Yesterday I posted a letter from a local (central Utah) leader asking Brigham Young’s advice on exploiting the silver mines that were being discovered in the region. If you want to play along, you should read that one (here) before reading further.
Here is Brigham’s advice in response to silver mines, and also with regard to the taking of wild game.
The brethren should be urged to stop killing the game, which is really the cattle of the Indians. If the brethren kill the game the Indians have as much right to complain of it as we have when the Indians kill our cattle.
Your views on Mines and mining agree with our own. Claims should be take up by the brethren and held, and if this mining excitement should result in furnishing the brethren with means to pay for their lands, and improve and stock their farms, they may have reason to be thankful.
So, do you know Brigham as well as you thought you did?
(I suppose I should say something more than just “Here it is.” Some readers, but not all, apparently, may be surprised to see Brigham give his okay to silver mining — as opposed to, say, iron or lead mining, remembering how vehemently opposed he had been to Mormons going off to the California gold mines. But it wasn’t the mining per se that he opposed, it was what mining, or the greed for riches, did to the individual and the community that he opposed. If the urge for riches took you away from home, that was bad; in this case, the potential mines were at home in the hills above the Mormons’ settlements. If the urge for riches led you to neglect the production of more essential things (food, clothing, homes), that was bad; presumably if the men were mining to pay for their farms, they wouldn’t neglect developing those farms. If mines brought in a permanent, undesirable rowdy class of outsiders, that was bad; in this case, if the brethren took up the mining claims, and especially if they occupied all usable farmland near the mines, the opportunity for an influx of outsiders were be minimized.
At least that’s how I read Brigham and his fluctuating attitude toward mining.
I don’t know what incident may have sparked his advice about leaving the game for the Indians — I like his awareness and fair dealing, though.)