March 1878

1 March 1878 • Friday

At the House.

2 March 1878 • Saturday

No session at the House to-day. In evening read special dispatch to New York Herald in Eve. Star from Salt Lake City about myself and the number of polygamous marriages there had been performed in the Endowment House within a year. It was so <utterly> false and so well designed to creat arouse prejudice that I thought it proper to correct it. I wrote articles for the Sunday Herald and Capitol and had them published as editorials correcting these falsehoods. I also arranged with Mr. Gobright to send to the Ass. Press papers the contradiction.

3 March 1878 • Sunday

Attended, as usual, to the Sacrament.

4 March 1878 • Monday

At the House. Mr. Fred Burr, a newspaper man, called upon me this evening and told me that Hemingray and Young had sent to him and other correspondents a tirade of stuff against me, accusing me of falsehood in my statements made to the papers and saying that a resolution would be introduced into the House by the Democrats to expel me. After hearing this I went to the leading newspaper offices to learn if any copies of this statement had been left there, but could not find any. The leading men said they would not have sent such stuff if it had been brought to them.

5 March 1878 • Tuesday

I was much annoyed to-day in learning from Mr. Jones of Ala. that the sub-Com. of the Com. on Ter. had agreed to report a new election law for Utah favorably to the full Com. I learned that Hemingray & Young had been at the Com. Room. It was this that annoyed me, for the distinct understanding was that they would hear no more arguments upon the Bill. These men were poking their noses in everywhere, and had intruded upon this occasion. I talked very plainly to Mr. Turney, chairman of the sub-Com. His excuse was these men had done their cause no good. Jones of Ala. had opposed the adoption of the Bill, the others, Turney of Pa., Cravens of Ala., Bagley of N. Y. and Aldrich of Ill. had voted for it. They had stricken out all relating to polygamy and had partly agreed to strike out the word “male” which would leave female suffrage undisturbed.

6 March 1878 • Wednesday

Bro. W. W. Riter, accompanied by a Mr. Watson of Bridgport, Conn., came to see me as one of the Executors of Pres. Young concerning Utah Western matters. I addressed them a letter (see copy)

Myself and Elizabeth accompanied them to the Theatre in the morning <evening> to see John T. Raymond in Risks. A lively comedy.

7 March 1878 • Thursday

At the House. Busy talking to Members concerning proposed legislation.

8 March 1878 • Friday

Wrote to Bro’s. B. Young and A. Carrington concerning Utah Western matters, also Mr. Watson’s business.

Bro. Riter is still here.

9 March 1878 • Saturday

House in Session. Gen. Thos L. Kane arrived here from home; had interview with him.

10 March 1878 • Sunday

Had another interview with Gen. Kane. Bro. Riter left for New York this evening.

11 March 1878 • Monday

At the House. Spent evening with Gen. Kane.

12 March 1878 • Tuesday

Called upon Pres. Hayes. Had a more free and full talk with him than ever before about our affairs. Urged the impolicy of removing Gov. Emery (there is pressure to remove him because of his signing the election bill) and spoke very plainly upon the subject. He said matter had been referred to two members of the Cabinet – Gen. Devens, attorney general and Gen. Schutz, Sec. of Interior; but he promised that no hasty action should be taken. Afterwards saw Attorney-General and set him right upon some points of election law which he was examining. He agreed with my views and prepared his report accordingly.

13 March 1878 • Wednesday

Com. on Elections was to have met to-day to consider Bill for Utah; but there was no quorum.

14 March 1878 • Thursday

Gen. Kane left to-day. Accompanied him to the Depot.

15 March 1878 • Friday

Com. on Territories met to-day; but I had not been informed respecting the meeting. They could not find me, so postponed discussing the Bill till I could be present. Next meeting will be on Tuesday. Busy in Law Library looking at election laws of various States. Had interview with Col. Donn Piatt. Saw Sec. Schutz who told me Gov. Emery was in no immediate danger.

