For Chris: Two Anti-Anti-Mormon Miscegenation refs

By July 16, 2009

In a post earlier today, Chris asked about instances when Mormons defended polygamy by attacking sexual relations between races. I have been working on racial construction by Mormons and non-Mormons in the late 1880s to 1890s and happen to have two pieces ready to go. They would be too long for a comment, so I’m posting them here.

Edward W Tullidge, “Chapters in the Life of Prest. Brigham YoungThe Latter-day Saints’ Millennial Star 40 no 9 (1878 Mar 04):129-131 [130].

Schuyler Colfax, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, visited with Brigham Young in Salt Lake City on 1865 Jun 11. Tullidge wrote that

Polygamy, of course, was the great topic. The marvels that the Mormons had created in the Desert were freely confessed; but the peculiar institution,—that was something which the sensitive morals of the Speaker could not tolerantly contemplate, although he strongly advocated miscegenation!

Tullidge then goes on to describe Young’s response:

But Brigham answered with native simplicity. What could he do in the matter? If it was a difficulty with Mr. Colfax, it was a greater difficulty with himself, as the Moses of his people. If Congress had been in travail over the many-wived question, so, also, had Mormondom. It was none of Brigham’s business only as a disciple. ‘Twas the Lord’s concern. He had revealed the order of celestial marriage to Joseph. There was the end of all controversy.

N. L. N., “Society in the South,” Deseret News, 1885 Nov 18, p14.

I transcribed the article in its entirety. The numbered note-markers are mine.






Greenland, W. Va.,

October 17, 1885.

Editor Deseret News:

After witnessing the state of society in the South, the Elder feels to thank heaven that a beneficent Providence has permitted his soul to be born upon the earth through the medium of parents who realize the true nature of the curse of Cain, and so far removed from its damning influence that any thing like an inter-marriage with


is looked upon with aversion. Latter-day Saints, of all people, are able to comprehend the awful consequences of disobeying that great command given by the children of God, Seth’s posterity, not to mix with the children of men, as Cain’s offspring were known. They know also that as the law is eternal, so the dreadful effects follow disobedience now just as they did during the probation of our antediluvian fathers. And if ever a revelation made bare the mercies of God to a fallen world, then it is that once which enables us to understand the relationship of the two races, both in the primeval world and in the hereafter. In the light of knowledge, the negro must ever remain a negro, so far as the Latter-day Saints are concerned. But how is it among those who, groping in darkness, shut their eyes to the light of revelation? Their lot is indeed pitiable. A ride through the Southern States tells a fearful tale of the


which is rapidly setting its seal upon the entire community. At every station the sight of hordes of mongrels of all shades from the sickly white to the seven-eights black, flocking around with no covering but dirt and rags, is appalling, and makes one feel to exclaim: “Surely, virtue has fled and religion is but a festering corpse.”

Nothing short of a judgment equal to the Deluge can now arrest the contaminating progress of this cancer of the soul. The warning now comes a thousand times intensified to the honest-in-heart: “Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.” [1]

If a desire to put down immorality were the wind which fanned the zeal of our virtuous (?) legislators, here was a field where the most untiring energy could hardly be mis-directed; and if, instead of meddling with the “Mormon” question; they had engaged their herculean “domes of thought” to suppress real vice, the thoughtful observer might accord to them a scintilla of that virtue and judgment, not to say inspiration, which framed the Constitution; but the facts plainly proclaim, whatever the appearances may be:


already in his possession; [2] he theresore [sic] brings all his forces to bear on unconquered country.

It may not be amiss to glance more specifically at some of the social conditions which have come under our immediate notice.

At one place we were a little surprised to come across a flock of four or five rather ragged and dirty children in which there was one half-breed and one or two others in the shades. These, we were told, were the children of a white woman—female—and she unmarried. Our informers were able to tell us of two or three similar cases within a radius of ten miles. The opposite cases—negresses unmarried having large and variously-mixed families—are so common as not to excite comment. [3]

Such laxity of morals began undoubtedly while the negroes were slaves. One old negro with whom the writer had a conversation on the


said: “It wouldn’t do, it wouldn’t do; dey didn’t stop wid sellin’ de Africans, but dey sold der own flesh an’ blood, an’ de good Lawd couldn’t stan’ it no longaw. You see I’se hab white: dat shows der mus’ hav’ been sumting wrong at head qua’tes’s, fur my mudder wus as black as coal.”

At one time the writer had occasion to wait a couple of hours at a certain place for the arrival of the mail. This time he spent by sitting in a store and reading the NEWS. There had been considerable mob rumbling in the neighborhood, but up to that time no mobber, except a Methodist minister who instigated it, had been isolated. Presently a well-known church member of the persuasion mentioned, appeared on the platform in front. One look at him aroused the suspicion that he was one of the leaders in the mob agitation. He opened his mouth shortly afterward, and such a flood of profanity as continued to pour forth even in speaking of the most trivial things, it has not been my lot to endure since the days when muleteers used to ply their vocation on Utah roads in muddy weather. The name of Deity was profaned in every breath.


thought the writer—“a church-member who can use such language as that.”

The next instant the belief was most thoroughly confirmed, for the model persecutor turned his stream of filth in another direction. “Jim, ye heard anything lately about them G–d d–d whore-masters of Mormons? By G–d, the cloud is gittin’ pow’ful high, and if they’re not out o’here d–d quick, they’ll have to be carried out. I’d just as life shoot a Mormon as a dog. I’ll be d–d if one of ’em didn’t have the cheek to go up an’ ask Mr. Ballingee if he could preach in our church. Why, before I’d see our pulpit disgraced by the d–d rascal, I’d put a bullet through him.”

