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UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA AT BIRMINGHAM
The Masque of Undergrounder and Spy: Ubiquitous Addressivity, Dependent Social Roles, and Panopticism among Nineteenth Century Mormon Polygamists
As newspapers and rumors reported the presence—apparent, actual, or potential—of federal agents charged with surveillance of polygynous Mormons, the undergrounder emerged in the 1880s as a ﬁgure sharing the spy’s metapragmatic register: namely, concealment of roleindexical signs. Seeming ubiquitous address by unseen but always possible agents of the law riveted the spy to the body of undergrounder. Bound to a spiraling play of reveal-and-conceal, the undergrounder’s presence also summoned an “abduced” imaginary called “the underground.” Here suspicion was general; forms were questioned, disarticulated, assigned provisional indexicalities. Every sign could suggest an observer, a secret code, a warning to hide. The paranoid undergrounder thus was discursively incarcerated and panoptically triangulated as a modern subject. The underground ironically splintered the Mormon resistance, and realized the Supreme Court’s decree that, in short, the citizen’s body be severed from the colonized subject’s imagination. [panopticon, mass media, secrecy, paranoia, modernity] ecent raids on Fundamentalist Mormons in Texas renewed a history of intermittent, sometimes overwhelming intervention by state and federal governments into polygyny-espousing groups. It was feared in this case that physical and, particularly, sexual abuse as deﬁned by state law were normative on the Yearning For Zion Ranch. Catalyzed by an anonymous phone call reporting as much among what came to be called in the media a “polygamist cult,” armed agents launched a preemptive strike to preserve the innocent, stormed the gated community, and liberated busloads of children. They returned home two months later, however, thanks to the performativity enjoyed by Texas judges. Ever seeking an entelechy of objective realism, the media thus panned elsewhere for more Now Breaking News and at-thismoment unresolved spectacle. This 2008 raid does not yet submit to anthropological inquiry regarding its effects on Mormon cultural or discursive practices. Yet the fracture that delineated the modern Latter-Day Saints Church (LDS, Salt Lake City, Utah-based supporters of “traditional marriage,” i.e., monogamy) and Fundamentalist LDS Church (FLDS, mostly rural polygamists throughout the Intermountain West) has its origins in similar, but more dispersed and less confrontational raids on Mormon homes, regularly conducted between the years of 1884 and 1890 (Hardy 1992). In May of 1890 a
Journal of Linguistic Anthropology, Vol. 19, Issue 2, pp. 246–265, ISSN 1055-1360, EISSN 1548-1395. © 2009 by the American Anthropological Association. All rights reserved. DOI: 10.1111/j.1548-1395.2009.01033.x.
The Masque of Undergrounder and Spy
U.S. Supreme Court decision disincorporated a deﬁant Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, conﬁrming the constitutionality of anti-polygamy legislation passed in 1887. October of 1890 saw the president of the now late Corporation of the Church publish a document, later called “the Manifesto,” said to prohibit illegal marriages among Mormons. The following decades saw Mormons raise the American standard, under whose muted shade would be concealed their former radical economics, politics, sexuality, theology, and historiography (Alexander 1993; Yorgason 2003). By 1930, however, self-described “Fundamentalist Mormons” disputed the ofﬁcial reading of the Manifesto and reinstated polygyny in deﬁance of LDS and state law. They continue to doubt the 1890 Manifesto, and LDS leaders’ subsequent proclamations prohibiting polygamy, because the texts were addressed “To whom it may concern.” That is, the overt “addressivity” (Bakhtin 1986) of ofﬁcial prohibitions, sent to an unknown, yet self-nominating Public, provides a metapragmatic cue that inverts what would prohibit polygamy into “secret” encouragement of the practice. Fundamentalist folk histories revealing this inversion consistently provide the FLDS Church with discerning recruits, plucked and “chosen” from the ofﬁcially monogamous LDS population. To be a Fundamentalist Mormon, in other words, is to embrace an overt “sociohistorical enregisterment” (Agha 2007) glossed by concealment as a speaker strategy, secrecy as a metadiscursive norm regarding circulation, and silence as an interactional next-turn habit. A person is thus absented as an addressee of texts broadcast “to whom it may concern,” and so steps into a self-consciously nonmodern “social imaginary” (Taylor 2004). Concealment by various means, such as dress to drape the female body from collar to calf (as mandated for FLDS Mormons, and which makes them recognizable in spaces like television screens), sponsors a revitalization of Mormon history (Bitton 1994). Dispersed across the body, a past age is conjured when to be a Mormon was to “Mind your own business.” And so, like the purported effect of a properly concealed body—namely elicitation of moral thoughts among observing men—by concealment of what ought not be revealed one might oblige others to mine less deeply the business that is not theirs to mind. For them secrecy and concealment is paramount to being. A fairly common if not universal practice for generating mystic interlocutors (Bellman 1984), and prominent in the genre of religious language (for a review, see Keane 2004), when contrasted with glossalalic cacophony (Goodman 1972; Samarin 1972; Csordas 1997) silences carefully proffered may suggest encounters with deity (Bauman 1983). More broadly, nonparticipation, noninteraction, and so forth, as diacritics, regularly generate “second-order” indexical readings (Silverstein 2003) of various speaker demeanors, say, wisdom, intransigent madness, arrogance, ethnic quietude (Basso 1979; Philips 1972), strategic deference (Besnier 1989), or masculinity (Kulick 1998). Silences can be enregistered, of course, to any number of social persona, invoked from any age or realm. One might reﬂect from Hanks, “The words of the present utterance bring aspects of their different temporalities with them” (1996:275), to suggest also, that not speaking when expected to take the ﬂoor, by leaving a gap in a text, we summon any, perhaps many nonmodern pasts and ﬁgures; that by secrecy in the face of expected public revelation one reaches into the archives of imagined tradition and calls forth a historicized, rather than economized or interiorized subjectivity (Certeau 1988). And the varieties of concealment are but one way that cultures chart disputed, invented, stolen and contrary temporalities. Necessary to the constitution of modern and dialectically antimodern subjects, indexes of historicomythical chronotopes extend across linguistic planes as diverse as the morphological, lexical (e.g., archaic registers), syntactical (e.g., “Shakespearean” or “bible talk,” inversion of subject-verb-object), poetic (e.g., chant), participant-mediating technologies (e.g., cassettes vs. Internet) and metapragmatic discourse or “style” (see, among others, Bauman 1992; Chafe 1993; Eickelmann and Anderson 1999; Kroskrity 1998, 1993; Kuipers 1993; essays in Burke and Porter 1995). By such indexes, dialectically creative of nostalgic chronotopes, we stage vicarious voices (Inoue 2005)
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speaking from better tymes yonder in days o’ yore. As a recent special issue of Language and Communication (July 2007) broadly surveyed such chronotopic adventuring, I will not elaborate any further here, except to say that secrecy, silence, and so forth are unique indexes of historicity because as zero-forms they depend entirely on contexts for that construal: negative space becomes temporally signiﬁcant. The Fundamentalist Mormon’s garden variety “invention of tradition” upon the blank spaces reserved by concealment and secrecy and their manifest distrust of the indeﬁnitely addressed message originate in federal raids conducted during the 1880s. It is not my purpose here, however, to trace the path by which secrecy was granted historicity or religious authenticity (but see Smith 2007). Rather, I seek to reconstruct how addressivity—to whom it may concern, as an explicit example—emerged as something durable during the 1880s, such that it could convert or decontextualize a relation into something like a subjectivity, an identity, or minimally, an addressee “concerned.” I draw on Bakhtin here, of course, who described addressivity as “the quality of turning to someone, [which] is a constitutive feature of the utterance; without it the utterance does not and cannot exist. The various typical forms this addressivity assumes and the various concepts of the addressee are constitutive, deﬁnitive features of various speech genres” (1986:99). I rely on addressivity rather than the similar “voicing,” primarily because the latter as a trope requires and presupposes participant co-occupancy of some domain of enregisterment. Addressivity, moreover, does not presuppose widely recognized ties between semiotic forms and social persona; indeed it makes voicing altogether possible. As a metapragmatic feature, subtly performative so that it calls out some discernable addressee (e.g., you, Dear Reader), addressivity also typiﬁes a text as afﬁliated with some deﬁned speech genre. By recognizing this double function, Bakhtin opens a corridor for retracing the genealogy of the modern subject (Lee 1997). He notes, “Intimate genres and styles are based on a maximum internal proximity of the speaker and addressee (in extreme instances, as if they had merged). . . . In this atmosphere of profound trust, the speaker reveals his internal depths” (Bakhtin 1986:97). An internal “voicing” might emerge by other means. “Objectively neutral styles presuppose something like an identity of the addressee and the speaker, a unity of their viewpoints,” he notes, “but this identity and unity are purchased at the price of almost complete forfeiture of expression” (1986:98). It is that process—by which literal forfeiture of expression converts addressivity, as a discursive act, to something like a covert speech genre named by “subjectivity”—which I reconstruct here. To that end I turn to materials constitutive of the 1880s Mormon underground, a time of profound distrust.
