from History of Utah Vol. 4 by Orson F. Whitney
EX-SENATOR FRANK JENNE CANNON is a native son of Utah and was born at Salt Lake City on the 25th day of January, 1859. Until thirteen years of age his boyhood was passed in and around his native place. The writer remembers him when, as lads together, they attended a little school taught by a German pedagogue in the Fourteenth Ward, that being the quarter in which Frank’s parents, George Q. Cannon and his wife Sarah Jenne, resided. He was their eldest child. The pedagogue in question was one trained in all the strictness and rigidity of the Teutonic school. “A man severe he was, and stern to view,” showing little mercy to the truant and idler, but gentle as a woman to any one he loved, and ready to recognize merit, and to command and promote it. Frank J. Cannon was one of the youngest and brightest of his pupils. He was then but six years of age, yet such were his intelligence and attainments, that he stood abreast of and even towered above many of his schoolmates, his seniors by several years. Exceedingly sensitive, he would quiver like an aspen if spoken to harshly or subjected to any nervous strain. Nevertheless, he was courageous, as more than one act of his subsequent life testifies. His quick apprehension and readiness made him the envy of his fellows, and in after years, when his marvelous fluency, both as a speaker and a writer, became known, the admiration of his associates. fie was an amiable, good-natured lad, kind-hearted and generous to all.
Frank had entered that period of his life which the average boy proudly points to as his “teens,” when he went to Ogden, to be employed in the office of the County Recorder, Franklin S. Richards, his mother’s cousin. In his leisure hours he read law with Mr. Richards, who was a rising attorney, and profited much by that gentleman’s studious example and systematic discipline. He had intended to practice law, but because of the strong views expressed by President Brigham Young, in opposition to that pursuit for Frank,his father indicated his disapproval, and the son reluctantly acquiesced in the decision. While he did not adopt the legal profession, in which he would have shone with lustre, his studies along that line laid a good ground work for his future career as a journalist. As deputy recorder of Weber County he served with brief intermissions until he was eighteen, when he returned to Salt Lake City to complete his education.
While pursuing his studies in the University of Deseret, he worked as a compositor in the office of the “Juvenile Instructor,” having learned the printer’s trade during boyhood. He thus earned money to pay his tuition at the University, from which he was graduated at the age of nineteen. Shortly before this event he married, on the 8th of April, 1878, Miss Martha A. Brown, an Ogden girl, daughter of Hon. Francis A. Brown, and granddaughter of the heroic Captain William Anderson, who was killed at the battle of Nauvoo. She became the mother of live children, (the first dying in infancy) and in her devotion to them and to her husband she has exhibited qualities that prove her in every way worthy of her ancestry.
Immediately after leaving the University, Mr. Cannon, having resolved upon journalism as a profession, entered the “Deseret News’’ establishment as a reporter. He remained there but a short time, however, as better opportunities opened elsewhere. After working some months as a reporter for the “Ogden Junction,” he became connected with the Junction Publishing Company, under whose auspices the “Logan Leader” was established. Of this paper, the predecessor of the present Logan “Journal,” Frank J. Cannon was editor and manager.
In 1880 he exchanged the life of a suburban editor for that of a reporter upon the “San Francisco Chronicle.” Within three months he was a member of the editorial stall of that spirited and influential journal, and continued in this capacity as long as he remained in California. Returning to Ogden in 1882, he became deputy clerk and recorder under Lorenzo M. Richards and Charles C. Richards. Two years later he was elected county recorder. The winter of 1883-4-he spent in the city of Washington, as private secretary to Hon. John T. Caine, who had succeeded Frank’s father as delegate.
In February, 1886, occurred the episode of the assault upon United States Attorney Dickson; an event growing out of the catechization, before the grand jury, of Mrs. Martha T. Cannon, one of the wives of President Cannon, who had been arrested for unlawful cohabitation. Although Frank did not strike Mr. Dickson, he was one of the parties responsible for the act, as he confessed in court, chivalrously taking upon himself the entire blame. He was fined and imprisoned, and during the period of his incarceration was engaged in literary work.
