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Chapter 21: polygamy.

in Salt Lake Valley, as in Los Angeles, San Jose, and other places, the Red aberrations of White people are in process of correction. White polygamy is perishing in Utah, like Red polygamy, of which it is a bastard offspring, not by force or violence, but by the operation of natural laws. It dies of contact with the higher fashions of domestic life.

“I gather, not from what you tell me only, but from every word I hear, and every man I see, that there is change of practice, if not change of doctrine,” I remark to President Wells and Apostle Taylor.

“That is your impression?” asks the Apostle.

“Yes, my strong impression; I might say my strong conviction. Pardon me for saying that the point is very serious. If you mean to dwell in the United States, you must abate the practice, even if [205] you retain the principle, of plural wives. Nature, Law, and Accident are all against your theories of domestic life. Nature puts the male and female on the earth in pairs; and thereby sets her face against your theories. The Law of every Christian State declares that one man shall marry one woman, and no more. Accidents, which have left a surplus of females in Europe, have brought a surplus of males to America. In England, where in every thousand persons, five hundred and fourteen are females, four hundred and eighty-six males, you might pretend to find a physical basis for your theory. But in these States and territories, out of every thousand persons, five hundred and five are males, four hundred and ninety-five females. There are not enough women for every man to have one wife. Even in Utah you have fifteen hundred more men than women. In the face of such facts, your “celestial law” of polygamy will be hard to carry out. Man will find his mate, or die for her.”

Gentiles have a right to use all moral arms against plurality and priestcraft in the person of Brigham Young. Young is the enemy of our household science, our ethical system, our religious [206] faith; but men who love justice and liberty, even more than they hate priestcraft and plurality, will fight him with fact and truth, not shot and shell. A good cause need not ask for special laws and a fanatical judge. The causes which induce polygamy in the Western States are failing, but the end will not be hastened by an exercise of cruel and unreasoning zeal.

Brigham Young, the chief reviver of this Indian legend, is seventy-four years old. His strength is spent. Finding the air of Salt Lake Valley too keen for his enfeebled lungs, he passes his winters at St. George, a village on the frontier of Arizona; living with two favourite nurses, Sister Amelia and Sister Lucy, and leaving his temple and his tabernacle very much to the care of George A. Smith and Daniel Wells, his second and third presidents, the Lion House and Bee-hive to the charge of Eliza Snow, his poetess laureate and proxy wife. Jesters speak of him as lying sick; only just well enough to sit up in bed and be married now and then. But Brigham is not likely to renew his search for wives. The biggest Indian chief is happy in a dozen squaws, and Brigham, though deserted by [207] his youngest wife, still owns eighteen obedient slaves. Poor man, his last adventure in the way of courtship turned out badly; for his nineteenth bride, Ann Eliza, a young and handsome hussy, after trying him for a year, has left his house, renounced her creed, and under Gentile counsel, has brought an action for divorce. She wanted more of his society and of his money. Finding her charms neglected, Ann Eliza sold his furniture, fled to New York, and opened a course of lectures on the secrets of his harem. She knew his ways, and made the Gentiles merry at his expense.

Such incidents cry out to Brigham Young that, though he holds the keys, and claims all power to bind and loose, he can no longer rule a woman's heart or check the licence of a woman's tongue. This cross is hard to bear. With Lucy by his side, he might forget the lost bride, but female smiles can hardly reconcile the pontiff to his loss of power. One flight from a prophet's household breaks the charm. “ My wife on earth, my queen in heaven,” sighs Brigham Young. “An old fellow,” snaps the lady, dropping her jargon of celestial laws and everlasting covenants, “ he is forty-five years older [208] than myself, and he has eighteen other wives to please.” Her intercourse with Gentiles has dispelled the mystic halo which surrounds a prophet's tent. His harem is profaned, the mystery and sanctity of his life are gone.

Other, and more serious losses, have fallen on the polygamous saints. Stenhouse, Godbe, Lawrence, Walker, Harrison, all the most liberal, prosperous, and enlightened members of their church, have either seceded or been expelled.

Stenhouse has not only fallen from the ranks, but with his first wife, Sister Fanny, has taken service in the Gentile camp.

When I was last in Zion, the Stenhouses, man and wife, were strict upholders of polygamy. The Elder had two wives living, Sister Fanny and Sister Belinda; besides his dead queen, Sister Carrie, who had been sealed to him for “the eternal worlds.” Fanny was of English birth, a clever, handsome woman, who had given Belinda to her husband for his second wife. Belinda came of saintly race, being a daughter of Parley Pratt, the first apostle, called the Archer of Paradise, and of Belinda Pratt, the foremost female advocate of polygamy. She was an [209] orphan when the Elder took her; Pratt, her father, having been killed in Arkansas by Hector McLean, a gentleman whose wife the Mormon apostle had converted and carried off. Not satisfied with these young and comely women, Stenhouse was looking for another wife ; and Sister Fanny tried her best to make me think he was doing right in following the “celestial” law. To-day she puts into my hands a volume written by her pen, in which plurality of wives is pictured from a Gentile point of view.

