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After ten years spent in travelling for a purely scientific purpose, I returned for a short time to my native country, to take a little rest, and prepare for other enterprises which I had yet to accomplish. The time thus at my disposal was too short to make it possible for me to publish a full and elaborate work. The arrangement of the materials I had collected relating to Polynesia alone, to confine myself to one point only of my investigations, would have required more leisure than I could afford.
I was unwilling, however, to leave Europe without rendering an account of at least one portion of my
distant wanderings. I had abundance to choose from, and my choice was soon made. The works published on Mormonism and the Mormons are so overloaded with inaccuracies, or rather with misrepresentations, that I thought it a good subject to
treat, especially as it was one I could approach with a confidence all the greater from my having had the opportunity of studying, in their very homes, these new religionists, whose singular principles have attracted so much attention of late years, in spite of the important events which have occurred on this side of the Atlantic, and so much engrossed public attention.
It is this portion I now propose to publish. Science, so justly fastidious, will perhaps find in it but little worthy of notice, and the moralist may regret that the history of this singular people should not have been written by a more experienced hand. It occurred to me, however, that the naturalist might not disdain to give a passing glance at a sketch, which is scrupulously correct, of places which were yet unexplored, or only imperfectly examined; and that the man whose pleasure it is to look on the drama of human affairs, will not see without interest the scene of a political and religious society which, once Christian and free, has broken away from Christianity and liberty, to make the experiment of living under new and radically different conditions of social existence.
The greater part of the matter contained in the following work, was written from day to day, often in the open air, upon the slopes or the crests of mountains, in the heart of
deserts, amid the occupations and frequently the perils which are the necessary accompaniments of so long a journey, and must no doubt bear traces of the peculiar circumstances under which it was jotted down. It will therefore, I fear, be devoid of that literary finish on which so just a value is placed; but it struck me that, however defective it may be in form, this will be fully compensated for by its accuracy.
The truth, so often perverted, will be vindicated in this work. Of those who have written on the Mormons, by far the greater number have derived their information from sources little to be relied on. The historians and travellers who have been their guides, have either never inspected the facts on the spot, or have looked at them from the point of view of their own foregone opinions, and too often of their passions. I have had the advantage of seeing with my own eyes, and my readers, I hope, will be sensible of it. Free, moreover, as far as I am aware, from all prejudice, I am able to affirm that I have contemplated the moral side of the picture with the same eye and the same impartiality as I have the physical side. The good and the bad have been exhibited ; but if I correct erroneous opinions, I am far from offering myself as an apologist. It is the consciousness of this sincerity and impartiality which has
inspired me with some confidence, and imparted to me the desire of presenting myself before the public. With serious and earnest men, truth is always the first of considerations, and it is for such I write.
Paris, August, 1860.
OF THE FIRST VOLUME.