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The First Betrayals
Before I reached Utah, my friends, Ben Rich and James Devine, met me, on the train. The news of President Woodruff's "revelation" had percolated through the whole community. The Gentiles were alarmed for themselves. My friends were anxious for me. All the old enmities that had so long divided Utah were arranging themselves for a new conflict. And Rich and Devine had come to urge me to remember my promise that I would hold to my candidacy no matter who should appear in the field against me.
Of my father's stand in the crisis Rich could give me only one indication: after a conference in the offices of the Presidency, Rich had said to President Woodruff: "Then I suppose I may as well close up Frank's rooms at the Templeton" - the hotel in which my friends had opened political headquarters for me - and my father, accompanying him to an anteroom, had hinted significantly: "I think you should not close Frank's rooms just yet. He may need them."
Rich brought me word, too, that the Church authorities were expecting to see me; and soon as I arrived in Salt Lake City, I hastened to the little plastered house in which the Presidency had its offices.
President Woodruff, my father, and Joseph F. Smith were there, in the large room of their official apartments. We withdrew, for private conference, into the small retiring room in which I had consulted with "Brother Joseph Mack" when he was on the underground - in 1888 - and had consulted with President Woodruff about his "manifesto," in 1890. The change in their circumstances, since those unhappy days, was in my mind as I sat down.
President Woodruff sat at the head of a bare walnut table in a chair so large that it rather dwarfed him; and he sank down in it, to an attitude of nervous reluctance to speak, occupied with his hands. Smith took his place at the opposite end of the board, with dropped eyes, his chair tilted back, silent, but (as I soon saw) unusually alert and attentive. My father assumed his inevitable composure - firmly and almost unmovingly seated - and looked at me squarely with a not unkind premonition of a smile.
President Woodruff continued silent. Ordinarily, anything that came from the Lord was quite convincing to him and needed no argument (in his mind) to make it convincing to others. I could not suppose that the look of determination on my face troubled him. It was more likely that something unusual in the mental attitudes of his councilors was the cause of his hesitation; and with this suspicion to arouse me I became increasingly aware (as the conference proceeded) of two rival watchfulnesses upon me.
"Well?" I said. "What was it you wanted of me?"
Smith looked up at the President. And Smith had always, hitherto, seemed so unseeing of consequences, and, therefore, unappreciative of means, that his betrayal of interest was indicative of purpose. I thought I could detect, in the communication which his manner made, the plan of my father's ecclesiastical rivals to remove him from the scene of his supreme influence over the President, and the plan of ambitious church politicians to remove me from their path by the invocation of God's word appointing father to the Senate.
"Frank," the President announced, "it is the will of the Lord that your father should go to the Senate from Utah."
As he hesitated, I said: "Well, President Woodruff?"
He added, with less decision: "And we want you to tell us how to bring it about?"
It was evident that getting the revelation was easy to his spiritualized mind, but that fulfilling it was difficult to his unworldliness.
"President Woodruff," I replied, "you have received the revelation on the wrong point. You do not need a voice from heaven to convince anyone that my father is worthy to go to the Senate, but you will need a revelation to tell how he is to get there."
He seemed to raise himself to the inspiration of divine authority. "The only difficulty that we have encountered," he said, "is the fact that the legislators are pledged to you. Will you not release them from their promises and tell them to vote for your father?"
"No," I said. "And my father would not permit me to do it, even if I could. He knows that I gave my word of honor to my supporters to stand as a candidate, no matter who might enter against me. He knows that he and I have given our pledges at Washington that political dictation in Utah by the heads of the Mormon Church shall cease. Of all men in Utah we cannot be amenable to such dictation. If you can get my supporters away from me - very well. I shall have no personal regrets. But you cannot get me away from my supporters."
This inclusion of my father in my refusal evidently disconcerted President Woodruff; and, as evidently, it had its significance to Joseph F. Smith.
