A Few Words from Orson Pratt


The Mormon History Association conference was remarkable. I am offering here a bit from LaJean Carruth’s paper which quoted Orson Pratt, with her permission. LaJean did the laborious task of deciphering the shorthand comprising Pratt’s words. I find it refreshing to see Pratt’s anti-slavery sentiments at a time when the issue was so volatile, and soon before Governor Brigham Young would offer his “An Act in Relation to Service”, which led to Utah being considered a slave-holding territory. The full article will be published in the Journal of Mormon History, but I wanted to help publicize it. This is from her abstract.

From Lajean Purcell Carruth:

Orson Pratt’s 27 January 1852 speech before the territorial legislature in vehement opposition to the introduction of African slavery into Utah Territory was unknown until my recent transcription of the same from George D. Watt’s shorthand. Pratt stated that the territorial legislature should not bear responsibility for legalizing slavery in the territory. The Almighty cursed Cain, Pratt said, but did not authorize man to carry out His curse; neither did He authorize the buying and selling of the African race: “shall we assume the right without the voice of Lord speaking to us and commanding us to [allow] slavery into our territory?” Pratt maintained that legalizing slavery in Utah would bring condemnation from the United States and from abroad and would hamper missionary work, while prohibiting slavery “would give us a greater influence among the other nations of earth and by that means save them. . . I look for the welfare of nations abroad who will never hear the gospel of Jesus Christ if we make a law upon this subject . . . for us to bind the African because he is different from us in color enough to cause the angels in heaven to blush.”

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