January 1887

Events in George Q. Cannon’s journal for 1887

11 January

“I am sixty years old to day. . . . In thinking over the events of my life I am deeply impressed with their wonderful character.”

18 January ff.

Efforts to preserve church property

19 January

A scare while on the underground

24 January

Discussion in regard to countering the Edmunds-Tucker Bill

2 February

Wanted poster for President John Taylor and Cannon

5 February ff.

Letter from Judge George Ticknor Curtis regarding statehood for Utah and response on 10 February to it

13 February

Details on the Edmunds Bill

19 February

Letters regarding the framing of a constitution for Utah

20 February

Cannon family gatherings and education

25 February

Protecting church property

27 February

President Taylor “deprived of the privelege of even seeing his wife in her death sickness or ministering to her in the least degree”

2 March

Dealing with various stocks

5 March

Dealing with questions regarding taking the test oath

8 March

“It is our duty to uphold the government . . . except of course when any of its laws conflict with the laws of God.”

19 March ff.

“Had considerable conversation with President Taylor upon property matters.”

8 April

An epistle of the First Presidency read at the annual general conference

21 April ff.

President Taylor’s decline in health in his last few months

27 April

Letter sent to Franklin S. Richards regarding “the case of President John Taylor in connection with the Edmunds Law”

22 May

“Yesterday the funeral of Louie Wells Cannon was attended to at my son John Q’s house.”

31 May

“I was busy yesterday and to-day finishing my will.” Need for President Taylor to have a will.

15 June

“The changes and additions which were made to our [Utah] Constitution adopted by our people in 1882 are as follows”

20 June

Meeting with church leaders to promote “uniformity of feeling and of action throughout the Territory” regarding statehood matters

24 June

Efforts to protect President Taylor’s and the church’s financial affairs

25 June ff.

Selecting candidates for Utah Constitutional Convention

1 July

Communications regarding President Joseph F. Smith’s returning from Hawaii

5 July ff.

Events connected with Utah’s Constitutional Convention

18 July

Arrival of President Joseph F. Smith from Hawaii

24 July

Presidents Cannon and Smith dedicated President Taylor to the Lord

25 July

Death of President Taylor

29 July ff.

Resolving temporary church leadership

11 August

Cannon’s views on young men in military and public office

16 August

Letter to John W. Young regarding the voting on the Utah Constitution

8 September

“The question of the remuneration of the brethren of the Twelve came up.”

13 September

Concern about “the feelings of some of the brethren of the Twelve in regard to myself”

15 September

“It is like traveling in a new world to ride out in the daylight and see everything under the light of the sun.”

23 September

“Danger of a conflict of jurisdiction between the Trustee-in-Trust’s office and the Presiding Bishop’s office”

29 September

“I spoke quite strongly about the practice of selecting what are called the legal wives to live with and relegating the others into a condition akin to concubinage.”

6 October

Lawyers’ costs in regard to “the confiscation suit of the Government against the Church”

9 October

Arrangement through “influential gentiles” for President Wilford Woodruff, Erastus Snow, and John H. Smith to “have liberty to attend to Conference without danger”

11 October

“The President of the Church should hold the finances and control them.”

12 October

“I know that this Church cannot be led except by constant revelation.”

26 October

Attendance to “the business of the State movement, in connection with Bro. John W. Young”

7 November

Judge Charles S. Zane’s anger and dishonesty

15 November

Question of whether or not to pay one dollar per month to rent the Temple Block in Salt Lake City

27 November

“A rule in my household concerning attending meeting and the worship of God”

2 December

“Conversation about commencing to receive and disburse tithing at cash rates”

12 December

“I have always felt desirous to have a deep well.”

22 December

Financial appropriations

29 December

A proposal “to give the Gentiles in this city a share in the representation of the City Council”

1 January 1887 • Saturday

Saturday, January 1/87 Had a very pleasant day visiting with my family. Mary Alice and David went to town, the former to receive and the latter to make calls. They would have stopped with me, but I told them to fill the engagements they had made. Bro. A. Winter came down from the city this morning by appointment and I dictated a number of letters to him—a private letter to Bro. F. A. Hammond and letters to President Joseph F. Smith and Enoch Farr, on the Sandwish Islands, William Paxman, in New Zealand, John Irvine, at Washington and I. M. Waddell, Salt Lake City, for President Taylor and myself to sign.