I went on: "Before I was elected to the House of Representatives, I asked my father if he intended to be a candidate for the Senate. I knew that some prominent Gentiles, desiring to curry favor at Church headquarters had solicited his candidacy. I had been told that General Clarkson and others had assured him by letter that his election would be accepted at Washington, and elsewhere. I discussed the matter with him fully. He agreed with me that his election would be a violation of the understanding had with the country; and he declared that he did not care to become again the storm center of strife to his people, nor did he feel that he could honorably break our covenant to the country. With this clear understanding between us, I made my pledges to men who, in supporting me, cast aside equally advantageous relations which they might have established with another. I can't withdraw now without dishonor."
My father said: "Don't let us have any misunderstandings. As President Woodruff stated the matter to me, I understood that it would be pleasing to the Lord, if the people desired my election to the Senate and it wouldn't antagonize the country."
"Yes, yes," the President put in. "That's what I mean."
Smith said, rather sourly: "The people are always willing to do what the Lord desires - if no one gives them bad counsel."
Both he and my father emphasized the fact that the business interests of the East were making strong representations to the Presidency in support of my father's election; and I suspected (what I afterwards found to be the case) that both Joseph F. Smith and Apostle John Henry Smith, were by this time, in close communication with Republican politicians. There was a calm assumption, everywhere, that the Church had power to decide the election, if it could be induced to act; and this assumption was a deplorable evidence, to me, of the willingness of some of our former allies to drag us swiftly to the shame of a broken covenant, if only they could profit in purse or politics by our dishonor. I would not be an agent in any such betrayal, but I had to refuse without offending my father's trust in the divine inspiration of President Woodruff's decision and without aiding the Smiths in their conspiracy.
Either at this conference or one of the later ones, two or three apostles came into the room; and among them was Apostle Brigham Young, son of the Prophet Brigham who had led the Mormons to the Salt Lake Valley. When he understood my refusal to abandon my candidacy, he said angrily: "This is a serious filial disrespect. I know my father never would have brooked such treatment from me." And I retorted: "I don't know who invited you into this conference, but I deny your right to instruct me in my filial duty. If my father doesn't understand that the senatorship has lost its value for me - that it's a cross now - then my whole lifetime of devotion to him has been in vain."
My father rose and put his arm around my shoulders. "This boy," he said, "is acting honorably. I want him to know - and you to know - that I respect the position he has taken. If he is elected, he shall have my blessing."
That was the only understanding I had with him - but it was enough. I could know that I was not to lose his trust and affection by holding to our obligations of honor; and - an assurance almost as precious - I could know that he would not consciously permit legislators to be crushed by the vengeance of the Church if they refused to yield to its pressure.
A few days after my arrival in Utah, and while this controversy was at its height, my father's birthday was celebrated (January 11, 1896), with all the patriarchal pomp of a Mormon family gathering, in his big country house outside Salt Lake City. All his descendants and collateral relatives were there, as well as the members of the Presidency and many friends. After dinner, the usual exercises of the occasion were held in the large reception hall of the house, with President Woodruff and my father and two or three other Church leaders seated in semi-state at one end of the hall, and the others of the company deferentially withdrawn to face them. Towards the end of the program President Woodruff rose from his easy chair, and made a sort of informal address of congratulation; and in the course of it, with his hand on my father's shoulder, he said benignly: "Abraham was the friend of God. He had only one son on whom all his hopes were set. But the voice of the Lord commanded him to sacrifice Isaac upon an altar; and Abraham trusted the Lord and laid his son upon the altar, in obedience to God's commands. Now here is another servant of the Most High and a friend of God. I refer to President Cannon, whose birthday we are celebrating. He has twenty-one sons; and if it shall be the will of the Lord that he must sacrifice one of them he ought to be as willing as Abraham was, for he will have twenty left. And the son should be as willing as Isaac. We can all safely trust in the Lord. He will require no sacrifice at our hands without purpose."
