Philip T. Van Zile scrapbook
L. Tom Perry Special Collections is pleased to announce the availability of a new digitized collection: Philip T. Van Zile scrapbook (MSS SC 81). This is a bound scrapbook, dated 1879-1883, which contains newspaper clippings regarding the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, polygamy, Van Zile’s work as U.S. District Attorney, and other activities that took place in Utah during the early 1880’s. Many items are accompanied by holograph notations by Van Zile. Also includes letters to Van Zile from William M. Thompson and Robert G. McNiece.
Philip Taylor Van Zile (July 20, 1843—October 26, 1917) was a politician and judge from the U.S. state of Michigan. Van Zile was born in Osceola Township, Pennsylvania. After serving in the army during the Civil War, he graduated from law school at the University of Michigan in 1867.
In 1878 Van Zile accepted an appointment to the office of U.S. District Attorney for the Utah Territory from President Rutherford B. Hayes, as authorized by the Poland Act. On April 1, 1878, he resigned as circuit judge and left for Salt Lake City, where he served for nearly six years.
As part of his duties as District Attorney, Van Zile enforced existing anti-Mormon laws, including the Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act and the Poland Act. In 1882 Congress passed the Edmunds Act, which revoked key civil rights from target individuals without trial or due process. Among other things it revoked polygamists’ right to vote, made them ineligible for jury service, and prohibited them from holding political office. This forced the retirement of George Q. Cannon, who had been a delegate in Congress for ten years. Van Zile subsequently lost an 1882 election on the Liberal Party ticket to fill Cannon’s seat in Congress. Of the 33266 registered voters, Van Zile received 4884 votes, while John T. Caine of the Peoples Party received 23039 votes. About 12,000 people were excluded from registering based on suspicion of polygamy.