2 January 1887 • Sunday

Sunday, Jan. 2/87 Held Sunday School with my children in the morning and in the afternoon held meeting. My son Angus administered the sacrament and I spoke and had much freedom. This visit to my home was very sweet and I have enjoyed it exceedingly. I left there with reluctance a little after six, Bro. D. R. Bateman having called for me. I reached Bro. Woolley’s, where Bro. Samuel Bateman was waiting for me and we reached our place of refuge about eleven oClock. Bro. Jos. Roueche and wife accompanied me from the city, they having been there to spend New Year’s day.

3 January 1887 • Monday

Monday, Jan. 3/87 Attended to correspondence as usual.

4 January 1887 • Tuesday

Tuesday, Jan. 4/87 The same as yesterday. In the evening President Taylor expressed a desire that I should go with him riding. Bro. Wilcken drove the carriage and President Taylor, Sister Josephine Roueche and myself were the passengers.

5 January 1887 • Wednesday

Wednesday, Jan. 5/87 Dictated answers to letters as usual.

6 January 1887 • Thursday

Thursday, Jan. 6/87 We held our usual fast meeting to day, Bro. Wilcken in charge. There was a very excellent spirit in the meeting and all felt well. Attended to correspondence.

7 January 1887 • Friday

Friday, Jan. 7/87. Listened to and dictated answers to correspondence.

8 January 1887 • Saturday

Saturday, Jan. 8/87 Listened to correspondence as usual. In the evening President Taylor and sister Josephine Roueche, Bro. Wilcken and myself took a carriage drive for about two hours.

9 January 1887 • Sunday

Sunday, Jan. 9/87 We held our meeting as usual to day and partook of the sacrament.

10 January 1887 • Monday

Monday, Jan. 10/87 Attended to correspondence as usual. I left in the evening for my home on the river with Bro. C. H. Wilcken with the intention of spending the morrow, the anniversary of my birth, with my family there. We reached there a little before ten oClock.

11 January 1887 • Tuesday

Tuesday, Jan. 11/87 I am sixty years old to day, my birth having occurred a quarter past twelve, midnight, on the 11th of January, 1827. In thinking over the events of my life I am deeply impressed with their wonderful character. Had my parents beheld in vision at my birth the eventful life I should lead and the vicissitudes which I should encounter, they would doubtless have been astonished. My life, I feel, has been a very remarkable one; and in looking back, I can visibly perceive the hand of God and His overruling providence in my preservation, in my guidance and in the shaping of my destiny. I feel to dedicate myself anew to Him and to His service, and to ask Him, that during the remainder of my life, I may be preserved as I have been in the past from committing any sin, or doing anything that would grieve Him or cause His Holy Spirit to lessen within, or be with drawn from me. Ample preparation had been made by my daughter Mary Alice, assisted by Sister Davey, the housekeeper, for the entertaining of the family. John Q. had shot some turkeys through the head, of which we all heartily partook. My wives Sarah Jane, Martha, Eliza and Carlie were present, and all my children, excepting Frank and Abraham. Carlie’s son, Hiram Clawson, was introduced for the first time to the children (excepting Mary Alice and David) as their Brother and as my son. They appeared greatly delighted with him. It is seldom in my life that I have enjoyed myself so much as I have to day and through the evening, and all present enjoyed themselves similarly. Sister Davey made a very nice birthday cake, which I divided and of which all partook. My son John Q. brought Carlie and David took her home.

12 January 1887 • Wednesday

Wednesday, Jan. 12/87 Bro. Wilcken called for me at two oClock this morning and we had a pleasant drive to our quarters, though it snowed heavily the latter half of the journey. Listened to correspondence and dictated answers to letters received.

13 January 1887 • Thursday

Thursday, Jan. 13/87 Attended to correspondence. The news reached us to day that the Tucker-Edmunds Bill had passed the House of Representatives yesterday amidst considerable excitement and whooping and rejoicing. Bro. John T. Caine made a speech of one hour and a half length in opposition to the Bill, which was listened to attentively. Mr. Bennett, of North Carolina, also spoke against it for about one hour. Mr. Ezra Taylor, of Ohio, Mr. Reed, of Maine and Mr. J. R. Tucker, of Virginia, spoke in favor of the Bill, the last two were very violent and abusive in their attacks upon the Latter-day Saints and displayed the hatred of the devil.

