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chapter 5 “They Can Not Exist in Contact with Republican Institutions” Consent, Contract, and Citizenship under “Polygamic Theocracy” In the imaginations of anti-Mormons and many of their contemporaries, the importance of the private sphere to public life could not be overestimated: the virtue, liberty, and very existence of America depended on proper American homes.Earlyon,anti-MormonliteraturetrumpetedthethreatofMormonism to the American home. However, in later decades connecting plural marriage to the destruction of the American home and the practice of plural marriage to theocratic government in Utah was a major tour de force for anti-Mormon literature. Over the 1870s and 1880s, anti-Mormons began concentrating their attentions on showing how the practice of polygamy undermined American citizenship and civic life among the Mormons. In an era historians have called the“ageofcontract,”anti-MormonsarguedthatMormonismrendereditssubjects incapable of free conscience and of participating as free agents in marital orsocialcontracts.Anti-MormonsassertedthatMormonsthereforecouldnot attain the independence, political virtue, and freedom of contract that good republicancitizenshiprequired,andwithoutgoodcitizens,publicgovernment wouldgivewaytopoliticaldespotism.Putsimply,polygamyledtobothmarital and political despotism. Political ethicist Nancy Rosenblum provides a useful conceptual window throughwhichtoviewhowanti-Mormonsunderstoodthewayspluralmarriage underminedrepublicangovernment.Shearguesthatformanydemocratictheorists , “appropriately ordered intimate relations reinforce democracy.” In some Talbot_Text.indd 105 9/5/13 8:49 AM 106 chapter 5 veins of American political theory, to which anti-Mormons ascribed, democracy required that the practice of sexuality be in “congruence with democratic principles.”1 Nineteenth-century anti-Mormons argued that monogamy gave rise to democratic impulses, while polygamy, in the words of Supreme Court Chief Justice Morrison R. Waite, “fetters the people in stationary despotism.”2 Polygamy, the logic followed, was not “democratic sex.” This chapter traces the complex logics through which polygamy came to be understood as fundamentallyopposedtotheinstitutionsofAmericangovernment .Anti-Mormons drew heavily on the legal principles of contract and consent to spell out the direconsequencesofpolygamicmarriagetoAmericaninstitutionsandtoshow that Mormonism was incompatible with Americanness. Women and Men in the Age of Contract Legal historians have called the latter half of the nineteenth century the age of contract; the concepts of contract and consent were “so closely identified at mid-century with freedom and civic responsibility that lack of consent proved thelackoffreedom.”3 Americansconceptualizedfreedomasthelibertyofselfgovernmentidentifiedbytherightofconsenttosocial ,property,andmarriage contracts. An individual’s degree of autonomy was marked by his self-ownership , that is, his freedom to contract without outside influence or coercion.4 ThesocialcontracttheorythatgroundedAmericangovernmentconceived subjectsofthemodernstateasacreationofconsentandcontractbetweenindividuals .Asformulatedinclassicalpoliticaltheory,“the‘individual’isauniversal category that (in principle) includes everyone,” a category marked by liberty, independence, and equality.5 Several scholars have pointed out that the legal conceptoftheindividualwasnotactuallyall-inclusive.CarolePateman,Linda K. Kerber, and Carroll Smith-Rosenberg, among others, have shown that the category and its liberating potential was limited to propertied white men and remained so well into the nineteenth century.6 By the end of the Civil War, however, the property restrictions had all but disappeared, and in their place was the ownership of the self and the ability to sell one’s labor. Self-ownership replaced property ownership in constituting a citizen’s public interest. At the same time, the idea of separate spheres prescribed that individual autonomy, as expressed in the right to contract and in the nature of consent, was still a gendered concept. Men’s liberty rested in consent to labor and social contracts, and women’s liberty lay in consent to the marital contract. A woman (in theory) consented to contract with a husband who (theoretically) developedhisindividualautonomyintheprivatesphereandexpresseditinthe Talbot_Text.indd 106 9/5/13 8:49 AM 107 Consent, Contract, and Citizenship political and economic contracts that upheld life outside the home. Women’s maritalconsentconstitutedherpoliticalconsenttoherhusband’sparticipation (not her own) in social and economic contracts.7 In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, ideas about the state and the family often functioned symbiotically, the one always shaping the other. In classicalsocialcontracttheory,thefamilymostoftenfunctionedinthreeways: in partnership with the state, as a metaphor for the state, and as a kind of state in miniature. If the state was like a family, the family should be like the state, thatis,asocialcontractbetweenequals.Assuch,thebroadeighteenth-century shifts from patriarchy to republicanism were accompanied by a shift in family models from patriarchal to what some historians have called the democratic or contractual family.8 This new companionate model of family bolstered the connections nineteenth-century Americans made between social and marital contracts. The model constituted the family as a unity of shared, common interest and recast women’s consent to marriage as her consent to government throughherhusband.Byextension,insocialcontracttheory,ahusbandentered the social contract as husband and father in relationship to his own family but as a brother in relationship to his...


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