Punishing the Saints for Their "Peculiar Institution" : Congress on the Constitutional Dilemma
Utah Law Review
While Utah was a territory and hence under direct federal control, Congress dedicated itself to the destruction of Mormon polygamy by means of ever-harsher legislation. After Utah was admitted to the Union, Congress sought to punish the state by refusing to accept what were perceived as offensive representatives, for the state's supposed failure to perform obligations undertaken with respect to polygamy in exchange for admission. From the beginning, these efforts raised significant constitutional questions, and new issues were raised at each step as Congress became more creative in developing new measures to achieve the elusive goal of eradicating polygamy. Not surprisingly, then, the congressional debates occasioned by these ongoing efforts are a rich source of constitutional erudition and anecdote. . . . this essay summarizes and analyzes the constitutional arguments put forward in the congressional debates generated by federal efforts to suppress polygamy.