UNDER THE PROPHET IN UTAH
The National Menace of a Political Priestcraft
By Frank J. Cannon
Formerly United States Senator from Utah
Harvey J. O'Higgins
Author "The Smoke-Eaters," "Don-a-Dreams," etc.
Note Introduction Foreword I In the Days of the Raid II On a Mission to Washington III Without a Country IV The Manifesto V On the Road to Freedom VI The Goal—and After VII The First Betrayals VIII The Church and the Interests IX At the Crossways X On the Downward Path XI The Will of the Lord XII The Conspiracy Completed. XIII The Smoot Exposure XIV Treason Triumphant XV The Struggle for Liberty XVI The Price of Protest XVII The New Polygamy XVIII The Prophet of Mammon XIX The Subjects of the Kingdom XX Conclusion
When Harvey J. O'Higgins was in Denver, in the spring of 1910, working with Judge Ben B. Lindsey on the manuscript of "The Beast and the Jungle," for Everybody's Magazine, he met the Hon. Frank J. Cannon, formerly United States Senator from Utah, and heard from him the story of the betrayal of Utah by the present leaders of the Mormon Church. This story the editor of Everybody's Magazine commissioned Messrs. Cannon and O'Higgins to write. They worked on it for a year, verifying every detail of it from government reports, controversial pamphlets, Mormon books of propaganda, and the newspaper files of current record. It ran through nine numbers of the magazine, and not so much as a successful contradiction was ever made of one of the innumerable incidents or accusations that it contains. It is here published in book form at somewhat greater length than the magazine could print it. It is a joint work, but the autobiographic "I" has been used throughout, because it is Mr. Cannon's personal narrative of his personal experience.
This is the story of what has been called "the great American despotism."
It is the story of the establishment of an absolute throne and dynasty by one American citizen over a half-million others.
And it is the story of the amazing reign of this one man, Joseph F. Smith, the Mormon Prophet, a religious fanatic of bitter mind, who claims that he has been divinely ordained to exercise the awful authority of God on earth over all the affairs of all mankind, and who plays the anointed despot in Utah and the surrounding states as cruelly as a Sultan and more securely than any Czar.
To him the Mormon people pay a yearly tribute of more than two million dollars in tithes; and he uses that income, to his own ends, without an accounting. He is president of the Utah branch of the sugar trust, and of the local incorporation's of the salt trust; and he supports the exaction's of monopoly by his financial absolutism, while he defends them from competition by his religious power of interdict and excommunication. He is president of a system of "company stores," from which the faithful buy their merchandise; of a wagon and machine company from which the Mormon farmers purchase their vehicles and implements; of life-insurance and fire-insurance companies, of banking institutions, of a railroad, of a knitting company, of newspapers, which the Mormon people are required by their Church to patronize, and through which they are exploited, commercially and financially, for the sole profit of the sovereign of Utah and his religious court.
He is the political Boss of the state, delivering the votes of his people by revelation of the Will of God, practically appointing the United States Senators from Utah—as he practically appoints the marshals, district attorneys, judges, legislators, officers and administrators of law throughout his "Kingdom of God on Earth"—and ruling the non-Mormons of Utah, as he rules his own people, by virtue of his political and financial partnership with the great "business interests" that govern and exploit this nation, and his Kingdom, for their own gain, and his.
He lives, like the Grand Turk, openly with five wives, against the temporal law of the state, against the spiritual law of his Kingdom, and in violation of his own solemn covenant to the country—which he gave in 1890, in order to obtain amnesty for himself from criminal prosecution and to help Utah obtain the powers of statehood which he has since usurped. He secretly preaches a proscribed doctrine of polygamy as necessary to salvation; he publicly denies his own teaching, so that he may escape responsibility for the sufferings of the "plural wives" and their unfortunate children, who have been betrayed by the authority of his dogma. And these women, by the hundreds, seduced into clandestine marriage relations with polygamous elders of the Church, unable to claim their husbands—even in some cases disowning their children and teaching these children to deny their parents—are suffering a pitiful self-immolation as martyrs to the religious barbarism of his rule.
Demanding unquestioning obedience in all things, as the "mouthpiece of the Lord," and "sole vice-regent of God on Earth," he enforces his demands by his religious, political and financial control of the faith, the votes and the property of his fellow-citizens. He is at once—as the details of this story show—"the modern 'money king,' the absolute political Czar, the social despot and the infallible Pope of his Kingdom."
Ex-Senator Cannon not only exposes but accounts for and explains the conditions that have made the Church-controlled government of Utah less free, less of a democracy, a greater tyranny and more of a disgrace to the nation than ever the corporation rule of Colorado was in the darkest period of the Cripple Creek labor war. He shows the enemies of the republic encouraging and profiting by the shame of Utah as they supported and made gain of Colorado's past disgrace. He shows the piratical "Interests," at Washington, sustaining, and sustained by, the misgovernment of Utah, in their campaign of national pillage. He shows that the condition of Utah today is not merely a local problem; that it affects and concerns the people of the whole country; that it can only be cured with their aid.
The outside world has waited many years to hear the truth about the Mormons; here it is—told with sympathy, with affection, by a man who steadfastly defended and fought for the Mormon people when their present leaders were keeping themselves carefully inconspicuous. The Mormon system of religious communism has long been known as one of the most interesting social experiments of modern civilization; here is an intimate study of it, not only in its success but in the failure that has come upon it from the selfish ambitions of its leaders. The power of the Mormon hierarchy has been the theme of much imaginative fiction; but here is a story of church tyranny and misgovernment in the name of God, that outrages the credibilities of art. That such a story could come out of modern America—that such conditions could be possible in the democracy today—is an amazement that staggers belief.
Hon. Frank J. Cannon is the son of George Q. Cannon of Utah, who was First Councillor of the Mormon Church from 1880 to 1901. After the death of Brigham Young, George Q. Cannon's diplomacy saved the Mormon communism from destruction by the United States government. It was his influence that lifted the curse of polygamy from the Mormon faith. Under his leadership Utah obtained the right of statehood; and his financial policies were establishing the Mormon people in industrial prosperity when he died.
In all these achievements the son shared with his father, and in some of them—notably in the obtaining of Utah's statehood—he had even a larger part than George Q. Cannon himself. When the Mormon communities, in 1888, were being crushed by proscription and confiscation and the righteous bigotries of Federal officials, Frank J. Cannon went to Washington, alone—almost from the doors of a Federal prison—and, by the eloquence of his plea for his people, obtained from President Cleveland a mercy for the Mormons that all the diplomacies of the Church's politicians had been unable to procure. Again, in 1890, when the Mormons were threatened with a general disfranchisement by means of a test oath, he returned to Washington and saved them, with the aid of James G. Blame, on the promise that the doctrine and practice of polygamy were to be abandoned by the Mormon Church; and he assisted in the promulgation and acceptance of the famous "manifesto" of 1890, by which the Mormon Prophet, as the result of a "divine revelation," withdrew the doctrine of polygamy from the practice of the faith.
He organized the Republican party in Utah, and led it in the first campaigns that divided the people of the territory on the lines of national issues and freed them from the factions of a religious dispute. He delivered to Washington the pledges of the Mormon leaders, by which the emancipation of their people from hierarchical domination was promised and the right of statehood finally obtained. He was elected the first United States Senator from Utah, against the unwilling candidacy of his own father, when the intrigues of the Mormon priests pitted the father against the son and violated the Church's promise of non-interference in politics almost as soon as it had been given.
It was his voice, in the Senate, that helped to reawaken the national conscience to the crimes of Spanish rule in Cuba, when the "financial interests" of this country were holding the government back from any interference in Cuban affairs. He was one of the leaders in Washington of the first ill-fated "Insurgent Republican" movement against the control of the Republican party by these same piratical "interests;" and he was the only Republican Senator who stood to oppose them by voting against the iniquitous Dingley tariff bill of 1897. He delivered the speech of defiance at the Republican national convention of 1896, when four "Silver Republican" Senators led their delegations out of that convention in revolt. And by all these acts of independence he put himself in opposition to the politicians of the Mormon Church, who were allying themselves with Hanna and Aldrich, the sugar trust, the railroad lobby, and the whole financial and commercial Plunderbund in politics that has since come to be called "The System."
