|Home -> Miscellaneous Books -> Under the Prophet in Utah -> Chapter VIII - The Church and the Interests|
The Church and the Interests
Meanwhile, I had been taking part in the Presidential campaign of 1896, and I had been one of the four "insurgent" Republican Senators (Teller of Colorado, Dubois of Idaho, Pettigrew of South Dakota and myself) who withdrew from the national Republican convention at St. Louis, in fulfillment of our obligations to our constituents, when we found that the convention was dominated by that confederation of finance in politics which has since come to be called "the System." I was a member of the committee on resolutions, and our actions in the committee had indicated that we would probably withdraw from the convention if it adopted the single gold platform as dictated by Senator Lodge of Massachusetts acting for a group of Republican leaders headed by Platt of New York, and Aldrich of Rhode Island. At the most critical point of our controversy I received a message from Church headquarters warning me that "we" had made powerful friends among the leading men of the nation and that we ought not to jeopardize their friendship by an inconsiderate insurgency. Accordingly, in bolting the convention, I was guilty of a new defiance of ecclesiastical authority and a new provocation of ecclesiastical vengeance.
President Woodruff spoke to me of the matter after I returned to Utah, and I explained to him that I thought the Republican party, under the leadership of Mark Hanna and the flag of the "interests," had forgotten its duty to the people of the nation. I argued, to the President, that of all people in the world we, who had suffered so much ourselves, were most bound to bow to no unfairness ourselves and to oppose the imposition of unfairness upon others. And I talked in this strain to him not because I wished his approval of my action but because I wished to fortify him against the approach of the emissaries of the new Republicanism, who were sure to come to him to seek the support of the Church in the campaign.
Some days later, while I was talking with my father in the offices of the Presidency, the secretary ushered in Senator Redfield Proctor of Vermont. I withdrew, understanding that he wished to speak in private with President Woodruff and his councilors. But I learned subsequently that he had come to Salt Lake to persuade the leaders of the Church to use their power in favor of the Republican party throughout the intermountain states.
Senator Proctor asked me personally what chance I thought the party had in the West. I pointed out that the Republican platform of 1892 had reproached Grover Cleveland for his antagonism to bimetallism - "a doctrine favored by the American people from tradition and interest," to quote the language of that platform - and the Republicans of the intermountain states still held true to the doctrine. It had been repudiated by the St. Louis platform of June, 1896, and the intermountain states would probably refuse their electoral votes to the Republican party because of the repudiation.
Senator Proctor thought that the leaders of the Church were powerful enough to control the votes of their followers; and he argued that gratitude to the Republican party for freeing Utah ought to be stronger than the opinions of the people in a merely economic question.
I reminded him that one of our covenants had been that the Church was to refrain from dictating to its followers in politics; that we had been steadily growing away from the absolutism of earlier times; and that for the sake of the peace and progress of Utah I hoped that the leaders would keep their hands off. I did not, of course, convince him. Nor was it necessary. I was sure that no power that the Church would dare to use would be sufficient at this time to influence the people against their convictions.
Joseph F. Smith, soon afterward, notified me that there was to be a meeting of the Church authorities in the Temple, and he asked me to attend it. Since I had never before been invited to one of these conferences in the "holy of holies," I inquired the purposes of the conclave. He replied that they desired to consider the situation in which our people had been placed by my action in the St. Louis convention, and to discuss the perceptible trend of public opinion in the state. I saw, then, that Senator Proctor's visit had not been without avail.
On the appointed afternoon, I went to the sacred inner room of the temple, where the members of the Presidency and several of the apostles were waiting. I shall not describe the room or any of the religious ceremonies with which the conference was opened. I shall confine myself to the discussion - which was begun mildly by President Woodruff and Lorenzo Snow, then president of the quorum of apostles.
