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- Under the Prophet in Utah - 10/45 -


The Church was then directed by President Woodruff and his two Councillor's, George Q. Cannon and Joseph F. Smith. But President Woodruff was as helpless in the political world as a nun. He was a gentle, earnest old man, patiently ingenuous and simple-minded, with a faith in the guidance of Heaven that was only greater than my father's because it was unmixed with any earthly sagacity. He had the mind, and the appearance, of a country preacher, and even when he was "on the underground" he used to do his daily "stint" of farm labor, secretly, either at night or in the very early morning. He was a successful farmer (born in Connecticut), of a Yankee shrewdness and industry. He recognized that in order to get a crop of wheat, it was necessary to do something more than trust in the Lord. But in administering the affairs of the Church, he seemed to have no such sophistication.

I can see him yet, at the meetings of the Presidency, opening his mild blue eyes in surprised horror at a report of some new danger threatening us. "My conscience! My conscience!" he would cry. "Is that so, brother!" When he was assured that it was so, he would say, resignedly: "The Lord will look after us!" And then, after a silence, turning to his First Councillor, he would ask: "What do you think we ought to do, Brother George Q.?"

The Second Councillor, Joseph F. Smith, sat at these meetings, in a saturnine reserve and silence, either nursing his concealed thought or having none. When a decision had been suggested, he was appealed to and added his assent. It always seemed to me that he was sulkily sleepy; but this impression may have come from the contrast of the First Councillor's mental alertness and the bright cheerfulness of the President--who never, to my knowledge, showed the slightest bitterness against anybody. President Woodruff believed that all the persecutions of the Mormons were due to the Devil's envy of the Lord's power as it showed itself in the establishment of the Mormon Church: and he assumed that the Gentiles did the work they were tempted to do against us, because the Holy Spirit had not yet ousted the evil from their souls. He had no fear of the ultimate triumph of the Church, because he had no fear of the ultimate triumph of God. Whenever he could escape for a day from the worldly duties of his office, he went fishing!

When the progress of the Cullom-Struble bill began to make its threatening advance, my father went secretly to Washington; and a short time afterwards, word came to me in Ogden, through the Presidency, that he wished me to arrange my business affairs for a long absence from Utah, and follow him to the capital.

I found him there, in the office of Delegate John T. Caine of Utah--the cluttered office of a busy man--and he explained, composedly, why he had sent for me. The Cullom-Struble bill had been favorably considered by the Senate Committee on Territories, and the disfranchisement of all the Mormons of Utah seemed imminent. Every argument, political or legal, had been used against the measure, in vain. Since I, a non-polygamous Mormon, would be disfranchised if the bill became law, he thought I might be a good advocate against it. He said: "I have not appeared in the matter. None of our friends know that I am here. If it were known, it might only increase our difficulties. Say nothing of it. We have been at a disadvantage with a Republican administration because most of our prominent men are Democrats. You were so effective with the Democrats, let us see what you can do now with your own party friends."

After taking his advice, I went to see Senator Henry M. Teller, of Colorado, who was a friend of my father and of the Mormon people. He admitted that the situation was desperate. He proposed that I should speak before the committees of both houses; they might listen to me as a Republican who had no official rank in the Church and no political authority. He offered to introduce me to any of the Senators and members of Congress, but advised that I should rather go unintroduced, without influence, and make my appeal as a private citizen.

This sounded to me depressingly like the call to lead a "forlorn hope." I reported to my father again, and was not altogether reassured by a tranquility which he seemed to be able to maintain in the face of any desperation. Other agencies of the Church had reached the end of their resources. There was no help in sight. And I went, at last, to throw our case upon the mercy of the Secretary of State, Mr. James G. Blaine, my father's friend, the friend of our people, the statesman whom I--in common with millions of other Americans--regarded with a reverence that approached idolatry.

He received me in the long room of the Secretary's apartments, standing, a striking figure in black, against the rich and heavy background of the official furnishing. He was very pale--unhealthily so--perhaps with the progress of the disease of which he was to die in so short a time. In contrast with his usual brilliancy of mind, he seemed to me, at first, depressed and quiet--with a kindly serenity of manner, at once gracious, and intimate, but masterful.

He was instantly and deeply interested in what I had to say; he seated himself--on a sofa, near the embrasure of a window--motioned me to bring a chair to his side, and heard me in an erect attitude of thoughtful attention, re-assuring me now and then by reaching out to lay a hand on my knee when he saw from my hesitancy that I feared I might be too candid in my confidences; and the look of his eye and the touch of his hand were as if he said: "I'm your friend. Anything you may say is perfectly safe with me."

I told him of my father's imprisonment.

