The Church Historian's Press

January 1879

Events in George Q. Cannon’s journal for 1879

11 January

“The U. S. Supreme Court rendered a decision yesterday upon the case of Bro. Geo. Reynolds. They sustained the constitutionality of the law . . . against Polygamy. ”

7 February

“Had my likeness taken by Mr Bell at the request of Mrs. Ketcham [a sculptor]”

14 February

Painful dental operation

1 March

Senator William W. Eaton’s amendment, encouraged by Cannon, passed.

13 March

“There is a feeling of repugnance which I have for this man [Robert N.] Baskin. . . . He is a wicked, unscrupulous man.”

7 May

“The spirit which has been exhibited towards us in years past . . . can be seen now exhibited by one section towards another. The feeling is as bitter between the two political parties as it ever was towards us.”

21 May

“I introduced a Bill the subject of which was to take away from the Governor of Utah the absolute power to veto all legislation.”

5 June ff.

Made unsuccessful efforts to have President Rutherford B. Hayes remit the sentence of George Reynolds

30 July

Cannon would rather go to prison than give a new bond of $150,000.

4 August ff.

Went to prison. Released on 28 August.

10 December

Edwin Willets of Michigan “seems to have taken the morals of Utah in charge.”

1 January 1879 • Wednesday

Snowing this morning. My son John Q. drove me to town. Called <upon> and paid compliments of the season to President John Taylor, W. Woodruff, Gov. Emery, Secretary Luckey, Gen. Williamson, Commissioner of Gen. Land Office who was at the Walker House, also Bro’s. Hooper & Jennings. I also spent sometime with Bro. John Hoagland at the Co-operative store where Bro. T. G. Webber explained the condition of the estate of my late Father-in-law, Bishop Hoagland, of which John and I were Executors. Bro. Webber had at my request got out a balance sheet of the accounts. Bade all the folks good by, as I expected to leave for Washington in the morning. Had conversation with Uncle Taylor respecting some of our ladies going down to attend the Women’s Convention at Washington. He decided to have Sister<s> Emmeline Wells and Zina Young Williams go down. Bro. John Hoagland and my son John Q. spent an hour or two in the evening looking over estate accounts.

2 January 1879 • Thursday

A number of my children are sick with severe colds and fever which appears to be epidemic. My wife Elizabeth has suffered from it and Mary Alice, David, Emily and Sylvester are all sick and affected similarly. Mary Alice has been quite seriously ill and David has been so delirious for two nights as to alarm his Mother very much. Martha’s children have also suffered. Hester, Amelia, Louis, Brigham and Willard. The former was very sick and feverish last evening and night and quite delirious a part of the time. I administered to her twice. She was better this morning. I started from home about 6 this morning. Called at the P. O. and the Printing Office for my letters. <My sons> John Q. and Franklin and my nephew Geo. C. Lambert accompanied me to Ogden. Bro. Lorenzo Snow was also on the car. He had come down to see me respecting the Internal Revenue tax on the scrip issued by them at Brigham City

3 January 1879 • Friday

Our journey is a pleasant one, cold outside, but warm in the car. Gen. Williamson and daughter are my traveling companions, also Col. T. H. Stanton U. S. Paymaster in the Army and his clerk, Mr. Chase. We were joined to-day at Cheyenne by Lieut. Cherry, U. S. A. These gentlemen played poker very steadily all afternoon and evening. But little snow in the mountains.

4 January 1879 • Saturday

Reached Omaha to-day. Excessively cold. Thermomemeter upwards of 20 deg. below zero. It has varied up the road and here between 20 and 26 deg. below zero. Left the Bluffs on the Chicago and Rock Island R.R. It was the only train going to Chicago. On Saturday the various Roads unite in sending out a train alternately. I am told that this and the two preceding days are the coldest they have had here for many

5 January 1879 • Sunday

We reach Chicago in the afternoon. Excessively cold here also. After 9 p.m. start for Washington. Have ex-Senators Hitchcock of Nebraska and Matt. Carpenter of Wisconsin, and Mr. Burchard and Aldrich of Ill. on board. Before we reach Washington have in addition: Mr. Townsend of Ohio, Ellsworth of Mich., Shellenbarger of Penn. and Senator McMillan of Minn.

6 January 1879 • Monday

Weather very cold. Card playing the great occupation of most of the men on the car.