In the spring of 1887 he became editor of the ‘‘Ogden Herald,” which had succeeded the ‘‘Junction,” and was converted by him from an evening into a morning paper. The “Herald’.’ was in turn succeeded by the “Standard,” established by him in June, 1888. Meantime he had become further associated with affairs at the national capitol. While there in 1884, he had formed the acquaintance of many leading men, to whose favor his father’s name was a ready passport, and at the suggestion of his sire, had taken pains to cultivate editors, statesmen and politicians known to be Unfriendly to the majority of Utah’s people. During the year last mentioned he assisted Delegate Caine and Hon. John W. Young in defeating an anti-Utah measure similar in its provisions to the Edmunds-Tucker Act. From February to July, 1888, he worked energetically to secure a modification of the harsh methods by which the anti-polygamy laws wore being enforced. For this purpose he visited President Cleveland many times, and succeeded in convincing him. His labors, with others, finally bore fruit in the adoption of a more lenient policy, as indicated by the appointment of Chief Justice Sandford and other conservative officials.
In May, 1890, Mr. Cannon argued before the Senate and House Committees on Territories against the Cullom-Struble Bill, by which it was proposed to disenfranchise the great majority of Utah’s citizens, simply because they were Mormons. He applied in person to the Secretary of State, Hon. James G. Blaine, and besought him to use his powerful influence against the proposed legislation. An argument used by Mr. Cannon with the Agamemnon of the Republican forces, was that Utah was “not hopelessly Democratic,” that many of her people were indoctrinated with Republican principles,and that it would be suicidal to disenfranchise the element that might yet make Utah a Republican State. “Go home, young man,’’ said the plumed knight, sententiously, “and tell your people that no bill disfranchising any portion of the voters of Utah will pass the present Congress.” Blaine kept his word; the “Manifesto” followed, and nothing more was heard of the pending disfranchisement of the Mormon people.
In the latter part of 1890, Mr. Cannon, at Ogden, took a prominent part in the “citizen’s movement,” whereby the non-partisan ticket, supported by the strongest business elements of the town, redeemed it in February, 1891, from Liberal misrule. Chosen a member of the city council, he served as chairman of the board of public buildings and grounds. This victory of the non-partisans in the Junction City may be regarded as the first of the merely political entering wedges that split the old parties asunder and paved the way for the local division on national party lines. Frank J. Cannon was the first editor in Utah to advocate a dissolution of the People’s and the Liberal parties, and the establishment here of the national organizations.
The Republican party of Utah, as it now exists, was organized in May, 1891. In December of the same year, Mr. Cannon, whose political affiliations were that way, went with others to Washington to secure party recognition from the National Republican Committee, which met there and selected Minneapolis as the place for holding the next great convention. The desired recognition having been given, the Utah Republicans met at Provo and selected 0. J. Salisbury and Frank J. Cannon as delegates to the Minneapolis Convention. The Republican wing of the Liberal party (which had not then disbanded) also sent two delegates—C. C. Goodwin and C. E. Allen. Both delegations were seated by the convention.
The fall of 1892 witnessed the nomination of Frank J. Cannon for Delegate to Congress. When asked to allow his name to go before the convention—held in the Salt Lake Theatre—he replied: “Not if Judge Zane will accept the nomination.” He recognized that the nomination of Judge Zane would do more than anything else to settle the old controversy, break up the Liberal party, and establish Republicanism m Utah. Judge Zane, however, declined, and Frank J. Cannon was nominated. He was defeated at the polls (Rawlins, the Democrat, being victor that year) but succeeded, in a campaign unparalleled for the number of meetings held, in cutting down the Democratic majority.
