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On the Downward Path
During the last years of President Woodruff's life there had been a slow decline of the feeling that it was necessary for self-protection that the hierarchy should preserve a political control over the people. I cannot say that the feeling had wholly passed. It had continued to show itself, here and there, whenever a candidate was so pertinacious in his independence that words of disfavor were sent out from Church headquarters in one of those whispers that carry to the confines of the kingdom of the priests. But the progress was apparent. The tendency was clear. And in 1898 there was neither internal revolt nor external threat to provoke a renewal of the exercise of that force which is necessarily despotic if it be used at all.
Yet, in September, 1898, President Snow, if he did not instigate, at least authorized the candidacy of Brigham H. Roberts for Congress - a polygamist who had been threatened with excommunication for his opposition to the "political manifesto" of 1896 and who had recanted and made his peace with the hierarchy. His election, now, would be a proof that the Church could punish a brilliant orator and courageous citizen in the time of his independence and then reward him in the day of his submission; and the authorities would thus demonstrate to all the people that the one way to political preferment lay through the annihilation of self-will and the submergence of national loyalty in priestly devotion. Such a candidacy was a sufficient shame to the state; but there was also a United States Senatorship to be bestowed; and it was deliberately bargained for, between the Church authorities and a man who deserved better than the alliance into which he entered.
Alfred W. McCune was a citizen of Utah who had gone out from the territory in the days of its poverty (and his own), had made a fortune in British Columbia and Montana, and had returned to his home state to enrich it with his generosities. He was not a Mormon, but he had wide Mormon connections. He spent his millions in public enterprises and benefactions; and the Church had benefited in the sum of many thousands by his subscriptions to its funds and institutions.
Apostle Heber J. Grant, a Republican by sentiment but a Democrat by pretension, was selected by President Snow to barter the Senatorship to McCune. There can be no doubt of it. Everyone immediately suspected it. Letters from Grant, published in the newspapers of January, 1899, subsequently confirmed it. And President Snow's actions, toward the end of the campaign, proved it.
The other candidates were Judge O. W. Powers, a prominent Democrat; William H. King, also a Democrat, a former member of Congress and at one time a Federal judge; and myself as an independent Silver Republican. I had not allied myself with the Democrats after withdrawing from the Republican convention of 1896, and the Republican machine in Utah (thanks to the power of the "interests") had repudiated me, in September, 1898, by adopting a platform that refused to support as Senator any man who had opposed the Dingley Tariff Bill. But I had the votes of my own county of Weber, and some other votes that had been pledged to me before the election of members of the legislature; and though my return to the Senate seemed plainly impossible, I went into the fight in fulfillment of understandings which I had with progressive elements in Utah and with the "insurgents," of that day, in Washington.
During the campaign to elect members of the Legislature, I supported the Democratic State and Congressional ticket. Brigham H. Roberts had been nominated for Congress on this ticket despite the protests of my father and many others who foresaw the evil results of electing a polygamist. I accepted Roberts' nomination as proof that this question must be settled anew at Washington; and I contented myself with predicting, throughout the campaign, that the House of Representatives would determine whether it would admit a polygamist and a member of the hierarchy as a lawmaker, and would so forever dispose of these ecclesiastical candidacies of which Utah refused to dispose for itself. (And it is a fact that since the prompt exclusion of Roberts from the House of Representatives no known polygamist has been elected to either House of Congress.)
A Democratic legislature was elected, and A. W. McCune was put forward prominently as a candidate for the United States senatorship. He was assisted by his own newspaper, the Salt Lake Herald, by numberless business interests, cleverly by the Deseret News (the organ of the hierarchy) flagrantly and for financial reasons by Apostle Heber J. Grant, and incidentally by the Smiths on behalf of the Church. Also a Republican assistance was given him by my former colleague in the Senate, Arthur Brown, who specialized as an opponent to my candidacy.