Addressivity and Panopticism Drawing on archival materials, I reconstruct the converging vectors that triangulated the modern Mormon person, whose mind could be semiotically incongruent with the observable body. The ﬁrst section summarizes the legal addresses to Mormons as “cohabs,” who were then obliged to submit to various federal agents. As elaborated in the second and third sections of this essay, run-away “abductions” (Peirce 1992:189–198; 1960 vol. 1.68; vol. 2.103, 270; vol. 5.171–185) were circulated by what came to be called “undergrounders” as part of a strategy to evade these agents (spies, spotters, marshals).1 Abductions guessed about future encounters with spies, or reconsiderations of a previous interlocutor’s “real” identity, or concerned realtime participants. Given their transient, entirely local ontology, abducted signs can be found with ease. Yet for this reason abductions can be culturally insigniﬁcant (even if overwhelming the researcher’s ﬁeld notes). In the case discussed here, of course, my task is to track the cross-interactional stabilization of certain abductions in practice. Due to coordinated enregisterment of concealment to antagonistic roles, and widespread circulation of typiﬁcations of spies in mass media, letter, and word of mouth, the person of the undergrounder, as a new social ﬁgure bearing this “lexical role
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designator” (Agha 2007:246), dialectically positioned its role dependence on the largely imagined, and rarely veriﬁable, presence of the Spy. As described in the third section, local abductions concerning spies—presently among us, in the future to be avoided, or previously on the lookout—circulated beyond their points of origin and encouraged similar guesswork throughout the underground community. This network of abductions inadvertently induced what might be called, to borrow from Foucault (1979), local panopticism. Foucault points out with respect to the Panopticon (a model prison designed by Jeremy Bentham boasting a central observational tower around which inmates in lighted cells were to be arrayed; Foucault 1979:195–228), “that power should be visible and unveriﬁable. Visible: the inmate will constantly have before his eyes the tall outline of the central tower from which he is spied upon. Unveriﬁable: the inmate must never know whether he is being looked at at any one moment; but he must be sure that he may always be so” (1979:201). An inmate, hypothetically anyway, becomes interpellated with the narrative presence of the guard, voiced at multiple points of contact, and like an ideal confessor or psychiatric patient, emerges as a self-governing subject (Foucault 1997:223–251). The Mormon underground diagrams these relations of observer and observed. In the fourth section I discuss how the underground vis-à-vis spying induced panoptic conditions across Utah territory. An encompassing social panic and simultaneously silent, individual paranoia followed. The Mormon Undergrounder (as a type) was converted thus from a discursive role into a decontextualizable identity always under address and duress, who depended on federal surveillance to be summoned into being. Letters sent by Mormon leader Joseph F. Smith (nephew of the founding ﬁgure) may serve to illustrate in brief, before plunging into history, the transition from discursive role to solitary identity. In a letter from spring of 1884, Smith advised a friend, “As to the other matters,”
I took occasion to caution the person who brought your letter, as I saw the party taking a course with regard to our circumstance at least, to jeopardize their own cause. And that was going about answering and taking notice of rumors too. The very thing, of all things, to arouse suspicion. A letter had been written by said party to another party who was supposed to have said something, which if it had been sent would have done more towards corroborating suspicion than anything else could have done, short of full confession [J.F. Smith n.d., entry dated 3.21.1884].
Smith was concerned that Mormons might inadvertently provide “pointers” to federal agents and their unknown spies, and so performed the discursive bleaching that promised a measure of protection, a sort of indexical blur focused only within the text because anchored to “the person who brought your letter.” He prescribes a general strategy:
I advised that the letter be destroyed at once, which was done. And that no further notice be taken of anything which might be said or done . . . You should advise silence, and nonconcern. . . . Rumors had better be laughed down than combated. I should not advise removal to B_2 just now, as I think under the circumstances it would heighten suspicion. All hands be silent, but open and fearless, admitting nothing in anyway.