He returned to Utah to prevent the sale of a United States Senatorship by the Mormon Church; and, though he was himself defeated for re-election, he helped to hold the Utah legislature in a deadlock that prevented the selection of a successor to his seat. He fought to compel the leaders of the Church to fulfill the pledges which they had authorized him to give in Washington when statehood was being obtained. After his father's death, when these pledges began to be openly violated, he directed his attack particularly against Joseph F. Smith, the new President of the Church, who was principally responsible for the Church's breach of public faith. Through the columns of the Salt Lake Tribune he exposed the treasonable return to the practice of polygamy which Joseph F. Smith had secretly authorized and encouraged. He opposed the election of Apostle Reed Smoot to the United States Senate, as a violation of the statehood pledges. He criticized the financial absolutism of the Mormon Prophet, which Smith was establishing in partnership with "the Plunderbund." He was finally excommunicated and ostracized, by his father's successors in power, for championing the political and social liberties of the Mormon people whom he had helped to save from destruction and whose statehood sovereignty he had so largely obtained.
When the partnership of the Church and "the Interests" prevented the expulsion of Apostle Smoot from the Senate, Senator Cannon withdrew from Utah, convinced that nothing could be done for the Mormons so long as the national administration sustained the sovereignty of the Mormon kingdom as a co-ordinate power in this Republic. For the last few years he has been a newspaper editor in Denver, Colorado—on the Denver Times and the Rocky Mountain News—helping the reform movement in Colorado against the corporation control of that state, and waiting for the opportunity to renew his long fight for the Mormon people.
In the following narrative he returns to that fight. In fulfillment of a promise made before he left Utah—and seeing now, in the new "insurgency," the hope of freeing Utah from slavery to "the System"—he here addresses himself to the task of exposing the treasons and tyrannies of the Mormon Prophet and the consequent miseries among his people.
In the course of his exposition, he gives a most remarkable picture of the Mormon people, patient, meek, and virtuous, "as gentle as the Quakers, as staunch as the Jews." He introduces the world for the first time to the conclaves of the Mormon ecclesiasts, explains the simplicity of some of them, the bitterness of others, the sincerity of almost all—illuminating the dark places of Church control with the understanding of a sympathetic experience, and bringing out the virtues of the Mormon system as impartially as he exposes its faults. He traces the degradation of its communism, step by step and incident by incident, from its success as a sort of religious socialism administered for the common good to its present failure as a hierarchical capitalism governed for the benefit of its modern "Prophet of Mammon" at the expense of the liberty, the happiness, and even the prosperity, of its victims.
For the first time in the history of the Mormon Church, there has arrived a man who has the knowledge and the inclination to explain it.
He does this fearlessly, as a duty, and without any apologies, as a public right. "He is not, and never has been an official member of the Church, in any sense or form," Joseph F. Smith, as President of the Church, testified concerning him, at Washington in 1904; and though this statement is one of the inspired Prophet's characteristic perversions of the truth, it covers the fact that Senator Cannon has always opposed the official tyrannies of the hierarchs. The present Mormon leaders accepted his aid in freeing Utah, well aware of his independence. They profited by his success with a more or less doubtful gratitude. They betrayed him promptly—as they betrayed the nation and their own followers—as soon as they found themselves in a position safely to betray. In this book he merely continues an independence which he has always maintained, and replies to secret and personal treason with a public criticism, to which he has never hesitated to resort.
He begins his story with the year 1888, and devotes the first chapters to a depiction of the miseries of the Mormon people in the unhappy days of persecution. He continues with the private details of the confidential negotiations in Washington and the secret conferences in Salt Lake City by which the Mormons were saved. He gives the truth about the political intrigues that accompanied the grant of Utah's statehood, and he relates, pledge by pledge, the covenants then given by the Mormon leaders to the nation and since treasonably violated and repudiated by them. He explains the progress of this repudiation with an intimate "inside" knowledge of facts which the Mormon leaders now deny. And he exposes the horror of conditions in Utah today as no other man in America could expose them—for his life has been spent in combating the influences of which these conditions are the result; and he understands the present situation as a doctor understands the last stages of a disease which he has been for years vainly endeavoring to check.
But aside from all this—aside from his exposure of the Mormon despotism, his study of the degradation of a modern community, or his secret history of the Church's dark policies in "sacred places"—he relates a story that is full of the most astonishing curiosities of human character and of dramatic situations that are almost mediaeval in their religious aspects. He goes from interviews with Cleveland or Blame to discuss American politics with men who believe themselves in direct communication with God—who talk and act like the patriarchs of the Old Testament—who accept their own thoughts as the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, and deliver their personal decisions, reverently, as the Will of the Lord. He shows men and women ready to suffer any martyrdom in defense of a doctrine of polygamy that is a continual unhappiness and cross upon them. He depicts the social life of the most peculiar sect that has ever lived in a Western civilization. He writes—unconsciously, and for the first time that it has ever been written—the naive, colossal drama of modern Mormonism.
H. J. O'H.
On the fourth day of January, 1896, the territory of Utah was admitted to statehood, and the proscribed among its people were freed to the liberties of American citizenship, upon the solemn covenant of the leaders of the Mormon Church that they and their followers would live, thereafter, according to the laws and institutions of the nation of which they were allowed to become a part. And that gracious settlement of upwards of forty years of conflict was negotiated through responsible mediators, was endorsed by the good faith of the non-Mormons of Utah, and was sealed by a treaty convention in which the high contracting parties were the American Republic and the "Kingdom of God on Earth."
I propose, in this narrative, to show that the leaders of the Mormon Church have broken their covenant to the nation; that they have abused the confidence of the Gentiles of Utah and betrayed the trust of the people under their power, by using that power to prevent the state of Utah from becoming what it had engaged to become. I propose to show that the people of Utah, upraised to freedom by the magnanimity of the nation, are being made to appear traitorous to the generosity that saved them; that the Mormons of Utah are being falsely misled into the peculiar dangers from which they thought they had forever escaped; that the unity, the solidarity, the loyalty of these fervent people is being turned as a weapon of offense against the whole country, for the greater profit of the leaders and the aggrandizement of their power. I undertake, in fact, in this narrative, to expose and to demonstrate what I do believe to be one of the most direful conspiracies of treachery in the history of the United States.
Not that I have anything in my heart against the Mormon people! Heaven forbid! I know them to be great in their virtues, wholesome in their relations, capable of an heroic fortitude, living by the tenderest sentiments of fraternity, as gentle as the Quakers, as staunch as the Jews. I think of them as a man among strangers thinks of the dearness of his home. I am bound to them in affection by all the ties of life. The smiles of neighborliness, the greetings of friends, all the familiar devotion of brothers and sisters, the love of the parents who held me in their arms by these I know them as my own people, and by these I love them as a good people, as a strong people, as a people worthy to be strong and fit to be loved.
But it is even through their virtue and by their very strength that they are being betrayed. A human devotion—the like of which has rarely lived among the citizens of any modern state—is being directed as an instrument of subjugation against others and held as a means of oppression upon the Mormons themselves. Noble when they were weak, they are being led to ignoble purpose now that they have become strong. Praying for justice when they had no power, now that they have gained power it is being abused to ends of injustice. Their leaders, reaching for the fleshpots for which these simple-hearted devotees have never sighed, have allied themselves with all the predaceous "interests" of the country and now use the superhuman power of a religious tyranny to increase the dividends of a national plunder.
In the long years of misery when the Mormons of Utah were proscribed and hunted, because they refused to abandon what was to them, at that, time, a divine revelation and a confirmed article of faith, I sat many times in the gallery of the Senate in Washington, and heard discussed new measures of destruction against these victims of their own fidelity, and felt the dome above me impending like a brazen weight of national resentment upon all our heads. When, a few years later, I stood before the President's desk in the Senate chamber, to take my oath of office as the representative of the freed people of Utah in the councils of the nation, I raised my eyes to my old seat of terror in the gallery, and pledged myself, in that remembrance, never to vote nor speak for anything but the largest measure of justice that my soul was big enough to comprehend. By such engagement I write now, bound in a double debt of obligation to the nation whose magnanimity then saved us and to the people whom I humbly helped to save.
