Thursday, June 3, 2010

Reed Smoot Hearings: Day 8 - E.B. Critchlow, part 1

March 10, 1904

This is the first part of three parts (I hope it doesn't turn into more) of Mr. Edward Benjamin Critchlow's testimony.  As background to this man, his uncle and aunt (his father's older brother, William Coe Critchlow and Harriet Hawkins) joined the Mormon Church in August 1839, and moved to Nauvoo in April 1844, where they met Joseph Smith.  They then followed the rest of the LDS movement out to Utah in October 1851, where they settled in Ogden.  He is acquainted with Mormons and has known about them for quite some time.  He is, however, not a Mormon, and as will be seen from his testimony, he is opposed to the Mormon Church hierarchy very strongly (the General Authorities of the Church).

Mr. Critchlow is currently a resident of Salt Lake City and has been since 1883.  He was born in Mississippi in 1858 and moved to Utah in 1873, where his father was given the job as an Indian Agent in the Territory of Utah.  He was educated at Princeton University and Columbia Law School.  His profession is that of a lawyer.  He signed the protest against Reed Smoot.  In 1885, he was appointed as assistant United States attorney and served in the southernmost district of Utah Territory (Beaver, Utah) for two terms, and he again accepted the same position in 1890, serving for 1 year.  Mr. Critchlow also served a term in the first State legislature for Utah.

The purpose of Mr. Critchlow's testimony is to provide historical setting, background, and general public information on the politics within the State of Utah.  He is given a wide range of latitude in testifying about anything and everything that he is knowledgable about.  There are very large segments of testimony with several paragraphs in a row of Mr. Critchlow testifying without questions from the lawyers; obviously they wanted this testimony to be unhampered.  This type of testimony with a witness just speaking, is not the norm with this committee.  This testimony is divided into a number of parts, a summary of which is basically:
  1. History before the manifesto of 1890.
  2. History after the manifesto of 1890.
  3. Laws enacted specifically because of polygamy.
A short summary of why Mr. E. B. Critchlow was called to testify is stated by Senator Beveridge (much later in the cross-examination of this witness):
"You have been testifying as an expert on general understanding and I thought you might know what the general understanding was as to this matter."

Mr. Critchlow is asked by Mr. Tayler to describe the legislation or laws enacted to stop the practice of polygamy (or bigamy).  He describes the laws of 1862, 1882, and 1887, and the basic understanding of those laws and what they attempted to do.  After the passage of the Edmunds Law in 1882, the first prosecution of note was that of Rudger Clawson; he was convicted in late 1884 of polygamy and sentenced to 4 years in the state penitentiary.  The next prosecution was that of Angus M. Cannon (Stake President of the Salt Lake Stake) - for the crime of cohabitation.
Mr. Critchlow.  In 1885, and from that time on, prosecutions were conducted with great vigor throughout the entire State.  Many of the men of the Mormon Church, and the women as well, went into hiding, and, first and last, as I now remember the figures, considerably over a thousand people were convicted and sentenced.
     In all these cases the opportunity was given by the court, before sentence was imposed, to the defendant to save himself from the punishment of incarceration if he would promise in the future that he would obey the law.  This was made a uniform practice from the time of the very first convictions, in the spring of 1885, as I remember it.
     There never were any of the members of the church who complied with or took advantage of the promise so made by the court, or rather the leniency so held out, excepting, as I now remember, three or four.  Three are all that I remember.  Bishop Sharp, a director of the Union Pacifc Railroad at that time, and a bishop of one of the larger wards in the city, an elderly man of considerable prominence, agreed to abide by the law in the future, having been found guilty under the law as construed by the court, and was promptly removed from his bishopric, the reason given by the church authorities in the papers being that it was the policy of the church to stand firm in their principles, and that any man who was inclined to be recalcitrant or to give up this principle, which they deemed a part of their religion, was no longer worthy to hold offices of that kind.
Commentary:  It is interesting that everyone was given a chance to avoid prison time, and only a few accepted the offer.  Bishop Sharp's case was large enough that the New York Times reported on it.

