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[227]

Chapter 23: Communism.

To introduce the Indiin doctrine of Common Property in lodge and land, with the village adjunct of Blood Atonement, into a community of White people, is more than Brigham Young has yet been able to achieve, though he has pressed those doctrines on his people in Salt Lake Valley with a sleepless energy, acting through the Indian machinery of secret societies and orders, bound by oaths to carry out his despotic will.

Men who can be persuaded by their bishops to marry a second and a third wife, or seal two sisters for the kingdom's sake, can not be induced by Danite bands, Avenging Angels, and Sons of Enoch, to make over to the church, that is to say the president, as “trustee in trust,” their shops and sheds, their mines land mills. Brigham is trying to induce his people to abandon their private property, and [228] live on a common stock, like their Lamanite brethren, the Shoshones and Utes.

Joe Smith tried the same experiment in Missouri. Getting some of his early disciples to put their money into joint-stock banks, he raised a Common Fund, of which he acted as trustee in trust, and bought estates with the money, in a common namethat common name being Joseph Smith. His plans broke down, and personal property was spared, yet Smith reserved his principle by insisting on the payment of tithes. Each Saint had to pay a tenth of what he owned into the church. Each year this tithing was repeated on the convert's income, and the theory was taught in every meeting-house that “property belongs to God.” A private person might be called a steward of the Lord, but his original and abiding steward was the Church.

Brigham Young, living nearer to the “sacred race” than Smith, and having Lamanite examples always in his sight, pushes this pretension of his Master home; insisting that a Saint of perfect faith shall place the whole of his earthly goods in trust; and here and there, some ardent follower listens to counsel, gives up his all on earth, and takes from [229] Young a promise of the highest seat among the gods in heaven. To quicken zeal in sacrifice, a new Order has been created in Utah, called the Order of Enoch, and the men who “consecrate” their property to God, are made members of this Order-Sons of Enoch, and like Enoch, Heirs of Life. It is a form of aristocracy; a grade in a new order of nobles. Not many persons have yet earned this grade. A convert now and then lays down his all, and wins from his prophet the promise of a seat among the highest thrones; but a Saint grown grey in sanctity is rarely tempted to exchange his fields and barns, his cows and pigs, his wheels and saws, for promises of a heavenly crown. While Fox, a poor disciple, surrenders all he owns, and takes such mite as Young allows him for food and clothes, Jennings, the rich disciple, builds himself a handsome villa in the suburbs, which he furnishes with busts and pictures, books and cabinets, like a gentleman's house in Regent's Park.

Great care is taken that such transfers of property to the Church are made in legal form, and sworn before a Gentile judge.

This Order has a strong attraction for the Shoshones, [230] Sioux and Utes. Lame Dog or Flying Deer, according to his Indian legends, understands the Order as a call to come in and share the good things in Main Street and First Ward. Stalking into a shop, the Indian worthy helps himself to what he wants-rugs, paint or potted jam-and then moves quickly towards the door.

“ Hillo! guess you'll lay that down, you dirty scamp,” cries his fellow Saint, who has not yet become a Son of Enoch.

“Hi, Hi!” whines Lame Dog. “Me Enoch; you Enoch? me eat your beef, me sleep your wigwam: nice, hi, hi!”

Not being a Son of Enoch and “a Heir of Life,” the store-keeper hustles Lame Dog or Flying Deer into the street. In practice, it is found that men who have nothing to share with their fellow Saints, fall in most readily with the Lamanite principle of a Common Property in goods and lands.

No principle has drawn more obloquy on the Mormons than their doctrine of Blood Atonement and Blood Retaliation; a doctrine which springs directly from the patriarchal system, and which was borrowed by Joseph Smith from his sacred brethren, the [231] Lamanites. This doctrine led to the Mormon expulsion from Ohio and Missouri, and was the cause of Joseph Smith's assassination in Carthage Jail. A suspicion that this doctrine of Retaliation animates Brigham Young, involves him in some degree of responsibility for the Mountain Meadow Massacre, for the murders of Brassfield and Robinson, and for many other misdeeds of Rockwell and the Danite band.

This doctrine of Retaliation-eye for eye, tooth for tooth, blood for blood — is not only foreign, but abhorrent to the Anglo-Saxon mind. All hunting tribes know the principle, and retain the practice. It is common to Sioux, Apaches, Kickapoos, and Kiowas. It is also common to Bedouins, Tartars, and Turkomans. In every savage tribe, Blood-Vengeance is a necessary act, and the Blood Avenger is regarded as a hero in his tribe. A Pai-TJte who scalps a Shoshone in revenge becomes a chief; a Salhaan who kills an Adouan in revenge becomes a sheikh. Revenge, according to these savage codes, ennobles the shedder of blood. In a Corsican village, the man who has last drawn blood in a great vendetta, struts about in cap and feathers, envied by every village swain, adored by every [232] village maiden. On the Nile, a fellah who goes into the neighbouring hamlet, and exacts blood for blood, is said to do a royal deed. Oriental lawgivers have usually been forced to admit the principle, even while they were trying to check the practice of Blood Atonements. Moses allows retaliation, though he places it under some restraint. Mohammed treats it in a similar spirit. Solon saw the absurdity of exacting tooth for tooth, and eye for eye, yet the Athenian legislator left the principle embodied in his code. England has the merit of repudiating this savage principle. Once, indeed, an attempt was made to introduce the principle into our legal system; but this attempt was made so long ago as the reign of Edward the Third. After trial of the system for a single year, the theory was rejected and the law repealed.