I remarked to a relative beside me that the altar was evidently ready for me, but that I feared I should have to "get out and rustle my own ram in the thicket." I received no reply. I heard no word of comment from anyone upon the President's speech. It was accepted devoutly, with no feeling that he had abused the privileges of a guest. Everyone understood (as I did) that President Woodruff was the gentlest of men; that he had often professed and always shown a kindly affection for me; but that the will of the Lord being now known, he thought I should be proud to be sacrificed to it!
Among the legislators pledged to me were Mormon Bishops and other ecclesiasts who had promised their constituents to vote for me and who now stood between a betrayal of their people and a rebellion against the power of the hierarchy. I released one of them from his pledge, because of his pathetic fear that he would be eternally damned if he did not obey "the will of the Lord." The others went to the Presidency to admit that if they betrayed their people they would have to confess what pressure had been put upon them to force them to the betrayal. I went to notify my father (as I had notified the representatives of every other candidate) that we were going to call a caucus of the Republican majority of the legislature, and later I was advised that President Woodruff and his Councilor's had appointed a committee to investigate and report to them how many members could be counted upon to support my father's candidacy. The committee (composed of my uncle Angus, my brother Abraham, and Apostle John Henry Smith) brought back word that even among the men who had professed a willingness to vote for my father there was great reluctance and apprehension, and that in all probability his election could not be carried. With President Woodruff's consent, my father then announced that he was not a candidate. I was nominated by acclamation.
When I called upon my father at the President's offices after the election, he said to me before his colleagues: "I wish to congratulate you on having acted honorably and fearlessly. You have my blessing." He turned to the President. "You see, President Woodruff," he added, "it was not the will of the Lord, after all, since the people did not desire my election!"
I have dwelt so largely upon the religious aspects of this affair because they are as true of the Prophet in politics today as they were then. At the time, the personal complication of the situation most distressed me - the fact that I was opposing my father in order to fulfill the word of honor that we had given on behalf of the Mormon leaders. But there was another view of the matter; and it is the one that is most important to the purposes of this narrative. In the course of the various discussions and conferences upon the Senatorship, I learned that the inspiration of the whole attempted betrayal had come from certain Republican politicians and lobbyists (like Colonel Isaac Trumbo), who claimed to represent a political combination of business interests in Washington. Joseph F. Smith admitted as much to me in more than one conversation. (I had offended these interests by opposing a monetary and a tariff bill during my service as delegate in Congress - a matter which I have still to recount). They had chosen my father and Colonel Trumbo as Utah's two Senators. I made it my particular business to see that Trumbo's name was not even mentioned in the caucus. The man selected as the other senator was Arthur Brown, a prominent Gentile lawyer who was known as a "jack-Mormon" (meaning a Gentile adherent to Church power), although I then believed, and do now, that Judge Chas. C. Goodwin was the Gentile most entitled to the place, because of his ability and the love of his people.
I was, however, content with the victory we had won by resisting the influence of the business interests that had been willing to sell our honor for their profit, and I set out for Washington with a determination to continue the resistance. I was in a good position to continue it. The election of two Republican Senators from Utah had given the Republicans a scant majority of the members of the Upper House, and the bills that I had fought in the Lower House were now before the Senate.
These bills had been introduced in the House of Representatives, immediately upon its convening in December, 1895, by the committee on rules, before Speaker Reed had even appointed the general committees. One was a bill to authorize the issuance of interest-bearing securities of the United States at such times and in such sums as the Executive might determine. The other was a general tariff bill that proposed increases upon the then existing Wilson-Gorman bill. The first would put into the hands of the President a power that was not enjoyed by any ruler in Christendom; the second would add to the unfair and discriminatory tariff rates then in force, by making ad valorem increases in them. Many new members of Congress had been elected on the two issues thus created: the arbitrary increase of the bonded indebtedness by President Cleveland to maintain a gold reserve; and the unjust benefits afforded those industries that were least in need of aid, by duties increased in exact proportion to the strength of the industrial combination that was to be protected.
