Early LDS members petition the US President (1834)
History of the Church – Vol 1
Second Petition to the President of the United States.
Liberty, Clay County, Missouri, April 10, 1834.
To the President of the United States of America
We, the undersigned, your petitioners, citizens of the United States of America, and residents of the county of Clay, in the state of Missouri, being members of the Church of Christ, reproachfully called "Mormon," beg leave to refer the President to our former petition, dated in October last; and also to lay before him the accompanying hand-bill, dated December 12th, 1833, with assurances that the said hand-bill exhibits but a faint sketch of the sufferings of your petitioners and their brethren, up to the period of its publication.
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The said hand-bill shows, that at the time of dispersion a number of our families fled into the new and unsettled county of Van Buren; but being unable to procure provisions in that county through the winter, many of them were compelled to return to their homes in Jackson county or perish of hunger. But they had no sooner set foot upon that soil-which a few months before they had purchased of the United States-than they were again met by the citizens of Jackson county, and a renewal of savage barbarities was inflicted upon these families by beating with clubs and sticks, presenting knives and fire arms, and threatenings of death if they did not flee from the county. These inhuman assaults upon a number of these families were repeated at two or three different times through the past winter, till they were compelled at last to abandon their possessions in Jackson county, and flee with their wounded bodies into this county, here to mingle their tears and unite their supplications, with hundreds of their brethren, to our Heavenly Father and the chief ruler of our nation.
Between one and two thousand of the people called "Mormons" had been driven by force of arms from the county of Jackson in this state since the first of November last, being compelled to leave their highly cultivated fields-the greater part of their lands having been bought of the United States-and all this on account of our belief in direct revelation from God to the children of men according to the Holy Scriptures. We know that such illegal violence has not been inflicted upon any sect or community of people by the citizens of the United States since the Declaration of Independence.
That this is a religious persecution is notorious throughout our country; for while the officers of the county, both civil and military, were accomplices in these unparalleled outrages, engaged in the destruction of the printing office, dwelling houses, etc., yet the records of the judicial tribunals of that county are not stained by any record of crime committed by our people. Our numbers being greatly inferior to the enemy were unable to stand in self defense; and our lives, at this day, are continually threatened by that infuriated people, so that our personal safety forbids one of our number going into that county on business.
We beg leave to state that no impartial investigation into this criminal matter can be made, because the offenders must be tried in the county where the offense was committed, and the inhabitants of the county, both magistrates and people, with the exception of a few, being combined, justice cannot be expected. At this day your petitioners do not know of a solitary family belonging to our Church in Jackson county but what has been violently expelled from that county by the inhabitants thereof.
Your petitioners have not gone into detail with an account of their individual sufferings from death, and bruised bodies, and the universal distress which prevails at this day, in a greater or less degree throughout our community. Not only have those sacred rights guaranteed to every religious sect been publicly invaded, in open hostility to the spirit and genius of our free government; but such of their houses as have not been burnt, and their lands and most of the products of the labor of their hands for the last year, have been wrested from them by a band of outlaws congregated in Jackson county, on the western frontiers of the United States, and this within about thirty miles of the United States military post at Fort Leavenworth, on the Missouri river.