My old campaign manager, Ben Rich, had been withdrawn from me by a Church order appointing him in control of the Eastern missions. I was without the support of either the Democratic or Republican organizations: my following was a personal one: and consequently the attack upon me chiefly took the form of stories of personal immorality, privately circulated. These stories culminated in a motion before the Woman's Republican Club, demanding my withdrawal from the Senatorial contest on the ground of "gross misconduct" - a motion introduced by a Mrs. Anna M. Bradley, a woman politician (who was a stranger to me), with the assistance of Mrs. Arthur Brown, wife of the former Senator.
If I ever had any resentment against these unfortunate women for allowing themselves to be used as the agents of slander, it passed in the miseries that overtook them later; for Mrs. Brown died of the scandal of her husband's intimacy with Mrs. Bradley, and Mrs. Bradley shot and killed ex-Senator Brown, in a Washington hotel, because he refused to marry her and recognize her child after her divorce from her husband.
My anger then, and since, was not against the women, but against the men who hid behind them - against Apostle Heber J. Grant and Apostle John Henry Smith and their tool, ex-Senator Brown. In my anger I decided to take an action that looked as desperate as it proved successful. I hired the Salt Lake Theatre - for a night (February 9, 1899), and announced that I would speak on "Senatorial Candidates and Pharisees" - intending to use the opportunity of self-defense in order to attack the "financial apostles" who were selling Church influence.
In taking that step I understood, of course, that it meant the death for me of any political ambition in Utah. It meant offending my father, who besought me not to raise my hand against "the Lord's anointed," but to leave my enemies "to God's justice" - as he had always done with his. It meant a breach with many of my friends in the Church who would blindly resent my criticism of the political apostles as an encouragement to the enemies of the faith. But the part that I had taken in helping Utah to gain its statehood made it impossible for me to stand aside, now, and see all our pledges broken, all our promises betrayed. I had to offer myself as a sacrifice to hierarchical resentment in the hope that my destruction might give at least a momentary pause to the reactionaries in their career.
It is needless that I should relate all the incidents of that wild night. The theatre was packed with people who joined me for the moment in a sympathetic protest against the disgrace of Utah. President Lorenzo Snow, his two councilors and several apostles were present, and I spoke without any reservations on account of personal relationship, my own candidacy or the possible effect upon my own affairs. I appealed to the people to prevent the sale of Utah's senatorship to McCune by Apostle Grant and the Church reactionaries; and by turning the light of publicity upon the methods that were being employed in the legislature, I made it impossible for the hierarchy to sway enough votes to elect McCune. The men who had pledged themselves to the other candidates could not be shaken from their support without a national scandal. The election settled for the time into a deadlock, in which no candidate could obtain enough votes to elect him.
Apostle Heber J. Grant started to write letters that should counteract the effect of my speech, but President Snow forbade him to continue the controversy and sent word to me that he had forbidden Grant to continue it. I did not know why President Snow wished me to feel that he was friendly to me, but I was soon to learn.
The deadlock in the legislature continued, in spite of all the efforts of the Church authorities to break it. Our political workers, summoned one by one by messengers from Church headquarters, had gone to interviews from which they did not return to us - until I had left only Judge Ed. F. Colborn (a famous character in Kansas, Colorado and Utah), and an old friend, Jesse W. Fox. One night, about a week after the meeting in the theatre, we three were sitting alone in my rooms, when the door opened and someone beckoned to Fox. He went out. Judge Colborn opened a window to see Fox getting into a carriage with a man from Church headquarters - and we knew that our last worker was gone.
He returned only to tell me that President Snow wished to see me - that if I were willing, the President would like to have me call upon him, at half past nine the following evening, in his residence. And I understood the significance of such an invitation for such an hour. I had been too often in contact with the power of the Prophets to doubt what was required of me. I was curious merely to know what form the ultimatum would take.
President Snow was then living with his youngest wife in a house a few blocks from the offices of the Presidency. I drove there in a carriage and ordered the driver to wait for me. President Snow opened the door to me himself, received me with his usual engaging smile, and ushered me into a reception room that was shut off, by portieres, from a larger parlor. There, when he had invited me to be seated, he said, winningly: "I was not sure you would come in answer to my message."
I assured him that I had not so far lost my regard for the men with whom my father was associated. "And besides," I said, "if there were no other reason, it is my place, as the younger of the two, to attend on your convenience."
