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The Struggle For Liberty
As early as 1903, before the Smoot investigation began, the Utah State Journal (of which I became editor) was founded as a Democratic daily newspaper, to attempt a restoration of political freedom in Utah and to remonstrate against the new polygamy, of which rumors were already insistent. I was at once warned by Judge Henry H. Rolapp (a prominent Democrat on the District bench, and secretary of the Amalgamated Sugar Company) that we need not look for aid from the political or business interests of the community, inasmuch as our avowed purpose had already antagonized the Church. He delivered this message in a friendly spirit from a number of Democrats whose support we had been expecting. And the warning proved to be well-inspired. Although a number of courageous Gentiles, like Colonel E. A. Wall of Salt Lake City, gave us material aid - and although there was no other Democratic daily paper in Utah (unless it was the Salt Lake Herald, owned by Senator Clark of Montana) - the most powerful Church Democratic interests stood against us, and we found it impossible to make any effective headway with the paper.
After the Prophets began to give their awful testimony at Washington, the Democratic National Convention of 1904 (which I attended as a delegate from Utah) considered a resolution in opposition to polygamy and the Church's rule of the state. This resolution was as vigorously fought by some Utah Gentiles as by the Mormon delegates, on the grounds that it would defeat the Democratic party in Utah. It carried in the convention. Upon returning to Salt Lake City I called a meeting of the Democratic state committee (of which I was chairman) and urged that we make our state campaign on the issue of ecclesiastical domination, in consonance with the party's national platform. Of the whole committee only the secretary, Mr. P. J. Daly, supported the proposal. The others considered it "an attempt to establish a quarantine against Democratic success." Some of them had been promised by members of the hierarchy that the party was to have "a square deal this time." Others had fatuously accepted the assurances of ecclesiasts that "it looked like a Democratic year." In short, the Democratic party in Utah, like the Republican party, proved to be then, as it is now, less a political organization than the tool of a Church cabal. We found that we could no more hope to move the Democratic machine against the hierarchy than to move the Smoot-Republican machine itself.
But when Joseph F. Smith, before the Senate committee, admitted that he was violating "the laws of God and man" and tried to extenuate his guilt with the plea that the Gentiles of Utah condoned it, he issued a challenge that no American citizen could ignore. The Gentiles of Utah had been silent, theretofore, partly because they were ignorant of the extent of the polygamous offenses of the hierarchy, and partly because they were hoping for better things. Smith's boast made their silence the acquiescence of sympathy. A meeting was called in Salt Lake City, in May, 1904, and under the direction of Colonel William Nelson, editor of the Salt Lake Tribune, the principles of the present "American party" were enunciated as a protest against the lawbreaking tyranny of the Church leaders. Later, as it became clear that the opponents of the Smith misrule must organize their own party of progress, committees were formed and a convention was held (in September, 1904) at which a full state and county ticket was put in the field, in the name of the American Party of Utah.
We agreed that no war should be made on the Mormon religion as such; that no war should be made on the Mormon people because of their being Mormons; that we would draw a deadline at the year 1890, when the Church had effected a composition of its differences with the national government, and all the citizens of Utah, Mormon and Gentile alike, had accepted the conditions of settlement; that we would find our cause of quarrel in the hierarchy's violation of the statehood pledges; and that when we had corrected these evil practices we should dissolve, because (to quote the language used at the time) we did not wish "to raise a tyrant merely to slay a tyrant."
In the idea that we would fight upon living issues - that we would not open the graves of the past to dig up a dead quarrel and parade it in its cerements - the American party movement began. Its first enlistment included practically all the Gentiles in Salt Lake City who resented the claim of the Prophet that they acquiesced in his crimes and his treasons. But the most promising sign for the party was its attraction of hundreds of independent Mormons of the younger generation. As one Mormon of that hopeful time expressed it: "The flag represents the political power. The golden angel Moroni, at the top of the Temple, represents the ecclesiastical authority. I will not pay to either one a deference which belongs to the other. I know how to keep them apart in my personal devotion."
This was exactly what the Church authorities would not permit. It would have destroyed all the special and selfish prerogatives of the Mormon hierarchs. It would have subverted their claim of absolute temporal power. It would have set up the nation and the state as the objects of civic devotion - instead of the Kingdom of God.