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Your petitioners say that they do not enter into a minute detail of their sufferings in this petition lest they should weary the patience of their venerable chief, whose arduous duties they know are great, and daily accumulating. We only hope to show him that this is an unprecedented emergency in the history of our country, that the magistracy thereof is set at defiance, and justice checked in open violation of its laws; and that we, your petitioners, who are almost wholly native born citizens of these United States, of whom we purchased our lands in Jackson county, Missouri, with intent to cultivate the same as peaceable citizens, are now forced from them, and are now dwelling in the counties of Clay, Ray and Lafayette, in the state of Missouri, without permanent homes, and suffering all the privations which must necessarily result from such inhuman treatment. Under these sufferings your petitioners petitioned the governor of this state in December last, in answer to which they received the following letter:
* * * * * * * * *
By the foregoing letter from the Governor, the President will perceive a disposition manifested by him to enforce the laws as far as means have been furnished him by the legislature of this state. But the powers vested in the executive of this state appear to be inadequate for relieving the distresses of your petitioners in their present emergency. He is willing to send a guard to conduct our families back to their possessions, but is not authorized to direct a military force to be stationed any length of time for the protection of your petitioners. This step would be laying the foundation for a more fatal tragedy than the first, as our numbers at present are too small to contend single handed with the mob of said county; and as the Federal Constitution has given to Congress the power to provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the Union, suppress insurrections, or repel invasions: and for these purposes the President of the United States is authorized to make the call upon the executive of the respective states; therefore, we your petitioners, in behalf of our society, which is so scattered and suffering, most humbly pray that we may be restored to our lands, houses, and property in Jackson county, and protected in them by an armed force, till peace can be restored. And as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Here followed one hundred and fourteen signatures, among whom were: Edward Partridge, John Corrill, John Whitmer, Isaac Morley, A. S. Gilbert, W. W. Phelps, etc., etc.
On another webpage states the following:
The Mormon Colonies in Mexico
Thomas Cottam Romney
"Romney’s unique vantage point is the strongest draw of this narrative: Romney and his family lived much of their life in the Mexican Mormon colonies. But the narrative’s value is much broader and deeper than just that. Romney’s insights into Mexican politics and personalities, and his view of the course of history from inside rather than from outside, are fascinating, colorful and opinionated. He was clear about who he admired and why, and who he did not."
—from the Foreword
In the 1880s, as a precondition to granting Utah statehood, the United States government enacted laws to put a stop to the Mormon practice of polygamy. Those who continued to practice this principle were forced underground as federal marshals roamed the territory searching for "polygs." In response, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints looked for safe places to send its members; many found refuge across the border in Mexico.
All Constitutional rights of the LDS were stripped away by Federal, State and local authorities. For the most part The LDS were not citizens of any state or territory, and voting rights, the right to own property and hold elected office were stripped from the LDS. The LDS had no citizenship and could not claim the rights that all other citizens had. Here is a second webpage describing the Mormon entrance into Mexico.
The Mormons Seek Mexican Lands to Colonize
By: Thomas Cottam Romney
From: "The Mormon Colonies in Mexico" 1938
While the doctrines of the Church were being preached with vigor by the Mormon elders in the city of Mexico and its environs, a movement was being launched by the Church toward the purchase of lands in Mexico on which to plant colonies. Such an exigency arose because of the widespread opposition to polygamy-a social institution of the Mormons.
Now this order of marriage should not be confused with the marriage commonly in vogue among the membership of the Mormon Church. I refer to Celestial marriage. Before ever plural marriage was revealed, Joseph Smith had received a revelation (May 16 and 17, 1843 ) dealing with "Celestial" marriage, referred to, also, as the "everlasting covenant of marriage." In this revelation it was revealed that in the Celestial glory there are three degrees and that in order to attain to the highest of these a man must enter into the new and everlasting covenant of marriage; "if he does not, he cannot obtain it."
A compliance with this law merely means that a man in full harmony with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints takes a woman to the temple and in the presence of witnesses has her sealed to him over the altar as a wife for time and all eternity. The sealing must be performed by one authorized of the Lord, and according to the Mormon belief there is only one man on the earth at one time who holds that authority. The President of the Church is that man, but since it is not feasible or even desirable for him to perform all the temple marriages of the Church, he has the power to delegate others to act in his stead. The marriage ceremony, unlike the civil ceremony or even that of other churches, unites a couple not only for this life but its binding force is perpetuated beyond
the grave. Under this order of marriage all children born under this covenant will belong to the couple so united, eternally.
This doctrine is based, obviously, on the assumption that the family organization consisting of father, mother and children will continue on in the metaphysical world, or what we ordinarily think of as the "spiritual world."
Now "plural marriage" connotes all this and more. More, in the sense only that instead of a man having but one wife sealed to him he will have two or more thus united with him in wedlock.
