Date of Award:
Master of Science (MS)
J. Duncan Brite
J. Duncan Brite
Wendell B. Anderson
Of all the States in the Union, certainly no other underwent the trials and tribulations that Utah experienced in her quest for admission. Faced with controversy dealing with geopolitical and theological problems, the struggle occupied the second half of the Nineteenth Century.
Utah's initial quest for statehood suffered from that dilemma of almost all the Western territories, insufficient population. When Utah numbers increased sufficiently, the official pronouncment of "polygamy" as a basic tenet of the Mormon Church, the dominant religion in the Territory, alienated many, the East especially, as being contrary to our western Anglo-Saxon heritage. Utah, looked upon with suspicion by the rest of the nation, was doomed in the early seeking of admission.
The problem of entering the Union was further complicated by the tug-of-war that each new area experienced as the North and the South struggled over the "free or slave" issue.
From the middle 1850's, Utah's denial of recognition centered around the problem of "polygamy," the refusal of the leaders of the predominantly Mormon population to consider at any great length any revision of their theological beliefs, which they coupled to Constitutional protection, together with the firm insistence of the Federal legislators that the practice be abolished made the struggle bitter and drawn out, as each refused to yield.
The territorial constitutional conventions were of "rubber-stamp" nature until the 1870's, when the general influx of non-Mormons forced a small but continuing change of attitude. The sentiment of the 1850's and 1860's was such as to refuse to even voice the issue of "polygamy," seeming to mask the problem with the air that it is our own personal business, and no concern of theirs. The refusal to face the political actualities of the times extended over innumerable memorials, and five statehood conventions, concluding in a surrender to the ever-rising trend of Federal supremacy over local issues with the final achievement of Statehood in 1896.
Utah's first steps towards civil government, the organization of the "State of Deseret," have been examined by Mr. Dale Morgan in his thorough "History of the Stat of Deseret," as well as in several Master's theses and Ph.D. dissertations. The history of Utah's territorial statehood conventions have just been mentioned in passing. It is my purpose to examine each territorial convention beginning with a summary of the initial stage in 1849 and to examine in detail the territorial stages starting in 1856 and ending in 1895, to compare the resultant constitutions that emerged from each, and to show the influence that forced the gradual surrender of a people to Federal supremacy and "popular" insistence.
Bernstein, Jerome, "A History of the Constitutional Conventions of the Territory of Utah from 1849 to 1895" (1961). All Graduate Theses and Dissertations. 5717.
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