To my great surprise, Joseph F. Smith made a violent Republican speech, declaring that I had humiliated the Church and alienated its political friends by withdrawing from the St. Louis convention. He was followed by Heber J. Grant, an apostle, who had always posed as a Democrat; and he was as Republican and denunciatory as Smith had been. He declaimed against our alienation of the great business interests of the country, whose friendship he and other prominent Mormons had done so much to cultivate, and from whom we might now procure such advantageous co-operation if we stood by them in politics.
President Woodruff tried to defend me by saying that he was sure I had acted conscientiously; but by this time I desired no intervention of prophetic mercy and no mitigation of judgment that might come of such intervention. As soon as the President announced that they were prepared to hear from me, I rose and walked to the farther side of the solemn chamber, withdrawn from the assembled prophets and confronting them. Having first disavowed any recognition of their right as an ecclesiastical body to direct me in my political actions, I rehearsed the events of the two campaigns in which I had been elected on pledges that I had fulfilled by my course in Congress, in the Senate, and finally in the St. Louis convention. That course had been approved by the people. They had trusted me to carry out the policies on which they had elected me to Congress. They had reiterated the trust by electing me to the Senate after I had revolted against the Republican bond and tariff measures in the lower House. I could not and would not violate their trust now. And there was no authority on earth which I would recognize as empowered to come between the people's will and the people's elected servants.
The prophets received this defiance in silence. Their expressions implied condemnation, but none was spoken - at least not while I was there. President Woodruff indicated that the conference was at an end, so far as I was concerned; and I withdrew. Some attempts were subsequently made to influence the people during the campaign, but in a half-hearted way and vainly. The Democrats carried Utah overwhelmingly; only three Republican members of the legislature were elected out of sixty-three.
It was this conference in the Temple which gave me my first realization that most of the Prophets had not, and never would have, any feeling of citizenship in state or nation; that they considered, and would continue to consider, every public issue solely in its possible effect upon the fortunes of their Church. My father alone seemed to have a larger view; but he was a statesman of full worldly knowledge; and his experience in Congress, during a part of the "reconstruction period," and throughout the Tilden-Hayes controversy, had taught him how effectively the national power could assert itself. The others, blind to such dangers, seemed to feel that under Utah's sovereignty the literal "kingdom of God" (as they regard their Church) was to exercise an undisputed authority. Unable, myself, to take their viewpoint, I was conscious of a sense of transgression against the orthodoxy of their religion. I was aware, for the first time, that in gaining the fraternity of American citizenship I had in some way lost the fraternity of the faith in which I had been reared. I accepted this as a necessary consequence of our new freedom - a freedom that left us less close and unyielding in our religious loyalty by withdrawing the pressure that had produced our compactness. And I hoped that, in time, the Prophets themselves - or, at least, their successors - would grow into a more liberal sense of citizenship as their people grew. I knew that our progress must be a process of evolution. I was content to wait upon the slow amendments of time.
My hope carried me through the disheartening incidents of the Senatorial campaign that followed upon the election of the legislature - a campaign in which the power of the hierarchy was used publicly to defeat the deposed apostle, Moses Thatcher, in his second candidacy for the United States Senate. But the Church only succeeded in defeating him by throwing its influence to Joseph L. Rawlins, whom the Prophets loved as little as they loved Thatcher; and I felt that in Rawlins' election the state at least gained a representative who was worthy of it.
What was quite as sinister a use of Church influence occurred among the Mormons of Idaho, where I went to help Senator Fred. T. Dubois in his campaign for re-election. He had aided us in obtaining Utah's statehood as much as any man in Washington. He had accepted all the promises of the Mormon leaders in good faith - particularly their promise that no Church influence should intrude upon the politics of Idaho. Yet in his campaign I was followed through the Mormon settlements by Charles W. Penrose, a polygamist, since an apostle of the Church, and at that time editor of the Church's official organ, the Deseret News.
I supposed that he was lying in his claim to represent the Presidency; and as soon as I returned to Salt Lake, I went to Church headquarters and asked whether Penrose had been authorized to say (as he had been saying) that he was sent out to prevent my making any misrepresentations of the political attitude of the Presidency.