7 January 1879 • Tuesday

Reached Washington at 11.15 a.m., a little over two hours behind time. The Lord has heard my prayer; he gave me a peaceful, prosperous journey home and back and blessed me while there. Other roads have been blockaded and travel upon them has been suspended; but I have met with no interruption upon those over which I have traveled.

11 January 1879 • Saturday

The U. S. Supreme Court rendered a decision yesterday upon the case of Bro. Geo. Reynolds. They sustained the constitutionality of the law of Congress of 1862 against Polygamy on all points and sustained the action of the lower courts in the case on all points of appeal, Justice Field alone dissenting upon one point. The decision will not be printed in full for several days. My emotions are peculiar in relation to this matter. But I know that God lives. My confidence in him is unshaken. This is his work. His people have taken wives because he commands them to do so. He has promised to defend and sustain them. He is able to do so and will do so. For myself, though I could have lived all my life without one wife, or any woman at all, had it been necessary (I did so live while on my mission to the Sandwich Islands after I was a full grown man) yet I was so urged by the Spirit of the Lord to obey this commandment that I know it would have been woe unto me if I had not taken more wives. Never in my life was the will of the Lord more plainly manifested to me than upon this point. Naturally I shrunk from doing such a thing. I have always been bashful and retiring in my associations with the other sex. I never took liberties with them. It was only with a great effort that I could be free with them, and I have not got over this feeling to this day. It required, therefore, the influence and moving power of the Spirit of the Lord to impel me to take another wife. The fear of grieving the Spirit of the Lord and of disobeying Him overcame every other fear. I am thankful that He thus impressed me, because I can appeal to him now with greater faith and confidence. I know that the desire to have wives as such did not enter as a motive in my taking those who are sealed to me. I know that it was the Lord’s command that I should take them. Will He sustain and deliver His people who thus obey and trust in Him? I know He will and am comforted and sustained.

For the first day I could not find anybody who had heard the decision. Judge Otto, the Reporter of the Court, whom I visited at his residence on Wednesday morning told me what it was in greater detail than the newspaper paragraphs. I telegraphed home. I received a message from there asking if there could be a new trial. I saw Justice Field, this Thursday morning and talked with him about a rehearing. I talked over the situation with him and expressed surprise that before the rendering of the decision a hint had not been dropped to some one confidentially respecting legislation to condone the past and make punishment prospective. I also spoke to him about obtaining pardon for Bro. Reynolds. He spoke doubtfully about a rehearing; but suggested that I write to our Counsel in the case, Mr. Biddle, and see what he would say. He said the mandate of the Court was not usually issued till the end of the term; but it might be issued whenever called for, and therefore if a rehearing were asked for it should be done quickly. He thought there ought to be legislation and suggested that I should see leading men of both parties in both Houses upon the subject. I wrote to Mr. Biddle two letters. I have also seen many Members of both Houses upon the subject of legislation. This morning I had an important interview with Senator Edmunds of Vermont, Chairman of the Judiciary Committee of the Senate, upon this subject. For the full<er> particulars of this interview see my letter to President John Taylor of this date. I saw Senators Thurman, Eaton, Bayard, Sanders & Chaffee upon this subject, also Senator David Davis, lately one of the Supreme Judges, and they all spoke favorably of legislation to condone the past and to operate for the future only if there was to be any punishment. The question has naturally arisen: “Will your people observe the law in the future?” Determined not to mislead or deceive I have given no assurance that they would, but have said that I could not do so; I had had no communication with them upon the subject since the decision and therefore could not say what their feelings were. While I think it best, in the absence of more knowledge, to suggest amnesty for the past, personally I can say that I would never accept it on condition of a renunciation of this doctrine. It would, however, be a graceful and magnanimous act for the government to grant amnesty for the past, and for the future let those who choose to break the law do so with the full knowledge of the consequences. It is in this manner that I speak of it. Besides those whom I have mentioned I have spoken to Vice President Wheeler who thought such legislation very proper, also to many Members of the House. This morning (Saturday) having received a letter from Mr. Biddle saying he would come here on Monday and ask for a rehearing if I would telegraph him[.] I went and sought an interview with Justice Miller at his house. For the particulars of this interview, which I consider important, see my letter of Jan. 11th to President Taylor. I have written him daily since my return. Justice Miller pledged me his word that he would see the mandate of the Court was not issued for ten days. In the meantime Mr. Biddle could get his printed petition for a rehearing ready and send it to the Chief Justice; this could be taken under consideration (he held out no hopes of a rehearing being granted) until the end of the term, the <issuance of the> mandate of the Court could thus be prevented, and we have all the time to secure Bro. Reynolds’ pardon if possible, also the proper legislation. In this way Mr. Biddle need not come here. I telegraphed and wrote him. Jan. 11th I am fifty-two years old.

