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- Under the Prophet in Utah - 20/45 -


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!

[FOOTNOTE: See Proceedings before Senate Committee on Privileges and Elections, 1904, Vol. 1, pages 110, 126, 177, etc.]

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 Councillor by having the son be one of the first to break the law, and violate the covenant. I saw that


Under the Prophet in Utah - 20/45

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