No. 162.
Mr. Hitt to Mr. Evarts.

No. 285.]

Sir: After the receipt 6f your instruction No. 171, of date August 9, 1879, in reference to Mormon immigration into the United States from France, inquiry was made from time to time by General Noyes, before his departure for the East, of persons who, it was thought probable, would know the facts on the subject, but without eliciting anything more than negative information.

Reports in reply to your circular of August 30, 1879, to the consuls have been received from Mr. Catlin, commercial agent at La Rochelle, Mr. Herzberg, commercial agent at St. Etienne, and Mr. Gould, consul at Marseilles, all concurring in the statement that they could learn of no emigration from those districts to Utah.

I may here mention also the information I have received from a very intelligent young gentleman named McKnight of Mormon origin and sympathies, born in Utah, a nephew of Brigham Young, now temporarily resident in Paris. I believe he is the correspondent of the Saint Louis Globe-Democrat. He says there is no Mormon mission how in France, and no recruits are going from here; that many years ago Brigham Young, jr., was here and tried to establish a mission, but the authorities interfered; that Young was asked to lecture before some association on the Mormon system of colonization, but replied that it was impossible to explain it without going into the doctrines of the church, as the doctrines and the system of emigration and colonization were inseparable; there are numerous French-speaking members of the Mormon church, but they are mostly from Louisiana; no French-speaking Mormon missionaries are now at work anywhere. When the effort to establish a French mission was made, twenty-five years ago, John Taylor, now the president, then an elder, of the Mormon church, was at Boulogne, but failed, the English church there opposing him vehemently, and the authorities there suppressing the movement. No attempt has since been made in France. This statement is confirmed by Mr. Alfales Young, a son of Brigham Young, who is pursuing legal studies in Paris, and whom I have seen.

In consequence of the absence of Mr. Waddington from the capital during the long parliamentary vacation almost all the time, it was not [Page 350] convenient for General Noyes to call Iris attention personally to this subject.

Yesterday, in an interview with Mr. Waddington, at the foreign office, I stated to him the purport of your circular, the character of the Mormon immigration, and the legislation by Congress against polygamy; and added that the recent activity of Mormon immigration into the United States from various countries, especially those of the North of Europe, and the fact that this movement was organized by men who avowed the purpose of incorporating these people into a community where polygamy was practiced in defiance of law, had made it seem fitting to you to have the subject presented to the attention of European governments, and that of France among the rest, with a view of checking the organization of these criminal enterprises, and preventing the departure of men proposing to violate our laws; that I was not aware that such a movement was being attempted in France, and had been informed that there was none; and therefore did not ask for any action on his part now, but that I would take pleasure in communicating to you any expression of opinion or disposition which he might choose to make.

Mr. Waddington said the Mormon movement was one which he thought had never made any headway in France; he had not heard of their doing anything, and did not think it probable. The French people do not take to such attempts at religious innovation nor to schemes of emigration of any kind. They take no interest in an appeal to fanaticism, and cannot easily be led to enter into it. If anything of the kind came to our knowledge, he would like to be informed of it. He continued:

“As to the practical question of preventing the departure of a person who proposed to emigrate, there may be difficulties; for if a Frenchman has satisfied all the requirements of our military laws, I do not know just how we can keep him from going away; but as to their preaching or inculcating polygamy, we have a prompt remedy. Polygamy is a crime under French law as much as it is a crime under American law, and if any one is caught advocating it, we will have him arrested and punished or expelled from France. I think it is improbable that French people can be drawn into any Mormon schemes of emigration. They care nothing at all about the Mormon religion.”

* * * * * * *

He said that he understood that General Noyes, of whom he made very kind inquiries, in his present trip to the East, and North Africa had a special mission from our government. I replied that the general proposed to collect information in regard to the commerce of those countries with which we have now little trade, and to inquire as to the possibility of increasing it; that North Africa was now a region of vague possibilities, and I mentioned the reported meeting of engineers, at the department of agriculture and commerce the day before, to consider and arrange a preliminary survey or reconnaisance of the route of the trans-Saharien railway from Algiers to Timbuctoo.

* * * * * * *

After other conversation on personal topics I took my leave of Mr. Waddington, he remarking on parting: “Please let me know if you learn of the Mormons commencing any efforts in France; and you will be more likely than I to hear of it. We will soon stop them if they say anything about polygamy, and, if you choose, will banish such persons from the country.”

I have &c.,