"I did not know," he replied, "but that you thought me one of the 'Pharisees' of whom you spoke."
I did not accept this invitation to reply that I did not consider him one of the Pharisees. I explained merely that I had identified the Pharisees in my speech by name and deed and accusation. "Unless something there said is applicable to you, I have no charge to make against you."
He excused himself a moment to go to an infant whom we could hear crying in an inner room; and, when he returned, he had the child in his arms - a little girl, in a night gown. He sat down, petting her, stroking her hair with his supple lean hand, affectionately, and smiling with a sort of absentminded tenderness as he took up the conversation again.
This memory of him sticks in my mind as one of the most extraordinary pictures of my experience. I knew that I had come there to hear my own or some other person's political death sentence. I knew that he would not have invited me at such an hour, with such secrecy, unless the issue of our conference was to be something dark and fatal. And in the soft radiance of the lamp he sat smiling - fragile of build, almost spiritual, white-haired, delicately cultured - soothing the child who played with his long silvery beard and blinked sleepily. He inquired whether my carriage was waiting for me, and I replied that it was. He asked me to dismiss it. When I returned to the room, the little girl was resting quiet, and he excused himself to take her to her cot. I heard him closing the doors behind him as he came back. "We may now talk with perfect freedom," he announced. "There's no one else in this part of the house."
He sat down in his chair, composing himself with an air that might have distinguished one of the ancient kings. "I have sent for you to talk about the Senatorial situation. May I speak plainly to you?"
I replied that he might. He was watching me, under his gray eyebrows, with his soft eyes, in which there was a glitter of blackness but none of the rheum of old age.
"It would be most unfortunate," he said," for us, as a people, if we failed to elect a Senator. I've had many business and other anxieties for the Church, and I want this question settled. If we act wisely - with the power and influence at our command - aid will come to me. I think you would not willingly permit our situation to become more difficult."
He must have seen a change in my expression - a change that indicated how well I understood the significance of this guarded introduction. Suddenly, his manner broke into animation, and holding out both hands to me, palms up, he said, smiling: "You must know, Brother Frank, that I had nothing to do with Mr. McCune's candidacy for the Senate, do you not? I was not responsible for what Brother Grant did. Before we go on, I want you to acquit me of responsibility for that project."
"President Snow," I replied, "I can't admit so much. I, too, wish to talk plainly - with your permission. Your responsibility is evident even to the casual observer - to say nothing of one reared as I've been. Every man in this community knows that when you point your finger your apostles go, and when you crook your finger your apostles return - and Heber J. Grant has only done what you permitted him to do with your full knowledge."
He drew himself up, coldly. "What I have done," he retorted, "has been done with the knowledge of my Councilor's."
The thrust was obvious. I replied: "If my father desires to discuss with me his responsibility for this indignity to the state, he knows I'm at his command. And if I have any charge to make, involving his good faith toward the country, I'll seek him alone."
"Very well," he said, with a frigid suavity. "We will leave that part of the question." He paused. "Last night," he continued, "lying on my bed, I had a vision. I saw this work of God injured by the political strife of the brethren. And the voice of the Lord came to me, directing me to see that your father was elected to the Senate." He studied me a moment before he added: "What have you to say?"
I answered: "It seems to me impossible. This legislature is strongly Democratic. My father's a Republican. It seems to me not only impracticable but very unwise - if it could be done."
"Never mind that," he said. "The Lord will take care of the event. I want you to withdraw from the race and throw your strength to your father. It is the will of the Lord that you do so."
"Have you a revelation to that effect also?" I asked.
He answered, pontifically, "Yes."
"You'll publish it to the world, then, the same as other revelations?"
"No," he replied. "No."
"Then I'll not obey it," I said, "because if God is ashamed of it, I am."
His air of prophetic authority changed to one of combative resolution. He explained that one of the other candidates, a strong Democrat, had agreed to accept the revelation if I would; that the two of us could give our strength to the church candidate; that the Church would turn to my father the votes that it had already in command for McCune, and my father's election would be carried.
