The Smiths were no sooner firm in power than rumors began to circulate of a recrudescence of plural marriage, and I heard reports of political plots by which the Prophets were to re-establish their autocracy in worldly affairs in the name of God. I sought to close my mind against such accusations, for I remembered how often my father had been misjudged, and I felt that nothing but the most direct evidence should be permitted to convince me of a recession by the Church authorities from the miraculous opportunity of progress that was now open to their leadership. Such direct evidence came, in part, in the state elections of 1902.
The Utah Democrats re-nominated Wm. H. King for Congress; Senator Joseph L. Rawlins was their candidate to succeed himself in the United States Senate. The Republicans nominated President Smith's friend, Joseph Howell, for Congress; and there began to spread a rumor that Apostle Reed Smoot was to become a Republican candidate for the Senatorship under an old promise given him by President Snow and now endorsed by President Smith. I had been made state chairman of the Democratic party; and with the growing report of Apostle Smoot's candidacy, I observed a gradual cessation of political activity on the part of those prominent Democrats who were close to the Church leaders.
Now, our party was not making war on the Church nor on any of its proper missions in the world. Our candidates were capable and popular men against whom no just ecclesiastical antagonism could be raised. We were asking no favors from the Church. And we were determined to have no opposition from the Church without a protest and an understanding.
For this reason-after consulting confidentially with the leaders of our party-I undertook to make a personal visit to President Smith's office to demand that the Church authorities should keep their hands out of politics. But even while I discussed the matter with our party leaders, I was afraid that some of them might betray our concerted purpose to Church headquarters. And my fear was well grounded. When I went to the offices of the Presidency, the authorities-for the first, last and only time-refused to see me; and the secretary betrayed a knowledge of my mission by telling me that I should hear from some one of the hierarchy, later.
Two or three days afterward, Apostle M. F. Cowley came to me with word that my call had been considered and that he had been deputed to talk with me. We appointed a time for conference in my rooms at Democratic headquarters, where we spent the large part of a day in consultation. And since the argument between us covered the whole ground of Apostle Smoot's candidacy, I wish to give an account of that interview, as a brief exposition of some of the present-day aspects of the Church's interference in politics.
Apostle Cowley and I had been boyhood friends. He had been one of the older students at the school that I had attended as a child; and I knew the integrity and directness of his character. He was a stocky, strong man, with a wholesome sort of face, brown with the sunburn of his missionary travels in Canada and in Mexico. (He had been, in fact, solemnizing plural marriages in these polygamous refuges-as we found out later.)
As soon as it was clearly understood between us that I represented the Democratic state committee and he represented the Church authorities, I asked for an explanation of Apostle Smoot's candidacy.
Cowley began by admitting the candidacy, which President Smith had endorsed (he said) in spite of the opposition of some of the apostles. He argued that Apostle Smoot was only exercising his right of American citizenship in aspiring to the Senatorship; and he explained that the Church authorities did not see why the Church should be drawn into the campaign.
But, as I pointed out to him, the Church had already drawn itself in. It had held a solemn conclave of its hierarchy to authorize an apostle's candidacy. The opponents of Church rule would circulate the fact; in any close campaign, the apostle's friends would use the fact upon the faithful; and the Church would be compelled to support its apostle in an assumed necessity of defending itself.
Perhaps I was objectionably forceful in my reply to him. With his characteristic gentleness, he rebuked me by recalling that President Woodruff had once taken him into "sacred places," assured him that "Frank Cannon, like David, was a man after God's own heart," and asked him to "labor" for me in politics. If it had been right for the Prophet of God to favor me, why was it not right for the Prophet now to favor some one else?
My personal regard for Apostle Cowley kept me from showing the amusement I felt at finding myself in this new scriptural role-remembering how President Woodruff had once devoted me to destruction like another Isaac on the altar of Church control. I replied to Cowley, as soberly as I could, that I had never consciously received the aid of any Church influence; that I had always objected to its use, either for or against either party; that I could oppose it now with free hands.
He retreated upon the favorite argument of the ecclesiasts: that an apostle did not relinquish his citizenship because of his Church rank; that the very political freedom which we demanded, to be effective, must apply to all men, in or out of the Church. He asked naively: "What did we get statehood for-and amnesty-and our political rights-if we're not to enjoy them?"
