BYU Studies 48:4 (2009)-Special Thomas L. Kane Issue

By March 7, 2010

BYU Studies 48:4 (2009)

This issue, recently arrived, is a special issue on Thomas L. Kane and the Mormons, 1846-1883 and is edited by David J. Whittaker. From the preface and the BYU Studies website:

?In 1996, the [Harold B.] Lee Library [at BYU] was able to obtain a significant Kane family archive consisting of journals, scrapbooks, letters, and other manuscripts and photographs that when combined with the university?s existing Kane materials, for the first time allowed scholars an in-depth look at the life and work of this influential friend to the Later-day Saints?During the 2008-9 school years, staff at Perry Special Collections prepared a public exhibition of significant manuscripts focusing on Thomas Kane and his relationship with the Mormons. During the exhibition, the library sponsored a lecture series by prominent scholars on various aspects of Kane?s interactions with the Latter-day Saints. These public lectures have been transformed into essays that appear in this volume?Finally, this volume includes a bibliography of published material on Kane that will lead serious readers to the literature on this interesting individual and his family? (8-11).

Matthew J. Grow, “Thomas L. Kane and Nineteenth-Century American Culture”

“Although Kane was not a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he was an advocate for the Mormon cause and a trusted friend of Mormon leaders for almost forty years. Kane?s legacy has been passed down in LDS memory primarily as a “friend of the Mormons” and as their “sentinel in the East.” Viewing Kane exclusively through a Mormon lens, however, has obscured the rest of his life as well as his motivations for embracing the Mormon cause. Immersing Kane into his own social and cultural contexts, particularly nineteenth-century social reform, illuminates both his life and the lives of other reformers of his era.”

Richard E. Bennett, “‘He Is Our Friend’ Thomas L. Kane and the Mormons in Exodus, 1846-1850”

“Bennett shows how documents from the Kane collection at Brigham Young University enhance, correct, or confirm our knowledge of the following: first, the attitudes of President James K. Polk and his cabinet and others close to him toward the fleeing Latter-day Saints; second, the federal government?s request for a five-hundred-man Mormon Battalion; third, the Mormon settlement at Winter Quarters at the Missouri River in winter 1846?47; and fourth, Kane?s lecture titled “The Mormons,” given and published in Philadelphia in 1850.”

Thomas G. Alexander, “Thomas L. Kane and the Mormon Problem in National Politics”

“This essay explores instances in which Kane assisted the Mormons and the people of Utah in their dealings with the federal government. After the Mormons began to leave their temporary settlements on the Missouri River in 1847 to settle in Utah, three key events marked Thomas L. Kane’s experience with the problems of the Mormons in national politics: (1) the Mormons’ quest for statehood or territorial organization in 1849 and 1850; (2) the dispute over federally appointed officials in 1851 and 1852; and (3) the conflicts created by the judicial administration of James B. McKean in the early 1870s.”

William P. MacKinnon, “‘Full of Courage’ Thomas L. Kane, the Utah War, and BYU’s Kane Collection as Lodestone”

“MacKinnon explores the significance of Kane’s role in helping to resolve peacefully the Utah War of 1857?58 by exploring what the Utah War was, when and how Thomas L. Kane became involved in it, what Kane’s motives for involvement were, whether Kane was a Latter-day Saint, and what was the significance of Kane’s efforts. In dealing with these five areas of inquiry, the author discusses the Kane collection at Brigham Young University and shows how it is a sort of compass essential to navigating Kane’s very complex psyche as he, in turn, maneuvered through a murky and still poorly understood federal-territorial conflict.”

Edward A. Greary, “Tom and Bessie Kane and the Mormons”

“Geary examines representative elements of key episodes in which Thomas Kane and his wife, Elizabeth Kane, interacted with the Mormons. The article briefly discusses Tom?s visit with the exiled Saints in 1846 and his subsequent activities that culminated in the delivery and publication of his influential lecture that was published as The Mormons in 1850 as well as his reaction to plural marriage in 1851. Then the article explores Tom?s assistance during the Utah War in 1857 and 1858 and Bessie?s journals from the Kanes? 1872?73 visit to Utah, published as Twelve Mormon Homes and A Gentile Account of Life in Utah?s Dixie.”

Lowell C. (Ben) Bennion and Thomas R. Carter, “Touring Polygamous Utah with Elizabeth W. Kane, Winter 1872-1873”

“Bennion and Carter consider the ideas presented by Elizabeth Kane, Thomas?s wife, who expressed her dismay with plural marriage in her writings about her visit to Utah in 1872?73. The authors combine Elizabeth?s views with their interest in Mormon architecture and historical geography through an examination of one of the homes that Elizabeth portrayed in her book Twelve Mormons Homes. This article aids in current understanding of the everyday lives of Latter-day Saints participating in plural marriage.”

David J. Whittaker, “‘My Dear Friend’ The Friendship and Correspondence of Brigham Young and Thomas L. Kane”

“This article focuses on the correspondence between Kane and the Mormon prophet Brigham Young. There are about 125 known letters exchanged between Young and Kane, beginning the year they met in 1846 and extending to 1877, the year Young died. The number of letters averaged three or four per year, with more frequent exchanges during times of crisis. The Brigham Young?Thomas L. Kane letters are an important source for understanding both men, as well as various aspects of Latter-day Saint and American history. The letters also provide a window into one of those rare, enduring friendships that help reveal the times in which the writers lived.”

Added to the essays and the bibliography is a review by Charles S. Petersen of Matt Grow?s book, Liberty to the Downtrodden: Thomas L. Kane, Romantic Reformer. Petersen agrees with Grow?s evaluation of the importance of Kane in Mormon history. Petersen recounts that in his own past work, Kane surfaced again and again, but Petersen consistently avoided studying Kane in greater depth. He writes, ?In the main, ?Liberty? opens new doors of understanding about the Civil War, Jacksonian Democracy, and Sectionalism?s impact on the West. In terms of Mormon studies, it is refreshing partly because it helps bring Brigham Young back into the forefront of Mormon history after two decades of emphasis on Joseph Smith and his era?The voice of cultural studies as reflected by Grow offers a promising approach? (228-229).

[I’ll be posting next about the Journal of Mormon History’s 35:4 issue]

Article filed under Miscellaneous


  1. Thanks for this, Jared. If these papers are as rich and intriguing as the presentations were, then this is indeed a splendid volume.

    Comment by Ben — March 7, 2010 @ 4:37 am

  2. Thanks, Ben. What I did get to reading more fully was good reading.

    Comment by Jared T — March 7, 2010 @ 3:20 pm


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