1856 election sowed the seeds of Utah War, Y. scholar says

By R. Scott Lloyd

Deseret News

Published: Saturday, June 30 2012 8:00 p.m. MDT

The phrase "twin relics of barbarism" became one of the most popular and famous slogans of American presidential and political history, Walker wrote.

For example, a rally in Indianapolis depicted Brigham Young with six wives fashionably dressed in hoop skirts "each with a little Brigham in their arms" occupying one parade wagon drawn by pioneer oxen.

The parade reportedly attracted a crowd of 60,000

A handbill supposedly written by Mormons was distributed at a pre-election rally in Philadelphia. It purported to support "the domestic institutions of slavery and polygamy as established by the patriarchs of old." The flyer was allegedly ordered "by the presidents and rulers at Great Salt Lake."

"It was an unquestioned fake, certainly the product of Republican operatives who hoped to use anti-Mormon prejudice to peel votes from Buchanan, what we would call dirty tricks," Walker wrote.

But leading opinion makers took the bait.

Walker explained that the "twin relics" slogan threw the Democrats back on their heels, and they were no longer willing to help the Latter-day Saints. Church leaders complained to their old friend Douglas in the Senate. In fact, some politically fearful Democrats were now showing an anti-Mormon zeal that put the Republicans in the shade, apostle John Taylor wrote to Douglas.

The senator appeared sympathetic, but he told Utah delegates if they insisted on submitting their petitions for statehood, they would pay a heavy price. They would be handily defeated, and anti-polygamy legislation would have a greater chance of passage.

They accepted his advice, but the "Mormon question" had already become too much a part of the election campaign.

For their part, the Mormons were outraged at the national political sentiment against them. John Taylor wrote to Brigham Young: "Talk about us entering the Union? There is no union. There is a nominal, patched up, national, growling, disunited, quarreling confederacy, but no union."

He believed the nation was coming apart, Walker wrote, everything a boiling cauldron as old political alliances were breaking down and new ones rising.

"With the election finally ended, Buchanan had the White House and the Democrats enjoyed majorities in the new Congress, but no one could doubt there was a new political landscape," Walker remarked. "Clearly the Republicans had every reason to feel good about their first try at national politics and for their future."

He summarized, "In short, both national sentiment and political calculations became parts of the mix that led to the Utah expedition against Utah in 1857-58 — and both came from the recent presidential campaign.

email: rscott@desnews.com

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