In November, 1893, he retired from the editorship of the “Standard,” and helped to inaugurate the Pioneer Electric Power Plant in Ogden canyon, an enterprise second only to the electric power plant at Niagara, and containing several more original features. Its cost was one and a half millions. The projectors were Wilford Woodruff, George Q. Cannon, Joseph F. Smith, John R. Winder, Fred J. Kiesel, A. B. Patton, and other prominent citizens. C. K. Bannister was the engineer. In the interest of the company Frank J. Cannon visited the Eastern States and Europe.
At Provo, in the autumn of 1894, he was again nominated by acclamation as the Republican candidate for Delegate, and on the 6th of November was elected, defeating Mr. Rawlins by a majority of over eighteen hundred votes. The Liberal party was now a thing of the past, having disbanded in the latter part of 1893. Most of its members were Republicans by tradition and tendency, and were among those who now carried the party banner to victory. During the remainder of her Territorial career Mr. Cannon served Utah as Delegate, and was present at the White House when President Cleveland, on the 4th of January, 1890, signed the bill conferring Statehood upon the Territory. The same month the retiring Delegate returned to Utah, and at a caucus of Republican legislators then in session, he was nominated by acclamation as their first choice for United States Senator. This choice was ratified on the 23rd of January, by the unanimous vote of the Republican majority in the joint assembly.
Senator Cannon immediately entered upon his duties at the seat of government. In June of that year (189G) the National Republican Convention met at St. Louis, to nominate their candidate for the Presidency. Among the delegates from Utah were Senator Frank J. Cannon, Representative Clarence E. Allen, and Hon. Thomas Kearns, all staunch bi-metallists. Mr. Cannon was a member of the committee on resolutions. Knowing that the committee which would frame the platform intended to insert a plank favoring the single gold standard and repudiating bi-metallism, many delegates from the West met in caucus and resolved upon leaving the convention if it ratified the committee’s report. The preparation of the document embodying the protest of the bi-metallist delegates, and the delivery of the “speech of defiance” hurled by them at the convention after the adoption of the report, were entrusted to Senator Cannon. It was a tense and thrilling situation, the excitement of the vast throng being wrought to a high pitch. During the delivery of his impassioned speech, in which he shook the silver gauntlet at the golden towers, the Senator was repeatedly warned by the chairman in a low voice to desist; that officer fearing some violent outbreak from the body of the convention, whose members, pale with anger and agitation, listened breathlessly, or endeavored to drown with hisses, the ringing voice of the faithful Abdiel of the bi-metallic cause. The speech at an end, the champions of silver—Messrs. Teller, Cannon, Kearns, Allen, Dubois and the rest—retired, walking majestically through the crowded hall, past the tiers on tiers of benches, filled with frowning faces and swaying forms, towering above their heads like the cliffs of the Colorado river. It was a rare moment, a dramatic episode, and it stamped as brave men the principal actors therein.
Senator Cannon supported the Democratic ticket in 1896. In December of that year the National Silver Republican party was organized for the purpose of maintaining in line such seceding Republican elements as were not yet ready to enter the Democratic organization. The national leaders of the Democracy advised this course, hoping to effect a substantial junction of forces in 1900; and it was by agreement with them that Senator Cannon refrained from entering the Democratic party after the campaign of 1896. On the floor of the Senate, in 1897, he spoke against the Dingley Bill, of which speech five million copies were circulated throughout the United States by the Equitable Tariff Association. He took the ground that agriculture was not protected by the bill, and that the trusts had dominated its schedules. His severance from the Republican party had already occurred, he having refused to enter any caucus of Republican Senators after the adjournment of Congress, in June, 1890. In the fall of 1897 he visited the Orient, spending some time in China and Japan.
In 1898 he carried the County of Weber for what was known as the Cannon legislative ticket, against both the Democratic and Republican parties, and at the legislative session of 1899 he was a candidate for re-election to the United States Senate. During this session he made a speech in the Salt Lake Theatre on the subject of “Senatorial Candidates and Pharisees,” answering criticisms against his candidacy. No election of Senator took place, and his seat remained vacant for two years, when it was filled by the election of Hon. Thomas Kearns, as a Republican.
