Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Contingent CitizensShifting Perceptions of Latter-day Saints in American Political Culture$

Spencer W. McBride, Brent M. Rogers, and Keith A. Erekson

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781501716737

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: January 2021

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501716737.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM Cornell University Press SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.cornell.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Cornell University Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in Cornell for personal use.  Subscriber: null; date: 27 June 2022

“In the Style of an Independent Sovereign”

“In the Style of an Independent Sovereign”

Mid-Nineteenth-Century Mormon Martial Law Proclamations In American Political Culture

(p.110) Chapter 7 “In the Style of an Independent Sovereign”
Contingent Citizens
Brent M. Rogers
Cornell University Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter talks about municipal and territorial authorities that declared martial law within the United States, in which two occurrences involved members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the 1840s and 1850s. It investigates Mormon cases that are set against the context of contemporaneous debates about martial law that illuminate antebellum power politics. It also analyzes the perception of Latter-day Saints and minority groups in general during the era of American political culture. The chapter discusses the duality of the rhetoric surrounding martial law, which elucidates a shifting American mindset that clung to the revolutionary-era ideology invested in a weak government. It describes the tensions among local, state, and federal governments that deal with martial law declarations and reveal the fragility of sovereignty in antebellum America.

Keywords:   martial law, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Mormon, antebellum America, American political culture, revolutionary-era ideology

Nineteenth-century Americans imbued their republican rhetoric with both fascination and fear of the exercise of power. Born out of resistance to British tyranny, the United States embraced a republican system of self-government to restrain despotism.1 The framers of the US Constitution inserted into that document guarantees of republican government wherein the military would remain subordinate to civil authority.

Republican ideology instilled in Americans an ardent distrust of arbitrary power.2 The concept and use of martial law fit into that worldview. Americans frequently referenced the legacy of British tyranny as they conceptualized martial law, or the concentration of power in the hands of a military commander.3 In the 1850s, for example, the Massachusetts state legislature debated the legality and necessity of martial law. In doing so, one state legislator noted: “It will be recollected that at one period during the revolutionary war, Gen. [Thomas] Gage proclaimed martial law in the city of Boston, and the inhabitants were smarting under the recollection of the violence and wrong committed under this law.”4 Using this revolutionary-era example, Massachusetts lawmakers sought to prevent the abrogation of civil law, individual liberties, and republican politics. Other antebellum Americans also questioned whether local, state, or federal governments could declare martial law and remained wary of its implications for local civil authority. Many used the idea of martial law as a rhetorical device to warn against the

(p.111) excessive expansion of centralized power at a time when suspicion of federal authority grew more intense in American political culture.5 In the American federal system, civil authority was supreme and, using republican rhetoric, many viewed martial law as a dangerous, dictatorial power—even the antithesis of civil government and constitutional liberties.

Most nineteenth-century Americans believed that military rule ran counter to republican ideology and practice, but republicanism was a protean concept in antebellum American political culture. Americans also mustered republican rhetoric to support martial law when they believed it necessary to preserve the Union and protect American interests in an expanding and increasingly diverse society. For instance, in 1843 Congress retroactively cleared Andrew Jackson from the fine levied on him for his illegal issuance of martial law in New Orleans during the War of 1812 and in so doing declared his actions both heroic and necessary. In the antebellum years, Americans frequently invoked the idea that the “strong arm of the military” was a suitable governing power in times of defense and for the public safety, though typically with the caveat that once the threat was subdued the military would relinquish authority to civil government.6 In hindsight, Andrew Jackson’s proponents could tout his military actions as heroic because his troops ceded their military authority to civil officers after the British threat was defeated. Republican rhetoric was thus contingent when it came to discourse about martial law in antebellum America.

It was not just rhetoric, however, that was contingent. The rights of individuals were also dependent on local, state, and national government to inculcate and protect. Martial law could be constructed as both republican and antirepublican, but in antebellum America, power was often needed to enforce the republicanism and rights (or interests) of the majority. In the negotiation of protection and authority in the antebellum United States, perceived threats to civil and political liberties often informed the environment that contributed to martial law declarations.

Martial law was a subject without true legal status. It was a proclamation, a statement of weakness and necessity. It was the suspension of law, but not a legal creation.7 Who could proclaim martial law and under what circumstances engendered enduring and elusive debates. It meant something different to different groups of Americans at different times. Whether most Americans deemed martial law to be acceptable was dependent upon varying circumstances. As this chapter will show, Americans generally tolerated declarations of martial law when necessary to safeguard the majority. However, when a minority group, like the Latter-day Saints, made such a proclamation, difficulties ensued.

(p.112) In the 1840s and 1850s, municipal and territorial authorities declared martial law on many occasions within the United States. Two of those occurrences involved members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Set against the context of contemporaneous debates about martial law, the Mormon cases illuminate antebellum power politics and the perception of Latter-day Saints, and minority groups generally, in the era’s American political culture. This was a time in United States history when Americans had begun forcefully occluding certain minority groups from the privileges of republicanism, particularly after the acquisition of Mexican lands in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. The duality of rhetoric surrounding martial law elucidates a shifting American mindset, one that simultaneously clung to the revolutionary-era ideology invested in a weak government of popular will while moving toward an increasing acceptance of state power. The tensions among local, state, and federal governments in dealing with martial law declarations reveal the fragility of sovereignty in antebellum America. The Mormon martial law cases thus emphasize the delicate and ongoing negotiation of establishing and exercising power at a critical time in the nation’s history.

Prior to the first issuance of martial law for Mormons in June 1844, debates about martial law had emerged in two significant episodes: the so-called Dorr Rebellion in Rhode Island and the congressional debates over refunding Andrew Jackson’s fine. As early as the summer of 1841, Thomas Wilson Dorr had become the public face of a movement to revise Rhode Island’s 1663 charter, a foundational British document that still governed the state. The charter required that voters own landed property valued at $134 or more, meaning that some 60 percent of adult white males were excluded from the ballot by the early 1840s.8 Therefore, the colonial charter that remained in force was, according to Dorr and others, inconsistent with a republican form of government. Instead, the charter represented the lingering legacy of a British monarchy that thwarted the popular will. Dorr sought to alter the government to include universal white-male suffrage. He convened a convention to draft a new state constitution and then organized elections independent of the general state election that was to be held in November 1841. As a result, his supporters created a rival state government, called the People’s Government, with Dorr as governor. In the legitimate state election, voters selected Samuel Ward King as governor. In late June 1842, Governor King declared martial law in Rhode Island and the state legislature requested that the federal government send troops to help defend against a planned attack by Dorr’s followers on the state arsenal in Providence.