14 January 1887 • Friday

Friday, Jan. 14/87 Attended to correspondence. The day is warm and pleasant over head, considerable snow has fallen but the weather has not been very cold; the mountains and valleys are covered with a white mantle. I received word from Mayor Armstrong, one of my bondsmen, that Le Grande Young, our attorney, wishes to have an interview with me, concerning my bond and I thought I had better go in this evening and have an interview with him to morrow on the subject. The roads were very sloppy and Bro. Bateman and myself were pretty well spattered. We called at Bro. John Woolley’s, at Centreville, on our way down and there met Bro. D. R. Bateman, who told me that Bro. Jack was expecting an important dispatch that night. Upon hearing that, I determined to sleep in the Office instead of going to my wife Carlie’s, as I expected to do. Notwithstanding a detention at Bro. Woolley’s we made the trip from Kaysville to the Office in a little less than three hours. This, considering the distance, the darkness of night and the state of the roads, was fast traveling, it being fully twenty four miles.

15 January 1887 • Saturday

Saturday, Jan 15/87 Bro. B. Young came in last evening and laid down with me. We did not get much sleep, as we had a good deal to talk about. He left this morning before daylight so as to escape observation. The dispatch received was from Bro. John W. Young, the initials of Bro. John T. Caine and F. S. Richards were also attached to it in cipher. He described what had been done to prevent the passage of the Tucker-Edmunds Bill.

Copy of telegram

Washington D. C.

Jan. 14, 1887.

To. James Jack.

Last friday everything seemed in our hands, same methods, same persons who held matters in hand past years were used and worked in harmony. Saturday, through Carlisle’s influence change began and by Monday was complete. Severe sickness of several friends prevented possibility of holding old combination or forming new. Sudden death railroad representative demoralized their forces. Circumstances seemed beyond human control. At last moment when tide sweeping all before it, Scott’s amendment as wired to Herald last night was drafted and urged by us without committing anybody, and offered by him in good faith with approval of other high democratic leaders. It has since been partially approved by President, who has to feel his way.

“If party leaders hold to their privately expressed opinions he will have strong support in urging conference committee to attach amendment, and as last resort be urged to send bill back with recommendations to incorporate it. This brings both parties face to face with the real issue. There is little hope of effecting bill now, and it is impossible to get anything nearer statehood at present than the amendment, and even this alternative must not be regarded as certain. Could not convey this information sooner. Shall we work for Scott’s amendment? Answer quickly. J. T. C, F. S. R.

John W. Young.

To which I sent the following answer in cipher.

Jan 15/87

J. W. Young

c/o Hon. J. T. Caine at Washington D. C.

Urge Scott’s amendment and any other amendment which will defeat object of the enemy.

James Jack.

Bro. Le G. Young and Mayor Armstrong spent some time with me conversing about the property of the Church and the best means to be taken to preserve it. I sent my son David to my wife Carlie to see whether I could with any safety visit her home. Her reply was that she would be glad to see me and thought perhaps that I could come with safety. In the evening Bro. Bateman called and took me in the buggy to Carlie’s house. I found her confortably situated in the house which her mother had owned and had sold to her sister Emily, who had rented it to Carlie.

16 January 1887 • Sunday

Sunday, Jan 16/87 Bro. Andrew Burt called for me at half past four this morning and took me in his buggy to my place on the river. I spent a most interesting day with my family. I had my children together in the morning at Sunday School and in the afternoon had Sacrament meeting. My son David opened meeting by prayer, Hugh closed by prayer and Angus administered the Sacrament. I enjoyed my own remarks very much this afternoon, a good spirit prevailed. I laid down for about two hours this evening awaiting the arrival of Bro. Bateman, who came about half past twelve. I accompanied him and we reached our retreat about five oClock. The night was exceedingly cold and I was thoroughly chilled through. Bro. Wilcken upon my arrival kindled a fire in my bedroom which relieved me very much.

