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- Under the Prophet in Utah - 5/45 -
commanding figure standing as if our arrival had stopped him in some anxious pacing of the carpet. His overcoat and his hat had been thrown on a chair. He greeted us with the air of one who is hurried, and sat down tentatively; and as soon as we came to the question of my trip to Washington, he broke out:
"These scoundrels here must be removed--if there's any way to do it. They're trying to repeat the persecutions of Missouri and Illinois. They want to despoil us of our heritage--of our families. I'm sick of being hunted like a wild beast. I've done no harm to them or theirs. Why can't they leave us alone to live our religion and obey the commandments of God and build up Zion?" He had begun to stride up and down the floor again, in a sort of driven and angry helplessness. "I thought Cleveland would stop this damnable raid and make them leave us in peace--but he's as bad as the rest. Can't they see that these carpet baggers are only trying to rob us? Make them see that. The hounds! Sometimes it seems to me that the Lord is letting these iniquities go on so that the nation may perish in its sins all the sooner!"
He sneered at John W. Young who had gone to Washington for the Church. (I had met Smith himself there, earlier in the year.) "I thought he'd accomplish something," he said, "with his fashionable home and his-- [**missing text?**] He's using money enough! He's down there, taking things easy, while the rest of us are driven from pillar to post." He attacked the Federal authorities, Governor West, the "whole gang." He cried: "I love my wives and my children--whom the Lord gave me. I love them more than my life-- more than anything in the world--except my religion! And here I am, fleeing from place to place, from the wrath of the wicked--and they're left in sorrow and suffering."
His face was pallid with emotion, and his voice came now hard with exasperation against his enemies and now husky with a passionate affection for his family--a man of fifty, graybearded, quivering in a nervous transport of excitement that jerked him up and down the room, gesticulating.
When he had worn out his first anger of revolt, I brought the conversation round to the question of polygamy, by asking him about a provisional constitution for statehood which the non-polygamous Mormons had recently adopted. It contained a clause making polygamy a misdemeanor. "I would have seen them all damned," he said, "before I would have yielded it, but I'm willing to try the experiment, if any good can come."
He had, I gathered, no aversion to "deceiving the wicked," but he was opposed to leading his people away from their loyalty to the doctrine of plural marriage, by conceding anything that might weaken their faith in it. And yet this impression may misrepresent him. He was too agitated, too exasperated, for any serious reflection on the situation.
My brother had gone--to keep some other engagement--and I stayed late, talking as long as Smith seemed to wish to talk. He rose at last and "blessed" me, his hands on my head, in a return to some larger trust in his religious authority; and I left him--with very doubtful and mixed emotions. His natural violence and his lack of discipline had been matters of common gossip among our people, and I had heard of them from childhood; but I had supposed that tribulations would, by this time, have matured him. There was something compelling in his unsoftened turbulence, but nothing encouraging for me as a messenger of conciliation. I felt that there would be no help come from him in my task, and I dropped him from my reckoning.
I had made up my mind to a plan that was almost as desperate as the conditions it sought to cure--a plan that was in some ways so absurd that I felt like keeping it concealed for fear of ridicule--and I went about my preparations for departure in a sort of hopeless hope. As the train drew out from Ogden, I looked back at the mountains from my car window, and saw again, in the spectacle of their power, the pathos of our people--as if it were the nation of my worship that bulked there so huge above the people of my love--and I, puny in my little efforts, going out to plot an intercession, to appeal for a truce! It was almost as if I were the son of a Confederate leader journeying to Washington, on the eve of the Civil War, to attempt to stand between North and South and hold back their opposing armies, single-handed.
These are the things a man does when he is young.
On A Mission to Washington
I went discredited, as an envoy, by an incident of personal conflict with the Federal authorities; and I wish to relate that incident before I proceed any farther. I must relate it soon, because it came up for explanation in one of my first interviews with President Cleveland; and I wish to relate it now, because it was so typical of the day and the condition from which we had to save ourselves.
In the winter of 1885-6, the United States Marshals had been pursuing my father from place to place with such determined persistence that it was evident his capture was only a matter of time. We believed that if he were arrested and tried before Chief Justice Zane--with District Attorney Dickson and Assistant District Attorney Varian prosecuting--he would be convicted on so many counts that he would be held in prison indefinitely--that he might, in fact, end his days there. There was the rumor of a boast, to this effect, made by Federal officers; and we misunderstood them and their motives, in those days, sufficiently to accept the unjust report as well-founded.