Frank J. Cannon.
UNDER THE PROPHET IN UTAH
Chapter I. In the Days of the Raid
About ten o'clock one night in the spring of 1888, I set out secretly, from Salt Lake City, on a nine-mile drive to Bountiful, to meet my father, who was concealed "on the underground," among friends; and that night drive, with its haste and its apprehension, was so of a piece with the times, that I can hardly separate it from them in my memory. We were all being carried along in an uncontrollable sweep of tragic events. In a sort of blindness, like the night, unable to see the nearest fork of the road ahead of us, we were being driven to a future that held we knew not what.
I was with my brother Abraham (soon to become an apostle of the Mormon Church), who had himself been in prison and was still in danger of arrest. And there is something typical of those days in the recollection I have of him in the carriage: silent, self-contained, and—when he talked—discussing trivialities in the most calm way in the world. The whole district was picketed with deputy marshals; we did not know that we were not being followed; we had always the sense of evading patrols in an enemy's country. But this feeling was so old with us that it had become a thing of no regard.
There was something even more typical in the personality of our driver—a giant of a man named Charles Wilcken—a veteran of the German army who had been decorated with the Iron Cross for bravery on the field of battle. He had come to Utah with General Johnston's forces in 1858, and had left the military service to attach himself to Brigham Young. After Young's death, my father had succeeded to the first place in his affections. He was an elder of the Church; he had been an aristocrat in his own country; but he forgot his every personal interest in his loyalty to his leaders, and he stood at all times ready to defend them with his life—as a hundred thousand others did!—for, though the Mormons did not resist the processes of law for themselves, except by evasion, they were prepared to protect their leaders, if necessary, by force of arms.
With Wilcken holding the reins on a pair of fast horses at full speed, we whirled past the old adobe wall (which the Mormons had built to defend their city from the Indians) and came out into the purple night of Utah, with its frosty starlight and its black hills—a desert night, a mountain night, a night so vast in its height of space and breadth of distance that it seemed natural it should inspire the people that breathed it with freedom's ideals of freedom and all the sublimities of an eternal faith. And those people—!
A more despairing situation than theirs, at that hour, has never been faced by an American community. Practically every Mormon man of any distinction was in prison, or had just served his term, or had escaped into exile. Hundreds of Mormon women had left their homes and their children to flee from the officers of law; many had been behind prison bars for refusing to answer the questions put to them in court; more were concealed, like outlaws, in the houses of friends. Husbands and wives, separated by the necessities of flight, had died apart, miserably. Old men were coming out of prison, broken in health. A young plural wife whom I knew—a mere girl, of good breeding, of gentle life—seeking refuge in the mountains to save her husband from a charge of "unlawful cohabitation," had had her infant die in her arms on the road; and she had been compelled to bury the child, wrapped in her shawl, under a rock, in a grave that she scratched in the soil with a stick. In our day! In a civilized state!
By Act of Congress, all the church property in excess of $50,000 had been seized by the United States marshal, and the community faced the total loss of its common fund. Because of some evasions that had been attempted by the Church authorities—and the suspicion of more such—the marshal had taken everything that he could in any way assume to belong to the Church. Among the Mormons, there was an unconquerable spirit of sanctified lawlessness, and, among the non-Mormons, an equally indomitable determination to vindicate the law. Both were, for the most part, sincere. Both were resolute. And both were standing in fear of a fatal conflict, which any act of violence might begin.
Moreover, the Mormons were being slowly but surely deprived of all civil rights. All polygamists had been disfranchised by the bill of 1882, and all the women of Utah by the bill of 1887. The Governor of the territory was appointed by Federal authority, so was the marshal, so were the judges, so were the United States Commissioners who had co-ordinate jurisdiction with magistrates and justices of the peace, so were the Election Commissioners. But the Mormons still controlled the legislature, and though the Governor could veto all legislation he could initiate none. For this reason it had been frequently proposed that the President should appoint a Legislative Council to take the place of the elected legislature; and bills were being talked of in Congress to effect a complete disfranchisement of the whole body of the Mormon people by means of a test oath.
I did not then believe, and I do not now, that the practice of polygamy was a thing which the American nation could condone. But I knew that our people believed in it as a practice ordained, by a revelation from God, for the salvation of the world. It was to them an article of faith as sacred as any for which the martyrs of any religion ever died; and it seemed that the nation, in its resolve to vindicate the supremacy of civil government, was determined to put them to the point of martyrdom.
It was with this prospect before us that we drove, that night, up the Salt Lake valley, across a corner of the desert, to the little town of Bountiful; and as soon as we arrived among the houses of the settlement, a man stepped out into the road, from the shadows, and stopped us. Wilcken spoke to him. He recognized us, and let us pass. As we turned into the farm where my father was concealed, I saw men lurking here and there, on guard, about the grounds. The house was an old-fashioned adobe farm-house; the windows were all dark; we entered through the kitchen. And I entered, let me say, with the sense that I was about to come before one of the most able among men.
To those who knew George Q. Cannon I do not need to justify that feeling. He was the man in the hands of whose sagacity the fate of the Mormons at that moment lay. He was the First Councillor of the Church, and had been so for years. For ten years in Congress, he had fought and defeated the proscriptive legislation that had been attempted against his people; and Senator Hoar had said of him, "No man in Congress ever served a territory more ably." He had been the intimate friend of Randall and Blame. As a missionary in England he had impressed Dickens, who wrote of him in "An Uncommercial Traveller." The Hon. James Bryce had said of him: "He was one of the ablest Americans I ever met."
An Englishman, well-educated, a linguist, an impressive orator, a persuasive writer, he had lived a life that was one long incredible adventure of romance and almost miraculous achievement. As a youth he had been sent by the Mormon leaders to California to wash out gold for the struggling community; and he had sent back to Utah all the proceeds of his labor, living himself upon the crudest necessaries of life. As a young man he had gone as a Mormon missionary to the Hawaiian Islands, and finding himself unable to convert the whites he had gone among the natives—starving, a ragged wanderer—and by simple force of personality he had made himself a power among them; so that in later years Napella, the famous native leader, journeyed to Utah to consult with him upon the affairs of that distressed state, and Queen Liluokalani, deposed and in exile, appealed to him for advice. He had edited and published a Mormon newspaper in San Francisco; and he had long successfully directed the affairs of the publishing house in Salt Lake City which he owned. He was a railroad builder, a banker, a developer of mines, a financier of a score of interests. He combined the activities of a statesman, a missionary, and a man of business, and seemed equally successful in all.
But none of these things—nor all of them—contained the total of the man himself. He was greater than his work. He achieved by the force of a personality that was more impressive than its achievements. If he had been royalty, he could not have been surrounded with a greater deference than he commanded among our people. A feeling of responsibility for those dependent on him, such as a king might feel, added to a sense of divine guidance that gave him the dignity of inspiration, had made him majestical in his simple presence; and even among those who laughed at divine inspiration and scorned Mormonism as the *Uitlander scorned the faith of the Boer, his sagacity and his diplomacy and his power to read and handle men made him as fearfully admired as any Oom Paul in the Transvaal.
When I entered the low-ceilinged, lamplit room in which he sat, he rose to meet me, and all rose with him, like a court. He embraced me without effusion, looking at me silently with his wise blue eyes that always seemed to read in my face—and to check up in his valuation of me—whatever I had become in my absence from his regard.
He had a countenance that at no time bore any of the marks of the passions of men; and it showed, now, no shadow of the tribulations of that troubled day. His forehead was unworried. His eyes betrayed none of the anxieties with which his mind must have been busied. His expression was one of resolute stern contentment with all things—carrying the composure of spirit which he wished his people to have. If I had been agitated by the urgency of his summons to me, and he had wished to allay my anxiety at once, the sight of his face, as he looked at me, would have been reassurance enough.
At a characteristic motion of the hand from him, the others left us. We sat down in the "horsehair" chairs of a well-to-do farmer's parlor—furnished in black walnut, with the usual organ against one wall, and the usual marble-topped bureau against the other. I remember the "store" carpet, the mortuary hair-wreaths on the walls, the walnut-framed lithographs of the Church authorities and of the angel Moroni with "the gold plates;" and none of these seem ludicrous to me to remember. They express, to me, in the recollection, some of the homely and devout simplicity of the people whose community life this man was to save.