12 January 1879 • Sunday

Snowing all day <Sunday.>. Kept in the house. Wrote to John Q. a long letter yesterday, <the 11th,> also to my wife Elizabeth. To-day (Sunday) wrote to Abraham, my son, also my wives Sarah Jane, Eliza and Martha and wrote up my journal. I have been careful to pray according to the Order since my arrival this time. Faith and works are needed. The Lord has greatly blessed me. He has been near to me. His Spirit has rested powerfully upon me and I have been filled with a joy and peace to overflowing. I have felt His angels near to me. Oh, praise the Lord, glory be to Him for ever! How great his kindness has been to me!

13 January 1879 • Monday

Had a call this (Monday) morning from Sister Zina Y. Williams. She feels exceedingly pleased with her visit here; has been better received than she expected she would be. Has an appointment with Sister Wells to see Pres. & Mrs. Hayes to-day with other female suffragists.

We did no business to-day only attend to Mr. Schleicher’s funeral. Received dispatch from home asking if there were any new developments, which I answered. Mr. Biddle wrote me that he had to come to Washington and would be in the Supreme Court room on Tuesday morning. I wrote Bro. Brigham Young in reply to his concerning the salaries of Cha’s. John Lambert at the Paper Mill and Bro. C. W. Penrose as Editor.

14 January 1879 • Tuesday

Met Mr. Biddle and had conversation about the Reynolds case and other estate (Pres. B. Y.) cases pending before U. S. Supreme Court.

At the House. The Mexican War pension bill was discussed.

At 9.10 p.m. Sisters Wells and Zina Y. Williams came in a carriage to see if I would not go to the Reception of Pres. Hayes at the White House with them. Though late I got ready and we sent. Met many acquaintances and was introduced to many people.

Received telegraphic message from Pres. Taylor noting the fact that sentence of Bro. Reynolds was imprisonment with hard labor, while law prescribed imprisonment.

15 January 1879 • Wednesday

Saw Mr. Biddle. He was pleased with suggestion of Pres. Taylor’s dispatch. Telegraphed Pres. T. Mr. Biddle took the dispatch. Wrote my son Franklin and also business letters. Showed Sisters Emmeline B. Wells and Zina Y. Williams through the Capitol.

Committee of Ways and Means had the floor to-day. We had an evening session also on their business. Nearly eleven when we adjourned.

Petitions are pouring in from all parts of the country from the women of religious sects asking for additional legislation to make more effective the anti-polygamy law of 1862. This is the latest and shrewdest move on the part of the adversary. It calls into active hostility the religious prejudice of the country, and evokes a power of which politicians do not like to displease.

16 January 1879 • Thursday

At the House. The unfinished business of last evening was attended to, then the House went into the Com. of the Whole upon the Bill for levees on the Mississippi River, the discussion of which occupied the day.

In the evening the Memorial services for the late Professor Henry were held in the Hall of the House of Representatives. The President and his Cabinet and the Justices of the U. S. Supreme Court and the U. S. Senate and the public bodies of which Prof. Henry was a Member were there. President McCosh of Princeton opened the proceedings by prayer. Vice President Wheeler read Senator Hamlin’s address, he being absent. Senator Withers, Prof’s. Asa Gray & Rodgers, Gen. Garfield, Mr. <S. S.> Cox and Gen. Sherman delivered addresses; Dr. Sutherland closed by prayer. The galleries & floor were crowded.

17 January 1879 • Friday

At the Dep’t. of Agriculture. Private Bill day at the House. Wrote yesterday to Pres. Taylor. Wrote several letters to-day, among others one to Bro. Hooper. Received the following dispatch from Pres. Taylor, which was very satisfactory to me, it being in response to letters in which I informed him and the Council what I had done and felt led to do.

“Letters of Ninth and tenth received. We deem your course wise and proper. Continue therein. Will write shortly.”

(signed) “John Taylor”

Spent the evening at the Riggs House with Sisters Wells and Williams.