Smith wrote in much the same proverbial voice to his cousin Jesse N. Smith, asserting that “It is not so easy as some may suppose to prove men’s secret and sacred acts,” yet “men should know as well as women, whom to entrust with family secrets. In other words, who not to make conﬁdants of” ( n.d., entry dated 11.17.1884). Early in the raids such concealment, of persons and pointers, was said to promote the well-being of the Mormon on the run from the law. “I was very much pleased to hear from you,” Joseph F. Smith’s wife Julina wrote a week after her spouse ﬁrst ﬂed on a tip from a friend warning him of raids by U.S. marshals, “that you are well and comfortable. If I can always hear as good news as that I care not where you are” (J.F. Smith n.d., entry dated 10.23.1884). Smith’s daughter Leonora also sent along a letter,
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indicated that “WB called to see us,” and that “I think he would have told us where you was if we had not told him we did not want to know” (J.F. Smith n.d., entry dated 10.22.1884). In only a few years Smith’s obsessive secrecy would leave his closest allies uncertain as to how he assessed their trustworthiness. Letters were delivered by couriers who refused to reveal ﬁnal destinations. Joseph F. Smith’s wives reported, with no little jealousy, contradictory stories about his current residence (Hawaii, Utah, Washington, New Zealand, or England?). Julina Smith would later warn her husband that “many who pretend to be our friends have called to see how we feel about the new move you have made,” which reported move never in fact occurred (J.F. Smith n.d., entry dated 6.18.1887). Smith’s close friend Charles W. Nibley once queried, “Well where are you anyway? Or is it so profound a secret that nobody knows?” (J.F. Smith n.d., entry dated 1.9.1887). Undergrounders hid from spies for obvious reasons, but as the following materials show, the latter was said possibly to be Everywhere, prompting the Undergrounder to take a complimentary exaggerated indexical stance and so reside Nowhere. But by hiding one also predicated potential distrust to others who might expect, by right of kin, friendship, or marriage, to know one’s whereabouts. Dissolution of trust as an enregistered, pragmatic presupposable said of Mormons by Mormons slowly subverted the popular resistance. Simply put, it induced suspicion of surface readings of signs surrounding the undergrounder. Smith’s own brother was insulted by a request he not be told where to address letters, though Julina Smith reported to her husband that she “told him it was not because you could not trust him, but because you could not trust those he had around him, and you knew not whose hands they might fall in, and if he looked at it right he ought not feel bad” (J.F. Smith n.d., entry dated 4.15.1887). The presumed heir to Joseph Smith’s prophetic reign and “theo-democratic” kingdom, now much reduced territorially if not by every other standard, Smith explained in a letter written in 1890 to George Farrell, only recently arrested himself, that “the moment I read, in your letter, about your going from the train to the meeting, I felt concerned about you. . . . I am satisﬁed that much less exposure on my part would ‘cook my goose’” (J.F. Smith n.d., entry dated 2.21.1890). The proper conduct, in contrast to his earlier advice to remain discrete, to “laugh down” rumor, Smith provided a little too late for his friend Farrell’s beneﬁt: “My experience proves that the greatest danger to the exile is in trusting his friends.” Who might “the exile” trust? Neither friends, nor spouses, nor anyone but oneself, for here alone was promised control of signs indexical of identity that, if properly sheltered and governed, offered freedom from federal prison. A state of constant address by the imagined agents of the law, proclaimed throughout all the land to all the inhabitants thereof, by way of a sort of social possession practically excised the undergrounder from once constant, reliable social relations. Now inserted into his profoundly distrusting soul was the ever-present narrative voice of the federal agent, and of his master the Law. The same constant addressivity, as the end of “hailing” (Althusser 1971) marks citizenship as well as, Warner (2002) argues, another embodied deviance: modern homosexuality. Legal and Spiritual Persons What one might call without too much referential dissolution, or ascription to it of a tired and too worn out Other, “precolonial Mormonism,” that is, Mormonism prior to 1885, made no indexical hay from secrecy; or to invert a phrase from Marx, offered no fetishism of secrecy. Wisdom dictated occasional discretion but provided no further readings. Precolonial Mormons were expected to navigate a ﬂat, continuous, single but inﬁnitely explorable cosmos; in practical terms they charted a social plane marked by secret religious rites often gainsaid by public proclamation, where sex was made holy because performed in secret and with the awareness and approval of multiple partners, and neighbor Mormons sported ritually dispensed “garments” hidden underneath more mundane, everyday dress (Talbot 2006). Its preachers
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depicted a cosmos where Good depended on the existence of Evil, where gods became humans and humans gods, where intercourse between divine and human was to be common and unmediated. Mormons were, and proudly agreed with American politicians and editors who with exaggerated tones exclaimed the same, assuredly not Christian, and even espoused anti-American notions through and through. Mormons refused to acknowledge political separation of Church and State any more than ontological divisions of Spirit from Flesh. They considered the New World a New Zion, a Kingdom of God (Hansen 1967), and called the territory Deseret until Congress declared it the state of Utah (in 1896, after polygamy was ofﬁcially renounced). As part of the U.S. government’s policy of subordination of non-Americans in the 19th century, the voice of Congress was called on to answer “The Mormon Question” once and for all: How could polygamy, what was termed “white slavery” in the original platform of the Republican Party, be abolished, and thereby uncouple Church from State power in the Western U.S.? Passage of the Morrill Act of 1860, and of the 1874 Poland Act, invited Mormons as territorial citizens to consider themselves guilty of crimes like polygamy. Limits concerning the prosecutor’s right to compel testimony from wives, however, prevented anything more than a few token convictions. Even Brigham Young regularly escaped conviction, as juries of his peers refused to convict the notorious polygamist (Daynes 2001). A path to “Americanization” was ﬁnally mandated by federal ofﬁcials in a landmark 1879 Supreme Court case, Reynolds v. United State (98 U.S. 145 ): the decision would shape Free Exercise disputes for a century (Gordon 2002). The Court declared the First Amendment protected only religious “beliefs,” what one might enunciate as a creed in the ﬁrst person (singular or plural). Practices, presumably meaning activity conducted by publicly observable, physical bodies (so prohibiting the polygynous marriages of Young’s secretary, George Reynolds), could be legislated by the state regardless of their relation to religious performatives (e.g., marital rites). Acts concluded in the privacy of the mind could be freely enjoyed by all, without concern for state intervention. This rendering of belief as extendible in some space is, of course, unique to a historical epoch (Taylor 1992). As widely recognized, a properly modern subject collapses potentially distinct private and public selves into in the now familiar trappings of individuality, intention, and so on. When inﬂected through notions of Christian morality, the modern subject offers “sincerity” as an assurance of alignment between non-visible and tangible selves (Gillison 1997; Keane 1997, 2002; Robbins 2001, 2004). One might also describe this self as an alignment of the variegated social fractions Goffman (1981) inventoried—author, animator, soundbox, and so on—under the term footing: say, in a footprint pressed under a single voicing of a monologic, self-narrating subject (Bakhtin 1984). Appropriately, this modern self obligates a predictable person-deixis orientation across interactions, while freely substituting verbs of speaking with verbs of thinking (Lee 1997), yielding readings that what one says, regardless of grammatical person, is indeed what one thinks, and vice versa. Alternatively, mismanaged person-deixis in institutionally mediated interactions, such as “therapy,” is held to indicate “deeper” personality fractures (Wilce 1998; see also Hacking 1995). Rather than indicate “possession,” then, reciprocal “I” and “you” voiced by the “same” biological speaker over a (“nonﬁctional”) biography, confession, subway invective, or some other disclosure yields abductively the physician’s symptomatic reading of a splintered mind now wanting repair. The modern “care of the self,” to borrow from Foucault, stabilizes in the biological person an addressee of an intangible speaker whose covertly double-voiced narration, say, as conscience, is said to emanate from and be animated by the “same” intangible Cartesian mind. Addressed collectively by the Supreme Court, Mormons were granted leave to explore this realm of mind and its catalogue of beliefs. As Asad argues, division between belief and practice is, of course, basic to the dialectic of self-discovery and deception played upon the modern self. “When conventional behavior is seen as