17 January 1887 • Monday

Monday, Jan 17/87 Attended to correspondence as usual. We have received the impression from a letter, sent by Bro. Teasdale, that Bro. Wells does not feel at entire liberty to return home, even if he should desire to do so. This intelligence surprised us, as we supposed enough had been said to give him entire freedom of action upon this point. Examination of our correspondence, however, brought to light the fact that our plainest remarks upon the subject were in a letter to Bro. Teasdale, a copy of which was sent to Bro. Wells, but nothing definite upon the subject had been addressed to him personally of late. In former communications, however, we thought we left him free to return if he so wished. A very kind letter was written him to day, giving him full freedom to return whenever he felt like doing so. We assured him that if we had seemed to be reluctant to have him return, it was prompted solely by a desire for his comfort and happiness and to preserve him from the hands of his enemies. This had been our only motive in all that we had said and done upon the subject.

18 January 1887 • Tuesday

Tuesday, Jan. 18/87 Attended to correspondence as usual. Bro. H. B. Clawson came by rail to Farmington and was brought by buggy to our stopping place. He reports the results of his trip to Denver and thinks them satisfactory. He was authorized to purchase the mortgage on a farm of Bro. John Beck at Lehi and fifty acres of land near the hot spring, which property was advertized for sale. As Beck has been threatening us with a lawsuit Bro. Clawson thought that by saving the property for him—as it would be sold much below its value, if sold at all—a written document might be obtained from him, binding him not to go to law, but to submit all differences that might exist between him and the company to arbitration. The mortgage and interest amounts to about $16,50000/. It would be unfortunate at the present time for us to get into a lawsuit with this man. His affairs are desperate and we have enemies enough who would be glad to stir up strife between us. Another proposition Bro. Clawson had to make was, that money be advanced to Bro. Beck to pay something he is owing to the bottling company and also to take him and a wife to Europe. The mortgage and other moneys will probably amount to $22,50000/. Bro. Clawson was authorized to make the best terms he could with him. A letter was received signed by Bros. F. D. Richards, John H. Smith, Heber J. Grant, John W. Taylor and Bishop Preston, proffering their services to aid the Trustee in disposing of all Church property in jeopardy, a list of which they forwarded. The proposition is to sell the property. President Taylor and myself talked over the matter freely and he expressed his <un>willingness to dispose of Church property in the way that had been suggested. He said it was much easier to scatter property than to gather it; he did not mind disposing of it in a way to secure it, but not to sell it out and out and let it go out of his hands entirely. I told him that the tone of the letter written by the brethren appeared to me to be in the nature of a notice from them to him, as counselors to the Trustee in Trust, that they absolved themselves from all responsibilities if Church property should be seized, by giving him this notice and informing him of their views as to what should be done with the property and their willingness to assist him all in their power. I said these are the ideas which I read between the lines of this letter. He said that he was quite willing to take all the responsibility; he was the Trustee in Trust of the Church and he was responsible to the Church and did not agree with them in their policy of disposing of the property which they had suggested. He decided that I should go into town and have an interview with them and Bros. Le Grand Young an[d] A. Miner, attorneys for the Church. At nightfall Bro. Wilcken and myself drove to the City. We reached there about ten oClock. I slept at the Office, having been advised that an important dispatch was expected from Washington in the night. It came to hand and I requested Bro. Wilcken to take it to President Taylor. This made a very heavy journey for him, making a drive of about fifty miles, but he reached there at six oClock. I did this in order to get a reply by the hand of Bro. Clawson, who I knew intended to come back by train from our stopping place in the morning.