The fall of these conspicuous advocates of plurality is due to the friction caused by that celestial law.

Clara, one of Sister Fanny's daughters, is the favourite wife of Joseph A. Young, the prophet's eldest son. The Stenhouses were, therefore, very near the throne. To get still nearer, Elder Stenhouse proposed to Zina, one of the prophet's daughters. The position of this girl was passing strange. By birth she was a child of Brigham Young, by grace a child of Joseph Smith. Her mother, Zina Huntingdon, is one of four “ holy women,” who pretend to have been the secret wives of Joseph Smith, and as the prophet's widows live in proxy wife-hood with Brigham Young. Brigham has done his part, but [210] Zina Huntingdon is not regarded as his wife and queen. Joseph will claim her in the world to come, and Zina, the younger, will be gathered to her mother's kingdom. A lovely and a clever woman, Zina is a favourite with her father, who loves her none the less because his “celestial law” prevents him from counting her as his child.

Before he spoke to Young, Stenhouse believed that he had won his prize. Zina was an actress, Stenhouse a dramatic critic, with a popular journal in his hands. More pretty things, according to Sister Fanny, were said of her than any artist in the world deserves. Zina was happy in this praise. Young raised no obstacles to the match, but he insisted that the mother and her child should not be separated after Zina's marriage. They had always lived together, and they could not be induced to live apart.

“ You must take them both,” said Young.

Brigham wants to get rid of the old lady,” jeered Sister Fanny, growing cynical.

“ She forms no part of his kingdom, you know,” urged Stenhouse, in reply to his wife's jests and jeers. On Zina insisting that her mother should remain [211] beneath her roof, the Elder undertook that Joseph's widow should reside with them in his third house.

But things were not so happily arranged. Stenhouse was slack, and Zina flirted off Business was bad. Godbe and Walker had commenced the new movement, and the prophet wanted Stenhouse to abuse these enemies of his church. But Stenhouse was dependent on his advertisers, the great and small traders of the city, nearly all of whom were in the movement. He was silent, and his silence was regarded as a crime. Zina refused to see him, and her pouts were very properly supposed to represent her father's mood. Sister Fanny went to Brigham Young, and begged him to let the marriage of her husband and the prophet's daughter take place.

“Well,” said Young, “if Zina has changed her mind, I have plenty of other girls. Let him take one of them ; if one won't have him, another will.”

Stenhouse suspected Brigham of opposing him. He shewed his teeth, and Brigham smote him in his paper, which began to fall in circulation. Losses ensued and bitterness increased. Sister Belinda, seeing that her husband was falling out of [212] favour, applied to Young for a divorce. Stenhouse consented, and the deed was signed.

A new paper was commenced by the authorities, as an official organ of the Church. Then Stenhouse left-his wife going out into apostacy with him.

“He wanted to have Zina,” says Captain Hooper, “but the young lady gave him the mitten, and as Brother Brigham would not force his child to marry, Stenhouse has left us in a rage.”

Sister Belinda carried her three children by Elder Stenhouse into another man's harem. Unhappy with her second mate, she got a new divorce. One of her children died. She is now sealed for the third time, to a rich Mormon elder, and the two children of Stenhouse live in her new home.

“She has tried all round,” says the divorced husband, “I hope she will now rest.”

“Is not your daughter Clara living with Joseph Young?”

“Yes, Yes,” says Mrs. Stenhouse, sadly, “she is with him, in the South of Utah, living in polygamy. We cannot get the child to see her way. Her husband dotes on her. If he were only a bad man, there would be some hope for us. He might [213] abuse her and desert her; then she could come out of them, and be with us again.”

Such wrecks come after storms. The tempest is not over yet; but there are signs of lull and clearance in the sky. If things are left alone, the end may soon be reached. Polygamy belongs to a state of society in which females do the chief work. When women cease to find their own food, light their own fires, and make their own clothes, not many fellows care to have five or six wives.

“ The thing that touches our plural system most,” says a Mormon elder who has recently escaped from polygamy into freedom, “ is an agent over which the carpet-baggers have no control. It is Fashion. Ten years ago, our women were content to dress like rustics. Since the railway brought us into contact with the world, our women see how ladies dress elsewhere; they want new bonnets, pine for silk pelisses and satin robes, and try to outshine each other. All this finery is costly; yet a man who loves his wives can hardly refuse to dress them as they see other ladies dress. To clothe one woman is as much as most men in America can afford. In the good old times, an extra wife cost a man little or nothing. She [214] wore a calico sunshade, which she made herself. Now she must have a bonnet. A bonnet costs twenty dollars, and implies a shawl and gown to match. A bonnet to one wife, with shawl and gown to match, implies the like to every other wife.”

This taste for female finery is breaking up the Mormon harems. Even Jennings shrinks from the expense of dressing several fine ladies, and Brigham Young may soon be the only man in Salt Lake City rich enough to clothe a dozen wives.

No gathering of the Saints to Zion, no assertion of divine authority, can impede the action of this enemy of Brigham Young. Women who dress like squaws may obey like squaws. The sight of a pink bonnet wins them back into the world, and arms them with the weapon of their sex.

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