The Garfield Assassination, 1 of 4: Joy, Prophecy, and Conspiracy

By April 8, 2015

In his inaugural address as President of the United States, James A Garfield included about 180 words proposing action against Mormonism (1881 Mar 04). [1] Four months later (Jul 02), Charles J Guiteau shot Garfield. Guiteau was apprehended at the scene and Garfield died several weeks later (Sep 19). In the next few posts I will look at some ways Garfield?s shooting and rhetoric about Mormonism intersected. (Image [2])

StruckDownAtThePostOfDuty GarfieldTribute Puck 1881Jul06 v9n226 Crop

Newspaper reports of Mormon remarks about the shooting appeared the morning after (Jul 03): ?It was reported yesterday? that some people ?expressed themselves as being rejoiced??; ?there were, it is said, a few who gave vent to their exultance?; and it was ?overheard? that ?The hand of God is in it. That is what comes of persecuting his chosen people.? [3]

Mormon leaders John Taylor and George Q Cannon spoke publicly that same afternoon (Jul 03). Both expressed deep sorrow, rehearsed Mormon grievances—emphasizing Mormon abhorrence of extra-judicial violence—and exhorted Mormons to model Christ-like behavior. They also described Guiteau?s bullets as part of the prophet-predicted consequence for the United States? treatment of Mormons. Taylor was emphatic, though, that ?our foreknowledge of these matters does not make us the agents in bringing them to pass.? [4] Contrary to reports linking Garfield?s statements about Mormonism to the shooting, Cannon and Taylor specifically excluded Garfield from personal responsibility: Garfield caught the bullets, but the US was being punished. [5] Other Mormons expressed similar sentiments. [6]

The Salt Lake Tribune was, as usual, having none of it. It acknowledged the ?profuseness? of the leaders? ?fairly lachrymose? expressions of sympathy but rejected them on the grounds that ?the man who prophesies destruction to this Nation? desires it and incites it, and is, consequently accessory before the act.? [7] Over several subsequent months the Tribune continued to reject any possibility of Mormon sincerity and multiple papers across the nation followed suit. [8]

I found no evidence that Mormons sorrow at Garfield?s death was disingenuous. That said, it seems likely that Mormons had learned something about public relations in the face of national tragedy after the deaths of Zachary Taylor and Abraham Lincoln. [9] If they had forgotten, some critics re-introduced allegations about celebrating Lincoln?s death. [10]

Within two weeks of Garfield?s shooting reports began claiming that upon hearing the news ?the ?Praying Circle? of the Mormon Saints, rejoiced in impious thanksgiving to the Almighty? and prayed for his death.? [11] Some editorialists imagined a prayer contest between Christians and Mormons, some emphasized the un-familiar ?Praying Circle? with its implication of a relentless, organized bogeyman, and some hoped that knowledge of anti-Garfield prayers would stir the nation into serious action against polygamy. [12] Such allegations continued for months. [13] The Deseret News, among other counter-editorialists, reacted indignantly, and at least one eastern paper thought ?the ?prayer circle? story? had ?all the ear-marks of a Gentile roorback.? [14]

Within three weeks an editorialist wondered if the shooting ?was not the result of a Mormon conspiracy?? and a missionary in Alabama reported early in August that ?many of the people believe? that Garfield ?was shot by a Mormon Elder.? [15] A Chicago paper went all the way on October 1st, reporting that Guiteau was a Mormon polygamist and that had ?acted under orders from head quarters when he shot the President.? According to the author, Mormon leaders had indicated that they did not want a shooting, ?preferring poison or train wrecking,? but Guiteau had ?said, ?I know my business,? and was allowed to concoct his own devilish plan.? [16] My impression is that few readers gave this particular report much credence. [17]

A more prominent allegation came the next day from the pulpit of T[homas] DeWitt Talmage, the histrionic, hyperbolic, famous, and famously anti-Mormon preacher of Brooklyn. (Image) [18]

KepplerJF RivalSundayShowsInBrooklyn Puck 1878Oct23 v4n85p8t9 1300px

We?ll discuss his contributions in the next post.

 

————

[1] ?? The Mormon Church not only offends the moral sense of manhood by sanctioning polygamy, but prevents the administration of justice through ordinary instrumentalities of law. [¶] In my judgment it is the duty of Congress, ? to prohibit within its jurisdiction all criminal practices, especially of that class which destroy the family relations and endanger social order. ?? James A Garfield, Inaugural Address, 1881 Mar 04, Washington DC.

[2] No artist listed (unclear signature, possibly ?L K?), ?Struck Down at the Post of Duty,? Puck 9.226 (1881 Jul 06): 299 (special front cover in front of regular front cover); in situ.