(p.113) Dorr’s raid ended unsuccessfully, but the rhetoric about martial law and the nature of sovereign power was significant. The well-known columnist John L. O’Sullivan wrote in favor of Dorr’s movement because of his belief that “sovereignty resided in the people” and “resistance to tyranny is a right—nay, a duty—inscribed upon our hearts by Providence.”9 Dorr’s proponents expected civil government to represent the people’s will, but they believed it had not. When they rebelled, the civil government in turn enacted martial law to restrain Dorr’s efforts. Andrew Jackson, the former president who was quite familiar with martial law and was at that time in the throes of his own battle over the questions of use of power in American government, weighed in on the Rhode Island situation. “The people are the sovereign power,” Jackson wrote to a confidant in May 1842, “and agreeable to our system they have the right to alter and amend their system of Government when a majority wills it, as a majority have a right to rule.”10 Similarly, then Pennsylvania senator James Buchanan argued that the people “are the source of all power; they are the rightful authors of all constitutions.” The people, Buchanan declared further, “are not for ever to be shackled by their own servants.”11 Such understandings of the people as sovereign demonstrated the enduring importance of revolutionary ideology into the antebellum era.12 In Rhode Island, however, Dorr’s opponents viewed the people’s will as a threat to tradition and used martial law to restore order. Federal legislators had mixed reactions to events in Rhode Island. Seeing Governor King’s martial law declaration as necessary for the public good, one congressman proclaimed that the “State had been put under martial law; and that had saved them … from entire desolation.”13 In practice in Rhode Island, the action for and rhetoric of popular sovereignty had failed and strong state authority prevailed.

Alongside the events in Rhode Island, US legislators debated Andrew Jackson’s own use of martial law in 1814. In his defense of New Orleans and the southern coast during the War of 1812, Jackson acquired the dubious honor of becoming the first US general to declare martial law. In so doing, Jackson arrested civilians, suspended the issuance of writs of habeas corpus, censored the press, and confiscated and destroyed private property. Though his detractors dubbed him “King Andrew the First,” Jackson “believed that declaring martial law at New Orleans had saved the city from capture and possible destruction” and that his decision to subvert civil liberties in fact was imperative to the survival of the Union.14 The US district court levied a hefty $1,000 fine against the general in 1815 for his actions. In 1842 a national movement began to refund Jackson’s money.

The congressional debate over Jackson’s fine captured headlines from 1842 to 1844. Americans debated Jackson’s use of martial law in conjunction (p.114) with the Constitution’s protection of liberty, revolutionary political ideology, and republican opposition to excessive governmental and military power. As the historian Matthew Warshauer has shown, “the general’s detractors lamented fated liberty and warned against the power of a ‘military chieftain.’”15 However, others contended that the martial law declaration and action were both necessary and had saved the country at a perilous time. Senator James Buchanan of Pennsylvania weighed in: “Strictly speaking, we admit he had no Constitutional right to make this declaration; but its absolute necessity for the purpose of defending the place amply justified the act.”16 Buchanan called the act “indispensable to the safety of New Orleans” and argued that such an overriding necessity justified Jackson’s use of martial law.17 Buchanan viewed military power as acceptable and necessary despite the republican belief that such power signified a threat to liberty—and, in fact, Buchanan believed Jackson’s actions supported liberty. In this instance, Buchanan believed in the supremacy of martial law, a power that he supported in the later military rule of California.

Senator Benjamin Tappan of Ohio similarly noted that self-preservation is “paramount to all other laws, with States as with individuals.”18 Both Buchanan and Tappan were Democrats, the same political party that Andrew Jackson represented as president of the United States the previous decade. They approved of Jackson’s use of military power to subvert civil authority because of the fundamental law of necessity or self-preservation in accordance with Lockean ideas of the same. Buchanan, Tappan, and others could, nearly thirty years removed, laud Jackson’s actions with the benefit of hindsight. As one Massachusetts legislator later stated, “whenever a General attempts to declare martial law upon his own responsibility, if he is successful, and protects his country, his country will protect him; and if he does violence and wrong, the laws will punish him. That is the only martial law I want to see in this free country.”19 According to this reasoning, because Jackson’s maneuver succeeded, the country could show its gratitude for a heroic preservation of the Union despite any negative precedent that his martial law might have set. In 1844 Congress ultimately decided to return Jackson’s fine and in so doing articulated the contingent nature of martial law. In times of necessity, or those deemed necessary after the fact, leaders could suspend civil authority and the protection of liberties that revolutionaries fought for in the 1770s.

Who determined necessity and under what circumstances? This question raised apprehension that the people and their representatives did not possess full sovereignty. At a time in the nation’s history when government and military power were being questioned in a republican society—particularly (p.115) as they related to the possibilities of slavery expansion and the acquisition of new lands in the Southwest and West—the answer had the potential to be explosive. The rhetoric surrounding civil republicanism or popular sovereignty and the legacy of military or governmental authority in practice revealed a deep and elusive contingency.

Several months after Congress voted to refund Jackson’s martial law fine, Joseph Smith, the founding Mormon prophet who was simultaneously the mayor and commanding officer of the city’s militia, declared martial law in Nauvoo, Illinois. Ongoing tensions between Latter-day Saints and their neighbors hit a fever pitch after June 8, 1844, when Smith and the Nauvoo City Council declared an anti-Mormon newspaper, the Nauvoo Expositor, a nuisance and ordered its destruction.20 On June 10, the Nauvoo city marshal and hundreds of Latter-day Saints carried out Smith’s order, an action that non-Mormons viewed as an exercise of absolute power.21 Joseph Smith’s stronghold on local power was about to come under literal fire. Rumors intensified that an anti-Mormon interstate mob was targeting the Mormon city and planning to overthrow its powerful leader. Joseph Smith notified his followers that a mob was coming to destroy “every man and woman who dares believe the doctrines that God hath inspired me to teach to this generation.”22 Claiming to be an obedient follower of all civil laws but fearing that the laws of the country would not protect him or his people, Smith encouraged the ten thousand Nauvoo citizens to preserve the peace, but remain on the defensive against extralegal activities.23

To safeguard his followers, on June 18, 1844, Smith put the city of Nauvoo under martial law. He authorized the militia, known as the Nauvoo Legion, to stand ready for defense against mob violence and expressly commanded the legion and the police to forbid that any “persons or property pass in or out of the city without due orders.”24 Smith’s declaration of martial law did not occur ex nihilo. He believed that the impending threat was a continuation of violence that the Latter-day Saints had experienced in Missouri where the state’s governor had issued an extermination order against Mormons not even six years earlier. In Smith’s view, this latest threat was another attempt “to take away our rights and destroy our lives” with apparent impunity.25 By 1844, however, Smith had assumed greater power to defend his people.