In 1900 Mr. Cannon formally entered the Democratic party, acting that year as temporary chairman of the Utah State Convention. Two years later he was made State Chairman of the Democratic party, and fought a splendid though unsuccessful campaign.
In November, 1903, he joined Major E. A. Littlefield in the establishment at Ogden of the “Daily Utah State Journal,” and became the editor of that live Democratic paper, which he has made, as he previously made the “Standard,’’ a publication of which any American city might well be proud. At the State Convention of the Democratic party in June, 1904, Mr. Cannon was elected a delegate to the St. Louis Convention, serving as chairman of the Utah delegation, and as one of the committee on platform and resolutions.
Ex-Senator Cannon has long been recognized as one of the finest orators, not only in Utah, but in all the West. His wealth of vocabulary is only equalled by his wonderful readiness of thought and voluble eloquence of delivery. A master of repartee, his retorts are instant and telling, and he speaks with thrilling and convincing fervor. A sample of his loftier flights and more thoughtful style is furnished in his memorial address on the life and character of his fellow Senator, Hon. Joseph H. Earle, of South Carolina, delivered in the United States Senate, May, 1897, soon after the death of that distinguished statesman. Here is the speech in full, as taken from the “Congressional Record.”
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Mr. President, Joseph H. Earle, the soldier, the Senator, has answered the last roll call of this world. If the bravery of his career on earth is any assurance of the composure with which he will confront the judgment seat, we may well believe that he will stand there serene in the strength which knows no faltering, willing to receive the appointed decree for all the thoughts and all the words and all the deeds which marked his little day on earth. It is a splendid hope that the grandest quality of the human soul—steadfastness—can not be lost in the transition from this life of death to the deathless life.
“Greater than the affection which prompts us to devote this hour to an expression of eulogy for the citizen departed, for the friend gone to the other Mansion, for the battle- nerved arm quieted in the coffin, for the honest voice stilled in the soft night time of the grave, is the duty upon us to pause in this solemn instant in our country’s career and contemplate the brevity of mundane experience and the speeding toward us all of that sunset hour when earthly hope and earthly life are enveloped in the shadows. The sense of death hallows the judgment of men and sanctifies the purpose of nations.
“Let us in this view of our larger duty devote to this memorial service the time which belongs to the country. Joseph H. Earle and his fellow-Senators met in this official sphere as birds meet at sea, giving but the signal of a fluttered wing as they drive along through swirling tempests, and scarcely pausing to turn an eye to watch each other’s flight beyond opposed horizons. I knew this departed one but briefly, and yet admiringly, for he was a soldier-gentleman, so considerate of all the high requirements of social and official intercourse that every contact with him seemed but to more endear him to his fellows. I know him best as the reconciled representative of a reconciled people, as one who felt that the cause for which he had offered his life was won when it was lost.
“No words from human lips can add to the dignity of that epitaph which his own career has written; Joseph H. Earle, the orphaned lad, offering his heart’s best blood to the State he loved; Joseph H. Earle, the United States Senator, offering his soul’s best thought to the people of the country which he loved more. That which we can say must be for the comfort of remaining humanity and not to bless him. It is an instructive thought that not all the words which earthly pens can trace, nor all the sentiments which human lips can utter, can add one jot to or take one tittle from the character which was the formation of his fifty years, as we count earthly time.
“He was a man. And in this one man was folded all the universe, with its dark abysms of eternal silence, its immeasurable spaces filled with the mysteries of unknowing and unknown, and with all its lighted worlds of heavenly harmony, its processional march of infinite power, and its sublimer mystery of some time knowing all as we are known.
“As the breathing flower, as the wind-stirred leaf, as the upspringing grass blade contains within its tiny self the problem of progression and its solving, and as it has its individual and impregnable identity amidst all its fellows, so man, every man, bears within himself, in the illumination of his soul, the possibility of all knowledge, all virtue, all law by which the universe is and is governed, all processes by which the worlds are framed, and, in its darker chambers, all the possibilities of woe and destruction and infinite gloom; and he has his own individuality, in which, through all the eternity, there cannot cotne the unholy intrusion of any other essence.