[3] No author listed, ?City Jottings,? Salt Lake Tribune, Salt Lake City, UT, 1881 Jul 03, p 4, col 1. No author listed, ?The President?s Peril,? Salt Lake Tribune, Salt Lake City, UT, 1881 Jul 03, p 4, col 2. No author listed, ?Utah,? Salt Lake City, Jul 02, part of compilation ?The People,? Chicago Tribune, Chicago, IL, 1881 Jul 03, p 7 (6-9), col 3. No author listed, ?An Assassin?s Work,? sub-heading ?Mormon Fanaticism,? Salt Lake, Jul 02, Toronto Daily Mail, Toronto, 1881 Jul 04 Mon, p 2 (1-2), col 2 near bottom.

[4] Cannon emphasized his collegial connection with Garfield, ?my personal friend,? and asserted that because Mormons had experienced the ?spirit of violent lawlessness? they were ?profoundly moved? by the assassination attempt, which feeling ?comes to us as it does not to any other people, for we have suffered from this as no other people have.? He then reminded Mormons that ??we, of all people upon the face of the earth, should be the last to rejoice in calamity of any kind, or to indulge in any feeling which would have the appearance of rejoicing over anything that may appear like vengeance. ?. Our Savior has given us an example in this.? Taylor also personalized his empathy, describing when he ?was severely wounded?quite as severely as President Garfield is,? before going on to discuss prophecies and the Christian response to tragedy. George Q Cannon, speech at Salt Lake Tabernacle, Salt Lake City, UT, 1881 Jul 03 Sun afternoon, as reported by George F Gibbs, in Journal of Discourses 22.133-139 (Liverpool: Albert Carrington, 1882); John Taylor, speech?, as reported by John Irvine, in  JD 22.139-144.

[5] ?Now, as much as I deplore such acts as that of yesterday, I look upon it as one of the consequences which must follow. General Garfield, the President of the United States, innocent of any act which can be tortured into a justification for a deed of violence, now falls a victim to this spirit of lawlessness and personal revenge. ? Every nation which commits a crime must atone for that crime. God holds nations responsible as He does individuals.? Cannon, JD 22.138. Neither Taylor nor Cannon were completely clear on whether the punishment was a general increase in lawlessness (with Garfield just a random victim) or the incapacitation of its political head (with Garfield a victim due to his office rather than his discharge thereof). The readings are not mutually exclusive and I don?t see evidence to clearly choose one over the other, nor even sufficient to say that Taylor or Cannon distinguished them.

[6] In September an Idaho editorialist echoed Cannon in viewing Garfield respectfully and claiming that ?there are no people on earth who have a greater horror and detestation of the crime of assassination.? No author listed, ?President Garfield and the Mormons,? Bear Lake Democrat, Paris, Idaho Territory, 1881 Sep 17, p 2, as transcribed by Larry D Christiansen. A paper in Ogden expressed horror of mobs: No author listed, no title [nearest title: ?A Journalistic Scoffer,?], Ogden Daily Herald [Ogden Standard], Ogden, UT, 1881 Sep 08 Thu evening, p 2, col 2. After Garfield?s death, Cannon?s son, a missionary in Europe, expressed in his personal diary emotions similar to those of Taylor and Cannon, but with the milder divine attribution that ?God has some wise purpose in permitting him to die.? Abraham Hoagland Cannon, personal diary, entry for 1882 Sep 21 Wed, Bern, Switzerland, diary of Abraham Hoagland Cannon, volume 2, 1882, Vault MSS 62, L Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B Lee Library, Brigham Young University, p 132-133.

[7] No author listed, ?It Won?t Do,? Salt Lake Tribune, Salt Lake City, UT, 1881 Jul 08 Fri, p 2, col 2. For one example of Mormon response to the ?prophecy = desire? idea, see: No author listed, ?Editorial Notes,? Deseret News, Salt Lake City, UT, 1881 Oct 05 Wed, p 563 [issue p 3], col 2.

[8] The Tribune did have a point in that the fact that both Cannon and Taylor preached that Mormons should not (in Cannon?s words) ?rejoice? in ?calamity? or anything that even looked like ?vengeance? suggests that these leaders worried that some Mormons might do—or might have already done—exactly those things. However, the Tribune?s rejection of any possibility of Mormon sincerity relative to Garfield was so categorical and so cynical that I get the impression that nothing would have sufficed; more frequent or more impassioned expressions of sorrow would have been interpreted as the overkill of inauthenticity while fewer or less emotional expressions would have been taken as evidence of non-feeling. For examples: ?How Sorry They [illegible: Are?],? 1881 Jul 30 Sat morning, p 4, col 3 mid-page. ?Typical Expressions,? 1881 Sep 21 Wed morning, p 4, col 2. ?Take Down the Symbols,? 1881 Oct 02 Sun morning, p 2, col 4. Examples from non-Utah papers will be scattered throughout the post.