Joseph F. Smith replied," Yes," - speaking for himself and apparently for President Woodruff.
"And when" - I demanded - "when did I ever claim to represent or misrepresent you in politics? Haven't I always said that I don't recognize you as politicians - and always denied that you have any right to dictate the politics of our people?"
President Woodruff interposed gently:
Well, you know, Frank, we have no criticism to pass on you, but we were advised that you might tell the voters of Idaho we were friendly to Senator Dubois, and so we sent Brother Penrose, at the request of President Budge" (a Mormon stake president in Idaho) "to counsel our people. And Brother Penrose says you attacked him in one of your meetings, and said he was not a trustworthy political guide."
President Woodruff's mildness was always irresistible. "If that's all he told you I said about him," I replied, "he didn't do justice to my remarks." And I explained that I had described Penrose as "a lying, oily hypocrite," come to advise the Idaho Mormons that the Presidency wished them to vote a certain political ticket although the Presidency had no interest in the question and although I myself had taken to Washington the Presidency's covenant of honor that the Church would never attempt to interfere in Idaho's political affairs.
Smith sprang to his feet angrily. "I don't care what has been promised to Dubois or anyone else," he said. "He was the bitterest enemy our people had in the old days, and I'll never give my countenance to him in politics while the world stands. He sent many a one of our brethren to prison when he was marshal of the territory, and I can't forget his devilish persecutions - even if you can."
I closed the conversation by remarking that not one among us would have had a vote as a citizen either of Utah or of Idaho if Dubois and men of his kind had not accepted our pledges of honor; and if we were determined to remember the persecutions and not the mercy, we ought to go back to the conditions from which mercy had rescued us.
I left for Washington, soon after, with an unhappy apprehension that there were evil influences at work in Utah which might prove powerful enough to involve the whole community in the worst miseries of reaction. I saw those influences embodied in Joseph F. Smith; and because he was explosive where others were reflective, he had now more influence than previously - there being no longer any set resistance to him. The reverence of the Mormon people for the name of Smith was (as it had always been) his chief asset of popularity. He had a superlative physical impressiveness and a passion that seemed to take the place of magnetism in public address. But he never said anything memorable; he never showed any compelling ability of mind; he had a personal cunning without any large intelligence, and he was so many removes from the First Presidency that it seemed unlikely he would soon attain to that position of which the power is so great that it only makes the blundering more dangerous than the astute.
I was going to Washington, before Congress reconvened, to confer with Senator Redfield Proctor. He wished to see me about the new protective tariff bill that was proposed by the Republican leaders. I wished to ask him not to use his political influence in Idaho against Senator Fred. T. Dubois, who had been Senator Proctor's political protégé. I knew that Senator Proctor had once been given a semi-official promise that the Mormon Church leaders would not interfere in Idaho against Dubois. I wished to tell Proctor that this promise was not being kept, and to plead with him to give Dubois fair play - although I knew that Senator Dubois' "insurgency" had offended Senator Proctor.
He received me, in his home in Washington, with an almost paternal kindliness that became sometimes more dictatorial than persuasive - as the manner of an older Senator is so apt to be when he wishes to correct the independence of a younger colleague. He explained that the House was Republican by a considerable majority; a good protective tariff bill would come from that body; and a careful canvass of the Senate had proved that the bill would pass there, if I would vote for it. "We have within one vote of a majority," he said. "As you're a devoted protectionist in your views - as your state is for protection - as your father and your people feel grateful to the Republican party for leading you out of the wilderness - I have felt that it was proper to appeal to you and learn your views definitely. If you'll pledge your support to the bill, we shall not look elsewhere for a vote - but it's essential that we should be secure of a majority."