Among the higher races of mankind the rule has been put down. A touch of the old savagery lingers on the frontiers of civilisation. France finds a remnant of this rule in Corsica, Spain in Biscay, England in Connaught, America in the prairies-each nation on the spot where remnants of her ancient races yet survive. [233]

Every observer in America notices the prevalence of communistic sentiment — a readiness to put the country before the commonwealth, and to replace public justice by private murder. This disposition shews itself in secret leagues-Danite Bands, Ku Klux Klans, Camelia Circles — no less than in the prevalence of Vigilance Committees, and the operations of Judge Lynch.

A farmer named Vancil lives near De Soto, a town on Big Muddy River, in the southern part of Illinois. Old and feeble, this farmer has a quarrel with his wife, who leaves his farm, and goes to live with her friends at a distance. Needing some help in his house, Vancil hires a woman on wages, and puts his pots and pans under her charge. One day, twelve fellows, masked and otherwise disguised, come to his farm, and finding him at home, tell him they have judged his case and settled what he must do.

“You judge between my wife and me?”

“Yes, Sir, we have weighed the facts.”

“The facts! What facts?”

“No matter,” they reply; “we know the facts, and find you in the wrong.”

“ Well,” says Vancil, “ if you know . . .” [234]

“Talk is useless,” says the spokesman of the party; “we have come to put things square. You send that help away; you fetch the old woman home; you make the quarrel up; and for the future, keep her on the farm.”

“ Have you no more commands to lay on me?” asks Vancel, rising in his wrath.

“Yes,” returns the spokesman, who goes on with several things of no great moment, as to what the farmer ought to do.

“Suppose I disobey?”

“ Don't try,” the spokesman snarls; “if you refuse to carry out these orders, we shall hang you like a dog. Beware!”

At once the farmer sends away his hired help, and writes to tell his wife about the strange orders he has got. On all the lesser points, he carries out these orders: but the woman will not come to live with him again. She knows nothing, she alleges, of her champions, and refuses to take advantage of their interference. A few nights after their first visit the band returns, masked as before, to Vancil's farmhouse.

“Where is the wife?” snaps one. [235]

“She will not come back,” sighs the old fellow. “I have put away the hired woman. I have sent for my wife; I have done everything you bade me; but I have no means of making my wife come home.”

In spite of his entreaties and explanations, this poor old man is pushed from his house, dragged to a tree near by, strung to a branch, and left till he is dead. Next day his corpse is found by a farmer named Stewart Clup.

This Stewart Clup, a farmer living near the place, saw the party of masked men, and recognised two or three of them, through their disguise, as members of a secret society, called the Ku-Klux of Illinois. Clup gave tongue, being roused to anger by an outrage happening at his door. Two members of the league were arrested on suspicion, and indicted at the petty sessions, but before the trial came on, the only witness who could swear against them was no more. As Clup was riding home in his waggon, from the mill at De Soto, a click was heard in the lane, a patter of shot came hissing through the air, and Clup rolled back into the hind part of his waggon-dead. His horses plodded home, with [236] their load of flour, and turned into the yard, before Clup's family knew that he was killed. This witness gone, the case against the two suspected men was at an end.

No clue has yet been found to the perpetrators of this second murder. Everybody in De Soto swears that those who hung Vancil know who shot Clup; but how are the suspected persons to be arrested, and how are witnesses to be compelled to speak? The sheriff will not act; he is a servant of the commune; and he has to mind his own affairs.

Illinois, the scene of these murders, prides herself on many things. She is a large and populous State, and for so young a country may be called a literary and scholastic State. She has a dozen universities and academies. She has more than thirteen thousand libraries. In 1870 she counted two million five hundred thousand souls; three million four hundred thousand volumes. Barring some ninety thousand natives, and forty-two thousand foreigners, every man and woman in Illinois is supposed to be able to read and write. She is the paradise of pork butchers and whisky distillers; her business mainly lying in dead meat and ferrented [237] liquor. Fully one-third of all the slaughtering done in the United States is done in Illinois; fully one-fifth of all the distilling done in the United States is done in Illinois.

Science might find in these occupations of the people a moral basis for Ku-Klux; that wild form of justice which in some Red sections of the country takes the names of Light Horse and Mourning Bands, and in most White sections the names of Lynch Law and Vigilance Committees.

In Europe, Illinois is chiefly known by the tragic story of the Mormon settlement in Nauvoo, from which locality the Saints were driven by fire and sword. A full account of life in the prairie lands, on which the Red and White men are still in contact, would supply a hundred tragedies no less singular in detail than the murder of Joseph Smith in Carthage Jail.

“ A law abiding people!” says to me a magistrate of much experience on the bench in Illinois; “a jest, Sir, and a sorry sort of jest! ”

“Your codes,” I interpose, “seem marked by much good sense, as well as highly liberal sentiment.”

“Oh, the codes are well enough,” he answers with [238] a jerk, “ if anybody would obey them; but our folks are spendthrifts, who pay their debts with promissory notes. We make more laws and break more laws than any other people on this earth. Abide the law! Sir, we can't abide the law.”

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