19 January 1887 • Wednesday

Wednesday, Jan 19/87 I called a meeting of the Twelve, including Bro. B. Young, the presiding Bishop and my brother Angus, President of the Salt Lake Stake, the two attorneys and Bro. James Jack. The apostles present were: F. D. Richards, B. Young, J. H. Smith, H. J. Grant and J. W. Taylor. After informing them of President Taylor’s views, we proceeded to look over a list of property which they had furnished and the condition of other property to which they had not alluded, to get the best plan to hold it safely, so as to resist the attacks of robbers who will be likely to try and steal it if the Tucker-Edmunds Bill should pass. I told the brethren what I had said to President Taylor, concerning the letter and what I read between the lines of that letter, and they said that I had interpreted them correctly. Bro. Preston said I “hit the business exactly.” Bros J. H. Smith and H. J. Grant also expressed themselves to the same effect. Bro. J. W. Taylor made no expression upon the subject, but Bro. F. D. Richards came to me and quietly said he understood all about the property, having been appointed as one of the committee to arrange for it, and rather disclaimed having any feeling of the kind which I intimated had prompted the letter; it was the younger brethren who had been desirous to write their views. The examination and the discussion of the questions kept us from about half past nine in the morning until about four oClock in the afternoon. Bro. G. Gibbs kindly took a carriage and brought my wife Carlie, who had prepared supper for three of us to the Office. Her brother Brigham, my brother Angus and she and myself enjoyed the oyster-stew which she had prepared. We were hungry as we had not eaten anything since breakfast. It was arranged that my brother Angus should join me in traveling to our stopping place, as he was desirous to see President Taylor. Bro. Wilcken had written to me that I would be met at Bro. Woolley’s and when we got ready to start it suggested itself to me it would be well to take a driver with us to bring the carriage back. I was the more impressed of this because Bro. A. Solomon told me in the afternoon that eight deputies had gone north. They were very anxious to get hold of me, and it was a question whether it was safe for me to go. I thought, therefore, I ought to make my party as strong as possible. We took Bro. J. McHenry with us to drive the team back and Angus suggested we take Bro. Alf Solomon in place of Bro. Sudbury, who would willingly go. I told the brethren to have plenty of arms along, for I did not intend to be stopped. Just after we passed the hot spring, a buggy passed us going south, which Bro. McHenry said was Bro. D. R. Bateman. It was quite dark and he thought it was a single buggy. Shortly after this, a team came driving up along side with the evident intention of stopping us and we could hear somebody shouting, stop. Bro. Solomon and myself were on the backseat and so fastened in by curtains that we could see nothing and scarcely hear anything for <because of> the noise that our own vehicle made. We could not tell what it was that followed us, but we perceived from Angus’s action, who was driving the team, that somebody was attempting to stop us. Angus spoke twice to Bro. Solomon to load a double barrelled shot gun that we had with us, and the third time he asked if he was ready. I got my pistol out of its scabbard; it seemed evident that we should have to fight, or allow ourselves to be taken. Angus tried to keep his team out of the way of the other, but the other proved the quicker and passed ahead of us. When we saw it was but a single buggy and would only hold two men we felt easier. The driver of the buggy stopped his team in such a way as to partly head us off; then a conversation ensued between Angus and him, the tone of which, without hearing any particular words, I saw was friendly. There was only one man in the buggy and it proved to be Bro. Bateman, who was satisfied it was us and did all he could to stop us. I think we were all relieved when we found who it was and that there was no fighting to be done, at least I can say that much for myself. I got into the buggy with Bro. Bateman and drove to our quarters and the other brethren returned to the city.

20 January 1887 • Thursday

Thursday, Jan 20/87 Listened to and answered correspondence. My brother Angus came out this evening with the freight train, was met by one of the family and brought to the home.

21 January 1887 • Friday

Friday, Jan. 21/87 Attended to correspondence. My brother Angus returned to the city with Bro. Wilcken this evening.

22 January 1887 • Saturday

Saturday, Jan. 22/87 Listened to the reading of letters and dictated answers to them.

23 January 1887 • Sunday

Sunday, Jan 23/87 A letter was received this morning from Washington, written by Bros. John T. Caine and John W. Young, concerning the situation of affairs there and what they were doing. This letter was brought by Bro. C. W. Nibley and they expressed a wish that I should meet him if possible, as he had matters to communicate that could not be written. President Taylor thought I had better go in this evening. We held our usual meeting and partook of the Sacrament. At twenty minutes past six Bro. Wilcken and I started for Salt Lake City; the ride was somewhat tedious. He drove me to my wife Carlie’s.