From here Mr. Critchlow describes that the church taught its people to reject the law of 1882, and to instead continue to practice polygamy.  However, after the Edmunds-Tucker Act of 1887, the church appeared to change directions in its attitude about this.  This law called for the forfeiture of all church property to the United States government to be distributed by the Territorial Supreme Court.  This seizure of property may have brought a change of heart to the Church.  Mr. Critchlow describes this period;
Mr. Critchlow.  ... church authorities had set themselves against the doctrine, or practice, rather, of unlawful cohabitation; and in 1888 it has become quite generally understood among the Mormon people, according to their statement to non-Mormons and by the statements in public prints, and by declarations, as I have said, of their public leaders, that this, as a doctrine, was no longer observed, the doctrine of plural marriage; in other words, that no new plural marriages were being entered into.
He says that non-Mormons were still suspicious of their Mormon neighbors, but they did not have any evidence that plural marriages were being entered into.  It was well known that polygamy was difficult to prosecute against and that there was a 3 year statute of limitations on the offense.  Therefore, if a marriage was kept quiet for 3 years, after that only the charge of unlawful cohabitation could be raised against them.  However, with all of this, from 1887, "it was understood from all the circumstances that I have narrated that the practice of plural marriages had ceased."

A small piece of history is then rehearsed concerning the escheat of the property of the church and the disfranchisement of church members.  On this point, he says the following:
"... under the Edmunds-Ticker Act, suits were brought in escheat, and a great deal of the property was taken away from the church, so that in the spring of 1890, the Mormon Church had found that its property was taken away from it, and the test oath was declared to be constitutional, as given in Idaho.  Many of their people were under indictment in Idaho for having entered into a conspiracy to leave the church in a body in order that they might escape the test oath.  The constitution of Idaho had been adopted by the people and Idaho was about to be admitted as a State, and in addition to all that more stringent legislation than ever, in the nature of the Struble bill in the House and the Cullom bill in the Senate, had been introduced, and the Cullom bill had been reported back favorably, which absolutely disfranschised the Mormon people."
He then presents a view of history of these events that is in effect the following:  The Mormon Church was pressured politically, and by its members, to comply with the laws of the United States so that they could become a State in the Union.  Then, by the time September of 1890 came around, the manifesto was promulgated to ease the pressure from the government, comply with federal laws, allow the return of escheated property, and satisfy church members who disagreed with the practice of polygamy.  "Of course, the prosecutions which were going on for unlawful cohabitation still proceeded, but there were no prosecutions, so far as I know, for the crime of polygamy itself - that is, the entering into the relation."

Then described is a term called "the People's Party."  Until 1891, the People's Party was a political party organized by the Mormon Church and composed entirely of Mormons.  It stood in direct opposition to anything not Mormon and specifically the Liberal Party, which was another political party organized for only non-Mormons.  According to Mr. Critchlow, the differences between the parties and the members thereof was stark.  "The line was drawn as sharply as, in the nature of things, it could be drawn in a matter of that kind."  This effectively made politics a Mormons vs. non-Mormons affair.  However, this didn't last; when the People's Party disbanded in 1891, members of the church found their way into national political parties - Republicans and Democrats.