16 March 1878 • Saturday

A letter was sent by the clerk of the Supreme Court to Salt Lake City informing them that the case of George Reynolds vs the U. S., being the test case of polygamy had been put forward on the calendar for trial this term. If it had come up in its regular order it would be tried sometime late in the fall or winter of 78. I saw the Chief Justice, Hon. Morrison R. Wait and he told me that the case <term> would close May 6th. I received a dispatch from Prest. Taylor asking me if the case had been unalterably fixed for this term, that they were quite unprepared for trial. I talked with Gen. Kane, who happened to be in Washington as to who would be a suitable counselor, Prest Taylor having given me the liberty of employing such a one as would be suitable. He gave me no definite reply but suggested that I consult with Mr Clay upon the subject, and said that I should endeavor to get the case postponed, and he thought it very probable that I should succeed. I saw the Attorney General Mr. Devens, but found him inflexible. He said that public interest required that the case should be tried this session & expressed the view that there would be plenty of time to prepare, that he would not be wanting in professional courtesy but would give as much time to counsel as possible. I was somewhat disappointed in finding him so determined upon this point. Our enemies evidently are pushing this case, as he said that it was an important case and its decision was looked for with a good deal of interest as it would influence in our case. I immediately wrote to Mr. Clay informing him of the circumstances and asking him to suggest some one that would be suitable for counsel. This was on the 16th. On the 18th I received his reply in which he said that he most highly recommended to me the retaining of Mr. George W. Biddle as counsel in the Reynolds case. “Mr. Biddle,” he said, “is not only a lawyer of great prominence and deservedly high in the profession because of his worth and capacities, but is also a gentleman, and in a case of this sort would do it the fullest justice. I know this to be so and can not advise you better than to retain him. He would, I am sure, feel a deep interest in the case, and that, after all is one of the great points to be gained in the selection of counsel.” As I did not wish to be hasty in the matter I immediately wrote to Gen Kane informing him what Mr. Clay had said and asking his view. After some little delay he wrote me on the 23rd approving of Mr. Clay’s suggestion, and saying that it was a relief to him that he had recommended Geo. W. Biddle. He said “You will make no mistake in enlarging the circle of your acquaintance with men of his stamp.” Upon the receipt of his letter (the 25) I wrote to Mr. Clay, asking him to secure the services of Mr. Biddle, and inquiring when it would be convenient for me to go up and have an interview with him myself. In reply he wrote me on the 26 that Mr. Biddle’s engagements in Court are of such a character and so continuous that he could not go to Washington either to procure a postponement of the case or to argue it unless it was positively put off so as to give him ample time to prepare after getting through his positive prior engagements. “It therefore seems” he continued, [“]to be necessary to postpone the case in order to have Mr Biddle in it.” Upon receipt of this letter on the morning of the 27th I waited upon Chief Justice Waite and related to him the circumstances and showed him Mr. Clay’s letter. I told him that we did not wish to postpone the trial of the case, but it was taking us at a disadvantage to urge it to trial with so short a notice; that it was a case of great importance, involving questions of great importance to us, and we wanted time to prepare our case. He took my view of the case and tho’t that the government should not push it to trial at this term, but be willing to give us the time we asked, and suggested that if I saw the Solicitor General, Mr. Phillips, that he would accede to my proposition, I went from his house to the Department of Justice, and had an interview with Mr. Phillips, to whom also I showed Mr. Clay’s letter, respecting Mr. Biddle’s engagements and inability to take hold of the case during this term of the court. He promised me that he would see the At’ty General and talk the matter over with him and write to me and suggested that I should see the Attorney General. I did so, after the Solicitor General and he had had an interview and found that they had decided still to urge the case to trial. I remonstrated in a respectful manner and told him it would be difficult for me to secure counsel in the little time that was remaining, especially if I had to communicate with Mr. Reynolds and his friends at home: that it would take at least two weeks for a letter to go and an answer to come back, and the difficulty would still remain that if we endeavored to secure eminent counsel, he, like Mr. Biddle, would have so many prior engagements that he could not do justice to the case or even attend to it at all. The Att’y General dwelt upon the importance of the case, and that until it was decided, the government would be embarassed and not know what legislation, if any, was needed. I became a little nettled in the course of the conversation, and made a remark which I think struck him. I said I hoped the government would not place us in the position of having to say that we had been forced to trial in a case of this importance, without proper time to prepare ourselves. He finally said he would consult with the Solicitor General. I then [went] back to the Solicitor General and told him what the At’ty General had said and endeavored to appeal to his generosity and to have him take a proper view of it, saying that the Chief Justice had led me to expect that my appeal to him for more time would not be in vain. The next morning (the 29th) not having heard anything and being very anxious upon the subject, I again called upon the At’ty General, and found that they had concluded that the case must go to trial by the 1st of May if the Court would consent. I saw both the gentlemen together and we canvassed the case thoroughly, I using all my arguments again and protesting against the haste that was manifested in the matter, assuring them as I had done that it was not from any disposition to avoid the issue or to have it postponed that I asked for more time but that we might have time to prepare properly for the trial of the case. Finally they consented to leave the matter to the Court to get the time fixed as late during this term as possible. It struck me that I would see Senator Sargent and talk the case over with him and endeavor to enlist his influence to have my view carried out. Fortunately I found him at home, but with several persons waiting for interviews with him. I showed him Mr. Clay’s letter and briefly rehearsed the condition of the case to him and what I wanted. I had an appointment to meet the Solicitor General at 12 o’clock at the Supreme Court room. I wanted Senator Sargent to see some of the Associate Justices and have them use their influence to have the case postponed. I thought from what the Chief Justice said to me that if one or two of the other Justices took the same view, it would not be a difficult matter to have it postponed. Senator Sargent looked at his watch, and it was 11.15. He said he would do all in his power to assist me, and dismissed those who were waiting for him, and we started for the capitol, reaching there at 11.50. He went into the Judges’ room and had a few minutes conversation with Mr. Justice Field who spoke encouragingly to him respecting the matter. I waited till he came out and he told me the result when I went into the Supreme Court room. The first business was some business <requests> that Mr. Baskin had to make connected with two cases that Pres. Young was the defendant in. He then rose to go and did not hear the Solicitor General’s remarks about this other case being seemingly oblivious to all around him. The Solicitor General stated to the Court the wish of the government to have the case settled this term. The Chief Justice saw me inside the bar, and I suppose was reminded of our previous conversation, and inquired if the other side was prepared for trial. The solicitor general said in consequence of a misapprehension of the Del. from Utah, Mr. Cannon, they supposed that the case would not come up till the next fall term, and they were not prepared with counsel. The chief justice then stated as this is a case of great importance would it not be well to give them ample time? The solicitor thought they might have time to prepare this term. The chief justice inquired, however, would it not be well to postpone the trial of the case till the beginning of next term? Justice Field agreed with them and the [they] fixed as the day the first Tuesday of the next term, the 15th of October. I was very much gratified as this result, as it seemed to me there was a disposition to take advantage of our want of preparation and to push the case.

