Friday, September 3, 2010

Judge Bateman's Charge to the Grand Jury

[Several weeks after the Massacre at Cane Creek, a grand jury was convened in Lewis County to bring any indictments should a witness come forward. The judge, P. T. Bateman, addressed the grand jury, instructing them to consider carefully how they proceed. His speech is both a call for justice and an admission that justice is unlikely. It is a sense prophetic in that no indictments were ever delivered.

The reaction from Mormon sources, however, is surprisingly positive. The Deseret News reprinted the below text from the Hickman Pioneer, a local Tennessee newspaper. When compared to other statements made by public officials, Judge Bateman’s position is considered almost favorable. While not condoning any of the LDS religious practices, he does stress the need for what is essentially the Rule of Law. The perpetrators must be punished.]

Gentlemen of the Jury:- There has been a great deal said about the mob of masqued men, in this county, killing four Mormons, including two of their elders, and of the Mormons killing one of the masqued men. How the facts are I do not know, whether you will be called on or not to investigate the case. Let this be as it may, it is my duty to give you proper instructions for your action in case the matter is brought before you.

In the first place the constitution of the United States and the constitution of the State guarantee to every person the right to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience. This right is the same whether the worshipper be a Christian, a Jew, a Mohammedan, a Mormon, a Buddhist, or any other sect. And it is not left for you or me to question the conscience or the motives of anyone; we can only look at the professions and leave the matter of conscience to them and their Maker. I am perfectly satisfied with the situation, for all religious sects and creeds stand on an equal footing with me, and I have no desire to change anyone from his religious belief to any other. If his religion suits him it suits me. But it appears from the history of mankind from the earliest dates that the differences in religious belief have caused more bloodshed torture, suffering and misery than any other one thing that has agitated the human family, and so far back as we have history it appears that one sect would become dissatisfied with the consciences of some other sect and would try to reform it to suit their own liking, which would generally bring about trouble; and in latter days the Christians, feeling it their duty, send out missionaries to spread their doctrines among other nations, get them killed where the nations are satisfied with their own religion and do not desire a change; so it appears that the Mormons, feeling some uneasiness about the future of the Christians, send out their missionaries among them to teach them their new doctrines, and occasionally get them killed. And this thing of murdering one another for differing in religious belief has been going on as far back as we have history , and it looks as if it would continue as long as there remain two different religions and they can get hold of each other’s missionaries, and no civil tribunal to this day has ever been able to suppress it. This remedy to prevent the spread of new doctrines among people who have a religion that suits them, has been very effective, and has kept the great religious divisions of the world confined principally where they could be protected by soldiers of their own faith; so it is, we see repeated here what has been going on as far back as history reaches. This practice of killing men for attempting to introduce a new religion in a country that does not want it can never be suppressed by the civil tribunals, and he who expects it will certainly be disappointed; because at this time we find a part of the clergy, a portion of the press and a large number of the people justifying it, and thereby encouraging its continuation. On the other hand, a part of the clergy, a portion of the press and a large number of the people have acted nobly in condemning such acts and endeavoring to prevent a repetition of them.

I have said this much that the public may see how futile it is for a court to attempt to do anything in a case like this one before us, and it is obliged to remain this way so long as there is such a diseased sentiment among a part of the clergy, a portion of the press and many of the people.

But, gentlemen of the jury, it makes no difference how powerless the courts are in such cases, they must act, and in cases like this they must generally fail to do anything, and must bear the consequences of one party for tying to do, and the censures of the other party for not doing what they cannot do.

The law is: That any person going about the country masqued of disguised is guilty of a misdemeanor. If they make an assault upon any one with a deadly weapon it is a felony, and if they kill anyone it is murder, and in such cases it is the duty of the grand jury to send for witnesses if they think they know who can make out the case, and examine the witnesses touching the offense of going masqued or disguised and any offense growing out of it, and find bills or not, as the proof may justify; and if they find any they will require the attorney general to draw up the proper bills; or, in case anyone wants to prosecute, he will go to the attorney general who will draw up bills for him in proper form and put the names of the witnesses and prosecutor on the back and sign them and the prosecutor will take them before the grand jury, whose duty it is to examine the witnesses and find bills or not as the proof may justify. So any one who may wish to prosecute will find both the court and grand jury room open to him. It is the duty of the grand jury to give what aid they can to anyone who may wish to prosecute those engaged in the mob or anyone who aided, abetted or encouraged it. It is the policy of the law to put a stop, as far as possible, to mob violence. It sets all law at defiance; it ignores all individual rights; it endangers the lives of all citizens, and for any one to excuse it is to encourage it, and it is a step towards extinguishing every right guaranteed by our Constitution.


Ardis E. Parshall said...

I can understand why the Mormon press of 1884 found Judge Bateman so noteworthy. The idea that the law would defend the human rights of a Mormon was not quite, um, universal. Thanks for bringing this charge to my attention

BruceCrow said...

He was certainly unique among the leaders of Lewis County, not only in his view of equal protection under the law, even for Mormons. But also in his willingness to admit his unpopular position publically.