I felt that the thumb-screws were being put on me again. For the second time I was being forced to the point of denying the Senatorship to my father by refusing him my support. And there could not have been, for me, a more vivid and instantaneous illumination of the hidden depths in this Church system - or in the individual Prophet of the cult - than was made by Snow's determined insistence that I should break my word of honor to the people of the state and of the nation, pledge that broken faith to him, induce all my supporters in the legislature to violate their covenants - Mormon and Gentile alike! - and upon his mere assumption of divine authority, direct Mormon and Gentile to stultify and disgrace themselves forever as men and public officials. There was something appalling in the calculating cruelty with which he proposed to devote us all to destruction and dishonor. There was something inhumanly malignant in the plan to use my known affection for my father in order to make me guilty of the very betrayal of the people which I had publicly denounced. I looked at him - and heard him, now, placidly, confidently, with a renewed suavity, urging me to do the thing.
"President Snow," I interrupted, "does my father know of this?"
He answered: "No."
"I'm glad of it," I said. (And I was!) "This is not the way to work out either the destiny of 'God's people' or the destiny of this state. It would place my father in a most humiliating position to be elected - at the orders of the Church - under the assumption that God Almighty had directed men to break their solemn promises to their constituents. I have as high an admiration for my father's wisdom and ability as you or the Democratic candidate who has offered to withdraw at the will of the Church, but I should be paying no honor to my father by dishonoring my pledge to my constituents and asking other men to dishonor theirs."
He dismissed me with an air of benignant sorrow!
The deadlock in the legislature continued unbroken. Among my supporters was Lewis W. Shurtliff, the President of the "Stake of Zion "in which I lived; he was one of the highest Church dignitaries in the legislature and was regarded as my foremost champion in the Senatorial contest. On the last day of the legislative session, at President Snow's instruction, my father, known as a Republican, was offered as a senatorial candidate to this Democratic legislature, and all the power of the Church influence was thrown to him. President Shurtliff's wife came to our headquarters, that night, and knelt, with a number of other ladies, to pray that her husband might be spared the humiliation of breaking his repeated promise not to desert me! We all knew that if he broke his promise, it would cause him more mental anguish than anyone else; but we knew, too, that if the command came from Church headquarters, he would have to obey it. Men broke their political pledges to their people and outraged their own feelings of personal independence or partisan loyalty, rather than offend against "the will of the Lord." The forces of the other candidates went to pieces, and on the last night of the session my father's vote reached twenty-three. (It required thirty-two votes to elect.)
The situation was saved by the action of a number of Democrats who got together and obtained a recess; when the recess was ended, a final ballot was taken, and, since no candidate had enough votes to elect him, the presiding officer, by pre-concertment, declared the joint assembly adjourned sine die, by operation of law. No Senator was elected.
But it was the last time that the Church authorities were to be balked. Since that day, they have dictated the nominations and carried the elections of the United States Senators from Utah as if these were candidates for a church office. The present Senator, Reed Smoot, is an apostle of the Church; he obtained the Mormon President's "permission" to become a candidate, as he admitted to an investigating committee of the Senate; and when the recent tariff bill was being attacked by insurgent Republicans and carried by Senator Aldrich, Senator Smoot acted as Aldrich's lieutenant in debate, and remained to watch the defense of the "interests" when his chief was absent from the Senate chamber. (Not because Smoot was such an able defender of those "interests"! Not because his constituents would uphold his course! But because he has no constituents, and is responsible to no one but the hierarchical partners of those "interests.")
Every pledge of the Mormon leaders that the Church would not interfere in politics has been broken at every election in Utah since President Snow that night pleaded to me that he had had many business anxieties for the Church and that if we elected the Church candidate "aid" would come to him. The covenants by which Utah obtained its statehood have been violated again and again. The provisions of the state constitution have been nullified. The trust of the Mormon people has been abused; their political liberties have been denied them; their Gentile brethren have been betrayed. And all this has been done not for the protection of the people, who were threatened with no proscription - and not for the advancement of the faith, which has been free to work out its own future. It has been done as a part of the alliance between the "financial" prophets of the Church and the financial "interests" of the country - which have been exploiting the people of Utah as they have exploited the whole nation with the aid of the ecclesiastical authorities in Utah.