Gen Kane had written to me suggesting that I should go home to attend Conference, and to carry home some suggestions that he and I had talked over connected with Mexican matters. When he first mentioned it to me, I did not see how it was possible that I could get away. He seemed, however, to be quite impressed with the importance of my going, and repeated it in two letters which I received from him. After I succeeded in arranging for this trial it seemed to me that I could go away without any trouble. I had an interview with the Speaker and with other leading members and especially with the members of the Committee on Territories. They had a bill that they intended to report whenever the Committee was called, giving us a new election law. Of course I did not want to be absent when that bill was reported. It was not probable that the committee would be called during my absence, but they promised to endeavor to arrange it, if it was called, that nothing should be done with its final disposition until I returned. I then telegraphed to President Taylor asking him if I could leave everything safe here if there was any reason why I should not take a trip home for a few days, and all affairs cleared up so that evening that I resolved to start. I went to Philadelphia on the 1.40 a.m. train, my family sitting up with me till I started.

30 March 1878 • Saturday

Saturday, Mar 30

Called up Mr. Clay and went with him to see Mr. Biddle. I was much impressed with Mr. Biddle. He is a man whose face gives indication of great strength of character and indomitable firmness, a man who I should think was full of moral courage. This is said to be a characteristic of his. We talked over the case and I left with him a number of pamphlets containing our views and also a transcript of the record. He was a little afraid that the counsel at Salt Lake in the trial of the case had not dwelt upon the constitutionality of the question sufficiently to give him a chance to argue that as he wished, but after a little examination he concluded that probably it was better than he thought.

I started at 11.55 that night for home. As I had not received an answer to my dispatch to Prest. Taylor, I requested the hotel people to forward it to me on the road. I received it at Pittsburg. He approved of my returning. I regretted that I did not have the opportunity of seeing Gen. Kane. When I made up my mind to start on Friday I telegraphed him asking if I could not meet him somewhere on Sunday as I could not possibly reach his place with out throwing me later than was desirable. Mrs. Kane replied that he was away from home and would not be back before Monday at the earliest.

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March 1878, The Journal of George Q. Cannon, accessed May 18, 2024