Edmunds Act

Edmunds Act

The Edmunds Act, is United States federal legislation, signed into law on March 23, 1882, declaring polygamy a felony. The act not only reinforced the 1862 Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act but also revoked the polygamists right to vote, made them ineligible for jury service, and prohibited them from holding political office.

The law was applied in an apparently "ex post facto" manner; that is, polygamists were charged for polygamist marriages solemnized before passage of the statute. A constitutional challenge to the statute was framed on these and other grounds. The Supreme Court ruled in "Murphy v. Ramsey", ussc|114|15|1885, that the statute was not "ex post facto" because convicts were charged for their continued cohabitation, not for the prior illegal marriage . Modern scholarship suggests the law may be unconstitutional for being in violation of the Free Exercise Clause. [cite web| title =THE PRACTICE OF POLYGAMY: LEGITIMATE FREE EXERCISE OF RELIGION OR LEGITIMATE PUBLIC MENACE? REVISITING REYNOLDS IN LIGHT OF MODERN CONSTITUTIONAL JURISPRUDENCE| url =http://www.law.nyu.edu/journals/legislation/articles/vol5num1/vazquez.pdf| accessdate = 2008-02-04 ]

These restrictions were enforced regardless of whether an individual was actually practicing polygamy, or merely believed in the Mormon doctrine of plural marriage without actually participating in it.

All elected offices in the Utah Territory were vacated, an election board was formed to issue certificates to those who both denied polygamy and did not practice it, and new elections were held territory-wide.


* Rudger Clawson — August 1882 — a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles who was the first person convicted. He was pardoned by President Grover Cleveland mere months before his sentence was going to expire.
* William J. Flake — 1883 — one of the founders of Snowflake, Arizona, who married his second wife in 1868. Was imprisoned in the Yuma Territorial Prison in 1883. After his release, when asked which of his wives he was going to give up, he replied, "Neither. I married both in good faith and intended to support both of them." As he had already served his sentence, he could not be retried on the same charges.
* Abraham H. Cannon — 1886 — a member of the First Council of the Seventy of the Church and son of Apostle George Q. Cannon. Cannon as convicted of unlawful cohabitation in 1886 and sentenced to six months' imprisonment, which he served in full. In 1889 he became an Apostle of the LDS church.

ee also

*1838 Mormon War (1838 Missouri)
*Extermination Order (1838 Missouri)
*Illinois Mormon War (1844-1845)
*Mormon Exodus (1846-1857)
*Utah War (1857-1858)
*Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act (1862)
*Poland Act (1874)
*"Reynolds v. United States" (1879)
*Edmunds-Tucker Act (1887)
*"Mormon Church v. United States" (1890)
*1890 Manifesto
*Smoot Hearings (1903-1907)
*Second Manifesto (1904)
*History of civil marriage in the U.S.
*George F. Edmunds
*ex post facto law


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