The doctrine of "plural marriage," commonly known as "polygamy," from the days of Nauvoo, had been one of the cardinal doctrines of the Church. It is a historical fact, not generally known, that but few of the male members of the Church at any one time entered into that order of marriage. Yet the vast majority of the devotees of the Church believed it to be a divine principle. Brigham Young usually has been accredited, by the uninformed, with having first introduced polygamy into the Church, but such is not historically true. Joseph Smith, Jr., the founder of Mormonism, was responsible for its introduction among his followers. The revelation setting forth the principle of "plurality of wives" and commanding its practice was given to the Prophet in Nauvoo, Illinois, July 12, 1843, less than one year before his death at Carthage jail. The Revelation appears to have come as a result of a query in the mind of Joseph Smith, Jr., as to why the Lord justified the practice of polygamy by the Patrirachs of the Bible including Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Moses, David and Solomon. Adultery is condemned in the strongest terms in the Revelation but the doctrine of "plurality of wives" entered into in the spirit of righteousness is declared holy. If a man is given "ten virgins" in marriage for time and eternity by the law of the Lord, the Revelation declares that "he cannot commit adultery, for they belong to him, and they are given unto him, therefore is he justified."
Joseph, the Prophet, lived the principle as well as having taught it if the testimony of his most intimate friends can be relied upon. A number of women of known veracity testified to having been sealed to the Prophet in Nauvoo as his wives.
Long since, the Church discontinued the practice of polygamy, yet, in the days of which I write, those who had contracted plural marriages felt they had neither broken the laws of God nor of man and, to their credit be it said, many of them would have stood by their families to the death.
A bitter war was on against the practice by enemies of the Church and, in instances, devout and well meaning men and women denounced the doctrine in most vigorous terms. Even the Government joined in the fight. Legislative enactment by Congress, known as the Edmunds Tucker Act, against the practice of plural marriage, resulted in the prosecution and imprisonment of scores of devout believers in the doctrine of polygamy. Many who had not yet come to trial or imprisonment were in constant hiding in order to escape the clutches of laws deemed by them to be unconstitutional as well as tyrannical in the extreme. Husbands were separated from wives and children in many instances from their parents. Homes that had known nothing but contentment and peace were broken up and terror reigned throughout the land.
This state of affairs induced John Taylor and George Q. Cannon of the First Presidency of the Church to address a letter to President Christopher Layton of an Arizona Stake suggesting that an effort be made to obtain "a place of refuge under a foreign government to which our people can flee." The letter was dated Dec. 16, 1884, and in part is as follows, "A general attack is being made upon our liberties throughout all the territories where our people reside. It is said that prosecuting officers in making this raid are acting under instructions from the department at Washington. Whether this be true or not, there can be no question that
there is apparently a concert of action on their part to push our people to the wall and to destroy our religious liberty and with it our religion itself. Even the Utah Commissioners in making their report to the government recommend measures not to punish polygamy alone but to destroy our religion. In Utah Territory God-fearing men, whose only offense is that they have obeyed a command of the Almighty, are thrust into prison while appeals are pending in a higher court, being refused bail, a boon which should be granted to every person not guilty of a capital offense. These men are incarcerated in the penitentiary in the midst of a crowd of the vilest criminals, one of whom is a convicted murderer. In Arizona we learn that the same course is being pursued, that to be accused before any of these courts is equivalent to being convicted. The usual rule is entirely reversed. Under a proper system of jurisprudence an accused man is presumed to be innocent until proof of his guilt is furnished. Our counsel has been and is to obtain a place of refuge under a foreign government to which our people can flee when menaced in this land. Better for parts of families to remove and go where they can live in peace than to be hauled to jail and either incarcerated in the territory with thieves and murderers and other vile characters, or sent to the American Siberia in Detroit to serve out a long term of imprisonment.
The Saints in your various Stakes should contribute of their means to form a defense fund so that our brethren who are assailed will not in addition to the anxiety and annoyance which they have had to endure, be compelled to bear the brunt of defending themselves alone. This should be vigorously pushed and the fund be made available at once. We send this by the hand of Elder Seymour B. Young who will also be able to state to you our feelings more in detail than the limits of this letter will permit."