“We are American citizens,” Smith said boldly as he demanded the rights that the blood of the revolutionary generation had purchased for him, his followers, and all Americans. Like other proponents of martial law, the Latter-day Saint leader did not want to see American liberty “disgracefully trodden under foot by lawless marauders.” Instead, he sought to make a noble effort (p.116) to preserve the lives of upstanding citizens and to sustain their rights. “Come all ye lovers of liberty,” Smith urged, and “break the oppressors rod, loose the iron grasp of mobocracy, and bring to condign punishment all those who trample under foot the glorious Constitution, and the peoples rights.”26 Like Jackson and Dorr, Smith invoked the revolutionary-era idea of the popular will as the center of sovereign power in American politics. Paradoxically, he believed that martial law provided the surest means to secure Mormons’ constitutional rights.

Non-Mormons almost universally viewed Smith’s martial law proclamation as a manifestation of his dictatorial control over a religious institution, a civil government, and a large military unit.27 Newspaper editors commented that, instead of protecting the people’s rights, Mormon leaders had unnecessarily suspended liberties. Without evidence, they reported that Latter-day Saints had imprisoned nonresidents and non-Mormons or conscripted them into Nauvoo’s religious army.28 Many further claimed that Mormons tortured prisoners and confiscated property. The non-Mormon public believed that martial law in Nauvoo violated civil protections against unreasonable searches and seizures of their property, trial by jury, and the due process of law. It was not enough that Smith “had insulted and trampled on law,” a Warsaw Signal editorial exclaimed, “he even in a time of profound peace eradicated the Civil law within the city, and in lieu thereof established Military preeminence, which placed the lives and property of all who were in the city, or should visit it, at the disposal of his supreme will.”29 Cries for the Illinois governor, Thomas Ford, to act were loud. Upon hearing of the martial law declaration, the Warsaw Signal editorialized: “When the Governor learns that Nauvoo is under Martial Law, if he does not act, there is no need of a Governor.”30

Governor Ford agreed that Mormon leaders had violated constitutional laws, principally in ordering the destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor. Four days after the martial law declaration, on June 22, 1844, Ford wrote to Joseph Smith giving his opinion on the matter. “Your conduct in the destruction of the press was a very gross outrage upon the laws and liberties of the people,” the governor opined. Ford proclaimed his high regard for the liberties and rights of free people by boldly stating that he “would shed the last drop of [his] blood” to protect the presses from any illegal violence. Finally, the governor affirmed to Smith, “You have violated the Constitution.”31

The governor’s letter also attacked the joining of various powers that he believed had occurred in Nauvoo. Military authority temporarily replaced civilian government in Nauvoo, but Joseph Smith led both the military and the civilian government. Therein lay the problem of concentrated power (p.117) and the potential abuse of authority that could result.32 Joseph Smith and the Latter-day Saints, according to the Illinois governor, were abhorrently using their powers “in a tyrannical manner” by declaring martial law.33 In the context of heightened tension between the United States and England over western territorial expansion, Ford declared that “even in England” citizens would not tolerate such actions. “No civilized country can tolerate such conduct” especially “in this free country of the United States,” Ford explained as he decried the despotism that Smith had exercised over Nauvoo.34 Much like other debates over the exercise of power in the United States, the Illinois governor perceived this as a battle of republicanism versus authoritarianism with the Mormon leader guilty of striking at the “palladium of liberty.”35 The declaration of martial law proved the singular power of Joseph Smith in the eyes of the governor and other non-Mormons.

Joseph Smith fired back a letter to Ford the same day. In it, he defended his actions as necessary to preserve republicanism. “We truly say that we were obliged to call out the forces to protect our lives, and the constitution guarantees to every man that privilege,” Smith asserted as he explained his martial law declaration. He refuted Ford’s claims of the union of legislative and military power and reiterated that he had acted only in terms of self-preservation because Nauvoo was under siege and the public safety required it, echoing the rhetoric of necessity surrounding Jackson’s martial law declaration. Finally, Smith defended his decision by alluding to the past persecution of Latter-day Saints. He solemnly wrote, “Sir you must not blame us for a burnt child dreads the fire.” The Mormons in this analogy were the child burned by a parent government that had made no effort to protect or provide any aid to the minority group. The Mormons had lost confidence in government beyond the municipal level and Smith took the matter into his own hands to protect himself and his people. He declared martial law, in part, to defend “helpless women & children.”36 Smith invoked a common refrain that connected republics and gender: in republics, men protected virtue, a behavior constructed as being passive, feminine, and family centered.37 Martial law was the only way Joseph Smith could envision preserving both civil rights and family virtue. One could view Smith’s martial law declaration simply as an effort to preempt his own loss of power, but his actions and words reveal that he had already lost control.

To diminish Smith’s influence, non-Mormons on both sides of the Mississippi River banded together to enact a shift in local power. Ford had Smith arrested and incarcerated in Carthage jail on charges of treason in connection with his issuance of martial law.38 As Ford later explained, only the governor could declare martial law within the bounds of Illinois. Therefore, (p.118) Smith’s act was treasonous because it was an “alleged levying of war against the State.”39 In this power struggle, the regional majority ultimately won out over the minority when, on June 27, 1844, a mob invaded the jail and killed Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum. The informal democratic process of rioting and mob action took over, quickly diminishing the political and even military power of the Mormons. Latter-day Saints were believed to have held too much power and authority because of the overlapping of civil, legal, military, and religious leadership roles of Joseph Smith; only violent “democratic” action against them could rebalance local sovereignty.40 The regional majority needed to act and did. Their martial behavior was deemed heroic.

A regional newspaper acknowledged that the mobs had acted in rebellion to demolish the “tyrant and his Government,” but because they had succeeded in altering the exercise of sovereign authority by removing from power the Mormon leader, they would not be condemned for their actions. Similar to the language of necessity found in the Andrew Jackson refund debates, the Warsaw Signal editor Thomas Sharp opined, “Liberty is the price of blood the world over, and whenever it becomes necessary in defence of our civil rights, rebellion itself is justified by the paramount Law of mankind.”41 Non-Mormon opponents believed that Smith was a religious tyrant who had moved to put down mob violence by turning government into a mob. Smith had put the civil law beneath military rule; this was despotism and overextension of power.

