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1894

Grover Cleveland pardons bigamists, adulterers, polygamists and unlawful cohabitants

On this day in 1894, President Grover Cleveland issues a presidential proclamation pardoning Mormons who had previously engaged in polygamous marriages or habitation arrangements considered unlawful by the U.S. government. At the time, and to this day, plural marriages between one man and multiple women; one woman and multiple men; or multiple men and women are illegal in the United States.

In October 1890, under increasing social and political pressure, the president of the Church of Latter Day Saints (LDS) had issued his own manifesto claiming that Mormons would no longer sanction the practice of polygamous marriage. In 1893, then-President Benjamin Harrison pardoned those Mormons who had been in polygamous marriages on the condition that they and their fellow church members stick to monogamy from then on.

In September 1894, Cleveland decided that convicted polygamists from the Church of LDS had since mended their ways. His proclamation ensured that their property and civil rights, which had been taken away during the government’s efforts to weed out polygamy in the Utah territory, were restored. Still, the U.S. government continued to monitor the Mormon community closely for possible violations of polygamy laws.

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