“This order is not complex; it is of all things most plain—that man of his Creator born, the chief of all things created, is of the creative power an eternal part. From him, in earthly life, springs the majesty of nations and the downfall of dynasties.
“If we could know of that hidden thing, the first man, and could lay bare to finite knowledge the wonder of his possibilities, we would see that in him was the germ of al that was to be—the song of love and the shriek of hate; the whisper of peace and the trump of war; the crucifixion and the crucified: the home of hope, where innocence with instinct supernatural calls all things good because they are and because they are of God, and the slaughter peu of infamy, where innocence perishes, doubting of mercy because it seems to be withheld, and doubting of mercy’s God because He does not seem to speak; the palace and the hovel; the plenty and content which flow from wisdom, and the want and degradation which come of laws denied; the liberty-crowned domes beneath which freemen speak for freemen, and the dungeons of the secret tyranny; the fight of savage men to overcome a savage earth; the triumph of that intellect which, in the evolution of this life, has grown too large for the limitations of our poor measure of time and space; the unions and the revolutions; the wandering stars, gathered into one field of blue and made the flag of a consecrated people, inspired with a holy purpose to redeem the world for its exaltation as a heavenly home.
“All good, all evil, is his. It is the whisper of his own immortality that asks him on to deathless deeds; it is the clog of his own earthliness that holds him in the mire of things that die in their doing. As immortality step by step conquers the earthliness, the man of the now is rising into realms of greater light, and upon him is dawning the day of reflected infinite knowledge that peace and order are the law of that universe of which he holds the essence. To this end he is marching,led on by inspiration,led on by that eternal impulsion which makes the generations go from good things into better, until—surmounting all—from him, in eternal life, springs the majesty of worlds, peopled and glorious.
“In every evolution which has marked his passage he can see, if he will, the unassailable certainty of that eternal time for him. Earthly evolution is but the type of spiritual evolution. It is the monition of a lesson which we sometimes try to forget, but which comes to us in the silent watches of the night, in the hour of loneliness at sea, by the bedside of friends departing, and, more sacredly and certainly thau all, in the hope to meet again the friends already gone.
“This life, as a part of the eternity to which it belongs, is not even as a speck of cosmic dust to the infinite space to which it reddens under the crimson sun. There is a future, as there was a past. As the past is lost to our remembrance lest we lose our energy by retrospection, so the future is mercifully hidden from us lest we rush from life with heedless haste or feel a saddened discontent with earth.. But that it is, and that it is forever, as it was forever, all the best moments of man bear witness.
“No human soul is satisfied with the hopeless horror of oblivion. To have emerged from nothingness, to have gasped this earthly air for the fretting instant of a fretted human life, and then to have entered the domain of nothingness, is to have been of a humanity damned from birth to death with causeless, useless struggle in a wretched world of nothingness. The grave is not extinction; it is the door of home; it is God’s portal through which we pass from this little light of life to the greater light of better life. Just so surely as we live to die, just so surely do we only die to live.
“Doubt of eternal life would be a self-inflicted cruelty, if there were room for doubt. But this is true: It is either oblivion before we were, nothingness now, and oblivion after we are, or it is life forever. Of these two, every man from whom a dearer than himself has passed away will, in the holiest chamber of his thought, beneath the stony front which he presents to all the world, hold fast the hope which is knowledge, that it is life forever.
“Earthly science has its vast domain, in which it triumphs and subdues; but beyond the measure of its widening achievements, and beyond the bounded realm of certainty, abides the unbounded realm of holy faith. Passing all comfort that human lips can offer—balm to the wounded heart, sustenance to the poverty-stricken, justice for the oppressed, benediction to the orphaned and the widowed and all who mourn—is the prophetic vision which stands for us through the ages:
“ ‘Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust; for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead.’ ”