Utah History to Go
Justice Charles S. Zane and The Antipolygamy "Crusade"
Change and Creativity
Struggle for Statehood
Struggle for Statehood Chronology
In 1895 Utahns Wondered When Statehood Would Come
A State is Born
Party Politics and Utah Statehood
The Constitutional Convention is Called
Constitution Was Framed in City and County Building
African American Community and Politics, 1890-1910
The Broad Ax and the Plain Dealer Kept Utah's African Americans Informed
Clarence E. Allen Was Utah's First Congressman
How Utah Lost One of Its U.S. Senate Seats in 1899
Salt Lake Native Was Interred in the Kremlin Wall
The Shooting of Arthur Brown, Ex-Senator From Utah
Convict Labor Helped to Build Utah's Road
Strawberry Valley, 1st Federal Reclamation Project
Women's Suffrage in Utah
Woman Suffrage Dominated Politics in Utah
Kanab Residents Chose Women to Run Their Town, 1912
Ruth May Fox, Forgotten Suffragist
Soren Hanson's "House That Eggs Built"
Utah Arts Council
Utah State Historical Society
The Beginning of Public Support For Libraries
The Pasta King of the Mountain West
Celebrating the New Year in Salt Lake's Chinatown
Electrifying Utah-Engineer Lucien L. Nunn
A Brewer-Sportsman's Prairie Style Home in Ogden
Saltair Village Was a Unique Place to Live
Boxing Fans Take the Plunge at Saltair
Castilla Hot Springs Attracted Many Visitors
Minstrel Shows
Utah State Capitol
Utah in the Spanish American War
Captain Richard W. Young and Spanish-American War
A Soldier's Life at Fort Douglas in the Early 1900's
Methodist Women Missionaries Worked Hard in Utah
Flour Mills
Guano Sifters on Gunnison Island
The Lehi Beet Sugar Factory
The Salt Industry Was One of the First Enterprises
From Free Salt to a Major Industry
Hospitals and Health Crazes in the Late 1800's
The Myths and Legends of Butch Cassidy
Butch Cassidy
Would the New State of Utah Go Metric?
A Look at Working Women in the Early 20th Century
Jobs in 1900
Explosion of Pleasant Valley Coal Company
The Lucin Cutoff
Southern Utah's First High School
Life Was Precarious in Turn-of-the-Century Utah
Salt Lake City Had Its Typhoid Mary
Vaccinations in Wasatch County
Promoting Physical Fitness
Woman's Home Association Tried to Help the "Fallen"
Juvenile Delinquency Posed Problems For Utahns
Traveling Gypsies Brought an Exotic Lifestyle to Utah
The First Large Factory in Utah
The Rise and Fall of Ogden's Packing Industry
Newsboys Claimed Their Street Corners in Downtown
The Bamberger Electric Railway
The First Cars in Two Small Towns
A Bicyclist Challenges the Great Salt Lake Desert
Daredevils of the Sky-Early Aeronauts in Utah
Ogden Defeats Salt Lake City in a War of the Wheels
Utah's Immigrants at the Turn of the Century
Boys' Potato Growing Clubs
Joe Hill and the I.W.W.
Socialist Women and Joe Hill
A Bit of Polynesia Remains
Justice Zane and Antipolygamy
The Salt Lake Valley Smelter War

Jeffrey D. Nichols
History Blazer, September 1995

The struggle between federal authorities and the LDS church over the issue of     polygamy reached its fiercest stage in the late 1880s. A key figure in this      controversy was Utah Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Shuster Zane, during whose tenure hundreds of persons were convicted of illegal cohabitation or polygamy. Zane was a powerful character whose judicial decisions polarized opinions. To radical gentiles and anti-Mormons, he was a hero, although they sometimes felt he did not go far enough in his prosecutions of Mormon "crimes." To most Mormons, Zane seemed a fanatic bent on destroying thousands of families and the church itself.


Mormon polygamist in federal penitentiary

Efforts to end polygamy did not begin with Judge Zane. Territorial Governor Stephen S. Harding had told the territorial legislature in December 1862 that the conflict over polygamy was "irrepressible" and warned Mormons not to ignore the antipolygamy legislation that Congress had passed that July. The wholly Mormon legislature responded by denying appropriations for the operation of the district courts, effectively preventing enforcement of the statute.

