The Prosecutions Begin : Defining Cohabitation in 1885
Dialogue : A Journal of Mormon Thought
Briefly reviews anti-polygamy legislation and the Reynolds case, and discusses the details of the Edmund Act of 1882. This law gave the government a sweeping prosecutorial weapon, but Congress did not give much thought to defining the newly created crime of cohabitation. This provided potential trouble in the courts. The author outlines the activities of Angus Cannon, and his entry into plural marriage. In 1885 he was placed on trial, and was defended by Franklin Snyder Richards, son of apostle Franklin D. Richards. The trial was in Judge Zane's court, and the judge allowed very wide latitude in defining cohabitation. Appeal went all the way to the Supreme Court, and the broad definition of cohabitation held. 'Today legal scholars and Mormon historians remain fascinated with Reynolds, writing a steady stream of articles on it and crediting the 1879 decicion with the downfall of Mormon polygamy. In reality it was the Cannon decision six years later [i.e., Cannon v. the United States (1885)] that resulted in the prosecution of hundreds of Mormon 'cohabs.' encouraged anti-Mormon zealots to take up even more strident calls for the destruction of the social system of Zion, and eventually brought down that system. Only five years after the Cannon decision, the end came with the Manifesto.'