He speaks of a trial in Utah that would decide whether members of the Mormon Church could be naturalized citizens of the United States.
Mr. Critchlow.  There had been an inquiry by one of the courts of the State into the question as to whether the members of the Mormon Church were fit subjects for naturalization, and it had been adjudicated, after a lengthy examination, that hose who belonged to the church were not persons who were fit to be naturalized and become American citizens, and that ruling had been adopted in other districts of the State.  I ought to state, perhaps, in that particular that I believe Judge Zane (who was the chief Justice of the State, and who presided in the third district, together with other judges) did not adhere closely to that ruling.  But from the spring of 1890, every judicial district of the State, excepting that particular court of the third district over which Judge Zane presided, refused to naturalize the members of the Mormon Church. Immediately after the manifesto of President Woodruff in 1890 the judges regarded that as being a declaration of the church that the doctrine in reference to the practice of these matters had been changed, and I think from that time on no objection was made.
He then makes an interesting statement about what offended non-Mormons the most about lawbreaking Mormons:
Mr. Critchlow.  Of course, I think I ought to say right here that in the view of non-Mormons the mere act of entering into plural marriage between a man and a woman, nothing else appearing, although it was punished in the law as being the substantive offense, the punishment of which was very severe, was comparatively speaking, a matter of indifference to the non-Mormon people.  I am speaking now comparatively, because it made very little difference to any person in the community if, secretly and without anything else appearing, there being nothing to indicate that a woman was a man's plural wife, he had married her on a certain day.  Sensibilities were not outraged in any way, but the real offense, as felt by the non-Mormon people then and now, is the practice of unlawful cohabitation; or, as the Supreme Court says, the holding out or flaunting in the eyes of the community of more than one woman as a wife, and the semblance of a family relation of that kind.
     So that, when it was spoken of as the abandonment of polygamy, I think I may state with entire fairness that we did not care so much as to whether the people abandoned the practice of entering into new marriages as that they should abandon the active and - I think I may use the word - offensive practice of unlawful cohabitation.
After Utah became a State on January 6, 1896, Mr. Critchlow describes a few ways in which the Mormon Church overstepped its bounds - politically.  He accused the hierarchy of the Mormon Church with creating a committee with the express purpose in mind of "supervising legislation."  He states that "all of the bills which had been submitted to the legislature for passage had been turned over to this committee of elders of the church for the purpose of being passed upon by them to see whether they were proper legislation for the legislature of Utah to act upon."  This was for the very first State legislative session early in 1896.

Secondly, he charged the church with interfering with the candidacy of Moses Thatcher in becoming a United States Senator from Utah.  Quite a bit of time is spent on this, so I'll put relative information in about this incident.
Mr. Critchlow.  Moses Thatcher was one of the twelve apostles, and rather prominent on account of his wealth and social position, and he had rather a large personal following.  He had been one of the twelve apostles who were Democrats.
     Let me explain the situation in just a moment.  Utah was understood to be Democratic under Territorial times.  That was because, as we all understood, the Republicans were furthering legislation which was attempting to bring to an end the conditions [polygamy and unlawful cohabitation] out there, and the Democrats being in opposition on political lines, it was rather natural that the Mormons should ally themselves with the Democratic party.
     Moses Thatcher was a Democrat, and a rule was adopted in the presidency and the twelve apostles - this quorum of leaders of the church - that the Republicans might go out and proselyte among the people all they pleased, but the Democrats must stay quiet and not do it, because it was thought best by the leaders of the church that there should be somewhere near an equal division of the people.  In fact, it went even further than that, and as a part of the history of the times we know that ... Mr. Gibbs, the secretary of the first presidency, sent out a letter to Bishop Wright saying the policy of the leaders was to let the people divide as nearly as possible, and then in reserve a contingent which would be floated either way in order to affect the election.
     It is only fair to say that the presidency of the church affirmed, when they were brought to task about that, that this letter was sent out without their knowledge, and the disaffirmed any such policy as that; but that was a part of the history which led up to Moses Thatcher's relations with his quorum here.  He persisted in going out and talking among the people and proselyting to the Democratic cause, whereas the Republicans who went out at the same time insisted that it was a rule of the quorum that the Democrats should stay quiet.
He then spends some time reviewing hos Moses Thatcher continued politically talking, and going around campaigning against the wishes of the members of the twelve.  Eventually, he was dropped from the 12, in both April and October conferences of 1896.  Mr. Critchlow has this explanation as to why he was removed:
"He was not tried upon any charges in anyway; but it was proven against him that he was not in accord with the other members of his quorum in going before the people, and therefore he was dropped from the quorum."
The Further history on this is as follows:  Moses Thatcher did not quit.  He continued to campaign; however, the Church ran editorials in the Deseret Evening News against him, saying that "they had a perfect right to interfere in that and advise and control the members of the church, as a church matter, as to their duties in the premises."  Thee were also talks in conference speaking about the disharmony created by Moses Thatcher within the quorum of the 12.  This was a full-court press against Mr. Thatcher's political career.  The Church wanted to squash it.