In a turn of opinion from earlier martial law declarations, no one lauded Joseph Smith’s use of martial law. However, those who took down the monarch earned public praise. They freed the west-central region of Illinois from autocracy and allowed civil republicanism to regain supremacy. In other words, Smith’s martial law declaration indicated that free government had failed, but his detractors disagreed. A military dictatorship was not the answer. “When the civil law shall be utterly disregarded and trampled under foot,” Thomas Ford later wrote, “the people become wholly unfit for self-government.” The Illinois governor, like other non-Mormon citizens, believed that Joseph Smith had abandoned American republicanism and verged on a reign of tyranny by proclaiming martial law. Ford concluded: “The general sentiment in favor of martial law and the disorders calling it forth, are fearful evidences of a falling away from the true principles of liberty.”42

In his 1854 history of Illinois, Governor Ford starkly contrasted Smith’s action in Nauvoo with that of Andrew Jackson. Ford wrote,

Ever since Gen. Jackson on some great occasions, when the fate of half the country was at stake, “took the responsibility,” the country has (p.119) swarmed with a tribe of small statesmen who seem to think that the true secret of government is to set it aside and resort to mere force, upon the occurrence of the smallest difficulties. It may be well enough on great occasions to have one great Jackson; but on every small occasion no one can imagine the danger of having a multitude of little Jacksons. Jackson’s example is to be admired rather than imitated; and the first may be done easier and safer than the last.43

Jackson’s case, from the perspective of 1854 as in 1844, was unique and deemed to be necessary. Joseph Smith’s martial law declaration, on the other hand, was seen as unnecessary and unjustified by the non-Mormon majority; a people committed to the principles of civil liberty would not permit such an action and resorted to their own form of democratic violence to stop his perceived despotism.44 The necessity laid with the majority. Just a year after Joseph Smith’s death, Governor Ford again feared that violence and martial law in Nauvoo would become ungovernable. Under Ford’s authority, the Illinois militia general James J. Hardin was sent to Carthage, the county seat, to restore order and ultimately induce the Latter-day Saints to leave the state in what became a de facto form of martial law. The majority population again agreed with this military action as the Mormon population eventually left Nauvoo under duress and headed west to the Great Basin.45

The issue of martial law and the questions surrounding the exercise of power only grew in relevance in the wake of the US–Mexican War and the acquisition of Mexican lands in the West under the terms of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. The treaty made the United States a transcontinental nation and brought an immense amount of territory and people under the federal government’s jurisdiction and authority. Wartime exigencies enlarged the use of federal military power and the acquisition of the West began a substantial growth in displays of that power. In places such as California, military leaders oversaw the governing of the territory to prevent anarchy and disruption in the transfer of sovereign power. Of the California episode, the then secretary of state James Buchanan stated: “The termination of the war left an existing government, a government de facto, in full operation, and this will continue, with the presumed consent of the people, until Congress shall provide for them a territorial government. The great law of necessity justifies this conclusion.” President James K. Polk backed his secretary of state when he gave his annual message to Congress on December 5, 1848. In it, he stated that a military government was necessary to preserve and protect the people, particularly those white Americans living in California, “from (p.120) the inevitable consequences of a state of anarchy.”46 Again, the concept of necessity justified military rule. James Buchanan expressed his faith that the California military government would “exercise no power inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution of the United States, which is the supreme law of the land.”47

Even after territorial governments were formed in the newly acquired western lands, the federal government continued to grapple with the specter of martial law. In Washington Territory, former military commander Isaac Stevens was the federal appointee to the office of governor and soon invoked military rule.48 In the midst of conflicts with Native peoples in the territory, some of whom received aid from white Americans, Stevens declared a portion of Washington Territory under martial law on April 3, 1856, leading to the suspension of habeas corpus and the arrests of the suspected parties and a federal judge.49 While Stevens believed his position as governor entitled him to take these actions, public discourse showed that some Americans were less convinced. The editors of the New York Times questioned whether a federal officer should subsume civil authority and “be permitted to usurp absolute and despotic power.”50

The Washington territorial secretary, George Gibbs, wrote to President Franklin Pierce asking him to give his most urgent “attention to this flagrant usurpation of power by Governor Stevens.”51 “The exercise of military power over civil authority,” Gibbs stated, marked a dark day in the nation’s territorial experiment.52 National authorities, Gibbs articulated, should not permit such a gross misuse of power.

President Franklin Pierce agreed. After having examined all the evidence, Pierce decided that Stevens’s martial law declaration and use of military power was neither justified nor necessary. The president further added to the ongoing conversation about power and liberty when his secretary of state William L. Marcy, writing on his behalf, stated, “It is quite certain that nothing but direful necessity, involving the probably overthrow of the civil government, could be alleged as any sort of excuse for superseding that government temporarily and substituting in its place an arbitrary military rule. The recognition of such an inherent power in any functionary, whatever be his grade or position, would be extremely dangerous to civil and political liberty.”53 The US attorney general Caleb Cushing also weighed in on this declaration of martial law. Since sovereignty over the territories resided with the federal government, the attorney general opined that a proclamation of martial law was not within the legal attributes of a territorial governor, but only vested in the federal executive or legislature.54 In the end, Stevens was censured by President Pierce but was not removed from office.55

(p.121) Understanding the exigencies of armed conflict with Native peoples, most of the white citizens of the territory applauded Stevens’s actions. As the typical settler interpreted the situation, lives and property were in danger and the governor had acted vigorously to save the territory from destruction. In their minds, he was exercising power to protect popular (white, settler) liberties. Federal authorities disagreed, unveiling a continuing and growing tension between the federal and local power in the western territories.

Approximately eighteen months later, the new president, James Buchanan, faced the question of martial law in another western territory. This time it was Utah Territory, though the circumstances were quite different. Just two months into his presidency, Buchanan, a past proponent of using military might in the West, viewed the Latter-day Saint society led by the faith’s leader Brigham Young as a threat to civil republicanism. Buchanan quickly decided to send some 2,500 federal troops to install new federal officials and establish proper federal authority in the territory.56 The president’s move demonstrated the federal government’s ability to repress a territory and its population. It was the rightful and legal obligation of the federal government to supervise the territories and ensure that a republican form of government was established and maintained within them.57 A republican form of government, Buchanan asserted in his first public remarks about Utah affairs, had ceased to function in the vast western territory. Referring to Brigham Young—who was not only the president of the Latter-day Saints, but also the governor and superintendent of Indian affairs by virtue of President Millard Fillmore’s 1850 appointment—Buchanan noted that “his power has been, therefore, absolute over both church and state” and “there no longer remains any government in Utah but the despotism of Brigham Young.”58 For the president, and in the minds of Americans outside of the Great Basin, the concentration of power in one man evoked a threat to the expansion of liberty in the West.59

On September 15, 1857, just over thirteen years after Joseph Smith had declared martial law in Nauvoo, Brigham Young responded to the coming of the federal army with a declaration of martial law, thereby encouraging Utahans to resist the entry of American soldiers into the territory. “We are invaded by a hostile force,” Young asserted, “who are evidently assailing us to accomplish our overthrow and destruction.”60 Like the children in John Locke’s second treatise, Young argued that the Mormons had matured into political manhood and deserved the rights of self-government. He pleaded for the extension of American citizenship rights to his people and explained (p.122) that the Latter-day Saints had not experienced those freedoms in their history. The dispatching of the army, which Young considered to be a mob or “an unlawful military despotism,” added to what the Mormons recalled as a twenty-five-year history of persecution by state and local governments in Missouri and Illinois. Young insolently declared his right to treat the federal army as a mob “just as though they had been raised and officered in Missouri, and sent here expressly to destroy this people.”61 He further articulated that the ordering of the troops to Utah was illegal (though it was legal; the president or Congress had the constitutional imperative to enforce the guarantee clause and activate the military in time of rebellion)62 and that it stunk of government corruption and military tyranny.