In a letter addressed to Seymour B. Young these same correspondents wrote: "You will see from what was said to you and from our letter how important we think it is that
there should be a place of refuge obtained for our people, a place to which the eyes of those who are in jeopardy and who are oppressed may turn with some hope of finding some peace and liberty which are denied in their own land."
Ante-dating the above letter, exploring expeditions had gone into Mexico for the purpose of locating suitable places for Mormon settlements, but with little success. In 1881, Alexander Findlay Macdonald, David Kimball, C. I. Robinson and one or two others made a trip into Sonora, and in 1882 a party of thirty-two moved to a ranch on the San Bernardino river at a point where the boundary lines of the two Mexican states, Sonora and Chihuahua and Arizona and New Mexico meet with the intention of establishing the first Mormon colony in Mexico, but due to a scarcity of farming land, the group was counselled by Apostles Snow and Thatcher to abandon the project. No further moves were made in the direction of settlement until 1884 when Apostles Brigham Young, Jr., and Heber J. Grant, accompanied by parties from the Salt River and St. Joseph settlements of Arizona, attempted to make a treaty with the Yaqui Indians to settle in southwestern Sonora. The party of twenty-four went by train from Nogales, Arizona, to Hermosillo, Sonora, and arrived there on December 3rd. Elders Young, Grant and Macdonald called at the state capitol to pay their respects to the Governor but he was absent. They therefore called upon the Secretary of State who gave them an enthusiastic welcome. He counselled them, however, against going into the Yaqui country as the Indians were on the warpath. The following day, December 4th, members of the expedition visited the Governor upon his return to the capital and from him they received the same advice as had been given them by the Secretary of State. The Governor offered to give them an escort into any part of the State into which they wished to go.
At two o'clock in the afternoon a group o£ seven men under the leadership of Brigham Young, Jr., left by train
for Guaymas, located near the mouth of the Yaqui river, and arrived at their destination on the evening of the same day. The following morning they called on the American Consul, Mr. Willard, from whom they received encouragement to pay the Yaqui Indians a visit. For the sum of fifteen dollars they chartered a boat to take them down the Yaqui river to its mouth and return. When ready to embark a multitude of natives, including a Catholic priest, congregated on the river bank to witness the departure of the boat and to warn the members of the expedition of the urgent need of confessing their sins and making restitution for the same before entering upon their perilous journey. Even their guide, Valenzuela, fearful of the undertaking, refused to accompany them. A terrific gale was blowing and for several hours it seemed that the boat would be dashed to pieces by the angry waves. Without accident, however, they finally reached the port for which they were headed, but imagine their dismay when they learned that to reach the Yaqui village they must wade knee deep through the water for a distance of five miles. Undaunted, they pushed forward to their destination and were rewarded by a kindly welcome from a race of Indians whose war-like reputation had spread terror throughout northern Mexico. The Mormon elders were glad of the privilege of bearing testimony to the Christian faith but no conversions were reported. The exposures and hardships of the trip proved disastrous to the health of the Mormon Apostle, Brigham Young, Jr. Attacked by yellow fever he left for Salt Lake City accompanied by Heber J. Grant, his fellow Apostle, who was also ill. As soon as the report of the expedition to Mexico was made public the press agents throughout the country sought to stir up strife by circulating a scurrilous tale which reflected upon the loyalty of the Latter-day Saints toward the United States. The story was to the effect that the Mormons were in collusion with the Yaqui Indians to make war upon the American Union. With the thought of forestalling
further trouble the President of the Church advised against colonization in the Yaqui territory, for the time being at least.