24 January 1887 • Monday

Monday, Jan 24/87. Bro. Wilcken called for me at half past four this morning and took me to the President’s Office. Bro Nibley came there and we had a very full conversation concerning affairs at Washington and the plans adapted to defeat the Tucker-Edmunds Bill. After hearing what he had to say, I asked him about his private affairs and whether he would be willing to return to Washington if we paid his expences. He said he would do so, and it was arranged that he should visit Logan for one day and then start back, as I felt that his help was needed by Bro. Young there. The Scott-amendment was examined carefully and he informed me that, if it was not our intention to accept that in good faith, it would be bad for us and our views on that subject should be known. As Bro. Reynolds was present I said to him: “You are considerable of a casuist, Bro. George, suppose you and Bro. George, Nibley discuss this point. Bro. Reynolds said he could not conscientiously as a Latter-day Saint frame such a constitution as the Scott amendment proposed or vote for its adoption. Bro. Nibley tried to convince him that it might be done without any sacrifice of principle, but Bro. Reynolds remained firm in his view. Bro. Nibley afterwards had an interview with Bro. Penrose, and when he returned said Bro. Penrose had some views upon this question which he wished to express. I sent word for him to come over to the Office under the cover of an umbrella, as it was snowing violently. He did so, and he and Bro. Reynolds argued the question and Bro. Reynolds acknowledged that viewing the question as Bro. Penrose stated it, a constitution might be framed and adopted in accordance with the Scott amendment without the sacrifice of principle. Bro. Penrose told me that he had thought of writing his views to President Taylor. I told him that he ought to do so by all means as it was an important question, and President Taylor and myself both had positive views on the subject. I had been approached times without number, while in Congress, by leading men and urged to have our people take steps to get into the Union. I had been told that we might promise what we liked to become a state, and after we were admitted we could change our constitution. Various propositions of this character had been made to me, but I could not entertain them, nor see how they could be entertained or acted upon by our people. I had said that we could not be guilty of Punic faith. As Bro. Penrose afterward wrote his views and they are well stated, I insert a copy of his letter. In the evening word came to me deputies were likely to make a descent somewhere at eight oClock; they having got information, it was said, of a meeting at which President Taylor or myself, or both of us, were to be present. Bro. Wilcken and myself left the Office about half past eight and reached our quarters about half past twelve. The ride was cold and tedious and unpleasant. I had a violent chill after I went to bed.

C. Williams1


Jany 25/87

Copy2, Jan. 24, 1887.

John Taylor

Dear Brother:

I have felt impressed to write to you on the very important question which we now have to meet as Latter-day Saints and as citizens of the United States. I feel some delicacy in doing so as I should be very sorry to appear intrusive or as pushing my views forward when not invited. I only do so from a conviction of duty, and hope you will acquit me of any desire to be presumptious or officious. My mind is on matters of this kind, and I am sure you will pardon me if I seem to be forward in making suggestions for your consideration, as I certainly dislike assumption in anyone.

We seem to have arrived at a position where we are forced to take definite action in regard to Statehood. Our enemies appear to be pushing us into the very place they dread so much on occupying. It looks as though the hand of the Lord was behind it all to give us our liberties, if we are ready to reach out and grasp them. The Scott Amendment to the Tucker bill, if agreed to in good faith, <would> deliver us from a most tremendous load of afflictions and give us some years at least of power to thwart our enemies, establish the principles for which we live and labor and give us power where we now are enslaved. We are already in the Union as a part of it, but as serfs politically[.] If we were a state we should only still be in the Union, but as freemen and with votes wherein is power with the nation. Can we achieve this without compromising any principle of our religion and still with good faith to the government? I think we can. One thing appears certain: without some concession on our part to public opinion we cannot obtain Statehood. The unanimous shouts of No! No! with which the question was greeted in the House, “Will you ever admit Utah as a polygamous State,” are echoed in the press of the Country and sounded throughout the nation. I believe it is the settled determination of all political parties and all political leaders. Can we do anything in this direction without dishonor? I believe we can.

