Utah Territory and the State of Deseret

“Although the Church had deliberately built its new home in a region far removed from other settlements, its leaders in 1849 realized that Salt Lake Valley would need a more temporal government, in form at least, than the one they had at first devised. . . . In early March, therefore, a convention of Church members drew up a constitution for the proposed State of Deseret, and immediately upon ratification of thi document the people elected men to fill the offices. . . .

When the United States acquired possession of the Salt Lake Basin as a result of its war with Mexico, the Mormons found themselves once more encamped upon American Territory. Now under the jurisdiction of the federal Congress, they needed its acknowledgement of their new state if it was to have any pretense to legality. Accordingly, the General Assembly in July 1849 delegated Almon W. Babbitt to secure this recognition from the Government. The choice of emissary was an unhappy one . . . As a counterweight to this agent the Mormons had two other advocates, men of greater ability than Babbitt. Dr. John Bernhisel, who had in May brought the formal petition for statehood to Washington, soon proved that his quiet lobbying was more effective than Babbitt’s brash conviviality. The other spokesman for the Mormons was young Thomas Leiper Kane, a self-chosen champion of the oppressed who, though not a member of the Church, used his considerable political influence throughout the 1850s to advance its interests. . . .

Despite Kane’s and Bernhisel’s enterprising work, the Saints failed to secure the desired position of statehood, receiving only territorial status. . . . Congress voted early in September 1850 to establish the Territory of Utah, and Fillmore signed the bill on September 9. Too late, the Church leaders tried to forestall this event by instructing Bernhisel to withdraw their petition, since they realized that they would suffer less from Gentile interference as an unsupervised provisional state than as a territory under congressional regulation . . . The law, however, had already been enacted. . . .

Upon learning of the President’s territorial appointees, however, the Mormons in Salt Lake Valley felt no great concern for their future. Of primary satisfaction to them was Brigham Young’s continuance as governor under the new dispensation. In this selection Fillmore had depended on the counsel of Thomas L. Kane . . .”