Why members of the Mormon Church and non-members supported Mr. Thatcher is interesting:
"The personal adherents of Mr. Thatcher were those Mormons who were attached to him by business ties, social ties, etc., and who were the more progressive, and the non-Mormons of the State, almost to a man, were sympathetic, both Democrats and Republicans, with Moses Thatcher, for the reason that it is understood that he stood for the principle which the Mormon leaders had said should thereafter control them, namely, absolute liberty in political affairs.
The opposition of the Mormon Church to Mr. Thatcher was probably the tipping point in causing him to lose the Senatorial election to Joseph Rawlins [who held the office of Senator until Reed Smoot was elected in 1904].
Mr. Critchlow.  Mr. John Henry Smith, who is Republican in politics, and Heber J. Grant, who is a Democrat in politics, were both interesting themselves and did interest themselves in campaigning in behalf of one of the other candidates and against Mr. Thatcher.  It must be understood that the church was not in favor particularly, so far as appeared at least upon the surface, and as I think the facts were, in favor of either Mr. Rawlins or Judge Henderson for Senator, but they were directly opposed to Moses Thatcher, because, as expressed by the Deseret News in repeated editorials, his candidacy was a direct blow at the right of the church to control the action of the members of its quorums.
     The matter drifted along for days and days.  As I say, 50 or 53, I think, ballots were taken before a final result was reached, and it was proclaimed in the papers that the result was going to happen on a certain day, and that the church would bring over a certain number of men to one or the other of the candidates, and it was understood they would bring them from Judge Henderson to Mr. Rawlins to elect him - not that they were particularly advocating Mr. Rawlins to as against Judge Henderson, but that he seemed to be the one who could beat Thatcher.
     This is part of the common report and knowledge of the community.  I cannot speak of it from my own knowledge excepting as I get it directly from the candidate, Judge Henderson, himself, whom I should much prefer would speak upon this subject; but word did come from the church authorities that these men should go over to Mr. Rawlins and elect him as against Mr. Thatcher, and every one of the men who were Mormons and were advocates of Judge Henderson did leave him excepting one man.  One man stayed with him.  Those who were non-Mormons went to Mr. Thatcher, as I now remember the circumstances - every one of them.  At any rate, on the last ballot Judge Henderson had but one man.  He was a Mormon, and he refused to go ... Mr. Rawlins, as I recollect, had the exact number necessary to elect, which was 32 out of 63.
Senator Beveridge them questions him on the one Mormon who would not swing his vote to Mr. Rawlins.  He wants to know what happened to him - was he punished in the church for this action?  No.  Was he punished in his job for this action?  No.  However, it was rumored that the man did say:  "I will not do it, and I know just exactly what it means, and I know that I will be sent on a mission."  This did not happen either.

Commentary:  If this history is true, it would show a great deal of interference by the church in political affairs to affect who ran for office, where votes were placed, who won, and possible punishment(s) for those who did not vote the way the church wanted them to.  That's kind of scary.  I understand that the church had been involved in the politics of the Territory since they arrived in 1847.  For almost 50 years they had been involved.  Retracting from this type of involvement took some time and mistakes were made ... sometimes serious mistakes - this being one of them; if true.

