Writing Our History
As a country, as a region, as individuals, we are shaped by the people and events that precede us. Utah's Political Moments explore significant events in Utah's election history -- when a change in circumstances, a hot-button issue, or even a single vote altered the past and influenced the world we know today. Whether we are lifelong Utahns or new to the state, whether we are part of the political majority, minority, or somewhere in between, we are affected by the voters of yesterday.
When we visit the polls this November, we not only mark a ballot box...we literally write the next chapter of history.
1849: Almost California
In 1849, a handful of votes narrowly kept Utah from becoming Eastern California.
After two years in the Salt Lake Valley the pioneering settlers thought they could successfully push for admission to the union as the state of Deseret in 1849. But President Zachary Taylor had his own plan.
Wanting to rush as much western territory into the Union as quickly as possible, Taylor wanted to admit all the land from the Pacific Ocean to the Rocky Mountains as a California ''superstate.'' Eventually, the Mormon settlers would be allowed to break off on their own. Brigham Young grudgingly accepted the concept. But, by a small margin, the California legislature rejected the plan.
California was admitted to the Union. . .and Utah would struggle nearly fifty years before earning the 45th star.
It's a page from our political history shaped by a few votes. In 2000, your vote can help write the next chapter of history.
1860: Shadow Government
Did you know that for twenty years Utah had a secret government?
In the late 1850s federal troops occupied Utah. . .and a series of outside politicians were appointed to serve as governor of the territory. It stemmed from reports of alleged disloyalty among the Mormon population of Utah. In the face of the intervention, Brigham Young created the Shadow Government of Deseret.
With himself as governor, Young would wait for the territorial legislature to finish its official business under the watchful eye of federal authorities. . .then he would call them back in secret session to re-pass the same laws, only this time without the taint of federal involvement.
Young said it ensured that such laws would be consistent with his vision of Utah as a gathering spot for a chosen people. The Shadow Government of Deseret would eventually fade in the face of an increasingly diverse population.
It's a chapter from Utah's political history. . .and in 2000 your vote can help write the next chapter.
It would be hard to name a more influential figure in the development of Utah than Brigham Young.
As leader of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Young led the emigration of his people to the region. Eventually eighty-thousand Mormons would make their way to the Utah territory under his guidance.
But Young was also a political office holder. He was the first territorial governor, serving for eight years. . .and did double duty as the territory's resident Indian agent. Despite shaping thirty years of daily life in Utah, Young only stood for election one time. In 1862, as part of a bid for statehood, Young ran as a candidate for governor. Ten thousand votes were cast. . .and Brigham Young received all ten thousand. The bid for statehood failed. . .and it would prove to be the last stand of absolute one-party politics in Utah.
It's a chapter from our political history. . .in 2000 your vote can help write the next chapter.
1869: Party Politics
In 1869 the completion of the transcontinental railroad transformed the Utah territory. Beyond business and transportation, one of the most dramatic changes took place in politics.
A solid Mormon population had made political parties irrelevant in Utah's earliest years. But non-Mormons flocking to the region with the railroads soon banded together in an effort to make a dent in Mormon control. They called their group the ''Liberal Party''. The Mormon majority responded by forming the ''People's Party''.
For the next twenty years Republican and Democrat parties would not exist in Utah. Instead, politics was split in a bitter fashion over religion.
It would prove to be one of the major stumbling blocks to Utah's admission to the Union. . .and a hard lesson on the balance between religion and politics.
It's a chapter from Utah's political history. . .in 2000, your vote can help write the next chapter.
1870: Women's Suffrage
In 1870, the political corridors of the American nation were rocked with dramatic news from Salt Lake City. With little fanfare the Utah territorial legislature had decided to give women the right to vote. Seraph Young. . .a grand niece of Brigham Young cast the first woman's vote in a city election that same year.
Suffragettes Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton traveled to Utah to congratulate the nation's newest voters.
Anti-polygamy forces viewed this as the key to a women's rebellion to throw off the yoke of polygamy. But, slowly, the outside world realized that suffrage had tripled the number of voting Mormons in Utah, solidifying their hold on local politics.
Taking the vote away from Utah women became a national political cause. . .and in 1885, Congress revoked the right as part of its battle against polygamy.
It's a page from Utah's political history. . .in 2000 you can exercise that right to vote to help write the next chapter.