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being essentially representational and essentially independent of the self,” Asad argues further, “the possibility is opened up of deploying it in games of power” (1993:69). Yet the Supreme Court’s distinction between belief and practice made little sense to Mormons, not surprisingly, for even spiritual and material natures were held to consist of the same basic stuff; the spiritual being “more reﬁned” in its organization as matter. God was also an “exalted man,” and humans, Mormon leaders frequently proclaimed, could follow the tracks of these gods. Polygamy was said to be a necessary, though not sufﬁcient, provision along the course of divinization. Thus Mormons continued to insist that it made no sense “to believe in” polygamy, while not actually arranging one’s social relations accordingly. The games of power would begin thusly. With the backing of the Supreme Court, in answer to deﬁant or confused Mormons, Congress passed the Edmunds Act in 1882. The act created a new crime called “Unlawful Cohabitation,” punishable by a ﬁne of $500 and up to six months in prison, which Act in turn sponsored the career of a new persona called the “Cohab.” The criteria for committing this crime, or indexes by which one might ﬁnd a Cohab, were intentionally vague. By 1885 territorial judges agreed that “holding out” one’s relationship in public, that is, persuading someone to believe someone was possibly living as if married in some sense to someone not legally designated as such, and thus scandalizing The Public, was evidence of unlawful cohabitation. Hence, cohabs existentially depended on the performative utterances of legal, oath-bound “witnesses” (of their own scandalizing, apparently) positioned in court as voice of that American Public. By these loose indexical ways, and by the later, more comprehensive Edmunds-Tucker Act of 1887 (which aimed at the institution of the corporate church, rather than merely at Cohabs), over a thousand Mormons were imprisoned for perjury, adultery, cohabitation, polygamy, and other crimes against American morality (Roberts 1965; Linford 1964). That ﬁgure, however seeming signiﬁcant at the time, was but a fraction of the estimated number of cohabs. The courts, in other words, made the Cohab signiﬁcant as a possible identity, but did not in fact imprison all cohabs. Instead, a sort of cuffed, pin-striped fancy emerged as an addressee of the law. This fancy as an entelechy especially haunted those “in exile,” Mormons on the underground. The Mormon Underground What Mormons called “the underground” during the 1880s metaphorically drew from “underground railroad,” of course. The term had a distinguished career in 19th century thought, capturing in metaphor the sublime foundation whose excavation was promised or foreboded by techno-science, the hidden possibilities of lives conducted beyond the regimenting ordinances of modern cityscapes, the awful soul conjured by free association and dream (Williams 1990). For Mormons the term captured similarly paradoxical hopes and anxieties. “When a young woman with a little baby came to my father’s,” one woman recollected years later, “the only question asked by any of the family was, ‘Is she on the underground railway?’ No one wanted to know more for fear of being questioned by some Deputy Marshal who may be looking for her” (Tanner 1983:101). Generally, “There was much uncertainty connected with the underground venture,” she explains, and “one never knew how long one would stay at a place, nor with whom they would stay, nor where they would go next” (Tanner 1983:101). Ms. Tanner moved frequently, at one point shuttling between three homes in a week because each time “word came I must move on and be very quiet about it because I had been tracked” (Tanner 1983:108–09). She was left, paradoxically, “no companionship with anyone because of the necessity of keeping secret any relationships” (Tanner 1983:103). These are, of course, recollections rather than contemporary reports, and so serve only to illustrate a general, static image of what various legal utterances summoned among Mormons: exile from familiar society. But what was the referent of the underground, and where was it? The physical places said to constitute the underground were usually small spaces offering temporary concealment (e.g., cupboards, cellars, barns, caves), connected
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by informal, nondurable, largely on-the-ﬂy improvised networks of relatives and friends. The underground, however, could appear wherever concealment was achieved in response to supposed surveillance by federal agents. When asked about the raids, Anna Frewin, a teen during the 1880s, recalled that “whenever the door was knocked or the bell rang, [Aunt Nellie] would run and hide and get in a great big cupboard and father always told us children, ‘you don’t know anything. If anybody asks you any questions, you don’t know.’ I never knew anything, but that is the way we were raised, but we always live in fear” (Frewin, n.d.). The term describes a temporary relationship relative to observers, and as such cannot pick out a single thing. That would change soon enough. The term was extended by 1886 to refer to a kind of person, an “undergrounder,” said to perform misdirection and concealment as a part of a predictable repertoire raised to deﬂect “personal” inquiries. Undergrounders thus conjured an envelope of isolation not so different from the penitentiary itself. “A prisoner as it were in my own house,” Albert Jones returned in 1886 from a mission to Britain begun in late 1884. He had by then “developed into a regular (undergrounder) with ears already on end to catch any alarm that might be sounded for my warning.” His presumed absence was such that his son “Master Will for a time could not be induced to come in [to Albert’s room], saying, ‘If that was my Pa he would come down stairs, he would, I know.’ At last they dragged the young scamp in, who when I got him between my knees soon recognized me as his father” (Jones n.d., entry dated 11.1886). Home only a few weeks, it was rumored that his former mission companions had been captured. Exchanging hats with fellow travelers, Jones was off to work in the LDS Church’s stone quarry, “so that I would escape observation, they knowing that I was on the ‘underground’ ” (entry dated 6.11.1886). Now naming a kind of person rather than a metaphorical relation, underground Mormons would engage federal agents.2 Undergrounder and Spy Transition to “modern” selfhood, that is, uptake of the governed subjectivity so much discussed, historicized, and confused, also normalizes paranoia. Under the rubric “self-governance,” paranoia catalogues an essential, durable identity in reaction said to be under constant address by some omniscient, omnipresent authority. Hence the dialectic between the nation-state whose laws are proclaimed to all and its jester, the Paranoid, revealing his alternate origin story populated by Jesuits and Masons; the rapid advance of the paranoid to accusations of Totalitarianism: the Birthers. The question the following sections seek to answer is: How does a state of apparently constant and ubiquitous addressivity (decontextualized as “identity” or essentialized as “paranoia”) arise among the addressed masses from what are, semiotically speaking, temporary and widely distributed events; namely, guesses by noninteracting persons? Reports of spies circulated as warnings through Mormon communities, on the pages of local newspapers, through letters, and in oral relay as rumor. As the following materials suggest, spies and similar variants (deputy, spotter, skunk) could be “discovered” in realtime, lurking on the edges of past events, or even haunting future realms (circulating as reports, warnings, or general guides). Contrastively, reports of undergrounders as such were rare, even under discursive taboo, and so only occurred as a trope (in poems, for example), or by self-depiction in diaries.3 Also, veriﬁably false reports of raids did not enjoy circulation or generalization (by way of indexical nonselectivity), but were restricted to some deﬁned spacetime (e.g., “yesterday’s raid failed”). As a result of these asymmetries between “actual” and “imagined” encounters, discursive cloaking of undergrounders versus broadcast reports of spies, and between false and largely unveriﬁed reports, spies would seem to skulk about unrestrained. U.S. Marshals could be identiﬁed and avoided with ease, but spies were unofﬁcial agents of the government who could testify in court, or identify the whereabouts of
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a wanted person. Edna Smith warned her husband Joseph F. that “Our neighbors keep a good watch all the time. I think they have an object in view more than hunting for a witness,” and so, “we are careful anyway” (J.F. Smith n.d., entry dated 10.27.1884) Edna’s warning accompanied an intelligence from George Q. Cannon, like Smith a member of the governing First Presidency of the LDS Church. Stripped of his congressional delegate status as a result of antipolygamy legislation, Cannon remained a canny politician, however, who seemed himself unmoved by reports of spies and marshals. He warned Smith that “the place is swarming with spies,” and, “Every house which is occupied or frequented by any persons whom they wish to entrap is watched by deputy marshals.” Cannon reported a rumor that the sister-inlaw of his son John Q., said “without foundation however” also to be the latter’s wife, had seen a spy near her home “evidently watching every morning.” He concluded with the admonition that “I hope will be appreciated by the faithful Saints at least, and that is, the importance of holding their tongues. Most of the trouble from which we suffer has its origin in the want of caution on the part of our own people” (J.F. Smith n.d., entry dated 10.27.1884). Spies could be anywhere, and so silence was offered as a way of absenting oneself from unauthorized gazes and inquiries. But silence concerning what, or holding of tongues when? Control over the circulation of signs indexical of identity and location seemed the commonsense response to anti-polygamy raids. Indeed, the ﬁrst raids in late 1884 netted only a few cohabs. Mormons looked for deputies, ﬂed when appropriate, and returned when deputies seemed absent. There was no underground yet, only periodic exile and vague prescriptions for discursive caution; that is, refusal to mention names and places of suspected cohabs. Speculatively generated signs such as guesses that spies lingered around residences, however, were burdened by no discursive taboo. Warnings and other speculations concerning federal agents were encouraged, whether accurate or not. So Mormons could not get too comfortable, as “It is whispered abroad,” another leading Mormon, Franklin S. Richards, was told by Salt Lake Mayor John Sharp, that “the households of old residents are being closely watched by men in the U.S. Marshals’ employ and cases will be worked up for the coming Grand Jury.” He admitted, however, that “nothing of a deﬁnite character is known of the matter” (Richards n.d., entry dated 1.14.1885). These rumors soon found wider distribution in print. Newspapers warned Mormon readers of marshals and indirectly presented phrases for uttering when confronted by a deputy’s knock at one’s door:
An ofﬁcer has no right to forcibly enter a house to serve a subpoena on a witness . . . People should not be scared by the pretensions of impertinent persons claiming to be ofﬁcers. A Marshal, Sheriff or other court ofﬁcial is required to keep within deﬁned bounds or he is liable to punishment. And he has no right to put on airs because of his position. He has no right to question people in regard to their private affairs or those of their neighbors . . . A witness or prisoner is not required to answer the questions of an ofﬁcer anxious to get hold of something to incriminate the accused [Deseret News n.d., entry dated 1.21.1885].
