MEMORIAL TO CONGRESS
Setting Forth the Reasons Assigned by the Legislators for Asking an Investigating Committee.Following is the text of the memorial to Congress adopted by the Legislative Assembly on Saturday:
To the Honorable the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress Assembled:
We, your memorialists, the Legislative Assembly of the Territory of Utah, respectfully represent that in consequence of baseless rumors and monstrous exaggerations, the people whom we represent have been placed in jeopardy, and are now threatened with the deprivation of the right of local self-government. Persons whose aim is to gain control of this now wealthy and prosperous Territory and manipulate its finances, have succeeded in arousing the ire of the clergy and through them the anger of many people against the large majority of the citizens of Utah, and thus a pressure has been brought to bear upon your honorable body which shows its effects in proposed measures containing provisions utterly at variance with the fundamental principles of republican government, and which, while ostensibly aimed at the marriage relations of but a small portion of the people will, if carried into effect, deprive the whole Territory of the vested rights secured to it by the Organic Act, and the Constitution of the United States.
For many years the people of Utah have patiently endured the misrepresentations and slanders of unscrupulous persons who have located at different times in the Territory, and who from various unworthy motives have formed themselves into political and religious cliques, avowedly to represent the liberal and progressive element of the Territory, but really, as the story of their transactions plainly shows, to vex and annoy the majority of the people and deprive them, if possible of their civil, religious and political rights.
The executive and judicial powers of the Territory being vested in the hands of government appointees and the legislative trammeled by the absolute veto power of the Governor, it is not difficult to realize how comparatively powerless the people have been when attempting to foster the interests of the Territory.
While bearing all the burdens imposed under influences created by officials wholly irresponsible to them, the people of Utah have waited hoped and prayed for better things under a government less like the colonial bondage to which their fathers were subjected, and more in harmony with true republican institutions. When accused of exercising undue influences over the female portion of the population, and the idea was advanced that if women in Utah were granted the right to vote, a remedy would at once be found, the Territorial Legislature promptly anticipated the proposed action of Congress, and passed an act conferring upon women in Utah over 21 years of age, and with other proper qualifications, the elective franchise. Again when accused of making the church dominate the state, by permitting ecclesiastical influence or priestly authority to assert influence at the polls by means of the marked ballot--which had been approved and, which many still believe to be the cheapest and best means of preventing illegal votes--the Legislature enacted a law providing for the registration of voters, repealing all election laws requiring numbered or otherwise marked ballots and making them strictly secret.
The registration law having failed to change the vote of the people in favor of their accusers, Congress is now urged under pressure of public opinion incited by unscrupulous persons to enact laws disfranchising in this Territory many native born and other loyal citizens of the republic. The fraudulent certificate issued by Utahs present Governor having thus far failed to disfranchise the people, Congress is asked to do what duplicity and unblushing fraud have failed to accomplish, and we call the attention of your honorable body to the fact that previous to the passage of the anti-polygamy act of 1862, there was no law in force local or Congressional, against the marriage of plural wives in Utah. There are many persons who contracted plural marriages before that time who have never violated that statute and who have remained unmolested in their family relations. They cannot be convicted of crime because they have broken no law, yet the legislation proposed to your honorable body would disfranchise them of the inalienable rights of citizens, which, we submit, is both unnecessary and unjust. Under these cruel circumstances the future can alone develop what unhappy events may yet be in store for a people so long subjected to the evils growing out of usurpations and the abuse of power by officers of the general government wholly irresponsible to the people.
While reviewing the grievances which caused the revolutionary fathers to place on the altar their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor as proof of the truths contained in the bill of indictment, brought against the British King, the people of Utah, revering that declaration of rights, venerating the Constitution and honoring the flag of their common country, claim the protection of the nation whose noble sires made human liberty not only desirable, but possible.