I replied that I could not promise to vote for the measure until I should see it. It was true that I had been a devoted advocate of protection and still believed in the principle; but I had learned something of the way in which tariff bills were framed, and something of the influences that controlled the party councils in support of them. I could not be sure that the new measure would be any more just than the original Dingley bill, which I had helped to defeat in the Senate; and the way in which this bill had been driven through the House was a sufficient warning to me not to harness myself in a pledge that might be misused in legislation.
Senator Proctor did me the honor to say that he did not suppose any improper suggestion of personal advantage could influence me, and he hoped I knew him too well to suppose that he would use such an argument; "but," he added, "anything that it's within the 'political' power of the party to bestow, you may expect; I'm authorized to say that we will take care of you."
As I still refused to bind myself blindly, he said, with regret: "We had great hopes of you. It seems that we must look elsewhere. I will leave the question open. If you conclude to assure us of your vote for the bill, I shall see that you are restored to a place in Republican councils. If I do not hear anything from you, it will be necessary to address ourselves to one or two other Senators who are probably available."
It is, of course, a doctrine of present-day Republicanism that the will of the majority must rule within the party. An insurgent is therefore an apostate. The decision of the caucus is the infallible declaration of the creed. In setting myself up as a judge of what it was right for me to do, as the sworn representative of the people who had elected me, I was offending against party orthodoxy, as that orthodoxy was then, and is now, enforced in Washington.
I was given an opportunity to return to conformity. I was sent a written invitation to attend the caucus of Republican Senators after the assembling of Congress; and, with the other "insurgents," I ignored the invitation. It was finally decided by the party leaders to let the tariff bill rest until after the inauguration of the President-elect, William McKinley, with the understanding that he would call a special session to consider it; and, in the interval, the Republican machine, under Mark Hanna, was set to work to produce a Republican majority in the Senate.
Hanna was elected Senator, at this time, to succeed John Sherman, who had been removed to the office of Secretary of State, in order to make a seat for Hanna. The Republican majority was produced. (Senator Dubois had been defeated). And when the special session was called, in the spring of 1897, my vote was no longer so urgently needed. I was invited to a Republican caucus, but I was unwilling to return to political affiliations which I might have to renounce again; for I saw the power of the business interests in dictating the policy of the party and I did not propose to bow to that dictation.
When the tariff bill came before the Senate, I could not in conscience support it. The beneficiaries of the bill seemed to be dictating their own schedules, and this was notably the case with the sugar trust, which had obtained a differential between raw and refined sugar several times greater than the entire cost of refining. I denounced the injustice of the sugar schedule particularly. A Mr. Oxnard came to remonstrate with me on behalf of the beet sugar industry of the West. "You know," he said, "what a hard time we're having with our sugar companies. Unless this schedule's adopted I greatly fear for our future."
I replied that I was not opposing any protection of the struggling industries of the country, or of the sugar growers, but I was set against the extortionate differential that the sugar trust was demanding. Everybody knew that the trust had built its tremendous industrial power upon such criminally high protection as this differential afforded, and that its power now affected public councils, obtained improper favors, and terrorized the small competing beet sugar companies of the West. I argued that it was time to rally for the protection of the people as well as of the beet sugar industry.
He predicted that if the differential was reduced the protection on beet sugar would fail. I laughed at him. "You don't know the temper of the Senate," I said. "Why, even some of the Democrats are in favor of protecting the beet sugar industry. That part of the bill is safe, whatever happens to the rest."
"Senator Cannon," he replied, with all the scorn of superior knowledge, "you're somewhat new to this matter. Permit me to inform you that if we don't do our part in supporting the sugar schedule, including the differential, the friends of the schedule in the Senate will prevent us from obtaining our protection."
"That," I retorted angrily, "is equivalent to saying that the sugar trust is writing the sugar schedule. I can't listen with patience to any such insult. The Senate of the United States cannot be dictated to, in a matter of such importance, by the trust. I will not vote for the differential. I will continue to oppose it to the end. If you're right - if the trust has such power - better that our struggling sugar industry should perish, so that we may arouse the people to the iniquitous manipulation that destroyed it."
