From An Overland Journey,
from New York to San Francisco, in the Summer of 1859
By Horace Greeley
New York: C. M. Saxton, Barker and Co., 1860

From Letter 20

If I hazard any criticisms on Mormonism generally, I reserve them for a separate letter, being determined to make this a fair and full exposé of the doctrine and polity, in the very words of its prophet, so far as I can recall them. I do not believe President Young himself could present them in terms calculated to render them less obnoxious to the Gentile world than the above. But I have a right to add here, because I said it to the assembled chiefs at the close of the above colloquy, that the degradation (or, if you please, the restriction) of woman to the single office of child-bearing and its accessories, is an inevitable consequence of the system here paramount. I have not observed a sign in the streets, an advertisement in the journals, of this Mormon metropolis, whereby a woman proposes to do anything whatever. No Mormon has ever cited to me his wife's or any woman's opinion on any subject; no Mormon woman has been introduced or has spoken to me; and, though I have been asked to visit Mormons in their houses, no one has spoke of his wife (or wives) desiring to see me, or his desiring me to make her (or their) acquaintance, or voluntarily indicated the existence of such a being or beings. I will not attempt to report our talk on this subject; because, unlike what I have above given, it assumed somewhat the character of a disputation, and I could hardly give it impartially; but one remark made by President Young I think I can give accurately, and it may serve as a sample of all that was offered on that side. It was in these words, I think exactly: "If I did not consider myself competent to transact a certain business without taking my wife's or any woman's counsel with regard to it, I think I ought to let that business alone."* The spirit with regard to woman, of the entire Mormon, as of all other polygamic systems, is fairly displayed in this avowal. Let any such system become established and prevalent, and woman will soon be confined to the harem, and her appearance in the street with unveiled face will be accounted immodest. I joyfully trust that the genius of the nineteenth century tends to a solution of the problem of woman's sphere and destiny radically different from this.

From Letter 21: Mormons and Mormonism

Do I regard the great body of these Mormons as knaves and hypocrites? Assuredly not. I do not believe there was ever a religion whereof the great mass of the adherents were not honest and sincere. Hypocrites and knaves there are in all sects; it is quite possible that some of the magnates of the Mormon Church regard this so-called religion (with all others) as a contrivance for the enslavement and fleecing of the many, and the aggrandizement of the few; but I cannot believe that a sect, so considerable and so vigorous as the Mormon, was ever founded in conscious imposture, or built up on any other basis than that of earnest conviction. If the projector and two or three of his chief confederates are knaves, the great body of their followers were dupes.

Nor do I accept the current Gentile presumption that the Mormons are an organized banditti--a horde of robbers and assassins. Thieves and murderers mainly haunt the purlieus of great cities, or hide in caverns and forests adjacent to the great routes of travel. But when the Mormon leaders decided to set up their Zion in these parched mountain vales and canyon, the said valleys were utterly secluded and remote from all Gentile approach--away from any mail route or channel of emigration. That the Mormons wished to escape Gentile control, scrutiny, jurisprudence, is evident; that they meant to abuse their inaccessibility, to the detriment and plunder of wayfarers, is not credible.

Do I, then, discredit the tales of Mormon outrages and crime--of the murder of the Parrishes, the Mountain Meadow massacre, etc. etc.--wherewith the general ear has recently been shocked? No, I do not. Some of these may have been fabricated by Gentile malice--others are doubtless exaggerated--but there is some basis of truth for the current Gentile conviction that the Mormons have robbed, maimed, and even killed persons in this territory, under circumstances which should subject the perpetrators to condign punishment, but that Mormon witnesses, grand jurors, petit jurors, and magistrates determinedly screen the guilty. I deeply regret the necessity of believing this; but the facts are incontestable. That a large party of emigrants--not less than eighty--from Arkansas to California were foully massacred at Mountain Meadows in September, 1857, more immediately by Indians, but under the direct inspiration and direction of the Mormon settlers in that vicinity--to whom, and not to the savages, the emigrants had surrendered, after a siege, on the strength of assurances that their lives at least should be spared--is established by evidence that cannot (I think) be invalidated--the evidence of conscience-smitten partakers in the crime, both Indian and ex-Mormon, and of children of the slaughtered emigrants, who were spared as too young to be dangerous even as witnesses, and of whom the great majority have been sent down to the states as unable to give testimony; but two boys are retained here as witnesses, who distinctly remember that their parents surrendered to white men, and that these white men at best did not attempt to prevent their perfidious massacre. These children, moreover, were all found in the possession of Mormons--not one of them in the hands of Indians; and, though the Mormons say they ransomed them from the hands of the Indians, the children deny it, saying that they never lived with, nor were in the keeping of savages; and the Indians bear concurrent testimony. So in the Parrish case: the family had been Mormons, but had apostatized--and undertook to return to the states; they were warned that they would be killed if they persisted in that resolution; they did persist, and were killed. Of course, nobody will ever be convicted of their murder; but those who warned them of the fate on which they were rushing know why they were killed, and could discover, if they would, who killed them.

The vital fact in the case is just this: the great mass of these people, as a body, mean to be honest, just, and humane; but they are, before and above all things else, Latter-Day Saints, or Mormons. They devoutly believe that they are God's peculiar and especial people, doing His work, upbuilding His kingdom, and basking in the sunshine of His peculiar favor. Whoever obstructs or impedes them in this work, then, is God's enemy, who must be made to get out of the way of the establishment of Christ's kingdom on earth--made to do so by lawful and peaceful means is possible, but by any means that may ultimately be found necessary.

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