He talked a few minutes, affectionately, about family matters, and then—straightening his shoulders to the burden of more gravity—he said: "I have sent for you, my son, to see if you cannot find some way to help us in our difficulties. I have made it a matter of prayer, and I have been led to urge you to activity. You have never performed a Mission for the Church, and I have sometimes wondered if you cared anything about your religion. You have never obeyed the celestial covenant, and you have kept yourself aloof from the duties of the priesthood, but it may have been a providential overruling. I have talked with some of the brethren, and we feel that if relief does not soon appear, our community will be scattered and the great work crushed. The Lord can rescue us, but we must put forth our own efforts. Can you see any light?"
I replied that I had already been in Washington twice, on my own initiative, conferring with some of his Congressional friends. "I am still," I said, "of the opinion I expressed to you and President Taylor four years ago. Plural marriage must be abandoned or our friends in Washington will not defend us."
Four years before, when I had offered that opinion, President Taylor had cried out: "No! Plural marriage is the will of God! It's apostasy to question it!" And I paused now with the expectation that my father would say something of this sort. But, as I was afterwards to observe, it was part of his diplomacy, in conference, to pass the obvious opportunity of replying, and to remain silent when he was expected to speak, so that he might not be in the position of following the lead of his opponent's argument, but rather, by waiting his own time, be able to direct the conversation to his own purposes. He listened to me, silently, his eyes fixed on my face.
"Senator Vest of Missouri," I went on, "has always been a strong opponent of what he considered unconstitutional legislation against us, but he tells me he'll no longer oppose proscription if we continue in an attitude of defiance. He says you're putting yourselves beyond assistance, by organized rebellion against the administration of the statutes." And I continued with instances of others among his friends who had spoken to the same purpose.
When I had done, he took what I had said with a gesture that at once accepted and for the moment dismissed it; and he proceeded to a larger consideration of the situation, in words which I cannot pretend to recall, but to an effect which I wish to outline—because it not only accounts for the preservation of the Mormon people from all their dangers, but contains a reason why the world might have wished to see them preserved.
The Mormons at this time had never written a line on social reform—except as the so-called "revelations" established a new social order—but they had practiced whole volumes. Their community was founded on the three principles of co-operation, contribution, and arbitration. By co-operation of effort they had realized that dream of the Socialists, "equality of opportunity"—not equality of individual capacity, which the accidents of nature prevent, but an equal opportunity for each individual to develop himself to the last reach of his power. By contribution by requiring each man to give one-tenth of his income to a common fund—they had attained the desired end of modern civilization, the abolition of poverty, and had adjusted the straps of the community burden to the strength of the individual to bear it. By arbitration, they had effected the settlement of every dispute of every kind without litigation; for their High Councils decided all sorts of personal or neighborhood disputes without expense of money to the disputants. The "storehouse of the Lord" had been kept open to fill every need of the poor among "God's people," and opportunities for self help had been created out of the common fund, so that neither unwilling idleness nor privation might mar the growth of the community or the progress of the individual.
But Joseph Smith had gone further. Daring to believe himself the earthly representative of Omnipotence, whose duty it was to see that all had the rights to which he thought them entitled, and assuming that a woman's chief right was that of wifehood and maternity, he had instituted the practice of plural marriage, as a "Prophet of God," on the authority of a direct revelation from the Almighty. It was upon this rock that the whole enterprise, the whole experiment in religious communism, now threatened to split. Not that polygamy was so large an incident in the life of the community—for only a small proportion of the Mormons were living in plural marriage. And not that this practice was the cardinal sin of Mormonism—for among intelligent men, then as now, the great objection to the Church was its assumption of a divine authority to hold the "temporal power," to dictate in politics, to command action and to acquit of responsibility. But polygamy was the offense against civilization which the opponents of Mormonism could always cite in order to direct against the Church the concentrated antagonism of the governments of the Western world. And my father, in authorizing me to proceed to Washington as a sort of ambassador of the Church, evidently wished to impress upon me the larger importance of the value of the social experiment which the Mormons had, to this time, so successfully advanced.
"It would be a cruel waste of human effort," he said, "if, after having attained comfort in these valleys—established our schools of art and science—developed our country and founded our industries—we should now be destroyed as a community, and the value of our experience lost to the world. We have a right to survive. We have a duty to survive. It would be to the profit of the nation that we should survive."
But in order to survive, it was necessary to obtain some immediate mitigation of the enforcement of the laws against us. The manner in which they were being enforced was making compromise impossible, and the men who administered them stood in the way of getting a favorable hearing from the powers of government that alone could authorize a compromise. It was necessary to break this circle; and my father went over the names of the men in Washington who might help us. I could marvel at his understanding of these men and their motives, but we came to no plan of action until I spoke of what had been with me a sort of forlorn hope that I might appeal to President Cleveland himself.
My father said thoughtfully: "What influence could you, a Republican, have with him? It's true that your youth may make an appeal—and the fact that you're pleading for your relatives, while not yourself a polygamist. But he would immediately ask us to abandon plural marriage, and that is established by a revelation from God which we cannot disregard. Even if the Prophet directed us, as a revelation from God, to abandon polygamy, still the nation would have further cause for quarrel because of the Church's temporal rule. No. I can make no promise. I can authorize no pledge. It must be for the Prophet of God to say what is the will of the Lord. You must see President Woodruff, and after he has asked for the will of the Lord I shall be content with his instruction."
Now, I do not wish to say—though I did then believe it—that the First Councillor of the Mormon Church was prepared to have the doctrine of plural marriage abandoned in order to have the people saved. It is impossible to predicate the thoughts of a man so diplomatic, so astute, and at the same time so deeply religious and so credulous of all the miracles of faith. He did believe in Divine guidance. He was sincere in his submission to the "revelations" of the Prophet. But, in the complexity of the mind of man, even such a faith may be complicated with the strategies of foresight, and the priest who bows devoutly to the oracle may yet, even unconsciously, direct the oracle to the utterance of his desire. And if my father was—as I suspected—considering a recession from plural marriage, he had as justification the basic "revelation," given through "Joseph the Prophet," commanding that the people should hold themselves in subjection to the government under which they lived, "until He shall come Whose right it is to rule."
We talked till midnight, in the quiet glow of the farmer's lamp-light, discussing possibilities, considering policies, weighing men; and then we parted—he to betake himself to whatever secure place of hiding he had found, and I to return to Ogden where I was then editing a newspaper. I was only twenty-nine years old, and the responsibility of the undertaking that had been entrusted to me weighed on my mind. I waited for a summons to confer with President Woodruff, but none came. Instead, my brother brought me word from the President that I must be "guided by the spirit of the Lord;" and, finally, my father sent me orders to consult the Second Councillor, Joseph F. Smith.
Joseph F. Smith! Since the death of the founder of the Mormon Church, there have been three men pre-eminent in its history: Brigham Young, who led the people across the desert into the Salt Lake Valley and established them in prosperity there; George Q. Cannon, who directed their policies and secured their national rights; and Joseph F. Smith, who today rules over that prosperity and markets that political right, like a Sultan. Of all these, Smith is, to the nation now, of most importance—and sinisterly so.
No Mormon in those years, I think, had more hate than Smith for the United States government; and surely none had better reasons to give himself for hate. He had the bitter recollection of the assassination of his father and his uncle in the jail of Carthage, Illinois; he could remember the journey that he had made with his widowed mother across the Mississippi, across Iowa, across the Missouri, and across the unknown and desert West, in ox teams, half starved, unarmed, persecuted by civilization and at the mercy of savages; he could remember all the toils and hardships of pioneer days "in the Valley;" he had seen the army of '58 arrive to complete, as he believed, the final destruction of our people; he had suffered from all the proscriptive legislation of "the raid," been outlawed, been in exile, been in hiding, hunted like a thief. He had been taught, and he firmly believed, that the Smiths had been divinely appointed to rule, in the name of God, over all mankind. He believed that he—ordained a ruler over this world before ever the world was—had been persecuted by the hate and wickedness of men. He believed it literally; he preached it literally; he still believes and still preaches it. I did not then sympathize with this point of view, any more than I do now; but I did sympathize with him in the hardships that he had already endured and in the trials that he was still enduring—in common with the rest of us. The bond of community persecution intensified my loyalty. I felt for him almost as I felt for my own father. I went to him with the young man's trust in age made wise by suffering.