[9] If there was any negative buzz about Mormon reactions to William Harrison?s death, I have not found it—but note that Mormons had supported Harrison?s election and Joseph Smith made favorable statements about the deceased. Joseph Smith, General Smith?s Views of the Power and Policy of the Government, pamphlet (Nauvoo, IL: John Taylor, 1844), 6. Brigham Young?s 1851 statement, ?I know Zachary Taylor, he is dead and damned, and I cannot help it? (alternate report: ??is dead and in hell, and I am glad of it?) both provoked and appeared in contra-Mormon writings for decades. For context and detail, see John G Turner, Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet (Cambridge, MA: Belknap, 2012), 201-202. The ??I am glad of it? version of the quote is given and sourced in Brigham H Roberts, ?History of the Mormon Church,? under sub-heading, ?Chapter LXXXI,? Americana 8 (1913 Feb): 171, 174 (153-194). Brigham Young discussed the episode and its impact in Brigham Young, speech, Salt Lake City, UT, 1855 Feb 18, as reported in Journal of Discourses 2:183. Other discussions are easy to find. Bancroft?s history of Utah reported that, after Lincoln?s death, federal volunteers ?imagined? that Mormons ?were exulting over this deed of infamy?; I have not chased down contemporary sources. Hubert Howe Bancroft, The Works of Hubert Howe Bancroft, Volume 26, ?History of Utah: 1540-1886? (San Francisco: The History Company, 1889), 625-626.

[10] In the context of Mormon reactions to the Garfield assassination, I found no clear reference to Taylor?s death, but did find allegations and rebuttals that Mormons celebrated Lincoln?s death. No author listed, ?Take Down the Symbols,? Salt Lake Tribune, Salt Lake City, UT, 1881 Oct 02 Sun morning, p 2, col 4. William Jarman, U.S.A., Uncle Sam’s Abscess; Or, Hell Upon Earth for U.S., Uncle Sam (Exeter, England: H Leduc, 1884), 85. No author listed, reporting on lecture by Kate Field in Kansas City, credited to the Journal of Kansas City, ?Two Sides of a Story,? Latter-day Saints? Millennial Star 49.20 (1887 May 16 Mon): 318 (317-319). Reporting on a lecture by Kate Field in Washington: ?Wanderer,? Washington, 1885 Mar 06, ?The Giddy Kate. Tells What She Thinks About the Mormons. Rehash of Old Yarns and Lies. The Lecture a Lying Production of a Brazen and Unprincipled Woman,? Salt Lake Herald, Salt Lake City, UT, 1885 Mar 15 Sun, p 3, col 3 bottom (1-4). Selah W Brown, ?Five Indictments Against Mormonism,? The Gospel in All Lands [no volume, no number] (1888 May): 198 (196-198). No author listed, ?A Shameful Fabrication,? Deseret News [weekly] 30.27, Salt Lake City, UT, 1881 Aug 03 Wed, p 424 [issue p 8], col 2. No author listed, ?The Best of Proof,? Deseret Weekly 40.25, Salt Lake City, UT, 1890 Jun 14, p 810-811.

[11] No author listed, ?Review of the Week,? Lewiston Saturday Journal [Saturday edition of Lewiston Evening Journal], Lewiston, ME, 1881 Jul 16 Sat, p 2, col 1.

[12] If anyone invoked Elijah and the priests of Baal, I did not notice it. For one example: ?Ever since the 27th of September Mormon bishops have been flaunting their prayer test in the face of the Gentiles.? Sheldon Jackson, speech, New York, 1882 Jan 27, as quoted in ?Sheldon Jackson on Mormonism,? under main heading, ?The Polygs,?  Salt Lake Daily Tribune, Salt Lake City, UT, 1882 Jan 24 Tue morning, p 1, col 2. Also printed in No author listed, ?Howling Hate,? Ogden Daily Herald, Ogden, UT, 1882 Jan 24 Tue evening, p 1, col 2-3. An editorial response came the next day: No author listed, ?Tea-Pot Tempest,? Ogden Daily Herald, Ogden, UT, 1882 Jan 25 Wed evening, p 2, col 1-2. Quoted, with partisan comment, in Robert C Webb, The Real Mormonism: A Candid Analysis of an Interesting but Much Misunderstood Subject in History, Life and Thought (New York: Sturgis & Walton, 1916), 314-315. For a variation on the prayer contest, see the argument that ?the Christian world? had ?no faith? because ?the only prayer answered? was Guiteau?s. Gail Hamilton, as summarized by George G Bywater, speech at Salt Lake Tabernacle, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1882 Jun 04 Sun, Journal of Discourses 23.148 (142-149).