Mr. Critchlow then explains a little about his views of the quorum's harmony and how Mr. Thatcher was perceived by the other members - this came off of a question from Senator Hoar.
Mr. Critchlow.  It was stated by the president of the twelve apostles, Lorenzo Snow, at that time, as being a want of harmony, which began when he persisted in going out among the people and not obeying the mandates of the presidency and the twelve apostles with regard to preaching politics.  That was one thing.
Senator Hoar.  Then the contumacy for which he was then reproved related to political action?  That is what I wanted to know.
The Chairman.  What was it that constituted the subject of the sermons in relation to Mr. Thatcher [October 1896 General Conference]?
Mr. Critchlow.  Those sermons are in part in that pamphlet which was introduced in evidence here, I think, called "The Thatcher Episode," and the position of the church as understood by the people living in Utah at that time was fully expressed by the editorials in the Deseret News.
Mr. Critchlow is then asked what happened to Mr. Thatcher, a summary of which would be the following:  He met with his Stake Presidency and repented of all the things he said and did which caused harm to the church, quorum of the 12, and the church's policy.  He was given back full fellowship, but was not returned to the quorum of the 12.  Much of what went on between Mr. Thatcher and the Church played out in the Deseret News editorials section - including the conclusion of the Thatcher episode.
Mr. Critchlow.  The article to which I refer in the Deseret Evening News appears in the issue of Saturday, August 14, 1897, on the editorial page, and is headed:  "The Case of Moses Thatcher."  [It can be found here].  It is four columns and one-half in length.
Senator McComas.  That is the official paper of the church?
Mr. Critchlow.  That is the official paper of the church - yes, sir.  The complaint was signed by Brigham Young -
Mr. Worthington.  It is the organ of the church for the publication or various matters.  The president of the church declared that the church is not responsible for its editorials.
Mr. Tayler.  It is the organ of the church; so announced by the church.
Commentary:  I like that last exchange there were the "official-ness" of the Deseret News is debated and then Mr. Tayler just slams the door at the end and calls President Smith the church - "so announced by the church."  I thought it funny.

From the committee record of Volume I, pages 563-573, appears evidence concerning the Moses Thatch episode.  Everything from the Deseret Evening News editorial (above linked) to letters and other correspondence within the church concerning this matter.  I will not summarize this data here, it will be in another post.

Senator Hoar then asks a question:
Senator Hoar.  There is one other question.  In your history of the political affairs of the State so far as it related to the election of Senators, you said nothing about the election of Mr. Cannon, a Mormon.  Was that done in the time when they expected harmony, and by a consent of both parties, or was that a political contest in which the church took a side, or how was that?
Mr. Critchlow.  The situation was about this -
Senator Hoar.  Perhaps you spoke of that when I was out.
Mr. Critchlow.  No, I think not, Senator.  The situation, in brief, was about this:  As I understand frequently happens in such cases, there is a sort of tacit agreement in the State, either upon geographical lines or upon certain other lines - in Utah it happened to be upon the line pertaining to old conditions there; in other words, it was rather agreed that there ought to be all times one Senator who represented the non-Mormons and one who represented the Mormons; and by virtue of the fact that he had been quite prominent in the bringing about of statehood, it seemed to be a rather logical thing that Mr. Frank J. Cannon, who was a Mormon, should be one of the Senators, and that, I think, went practically, I may say, among the Republicans, without any particular question, so that it left the only contest to be made between the non-Mormons, which was between Mr. Arthur Brown, Judge Bennett, and Mr. Trumbo.
Senator Dubois.  At that time there was no rule such as exists now, was there?
Mr. Critchlow.  The first time we ever heard of this rule about people getting the consent was the time it was submitted to Mr. Thatcher in 1896.  That is the first time it was ever put in writing, and so far as I am concerned, as so far as I know the history of it, we never heard of any such rule prior to statehood.

Commentary:  A "tacit" agreement to have one Mormon and one non-Mormon Senator from the State of Utah.  Wow.  Plus the rule from the church didn't exist prior to statehood when the church appeared to want to influence the selection of Senators.

The committee adjourned at 4:10 PM.


  1. This is fascinating! I was wondering where you gathered your biographical information for Edward from (as I am working on a thesis about John J. Critchlow).

  2. Sorry for the unnecessary delay in responding.

    The first paragraph of biographical information is summarized from the Orson Pratt Brown web site. I should have referenced it, because it took me reviewing the testimony again to see this specific information wasn't in there -- spent 20 minutes tracking down what I should have written down in the first place. Thanks for the reminder to reference everything.

    The second paragraph of biographical information came right from the testimony given by Mr. E.B. Critchlow.


    1. No worries...I really appreciate your response!