Concerning Utah’s statehood story, the oft heard quote comes to mind, attributed to German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, who said: “laws and sausage, if they are to be enjoyed, should never be watched made.” Lyman’s book argues for the opposite: knowing the stories behind political actions are essential to a vibrant and strong democracy. Lyman’s “sausage making” history reveals many significant historical insights useful to contemporary life in Utah. It is also a complex, elusive story, that has been largely untold until now.
Perhaps no other historian knows as much, or can tell the story as well as Edward Leo Lyman. Like the story he is telling, it took him almost fifty years to fully understand the extent of this story.
Enough years have passed (for many Utahns the history of the 1847 pioneers has always trumped Utah’s statehood story), and enough new scholarship has been completed, to finally tell a complete “sausage making” story about Utah’s elusive statehood quest.
Podcast #1 of 2 — Topics Discussed:
- Mormon pioneers settle on the Wasatch Front, establish a non-democratic, almost fully theocratic government, and they are anticipating the soon return of Jesus Christ.
- The first failed attempt at statehood. Federal officials along with California representatives in Washington, D.C., consider placing Utah (or the proposed state of Deseret) into a very large state of California. Utah would help California with a population requirement and California would aid Utah, eventually, in becoming a separate state.
- Brigham Young’s and the Mormon’s world view drives them to seek total political independence from the United States. Church leaders expect to enter the Union on their own terms. They propose a couple of times “the State of Deseret” during Brigham Young’s life.
- There are all together seven attempts at statehood (1849 to 1896).
- What the birth of the Republican Party (1854) meant to the LDS Church, with the party’s platform to eradicate the “Twin Relics of Barbarism: Slavery and Polygamy.”
- A failed attempt in 1872, Thomas Fitch, a Republican lobbyist working for the Mormon Church, proposed statehood with an anti-polygamist clause. Brigham Young agrees to it, hoping to see “how far they can go” with this disingenuous gambit.
- In the 1870s George Q. Cannon goes to Washington, D.C., serves as Utah’s non-voting delegate to congress; spends over ten years there; he successfully fights off nearly two dozen anti-Utah/polygamy pieces of legislation. Cannon is so good at what he does that congress passes a law requiring that all territorial delegates must be law abiding (specifically not practicing polygamists) citizens.
- A failed attempt in 1887, President Grover Cleveland sent a trusted cabinet member to the Utah Territory, seeking LDS Church leaders’ approval, with an anti-polygamist plank his administration would support, to allow statehood for Utah.
- US Congress establishes the Utah Commission, to oversee fair democratic elections in the Utah Territory; how federal marshals work in Utah; the Utah Commission applies an anti-polygamy oath to Utah voters; Utah polygamist are jailed and are politically disenfranchised.
- The deeply polarized worlds of Mormon and non-Mormons living in Utah is explained; the effects of ongoing millennial expectations by Mormons, and the call and want for some kind of heavenly intervention is discussed.
- Utah’s Christian churches are closely connected with national Christian missionary and anti-Mormon efforts and organizations.
- Salt Lake Tribune feeds news reports to a broader national syndicated press; the nation’s press is largely unified in its anti-polygamy coverage.
- George Q. Cannon’s mastery of federal legislative and executive branch lobbying is described.