To our Honorable President and this respectable Audience,
Respected Fellow Citizens!
Permit us, the aged fathers in Israel, to mingle our voices with yours on this interesting occasion—an occasion which is calculated to call into exercise the most acute feelings of the human heart. The circumstance which we this day commemorate will form an important item in the history of succeeding ages. Two years ago this day, when Prest. [Brigham] Young first enter’d this Valley, he completed the most extraordinary expedition, ever perform’d in the annals of mankind.
There are sometimes, small and seemingly trivial events in the life of man, with which every other period, most naturally associates. There are circumstances in the history of nations, which seem as fulcrums, around which every thing else revolves: But the period, the circumstance, the event which we now commemorate, is one with which is associated the interests of the whole world—the salvation of the whole human family.
What must be the feelings, this day, of Prest. Young, the leader of that noble band of Pioneers; while he contemplates the results of the last two years? Realizing the responsibility of his situation as the head of a numerous people, persecuted and driven from their native land, where their first leader and Prophet had seal’d his mission with his blood; what must have been his feelings when, with a little band, with barely necessaries sufficient to sustain life for a few months; and leaving their families nearly destitute on lands claimed by faithless savages;1 he started forth into the wilderness in search of a home for his people, like Abraham of old, not knowing whither he went?—But he knew that God had call’d him—he trusted in the arm of Omnipotence, and by the unseen hand of the Almighty Jehovah, their feet were directed across a trackless desart, to this place. And who, fellow Citizens, with the recollections of the past and the anticipations of the future; would attempt to describe the feelings that on this occasion fill the breasts of your aged fathers?
Soon, like the Patriarchs of old, we expect to be gathered to our fathers. Our bosoms swell with gratitude to the Most High, that after years of tossing to and fro; our feet are once more established upon a land of peace; although exiled by the bloody hand of persecution from the much lov’d lands of our nativity—our once beautiful homes and quiet firesides, where we inherited the sweets of domestic life from those who fought the battles of the American revolution, to establish principles of Equity and a Government of peace. From them, too, as a natural inheritance, have we imbibed, and with ardor cherished the holy fire of patriotism; which, having been constitutionally implanted in our natures, can never become extinct. As easily might the earth be remov’d from its orbit—as well might yonder sun be caus’d to emanate darkness instead of light; as the glorious principles of Liberty be eradicated from our bosoms.
Little did our fathers think, while rehearsing to their children the sufferings of the pilgrims who fled from the religious oppression of the “Old world”; and while recounting the scenes of hardship, privation and death while passing through the struggle that “tried men’s souls,” to plant the tree of Liberty—to establish freedom and equal rights, and to bequeath the laws of protection and republicanism to their posterity—we say, little did they think that we, their sons would have to cower beneath the hand of oppression—be chased like the roe upon the mountains, and be forc’d to flee before the recking sword of unhallowed mobocracy, and hunt a refuge, a hiding place beyond the track of civilization! Little did they think that so soon, the boasted, blood-stain’d Banner, whose majestic wave awakened the envy of foreign nations; would be stain’d with deeds of injustice and violence! Little did they think that so soon, the proud-crested Eagle would seek an asylum behind the western hills, and that the blood of the noblest martyrs that ever grac’d this lower world, would remoisten the soil which had so lately been purchas’d by the blood of heroes!
But Brethren and Friends, we that have liv’d to threescore years, have beheld the Government of the United States in its glory, and know that the outrageous cruelties we have suffered, proceeded from a corrupted and degenerate administration; while the pure principles of our boasted Constitution remain unchanged; Prest. J [Joseph] Smith experienced this corruption, and inspired by the spirit of the Almighty, foretold the sequel and with the pencil of heaven, portray’d the impending desolation and ruin; and prompted by an unction from the upper world, essay’d to put forth his hand to preserve the tottering fabric from destruction. But they have done unto “him as they listed”—they have driven the Saints from their midst—they have demolish’d the bulwarks of Liberty & Protection, and now the vengeance of insulted heaven awaits them!
In our humble opinion; having been taught by bitter experience, that under a [n.p.] defective political Government, religious toleration can exist only in name; it devolves upon us, as a people instructed by the revelations of God; with hearts glowing with love for our fallen country; to revive, support, and carry into effect the original, uncorrupted principles of the Revolution and the constitutional Government of our patriotic forefathers.
To you, Prest. Young, as the successor of Prest. Smith; do we now look, as to a second [George] Washington, so far as political freedom is concern’d; to replant the standard of American Liberty—to unfurl the banner of Protection—to re-establish Equal Rights—to nourish the broad-plumed Eagle that has fled to the recesses of the mountains crowned with eternal snows—to unsheath the sword of Justice—to do honor to the memories of the heroes of the Revolution, and to his memory whose blood now cries from the ground in behalf of a loyal, innocent, persecuted and exiled people. From a long personal acquaintance and a knowledge of the inflexible, God-like integrity which has characterized your adherence to, and your support of our murdered Prophet; with the utmost confidence, we pledge ourselves to uphold you in resuscitating and re-establishing these glorious principles, while we live, and when we die we bequeath this pledge as a sacred legacy to our children. As we have inherited the spirit of liberty and the fire of patriotism from our fathers; so let them descend unadulterated to our posterity.
Should not we, who have suffered the most atrocious cruelties; rise up and redeem our once sacred Constitution from the foul disgrace with which it has been stamp’d and the eternal infamy to which it is destined, unless a spirit of philanthropy and Independence is somewhere aroused for its rescue? Shall not we, Fellow Citizens, rise up in the spirit of freemen and do honor to the shades of the departed heroes of 76 ? Let us show ourselves worthy sons of our noble, patriotic ancestors. Let us prove to the United States that when they drove the Saints from them, they not only drove from their midst soldiers who were bravest in protecting the Western Frontier; but also the firmest supporters of American Independence. Let us be true to our trust. Profiting by scenes of suffering in the recent school of our experience; let us watch with jealous eye, the first encroachment of civil power. Should the infernal monster, despotism, dare lift its Hydra head upon this western Territory; Mr. President, altho’ burthened with the weight of years, and worn down with hardship, privation and fatigue; we, the greyheaded, with you for our leader; are ready at any moment to step forth and unsheath the sword in the defense of that which our fathers have taught us to hold dearer than life. Yes, we are ready—and as we follow you, we call upon these young men, our sons to follow us, and sooner lay their lives upon the holy altar of Liberty, than be crushed by the Inquisitorial Juggernaut of oppression. Let the sacred motto “Liberty or Death” be inscribed on every scabbard, helmet, buckler and shield.
Yes, here, with this Territorial Government let a standard of Liberty be erected that shall reach to heaven and be a rallying point for all the nations of the earth. There let the insignia’d banner begin to be unfurl’d that shall yet extend its benign protecting wand
tower to every kingdom upon the face of the earth; that while revolution treads on the heel of revolution—that while commotion, anarch[y] and devastation push forward the reckless besom of destruction, and with continued sweep are annihilating the last hopes of comfort in human life—while in the prophetic language of Scripture, “all faces shall gather blackness”, here, let the Ensign of Peace, like a heavenly beacon, invite to a haven of rest, a depot of civil, political and religious Liberty. From here let Peans [Paean] of Theodemocracy or republicanism, reverberate from valley to valley—from mountain to mountain—from Territory to Territory—from State to State—from nation to nation—from Empire to Empire—from Continent to Continent; till the thrilling echo shall be responded from Bering’s Straits and the Straits of Magellan—from Great Britain and the States of Europe—from Africa—from Hindustan, and even from China, the proud, self-styled Celestial Empire of the East.
—E. R. Snow. [n.p.]