The answer to that was obvious: The Mormon Church is so constructed that the apostle carries with him the power of the Church wherever he appears. The whole people recognize in him the personified authority of the Church; and if an apostle were allowed to make a political campaign without a denunciation from the other Church authorities, it would be known that he had been selected for political office by "the mouthpiece of the Almighty." I cited the case of Apostle Moses Thatcher as proof that the Church did exercise power openly to negative an apostle's ambition. If it failed now to rebuke Smoot, this very failure would be an affirmative use of its power in his behalf; all Mormons who did not wish to raise their hands against "the Lord's anointed," would have to support Smoot's legislative ticket, regardless of their political convictions; and all Gentiles and independent Mormons would have to fight the intrusion of the Church into open political activities.
Cowley replied that "the brethren"-meaning the hierarchy-believed that a Mormon should have as many political rights, as a Catholic; and he asked me if I would object to seeing a Catholic in the Senate.
Of course not. There are, and have been, many such. "But suppose," I argued, "that the Pope were to select one of his Italian cardinals to come to this country and be naturalized in some state of this Union that was under the sole rule of the Roman Catholic Church; and suppose that-still holding his princedom in the Catholic Church and exercising the plenary authority conferred on him by the Pope-suppose he were to appear before the Senate in his robes of office, with his credentials as a Senator from his Church-ruled state-all of this being a matter of public knowledge-do you think the Senate would seat him? Certainly not. Yet the cases are exactly analogous. We were but lately alien and proscribed. We were admitted into the Union on a covenant that forbade Church interference in politics. It is the whole teaching of the Church that a Prophet wears his prophetic authority constantly as a robe of office. The case of Moses Thatcher is proof to the world that the Church appoints and disappoints at its pleasure. I don't believe that Smoot, if elected, will be allowed to hold his seat, and-if he is allowed to hold it-a greater trouble than his exclusion will surely follow. For, with the princes of the Mormon Church holding high place in the national councils-and using the power of the Church to maintain themselves there-we are assuring for ourselves an indefinite future of the most bitter controversy."
When Cowley had no more arguments to offer, he said: "Well, the Prophet has spoken. That's enough for me. I submit cheerfully when the will of the Lord comes to me through his appointed servants. The matter has been decided, and it does not lie in your power-or anyone else's-to withstand the purposes of the Almighty." He rose and put his hand on my shoulder, affectionately. "Your father is gone, Frank. I loved him very dearly. I hope that you are not going to be found warring against the Lord's anointed."
"Mat," I replied, "you have already pointed out that Apostle Smoot appears in politics only as an American citizen. For the purposes of this fight-and to avoid the consequences that you fear-I'll regard him as a politician merely, and fight him as such."
"But, you know, Frank," he remonstrated, "he has been consecrated to the apostleship, and I'm afraid that you'll overstep the bounds."
"Mat," I assured him, "I'll watch carefully, and unless he makes his lightning changes too fast, I'll aim my shots only when he's in his political clothes. If the change is too indefinite, blame yourselves and not us. The whole teaching of the Church is that an apostle must be regarded as an apostle at all times; but the whole teaching of politics is that all men should appear upon equal terms-in this country. That's why we insist that no apostle should become a candidate for public office."
Cowley took his departure with evident relief. He had discharged his ambassadorial duty-and given me the warning which he had been authorized to deliver-without a rupture of our personal friendship. And I saw him go, for my part, in a sorrowful certainty that the Church had thrown off all disguise and proposed to show the world, by the election of an apostle to the United States Senate, that the "Kingdom of God" was established in Utah to rule in all the affairs of men. I knew that if Smoot were excluded from the Senate, his exclusion would be argued a proof that the wicked and unregenerate nation was still devilishly persecuting God's anointed servants, to its own destruction; and, if he were permitted to take his seat, that this fact would be cited to the faithful as proof that the Prophets had been called to save the nation from the destruction that threatened it!
Of course, throughout the campaign that followed, the Church's newspapers and many of its political workers kept protesting publicly that the election of the Republican legislative ticket did not mean the election of Apostle Smoot to the Senate. But by means of the authoritative whisper of ecclesiasts-carried by visiting apostles to Presidents of Stakes, from them to the bishops, and from the bishops to the presiding officers of subsidiary organizations-the inspired order was given to the faithful that they must vote for the legislators who could be relied upon to do the will of the Lord by voting for the Lord's anointed prophet, Apostle Reed Smoot. This message was delivered to the sacred Sunday prayer circles. Even Senator Rawlins' mother received it, from one of the ecclesiastical authorities of her ward, who instructed her to vote against the election of her own son; and it was "at the peril of her immortal soul" that she disobeyed the injunction. Long before election day, every Mormon knew that he had been called upon by the Almighty to sacrifice his individual conviction in politics to protect his "assailed Church."