I had been directed to call on him in the President's offices, in Salt Lake City, where he was concealed, for the moment, under the name of "Mack"—the name that he used "on the underground"—and I went with my brother, late at night, to see him there. The President's offices were at that time in a little one-story plastered house that had been built by Brigham Young between two of his famous residences, the "Beehive House" and the "Lion House" (in which some twelve or fourteen of his wives had lived). The three houses were within the enclosure of a high cobblestone wall built by Brigham Young; and at night the great gate of the wall was shut and locked. We hammered discreetly on its panels of mountain pine, until a guard answered our knocking, recognized our voices and admitted us.
"He's in there," he said, pointing to the darkened windows of the offices—toward which he led us.
He unlocked the front door—having evidently locked it when he went to the gate—and he explained to a waiting attendant: "These brethren have an appointment. They wish to see Brother Mack."
The attendant led us down a dimly-lighted hall, through the public offices of the President into a rear room, a sort of retiring room, carpeted, furnished with bookcases, chairs, a table. The window blinds had all been carefully drawn.
Joseph F. Smith was waiting for us—a tall, lean, long-bearded man of a commanding figure standing as if our arrival had stopped him in some anxious pacing of the carpet. His overcoat and his hat had been thrown on a chair. He greeted us with the air of one who is hurried, and sat down tentatively; and as soon as we came to the question of my trip to Washington, he broke out:
"These scoundrels here must be removed—if there's any way to do it. They're trying to repeat the persecutions of Missouri and Illinois. They want to despoil us of our heritage—of our families. I'm sick of being hunted like a wild beast. I've done no harm to them or theirs. Why can't they leave us alone to live our religion and obey the commandments of God and build up Zion?" He had begun to stride up and down the floor again, in a sort of driven and angry helplessness. "I thought Cleveland would stop this damnable raid and make them leave us in peace—but he's as bad as the rest. Can't they see that these carpet baggers are only trying to rob us? Make them see that. The hounds! Sometimes it seems to me that the Lord is letting these iniquities go on so that the nation may perish in its sins all the sooner!"
He sneered at John W. Young who had gone to Washington for the Church. (I had met Smith himself there, earlier in the year.) "I thought he'd accomplish something," he said, "with his fashionable home and his—[**missing text?**] He's using money enough! He's down there, taking things easy, while the rest of us are driven from pillar to post." He attacked the Federal authorities, Governor West, the "whole gang." He cried: "I love my wives and my children—whom the Lord gave me. I love them more than my life—more than anything in the world—except my religion! And here I am, fleeing from place to place, from the wrath of the wicked—and they're left in sorrow and suffering."
His face was pallid with emotion, and his voice came now hard with exasperation against his enemies and now husky with a passionate affection for his family—a man of fifty, graybearded, quivering in a nervous transport of excitement that jerked him up and down the room, gesticulating.
When he had worn out his first anger of revolt, I brought the conversation round to the question of polygamy, by asking him about a provisional constitution for statehood which the non-polygamous Mormons had recently adopted. It contained a clause making polygamy a misdemeanor. "I would have seen them all damned," he said, "before I would have yielded it, but I'm willing to try the experiment, if any good can come."
He had, I gathered, no aversion to "deceiving the wicked," but he was opposed to leading his people away from their loyalty to the doctrine of plural marriage, by conceding anything that might weaken their faith in it. And yet this impression may misrepresent him. He was too agitated, too exasperated, for any serious reflection on the situation.
My brother had gone—to keep some other engagement—and I stayed late, talking as long as Smith seemed to wish to talk. He rose at last and "blessed" me, his hands on my head, in a return to some larger trust in his religious authority; and I left him—with very doubtful and mixed emotions. His natural violence and his lack of discipline had been matters of common gossip among our people, and I had heard of them from childhood; but I had supposed that tribulations would, by this time, have matured him. There was something compelling in his unsoftened turbulence, but nothing encouraging for me as a messenger of conciliation. I felt that there would be no help come from him in my task, and I dropped him from my reckoning.
I had made up my mind to a plan that was almost as desperate as the conditions it sought to cure—a plan that was in some ways so absurd that I felt like keeping it concealed for fear of ridicule—and I went about my preparations for departure in a sort of hopeless hope. As the train drew out from Ogden, I looked back at the mountains from my car window, and saw again, in the spectacle of their power, the pathos of our people—as if it were the nation of my worship that bulked there so huge above the people of my love—and I, puny in my little efforts, going out to plot an intercession, to appeal for a truce! It was almost as if I were the son of a Confederate leader journeying to Washington, on the eve of the Civil War, to attempt to stand between North and South and hold back their opposing armies, single-handed.
These are the things a man does when he is young.
Chapter II. On A Mission to Washington
I went discredited, as an envoy, by an incident of personal conflict with the Federal authorities; and I wish to relate that incident before I proceed any farther. I must relate it soon, because it came up for explanation in one of my first interviews with President Cleveland; and I wish to relate it now, because it was so typical of the day and the condition from which we had to save ourselves.
In the winter of 1885-6, the United States Marshals had been pursuing my father from place to place with such determined persistence that it was evident his capture was only a matter of time. We believed that if he were arrested and tried before Chief Justice Zane—with District Attorney Dickson and Assistant District Attorney Varian prosecuting—he would be convicted on so many counts that he would be held in prison indefinitely—that he might, in fact, end his days there. There was the rumor of a boast, to this effect, made by Federal officers; and we misunderstood them and their motives, in those days, sufficiently to accept the unjust report as well-founded.
My father, as First Councillor of the Church, had proposed to President Taylor that every man who was living in plural marriage should surrender himself voluntarily to the court and plead: "I entered into this covenant of celestial marriage with a personal conviction that it was an order revealed by our Father in Heaven for the salvation of mankind. I have kept my covenant in purity. I believed that no constitutional law of the country could forbid this practice of a religious faith. As the laws of Congress conflict with my sense of submission to the will of the Lord, I now offer myself, here, for whatever judgment the courts of my country may impose." He believed that such a course would vindicate the sincerity of the men who had engaged in polygamy and defied the law in an assumption of religious immunity; and he believed that the world would pause to reconsider its judgment upon us, if it saw thousands of men—the bankers, the farmers, the merchants, and all the religious leaders of a civilized community—marching in a mass to perform such an act of faith.
But President Taylor was not prepared for a movement that would have recommended itself better to the daring genius of Brigham Young. Taylor had given himself into the custody of the officers of the law once—in Carthage, Illinois—with Joseph Smith and his brother, Hyrum Smith; and Taylor had been wounded by the mob that broke into the jail and shot the Smiths to death. This, perhaps, had cured him of any faith in the protecting power of innocency. He decided against voluntary surrender; and now that my father's liberty was so seriously threatened, he ordered him to go either to Mexico or to the Sandwich Islands—his old mission field—where he would be beyond the reach of the United States authorities.
My father believed that if he left Utah, his recession might tend to placate the government and soften the severity of the prosecutions of the Mormons; and accordingly, on the night of February 12, 1886, he boarded a west-bound Central Pacific train at Willard. The Federal officers in some way learned of it; he was arrested, on the train, at Humboldt Wells, Nevada, and brought back to Utah. Near Promontory he fell from the steps of the moving car, at night, in the midst of an alkali desert, and hurt himself seriously. He was recaptured and brought to Salt Lake City on a stretcher, in a special car, guarded by a squad of soldiers from Fort Douglas, with loaded muskets, and a captain with a conspicuous sword. He was taken to Judge Zane's chambers and placed under bonds of $25,000. Immediately two bench warrants were issued by a United States Commissioner, and these were served upon him while he lay on a mattress on the floor of Zane's office. Two more bonds of $10,000 each were given. He was then taken to his home.
