Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act

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For other Morrill Acts, see Morrill Act

The Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act (37th United States Congress, Sess. 2., ch. 126, 12 Stat. 501) was a federal law addressing Mormons who had moved to Utah and took multiple wives and were buying up much of the land there. President Abraham Lincoln signed the bill into law on July 8, 1862. Sponsored by Justin Smith Morrill of Vermont, the act banned bigamy and limited church and non-profit ownership in any territory of the United States to $50,000.[1]

The act addressed the Mormon practice of plural marriage and the emerging property dominance of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Utah Territory. The law did not allocate funds for enforcement. Because of the Civil War, Lincoln chose not to enforce this law. Instead Lincoln allowed Brigham Young to ignore the Morrill Act in exchange for not becoming involved with the Civil War.[2] General Patrick Edward Connor, commanding officer of the federal forces garrisoned at Fort Douglas, Utah beginning in 1862 was explicitly instructed not to confront the Mormons over this or any other issue.[2]


  1. Statutes at Large, 37th Congress, 2nd Session, page 501. A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: US Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774 - 1875. The Library of Congress. Accessed 18 May 2006.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Firmage, Edwin Brown and Mangrum, Richard Collin (2001). Zion in the courts. University of Illinois Press. ISBN 0-252-06980-3. “Having signed the Morrill Act, Lincoln reportedly compared the Mormon Church to a log he had encountered as a farmer that was "too hard to split, too wet to burn and too heavy to move, so we plow around it. That's what I intend to do with the Mormons. You go back and tell Brigham Young that if he will let me alone, I will let him alone."”