This prescribed voicing is appropriate, however, only when one has clear evidence an interlocutor is a federal agent, at which point the game, of course, is up. Mass circulating speculations (framed as warning, rumor, or advice), regarding quasi-legal persons like spies, by contrast, entailed no simple scripts pulled from law books. How, then, to respond? That same day the LDS Church owned Deseret News (DN, called “The News”) also warned of a “sneak and informer system” built on
[P]ersons who have assumed the role of peddlers and itinerants of various kinds . . . making impertinent inquiries into the affairs of the family, and practically forcing themselves into private residences. Individuals have been discovered prowling . . . at night. This latter class, as we have stated previously, are liable to be mistaken for sneak thieves and burglars, and it is justiﬁable to treat them accordingly [DN n.d., entry dated 1.21.1885].
This “system” vicariously extended the eyes and ears of deputies, offered bounties for each warrant served, and was populated by familiar ne’er-do-wells, peddlers, and
The Masque of Undergrounder and Spy
itinerants, even by individuals “prowling . . . at night.” One was advised to “treat them accordingly,” and thus invite them into purely superﬁcially manifest social roles. No need for panic yet, as threats of violence enacted by virtue of “confused” Mormons would likely dissuade particularly zealous spies. Indeed, only a week later the Deseret News described a group of “young fellows” that “noticed an individual lurking suspiciously around.” “He entered a vacant lot, and hid behind a large tree near the corner, apparently keeping a watchful eye on the small store opposite, with burglarious (?) intent,” at which time the said fellows decided “to treat him to something” and he ﬂed into the night. A thief or a deputy? Despite the description which leans toward naming him a thief, the story is titled, “A deputy marshal pursued” (DN n.d., entry dated 1.28.1885). The semi-weekly also published a notice under the heading “One of the spotters” from “Lauritz Larson” of Mount Pleasant warning readers that a “suspicious looking character lurking around here the last few days [was] prying into family relations.” Larson provided speciﬁc details: “a rather heavy man . . . has reddish or sandy whiskers or beard; had a long gray blanket coat lined with brown ducking, black pants and a vest.” “People should look out for him,” Larson explained. So much was good advice, and Mormons seemed quite conﬁdent this too would pass. Atypical for a city of its size, Salt Lake was home to no fewer than ﬁve Englishlanguage papers distributed at least weekly, the Deseret News, Daily Herald, Utah Journal, Salt Lake Tribune, Utah Democrat, and the Christian Advocate (described by the Deseret News editor with inimitable 19th century vigor: “That most un-Christian and ungrammatical publication called the Christian Advocate still lingers out a miserable existence and fulminates weak sophisms against ‘Mormonism’ and the ‘Mormons.’ . . . As a compound of ignorance, mendacity, ungrammatical sentences and horrible spelling, in poor type badly made up, the Anti-‘Christian Advocate’ is a model anti-‘Mormon’ apology for a public paper” DN n.d., entry dated 2.13.1885). The LDS Church owned all or partial shares of the ﬁrst three on the above list, while the Tribune, known for more colorful reporting, was blamed for inﬂaming anti-Mormon sentiment in the east by way of their Associated Press syndication. Stories published in Salt Lake might circulate in other territorial papers, and reports of spies in the (northerly) Ogden Herald or the Territorial Inquirer (in southerly Provo) might ﬁnd their way to pages of the Salt Lake papers. Any event could generate multiple representations hierarchically arrayed along a scale of spatial, temporal and personal generality (or indexical detachment, i.e., typiﬁcation). One supposed spy might appear vicariously in several newspapers in various guises, and be rendered with any degree of speciﬁcity of place and time. By spring of 1885 newspapers reported spies regularly: they sported an ever more ingeniously layered repertoire of motives and guises. A letter from “Observer” to the editor of the Deseret News presented a lengthy homily on the raids (DN n.d., entry dated 3.12.1885). “I ﬁnd in most of the settlements a class of people who are termed ‘soreheads,’ mostly apostates from the Church,” he surmised, “who have seemingly been nursing their wrath for years, and now they have an opportunity, how gladly they embrace it, to tell something against their neighbors, and in very many instances these are their best friends.” The Daily Herald (DH) described another: the gentlemen caller (DH n.d., entry dated 3.29.1885). After a paragraph-long description of “Eveline Van Damn”—her “ﬁgure” with “Hebe or Shebe-like outlines,” her hair like “Niagara Falls” around shoulders “whose rotundity and shapeliness are beyond the comprehension or too close examination of man”—the article introduced the beautiful rogue Endymion O’Toole with an equally romantic and allusively mythical description. It details imaginatively how O’Toole beguiled Eveline by moonlight, and the next evening called on her at home. He was introduced to her family, and once named promptly served them all subpoenas after shouting, “Wherefore fail not! I am a deputy.” We are then told that one of the wives seized a broomstick and served him with “something harder.” The report of O’Toole’s trick was generalized in a later article (presented below) to warn of a class of “gentlemen” agents.