Eliciting memories of British oppressive uses of military force against the American colonies, Young vented his opinion that the federal army’s movement against a local population was contrary to “every constitutional right, every vestige of truth and liberty.”63 The Mormon leader maintained that he and his people were under attack and as a result would resort to “the great first law of self preservation and stand in our own defence” through military action.64 Young viewed his martial law declaration as utterly necessary, as had Andrew Jackson in New Orleans, Governor Samuel Ward King in Rhode Island, and Joseph Smith in Nauvoo. However, he had apparently not learned from the events in Nauvoo thirteen years earlier and stubbornly attempted to prevent US troops from entering Utah Territory.

Necessity had its limits. As in 1844, Americans did not agree with the Mormons’ necessity justification and responded to Young’s martial law declaration with cries of despotism. Most, like President Buchanan, already believed that civil republicanism did not exist in Utah. The president and the American public viewed Brigham Young’s declaration of martial law as treasonous and in defiance of federal authority. Mormons were perceived as being in rebellion, primarily because of the martial law declaration. Young’s statement was called both an absurd proposition and an affirmation of war.65 Buchanan himself noted that Young’s proclamation confirmed the Mormon leader’s dictatorial thirst for power and his desire to maintain that power even if it meant engaging in hostilities with the United States.66 In his second annual message to Congress, Buchanan declared that Young issued his proclamation “in the style of an independent sovereign,” thereby equating Young and the Latter-day Saints with monarchy, a subversive imperium in imperio within the American republic that was defying the proper sovereign federal power.67 The president’s desire to extend federal power and limit that of the Mormon leader illuminates the continuing negotiation and fragility of sovereignty in antebellum America. Federal authority was under attack and (p.123) the government needed to renew its sovereign supremacy in this western territory and over this minority people.

Articles in newspapers expressed fears that the Mormons planned to secede from the United States and establish a nation of their own, a concern especially troubling in a time fraught with fears of southern secession over slavery.68 Ultimately, while American politicians and pundits questioned Mormons’ capability for republican self-government before September 15, 1857, Brigham Young’s martial law declaration revealed their incapability. Federal, not local, authority was needed in Utah Territory. “The necessity for adopting these measures,” President Buchanan stated, referencing Brigham Young’s proclamation and his decision to send military might to Utah, “is now demonstrated.”69 Buchanan justified the perceived necessity for the use of military authority over a civilian population by explaining that it was essential to allow civil republicanism to flourish in the Great Basin. In this instance, against an unpopular minority group, Americans initially applauded the federal government’s exercise of military authority to combat the local population’s rebellious use of martial law.70

With the army en route to Utah, questions emerged as to how the military would help impose a proper civil government in the territory. Would the federal troops declare martial law themselves, in the manner of Andrew Jackson, as imperative to the protection of US interests in the West? A New York Times correspondent thought that a federal declaration of martial law would be an appropriate use of power in the Utah circumstance.71 The president sent the army to aid a new governor, Alfred Cumming, and other federal civil officers in establishing a republican government and executing federal laws in the territory. The army was, in other words, a posse comitatus at the disposal of civil authority. As Americans had dreamed since the declaration of independence, the military was subordinate to the civil, or at least that was the design and intent for the Utah military expedition.72

Still, other opinions emerged about federal authority in the territories. In June 1857, Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois, a major proponent of federal noninterference in the territories, had delivered a speech advocating for the repeal of Utah’s organic act and the removal of all local government and civil authority from the territory.73 Such an action by the federal government would certainly have dangerous consequences, especially given the heated national debate over slavery extension into territorial lands of the West. The logical extension of Douglas’s proposal for Utah placed the future of slavery in western territories in peril, especially if a Republican won the presidency given the recently formed Republican Party’s platform to prevent slavery in the territories.74 Writing in April 1858, a New York Times (p.124) correspondent hoped that Congress would not repeal the organic act in Utah because of the problematic precedent it would set. In this context, the correspondent affirmed that martial law would be contrary to the genius of American political institutions. “The very spirit and letter of the Constitution most certainly forbid the supremacy of the military over the civil authority,” the Times correspondent stated, “and it will indeed be a sad day in the annals of our Republic when civil jurisdiction fails to accomplish its purpose, and it becomes necessary to declare martial law over so large a number of citizens and over such an extent of our domain.”75

The raw materials to establish a republican form of government and provide the freedoms and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution were present in Utah Territory despite Young’s “presumptuous and unparalleled usurpation of power.”76 James Buchanan agreed. Never intending his military expedition to lead to questions about the repeal of the territory’s organic act, Buchanan hailed his Utah action as a success because the proper establishment of a republican civil government was now possible. In his second annual message, the president addressed what had happened in Utah: “The present condition of the Territory of Utah, when contrasted with what it was one year ago, is a subject for congratulation. It was then in a state of open rebellion, and, cost what it might, the character of the Government required that this rebellion should be suppressed and the Mormons compelled to yield obedience to the Constitution and the laws.”77 The results of stationing an army and placing new federal officials in Utah was a cause for celebration for the Buchanan administration. Nevertheless, his decision to enforce civil republicanism via military force had far-reaching ramifications regarding the extent and use of federal power at the literal and figurative crossroads of the West. Questions surrounding the use of federal power in the territories and in the states, particularly as it related to the existence and expansion of slavery, would not go away quietly.

The Latter-day Saints reacted to the vicissitudes of power enforcement as a means of self-preservation, but the minority group was overshadowed by the majority political culture that observed their actions as despotic and a legitimate threat to the expansion of American political liberty in the West. More so than in the writing about other issuances of martial law in the antebellum era, the American public viewed the Latter-day Saint leaders as monstrous and arbitrarily abusing political and military power akin to the British overlords that were ultimately dispatched in the American Revolution. What is more, the Utah military expedition illustrates a growing trend in the federal government’s influence in the West. It also reveals the increasing federal tendency to use military power to expand and enforce (p.125) normative institutions and behaviors to impose on a people and land a certain type of American republicanism and liberty. From the nation’s founding, the genius of American political institutions kept the military subordinate to civil authority, but the question of what would happen if civilian authorities at the nation’s capital used military might for their political and ideological purposes, particularly in the West, divided many along sectional lines.