"It is dreadful," he said. "You shock me to the soul." He spoke of their friendship, of his admiration for my father's work in Congress, of his personal regard for the man himself. "Of course," he said, "I have no sympathy with your peculiar marriage system, and I'll never be able to understand how a man like your father could enter it." I reminded him that my father believed it a system revealed and ordained by God. "I know," he replied. "That is what they say. And I suppose they have scriptural warrant for polygamy. But it is a thing that would be 'more honored in the breach than the observance.' Tell me, is the rule of the Church absolute over you younger men?"

I told him that it was, in respect of political control; that the situation in Utah had placed us where there was no possibility of compromise; that we must be of, with, and for our own people, or against them.

He asked me whether I intended to address myself to the President. I replied, "Not yet"--since the bills were still pending in Congress and were not being urged from the White House. He seemed pleased. As I afterwards learned, there was a strong rivalry between the President and the Secretary of State; and though I knew that Mr. Blaine's interest in Utah was almost wholly one of responsible statesmanship, warmed by a personal kindliness for our people, still it remains a fact that he expected the support of the Utah Republican delegation in the convention of 1892, and that it had been promised him by national Republicans who were now laboring at Washington in our behalf.

He encouraged me with an almost intimate emotion of pity and friendliness; and I felt the largeness of the man as much in the warmth of his humanity as in the breadth of his view. He approved, of my appearing before the committees. "Go and tell them your own story, yourself," he said. "Make your plea independently of all the formal and official arguments that have been used. These have been exhausted. They have been ineffective. We must use the personal and"--he added it significantly--"the political appeal. If you find difficulty, let me know. I shall not be idle in your behalf. If you meet any insuperable obstacle, I'll see if I can't help you run over it."

He rose to terminate the interview. He looked at me with a smile. "'The Lord giveth,'" he said, "'and the Lord taketh away.' Wouldn't it be possible for your people to find some way--without disobedience to the commands of God--to bring yourselves into harmony with the law and institutions of this country? Believe me, it's not possible for any people as weak in numbers as yours, to set themselves up as superior to the majesty of a nation like this. We may succeed, this time, in preventing your disfranchisement; but nothing permanent can be done until you 'get into line.'"

He accompanied me toward the door, giving me friendly messages of regard to deliver to my father. He put his arm around my shoulders, at last, and said: "You may tell your father for me--as I tell you, young man-- you shall not be harmed, this time."

I parted from him with an almost speechless relief and gratitude, and hurried to my father with the news of hope. I had not told Mr. Blaine that he was in Washington; for, without feeling that he saw himself marked by his imprisonment, I was aware that his friends might pity him for it, if they did not condemn him; and neither sentiment (I knew) was he of the personal temper to encounter.

I told him every detail of my talk with the Secretary of State; he heard me, silently, meditatively. When I concluded with Mr. Blaine's assurance that we should not be harmed "this time," but must "get into line," he looked up at me with a significant steadiness of eye. "President Woodruff," he said, "has been praying . . . . He thinks he sees some light . . . . You are authorized to say that something will be done."

I asked no question. His gaze conveyed assurance, but forbade inquiry. I had to understand, without being told, that the Church was preparing to concede a recession from the doctrine of polygamy.

With this assurance to aid me, I began the work of reaching the committees--warm work in a Washington summer, but hopeful in the new prospect of a lasting success. The bill for disfranchisement had been reported out by the committees and was on the calendar for passage. It was necessary to have the question reopened before the committees for argument. In soliciting the opportunity of a re-hearing, from the Chairman of the Senate Committee, Senator Orville H. Platt, of Connecticut, I made my argument in a private conversation with him in his rooms in the Arlington Hotel. When I had done, he chewed his cigar a moment, looked at me quizzically, and asked: "Do you know Abbot R. Heywood, of Ogden?"--and, as he asked it, he drew a letter from his pocket.

I replied that I knew Mr. Heywood well.

"I have a letter here from him, on this same subject," he said. "Tell me. What kind of man is he? And to what extent do you think I ought to depend on his views?"

I was never more tempted in my life to tell a lie. I knew Mr. Heywood to be a man of truth and high ideals; but he had been Chairman of the Anti-Church party in Weber County, and he had been one of the Gentile leaders for several years. I knew the intensity of his feelings against the rule of the Church in politics and the Mormon attitude of defiance to the law. I was sure that he would be strong in his demand for the passage of the disfranchisement act.

I hesitated a moment. Senator Platt was watching me. Then, with a resolve that our cause must stand or fall by the truth, I said: "Mr. Heywood is a man of integrity. I think he would write exactly what he believed to be true. But you know, Senator, intense feeling in politics sometimes sways a man's judgment. In view of Mr. Heywood's long


Under the Prophet in Utah - 10/45

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