The profound effectiveness of that appeal needs no further proof than the issue of the election. King and Rawlins, the popular leaders of the Democracy in a state that had but recently been overwhelmingly Democratic-after a campaign in which they studiously avoided an attack upon the Church-were overwhelmingly defeated. The Republican legislative ticket was carried. Apostle Smoot was elected to the United States Senate; and on January 21, 1903, Governor Wells issued to him a certificate of election.
Five days later, a number of prominent citizens signed a protest, to President Roosevelt and the Senate, against allowing Apostle Smoot to take his seat. And the grounds of the protest, briefly stated, were these: The Mormon priesthood claimed supreme authority in politics, and such authority was exercised by the first presidency and the twelve apostles, of whom Smoot was one. They had not only not abandoned the practice of political dictation, but they had not abandoned the belief in polygamy and polygamous cohabitation; they connived at and encouraged its practice, sought to pass laws that should nullify the statutes against the practice, and protected and honored the violators of those statutes. And they had done all these things despite the public sentiment of the civilized world, in violation of the pledges given in procuring amnesty and in obtaining the return of the escheated Church property, contrary to the promises given by the representatives of the Church and of the territory in their plea for statehood, contrary to the Pledges required by the Enabling Act and given in the State constitution, and contrary to the laws of the State itself.
These charges were supported by innumerable citations from the published doctrines of the Church, and from the published speeches and sermons of the Prophets. Evidence was offered of the continuance of polygamous cohabitation (since 1890) by President Smith, all but three or four of the apostles, the entire Presidency of the Salt Lake Stake of Zion, and many others. New polygamy was specifically charged against three apostles, and against the son of a fourth. A second protest, signed by John L. Leilich, repeated these grounds of objection to Apostle Smoot, and charged further that Apostle Smoot was himself a polygamist; but no attempt was made to prove this latter charge.
Upon the filing of the protest, there was a storm of anger at Church headquarters; and the ecclesiastical newspapers railed with the bitterness of anxious apprehension. Throughout Utah it seemed to be the popular belief that Apostle Smoot would be excluded-on the issue of whether a responsible representative of a Church that was protecting and encouraging law-breaking should be allowed a seat in the highest body of the nation's law-makers. But the issue against him was not to be heard until twelve months after his election, and every agent and influence of the Church was set to work at once to nullify the effect of the protest.
Every financial institution, East or West, to which the Church could appeal, was solicited to demand a favorable hearing of the Smoot case from the Senators of its state. Every political and business interest that could be reached was moved to protect the threatened Apostle. The sugar trust magnates and their Senators were enlisted. The mercantile correspondents of the Church were urged to write letters to their Congressmen and to their Senators, and to use their power at home to check the anti-Mormon newspapers. The Utah representative of a powerful mercantile institution, that had vital business relations with the Church, confessed to me that he had been called East to consult with the head of his company, who had been asked to use his influence for Smoot. "I could not advise our president," he said, "to send the letter that was demanded of him. And yet I couldn't take the responsibility of injuring the company by advising him to refuse the Church request. You know, if we had refused it, point-blank, they would have destroyed every interest we had within the domain of their power. I should have been ruined financially. All our stockholders would have suffered. They would never have forgiven me."
The president of the company failed to send the letter. His failure became known, through Church espionage and the report of the Church's friends in the Senate. Pressure was brought to bear upon him; and, with the aid of his Utah representative, he compromised on a letter that did partial violence to his conscience and partially endangered his business relations with the Church.
Both these men were aware that the Church had broken its covenants to the country, and that Apostle Smoot could not be either a loyal citizen of the nation or a free representative of the people of his state. "I did not like the compromise we made," my friend told me. "I feel humiliated whenever I think of it. But I tried to do the best I could under the circumstances."
The results of this pressure of political and business interests upon Washington showed gradually in the tone of the political newspapers throughout the whole country. It showed in the growing confidence expressed by the organs of the Church authorities in Utah. It showed in the cheerful predictions of the Prophets that the Lord would overrule in Apostle Smoot's behalf. It showed in Smoot's exercise of an autocratic leadership in the political affairs of the State.
