Exile an option 1857

After looking at the suggestions made by the NY Times in 1890, that the saints were trapped in North America and would have to bend to the will of the government I noticed an interesting tidbit found in The Mormon Presence in Canada, edited by BY Card and others. 

With the possibility of a war on their soil, it appears that the LDS church looked seriously at options open to them if they had to flee once again.  One of those was to feel into the western half of British North America (Canada) and to  Vancouver Island specifically. 
 Initially it was propsed, at least in 1849, that British saints set up a colony on Vancouver Island for 20,000 people.  It would also allow the Mormons to have exclusive rights on Vancouver Island.  (Think of that one)

So from the book here is an excerpt from Robert J. McCue’s chapter on British Columbia & Mormons (pages 36-37):

But Mormon interest revived in 1857 with the possibility that the Mormons would be forced out of Utah by the “Mormon War” and the campaign of the United States government to force the abandonment of polygamy.  Inquiries were directed by Mormon leaders to the British government relative to the availability of land in “British Territory on the North West Coast of America.”

So obviously the church was in a bind and considering alternatives.  It is interesting that they considered moving to Vancouver Island even at this date, a very beautiful area.  The British government however instructed their agent there.  A member of the Hudson’s Bay Company and in charge of the Island James Douglas.

Should they apply… to occupy any portion of the North Western Territory … as a community or in scattered communities: you will remember that… Her Majesty’s Government are [sic] not prepared at present to excercise the right reserved to them in the Company’s license of forming a Colony in these parts.  Least of all would they exercise that right in favour of refugees who have defied both the Authorities of their country and the usage of Christian and Civilized life.

In other words don’t go there.  The British of course never needed to stop them as the “war” did not come about.  It is interesting to note that the government of Britian was concerned enough to hint at the license of the Hudson’s Bay Company would be measured against allowing the Mormons in.  While it does not say I wonder if the company was not all that worried about a move in of Mormons to the area and thus the need by the government to give them a gentle reminder.

Either way interesting to note the general tenor of the discussion is similar to that of the US in which polygamy was what held them back even over the (possible) economic best interests of having a settlement in your colonies.


4 Responses to Exile an option 1857

  1. Ardis Parshall says:

    Jon — Good work!

    My best guess for Mormon interest in Vancouver (since I don’t believe Brigham ever intended to evacuate Salt Lake Valley for more than a short-term guerrilla war) is that Brigham expected Mormon converts to continue to emigrate from Great Britain and Scandinavia despite the Utah War. War conditions could easily have prevented them from reaching Utah, but they could have traveled through southern Canada and set up a colony in Vancouver. At least that’s how I read it, although the newspapers of 1857-58 were certainly full of speculation that the Mormons were leaving Salt Lake, headed here or there or somewhere else.

    Bill MacKinnon, editor of the newly released At Sword’s Point, Part I: A History of the Utah War through 1857, spoke last night in Salt Lake. He confirmed that the speculation over a Mormon movement toward Vancouver had a great deal to do with Britain’s organization of British Columbia as a regular government, no longer in the hands of the Hudson’s Bay Company. He also described how Tsar Alexander II (I think that’s the right one; I’m too lazy to check a reference) was informed of the possibility of Mormons moving into the Russian possessions, and how the possibility of losing that ground to us was a significant factor in opening negotiations to sell Russia’s North American possessions, resulting in the 1867 purchase of Alaska by the U.S.

    Amazing to think what an effect li’l ol’ us have had on the world, isn’t it?

    Great job. I love to see solid posts like this in the ‘nacle.

  2. Mark B. says:

    Just one note: don’t confuse Vancouver Island (as Jon correctly identifies it throughout the OP) with Vancouver (which in common usage is the city). Vancouver, B.C. is on the mainland. Vancouver Island is across the Strait of Georgia from the city of Vancouver.

  3. Jon W says:

    Or Vancouver Washington 😉

  4. Mark B. says:

    Yeah, that too!

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