[13] Sometimes the reports even used the words ?prayer circle,? as Mormons were more likely to call it. In 1915 BH Roberts identified the original source as the ?Boston Watchman,? but gave no date. I have not yet confirmed his identification and the Jul 16 piece from Maine is the earliest example I have found. The wording varied from newspaper to newspaper. No author listed, ?What They Wish,? Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, Battle Creek, MI, 1881 Jul 26 Tue (weekly, vol 58, no 5), p 71. No author listed, credited to Boston Journal, ?Two Elements of Danger,? St. Lawrence Plaindealer, Canton, NY, 1881 Aug 10 Wed, p 2, col 2. No author listed, ?Editorial Notes,? Daily Alta California, San Francisco, CA, 1881 Aug 22 (Vol 33, No 11,446), p 2, col 3. No author listed, ?Religious,? Newtown Register, Newtown, NY, 1881 Sep 22 Thu, p 4, col 2. Later iterations attributed the information to the Deseret News and upgraded the reported frequency to ?unceasingly requesting of the Mormon deity the death of the President.? No author listed, ?Topics of the Time,? Christian Cynosure (13.45 [Whole No 588]), Chicago, IL, 1881 Aug 04 Thu (weekly), p 1. A 1916 author claimed to have searched ?the files of all leading Mormon and pro-Mormon newspapers and magazines? of the period and did not find anything to support the claim. Robert C Webb, The Real Mormonism: A Candid Analysis of an Interesting but Much Misunderstood Subject in History, Life and Thought (New York: Sturgis & Walton, 1916), 314-315. See also: Edward A Thomas, ?The Latter Day Saints As They Are,? Fortnightly Review 36.178 [new series] (1881 Oct 01): 425 (414-431); reprinted in Edward A Thomas, credited to The Fortnightly Review, ?The Latter Day Saints As They Are,? Eclectic Magazine of Foreign Literature, Science, and Art 34.6 [new series] (1881 Dec): 781 (773-785). EA Thomas, ?The Mormons and the President,? Potter?s American Monthly 17.118 (1881 Oct): 298 (298-302); see also p 302. William Makepeace Thayer, From Log-Cabin to the White House: Life of James A. Garfield: Boyhood, Youth, Manhood, Assassination, Death, Funeral (Boston: James H Earle, 1881), 407. No author listed, credited to Boston Journal, ?Two Elements of Danger,? St. Lawrence Plaindealer, Canton, NY, 1881 Aug 10 Wed, p 2, col 2. So far as I can tell, after the October peak, the idea that Mormons celebrated Garfield?s injury and death appeared in print only sporadically in the subsequent few years, usually as a one-liner in a litany of Mormon ills. Jacob S Boreman, speech to the Ladies? Anti-Polygamy Society, Salt Lake City, UT, 1882 Feb 27, as reported in ?Anti-Polygamy,? Salt Lake Daily Tribune, Salt Lake City, UT, 1882 Feb 28 Tue morning, p 4, col 4 (2-4); quoted, with partisan comment, in Robert C Webb, The Real Mormonism: A Candid Analysis of an Interesting but Much Misunderstood Subject in History, Life and Thought (New York: Sturgis & Walton, 1916), 324. William Jarman, U.S.A., Uncle Sam’s Abscess; Or, Hell Upon Earth for U.S., Uncle Sam (Exeter, England: H Leduc, 1884), 85. No author listed, reporting on lecture by Kate Field in Kansas City, credited to the Journal of Kansas City, ?Two Sides of a Story,? Latter-day Saints? Millennial Star 49.20 (1887 May 16 Mon): 318 (317-319).

[14] The report of the prayer circle was ?the boldest piece of unadorned and unclothed lying that we have seen for some time,? No author listed, ?A Shameful Fabrication,? Deseret News [weekly] 30.27, Salt Lake City, UT, 1881 Aug 03 Wed, p 424 [issue p 8], col 2. No author listed, ?An Atrocious Falsehood,? Deseret News, Salt Lake City, UT, 1881 Oct 05 Wed, p 573 [issue p 7], col 3-4. No author listed, ?President Garfield and the Mormons,? Bear Lake Democrat, Paris, Idaho Territory, 1881 Sep 17, p 2, as transcribed by Larry D Christiansen. See also: No author listed, ?A Base Imputation,? Ogden Daily Herald, Ogden, UT, 1881 Sep 23 Fri evening, p 2, col 2. Roorback: ?Providence Star? newspaper, as quoted in No author listed, ?A Shameful Fabrication,? Deseret News [weekly] 30.27, Salt Lake City, UT, 1881 Aug 03 Wed, p 424 [issue p 8], col 2.