If the convention provided for in the Scott Amendment should be held, no practicer of plural marriage would take part in the election or the convention or the ratification. The provision required is that the State Constitution shall forbid polygamy. Probably the provision would be Bigamy and Polygamy shall be forever forbidden by law,” or something to that effect. When the State was admitted, laws would have to be passed as agreed. It would not do, I think, to turn round and change the Constitution or ignore it. But laws could be enacted against bigamy and polygamy but not against plura[l] or celestial marriage. We do not believe in bigamy as you have very clearly established by unanswerable argument in public discourses. The same may be said in regard to polygamy. Celestial marriage is governed by divine laws and is practiced under Church and not State regulations. All civilized nations enact laws in regard to Civil marriages. This we must concede is their right so long as they do not intrude upon religious marriages. The Catholic Church concedes civil power in marriages but not its right to invade the sacred character of ecclesiastical marriages which are sacramental. We can consistently do the same. A marriage law can be enacted for the State which shall not intrude upon the marriage ordinances of the Church. Any one violating the Civil marriage law would be guilty of an offence under that law. But it could be so that we could practice Celestial marriage without violating it. The conditions required by law to constitute a civil marriage could be made such that we need not fulfil them in a Church marriage, and thus the penalties of the law against bigamy and polygamy and not be incurred. This would not be “Punic faith.” It would be bona fide. We would “render to Ceazer the things that are Ceazar’s, but preserve to God “the things that are God’s.” The laws of Mexico give us a precedent for this distinction.

We have claimed through the Deseret News and otherwise that our Celestial marriage is purely ecclesiastical; that it neither claims nor asks for recognition by the State, and that it has never done so from the Territory. This is a Consistent and truthful position. We could maintain it in the manner I have suggested. Those who vote so have a provision in the State Constitution forbidding bigamy and polygamy would not vote against plural marriage under the law of God, neither would the laws framed on the marriage question interfere with the holy principle of our faith and practice. They would simply provide for that which is bigamy and polygamy under the secular law, and as those terms are defined in the dictionary and in the world at large.

Once a State we could so frame our laws that our religion in all its parts would be negatively protected by being exempt from the operations of the State, and thus our institutions would be perpetuated instead of hampered and crushed, and in principle would be compromised neither would any breach of faith occur between us and the nation. Liberty or bondage is apparent to be our fate. Of course the Lord is over all and if he says “bondage” for a season, no Latter day Saint will refuse. But when he does not forbid, and liberty holds out her hands to us it looks as though we might take one step to meet her. This is how it occurs to me, and I state it freely and respectfully. My soul says, “No compromis[e] of principle”; my reason says, this can be done without compromise but in rational perception of the inevitable. Concession without dishonor cannot be condemned by the just, and does not violate any principle or mandate, human or divine.

Please excuse this lengthy letter, and believe me to be with much respect.

Yours faithfully in the Gospel,

“C. Williams”3

25 January 1887 • Tuesday

Tuesday, Jan. 25/87 Attended to correspondence. This is the fifth aniversary of the death of my wife Elizabeth. The delightful recollections of our past association crowd deeply on my memory to day.

26 January 1887 • Wednesday

Wednesday, Jan 26/87. Attended to correspondence as usual. President Taylor and myself had considerable conversation upon the proposition in Bro. Penrose’s letter, and afterwards I dictated the following letter to Bros. John T. Caine and John W. Young, which we both signed. That the Scott amendment be understood I append it here. Copy of letter to Bros Caine & Young also. After the letter was written the following dispatch was sent through Bro. James Jack.

“Go slow on Scott-amendment. I have written to day”.

James Jack.

Scott Amendment4

*The amendment is as follows: “That this act shall not take effect till six months after its approval by the President, and there shall be an election held in the several precincts of said Territory on the third Monday in March, 1887, at which the qualified electors of the said Territory may elect, from each legislative district, double the number of delegates they are entitled to elect of Councilors and Representatives to the Legislative Assembly of said Territory, and the delegates so elected shall meet at Salt Lake City, on the first Monday of April, 1887, at 12 o’clock, noon, and shall form a constitutional convention, and if said convention shall form and adopt a constitution republican in form, and which shall prohibit polygamy in said State, and the same shall be ratified by a majority of the votes cast by the qualified electors at an election to be held for that purpose in the several precincts of that Territory on the first Monday of June, 1887, then the provisions of this act shall continue to remain inoperative until such constitution shall be presented in the usual manner and acted on by Congress. The elections herein provided for are to be held, conducted and returns thereof made in the manner now provided by law for the holding of elections for county and precinct officers in said Territory, and all acts and parts of acts in conflict with the provisions of this section shall and will remain inoperative until the expiration of said six months, and in the case of the adoption and ratification of said constitution, as hereinbefore provided, the said provisions shall remain inoperative until action on said constitution by Congress.”5


January 27th 7

Hons. John T. Caine and John W. Young,

Washington, D. C.