The presentation of the two bills by the Committee on Rules - with a coacher to each proposing to prevent amendment and limit discussion - raised a revolt in the House. A caucus of the insurgent Republican members was held at the Ebbitt Hotel, and I was elected temporary chairman. We appointed a committee to demand from Speaker Reed a division of the questions and time for opposition to be heard. We had seventy-five insurgents when our committee waited on. Reed; and most of us were new men, elected to oppose such measures as these bills advocated. He received us with sarcasm, put us off with a promise to consider our demands, and then set his lieutenants at work among us. Under the threat of the Speaker's displeasure if we continued to "insurge" and the promise of his favor if we "got into line," forty-one (I think) of our seventy-five deserted us. We were gloriously beaten in the House on both measures.
Some of the older Republican members of the House came to ask me how I had been "misled"; and they received with the raised eyebrow and the silent shrug my explanation that I had been merely following my convictions and living up to the promises I had made my constituents. I had supposed that I was upholding an orthodox Republican doctrine in helping to defend the country from exploitation by the financial interests, in the matter of the bond issue, and from the greed of the business interests in the attempt to increase horizontally the tariff rates.
I do not need, in this day of tariff reform agitation, to argue the injustice of the latter measure. But the bond issue - looking back upon it now - seems the more cruelly absurd of the two. Here we were, in times of peace, with ample funds in the national treasury, proposing to permit the unlimited issuance of interest-bearing government bonds in order to procure gold, for that national treasury, out of the hoards of the banks, so that these same banks might be able to obtain the gold again from the treasury in return for paper money. The extent to which this sort of absurdity might be carried would depend solely upon the desire of the confederation of finance to have interest-bearing government bonds on which they might issue national bank notes, since the Executive was apparently willing to yield interminably to their greed, in the belief that he was protecting the public credit by encouraging the financiers to attack that credit with their raids on the government gold reserve. The whole difficulty had arisen, of course, out of the agitation upon the money question. The banks were drawing upon the government gold reserve; and the government was issuing bonds to recover the gold again from the banks.
I had been, for some years, interested in the problem of our monetary system and had studied and discussed it among our Eastern bankers and abroad. The very fact that I was from a "silver state" had put me on my guard, lest a local influence should lead me, into economic error. I had grown into the belief that our system was wrong. It seemed to me that some remedy was imperative. I saw in bimetallism a part of the remedy, and I supported bimetallism not as a partisan of free coinage but as an advocate of monetary reform.
The arrival of Utah's two representatives in the Senate (January 27, 1896) gave the bimetallists a majority, and when the bond-issue bill came before us we made it into a bill to permit the free coinage of silver. (February 1). A few days later, the Finance Committee turned the tariff bill into a free-coinage bill also. On both measures, five Republican Senators voted against their party - Henry M. Teller, of Colorado; Fred T. Dubois, of Idaho; Thos. H. Carter, of Montana; Lee Mantle, of Montana; and myself. We were subsequently joined by Richard F. Pettigrew of South Dakota. Within two weeks of my taking the oath in the Senate we were read out of the party by Republican leaders and Republican organs.
All this happened so swiftly that there was no time for any remonstrances to come to me from Salt Lake City, even if the Church authorities had wished to remonstrate. The fact was that the people of Utah were with us in our insurgency, and when the financial interests subsequently appealed to the hierarchy, they found the Church powerless to aid them in support of a gold platform. But they obtained that aid, at last, in support of a tariff that was as unjust to the people as it was favorable to the trusts, and my continued "insurgency" led me again into a revolt against Church interference.
The thread of connection that ran through these incidents is clear enough to me now: they were all incidents in the progress of a partnership between the Church and the predatory business interests that have since so successfully exploited the country. But, at the time, I saw no such connection clearly. I supposed that the partnership was merely a political friendship between the Smith faction in the Church and the Republican politicians who wished to use the Church; and I had sufficient contempt for the political abilities of the Smiths to regard their conspiracy rather lightly.