[15] No author listed, ?What They Wish,? Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, Battle Creek, MI, 1881 Jul 26 Tue (weekly, vol 58, no 5), p 71. The missionary only spent the quoted line on Guiteau in a letter with ~1,100 words. Adam Wilcox, letter to editor, Moscow, Lamar County, Alabama, 1881 Aug 09, ??Adam, Where Art Thou?? ?Here I Am!?? under heading ?Communicated,? Bear Lake Democrat, Paris, Idaho Territory, 1881 Aug 27, p 2, as transcribed by Larry D Christiansen.

[16] CV Waite [Catherine Van Valkenburg Waite], Adventures in the Far West; And Life Among the Mormons (Chicago: CV Waite and Co, 1882), 306-308.

[17] I haven?t found the Chicago report reprinted or referenced in other newspapers and Waite, the only source by which I know it, could not ?positively affirm? its reliability. CV Waite [Catherine Van Valkenburg Waite], Adventures in the Far West; And Life Among the Mormons (Chicago: CV Waite and Co, 1882), 306-307.

[18] Talmage (left) and Henry Ward Beecher compete for audiences with sensationalist material. Caption: ?The Rival Sunday Shows in Brooklyn.? Talmage, on the left, holds a trumpet, and stands on a podium with the words, ?Here you are! The Great Museum of Monstrosities Terrible to Behold!? Beecher holds a sign that reads, ??Here you are! Solid Junks of Religion. $20,000 a Year and Perquisites invested in this show.? Both are gesticulating to what appears to be an interested crowd. In the center background an adult female holding a child, an adult male, and a policeman survey the scene with what appear to be non-comprehending looks. The appear to have just passed through an opening labeled ?Family Concert Garden.? Advertising posters surround both Talmage and Beecher: Talmage?s side, from bottom left: ?The Double-Faced Monkey (Warranted not twins)? showing a two-faced Talmage; ?The Live Faro ?Tiger??; ?The Awful Can-Can? [showing parts of legs performing dance moves]; ?The Horrors of the Dance? [showing a woman performing a high kick]; ?The Woman ?Fish?? [showing a female (with a fish body from the waist down) pulling what appears to be a handkerchief from an apparently unaware male?s coat pocket; alternately, she is turning the pocket inside-out, presumably searching for money]; ?The Champagne Crocodile that Swallows Young Men? [showing a crocodile with a bottle of champagne balanced on its tail; the champagne label reads ?Extra G.H. Mumm?; G.H. Mumm is a famous champagne brand; the crocodile is halfway through swallowing a human head-first]. Posters on Beecher?s side, from center to the right: ?The Fat Man—Not on $1.00 per day? [showing a very fat man]; ?Great Acrobatic Feat! —or, Climbing Over the Back of Friendship? [showing a male on all-fours (presumably Theodore Tilton) with Beecher standing on his back; Beecher is holding up and kissing a female (presumably Elizabeth Tilton), presumably in allusion to Beecher and Tilton?s sexual affair]; ?Great Impaling Feat ? or ? Striking at the Heart of His Friend? [showing Beecher dressed in what appears to be a kimono, holding a hand fan, and preparing to throw a knife at a male (identity unknown); the targeted male has a stylized heart on the outside of his shirt; a knife is already sticking out of the heart at a depth that would probably be fatal]. Joseph Ferdinand Keppler, ?The Rival Sunday Shows in Brooklyn,? color illustration, Puck 4.85 (1878 Oct 23): 8-9.

Article filed under Miscellaneous


Comments

  1. Fascinating stuff, Edje; thanks.

    Comment by Ben P — April 8, 2015 @ 12:14 pm

  2. Awesome, Edje. Thanks.

    Comment by Christopher — April 8, 2015 @ 2:51 pm

  3. […] installments here and here. Guiteau?s trial for the murder of President Garfield began on November 14, 1881, and […]

    Pingback by Juvenile Instructor » The Garfield Assassination, 3 of 4: Guiteau?s Trial — April 21, 2015 @ 2:39 am

  4. Well this is awesome. Thanks for putting this together!

    Comment by John Hatch — April 22, 2015 @ 11:25 am


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