The writer took sufficient interest in this


to enquire into his antecedents: “He’s the lowest rascal in this ountry; and he’s got children in three of the lowest negro families in this neighborhood”—this from a person whose character is above reproach.

Such is a true picture of one of the rabid anti-“Mormons” that the Elders frequently meet with. [4] He and Geo. Thorn should be yoked together, labled:


And sent to Barnum’s show. [5]

These cases may be extreme, but let no one think they are over-drawn or infrequent; for it has been the writer’s good fortune to travel in a part of the country where the negro population is comparatively small and where the struggle for supremacy over the color line is going on; and if these things are of common occurrence here, think of the state of society in those States where the colored population is equal with or in excess of, the white.

Probably the most humiliating and remorseful spectacle is that of a man or woman who have married with the conscientious belief that an alliance was being made with pure blood, and then after bearing a number of children, one comes with the


such as curly, wool-like hair, thick lips or a strip down its back. The writer calls to mind a number of such cases, living within a few miles. Only last night he was told of an old gentleman born in 1780 with a taint of the foreign blood, whose posterity had spread over seven States. “Even within ten miles of here,” continued my informant, “I could pick out a hundred families in whom the blood of that old man flows. They are considered white, but still I know


and sometimes it crops out very plainly. They are our best citizens, and many of them, in blissful ignorance of the true state of their blood, would be highly insulted by an intimation that it is not pure.”

Now in such a state of society, how is a man or woman to be guided in chosing a companion? Then take into consideration the stolid indifference exhibited by the majority of the people; how can one escape the conclusion that the entire people will be tainted? Nothing now can preserve the purity of even a sprinkling of the white race unless it be a law to enforce the recording of genealogies, so that men and women may know whom they marry. [6] While it would be next to an impossibility to pass such a law, it would be too late, if it ever could be passed, for in most places the foundations of a pedigree are already crumbled. But it is neither too early nor too late to pass such laws in communities like our own, and the constant influx of southern mongrel breeds to the west ought soon to make this an imperative duty of legislators; or if it be not a proper subject for legislation, then religion and morality should take it in hand to prevent the degeneration of the race. But for the Southerner who would have a pure and virtuous posterity, there is no course but to flee from


To one who has been taught from his infance to regard a breach of virtue second only to cold-blooded murder, the spectacle of Southern society is horrifying, sickening, and he longs to be again in his mountain home, where he can gaze once more upon the face of virtue in her own chaste adorning. What a contrast? Here the whole country is groaning under the curse of bastardy and prostitution! [8]

O ye sons and daughters of Zion! If you merit and perpetuate the name you bear sacrifice rather your lives, than your chastity.     N. L. N.


Several things stand out to me.

[1] “Cancer” was a word commonly used in anti-Mormon literature to position Mormons as a “cancer on the national soul” (paraphrase).

[2] Another common polemic strategy in almost all camps was to claim to be the true legatees of Independence. Here the Mormon insinuates that anti-polygamy reformers have betrayed the Constitution and thereby become un-American, by allowing and pursuing sexual relations among races. He goes further and aligns inter-sexuality with in Satan’s kingdom while unmixed Utah remains God’s kingdom on earth.

[3] Part of the Victorian-era worldview was that virtuous men preserved virtuous women for their most important role of motherhood. Thus, in the most honorable society, women avoided/were proscribed from physical labor—so as not to overtax the “delicate” reproductive system—and from any moral “degradation,” which might pollute the rising generation. The author, in highlighting the unwed mothers with multiple non-white partners, indicts the society as a whole. The women are depraved (note the distinction between “woman” and “female”) and the men have failed in their duty to protect the women.

[4] Moving past the anti-polygamy campaign to anti-Mormonism, the author discredits anti-Mormons, not because they whip, beat, and kill missionaries, but because they have sex with African-Americans.

[5] George Thorn here is probably a Scottish missionary in (what would become) South Africa who promoted “religious teaching among the coloured people” and was “useful both to Europeans and Slaves.” Contemporary George Thorns/es include a singer/actor and premier of Queensland, Australia.

The Barnum reference represents another form of othering; so-called “freak shows” helped maintain and emphasis Whiteness.

[“religious teaching”: George McCall Theal, History of South Africa from 1795 to 1872, 4th ed. (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1915) v1 p316; “useful”: No author listed, “Religious Intelligence,” Evangelical Guardian and Review 1 no 2 (1817 Jun):86; “freak shows”: Linda Frost, Never One Nation: Freaks, Savages, and Whiteness in U.S. Popular Culture, 1850-1877 (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2005).]

[6] This letter was written is a little before the church began emphasizing genealogy. I’ve never seen anything remotely suggesting a connection between race purity and Mormon genealogy  (until the Brazilian missionary discussions in the 20th century), but I wonder if there might be some thread, or maybe some post-facto justification for genealogy work.

[7] Proselyting technique? “Become Mormon and go to Utah where you know your children can marry Whites!”

[8] The prevention of bastardy and prostitution comes up over and over again in anti-Mormon literature from the period.

Conclusion: There is no doubt that some Mormons in the late 19th century—including the ones that published the Deseret News—viewed miscegenation as a great evil. In these texts, non-marital sex appears as a concern only in passing.

I’ve closed comments. Please discuss at Chris’s post.

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