Later—(President Taylor still insisting that he must not stand trial)—he disappeared again, "on the underground," and his bonds were declared forfeited. But in the meantime, while the grand jury was hearing testimony against him, one of the beloved women of his family was called for examination, and District Attorney Dickson asked her some questions that deeply wounded her. She returned home weeping. My brothers and I felt that the questions had been needlessly offensive, and after an indignant discussion of the matter, I undertook to remonstrate personally with Mr. Dickson.
If I had been as wise, then, as I sometimes think I am now, I should have realized that a meeting between us was dangerous; that the feeling, on our side at least, was too warm for calm remonstrances. And I should not have taken with me a younger brother, about sixteen years old, with all the hot-headedness of youth. Fortunately we did not go armed.
We sought Dickson in the evening, at the Continental Hotel—the old, adobe Continental with its wide porches and its lawn trees—and we found him in the lobby. I asked him to step out on the porch, where I might speak with him in private. He came without a moment's hesitation. He was a big, handsome, black-bearded man in the prime of his strength.
We had scarcely exchanged more than a few sentences formally, when my brother drew back and struck him a smashing blow in the face. Dickson grappled with me, a little blinded, and I called to the boy to run—which he very wisely did. Dickson and I were at once surrounded, and I was arrested.
Ordinarily the incident would have been trivial enough, but in the alarmed state of the public mind it was magnified into an attempt on the part of George Q. Cannon's sons to take the life of the United States District Attorney. Indictments were found against my brother and myself, and against a cousin who happened to be in another part of the hotel at the time of the attack. Some weeks later, when the excitement had rather died down, I went to the District Attorney's office and arranged with his assistant, Mr. Varian, that the indictments against my brother (who had escaped from Utah) and my cousin (who was wholly innocent) should be quashed, and that I should plead guilty to a charge of assault and battery. On this understanding, I appeared in court before Chief Justice Zane.
But Mr. Varian, having consulted with Mr. Dickson, had learned that I had not struck the blow—though, as the elder brother, I was morally responsible for it—and he suggested to the court that sentence be suspended. This, Justice Zane seemed prepared to do, but I objected. I was a newspaper writer (as I explained), and I felt that if I criticized the court thereafter for what I believed to be a harshness that amounted to persecution, I could be silenced by the imposition of the suspended sentence; and if I failed to criticize, I should be false to what I considered my duty. I did not wish to be put in any such position; and I said so.
Justice Zane had a respect for the constitution and the statutes that amounted to a creed of infallibility. He was the most superbly rigid pontiff of legal justice that I ever knew. A man of unspotted character, a Puritan, of a sincerity that was afterwards accepted and admired from end to end of Utah, he was determined to vindicate the essential supremacy of the civil law over the ecclesiastical domination in the territory; and every act of insubordination against that law was resented and punished by him, unforgivingly. He promptly sentenced me to three months in the County jail and a fine of $150.
My imprisonment was, of course, a farce. I was merely confined, most of the time, in a room in the County Court House, where I lived and worked as if I were in my home. But the sentence remained on my record as a sufficient mark of my recalcitrance; and I knew that it would not aid me in my appeal to Washington, where I intended to argue—as the first wise concession needed of the Federal authorities—that Chief Justice Zane should no longer be retained on the bench in Utah, but should be succeeded by a man more gentle. He was the great figure among our prosecutors; the others were District Attorney Dickson and the two assistants, Mr. Varian and Mr. Riles. The square had only seemed to be broken by the recent retirement of Mr. Dickson; the strength of his purpose remained still in power, in the person of Judge Zane.
And let me say that whatever my opinion was of these men, at that time, I recognize now that they were justified as officers of the law in enforcing the law. If it had not been for them, the Mormon Church would never have been brought to the point of abating one jot of its pretensions. All four men, as their records have since proved, were much superior to their positions as territorial officers. Utah's admiration for Judge Zane was shown, upon the composition of our differences with the nation, by the Mormon vote that placed him on the Supreme Court bench. Indeed, it is one of the strange psychologies of this reconciliation, that, as soon as peace was made, the strongest men of both parties came into the warmest friendship; our fear and hatred of our prosecutors changed to respect; and their opposition to our indissoluble solidarity changed to regard when they saw us devoting our strength to purposes of which they could approve. But now, in the midst of our contentions, the aspect of splendor in their legal authority had something baleful in it, for us; and we saw our own defiance set with a halo of martyrdom and illumined by the radiance of a Church oppressed!
There was more than a glimmer of that radiance in my thoughts as I made the railroad journey from Utah to the East. The Union Pacific Railway, on which I rode, followed the route that the Mormons had taken in their long trek from the Missouri; and I could look from my car window and imagine them toiling across those endless plains—in their creaking wagons, drawn by their oxen and lean farm cows—choked with dust, burned by the sun of the prairies, their faces to the unknown dangers of an unknown wilderness, and behind them the cool-roomed houses, the moist fields, the tree-shaded streets, all the quiet and comfort of the settled life of homekeeping happiness that they had left. My own mother had come that road, a little girl of eight; and my mind was full of pictures of her, at school in a wagon-box, singing hymns with her elders around the camp fires at night, or kneeling with the mourners beside the grave of an infant relative buried by the roadside. Our train crossed the Loup Fork of the Platte almost within sight of the place where my father, a lad of twenty, had led across the river at nightfall, had been lost to his party, and had nearly perished, naked to the cold, before he struggled back to the camp. I could see their little circle of wagons drawn up at sunset against the menace of the Indians who snaked through the long grass to kill. I could feel some of their despair, and my heart lifted to their heroism. Never had such a migration been made by any people with fewer of the concomitants of their civilization. Their arms had been taken from them at Nauvoo; they had bartered their goods for wagons and cattle to carry them; even the grain that they brought, for food, had to be saved for seed. They felt themselves devoted to destruction by the people with whose laws and institutions they had come in conflict, and they went forth bravely, trusting in the power of the God whom they were determined to worship according to their despised belief.
Now they had built themselves new homes and meeting-houses in the fertile "Valley;" and the civilization that they had left, having covered the distance of their exile, was punishing them again for their law-breaking fidelity to their faith. Surely they had suffered enough! Surely it was evident that suffering only made them strong to resist! Surely there must be somebody in power in Washington who could be persuaded to see that, where force had always failed, there might be some profit in employing gentleness!
This, at least, was the appeal which I had planned to make. And I had decided to make it through Mr. Abraham S. Hewitt, then mayor of New York City, who had been a friend of my father in Congress. He was not in favor with the administration at Washington. He was personally unfriendly to President Cleveland. I was a stranger to him. But I had seen enough of him to know that he had the heart to hear a plea on behalf of the Mormons, and the brain to help me carry that plea diplomatically to President Cleveland.
When I arrived in New York I set about finding him without the aid of any common friend. I did not try to reach him at his home, being aware that he might resent an intrusion of public matters upon his private leisure, and fearing to impair my own confidence by beginning with a rebuff. I decided to see him in his office hours.
I cannot recall why I did not find him in the municipal buildings, but I well remember going to and fro in the streets in search of him, feeling at every step the huge city's absorption in its own press and hurry of affairs, and seeing the troubles of Utah as distant as a foreign war. It was with a very keen sense of discouragement that I took my place, at last, in the long line of applicants waiting for a word with the man who directed the municipal activities of this tremendous hive of eager energy.
He was in the old Stewart building, on Broadway, near Park Place; and he had his desk in what was, I think, a temporary office—an empty shop used as an office—on the ground floor. There must have been fifty men ahead of me, and they were the unemployed, as I remember it, besieging him for work. They came to his desk, spoke, and passed with a rapidity that was ominous. As I drew nearer, I watched him anxiously, and saw the incessant, nervous, querulous activity of eyes, lips, hands, as he dismissed each with a word or a scratch of the pen, and looked up sharply at the next one.
"Well, young man," he greeted me, "what do you want?"
I replied: "I want a half hour of your time."
"Good God," he said, in a sort of reproachful indignation, "I couldn't give it to the President of the United States."
I felt the crowd of applicants pressing behind me. I knew the man's prodigious humanity. I knew that if I could only hold them back long enough—"Mr. Hewitt," I said, "it's more important even than that. It's to save a whole people from suffering—from destruction."