Although we of the American party disavowed and abstained from any attack upon the Mormon Church as such - and confined ourselves to a war upon the treasons, the violations of law, the breaches of covenant and the other offenses of the Church leaders, as the practices of individuals - these leaders dragged the whole body of the Church as a wall of defense around them, and in countless sermons and printed articles declared that the Church and its faith were the objects of our assault. In other words, though Smith claimed in Washington - and Smoot continues to claim before the nation - that the Church is not responsible for the crimes of its Prophets, whenever a criticism or a prosecution is directed against any of these men, they all unite in declaring that the Church is being persecuted; and the members of the hierarchy rouse all their followers, and use all their agencies, in a successful resistance.
There was no blithesomeness in the campaign. It was not lightened by any humor. It was a hopeless assault on the one side and a grim overpowering resistance on the other. The American party, being organized as a protest, had at first little regard for offices. It sought to promulgate the principles of its cause for the enlightenment of the citizens of Utah and for the preservation of their rights. Some of the Gentiles who did not join us felt, perhaps, as strong an indignation as those who did, but they were entangled in politics with the hierarchs, or had business connections that would be destroyed. These men, in course of time, became the most dangerous opponents of our progress. (The average Mormon is obedient and supine enough in the presence of his Prophets, but he is a man of personal independence compared with the sycophantic Gentile who accepts political or commercial favors from the Church chiefs and yet continues to deny the existence of the very power to which he bends the knee.) Of the rebellious but discreet Mormons many came to the leaders of our party to say: "I think you're quite right. I, myself, have suffered under these tyrannies. I have no sympathy with new polygamy. But, as you know, I'm attorney for some of the Church interests" - or "I'm in business with high ecclesiasts" - or "I'm heavily in debt to the Church bank" - or "I'm closely connected by marriage with one of the Prophets" - "and I can do you more good by my quiet efforts than by coming out into the open. I'd be treated as an apostate. All my influence would be gone." And in most cases he preserved his influence, and we lost him. The Church had effective ways of recovering his support.
For many reasons the American party looked for its recruits chiefly among Republicans, the Democracy being almost entirely Mormon. And in the first flush of enthusiasm some of our leaders laughed at the boast of the Republican state chairman that, for every Republican he lost, he would get two Mormon Democrats to vote the Republican ticket. (This was Hon. William Spry, a Mormon, since made Governor of Utah, for services rendered the hierarchy.) But the claim proved anything but laughable. He got probably four Mormon Democrats for every Republican he lost. As usual the hierarchy "delivered the goods" to the national organization in power.
According to our best calculations we got from fifteen hundred to eighteen hundred Mormon votes. And, during this campaign and those that followed, I was approached by hundreds of Mormons who commended our work and gave private voice to the hope that we might succeed in freeing Utah so that they themselves might be free. After I joined the staff of the Salt Lake Tribune, as chief editor, these came to my office by stealth and in obvious fear. I could not blame them then, nor do I now. The cost of open defiance was too great.
One woman, the first wife of a prominent Mormon physician, came to me to enlist in the work of the party. (Her husband was living with a young plural wife.) We accepted her aid. Her husband cut off her monthly allowance, and she had to take employment as a book canvasser, so that she might be able to earn her living. One Mormon who came out openly for us, was superintendent of a business owned by Gentiles. He was somewhat prominent as an ecclesiast, and he was a Sunday School worker in his ward. He reconciled his wife and daughters to his revolt against the recrudescence of polygamy and the tyranny of the Church's political control. He carried with him the sympathy of his brother, who was a newspaper editor. He won over some of his personal friends to pledge their support to our cause. He seemed too sturdy ever to retreat, too independent in his circumstances to be driven, and with too clear a vision to be led astray by the threats, the power, or the persuasions of the hierarchy. Yet, before long he came to confess that he could not continue to help us openly. His employers - his Gentile employers - had notified him that his work in the American party would be dangerously injurious to their business. They were in hearty accord with his views; they recognized his right as a citizen to act according to his convictions; but - they dared not provoke a war of business reprisals with the commercial and financial institutions of the Church. He must either cease his active opposition to the Church leaders, or lose his place of employment . . . . He retired from the fight.