Dear Brethren

In answer to your dispatch asking about the Scott amendment we sent you the following: “Urge Scott amendment and any other amendment which will defeat object of the enemy.”

On Monday the 24th inst. another dispatch was sent to the following effect: “We have no change to make in our policy. No surrender of principle. Sharp’s formed course not approved.”

In view of the importance of all the questions involved in our policy it is proper that something definite should be written to you that you may have some idea how far to go without committing yourselves in any direction that cannot be sustained by the people. Conversation with Brother Nibley has called for a more serious consideration of the terms of the Scott amendment. At the time the reply was sent to you upon that subject we felt that any amendment that would give us relief from the Tucker bill, might be urged by our friends. Bro. Nibley informs us that there is danger if we do not accept the terms of the Scott amendment that we may be suspected of not acting in good faith, and that our position may be made worse as a consequence. Brother Penrose had given the Scott amendment some consideration, and learning from Bro. Nibley something concerning the situation of affairs wrote a full letter to me upon the subject in which he takes the ground that we can accept the Scott amendment without compromising any principle of our religion and still act with good faith to the Government. His point is, that we neither believe in “bigamy” nor “polygamy.” But as Bro. Nibley is returning to Washington, and he heard Bro. Penrose’s argument and views on this point we are spared the necessity of writing them in detail, as he can explain them fully to you.

We cannot frame a Constitution ourselves of this character; for it will not do for us, after enduring what we have for the sake of our religion and its principles, to put ourselves in a position where our words and actions may be construed into a surrender of that for which we have ever contended. Better for us to continue to suffer from the attacks of our enemies and their persecution than for us to occupy a position which we cannot honorably, openly and successfully defend against all attacks that may be made upon us. At this day we cannot afford to put ourselves in an equivocal attitude upon this question or in one that might have the appearance of being false.

If Congress should frame a provision to the effect that “Bigamy and Polygamy shall be forever forbidden,” then the proposition might be carefully considered. It would present a very different phase for Congress to make such a provision or condition than it would for us to step forward and propose it. Whether we could even then accept such a Constitution is a grave question—a question, however, which we can decide upon when it is presented to us.

With love to yourselves and all with you, and praying the Lord to bless you with every gift and power to perform all duties devolving upon you to the glory of God and your own satisfaction,

We are, Your Brethren,

John Taylor

Geo. Q. Cannon

P.S. This letter appears in two handwritings in order to finish in time for the mail.7

27 January 1887 • Thursday

Thursday, Jan. 27/87 Listened to and dictated answers to correspondence.

28 January 1887 • Friday

Friday, Jan 28/87 Attended to correspondence as usual. As Bro. C. O. Card had written to us from the City and expressed a strong desire to have an interview, President Taylor decided that I should go in and see him. Bro Wilcken drove me to my home on the river. and was to arrange for Bro. Card to be with me to morrow; but we found a strange lady visiting my family and we thought it better for him to wait till Sunday.

29 January 1887 • Saturday

Saturday, Jan 29/87. I had a very interesting day with a portion of my family. Bro. G. F. Gibbs spent the most of the day with me, to whom I dictated articles for the Juvenile.

30 January 1887 • Sunday

Sunday, Jan 30/87 Bro. Card was brought to my house before daylight this morning by Bro. Sudberry. We had a very full and free conversation concerning his exploring trip across the line into British Columbia and Alberta, and I gave him such counsel, concerning making settlements, as the case required. Several of our brethren who are in joepardy [jeopardy] in the north are so situated that they must do something for the support of their families. It is felt that they might go across the line and help to found a settlement or settlements and not waste their time, as they are now compelled to do, keeping out of the way of deputies. We felt that in this way our enemies might compel us to spread to an extent that we would not think of otherwise. I had a very interesting Sunday School with my children, and we had Sacrament meeting afterward, in which myself and Bro. Card spoke. I enjoyed myself exceedingly in speaking. Bro. Wilcken called for me about nine oClock, and we arrived at our quarters about two oClock.

31 January 1887 • Monday

Monday, Jan 31/87 Listened to the reading of letters and dictated answers and also to those received during my absence on Saturday.

Cite this page

January 1887, The Journal of George Q. Cannon, accessed May 27, 2024 https://www.churchhistorianspress.org/george-q-cannon/1880s/1887/01-1887