Mormon Reformation/Surveyor general David H. Burr threatened with death

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Surveyor general David H. Burr

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Question: Was Surveyor General David H. Burr threatened with death by Mormons while he was in Utah?

Burr did not mention any threats against his life even in his official report to Congress

It is claimed that the Mormons' hostile attitude to the United States is revealed by death threats made against U.S. surveyor general David H. Burr.

Burr did not mention any threats against his life even in his official report to Congress. These claims were made later, and are therefore suspicious. They may well have their roots more in anti-Mormon animus than in the facts. If the Mormons had threatened a federal appointee's life, why would he not report such behavior to the Congress which sent him?

The appointment of a U.S. surveyor general raised some problems for the Saints in in Utah:

the Indian title had not yet been extinguished; the sections were not open to preemption, and the saints therefore found themselves merely in the condition of squatters in their land of Zion. They were ready to purchase, but the organic act forbade the primary disposal of the soil, and, as it seems, the government, knowing their ability and their eagerness to purchase, still hesitated to make them its permanent owners. Nevertheless, a few years before, this portion of the public domain had virtually been ceded to them as worthless.[1]

Worried that the government might be trying to use legal maneuvering to dispossess them of the land they had settled and improved, some Mormons may have tried to hamper Burr's work

Worried that the government might be trying to use legal maneuvering to dispossess them of the land they had settled and improved, some Mormons may have tried to hamper Burr's work. In spring 1857, Burr would return to the east, claiming that he could not perform his duties and that his life had been threatened.

However, there is no independent confirmation of these claims, as one non-LDS historian noted:

according to a writer in the Internat. Rev., Feb. 1882, p. 192, [Burr] met with such opposition that he was compelled to flee for his life. I find no confirmation of this statement, nor does Mr Burr mention any disagreement with the Mormon authorities in his report, in House Ex. Doc., 34th Cent. 3d Sess., i. pt i. pp. 542-9.[2]

To see citations to the critical sources for these claims, click here

Notes

  1. Hubert Howe Bancroft, History of Utah, 1540–1886 (1889), 485. off-site
  2. Howe, 485 n. 12, also citing U. S. Public Laws, 33d Cong. 2d Sess., 611; House Ex. Doc., 46th Cong. 3d Sess., xxvi. p. 971.