Pursuant to instructions from the Presidency of the Church, Alexander F. Macdonald [O. P. Brown's third father-in-law] and Christopher Layton [O.P. Brown sister's father-in-law] left St. David, Arizona, on January 1, 1885, in further quest of land in Mexico. At the station of San Jose on the Mexican Central Railroad, the travellers found a group of Mormons engaged in hauling salt. The personnel of the party consisted of John W. Campbell, Joseph Rogers, John Loving and Peter McBride. They had gone into Mexico to seek employment but principally to locate a home. Macdonald and Layton did considerable scouting in various parts of the country but principally along the Casas Grandes River in northern Chihuahua. In this region they visited Corralitos, Janos and La Ascencion and were impressed with the facilities offered for making a livelihood. At Corralitos 300 acres of fertile land were rented which were soon thereafter planted to crops by Mormon colonists. Leaving the Casas Grandes Valley, Macdonald and companion pushed westward into the tops of the Sierra Madre Mountains and explored the Corrales Basin, beautiful for situation and offering splendid opportunities for grazing and agricultural pursuits. From this point the two explorers went directly to their homes in Arizona. In the meantime small companies of home seekers came pouring in from different parts of Utah and Arizona and established themselves along the banks of the Casas Grandes River. Among the first to arrive was a band from Arizona, most prominent of whom were Jesse N. Smith, George C. Williams, Lot Smith, William B. Maxwell and William C. McClellan. These pioneers had arrived sometime in February, 1885. On the 4th of March 1885 the same year this group was joined by a company led by Apostle Moses Thatcher and Alexander. F. Macdonald who had left St. David, Arizona, February 23 1885, and had come by team by way of Dragoon Pass, Bowie Station, San Simon Station and Mesquite Springs. On March 6, 1885
others arrived headed by John H. Earl, Joseph H. James, Israel Call and, a few days later, these companies were strengthened by the arrival of other colonists, chiefly from Snowflake, Arizona, among whom were Chas. W. Merrill, Levi M. Savage, Charles Whiting, Sullivan C. Richardson, Ernest L. Taylor, Joseph and Philip Cardon and Sixtus E. Johnson. This was the beginning of Mormon Colonization in Mexico that finally resulted in the establishment of eight permanent Mormon settlements, six of which were located in the state of Chihuahua and the other two in Sonora.
Practically all of the early arrivals were of very limited means; not that they were a class devoid of financial ability, but their accumulations had largely been dissipated during the years of persecution that had preceded their advent into Mexico. The question of a livelihood in a strange land was therefore one of prime importance. To secure lands sufficient and suitable for cultivation the colonists established themselves in several small communities stretching along the Casas Grandes River for a distance of more than 60 miles. The first camps organized were adjacent to La Ascension, a typical Mexican village about ninety miles South of Deming, New Mexico, and not far from the spot on which later arose Colonia Diaz, one of the largest Mormon settlements in Mexico. The other important camps in this early period, were one at a point five miles north of Casas Grandes on the Casas Grandes River and from La Ascencion about 60 miles, and one at Corralitos, about twelve miles north of Casas Grandes. There were about 350 colonists in Mexico six weeks after the arrival of the first group. In the latter part of April, 1885, an exploring party consisting of George Teasdale, an Apostle of the Church, A. F. Macdonald [O.P. Brown's third father-in-law], Miles Park Romney [O.P. Brown's first father-in-law] and others were sent out in quest of other suitable lands for settlements. The journey took them up the Janos River as far as Casa de Janos, where they discovered a level tract of land of 1000 acres in extent, but nothing tangible resulted
from their trip. In the month of May, Moses Thatcher went to Paso del Norte (Cuidad Juarez) across the Rio Grande from El Paso to negotiate for the purchase of a tract of land offered by R. J. Garcia for $10,000 but the deal was not made due to the owner changing his mind relative to the price of the property.
The influx of Mormon refugees into Mexico and their increasing activity aroused the suspicion and dislike of certain local Mexican officials, foremost of whom were the Jefe Politico of the Canton de Galeana. In a letter addressed to the Secretary of the State of Chihuahua, he announced that an armed force of Mormons had come into the state without declaring their intentions, the implication being that they had come for conquest. In reply the Secretary of State declared that the Mormons must be ordered out of the country at once or as soon as it was possible for them to comply with the orders. On April 9 1885, a letter was received by A. F. Macdonald from the chief magistrate of Casas Grandes in which reference is made to the expulsion order of the Secretary of State. The letter concludes with the following: "According to the foregoing which I have transcribed for your information, I hereby command you, together with the other families which you represent, to leave the state within the period of 16 days from this date, April 9, 1885."