Believing still in the good faith of the Mormon people and their real leaders in authority, I introduced a joint resolution in the Senate restoring to the Church its escheated real estate, which was still in the hands of a receiver, although its personal property had been already restored. In conference with Senators Hoar and Allison, - of the committee to which the resolution was referred - I urged an unconditional restoration of the property, arguing that to place conditions upon the restoration would be to insult the people who had given so many proofs of their willingness to obey the law and keep their pledges. The property was restored without conditions by a joint resolution that passed the Senate on March 18, 1896, passed the House a week later, and was approved by the President on March 26. The Church was now free of the last measure of proscription. Its people were in the enjoyment of every political liberty of American citizenship; and I joined in the Presidential campaign of 1896 with no thought of any danger threatening us that was not common to the other communities of the country.
But before I continue further with these political events, I must relate a private incident in the secret betrayal of Utah - an incident that must be related, if this narrative is to remain true to the ideals of public duty that have thus far assumed to inspire it - an incident of which a false account was given before a Senate Committee in Washington during the Smoot investigation of 1904, accompanied by a denial of responsibility by Joseph F. Smith, the man whose authority alone encouraged and accomplished the tragedy - for it was a tragedy, as dark in its import to the Mormon community as it was terrible in its immediate consequences to all our family.
By his denial of responsibility and by secret whisper within the Church, Smith has placed the disgrace of the betrayal upon my father, who was guiltless of it, and blackened the memory of my dead brother by a misrepresentation of his motives. I feel that it is incumbent upon me, therefore, at whatever pain to myself, to relate the whole unhappy truth of the affair, as much to defend the memory of the dead as to denounce the betrayal of the living, to expose a public treason against the community not less than to correct a private wrong done to the good name of those whom it is my right to defend.
Late in July, 1896, when I was in New York on business for the Presidency, I received a telegram announcing the death of my brother, Apostle Abraham H. Cannon. We had been companions all our lives; he had been the nearest to me of our family, the dearest of my friends but even in the first shock of my grief I realized that my father would have a greater stroke of sorrow to bear than I; and in hurrying back to Salt Lake City I nerved myself with the hope that I might console him.
I found him and Joseph F. Smith in the office of the Presidency, sitting at their desks. My father turned as I entered, and his face was unusually pale in spite of its composure; but the moment he recognized me, his expression changed to a look of pain that alarmed me. He rose and put his hand on my shoulder with a tenderness that it was his habit to conceal. "I know how you feel his loss," he said hoarsely, "but when I think what he would have had to pass through if he had lived I cannot regret his death."
The almost agonized expression of his face, as much as the terrible implication of his words, startled me with I cannot say what horrible fear about my brother. I asked, "Why! Why - what has happened?"
With a sweep of his hand toward Smith at his desk - a gesture and a look the most unkind I ever saw him use - he answered: "A few weeks ago, Abraham took a plural wife, Lillian Hamlin. It became known. He would have had to face a prosecution in Court. His death has saved us from a calamity that would have been dreadful for the Church - and for the state."
"Father!" I cried. "Has this thing come back again! And the ink hardly dry on the bill that restored your church property on the pledge of honor that there would never be another case - "I had caught the look on Smith's face, and it was a look of sullen defiance. "How did it happen?"
My father replied: "I know - it's awful. I would have prevented it if I could. I was asked for my consent, and I refused it. President Smith obtained the acquiescence of President Woodruff, on the plea that it wasn't an ordinary case of polygamy but merely a fulfillment of the biblical instruction that a man should take his dead brother's wife. Lillian was betrothed to David, and had been sealed to him in eternity after his death. I understand that President Woodruff told Abraham he would leave the matter with them if he wished to take the responsibility - and President Smith performed the ceremony."