And while claiming "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" as bequeathed rights, they do solemnly declare that governors in Utah have repeatedly, on trivial pretexts, refused their assent to laws most wholesome and necessary for the public good. They have abused the pardoning power by turning loose upon the community convicts dangerous to the public peace. They have sought to obstruct the functions of the territorial government by refusing their approval of legislative appropriations and their signatures to needed enactments unless handicapped by unusual and unreasonable measures. They have attempted to render the military hostile and superior to the civil power, by calling on troops to enforce orders depriving citizens of the right to bear arms even when celebrating the anniversary of our national independence. When soldiers stationed near us have been arrested for grossly violating municipal laws they have been forcibly released by military authority. Others have quietly enjoyed their quarters even when the general was appealed to for military aid, while the militia of the Territory were compelled to defend the homes of the people from the hostile encroachments of Indians who had plundered and killed defenseless citizens.
The district and supreme judiciary of the Territory, depending alone upon the will of the general government for the tenure of their offices, and for the amount and payment of their salaries have frequently obstructed justice by ruling in the interest of debauchery, prostitution and kindred crimes, and have rendered vexatious unprecedented and contradictory decisions against municipal regulations and in favor of lawless liquor venders. They have hindered the naturalization of foreigners by requiring religious tests, and thereby have discouraged immigration. By specious rulings, invading even the boundless domain of belief, they have sought to deprive citizens when accused of crime, of the right of trial by an impartial jury of their peers. In other cases they have packed juries in order to secure convictions. These unlawful, extreme and hurtful measures having been carried to such an unbearable extent the National Supreme Court on appeal in many instances has reversed the decisions of the Territorial courts and remanded the causes for new trial.
Other government officials have endeavored to dripple and break up our co-operative, mercantile and industrial institutions, by illegal imposition of revenue taxes to the amount of many thousands of dollars, requiring expensive suits at law for the recovery of the large sums extorted. Some of our most honored citizens have been imprisoned upon trivial pretexts, and without support of law or precedent, other than that established by the malice of bigotry and hatred; and when their incarceration has been by higher powers pronounced unlawful, unjust and cruel, the sufferers have remained without redress.
Officials, bound by their oath of office to sustain the Constitution and laws of the country, have disregarded their sacred obligations, and persistently arrayed themselves against the people whom they have been paid to serve, losing sight of law, justice and equity, and often of humanity, they have frequently joined with scheming adventurers, whose greed for spoil has only been equaled by their malevolence, and in order to acquire influence have persistently misrepresented the opinions, aims and practices of the people. Thus they have succeeded in arousing jealousies and heart-burnings of the fiercest kind, and have rendered alien to each other those who ought to be bound together by fraternal affection.
Government officials, in many instances instead of administering the law, have overridden their constitutional powers, exceeded their authority, and in the most vexatious manner annoyed, harassed and trammeled the people in the exercise of their political, religious and civil rights. They have taunted our best citizens with the charges of disloyalty, called them traitors to our country, reproached, insulted and incarcerated them under pretence of crimes repulsive and foreign to their nature, and have prosecuted others under laws enacted against offences totally different from those alleged. Thus men have been punished for the United States offense of polygamy, under the territorial laws against lewd and lascivious cohabitation; and the reason such laws are not now upon our statute books is because prosecutions have been conducted under their provisions in cases to which they were never intended to apply and to which they were entirely foreign. They have designated our citizens as the scum and offscourings of the world, morally debased and physically corrupt; and yet drinking saloons, gambling dens, billiard halls and houses of assignation, harlots, libertines and prostitutes have been urged as a means best adapted for the "regeneration" and "Christianizing" of Utah's people that they might better harmonize with "the civilization of the age."
It has been frequently said and widely published that the affairs of the Territory are under the control of foreign born citizens; yet the present Legislative Assembly contains twenty-seven American-born and but nine naturalized citizens. We are accused of being opposed to education. Statistics demonstrate the contrary, and a territorial tax equal to that from which the entire revenue of the Territory is derived is annually assessed, collected and disbursed exclusively for payment of school teachers in district schools, open to the children of all citizens, irrespective of creed, color, or party, while in addition, a local option law permits a tax not exceeding 2 per cent for general school purposes to be annually assessed in the district where the people so elect by popular vote.