I continued to oppose the schedule. Soon after, I received a message from the Church authorities asking me to go to New York to attend to some of their financial affairs. I entered the lobby of the Plaza Hotel on Fifth Avenue about nine o'clock at night; I was met, unexpectedly, by Thomas R. Cutler, manager of the Utah Sugar Company, who was a Bishop of the Mormon Church; and he asked, almost at once, how the tariff bill was progressing at Washington.
I had known Bishop Cutler for years. I knew that he had labored with extraordinary zeal and intelligence to establish the sugar industry in Utah. I understood that he had risked his own property, unselfishly, to save the enterprise when it was in peril. And I had every reason to expect that he would be as indignant as I was, at the proposal to use the support of the beet sugar states in behalf of their old tyrant.
I told him of my conversation with Oxnard. "I'm glad," I said, "that we're independent enough to refuse such an alliance with the men who are robbing the country."
A peculiar, pale smile curled Bishop Cutler's thin lips. "Well, Frank," he replied, "that's just what I want to see you about. We" - with the intonation that is used among prominent Mormons when the "we" are voicing the conclusions of the hierarchy - "wouldn't like to do anything to hurt the sugar interests of the country. I've looked into this differential, and I don't see that it is particularly exorbitant. As a matter of fact, the American Sugar Refining Company is doing all it can to help us get our needed protection, and we have promised to do what we can for it, in return. I hope you can see your way clear to vote for the bill. I know that the brethren" - meaning the Church authorities - "will not approve of your opposition to it."
I understand what his quiet warning meant, and when we had parted I went to my room to face the situation. Already I had been told, by a representative of the Union Pacific Railway, that the company intended to make Utah the legal home of the corporation, and to enter into a close affiliation with the prominent men of the Church. I had been asked to participate, and I had refused because I did not feel free, as a Senator, to become interested in a company whose relations with the government were of such a character. But I had not foreseen what this affiliation meant. Bishop Cutler's warning opened my eyes. The Church was protecting itself, in its commercial undertakings, by an alliance with the strongest and most unscrupulous of the national enemies.
I saw that this was natural. The Mormon leaders had been for years struggling to save their community from poverty. Proscribed by the Federal laws, their home industries suffering for want of finances, fighting against the allied influences of business in politics, these leaders had been taught to feel a fearful respect for the power that had oppressed them. They were now being offered the aid and countenance of their old opponents. Our community, so long the object of the world's disdain, was to advance to favor and prosperity along the easy road of association with the most influential interests of the country.
I remembered the long hard struggle of our people. I remembered the days and nights of anxiety that I myself had known when we were friendless and proscribed. Here was an open door for us, now, to power and wealth and all the comfort and consideration that would come of these. Other men better than I in personal character, more experienced in legislation than I, and wiser by natural gift, were willing to vote for the bill; and Bishop Cutler, a man whom I had always esteemed, the representative of the men whom I most revered, had urged me, for them, to support the bill, under suggestion of their anger if I refused to be guided by their leadership.
I saw why the "interests" were eager to have our friendship; we could give them more than any other community of our size in the whole country. In the final analysis, the laws of our state and the administration of its government would be in the hands of the church authorities. Moses Thatcher might lead a rebellion for a time, but it would be brief. Brigham H. Roberts might avow his independence in some wonderful burst of campaign oratory, but he would be forced to fast and pray and see visions until he yielded. I might rebel and be successful for a moment, but the inexorable power of church control would crush me at last. Yet, if I surrendered in this matter of the tariff, I should be doing exactly what I had criticized so many of my colleagues for doing - for more than one man in the House and the Senate had given me the specious excuse that it was necessary to go against his conscience, here, in order to hold his influence and his power to do good in other instances.