Immediately upon receipt of the letter, Macdonald went to the camp Corralitos to confer with George Teasdale, the Ecclesiastical head of the colonists in Mexico since the return of Moses Thatcher to Salt Lake City. The situation was truly grave. The band of Mormon exiles were facing deportation to a land from whence they had fled to escape the wrath of their enemies. To forestall such an eventuality steps must be taken at once. On the 11th of April 1885, Teasdale, Macdonald, Turley and Moffatt left by train for Chihuahua City to intercede with the governor of the state for an annulment of the expulsion edict. They arrived at San Jose on the Mexican Central Railroad
and left by rail for the city of Chihuahua at once, arriving there on the 15th of April 1885. Their conference with the Governor proved disappointing. He was adamant to their supplication and strongly insisted that the Mormons must quit the State. A letter was written at once to Moses Thatcher at Logan, Utah, relative to the matter, and the following day a telegram was dispatched to him by Church authorities asking him to go to the City of Mexico to intercede with the federal officials in behalf of the colonists. A letter was received from Moses Thatcher in answer to the message sent him, April 27th, in which he stated that Helaman Pratt, then a missionary in Mexico City, had been asked to request of the head of the government a stay of proceedings until Moses Thatcher and Brigham Young, Jr., could arrive at the Capital. Upon receipt of the telegram, Helaman Pratt, in company with a fellow missionary, Franklin R. Snow, called upon a prominent lawyer of Mexico City for assistance in getting the matter properly before the heads of the government, but he demanded $100 in advance, an amount the elders could not reach. They therefore repaired to the national capitol to lay the matter before Senor Carlos Pacheco, Minister of Colonization, but were requested to call the following day when an interview would be granted. The following day, April 28, Pratt and Snow were admitted to the national palace and had an interview with Senor Fernandez Leal, subminister, who promised to use his influence in favor of the Mormons. On May 9, 1885, Apostle Brigham Young, Jr., and Moses Thatcher arrived in Mexico City. Reporting their visit by letter to A. F. Macdonald from the Humboldt Hotel, May 15, 1885, they stated that they had met Helaman Pratt, Franklin R. Snow and Isaac J. Stewart, who "are quite hopeful of the future for Mexico and her people. We found that your application for a stay of proceedings was acted upon and the document highly spoken of by the Federal officials. Brother Pratt had also been busy and we have experienced the results of their labors. We have met
Secretary of State Mariscal, who received us warmly and manifested an honest desire to forward our interests by his influence with the President and Cabinet. We have had two interviews with Senor Don Carlos Pacheco, Secretary of Public Work, and Governor of Chihuahua. He expressed personal regards for our people and in all our conversation, when opportunity afforded, expressed the hope that the Mormons would conclude to colonize within the Mexican borders." He said he was astonished and could not understand why the Mormons had received such abusive treatment as he had given orders to the acting governor to treat them courteously. He explained that he was Governor of Chihuahua, but had not had time to go to the state to give the matter his personal attention, but if a letter were addressed to him, enclosing the acting Governor's order, he would act upon it officially. The result was that the acting Governor was finally removed from office by Minister Pacheco, and another man put in his place.
In an interview with President Porfirio Diaz, the Mormon Apostles were informed that the Mormons were not only welcome as colonists in Mexico, but that the Government was anxious to have them help in the development of the country. Should they find suitable locations in Sonora and Chihuahua, they could settle there or they would be equally welcome any place else they might choose to live in, except in what was known as "Zona Prohibida." Those of the colonists who had located on such lands were ordered to vacate such holdings immediately after the harvesting of their crops and to seek another location. The expulsion edict was annulled. The Mormons remained in Mexico.