Another Mormon who joined us was Don. C. Musser, a son of one of the Church historians. He had been a missionary in Germany and in Palestine. He had been a soldier in the Philippines, and he had edited the first American newspaper there. His contact with the world and his experience in the military service of the United States had given him a high ideal of his country; and a feeling of loyalty to the nation had superseded his earlier devotion to the Prophets. His family was wealthy, but he was supporting himself and his young wife by his own efforts in business. As soon as he came out openly with the American party, his father's home was closed against him. His business connections were withdrawn from him. He found himself unable to provide for his wife, who was in delicate health. After a losing struggle, he came to tell us that he could no longer earn a living in Utah; that he had obtained means to emigrate; that he must say good-bye. And we lost him.
Two other young men - the son and the son-in-law of an apostle - came to me and asked helplessly for advice. They admitted that the practices of the hierarchy were, to them, a violation of the covenant with the nation, a transgression of the revelation from God given to Wilford Woodruff, and destructive of all the securities of community association. But would I advise them to sacrifice their influence in the Church by joining the "American movement" publicly? Or had they better retain their influence and use it within the Church to correct the evils that we were attacking?
With awful sincerity they spoke of conditions that had come under their own eyes, and related instances to show how mercilessly the polygamous favorites of the Church were permitted to prey on the young women teachers in Church schools. They spoke of J. M. Tanner, who was at that time head of the Church schools, a member of the general Board of Education, and one of the Sunday School superintendents. According to these young men - and according to general report - Tanner was marrying right and left.
I knew of a young Mormon of Brigham City, who had been a suitor for the hand of L- , a teacher at the Logan College. He had been away from Utah for some time, and he had returned hoping to make her his wife. Stopping over night in Salt Lake, on his way home, he saw Tanner and L- enter the lobby of the hotel in which he sat. They registered as man and wife and went upstairs together. He followed - to walk the floor of his room all night, struggling against the impulse to break in, and kill Tanner, and damn his own soul by meddling with the man who had been ordained by the Prophets to a wholesale polygamous prerogative.
He had kept his hands clean of blood, but he had been living ever since with murder in his heart. Could these two sons of the Church do more to remedy such horrors by using their influence to have Tanner deposed, or by sacrificing that influence in an open revolt against the conditions that made Tanner possible? I could only advise them to act according to their own best sense of what was right. They did use their influence to help force Tanner's deposition, but we lost the public example of their opposition to the crimes of the hierarchy.
I relate these incidents as typical of the different kinds of pressure that were brought to bear upon the independent Mormons who wished to aid us, and of the local difficulties against which we had to contend. Washington, of course, gave us no recognition. And we did not succeed in reaching the ear of the nation. Here and there a newspaper noted our effort and paid some small heed to our protest, but the overwhelming success of the Republican party - and the dumbdriven acquiescence of the Democracy - in Utah and the neighboring Church-ruled states, left the agitation with little of political interest for the country at large.
And yet the struggle went on. Animated by the spirit of the Salt Lake Tribune, the leading newspaper of the community, the American party entered the city elections in the fall of 1905 and carried them against the hierarchy's Democratic ticket, with the help of the independent Mormons, under cover of the secret ballot. Emboldened by this success we proposed to move on the state and county offices, with the hope of gaining some members of the legislature and some of the judicial and executive offices, through which to enforce the laws that the Church leaders were defying. But here we failed. Outside of Salt Lake the rule of the Prophets was still absolute and unquestioned. The people bowed reverently to Joseph F. Smith's dictum: "When a man says 'You may direct me spiritually but not temporally,' he lies in the presence of God - that is, if he has got intelligence enough to know what he is talking about." The state politicians knew that they would destroy themselves by joining an organization opposed by the all-powerful-Church; and sufficient warning of this doom appeared to them in the fact that no member of the American party could obtain any recognition in Federal appointments. The Church had meanwhile dictated the election of another United States Senator (George Sutherland) to join Apostle Smoot, and Senator Kearns was retired for his opposition to the hierarchy. It began to be more and more apparent that whatever success we might achieve locally, the power of the financial and political allies of the Prophets in Washington, aided by the executive "Big Stick" of the President, would beat us back from any attempt to rouse the state or the nation to our support.
Smoot was in a happy position: all the senators who represented the "Interests" were for him, and all the senators who represented the supposed progressive sentiment of Theodore Roosevelt were also for him. The women of the nation had sent a protest with a million signatures to the Senate; but they had not votes; they received, in reply, a public scolding. Long before the Senate voted on its committee's report, many of the notorious "new" polygamists of the Church returned from their exile in foreign missions and began to walk the streets of Salt Lake with their old swagger of self-confident authority. We foresaw the end.
