“Courage in the face of adversity” — Elder John Taylor defies a mob
Late in the year 1837, Elder John Taylor and some missionary companions were traveling from Kirtland, Ohio to Far West, Missouri. During this journey, the
following incident occurred:
“Near Columbus, the capital of Ohio, they (Elder Taylor and his traveling companions) stayed at a town where a number of brethren resided, and all were anxious to hear Elder Taylor preach. As they had no hall, it was arranged that he should speak in the open air.
A little before meeting time, a number of the brethren came running to the house where Elder Taylor was staying with the information that the whole town was gathering and that a number of men had proposed tar and feathers, and boasted they would dress him with them if he undertook to preach. The brethren advised him not to attempt it as they were not strong enough to protect him. After a moment’s reflection, however, he decided to go and preach. The brethren remonstrated; they knew the tar and feathers were prepared and that he could not escape. He replied that he had made up his mind to go; they could go with him if they chose, if not, he would go alone.
A very large concourse of people had assembled to listen to him. He began his remarks by informing them that he had recently come from Canada – a land under monarchical rule; that standing as he then did on free soil, among free men, he experienced peculiar sensations.
‘Gentlemen, I now stand among men whose fathers fought for and obtained one of the greatest blessings ever conferred upon the human family – the right to think, to speak, to write; the right to say who shall govern them, and the right to worship God according to the dictates of their own consciences – all of them sacred, human rights, and now guaranteed by the American Constitution. I see around me the sons of those noble sires, who, rather then bow to the behest of a tyrant, pledged their lives, fortunes, and sacred honors to burst those fetters, enjoy freedom themselves, bequeath it to their posterity, or die in the attempt.
‘They nobly fought and nobly conquered; and now the cap of liberty is elevated on the tops of your liberty poles throughout the land, and the flag of freedom waves from Wisconsin to Louisiana – from Maine to Missouri. Not only so, but your vessels – foremost in the world – sail over oceans, seas and bays, visiting every nation, and wherever those vessels go your flag flutters in the breeze, a hope is inspired among the down-trodden millions, that they, perchance if they cannot find
liberty in their own land, may find it with you.
‘Gentlemen, with you liberty is more than a name; it is incorporated in your system; it is proclaimed by your senators, thundered by your cannon, lisped by your infants, taught to your schoolboys; it echoes from mountain to mountain, reverberates through your valleys, and is whispered by every breeze. Is it any wonder, gentlemen, under these circumstances – having lately emerged from a monarchical government, that I should experience peculiar sensations in rising to address you?
‘But, by the by, I have been informed that you purpose to tar and feather me, for my religious opinions. Is this the boon you have inherited from your fathers? Is this the blessing they purchased with their dearest hearts’ blood – this is your liberty? If so, you now have a victim, and we will have an offering to the goddess of
liberty.’ At this point he tore open his vest and said, ‘Gentlemen, come on with your tar and feathers, your victim is ready; and ye shades of the venerable patriots, gaze upon the deeds of your degenerate sons! Come on, gentlemen! Come on, I say, I am ready!’
No one moved; no one spoke. He stood there drawn to his full height, calm but defiant – the master of the situation.
After a pause of some moments, he continued his remarks and preached with great boldness and power for some three hours. The mob had been awed into silence by the boldness of Elder Taylor.”
— The Life of John Taylor, by Brigham H. Roberts,