18 January 1879 • Saturday

Had interviews with the Attorney General, Judge Devens, and President Hayes upon the subject of legislation for the protection of our people. They both seemed favorably impressed with the necessity and propriety of amnesty for the past, the former was not so outspoken as the latter. The President spoke warmly in favor of such action. He had been impressed, he said, by the conversation of Sisters Wells and Williams with Mrs. Hayes. At the House. The Geneva Award Bill was discussed and voted upon.

In the evening Mr. & Mrs. Spencer, Mrs. Juan Lewis and Sisters Wells and Williams spent a little over two hours at my rooms.

19 January 1879 • Sunday

Spent the most of the day at the Riggs House <with> Sisters Wells and Williams. Mr. Seth Ford, who is blind, and his wife, who was Seraph Young, a granddaughter of Phineas H. Young, and their two children were there. Wrote Bro. Lorenzo Snow in the evening.

20 January 1879 • Monday

Called upon Justice Miller of the U. S. Supreme Court this morning and submitted a copy of the petition of a rehearing of the case of Bro. Reynolds, to him. He told me to have the Clerk of the Court leave a copy upon the desk of each of the Judges. I did so. I forwarded two copies <home> under cover to Bro. Reynolds. Wrote to Bro’s. D McKenzie and Wm Rossiter; also to my son John Q. I find that Mr. Potter <of New York> has been to see the Attorney General about amnesty for the past. I had talked to him upon the subject, but had not asked him to see any person about it. He promised me this afternoon to see Senator Conkling upon the subject. He is a Member of the Senate Judiciary Com. The subject is creating thought I find.

21 January 1879 • Tuesday

Received a cipher dispatch this morning from Pres. John Taylor to the following effect: “Can we make a move for admission? The parties are arranging for 1880 and might compromise, being about equally divided. They might bid for two Senators.”

To which I replied, in cipher: “No chance now. But if amnesty be secured from Republican Senate can not next Congress, being Democratic, consistently admit, saying, Polygamy is settled? What think you?”

At the House. A discussion took place respecting the cipher dispatches and their investigation by a Com. of the House (the Potter Com.)[.] Mr. Potter defended himself against charges made against him. Gen. Butler opposed the investigation as not coming within the province of Congress. Messrs. Hale and Conger also spoke. The resolution to appropriate $10,000 for the purpose was carried.

22 January 1879 • Wednesday

On Monday Mr. Christiancy, through Senator Edmunds, reported back a substitute for S. 410. It gives the authority to the President to grant amnesty, upon such conditions and limitations as he may prescribe, to all who have violated the Anti polygamy law of 1862 and legitimates children who <have been or> shall be born to Nov. 1879. Yesterday he introduced another bill on jurors, disqualifying believers in our faith, that is, in polygamy, as jurors. Had an interview with Senator Thurman this morning. He requested me to write him a letter setting forth what I had told him in answer to questions he had asked me. Tried to see Senator Sargent; but did not. At the House.

Had a call from Mrs. Kimball of Philadelphia. She and Sisters Wells and Williams were at my rooms. The latter ladies are getting up a Memorial to present to Congress.

23 January 1879 • Thursday

All morning at Shellabarger & Wilson’s preparing an affidavit in the tax (Internal Revenue) assessed on Z.C.M.I. and Brigham City institutions. Speaker Randall presented the Memorial of the Sisters and it was read. It will appear in the Congressional Record. Had an evening session of the House. Received a note from Gen. Kane in which he stated he had been fully engrossed by the sickness of his daughter; but if there was an emergency telegraph or write him and he would take time and come to Washington. The same warm and devoted friend as ever. Sat up till 4 o’clock Friday morning

24 January 1879 • Friday

At the House. Private Bill day. Had evening session. Judiciary Com. reported bills. Much gratified this evening in receiving a letter from my son John Q. He is engaged in his business as Local Editor of the Deseret Evening News and appears to be doing very well. I am very thankful to see him engaged in a business <in> which he can be so useful. He has talent if he will only overcome his diffidence and use it. He says the family are all well.

25 January 1879 • Saturday

Deposited oath as Director of <Deseret> National Bank, to which position I had recently been elected, at the Treasury. Signed affidavit made by me in tax cases of Z.C.M.I. and Brigham City Institutions. At the House; debating P. O. Appropriation Bill. Took dinner with Mr. Corkhill and his sister, Mrs. McDevitt and her daughters, Mrs. Ketcham and Miss McDevitt. Mr. Corkhill and sister are Manks [Manx] people. Mrs. Ketcham is a sculpter and has genius I think. she has executed a fine bust of Abraham Lincoln.