Early in December, 1906, Senator J. C. Burrows of Michigan, chairman of the committee that had investigated Smoot, called up the committee's report and spoke upon it in a denunciation of Smoot. Senator Dubois of Idaho followed, two days later, with a supplementary attack, and censured President Roosevelt for "allowing his name and office" to be used in defense of the Mormons. After an interval of a month, Senator Albert J. Hopkins, of Illinois, undertook to reply with a defense of Smoot that reduced the Apostle's excuses to the absurd. Smoot, he declared, had opposed polygamy, "even from his infancy;" there was "nothing in the constitution" prohibiting "a State from having an established Church;" the old practices of Mormonism were dying out; and Smoot, as an exponent of the newer Mormonism, was largely responsible for the improvement.
This bold falsehood was received with laughter by the members who had heard the testimony before the Senate committee or read the record of its sittings; but it was wired to all newspapers; and the contradictions that followed it failed (for reasons) to get the same publicity. It was repeated by Senator Sutherland (January 22, 1907); and he had the audacity to add that the Mormon Church, as well as Smoot, was opposed to polygamy; that the "sporadic cases" of new polygamy were "reprehended by Mormon and Gentile alike;" that polygamous marriages in Utah had been forbidden by the Enabling Act, but that polygamous cohabitation had been left to the state; and that the latter was rapidly dying out. And Sutherland knew, as every public man in Utah knew, that almost every word of this statement was untrue.
Senator Philander C. Knox, of Pennsylvania (February 14, 1907) took up the lie that Smoot had been "from his youth against polygamy," and he added to it a legal argument that the Senate could only expel a member, by a two-thirds vote, if he were guilty of crime, offensive immorality, disloyalty or gross impropriety during his term of service. Senator Tillman (February 15) accused President Roosevelt of protecting Smoot in return for a pledge of Mormon support given previous to the last campaign. Apostle Smoot (February 19) declared that cases of "new" polygamy were rare; that they were not sanctioned by the Church; that every case since 1890 "has the express condemnation of the Church;" and that he himself had always opposed polygamy. On February 20, the question was forced to a vote after a debate that repeated these falsehoods, in spite of all disproof's of them. And Apostle Smoot was retained in his seat by a vote of fifty-one to thirty-seven, counting pairs.
After this event, no growth of organization was immediately possible to the American party. Having gained political control of Salt Lake City and given it good municipal government, we were able to hold a local adherency; but hundreds of Mormons, who still vote the American city ticket, vote for the Church in state elections, because, though they want reform, they are not willing to risk the punishment of their relatives and the leaders of the Church to attain that reform. And when the national government granted its patent of approval to the hierarchy - by holding the hierarchy's appointed representative in the Senate as its prophetic monitor - nearly all the people of the intermountain country lost heart in the fight. Thousands of Gentiles, who knew the truth and had fought for it for years, argued despairingly: "If the nation likes this sort of thing - I guess it's the sort of thing it likes. I'm not going to ruin myself financially and politically by keeping up a losing struggle with these neighbors of mine, and fight the government at Washington besides. If the administration wants to be bossed by the Prophet, Seer and Revelator, I can stand it."
The nation, having accepted responsibility for past polygamy, now, by accepting Senator Smoot, gave its responsible approval to the new polygamy and to the commercial and political tyrannies of the Church. In the old days the Mormons had claimed immunity for their practice of polygamy on the ground that the constitution of the United States protected them in the exercises of their faith. The Supreme Court of the country determined that the free-religion clause of the constitution did not cover violations of law; and the Church deliberately abandoned its claim of religious immunity. But now a majority of the Senate, supported by President Roosevelt, took the old ground - which the Supreme Court had made untenable and the Mormons themselves had vacated - and practically declared that violations of law were a part of the constitutional guaranty!
 When Senator Aldrich was carrying the tariff bill of 1910 through the Senate, for the greater profit of the "Interests," Smoot and Sutherland did not once vote against him. Smoot supported him on every one of the one hundred and twenty-nine votes and missed none. Sutherland voted with him one hundred and seventeen times and was recorded as not voting on the remaining twelve. Only two other senators made anything like such a despicable record.