The country has rung with cries of "Mormon" atrocities, and the Mountain Meadow massacre is cited as an instance. The truth is that no western state or territory has been settled with so little lawlessness and bloodshed, and so little expense to the government, as Utah; and the shocking catastrophe alluded to, occurring in an Indian country, over three hundred miles from the capital of a territory then without railroads or telegraphs, is no more to be charged upon the people here, or their leaders, than the bloody scenes of the frontier, in which a few renegade whites have joined in the raids of tho red men, are chargeable to the government at Washington. We repudiate with all our souls, the foul charge, and declare that all the reliable evidence ever adduced is entirely opposed to the popular belief. We court investigation on this and other vile and infamous slanders.
We respectfully urge that while this territory is deprived of any representation in Congress, through the act of the Executive, generally recognized as usurpation and fraud, it is most unfair to us that measures should be rushed through the National Legislature, no voice from the people against whom this special legislation is designed being lifted in their behalf or heard in their defense.
We respectfully remind your Honorable body that there are instances in recent history which demonstrate the evil consequences of hasty action unjustified by fair inquiry. In 1857 an army was sent to Utah to support the inauguration of government officers under the mistaken impression that the "Mormons" were in revolt, and that they would resist the new officials. It had been falsely represented by officers who had left their posts in this Territory that Utah was in rebellion, that court records had been burned, and that other overt acts against law and good order had been committed. The army was dispatched the government appointees arrived, it was found that the reports were incorrect, a commission was then appointed, and it was clearly proven that there had been no cause whatever for the agitation, the army or the expense of the expedition. A commission to investigate before instead of after the action of the government would in that case have saved the country many millions of dollars, and the administration from an act which no informed person will now declare to have been wise or politic.
In 1875 it was falsely represented to Congress that the Legislative Assembly of Utah had not made any provision, and would not provide for jurors' and witnesses' fees and other expenses of courts in criminal cases. Without sufficient investigation Congress diverted the amount appropriated for legislative expenses of this Territory to the uses of the courts, with the provision that if the Legislature would appropriate $23,500 for such uses the money might be recovered. The Assembly appropriated $22,000 for court expenses, and at its next ses sion a deficiency appearing $18,000 more was appropriated to cover it, making $40,000, instead of $23,500, and yet the members and officers of the Assembly have not received one dollar for their per diem and other legislative expenses of the session of 1876. A proper understanding of these facts would doubtless have prevented this injustice. Every statement set forth in this memorial can be substantiated by competent documentary evidence.
We further respectfully represent that there is no cause for the disruption of our local government. The taxes are light, good order is maintained, no person is deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law; the ballot is free and secret; all religious and political societies are equal before the law; peace prevails; property is secure; industry abounds, and the material interests of the Territory are in a flourishing condition. We submit, therefore, that it is impolitic and unstatesmanlike to disarrange the political machinery of this whole commonwealth in an effort to punish the alleged offenses of a few individuals, and that a full investigation of our internal affairs will show that a widespread excitement has been raised on a very small and fragile basis. It is evident to all who understand the situation that notwithstanding the endeavors of many members of Congress to arrive at correct conclusions concerning Utah, they are yet misinformed as to condition, our laws and our necessities, some of the bills introduced in either house bearing unmistakable evidence of this. We therefore respectfully ask your Honorable Body to suspend action upon Utah affairs until by a committee of investigation the facts are learned, and a tangible foundation is laid for rational proceedings in which no violence will be done to the institutions which cost so much so establish, or to that glorious instrument which should guard the liberties of all people in this favored land.
And as in duty bound your memorialists will ever pray, etc.
The following resolution was offered by Councilor Wells and adopted:
Resolved, The House concurring, that three duplicate copies of the resolution be ordered enrolled and that it be presented to be signed by the members and officers of both Houses.
Councilor Caine moved the following which was also adopted:
Resolved, The House concurring, that one thousand copies of the Memorial to Congress adopted this day be printed in pamphlet form and that copies thereof be forwarded to the President of the united States, each member of his cabinet, each senator and representative and other government officers and influential persons.[The Salt Lake Herald, Salt Lake City, Sunday Morning, February 26, 1882. Vol. XII No. 226 Page 13]