'Some Savage Tribe': Race, Legal Violence, and the Mormon War of 1838

Journal of Mormon History, Vol. 40, Iss. 1 (Winter 2014)

33 Pages Posted: 24 Mar 2013 Last revised: 22 Jan 2014

See all articles by Thomas Frampton

Thomas Frampton

University of Virginia School of Law

Date Written: March 18, 2013

Abstract

This paper argues for a reinterpretation of the Mormon War of 1838, during which the governor of the State of Missouri issued a formal order to "exterminate" approximately 10,000 Mormon men, women, and children. It argues that the politics of race – largely overlooked in most accounts of the hostilities – were central to the conflict on a variety of levels: fears of racial violence, stoked by perceived Mormon sympathy toward Native Americans and abolitionism, helped give rise to the conflict; Mormons gradually became racially recast as non-white leading up to the Extermination Order; and, curiously, Missourians frequently engaged in "racial masking" (wearing red and black face paint) when engaged in hostilities. It concludes by arguing that the event is significant not only as a formative moment in the history of the Mormon Church, but also as a window into the intersection of law, race, and violence on the American frontier.

Keywords: Race, Violence, Law, Frontier, Mormon War of 1838

Suggested Citation

Frampton, Thomas, 'Some Savage Tribe': Race, Legal Violence, and the Mormon War of 1838 (March 18, 2013). Journal of Mormon History, Vol. 40, Iss. 1 (Winter 2014), Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2235206

Thomas Frampton (Contact Author)

University of Virginia School of Law ( email )

580 Massie Road
Charlottesville, VA 22903

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