In late 1866, when Salt Lake City attorney Robert Baskin looked down at the mutilated body of a client, he resolved he would do all in his power to increase federal authority in Utah to ensure that perpetrators of such crimes would not go unpunished. He became the Assistant U.S. Attorney, Salt Lake City mayor, and a Utah Supreme Court justice. Through all this, he was seen as a thorn in the side of the Utah establishment. Even so, readers should appreciate his measured tone and lawyerly objectivity, as well as his graceful prose, indicative of a Harvard education, and his solid documentation intended to convince skeptics. After Reminiscences was published in 1914, Baskin sparred with prominent Mormon writer Orson F. Whitney, who suggested that “doubtless the fear, well-founded it seems, that judges would be sent to Utah as an engine of oppression” was the reason for excesses. Baskin countered, “Yes, without doubt it was ‘fear’ that inspired disloyal acts—fear the federal government would send judges here to execute impartiality as the law of the land.”
Brigham D. Madsen is Professor Emeritus of History and past vice president of the University of Utah, recipient of a Distinguished Teacher of the Year Award, as well as the Distinguished Service Award from the Utah Academy of Sciences, Arts, and Letters. He is the author of Glory Hunter: A Biography of Patrick Edward Connor (Utah State Historical Society Best Military History Award), North to Montana! Jehus, Bullwhackers, and Mule Skinners on the Montana Trail (Westerners International Best Book Award), The Shoshoni Frontier and the Bear River Massacre (Westerners International Best Book Award), Studies of the Book of Mormon (John Whitmer Historical Association Best Book Award), and other volumes, including his own popular autobiography, Against the Grain: Memoirs of a Western Historian.