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Mormon newspapers increasingly offered vague directions for discerning potential spies. The April 17 edition of the Territorial Inquirer (TI) speculated:
In the ﬁrst place, a bait of $200 is thrown out for anyone giving reliable information . . . The bait is nibbled at by some one who thinks he knows something of a certain family and begins by quizzing around, or if a relative, gives direct information . . . [TI n.d., entry dated 4.17.1885].
Note that “someone who thinks he knows something of a certain family,” possibly the least selective and veriﬁable of criteria, is now regarded as sponsoring candidates for spotterhood. In a similar spirit of speculation, two important articles appeared in early May 1885, published within three days of each other. The ﬁrst, from the Ogden Herald (OH), began,
We do not know that the report is true that several sneaks, spies or ‘spotters’ have been and are engaged in prying into the domestic affairs of certain residents of Ogden and vicinity, but it is safe to assume that such is the case, as this is the identical course which the rabid anti-‘Mormons’ have pursued in Salt Lake County and elsewhere in Utah. So we deem it a duty to caution the public against these sneaking gentry [OH n.d., entry dated 5.5.1885].
Continuing, the article listed four personas registered to increasingly indeﬁnite, interactionally relative signs. First, in a repeat of an earlier article, “they visit residences of citizens in the guise of peddlers; on some occasions they question children on the streets, and then again we have been told they lurk about private residences at night.” Could an enemy be more circumspect, more covert? The report continued,
There is still another class of spies that are perhaps far more dangerous and debased than any that we have yet named; we refer to resident informers. We understand . . . that certain disappointed local anti-‘Mormons’ have threatened to ‘give away’ their neighbors . . . It is the purpose of these local informers to furnish ‘pointers’ secretly to the marshals.
The article advised, “Everyone who has any self respect or any interests at stake will ﬁnd it wisest in the end to maintain ‘armed neutrality’ and tend strictly to his own affairs. . . .” This strategy, however, did nothing to conﬁrm or refute suspicions regarding spies and spotters. Indeed, as later materials evidence, “armed neutrality” sometimes had the tragicomic effect of rendering perfectly harmless Mormons suggestive of enemies lurking about. Three days later the Territorial Inquirer caught spotter fever and under the title “Mind your own business,” listed more agents of surveillance (TI n.d., entry dated 5.8.1885). “If the report be true,” it began similarly disclaiming verity and identifying with the reader, “that we are beset in Provo by . . . ‘sneaks and spotters,’ it would be right for the people to heed well the heading we have given this article.” It then referred to other unnamed reports in papers of the “different guises” taken on by spotters, such as “mendicants,” “peddlers,” “spies, going about at night and peeping in windows,” and added a new, more covert one based on the O’Toole strategy: “gentlemen—think of it!—seeking to ingratiate themselves into your society.” Finally, it addressed “those spies who dwell in our midst,” thus anchoring the possibility of spies on the very body of readers (but not, of course, addressing readers as spies). Newspapers as nonperson speakers neglected the otherwise necessary duty to “mind your own business.” Falling under the blanket “Mormon Creed,” said to consist solely of “mind your own business,” readers hoping to avoid surveillance and capture were told to avoid interactions altogether, and to practice various forms of misdirection, to deﬂect inquiry as much as possible, to dissemble and when pressed, prevaricate (“Lying for the Lord”). In short, vacate oneself from addresses regarded as impertinent. And to be safe, Mormons were told to absent others as well. During dinner following a sermon, for instance, Jesse Smith reported that “Bro[ther] Snow said the underground is being extended,” and so, “it is not always wise to announce who is on board . . . Don’t be too anxious to ﬁnd out everybody’s secrets or to know who arrives on the underground
The Masque of Undergrounder and Spy
railroad” (J. N. Smith n.d., entry dated 5.17.1886). After working his ﬁelds all day, John Bushman attended a meeting led by the same Erastus Snow, during which Snow “showed the harm that might be done by writing about our friends,” and that caution included, ﬁttingly, diary entries (Bushman n.d., entry dated 4.20.1886). Undergrounders ﬂeeing Utah, Idaho, and Arizona territories relied on letters to communicate, and occasionally included newspaper clippings and reports. It was supposed, not surprisingly, that marshals controlled post ofﬁces. George Reynolds once surmised that, “With regard to the opening of mails there are strong suspicions that they are tampered with by some one after they leave our hands, but as yet we have not positive evidence in that direction. How do your letters appear?” (J. F. Smith n.d., entry dated 5.11.1885). Add to the suspicion the random misaddressed letter, delays in transport, lazy couriers, frequent movement of senders and addressees, unreliable transportation, and so on, and one could easily infer tampering by virtue of incongruence between expected and realized results. Smith replied from his refuge on the Sandwich Islands that indeed he suspected tampering, and Reynolds’s communications thereafter become even more extra-textually anchored, once directing Smith to ask the delivery man about “Our friend in Provo,” for example. By 1886 Reynolds was scrawling “Bro Jason” or “Elder Jason Mack” on envelopes delivered to Joseph F. Smith, literally absenting him from address. The effect of concealment practiced, enjoined or presumed, however, resulted in uncontrolled confusion. By way of speculative reﬂection, one could “discover” some actual or reported person was, maybe, a spy or an undergrounder, for both were said to practice concealment. Spies were to be discussed, yet their targets omitted, and the imagined asymmetry thus warranted even greater discretion. Even friends were confused by these tactics, particularly when elite undergrounders were involved, as when Sam Bateman, bodyguard of John Taylor (president of the church), left a hideout to retrieve the day’s mail and George Q. Cannon. He spotted a wagon in the distance at the appointed exchange place, and “turned and hailed them but they would not stop and drove faster. I was sure it was they, but did not know, so on I went after them and drove past them, hailed them again, but on they went.” The covert transfer of Cannon from one wagon to another had turned into a chase, and “By this time they had loaded their shot guns. I got ahead of them and got them between me and the fence and stopped them. Then they found out who I was,” he concluded happily, “then we had a big laugh” (Bateman n.d., entry dated 1.19.1887). Mormons were evading each other, enacting by virtue of concealment the possible persona of a spy to the other’s relative uptake of undergrounder. They were beyond the gaze of empiricism, and now ventured into the imagination. The underground and its spy and undergrounder, in short, were highly and almost exclusively speculated (or, in a Peircean sense, abduced) into being. And that effect realized the Supreme Court’s declaration that belief was real, real enough for religious folks if not for the state; and so much so that one could be imprisoned because someone “believed” an alleged cohab had convinced them they were secretly living “in the marriage relation,” and testiﬁed thusly in court. Dependent Personhood and Paranoia Located in the open visual terrain of Utah Territory, with its high mountain ranges overlooking ﬂat desert valleys planted with scrub and a few trees; highly geometric, sparse and irregular gaslamp to light public space; and a general poverty of photographic icons of persons wanted or unwanted, an undergrounder’s imagination could freely populate a geography of generic observers and of the observed. The night had yet to be pushed into governance by institutions serving the state (see Otter 2008 on the convergence of ophthalmology, urban design, and electriﬁcation in 19th century Britain). Because of that patchy dark, reversing the manner Bentham’s “panoptic mechanism arranges spatial unities that make it possible to see constantly and to recognize immediately” (Foucault 1979:200), the undergrounder matured under the