A series of territorial governors and other federal officials, often of dubious competence and despised as "carpetbaggers," failed to make much headway in the suppression of plural marriage. Utah Supreme Court Chief Justice James B. McKean, commissioned in 1870, believed that he had a moral duty to fight it. He found, however, that the grand juries impaneled by the responsible local officials--probate court judges, territorial marshals, and attorney generals--refused to return polygamy indictments against their co-religionists. He then attempted to form grand juries impaneled by US marshals, but the legislature refused to pay their expenses, as did Congress. Several indictments returned by McKean's grand jury were thrown out when the US Supreme Court ruled in the Englebrecht case that the grand jury had been improperly Impaneled.

Sen. George Edmunds of Vermont, a leading critic of polygamy, pushed a bill in 1882 that disfranchised polygamists and called for an electoral commission to supervise Utah elections. The Edmunds Act, strengthened by the Edmunds-Tucker Act of 1887 which dissolved the corporation of the LDS church, became the legal tool Zane could use against polygamists.

Charles Zane was the child of New Jersey Quakers but considered himself an agnostic. He moved to Illinois in the 1850s and applied to study law at Abraham Lincoln's firm but was turned down. After Lincoln's election as president, however, Zane replaced him as William H. Herndon's law partner. Zane later partnered with Shelby M. Cullom until he was elected Illinois' Fifth Circuit judge, a post he filled from 1875 to 1883. In 1884 Zane's old partner Cullom, now a US senator, convinced Republican President Chester A. Arthur to appoint Zane chief justice of the Utah Supreme Court.

Zane arrived in August 1884 and was assigned to the Third Judicial District (Salt Lake City) as well as his Supreme Court post. He almost immediately established his position on the prosecution of polygamy cases with his sentencing of Rudger Clawson who had been convicted of both polygamy and illegal cohabitation. Clawson's and Zane's statements during the sentencing hearing reflect their opposing viewpoints.

Clawson said: "I much regret that the laws of my country should come in conflict with the laws of God, but whenever they do, I shall invariably choose the latter....The constitution... expressly states that Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof....The law of 1862 and the Edmunds Bill were expressly designed to operate against marriage, as practiced and believed in by the Latter Day Saints. They are, therefore, unconstitutional, and cannot command the same respect that a constitutional law would."

Zane's reply set out his interpretation of the law and the moral and legal issues that he saw in the case: "The constitution of the United States...does not protect any person in the practice of polygamy....This belief that polygamy is right, the civilized world recognizes as a mere superstition; it is one of those...religious superstitions whose pathway has been lit by the faggot, and red with the blood of innocent people. The American people, through their laws, have pronounced polygamy a crime, and the Court must execute that law...." Zane was ready to offer leniency to any convicted polygamist who pled guilty and renounced the practice, which very few were willing to do. The Deseret News called Zane's actions part of a "judicial anti-'Mormon' crusade." The News further suggested that a "a specific programme has been decided upon for ulterior purposes, such as the opening of an avenue through which it is hoped that any man in the community, innocent or guilty, can be deprived of his liberty."

Zane continued his prosecutions, except during July 1888 to May 1889, when the more lenient Elliott Sandford replaced him on the high court. Zane's return meant the resumption of prosecutions. The Woodruff Manifesto of September 1890 renounced polygamy, and Zane stated that "this alleged revelation I regard as an authoritative expression of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints against the practice of polygamy." The cases continued exactly as before, however, with the judge offering leniency for those willing to renounce polygamy and harsh sentences of the rest. While some radical anti-Mormons criticized Zane for believing the Manifesto and argued that the real issue was LDS domination of politics and society, he saw his legal duty clearly. When his term ended in 1893 he remained in Utah, convinced that he had performed his job well and that Mormon and gentile could be reconciled now that the LDS church was obeying the law. So far had Zane moved toward moderation, in fact, that he was one of the first three justices elected to the Utah State Supreme Court, serving the short term from 1896 to 1899.

Sources: Thomas G. Alexander, "Charles S. Zane, Apostle of the New Era," Utah Historical Quarterly 34 (1966); Salt Lake Tribune, November 4, 1884.


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