He was allowed to take his oath of office as Senator on March 5, 1903; the protests against him were referred to the Senate Committee on Privileges and Elections for a hearing (January 27, 1904); and a contest began that lasted from January, 1904, to February, 1907. During those years was completed the business and political conspiracy between financial "privilege" and religious absolutism, of which conspiracy this narrative has described the beginning and the growth.
It is almost impossible to expose the progression of incident by which the end of that conspiracy was approached-since it was necessarily approached in the darkest secrecy. But several indications of the method and the progress did show, here and there, on the surface of events; and these indications are powerfully significant.
As early as 1901 it had become known that Apostle Smoot was negotiating a sale, to the sugar trust, of the Church's sugar holdings. On May 13, 1902, the president of the trust reported to the trust's executive committee that he had agreed to buy a one-half interest in the consolidation of the Mormon factories of La Grande, Logan and Ogden. (The following day, May 14, 1902, is given by Apostle Smoot as the day on which he obtained President Joseph F. Smith's permission to become a candidate for the Senatorship.) On June 24, 1902 the sugar trust's executive committee was informed of the trust's purchase of one-half of the capital stock of these three Church-owned sugar companies. On July 5, 1902 the three companies were consolidated under the name of the Amalgamated Sugar Company, with David Eccles, polygamist, trustee of Church bonds, and protégé" of Joseph F. Smith, as President; and the sugar trust took half the stock, in exchange for its holdings in the three original companies.
Similarly, in this same year, the old Church-owned Utah Sugar Company increased its stock in order to buy the Garland sugar factory, and the sugar trust, it is understood, was concerned in the purchase In 1903, 1904 and 1905, the Idaho Sugar Company, the Freemont Sugar Company, and West Idaho Sugar Company were incorporated; and in 1906 all these companies were amalgamated in the present Utah-Idaho Sugar Company, of which Joseph F. Smith is president, T. R. Cutler, a Mormon, is vice-president, Horace G. Whitney, the general manager of the Church's Deseret News, is secretary and treasurer, and other Church officials are directors. Of the stock of this company the sugar trust holds fifty-one per cent. So that between 1902 and 1906 a partnership in the manufacture of beet sugar was effected between the Church and the trust; and Apostle Smoot became a Sugar trust Senator, and argued and voted as such.
Furthermore, it was at this same period that the Church sold the street railway of Salt Lake City and its electric power company to the "Harriman interests" under peculiar circumstances-a matter of which I have written in an earlier chapter. The Church owners of this Utah Light and Railway Company, through the Church's control of the City Council, had attempted to obtain a hundred-year franchise from the city on terms that were outrageously unjust to the citizens; and finally, on June 5, 1905, a franchise was obtained for fifty years, for the company of which Joseph F. Smith was the president. On August 3, 1905, another city ordinance was passed, consolidating all former franchises, then held by the Utah Light and Power Company, but originally granted to D. F. Walker, the Salt Lake and Ogden Gas and Electric Light Company, the Pioneer Power Company and the Utah Power Company; and this ordinance extended the franchises to July 1, 1955. The properties were bonded for $6,300,000, but it was understood that they were worth not more than $4,000,000. They were sold to "the Harriman interests" for $10,000,000. The equipment of the Salt Lake City street railway was worse than valueless, and the new company had to remove the rails and discard the rolling stock. But the ten millions were well invested in this public-utility trust, for the company had a monopoly of the street railway service and electric power and gas supply of Salt Lake City; and its franchises left it free to extort whatever it could from the people of the whole country side, by virtue of a partnership with the Church authorities whereby extortion was given the protection of "God's anointed Prophets."
Joseph F. Smith, of course, was already a director of Harriman's Union Pacific Railroad, a position to which he had been elected after his accession to the First Presidency. And he was so elected not because of his railroad holdings-for he came to the Presidency a poor man-and not because of his ability or experience as a financier or a railroad builder, for he had not had any such experience and he had not shown any such ability. He was elected because of the partnership between the Church leaders and the Union Pacific Railroad-a partnership that was doubtlessly used in defence of Apostle Smoot's seat in the Senate, just as the power of the Sugar Trust was used and the influence of the whole financial confederation in politics.
1 See a synopsis of the minutes of the trust's executive committee, published in Hampton's Magazine, in January, 1910.
Next: XIII The Smoot Exposure