-- Apr 29, 1886 (Thursday)
The case of Lorenzo Snow was argued in the U.S. Supreme Court. (1)
-- May 24th, 1886
[Apostle Abraham H. Cannon Journal] During the evening we had farewell speeches and songs from Keddington and Porcher. This is a copy of our reply to the Governor:
May 24, 1886
To His Excellency Caleb W. West
Governor of Utah
Sir: On the 13th inst. you honored the inmates of the Penitentiary with a visit, and offered to intercede for the pardon of all those enduring imprisonment on conviction under the Edmunds law, if they would but promise obedience to it in the future, as interpreted by the Courts.
Gratitude for the interest manifested in our behalf claims from us a reply. We trust, however, that this will not be construed into defiance, as our silence already has been. We have no desire to occupy a defiant attitude towards the Government or to be in conflict with the nation's laws. We have never been even accused of violating any other law than the one under which we were convicted, and that was enacted purposely to oppose a tenet of our religion. We conscientiously believe in the doctrine of plural marriage, and have practiced it from a firm conviction of its being a divine requirement.
Of the forty nine Elders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints now imprisoned in this Penitentiary for alleged violations of the Edmunds law all but four had plural wives from its passage to thirty five years prior to its passage. We were united to our wives for time and eternity by the most sacred covenants, and in many instances numerous children have been born as a result of our union, who are endeared to us by the strongest parental ties.
What the promise asked of us implied you declined to explain, just as the courts have done when appeals have been made to them for an explicit and permanent definition of what must be done to comply with the law.
The rulings of the Courts under the law have been too varied and conflicting, heretofore, for us to know what may be their future interpretations. The simple status of plural marriage is now made under the law material evidence in securing conviction of unlawful cohabitation, thus independent of our acts, ruthlessly trespassing upon the sacred domain of our religious belief.
So far as compliance with your proposition requires the sacrifice of honor and manhood, the repudiation of our wives and children, the violation of sacred covenants, heaven forbid that we should be guilty of such perfidy; perpetual imprisonment with which we are threatened or even death itself would be preferable.
Our wives desire no separation from us, and were we to comply with your request they would regard our action as most cruel, inhuman and monstrous, our children would blush with shame, and we should deserve the scorn and contempt of all just and honorable men.
The proposition you made, though prompted, doubtless, by a kind feeling, was not new, for we could all have avoided imprisonment by making the same promise to the Courts, In fact, the penalties we are now enduring are for declining to so promise rather than for acts committed in the past.
Had you offered us unconditional amnesty, it would have been gladly accepted, but dearly as we prize the great boon of liberty, we cannot afford to obtain it by proving untrue to our conscience, our religion, and our God.
As loyal citizens of this great Republic, whose Constitution we revere, we not only ask for but claim our rights as freemen, and if from neither local nor national authority we are to receive equity and mercy, we will make our appeal to the Great Arbiter of all human interests,, who in due time will grant us the justice hitherto denied.
That you may as the Governor of our important but afflicted Territory aid us in securing every right to which loyal and peaceable citizens are entitled and find happiness in so doing, we will ever pray.
As witness our hands,
Lorenzo Snow (2)
1 - Jenson, Andrew, Church Chronology
2 - Abraham H. Cannon Journal Excerpts, http://www.amazon.com/Apostles-Record-Journals-Abraham-1889-1896/dp/B000MFD1K4
LDS History Chronology: Lorenzo Snow
Mormon History Timeline: the life of Lorenzo Snow
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