For a topic and term that had generated so much discussion and debate in the previous two decades, when the nation found itself at the beginning of the great Civil War, newspaper editors again asked American readers the questions “What is Martial Law?” and “Who has the power to declare it?” They restated their opinion that military rule would lead to the destruction of civil liberties for some as guaranteed in the nation’s foundational documents. These articles spoke to the climate of Southern secession and the general panic among slaveholders that the president would concentrate power and use military might—as commander-in-chief—to enforce the liberty of millions of enslaved peoples.78 The specter of martial force used by the Northern, Republican federal government to prohibit slavery in the West and South had long menaced many white Southerners. But now, as the secession exploded into war, Southern fears of an imbalance toward federal power were confirmed; the president would use any means necessary to reunite the nation and enforce a certain type of American republicanism and liberty.

In 1861, just months after the war began, the Republican president Abraham Lincoln issued the first presidential declaration of martial law, citing the need to protect Florida citizens’ lives, liberty, and property against insurrection. Lincoln again imposed martial law and suspended the writ of habeas corpus on September 24, 1862, to protect public safety and suppress rebellion in Kentucky.79 The president indeed had the power to do so. Congress or the president under the Constitution’s article 1, section 8, clause 15, could declare martial law on a national level and use armed force “to execute the Laws of the Union, [and] suppress insurrections and repel Invasions.” The Supreme Court case Luther v. Borden (1849) provided the precedent and justification for strong presidential action in times of national crisis. Chief Justice Roger Taney’s opinion in that case justified the use of broad presidential or federal powers to enforce the Constitution’s article 4 guarantee of republican government. In the same case, Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story argued that article 4, section 4 required the federal government to guard against domestic violence.80 With this 1849 antecedent, it was left to the federal (p.126) government, namely the president, to enforce the guarantee clause against the secession and rebellion of the Southern states.

Though some viewed Lincoln’s presidential martial law declarations as a frightening display of a kingly power, much like detractors of Andrew Jackson had decades earlier, others, including Lincoln himself, saw it as a necessary action to save the Union from its current state of disruption. The Great Emancipator’s decision did not occur in a vacuum. The president appears to have understood that the change in power dynamics that had occurred in American political discourse over the previous decades and the circumstances of war justified the use of power and a strong federal government. Lincoln pointed back to Andrew Jackson’s use of power, and Congress’s 1844 approval of martial law, as precedent for his curbing of liberties during the Civil War.81 In the end, Lincoln’s use of power in the Civil War was deemed necessary to suppress rebellion and extend to more people their freedom, rights, and liberties; it was not done to invoke British-style tyranny.

What are we to take away from this history of martial law, especially as it relates to the Mormons? One answer appears to be the inherent contingency and fragility of power and rights in nineteenth-century discussions of martial law. How Americans viewed the exercise of power through a declaration of martial law depended on circumstances, outcome, and hindsight. Though ostensibly representing a British-style arbitrary abuse of power and corruption, Americans also viewed martial law as republican if exercised by the majority against a minority. If minorities exercised it, as in the Mormon cases, the universal public perception held that martial law was treasonous, a threat to liberty, and despotic. The American public did not believe that this minority group could justifiably use any means necessary to protect their constitutional rights, liberties, and lives. The public and government characterized Mormon martial law as a concentration and abuse of power, playing on American perceptions of religious difference. The discourse surrounding the Mormon examples positioned Smith’s and Young’s proclamations as utterly threatening to civil republicanism. Even when Mormons believed their actions were necessary for the protection of the rights and liberties of their minority group, their exercise of power was viewed as anathema to American republican governance. Other uses of military rule in the mid-nineteenth century, however, were deemed necessary, both in the moment and upon reflection, and justifiable for the longer-term continuation and extension of American liberty. Although the idea of the imposition of power by an individual in a republican society will always be suspect, when put into action, it can be deemed justifiable by the majority.

(p.127) This history highlights a trend in the growing use and acceptance of federal power. Although Americans continued to fear the concentration of power in the wrong hands in the style of the British monarchy, these decades revealed an increasingly militarized state that promoted a certain type of civil republicanism and liberty, particularly in the American West and South. This early trend toward greater federal authority proved the inherent difficulties of sharing power in a republican nation of divided sovereignty.


(1.) Charles Royster, A Revolutionary People at War: The Continental Army and American Character, 1775–1783 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1979), 5–12.

(2.) Joyce Appleby, “Republicanism in the History and Historiography of the United States,” American Quarterly 37, no. 4 (Autumn 1985): 461.

(3.) In a special message to Congress in 1822, James Monroe stated that the military must always remain subordinate to civil authority in a republic. According to Monroe, King George’s violation of this principle was one of the key grievances outlined in the Declaration of Independence. James Monroe, “Special Message to the House of Representatives Containing the Views of the President of the United States on the Subject of Internal Improvements,” May 4, 1822, online at the American Presidency Project, directed by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=66323; see also Matthew Warshauer, Andrew Jackson (p.246) and the Politics of Martial Law: Nationalism, Civil Liberties, and Partisanship (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2006), 7.

(4.) Official Report of the Debates and Proceedings in the State Convention, Assembled May 4th, 1853, to Revise and Amend the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 3 vols. (Boston, MA: White and Potter, Printers to the Convention, 1853), 3:429.

(5.) Suspicion of federal authority in antebellum America often surrounded the issue of slavery’s expansion to new territories in the West. In 1846, during the US–Mexican War, the Pennsylvania Democrat David Wilmot proposed an amendment to an appropriations bill to limit the growth of slavery in any annexed territory resulting from an American victory in the war. The amendment, called the Wilmot Proviso, drew the ire of southerners who then declared that any federal efforts to limit the expansion of slavery would end in the secession of southern states from the Union. As sectional concerns grew over the prospect of congressional prohibition of slavery in new territorial acquisitions, the specter of southern secession was prominently raised. For more on suspicion of federal authority, particularly as it related to slavery extension, see Michael A. Morrison, Slavery and the American West: The Eclipse of Manifest Destiny and the Coming of the Civil War (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1997); and Michael F. Holt, The Fate of Their Country: Politicians, Slavery Extension, and the Coming of the Civil War (New York: Hill and Wang, 2004).

(6.) “Martial Law,” Daily National Intelligencer (Washington, DC), May 2, 1861.