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imagined gaze of shadowed spies and spotters. He fabricated an analog of panopticism, which “reverses the principle of the dungeon . . . Full lighting and the eye of the supervisor capture better than darkness, which ultimately is protected. Visibility is a trap” (Foucault 1979:200). The wider semiotic darkness reigned, the more expansive the possibilities for unseen observers. The spectacle, in this case, of platforms for observed and not observed, was scaffolded on abductive guesswork that bridged dependent social relations: one couldn’t be certain a spy wasn’t recording one’s deeds, listening in on a conversation, waiting around the corner. Such abductions located the guesser at the center of a semiotic imaginary. Diarists suggest by frequent report of observation an emerging paranoia, an overwhelming of the actual and indexically palpable by questions posed to the undergrounder from the horizon of the possible. “Our enemies are on the track of every one that are in polygamy,” Enoch Tripp wrote in early 1885. He admitted, “As I have fears I think it wisdom that I should hide up for a short time for there is nothing but what our enemies are mean enough to do for the Devil knows that his time is short and he is now doing his best” (Tripp n.d., entry dated 2.5.1885). Mormon apostle Wilford Woodruff, similarly wrote that “We are living in Perilous times. No man who obeys the Patriarchal Law of Marriage is safe. I am informed that ofﬁcers are after me” (Woodruff 1985, vol. 8:298). The raids, actual or imagined, demanded “we like scores of others to make for the City of refuge. There is hardly a leading Man in Utah that Can Walk the Streets of Salt Lake in safety. Marshals are after him because He had obeyed the Patriarchal Law of Marriage” (Woodruff 1985, vol. 8:303). By Spring 1885 the entire territory seemed to suffer the the all-seeing eye of federal authority. Yet the widely reported speculation that federal agents tracked all Mormons is, perceived from hindsight, empirically indefensible. Mail and its carriers circulated warnings as reliable as those reported in delivered newspapers (and for a few elites hiding in Mormon temples, telegraphs and sometimes even telephones were employed as relays). Wilford Woodruff was positively panicked in southern Utah when a “Mail Carrier brought word that there were 6 men camped at the Beaver Dam that looked like ofﬁcers, so Miron Abbot took me down to the Bank of the Virgin River where I made my Camp & Spent the day. I shot 2 ducks. Read the Deseret News. The 6 Men passed through the town without Stopping about 1 o’clock on the way to California” (Woodruff 1985, entry dated 3.17.1885). A week after this he wrote of receiving “word last night that Marshals were searching Emma & Delight’s Houses to subpoena them before the Grand Jury but they Both had hid up.” While in southern Utah he holed up at the home of a young couple, wearing “mother hubbard” dresses while hunting ducks or ﬁshing. The young wife later reported, “We were a newly married couple and were happy to have [Woodruff] stay with us. But we had some very suspicious neighbors, who suspected that someone was staying with us. These neighbors managed to send over to borrow this and that, almost everything we had in the house, to try to get a glimpse of our company” (Emma Squire Little, n.d.). Before ﬂeeing again he came across a woman “big in the family way,” and during dinner happened to asked about the father, to which she replied in ﬁne underground manner, “That is hardly a fair question, is it, Brother Woodruff?” (Tanner 1983:111). Woodruff’s friends supplied by report and letter no shortage of advice, for they “Believed that my Enemies were on my track that Marshal Brooks had returned from Salt Lake with two Marshals with him and that they were after me so I left Henrys House & went & spent the night with Bishop Harry J Glines. I spent the night alone” (Woodruff 1985, entry dated 6.20.1886). The following day another well-informed friend warned he “was Thoroughly Satisﬁed that Marshal Brooks & Co was after me” (Woodruff 1985, entry dated 6.21.1886). Again no entries after this date indicate that Brooks or Company ventured near, though Woodruff (never actually arrested) acted as if agents dogged his trail. Discontinuous distribution of abductions concerning spies, their easy generation and obligation to circulate “just in case” as warnings, and their constant buttressing of panoptic alignments, made renunciation of the law’s addressivity, erected on one’s own person, nearly
The Masque of Undergrounder and Spy
impossible. A scene of underground life portrayed by diarist Christopher Arthur captures the dynamic. After reading a letter from his pal Murdock, himself in exile, which warned him of approaching danger, he then opened the Deseret News and read about several arrests and sentences for U.C. That is, “Until I was interrupted by one next door neighbor coming to the door; when Jane & I slipped into the next room, put on coats, shawl and hats, and took a stroll” (Arthur n.d., entry dated 4.24.1886). Gone nearly an hour, they returned safely to ﬁnd the “troublesome neighbors had gone and I read for an hour before retiring the D. News.” Encouraging a shared paranoia, Mormon communities established early warning systems. A southern Utah town employed young men dressed as stereotypic Indians (Kanab Stake Record Book), and a northern Utah-Idaho border town assigned men to blow an alpine horn whenever federal agents were seen or suspected. Enunciated by younger men unfamiliar with prominent polygamists, such alerts ramped up paranoia by addressing entire valleys. It was readily apparent, not surprisingly, to any undergrounder that folks often ﬂed due to false alarms. Cohab Alonzo Kimball wrote that “time is quite lively as every stranger who comes into town is an imaginary marshal” (Kimball n.d., entry dated 7.13.1888). And again, when traveling to his own trial, Kimball and his party gave a local leader “a scare as we were taken for US deps, as Marshal McLellan had searched the house in the morning. Running has become so common it is no fun for those who run or those who see it” (Kimball n.d., entry dated 8.13.1888). Though himself quite prominent in the territory, Angus Cannon, son of George Q. Cannon, similarly reported that “I drove to Herriman by way of Bingham Canyon, by mistake. I was suspected of being a deputy marshal by the people, but was hospitably entertained by bro. Henry Tempest and his kind family” (Cannon n.d., entry dated 5.18.1886). Even Woodruff recognized that not all warnings were accurate, as when he met his wife Emma and “Brother Thompson was with us & Stood guard And from a false alarm I left the House & went with Asahel to the Creek but returned and took Supper & done our business” (Woodruff 1985, entry dated 10.25.1886). Church President John Taylor, in exile since early 1885, was warned of deputies almost weekly. His bodyguard, Sam Bateman, reports concerning one warning, “I told Danny I did not think there was a word of truth in the report.” And although after sunrise the diarist’s brother “came and brought the news we were not to move. It was a false report,” another messenger arrived “just before two o’clock with the same news, so we went to Bro Wooley’s” (Bateman n.d., entry dated 10.12.1886). At no point, however, did such awareness make him or other undergrounders less circumspect, less self-aware. What could provide such refuge? Undergrounders did play with the assumption of concealment, a troping which indicates its relative stability among undergrounders and their interlocutors. John Whittaker (then unmarried) was courting President Taylor’s daughter Ida, who was rumored herself to have secretly wed at one of the exclusive “underground dances” conducted in the dark corners of Salt Lake valley. “I well was tested several times while working in the historian ofﬁce,” he admitted, for, “Francis Lyman or Angus M. Cannon would sometimes come up behind me, put their arms on my shoulder, look toward the Gardo house and tease me by saying, ‘brother John, how do you know that Ida is not already married to some of the authorities?’” (Whittaker, n.d.:7). Whittaker later reported he “was badly frightened this morning while working at the Historian’s Ofﬁce, when I saw a strange man, whom I thought was a deputy marshal, wandering around outside.” Whittaker explains, “Later [the stranger] came in to the ofﬁce to be set apart as a missionary, and had been waiting for his friends . . . These are strange and trying hours. One is not conscious of the next upset, change, or trial, or what is going to happen next” (Whittaker n.d., entry dated 4.13.1886). Despite his status, Whittaker was concerned about the supposed deputy: as the temporary headquarters of the church, the Gardo house offered brief refuge for others in exile. Like the body of the undergrounder, it located all passersby on a topography of suspicion. With each false alarm one’s state as an addressee of the law was thus paradoxically conﬁrmed. As one diarist reﬂected one evening after hearing a knock at his door after
