Chapter VIII.


Governor Brigham Young Checks the Slave Trade--The

Prosecution of Offenders--A Noted Trial--A Cruel Argument to Induce Mormons to buy Indian Children

AT THIS time Brigham Young was governor of Utah and had the oversight of Indian affairs. Some little business in the slave trade had been done on the trip the summer before by our old guide, who was a regular trader. Governor Young asked me something about this business, telling me to look out, and if any of these traders came in, to let him know, as the laws of the United States, which then extended over this Territory, prohibited this business, and that it would be his duty to put a stop to the same. He hoped to do this by advising these traders in regard to the present conditions. When this party of traders spoken of arrived, Governor Young was notified and came to Provo. The leaders of this company came to see the governor, I acting as interpreter. Mr. Young had the law read and explained to them, showing them that from this on they were under obligations to observe the laws of the United States instead of Mexico; that the Treaty of Guadeloupe de Hidalgo, had changed the conditions, and that from this on they were under the control of the United States. He further showed that it was a cruel practice to enslave human beings, and explained that the results of such a business caused war and bloodshed among the Indian tribes.

The Mexicans listened with respect, admitting that the traffic would have to cease. It was plainly shown to them that it was a cruel business which could not be [52] tolerated any longer; but as it had been an old established practice, they were not so much to blame for following the traffic heretofore. Now it was expected that this business would be discontinued.

All seemed satisfied and pledged their words that they would return to their homes without trading for children. Most of them kept their promise, but one small party, under Pedro Lion, violated their obligations and were arrested and brought before the United States court, Judge Snow presiding.

This was quite a noted case. I was employed as interpreter. George A. Smith defended the prisoners, and Colonel Blair prosecuted with great wisdom and tact, he knowing all about the Mexican character, having been in the Texan war. A great deal of prejudice and bitter feeling was manifested toward the Mexicans. Governor Young seeing this, used all his influence that they might have a fair and impartial trial, and the law be vindicated in a spirit of justice and not in the spirit of persecution. The defence made by the Mexicans was that the Indians had stolen a lot of horses from them and that they had followed and overtaken them. On coming to their camp they found the Indians had killed and eaten the horses. The only remuneration they could get was to take some children which the Indians offered in payment, saying they did not mean to break their promise. This defence had some weight, whether true or not. Still they were found guilty and fined. The trial lasted several days; the fines were afterwards remitted, and the Mexicans allowed to return home. They had been delayed some time, and made nothing on their trip. No doubt they felt sour, but considering the law, they were dealt leniently with. This broke up the Indian slave trade.

[53] Stopping this slave business helped to sour some of Walker's band. They were in the habit of raiding on the Pahutes and low tribes, taking their children prisoners and selling them. Next year when they came up and camped on the Provo bench, they had some Indian children for sale. They offered them to the Mormons who declined buying. Arapine, Walker's brother, became enraged saying that the Mormons had stopped the Mexicans from buying these children; that they had no right to do so, unless they bought them themselves. Several of us were present when he took one of these children by the heels and dashed its brains out on the hard ground, after which he threw the body towards us, telling us we had no hearts, or we would have bought it and saved its life. This was a strange argument, but it was the argument of an enraged savage. I never heard of any successful attempts to buy children afterwards by the Mexicans. If done at all it was secretly.

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