(7.) Caleb Cushing to William L. Marcy, February 3, 1857, in Official Opinions of the Attorneys General of the United States, 43 vols. (Washington, DC: R. Farnham, 1858), 8:371, 374.

(8.) Erik J. Chaput, The People’s Martyr: Thomas Wilson Dorr and His 1842 Rhode Island Rebellion (Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 2013), 3.

(9.) John L. O’Sullivan, “The Rhode Island Question,” United States Magazine and Democratic Review (July 1842): 71–81.

(10.) Andrew Jackson to Francis P. Blair, May 23, 1842, in Correspondence of Andrew Jackson, ed. John Spencer Bassett, 6 vols. (Washington, DC: Carnegie Institution, 1933), 6:153.

(11.) The Works of James Buchanan, ed. John Bassett Moore, 12 vols. (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Company, 1908), 3:146.

(13.) “Twenty-Eighth Congress. First Session,” Daily National Intelligencer, March 9, 1844.

(14.) In the presidential contest of 1824, Andrew Jackson recognized that some believed him to be “a most dangerous and terrible man … and that I can break, & trample under foot the constitution of the country.” In-text quote and footnote quote from Warshauer, Andrew Jackson and the Politics of Martial Law, 2, 5–6.

(16.) Senator James Buchanan of Pennsylvania on General Jackson’s Fine, in Appendix to the Congressional Globe, Senate, May 12, 1842, 27th Cong., 2nd Sess., 363.

(17.) Senator James Buchanan of Pennsylvania on General Jackson’s Fine, in Appendix to the Congressional Globe, Senate, May 12, 1842, 27th Cong., 2nd Sess., 363.

(p.247) (19.) Official Report of the Debates and Proceedings in the State Convention, Massachusetts, 1853, 3:435.

(20.) Nauvoo (IL) Expositor, June 7, 1844.

(21.) For more on the destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor, see Richard Lyman Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling; A Cultural Biography of Mormonism’s Founder (New York: Vintage Books, 2007), 539–42; and Dallin H. Oaks and Marvin S. Hill, Carthage Conspiracy: The Trial of the Accused Assassins of Joseph Smith (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1979), 14–58.

(22.) Joseph Smith, Discourse, June 18, 1844, in Joseph Smith, History, 1838–1856, vol. F-1, p. 118, Church History Library, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah (hereafter cited as CHL).

(23.) Joseph Smith, Mayor’s Proclamation to John P. Greene, June 17, 1844, Joseph Smith Collection, CHL.

(24.) Joseph Smith, Martial Law Proclamation, June 18, 1844, Joseph Smith Collection, CHL; Order to Hosea Stout, General Orders, June 17, 1844, MS 3430, folders 20, 22–23, Nauvoo Legion Records, CHL; Jonathan Dunham to Nelson Higgins, June 17, 1844, Orders to the Nauvoo Legion Second Cohort, MS 3430, folder 11, CHL; MS 3430, folder 10, Nauvoo Legion, History, CHL. For more on the interstate nature of the conflict, see Brent M. Rogers, “‘Armed Men Are Coming from the State of Missouri’: Federalism, Interstate Affairs, and Joseph Smith’s Final Attempt to Secure Federal Intervention in Nauvoo,” Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society 109, no. 2 (Summer 2016): 148–79.

(25.) Joseph Smith, Discourse, June 18, 1844, in Joseph Smith, History, 1838–1856, vol. F-1, p. 118, CHL.

(26.) Joseph Smith, Discourse, June 18, 1844, in Joseph Smith, History, 1838–1856, vol. F-1, pp. 118–19, CHL.

(27.) Untitled, Warsaw (IL) Signal, June 19, 1844; “From Nauvoo,” Ottawa (IL) Free Trader, June 28, 1844; “Communications,” Warsaw (IL) Signal, July 31, 1844; “The Mormon Difficulties,” Quincy (IL) Whig, July 24, 1844; “The Mormons,” Alton (IL) Telegraph and Democratic Review, June 22, 1844.

(28.) “Postscript, Mormon Difficulties in Illinois,” Warsaw (IL) Signal, July 24, 1844.

(29.) “The Act and the Apology,” Warsaw (IL) Signal, July 10, 1844; Thomas Ford to Joseph Smith, June 22, 1844, Joseph Smith Collection, CHL.

(30.) Untitled, Warsaw (IL) Signal, June 19, 1844.

(31.) Thomas Ford to Joseph Smith, June 22, 1844, Joseph Smith Collection, CHL. Other regional newspapers also reported on Smith’s declaration of martial law and Ford’s response that it violated the Constitution; see “The Mormon Difficulty,” Quincy (IL) Whig, June 26, 1844.

(32.) Thomas Ford, A History of Illinois (Chicago: S. C. Griggs, 1854), 332–33.

(33.) Thomas Ford to Joseph Smith, June 22, 1844, Joseph Smith Collection, CHL.

(34.) Thomas Ford to Joseph Smith, June 22, 1844, Joseph Smith Collection, CHL.

(35.) “The Act and the Apology,” Warsaw (IL) Signal, July 10, 1844.

(36.) Joseph Smith to Thomas Ford, June 22, 1844, Joseph Smith Collection, CHL.

(37.) Ruth H. Bloch, “The Gendered Meanings of Virtue in Revolutionary America,” Signs, 13, no. 1 (Autumn 1987): 37–58.

(38.) Joseph Smith, journal entry, June 25, 1844, in The Joseph Smith Papers: Journals, vol. 3, May 1843—June 1844, ed. Andrew H. Hedges, Alex D. Smith, and Brent M. (p.248) Rogers (Salt Lake City, UT: Church Historian’s Press, 2015), 307; John Fullmer to George A. Smith, November 27, 1854, Historian’s Office, Joseph Smith History Documents, ca. 1839–60, CHL.

(40.) See Ford, History of Illinois, 322–24, 355–58; see also David Sehat, The Myth of American Religious Freedom (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), 1–10.

(41.) “Communications,” Warsaw (IL) Signal, July 31, 1844.

(45.) The Joseph Smith Papers: Administrative Records; Council of Fifty, Minutes, March 1844–January 1846, ed. Matthew J. Grow, Ronald K. Esplin, Mark Ashurst-McGee, Gerrit J. Dirkmaat, and Jeffrey D. Mahas (Salt Lake City, UT: Church Historian’s Press, 2016, 479; Robert Bruce Flanders, Nauvoo: Kingdom on the Mississippi (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1975), 328–29.

(46.) Buchanan quote from Gary Lawson and Guy Seidman, The Constitution of Empire: Territorial Expansion and American Legal History (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2004), 183; James K. Polk, Special Message to the House of Representatives of the United States, December 22, 1846, online at the American Presidency Project, directed by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=67945.