Wrote letter to Bro. L. Snow and sent copy of affidavit made by one Wilson against co-operative institutions.

26 January 1879 • Sunday

Writing notes of thoughts upon plural marriage. Did other writing.

27 January 1879 • Monday

Arranging my papers and letters. Have been so busy of late that my business, correspondence &c have fallen behind. At the House. Adjourned rather early. Wrote several letters home.

28 January 1879 • Tuesday

At the House. Passed Bill restricting emigration of Chinese; no vessel permitted to bring more than a limited number. A piece of clap trap this by both parties to catch votes in the pending elections in California. Tho’ Martin I. Townsend of N. Y. is a bitter man on many points, a strong partisan, yet he took high ground against this Chinese said hatred and proscription. To me I revolt at the senseless demagoguery there is <indulged in> upon this Chinese question.

Sister Wells and Williams called at my rooms and showed me paper they had prepared in response to the request of President Hayes.

Sent dispatch to Pres. Taylor in cipher as follows: “Sent you Bill 410 (The Bill introduced by Christiancy for amnesty &c) Do you prefer that to no legislation? Difficult probably impossible to introduce amendment. Passage even in present form doubtful. Do you wish it urged?”

29 January 1879 • Wednesday

Called upon Justice Miller to learn if there was any danger of a mandate being issued in the Bro. Reynolds case at the recess which the Court is about to take. He said I think I can assure that the mandate will not be issued till the end of the term (May)[.] Visited Departments on business. At the House. P. O. appropriation Bill was up. Evening Session to hear reports from the Com. on Commerce. Had an attack of bowel complaint which made me feel badly. Wrote a number of letters.

30 January 1879 • Thursday

Called with Sisters Wells and Williams upon Mrs. Ketcham and her mother and sister, Mrs. <& Miss> McDivet; Mr. Corkhill was also there. Mrs. K. wants to get the privilege of making a bust of President Young and is very anxious to take mine, thinking that if she shows skill in mine, she can get the other.

At the House. The P. O. Appropriation Bill and the District of Columbia bills were the business of the day.

Sister Wells and Williams started for home this evening. There [Their] visit here I feel has done good. They have met many prominent men <& women> and talked freely with them.

Received telegram in cipher from President Taylor this morning. It says: “Use your own judgment. Cannot rely on President. Unless terms of amnesty are in Bill prefer no legislation. Legitimacy no account.”

31 January 1879 • Friday

Went with Mr. Fenn of Idaho to see Nath. Wilson, Attorney of C. C. Huntley, about money due to Walter Hoge of Paris, Bear Lake Co., Idaho, for carrying mail as sub-contractor. Have been endeavoring to get this for some time without success.

Went to Agricultural Bureau. At House. Private Bill day.

Cash Account – January.


T. and T. pr. Jas Jack



By cash



″ ″ paid <by J. J.> to G. Gilly

being money due by me




Jan. 8

To Sis. Z. Y. Williams




″ Sisters Wells & Williams




″ Dispatch to Mr. Biddle


″ Mrs. Juan Lewis for papers




″ Sis. Z. Y. Williams




″ carriage hire for sisters

Wells & Williams




″ U. S. Court decision




″ Sis. Z. Y. Williams




″ Sisters Wells & Williams




″ ″ ″ ″



″ carriage hire for do.




″ Sub’s to Post



Feb. 13

″ G. W. Biddle (fee)



″ E. B. Wight (old a/c)



Mar. 4

″ Henry Reed for





″ Kane & Return pr.

advice of Pres. T. (Mexico)



Apl. 17

″ Ex Sec. Lawyer



Cash Account – January.





Apl. 29

By speeches



To cash, received from Bro. Jas. Jack while at home at Conference to cover payments which I made and which I have checked

[In pencil] think this is the am’t (see him)




Dec. 11

By half of cost of visiting

Phil. to see Mr. Biddle about

Reynolds & Estate cases




Apl. 4

Tithing on salary



May 4

″ ″ ″


















June 6



Smithsonian Works




Tithing on salary




H. H. Smith




Reporter (Randall)




Trp to Phil. meet TLK



July 1

Tithing on dividend



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January 1879, The Journal of George Q. Cannon, accessed July 21, 2024