He may have thought me a maniac; or it may be that the desperation of the moment sounded in my voice. He frowned intently up at me. "Who are you?"
"I'm the son of your old friend in Congress, George Q. Cannon of Utah," I said. "My father's in exile. He and his people are threatened with endless proscriptions. I want time to tell you."
His impatience had vanished. His eyes were steadily kind and interested. "Can you come to the Board of Health, in an hour? As soon as I open the meeting, I'll retire and listen to you."
I asked him for a card, to admit me to the meeting, having been stopped that morning at many doors. He gave it, nodded, and flashed his attention on the man behind me. I went out with the heady assurance that my first move had succeeded; but I went, too, with the restrained pulse of realizing that I had yet to join issue with the decisive event and do it warily.
I do not remember where I found the Board of Health in session. I recall only the dark, official board-room, the members at the table, and—as the one small spot of light and interest to me—Mr. Hewitt's white-bearded face, as an attendant opened the door to me, and the Mayor, looking up alertly, nodded across the room, and waved his hand to a chair.
As soon as he had opened the meeting, we withdrew together to a settee in some remote corner, and I began to tell him, as quickly as I could, the desperateness of the Mormon situation. "Yes," he said, "but why can't your people obey the law?"
I explained what I have been trying to explain in this narrative—that these people, following a Church which they believed to be guided by God, and regarding themselves as objects of a religious persecution, could not be brought by means of force to obey a law against conscience. I explained that I was not pleading to save their pride but to spare them useless suffering; their history showed that no proscription, short of extermination outright, could overcome their resistance; but what force could not accomplish, a little sensible diplomacy might hope to effect. No first step could be made, by them, towards a composition of their differences with the law so long as the law was administered with a hostility that provoked hostility. But if we could obtain some mitigation of the law's severity, the leaders of the Church were willing to surrender themselves to the court—such of them as had not already died of their privations or served their terms of imprisonment—and a sense of gratitude for leniency would prepare the way for a recession from their present attitude of unconquerable antagonism.
He listened gravely, knowing the situation from his own experience in Congress, and checking off the items of my argument with a nod of acceptance that came, often, before I had completed what I had to say. He asked: "Do you know President Cleveland?"
I told him that I had seen the President several times but was not known to him.
"Well," he said, "I may be able to help you indirectly. I don't care for Cleveland, and I wouldn't ask him for a favor if I were sinking. But tell me what plan you have in your mind, and I'll see if I can't aid you—through friends."
I replied that I hoped to have some man appointed as Chief Justice in Utah who should adopt a less rigorous way of adjudicating upon the cases of polygamists; but that before he was selected—or at least before he knew of his appointment—I wished to talk with him and convert him to the idea that he could begin the solution of "the Mormon question" by having the leaders of the community come into his court and accept sentences that should not be inconsistent with the sovereignty of the law but not unmerciful to the subjects of that sovereignty.
"The man you want," Mr. Hewitt said, "is here in New York—Elliot F. Sandford. He's a referee of the Supreme Court of this state—a fine man, great legal ability, courageous, of undoubted integrity. Come to me, tomorrow. I'll introduce you to him."
It was the first time that I had even heard the name of Elliot F. Sandford; and I had not the faintest notion of how best to approach him.
I did not find him in Mr. Hewitt's office, on the morrow; but the Mayor had communicated with him, and now gave me a letter of introduction to him; and I went alone to present it.
He received me in his outer office, with a manner full of kindliness but non-committal. He glanced through my letter of introduction, and I tried to read him while he did it. He was not on the surface. He was a tall, dignified man, his hair turning gray—thoughtful, judicial—evidently a man who was not quick to decide. He led me into his private room, and sat down with the air of a lawyer who has been asked to take a case and who wishes first to hear all the details of the action.
I began by describing the Mormon situation as I saw it in those days: that the Mormons were growing more desperately determined in their opposition, because they believed their prosecutors were persecuting them; that the District Attorney and his assistants were harsh to the point of heartlessness, and that Judge Zane (to us, then) acted like a religious fanatic in his judicial office; that nearly every Federal official in Utah had taken a tone of bigoted opposition to the people; and that the law was detested and the government despised because of the actions of Federal "carpet-baggers."
I was prejudiced, no doubt, and partisan in my account of the state of affairs, but I did not exaggerate the facts as I saw them; I believed what I said.
I did not really reach his sympathy until I spoke of the court system in Utah—the open venire, the employment of "professional jurors"—the legal doctrine of "segregation," under which a man might be separately indicted for every day of his living in plural marriage—and the result of all this: that the pursuit of defendants and the confiscation of property had become less an enforcement of law than a profitable legal industry.
After two hours of argument and examination, I ended with an appeal to him to accept the opportunity to undertake a merciful assuagement of our misery. After so many years of failure on the part of the Federal authorities, he might have the distinction of calling into his court the Mormon leaders who had been most long and vainly sought by the law; and by sentencing them to a supportable punishment, he could begin the composition of a conflict that had gone on for half a century.
He replied with reasons that expressed a kindly unwillingness to undertake the work. It would mean the sacrifice of his professional career in New York. He would be putting himself entirely outside the progression of advancement. His friends, here, would never understand why he had done it. The affairs of Utah had little interest for them.
I saw that he was not convinced. His wife had been waiting some minutes in the outer office; he proposed that he should bring her in; and I gathered from his manner, that he expected her to pronounce against his accepting my solicitation, and so terminate our interview pleasantly, with the aid of the feminine social grace.
Mrs. Sandford, when she entered, certainly looked the very lady to do the thing with gentle skill. She was handsome, with an animated expression, dark-eyed, dark-haired, charming in her costume, a woman of the smiling world, but maturely sincere and unaffected. I took a somewhat distracted impression of her greeting, and heard him begin to explain my proposal to her, as one hears a "silent partner" formally consulted by a man who has already made up his mind. But when I glanced at her, seated, her manner had changed. She was listening as if she were used to being consulted and knew the responsibilities of decision. She had the abstracted eye of impersonal consideration—silent—with now and then a slow, meditative glance at me.
Her first question seemed merely femininely curious as to the domestic aspects of polygamy. How did the women endure it?
I repeated a conversation I had once had with Frances Willard, who had said: "The woman's heart must ache in polygamy." To which I had made the obvious reply: "Don't women's hearts ache all over the world? Is there any condition of society in which women do not bear more than an equal share of the suffering?"
Mrs. Sandford asked me pointedly whether I was living in polygamy?
No, I was not.
Did I believe in it?
I believed that those did who practiced it.
Why didn't I practice it?
Those who practiced it believed that it had been authorized by a divine revelation. I had not received such a revelation. I did not expect to.
Our talk warmed into a very intimate discussion of the lives of the Mormon people, but I supposed that she was moved only by a curiosity to which I was accustomed—a curiosity that was not necessarily sympathetic—the curiosity one might have about the domestic life of a Mohammedan. I took advantage of her curiosity to lead up to an explanation of how the proscription of polygamy was driving young Mormons into the practice, instead of frightening them from it. And so I arrived at another recountal of the miserable condition of persecution and suffering which I had come to ask her husband help us relieve; and I made my appeal again, to them both, with something of despair, because of my failure with him, and perhaps with greater effect because of my despair. She listened thoughtfully, her hands clasped.
It did not seem that I had reached her—until she turned to him, and said unexpectedly "It seems to me that this is an opportunity—a larger opportunity than any I see here—to do a great deal of good."
He did not appear as surprised as I was. He made some joking reference to his income and asked her if she would be willing to live on a salary of—How much was the salary of the Chief Justice of Utah?
I thought it was about $3,000 a year.
"Two hundred and fifty dollars a month," he said. "How many bonnets will that buy?"
"No," she retorted, "you can't put the blame on my millinery bill. If that's been the cause of your hesitation, I'll agree to dress as becomes the wife of a poor but upright judge."
In such a happy spirit of good-natured raillery, my petition was provisionally entertained, till I could see the President; and it is one of the curiosities of experience, as I look back upon it now, that a decision so momentous in the history of Utah owed its induction to the wisdom of a woman and was confirmed with a domestic pleasantry.