(47.) James Buchanan to William Voorhies, October 7, 1848, excerpt reprinted in Lawson and Seidman, Constitution of Empire, 183.

(48.) Kent D. Richards, “Isaac I. Stevens and Federal Military Power in Washington Territory,” Pacific Northwest Quarterly 63, no. 3 (July 1972): 81–86.

(49.) Untitled, New York Times, July 5, 1856; “The Troubles in Washington Territory,” New York Times, August 7, 1856.

(50.) “The Recent Trouble in Washington Territory,” New York Times, October 3, 1856.

(51.) George Gibbs to Franklin Pierce, May 6, 1856, in US Senate, “Message from the President of the United States,” S. Ex. Doc. No. 98, 34th Cong., 1st Sess., 2.

(52.) Enclosure in George Gibbs to Franklin Pierce, May 6, 1856, in US Senate, “Message from the President of the United States,” S. Ex. Doc. No. 98, 34th Cong., 1st Sess., 3.

(53.) William L. Marcy (secretary of state) to Isaac I. Stevens, September 12, 1856, in US Senate, “Message from the President of the United States,” S. Ex. Doc. No. 41, 34th Cong., 3d sess., 56.

(54.) Caleb Cushing to William L. Marcy, February 3, 1857, in Official Opinions of the Attorneys General of the United States, 43 vols. (Washington, DC: R. Farnham, 1858), 8:374.

(55.) “Interesting from Washington,” New York Times, August 18, 1856.

(56.) James Buchanan, First Annual Message from the President of the United States to the Two Houses of Congress at the Commencement of the First Session of the Thirty-Fifth Congress (Washington, DC: Cornelius Wendell, 1857).

(57.) The Constitution authorized the acquisition of new territory and permitted the development and addition of new states out of these lands, if the people in (p.249) those geopolitical entities operated a republican form of government. US Const., art. 4, secs. 3, 4. see also Robert F. Berkhofer Jr., “The Northwest Ordinance and the Principle of Territorial Evolution,” in The American Territorial System, ed. John Porter Bloom (Athens: Ohio University Press, 1973), 45; and Peter S. Onuf, Statehood and Union: A History of the Northwest Ordinance (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987), xiii.

(59.) “Interesting from the Plains,” New York Times, November 19, 1857.

(60.) Brigham Young, Proclamation, by the Governor, September 15, 1857, Utah State Historical Society, Salt Lake City, Utah (hereafter cited as USHS).

(61.) “Late and Important from Utah,” New York Times, January 14, 1858.

(62.) US Const., art. 1, sec. 8, and art. 4, sec. 4. For more on other federal laws that justified James Buchanan’s decision to send the army to Utah, see Brent M. Rogers, “A ‘Distinction between Mormons and Americans’: Mormon Indian Missionaries, Federal Indian Policy, and the Utah War,” Utah Historical Quarterly 82, no. 4 (Fall 2014): 251–71.

(63.) “Late and Important from Utah,” New York Times, January 14, 1858.

(64.) Young, Proclamation, September 15, 1857, USHS.

(65.) “Letter from Captain Marcy,” New York Times, November 19, 1857. Within the headline of “Martial Law Proclaimed in Utah—The Mormon Forces Called Out,” “Departure of Mormons from California,” New York Times, December 29, 1857. “From the Utah Expedition,” New York Times, December 11, 1857; “The Utah Expedition,” New York Times, March 4, 1858.

(67.) James Buchanan, Second Annual Message to Congress on the State of the Union, December 6, 1858, online at the American Presidency Project, directed by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=29499.

(68.) “The War Department and the Utah Expedition,” New York Times, December 10, 1857; US Congress, Report of the Secretary of War in Message from the President of the United States, 35th Cong., 1st Sess., 1857, Ex. Doc. No. 2 (Washington, DC: Cornelius Wendell, Printer, 1857), 7–8.

(70.) “News of the Day,” New York Times, November 18, 1857.

(71.) “From the Utah Expedition,” New York Times, December 11, 1857.

(73.) Douglas argued that the Latter-day Saints operated a nonrepublican form of government based on their peculiar institution of plural marriage and allegedly subversive alliances with American Indian tribes. Congress, Douglas believed, had the right to repeal the territory’s organic act, remove it as a geopolitical entity, and assert federal sovereignty over that jurisdiction. The Illinois senator and chairperson of the Senate Committee on Territories further asserted that the federal government could repeal the organic act because the Mormons disavowed their allegiance to the United States and they were “alien enemies and outlaws, unfit to exercise the right of self-government.” Douglas emphasized that Mormons were incapable of exercising popular sovereignty in the territory and that they only sought statehood to “protect them in their treason and crime, debauchery and infamy.” Furthermore, he argued (p.250) that to shelter them in their “treasonable” and “bestial” practices by allowing them to govern themselves would be a disgrace to humanity and civilization and potentially fatal to American interests in the West. “Kansas—The Mormons—Slavery: Speech of Senator Douglas: Delivered at Springfield, Ill, 12 June 1857,” New York Times, June 23, 1857. For more on Douglas and his Utah popular sovereignty rhetoric, see Brent M. Rogers, Unpopular Sovereignty: Mormons and the Federal Management of Early Utah Territory (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2017), 164–77.

(74.) The 1856 Republican platform coupled polygamy with slavery as the “twin relics of barbarism” and further stated that it was the “right and the imperative duty of Congress to prohibit in the Territories” those twin relics as unnatural excesses in American culture, excesses that were buoyed up by the opposing Democrat Party. Kirk H. Porter and Donald Bruce Johnson, eds., National Party Platforms (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1966), 27.

(75.) “From the Utah Army,” New York Times, April 7, 1858.

(76.) “From the Utah Army,” New York Times, April 7, 1858.

(78.) “Is a Citizen Soldiery Dangerous to Liberty?,” New York Times, September 16, 1858; “What Is Martial Law,” Ripley (OH) Bee, April 25, 1861; “What Is Martial Law?,” Daily Morning News (Savannah, GA), May 1, 1861.

(79.) Abraham Lincoln, “Proclamation 84—Declaring Martial Law, and Suspending the Writ of Habeas Corpus in the Islands of Key West,” May 10, 1861, online at the American Presidency Project, directed by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=70134; Abraham Lincoln, “Proclamation 113—Declaring Martial Law and a Further Suspension of the Writ of Habeas Corpus in Kentucky,” July 5, 1864, online at the American Presidency Project, directed by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=69993; and James A. Dueholm, “Lincoln’s Suspension of the Writ of Habeas Corpus: An Historical and Constitutional Analysis,” Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association 29, no. 2 (Summer 2008): 47–66.