Card and Sir John A.

So last night I was reading a borrowed copy of the Diaries of Charles Ora Card: The Canadian Years.  I was fascinated to see that he traveled with Elders Lyman and John W. Taylor to Ottawa, to see the Tory Government of the day.

In the fall of 1888, a year after they arrived in Lees Creek (present day Cardston), these men went east to lobby the government.  As they crossed you got snippets of Cards opinions about various locations.  The prairies were rolling, Northern and Central Ontario had an absense of trees according to Card.  (I think this would shock us now)  

As they got to Ottawa there was no beating around the bush.  The church wanted two things, land, and protection of Plural Marriage from the Dominion government.  They were very straight forward, they brought it up, and according to Card, layed out their opinions in the light of day.

You also could tell the government of the day was interested enough to give them the time of day.  The Premier, as Prime Ministers were called then, Sir John A. MacDonald, a Scot by birth and a hard drinker.  He used to drink clear alcohol in the Parliament during sessions so that others did not know he was imbibing.  Of course it was the worst kept secret around.  He is considered the father of Canada as he helped to convince the Provinces of Canada and the Maritimes to unite.  After that he bought Ruperts Land from the Hudsons Bay Company giving Canada almost all of its western area then bought out British Columbia by promising a railroad.

He meets with Card and the Apostles fairly quickly after they get to Ottawa for about an hour.  Card quotes MacDonald as saying, “Gentleman, what is your business?”

They are almost too upfront with him, but they may have been convinced that they needed to hold nothing back and so they make it clear they desire to bring polygamy north.  As Card describes it:

Apostle John W. Taylor Spoke in regard to the tithing of our people & the seizure of about one million Dollars by the United States.  Then Bro. Lyman appealled to Him in behalf of those who had Entered in to the covenant of Eternal Marriage whom at this date were suffering in prisons of the U.S. besides being heavily fined and not allowed to mingle with their families… it had become Grievous to bear.  He then asked Sir John if he did not thing that this Government would give them a resting place upon their Soil for they were the choicest of men and had many sons and ample means to sustain themselves and would bring wealth in the Dominion.

For Card, he states he wants protection for his brotheren imprisoned in jails around the US.  He wants a place for the people and is, seemingly, non committal over what they expect to be the size of the settlement.   I honestly wonder if there would have been an exodus of plural marriage to Canada, like they were in Mexico if not for the Dominion of Canada’s unwillingness to host them.  But they did not offend the Mormons.  In fact I would say judging by the entries in Card’s diaries he spends a great deal of time working with the government even with polygamy off the table.

The other interesting tidbit about this trip is the visit to Montreal which impresses Card.  He expresses an interest in the city, and comments on its Anglophone nature.    I think while not impressed with Ontario he seemed to be in Quebec.

I will try and add some quotes tomorrow on this but at midnight, I am going to head to bed.


8 Responses to Card and Sir John A.

  1. This is turning into quite an interesting series of posts about the Church in Canada from a Canadian perspective. I can’t quite put my finger on why these pieces “feel” different from something written from a missionary or headquarters point of view, but they do. There’s no question that the same events described in Andrew Jenson’s manuscript histories or recorded in a diary by a missionary from Spanish Fork would feel very different.

  2. Jon W says:

    I think it just seems closer as you say Ardis. My feeling is that when you read these meetings from a personal perspective you get the feeling for how they FELT as opposed to the simple result. The result is Card and company failed, yet the feeling was that the Government of Canada was listening to their side of the story with a measure of respect.

    For Card a lot of the reasons for this will come later as he meets with Alexander Galt and his son who definitely had a reason to want the Mormons in Southern Alberta. It had to do with secular rather than religious reasons.

  3. Grégoire says:

    I’m going to have to check that book out at some point. My mom and her entire extended family are Cardstoners, though Calgary and Cranbrook were as close as I ever lived to the northern tip of Deseret. Anyway, it sounds fascinating. Thanks for the review.

    Do you guys have any opinion on the modern descendants of Canada’s polygamist past? The ones I’m talking about live in Bountiful, by Lister and Creston (BC). My kids have grown up seeing them here and there, and are only now realizing who they are. Of course, my kids hardly know what a Mormon is in the first place, so they don’t understand it in context.

  4. Jon W says:

    The ones that live in Bountiful are members of the FLDS. It broke off from other polygamist groups in the 1980s. Each of these groups were excommunicated from the LDS church in the 1920s and 30s.

    The Canadian group I believe came up much later, but I could be wrong on that. And I do know that they have done some recruiting of girls from Cardston in the past. I know at least one person who lived there and they hated it a lot.

    Most of the church in Canada just shake their heads at the whole thing. Most I think look at them like some sort of throwback. Rarely have a I heard anyone say complementary things about them. I personally have no opinion because I am wary of any understanding based on the rumours coming from the media. Though certainly their could be a lot correct, it is hard to accept everything that is said at face value.

  5. Grégoire says:

    Dear Jon,

    Growing up in St. George (and having extended family with the LeBaron surname) I’m pretty familiar with the FLDS, but other than watching the feature on Fifth Estate.

    Rarely have a I heard anyone say complementary things about them.

    In this area, on either side of the international border, Mormons of all flavors are probably the most hated ethnic/religious group and have been for a hundred years. It’s easy to dismiss them, until you realize that the attitude is pointed in your direction also, and some of the reasons are vaguely justified.

  6. Jon W says:

    I am not sure if any hatred is ever justified, regardless of the situation. While I do not accept the Fundementalists version of events at the turn of the century, I also see no need to castigate the whole group. As Texas proved it just makes you out to be the villain.

    What the authorities have done in Utah and Arizona over the past few years, going after those that are marrying young girls and the funding of the FLDS I think works better at controlling what they are doing.

  7. Grégoire says:

    Dear John,

    I am not sure if any hatred is ever justified, regardless of the situation.

    Maybe not justified, but understandable. My parents, for instance, have never met my children, never sent them a card on a holiday, never spoken to them on the phone. Why? Underneath the excuses, it’s because my wife isn’t a Latter-Day Saint. It’s funny but my in-laws (Catholics, Protestants and Jews) have been universally horrified by the years of loathsome behavior emanating from my Utah family. If they didn’t have a horrible impression of Mormonism before they adopted me, they do now.

    My story is by no means unique. Multiply this experience by the thousands that exist already, and you’ve got a meaningful social factor to consider.

    When local LDSers make the media, it’s invariably in connection with some sort of Melaleuca/Nu-Skin type financial scam or pyramid con-job. When people here experience Mormonism, it’s in the form of teenagers who interrupt them at dinner, and their behavior is not always exemplary.

    So what’s the difference between the Lister Mormons and people like myself, in the eyes of my neighbors? Nothing, really. If anything, the Lister Mormons present a sympathetic portrait of people who endured persecution at the hands of mainstream Mormons, with which everyman here in Cascadia can identify. Sad, but true.



  8. […] John and his views on Mormons A year ago I was talking about the meeting between leaders of the church and the Government of Canada.  During that post I made a note that in Charles Card’s journal he seemed to leave eastern […]

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