I left them after we had arrived at the tacit understanding that if President Cleveland should make the appointment, Mr. Sandford would accept it with the end in view that I had proposed. I went to report my progress, in a cipher telegram, to Salt Lake City, and I recall the peculiarly mixed satisfaction with which I regarded my work, as I walked the streets of New York after this interview. In all that city of millions, I knew, there were few if any men who were the equal of my father in the essentials of manhood; and yet, before he could enjoy the liberties of which they were so lightly unconscious, he must endure the shame of a prison. I was rejoicing because I was succeeding in getting for him a sentence that should not be ruinous! I was pleased because a prospective judge had been persuaded to be not too harsh to him!
It did not make me bitter. I realized that the peculiar faith which we had accepted was responsible for our peculiar suffering. I saw that we were working out our human destiny; and if that destiny was not of God, but merely the issue of human impulsion, still our only prospect of success would come of our bearing with experience patiently to make us strong.
When I went back to Mr. Hewitt, to tell him of my success, I consulted with him upon the best way of approaching Mr. Cleveland. And he was not encouraging. In his opinion of the President, he had, as I could see, the impatient resentment which a quick-minded, nervous, small-bodied man has for the big, slow one whose mental operations are stubbornly deliberate and leisurely. And he was obviously irritated by the President's continual assumption that he was better than his party. "He's honest," he said, "by right of original discovery of what honesty is. No one can question his honesty. But as soon as he discovers a better thing than he knew previously, he announces it as if it were the discovery of a new planet. It may have been a commonplace for a generation. That doesn't signify. He announces it with such ponderosity that the world believes it's as prodigious as his sentences!"
As for my own mission: I would have to be persistent, patient, and—lucky. "You'll have to be lucky, if you intend to persuade him to acquire any information. He's been so successful in instructing mankind that it's hard to get him to see he doesn't know all he ought to know about a public question. But he's honest and he's courageous. If you can convince him that your view is right, he'll carry but the conviction in spite of everything. In fact he'll be all the better pleased if it requires fearlessness and defiance of general sentimentality to carry it out."
He gave me a letter to Mr. William C. Whitney, then Secretary of the Navy, explaining my purpose in coming to Washington, and asking him to obtain for me an interview with President Cleveland without using Mr. Hewitt's name. Then he shook hands with me, and wished me success. "I have the faith," he said, "that is without hope."
That expressed my own feeling. The faith that was without hope!
Chapter III. Without A Country
So I came to Washington. So I entered the capital of the government that commanded my allegiance and inspired my fear. I wonder whether another American ever saw that city with such eyes of envy, of aspiration, of wistful pride, of daunted admiration. Here were all the consecrations of a nation's memories, and they thrilled me, even while they pierced me with the sense that I was not, and might well despair of ever being, a citizen of their glory. Here were the monuments of patriotism in Statuary Hall, erected to the men whose histories had been the inspiration of my boyhood; and I remember how I stood before them, conscious that I was now almost an outlaw from their communion of splendor. I remember how I saw, with an indescribable conflict of feelings, the ranked graves of the soldiers in the cemetery at Arlington, and recollected that this very ground had been taken from General Lee, that heroic opponent of Federal authority—and read the tablet, "How sleep the brave who sink to rest by all their country's wishes bless'd,"—and bowed in spirit to the nation's benediction upon the men who had upheld its power. I was awed by a prodigious sense of the majesty of that power. I saw with fear its immovability to the struggles of our handful of people. And at night, walking under the trees of Lafayette Park, with all the odors of the southern Spring among the leaves, I looked at the lighted front of the White House and realized that behind the curtains of those quiet windows sat the ruler who held the almost absolute right of life and death over our community—as if it were the palace of a Czar that I must soon enter, with a petition for clemency, which he might refuse to entertain!
When I had been in Washington, four years before, as secretary to Delegate John T. Caine of Utah, I had felt a younger assurance that our resistance would slowly wear out the Federal authority and carry us through to statehood. Four years of disaster had starved out that hope. The proposition had been established that Congress had supreme control over the territories; and there was no virtue either in our religious assumption of warrant to speak for God, or in our plea of inherent constitutional right to manage our own affairs. Thirty years earlier, my father had been elected Senator from the proposed state of Utah, and he had been rejected. In thirty years so little progress had been made! The way that was yet to travel seemed very long and very dark.
Out of this mood of despondence I had to lift myself by an act of will. There, Washington itself helped me against itself. I made a pilgrimage of courage to its commemorations of courage, and drew an inspiration of hope from its monuments to the achievements of its past. And particularly I went to the house in which my father had lived when he had had his part in the statesman life of the capital, and animated my resolution with the thought that I must succeed in order that he might be restored in public honor.
I narrate all this personal incident of emotion in the hope that it may help to explain a success that might otherwise seem inexplicable. The Mormon Church had, for years, employed every art of intrigue and diplomacy to protect itself in Washington. I wish to make plain that it was not by any superior cunning of negotiation that my mission succeeded. I undertook the task almost without instruction; I performed it without falsehood; I had nothing in my mind but an honest loyalty for my own people, a desire to be a citizen of my native country, and a filial devotion to the one man in the world, whom I most admired.
When I delivered my letter of introduction from Mr. Hewitt to Mr. William C. Whitney, Secretary of the Navy, I found him very busy with his work in his department—carrying out the plans that established the modern American navy and entitled him to be called the "father" of it. He withdrew from the men who were discussing designs and figures at a table in his room, and sat with me before a window that looked out upon the White House and its grounds; and he listened to me, interestedly, genially, but with a thought still (as I could see) for the affairs that my arrival had interrupted. He struck me as a man who was used to having many weighty matters together on his mind, without finding his attention crowded by them all, and without being impatient in his consideration of any.
I developed with him an idea which I had been considering: that the President might not only help the Mormons by taking up their case, but might gain political prestige for the coming campaign for re-election, by adjusting the dissentions in Utah. He heard me with a twinkle. He thought an interview might be arranged. He made an appointment to see me in the afternoon and to have with him Colonel Daniel S. Lamont, the President's secretary, who was then Mr. Cleveland's political "trainer."
My meeting with Colonel Lamont, in the afternoon, began jocularly. "This," Mr. Whitney introduced me, "is the young man who has a plan to use that mooted—and booted—Mormon question to re-elect the President."
"Hardly that, Mr. Secretary," I said. "I have a plan to help my father and his colleagues to regain their citizenship. If President Cleveland's re-election is essential to it, I suppose I must submit. You know I'm a Republican."
They laughed. We sat down. And I found at once that Colonel Lamont understood the situation in Utah, thoroughly. He had often discussed it, he said, with the Church's agents in Washington. I went over the situation with him, as I had gone over it with Mr. Sandford, in careful detail. He seemed surprised at my assurance that my father and the other proscribed leaders of the Church would submit themselves to the courts if they could do so on the conditions that I proposed; I convinced him of the possibility by referring him to Mr. Richards, the Church's attorney in Washington, for a confirmation of it. I pointed out that if these leaders surrendered, President Cleveland could be made the direct beneficiary, politically, of their composition with the law.
Colonel Lamont was a small, alert man with a conciseness of speech and manner that is associated in my memory with the bristle of his red mustache cut short and hard across a decisive mouth. He radiated nervous vitality; and I understood, as I studied him, how President Cleveland, with his infinite patience for [** missing text?**] survived so well in the multitudinous duties of his office—having as his secretary a man born with the ability to cut away the non-essentials, and to pass on to Mr. Cleveland only the affairs worthy of his careful deliberation.
I was doubtful whether I should tell Colonel Lamont and Mr. Whitney of my conversation with Mr. Sandford. I decided that their considerateness entitled them to my full confidence, and I told them all—begging them, if I was indiscreet or undiplomatic, to charge the offense to my lack of experience rather than to debit it against my cause.
They passed it off with banter. It was understood that the President should not be told—and that I should not tell him—of my talk with Mr. Sandford. Colonel Lamont undertook to arrange an audience with Mr. Cleveland for me. "You had better wait," he said, "until I can approach him with the suggestion that there's a young man here, from Utah, whom he ought to see."
I knew, then, that I was at least well started on the open road to success. I knew that if Colonel Lamont said he would help me, there would be no difficulties in my way except those that were large in the person of the President himself.