rather disconcerts them, and they fear to take upon themselves the responsibility of shedding so much innocent blood. These prisoners are then incarcerated in filthy dungeons without even a hearing, where some of them remain eight months, while their families are driven and banished from the State of Missouri, and afterwards their entire Church, men, women and children are expelled from Illinois and driven beyond the confines of the United States, under threats of extermination by a violent mob, and are compelled to seek a home in the great American desert.

But here these Americans, although in a foreign land, belonging to Mexico, true to the patriotic spirit inherent in them, unfurl the Stars and Stripes on Ensign Peak and take possession of the land in the name of the United States.

Here, however, they are not free from persecution by the very government for which they have done so much. Being goaded on by hireling priests and zealous bigots, the entire Government, executive, legislative and judicial, have trampled the Constitution under their feet (finding it impossible to accomplish the destruction of God’s people, and prevent them from obeying His commandments by any legal process) by making laws respecting an establishment of religion, by passing ex post facto laws, depriving thousands of American citizens their right of franchise.

Can this be proven? Let us take one of a thousand instances that might be produced. My father fell by the hand of an assassin in 1857. The law making polygamy a crime was passed in 1862, five years after his death. Yet, under the Edmunds bill and the ruling of the Utah Commission (to say nothing of their supererogation with regard to the “marriage relation”), not one of the widows, the honored wives of my father, are allowed to vote. Is that not ex post facto? Is that no making the law retroactive? Is that not a bill of attainder, of pains and penalties? When were all these people tried by a jury composed of their peers, and condemned according to constitutional law? Do we not see in this a tyrannical, despotic, wholesale slaughter of freedom and liberty? Oh I blush for my countrymen! “How are the mighty fallen.”

Once, to be an American was greater than to be a king. Where are the Jeffersons, the Franklins, the Clays, and Websters? It is well that their noble spirits are not dwelling in mortal tabernacles today to be crushed and racked with anguish at the ruin of the great and glorious structure of freedom so dear to them!

But what is being accomplished by this great sacrifice of constitutional law and liberty? Are they obtaining what they are seeking with such persistent determination, namely, the destruction of the people called Latter-day Saints, or depriving them of worshiping the true and living God, and building up His kingdom here upon the earth? Let us see. A quarter of a century ago, slavery and polygamy were termed the twin relics of barbarism, and it was declared that they must be put down. The officers of the Government commenced on what they supposed to be the more formidable of the pair, and to all appearance it was. In four years, at a cost of a million lives and nearly $4,000,000,000 of treasure, the slaves were set free. Now how about this other twin. Why, they have been at work at it ever since 1862, and it has grown and increased with great rapidity. It is God’s kingdom which they are fighting, and, like the mustard stock, the harder they kick it the more its seeds spread. As the “stone” rolls forth on the toes of the “image” it makes him squirm.

[Journal History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Aug. 25, 1884, 12]
[Millennial Star, Aug. 25, 1884, 532]

[transcribed and proofread by David Grow, Apr. 2006]


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