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midnight, “I experienced so much of the horrors of arrest and in such a realistic style as to bring me face to face, as it were, with the reality itself” (Jones n.d., entry dated 2.28.1887). It was only the landlady looking for her husband, a bibulous laggard last seen before noon. Later Jones dined with another reliable old Mormon. Other acquaintances called, and the conversation turned to questions about the whereabouts of Brother Albert Jones. Jones himself “could scarcely get the saucer up to my lips through my agitations,” fearing he would be revealed. Triangulated by constant address into near revelation of a concealed identity, “My position as an exile in hiding,” Jones reﬂected, “was forced upon me in a telling manner, that I feel it keenly” (Jones n.d., entry dated 8.18.1887). The surface of signs had become less real than the suggested concealments; power to create a subject was in play. Hence, a semiotic realm where all is concealed and doubted, like Descartes (1951) meditating upon all corporeal nature, invites the interpreter to step into the center as Prime Mover. “A boy came and asked Edward and the children if we had any fat calves,” Sam Bateman reported, “if we had, to keep them and Bishop Holdmon would come down to see them.” A seemingly innocuous request, until “Rube Gardner met [Edward] and asked him if he knew whether he understood what the boy meant. He said, ‘Does it mean deputies?’ and he said yes.” Bateman now realized upon reﬂection, “I was the fat calf and I had better get somewhere for the deps were coming” (Bateman n.d., entry dated 12.13.1886). The discursive taboo concerning undergrounders paradoxically invited each to step in as the covert referent of every utterance, just as they were the target of the spotter’s conniving. Like dissipating paranoids balanced on an envelope above history and yet inside its momentum, trapped in chronotopes not of their making like protagonists from a Thomas Pynchon novel (S. Smith 2005), 19th century Mormons would weave a tangle of newspapers, letters, and oral reports into a new subjectivity. “Power has its principle,” Foucault some time ago pointed out, “not so much in a person as in a certain concerted distribution of bodies, surfaces, lights, gazes; in an arrangement whose internal mechanisms produce the relation in which individuals are caught up” (1979:202). Arrayed only allusively, across mass-circulated texts, personal correspondences, speculative rumor, and suspicious interactions, an imagined surveillance provided the triangulated pivot around which an underground, with its coordinated subjects, was raised. And suspicion that signs ran incongruent to the true—that an undergrounder could spy, that all words carried codes—splintered the resistance.
Conclusion “A real subjection,” Foucault notes, “is born mechanically from a ﬁctitious relation. So it is not necessary to use force to constrain the convict to good behavior, the madman to calm, the worker to work” (1979:202), or, as it was then said, the Mormon to “monog.” Carried on the body of the undergrounder was the ever-present interlocutor of the spy. Centering spies relative to every interaction; imaginatively dogging the “cohab” turned undergrounder, this resulted from the reﬂexive framing of his person as able to conduct surveillance without himself (or herself; female spotters were rumored) being subject to observation. This imagined asymmetry mirrored discursive reality. Just as the Panopticon “is so subtly present in them as to increase their efﬁciency by itself increasing its own points of contact” (1979:206), so would ceaseless address by legal agents deny escape from what one conjured simply by being. This arrangement of ceaseless addressivity by way of errant and unregulated abduction was easily decontextualized as an identity, though because a dependent relation, a subjectivity followed. The interlocking media and interactively realized addressees seemed resistant to invalidation by way of systemic recognition (say, by taking a God’s eye view), and conspired against Mormons to make refusal or reconsideration of the underground a reckoning beyond any compass. Like Bishop Berkeley’s all-watching
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deity, by whose omnipresence the accidental essences of the cosmos are guaranteed a secure and lawful existence, what was once a question of address was transmuted into a stable ontology. Soon to be ideal citizens, ever bearers of rights to property and to that speech event called contract, Mormons exiled themselves within, as Foucault describes modern individuals, “the panoptic machine, invested by its effects of power, which we bring to ourselves since we are part of its mechanism” (1979:217). By the 1930s two distinct Mormon groups emerged, and schismogenesis (Bateson 2000) easily concealed the previous historical rupture. The newly antipolygamist LDS Church made itself responsive and known to the nation-state by embracing a regime of public relations, mass media communications (“To whom it may concern”), statistics, and corporate capitalism. Largely absent until the recent raids (Bradley 1993), and yet present to conduct the dialectic of concealment (Embry 1987; Bennion 1998), Fundamentalist Mormons summoned a historicized posture on a lattice-work of communal economy, oral history, “pioneer” dress, and, of course, polygyny. Notes
Acknowledgments. The author wishes to thank three anonymous reviewers for their excellent suggestions and guidance, Luke Fleming and Asif Agha for insightful readings of earlier drafts, and the Wenner-Gren Foundation for ﬁnancial support during collection of archival materials. 1. The abductions that concern this essay, namely guesses, differ from another of Peirce’s species of abductive reasoning, hypothesis, because they remain unveriﬁable for various reasons: they concern an indeﬁnite future, an abstraction, a past poorly recorded, or that which is by deﬁnition hidden. In rare idealist moments Peirce sometimes joined the two species (see Fann 1970), confusing what is with what semiosis should strive for, thus refusing to grant “musement” or guess exemption from the dictum to not block the walls of inquiry; in this case, by asserting an empirical, perhaps pragmatic dead-end. 2. Mormons on the run were presented with three options. First, they might serve a church mission, probably to Europe. Roughly 250 men were sent annually for one to three years of proselytizing. Second, several hundred families ﬂed to new colonies in Mexico and Canada, but life on these frontiers was harsh, dangerous, of dubious legality, and hardly better than prison. Third, they could enter what was now widely called the underground. I estimate approximately 20,000 to 30,000 men, women, and children were candidates for entry, with perhaps a third of these “underground” at any particular time. One could be underground simply by veiling one’s identity through various physical and discursive means, however, so it is impossible to count actual participants; they are beyond any census, of course. By contrast, there were only a handful of marshals, approximately 10 to 20 deputies. Of course, the problem rests on the unknown number of “other” agents. Their role in arrests was minor, in fact, as they could not serve warrants. Court testimonies required only that someone “thought” it was “thought” by someone that a defendant was “holding out” to public scandal another in something like a marital relation. Evidentiary standards were entirely abandoned (Firmage and Mangrum 2000), thereby, and so spies who could testify of witnessed, covert marital relations were in fact quite superﬂuous from a legal perspective. 3. Reports, that is, among Mormon speakers/writers. It remains an open question whether federal agents obsessed about undergrounders, and a question admittedly beyond the answering of this essay.
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