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For, as I take it, Universal History, the history of what man has accomplished in this world, is at bottom the History of the Great Men who have worked here. They were the leaders of men, these great ones; the modellers, patterns, and in a wide sense creators, of whatsoever the general mass of men contrived to do or to attain; all things that we see standing accomplished in the world are properly the outer material result, the practical realization and embodiment, of Thoughts that dwelt in the Great Men sent into the world: the soul of the whole world's history, it may justly be considered, were the history of these.

This statement, written by Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlyle, served as the basis of Ronald W. Walker’s address for the 20th annual Leonard J. Arrington Mormon History Lecture: “Heroes and Hero Worship: Brigham Young and the Utah War.” In the lecture, Dr. Walker advanced the theory that great men and great events combine to make great history. Applying this to the Utah War, Mr. Walker focused on how three great men came together and shaped the course of events in the conflict. First among these was Brigham Young—the Mormon prophet who distrusted the United States and its army, and thus struggled with an internal conflict over choosing between fighting or fleeing. Next was Thomas Kane, the well-bred Philadelphia philanthropist who risked his life and sacrificed a great deal to help negotiate mediation instead of confrontation. Finally, there was Alfred Cummings—the portly and gregarious Georgian who had been chosen to replace Brigham Young as governor of Utah Territory. Together these three men stood courageously against the tide of war and prevented an armed conflict in Utah.



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