Smith could hear every word that was said. My father had included him in the conversation, and he was listening. He not only did not deny his guilt; he accepted it in silence, with an expression of sulky disrespect.
He did not deny it later, when the whole community had learned of it. He went with Apostle John Henry Smith to see Mr. P. H. Lannan, proprietor of the Salt Lake Tribune, to ask him not to attack the Church for this new and shocking violation of its covenant. Mr. Lannan had been intimately friendly with my brother, and he was distressed between his regard for his dead friend and his obligation to do his public duty. I do not know all that the Smiths said to him; but I know that the conversation assumed that Joseph F. Smith had performed the marriage ceremony; I know that neither of the Smiths made any attempt to deny the assumption; and I know that Joseph F. Smith sought to placate Mr. Lannan by promising "it shall not occur again." And this interview was sought by the Smiths, palpably because wherever the marriage of Abraham H. Cannon and Lillian Hamlin was talked of, Joseph F. Smith was named as the priest who had solemnized the offending relation. If it had not been for Smith's consciousness of his own guilt and his knowledge that the whole community was aware of that guilt, he would never have gone to the Tribune office to make such a promise to Mr. Lannan.
All of which did not prevent Joseph F. Smith from testifying - in the Smoot investigation at Washington in 1904 - that he did not marry Abraham Cannon and Lillian Hamlin, that he did not have any conversation with my father about the marriage, that he did not know Lillian Hamlin had been betrothed to Abraham's dead brother, that the first time he heard of the charge that he had married them was when he saw it printed in the newspapers!
If this first polygamous marriage had been the last - if it were an isolated and peculiar incident as the Smiths then claimed it was and promised it should be - it might be forgiven as generously now as Mr. Lannan then forgave it. But, about the same time there became public another case - that of Apostle Teasdale - and as this narrative shall prove, here was the beginning of a policy of treachery which the present Church leaders, under Joseph F. Smith, have since consistently practiced, in defiance of the laws of the state and the "revelation of God," with lies and evasions, with perjury and its subornation, in violation of the most solemn pledges to the country, and through the agency of a political tyranny that makes serious prosecution impossible and immunity a public boast.
The world understands that polygamy is an enslavement of women. The ecclesiastical authorities in Utah today have discovered that it is more powerful as an enslaver of men. Once a man is bound in a polygamous relation, there is no place for him in the civilized world outside of a Mormon community. He must remain there, shielded by the Church, or suffer elsewhere social ostracism and the prosecution of bigamous relations. Since 1890, the date of the manifesto (and it is to the period since 1890 that my criticism solely applies) the polygamist must be abjectly subservient to the prophets who protect him; he must obey their orders and do their work, or endure the punishment which they can inflict upon him and his wives and his children. Inveigled into a plural marriage by the authority of a clandestine religious dogma - encouraged by his elders, seduced by the prospect of their favor, and impelled perhaps by a daring impulse to take the covenant and bond that shall swear him into the dangerous fellowship of the lawlessly faithful - he finds himself, at once, a law breaker who must pay the Church hierarchy for his protection by yielding to them every political right, every personal independence, every freedom of opinion, every liberty of act.
I do not believe that Smith fully foresaw the policy which he has since undoubtedly pursued. I believe now, as I did then, that in betraying my brother into polygamy Smith was actuated by his anger against my father for having inspired the recession from the doctrine; that he desired to impair the success of the recession by having my brother dignify the recrudescence of polygamy by the apostolic sanction of his participation; and that this participation was jealously designed by Smith to avenge himself upon the First Councilor by having the son be one of the first to break the law, and violate the covenant. I saw that my brother's death had thwarted the conspiracy. Smith was so obviously frightened - despite his pretense of defiance - that I believed he had learned his needed lesson. And I accepted the incident as a private tragedy on which the final curtain had now fallen.
 See Proceedings before Senate Committee on Privileges and Elections, 1904, Vol. 1, pages 110, 126, 177, etc.