I did not sleep that night. On the day following, I transacted the financial affairs that I had been asked to undertake, and then I returned to Washington. My wife met me at the railway station, and - if you will bear with the intimacy of such psychology - the moment I saw her I knew how I would vote. I knew that neither the plea of community ambition, nor the equally invalid argument of an industrial need at home, nor the financial jeopardy of my friends who had invested in our home industries, nor the fear of church antagonism, could justify me in what would be, for me, an act of perfidy. When I had taken my oath of office I had pledged myself, in the memory of old days of injustice, never to vote as a Senator for an act of injustice. The test had come. By all the sanctities of that old suffering and the promise that I had made in its spirit, I would keep the faith.
When the tariff bill came to its final vote in the Senate, I had the unhappy distinction of being the only Republican Senator who voted against it. A useless sacrifice! And yet if it had been my one act of public life, I should still be glad of it. The "interests" that forced the passage of that bill are those that have since exploited the country so shamefully. It is their control of Republican party councils that has since caused the loss of popular faith in Republicanism and the split in the party which threatens to disrupt it. It is their control of politics in Utah that has destroyed the whole value of the Mormon experiment in communism and made the Mormon Church an instrument of political oppression for commercial gain. They are the most dangerous domestic enemy that the nation has known since the close of the Civil War. My opposition was as doomed as such single independence must always be - but at least it was an opposition. There is a consolation in having been right, though you may have been futile!
My father, visiting Washington soon afterwards, took occasion to criticize my vote publicly, in a newspaper interview; but he was content, by that criticism, to clear himself and his colleagues of any responsibility for my act. "You made a great mistake," he told me privately. "You are alienating the friends who have done so much for us." He added as if casually - with an air of off-handedness that was significant to me - "You lay yourself open to attack from your political enemies. When a man's head is high, it is easily hit." I was afterwards to understand how serious a danger he then foresaw and thus predicted.
Many reports soon reached me of attacks that were being made upon me by the ecclesiastical authorities, particularly by Joseph F. Smith and Apostle Heber J. Grant. The formal criticism passed upon me by my father was magnified to make my tariff vote appear an inexcusable party and community defection. A vigorous and determined opposition was raised against me. And in this, Smith and his followers were aided by the perfect system of Church control in Utah - a system of complete ecclesiastical tyranny under the guise of democracy.
Practically every Mormon man is in the priesthood. Nearly every Mormon man has some concrete authority to exercise in addition to holding his ordination as an elder. Obedience to his superiors is essential to his ambition to rise to higher dignity in the church; and obedience to his superiors is necessary in order to attract obedience to himself from his subordinates. There can be no lay jealousy of priestly interference in politics, because there are no laymen in the proper sense of the word. A man's worldly success in life is largely involved in his success as a churchman, since the church commands the opportunities of enterprise, and the leaders of the Church are the state's most powerful men of affairs. It is not uncommon, in any of our American communities, for men to use their church membership to support their business; but in Utah the Mormons practically must do so, and even the Gentiles find it wise to be subservient.
Add to this temporal power of the Church the fact that it was establishing a policy of seeking material success for its people, and you have the explanation of its eagerness to accept an alliance with the "interests" and of its hostility to anyone who opposed that alliance. The Mormons, dispossessed of their means by the migration from Illinois, had been taught the difficulty of obtaining wealth and the value of it when once obtained. They fancied themselves set apart, in the mountains, by the world's exclusion. They were ambitious to make themselves as financially powerful in proportion to their numbers as the Jews were; and it was a common argument among them that the world's respect had turned to the Jews because of the dependence of Christian governments upon the Jewish financiers.
The exploitation of this solid mass of industry and thrift could not long be obscured from the eyes of the East. The honest desire of the Mormon leaders to benefit their people by an alliance with financial power made them the easy victims of such an alliance. With the death of the older men of the hierarchy, the Church administration lost its tradition of religious leadership for the good of the community solely, and the new leaders became eager for financial aggrandizement for the sake, of power. Like every other church that has added a temporal scepter to its spiritual authority, its pontiffs have become kings of a civil government instead of primates of a religious faith.