My father, as First Councillor of the Church, had proposed to President Taylor that every man who was living in plural marriage should surrender himself voluntarily to the court and plead: "I entered into this covenant of celestial marriage with a personal conviction that it was an order revealed by our Father in Heaven for the salvation of mankind. I have kept my covenant in purity. I believed that no constitutional law of the country could forbid this practice of a religious faith. As the laws of Congress conflict with my sense of submission to the will of the Lord, I now offer myself, here, for whatever judgment the courts of my country may impose." He believed that such a course would vindicate the sincerity of the men who had engaged in polygamy and defied the law in an assumption of religious immunity; and he believed that the world would pause to reconsider its judgment upon us, if it saw thousands of men--the bankers, the farmers, the merchants, and all the religious leaders of a civilized community--marching in a mass to perform such an act of faith.
But President Taylor was not prepared for a movement that would have recommended itself better to the daring genius of Brigham Young. Taylor had given himself into the custody of the officers of the law once--in Carthage, Illinois--with Joseph Smith and his brother, Hyrum Smith; and Taylor had been wounded by the mob that broke into the jail and shot the Smiths to death. This, perhaps, had cured him of any faith in the protecting power of innocency. He decided against voluntary surrender; and now that my father's liberty was so seriously threatened, he ordered him to go either to Mexico or to the Sandwich Islands--his old mission field--where he would be beyond the reach of the United States authorities.
My father believed that if he left Utah, his recession might tend to placate the government and soften the severity of the prosecutions of the Mormons; and accordingly, on the night of February 12, 1886, he boarded a west-bound Central Pacific train at Willard. The Federal officers in some way learned of it; he was arrested, on the train, at Humboldt Wells, Nevada, and brought back to Utah. Near Promontory he fell from the steps of the moving car, at night, in the midst of an alkali desert, and hurt himself seriously. He was recaptured and brought to Salt Lake City on a stretcher, in a special car, guarded by a squad of soldiers from Fort Douglas, with loaded muskets, and a captain with a conspicuous sword. He was taken to Judge Zane's chambers and placed under bonds of $25,000. Immediately two bench warrants were issued by a United States Commissioner, and these were served upon him while he lay on a mattress on the floor of Zane's office. Two more bonds of $10,000 each were given. He was then taken to his home.
Later--(President Taylor still insisting that he must not stand trial)-- he disappeared again, "on the underground," and his bonds were declared forfeited. But in the meantime, while the grand jury was hearing testimony against him, one of the beloved women of his family was called for examination, and District Attorney Dickson asked her some questions that deeply wounded her. She returned home weeping. My brothers and I felt that the questions had been needlessly offensive, and after an indignant discussion of the matter, I undertook to remonstrate personally with Mr. Dickson.
If I had been as wise, then, as I sometimes think I am now, I should have realized that a meeting between us was dangerous; that the feeling, on our side at least, was too warm for calm remonstrances. And I should not have taken with me a younger brother, about sixteen years old, with all the hot-headedness of youth. Fortunately we did not go armed.
We sought Dickson in the evening, at the Continental Hotel--the old, adobe Continental with its wide porches and its lawn trees--and we found him in the lobby. I asked him to step out on the porch, where I might speak with him in private. He came without a moment's hesitation. He was a big, handsome, black-bearded man in the prime of his strength.
We had scarcely exchanged more than a few sentences formally, when my brother drew back and struck him a smashing blow in the face. Dickson grappled with me, a little blinded, and I called to the boy to run-- which he very wisely did. Dickson and I were at once surrounded, and I was arrested.
Ordinarily the incident would have been trivial enough, but in the alarmed state of the public mind it was magnified into an attempt on the part of George Q. Cannon's sons to take the life of the United States District Attorney. Indictments were found against my brother and myself, and against a cousin who happened to be in another part of the hotel at the time of the attack. Some weeks later, when the excitement had rather died down, I went to the District Attorney's office and arranged with his assistant, Mr. Varian, that the indictments against my brother (who had escaped from Utah) and my cousin (who was wholly innocent) should be quashed, and that I should plead guilty to a charge of assault and battery. On this understanding, I appeared in court before Chief Justice Zane.
But Mr. Varian, having consulted with Mr. Dickson, had learned that I had not struck the blow--though, as the elder brother, I was morally responsible for it--and he suggested to the court that sentence be suspended. This, Justice Zane seemed prepared to do, but I objected. I was a newspaper writer (as I explained), and I felt that if I criticized the court thereafter for what I believed to be a harshness that amounted to persecution, I could be silenced by the imposition of the suspended sentence; and if I failed to criticize, I should be false to what I
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