Frank J. Cannon: Saint, Senator, Scoundrel (Paperback)
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Utah’s path to statehood was the most tortuous in U.S. history, due in no small part to the Mormon practice of polygamy. Frank J. Cannon, newspaperman, Congressional delegate, and senator, guided Utah toward becoming the forty-fifth state in the Union in 1896. But when he lost favor with the LDS Church, his contributions fell into obscurity. In the 1880s, Congress dealt with the intransigence of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints over polygamy by enacting punitive new laws. Mormon lobbyists who pleaded for relief in Washington came home empty-handed before Cannon finally broke the logjam. He persuaded President Grover Cleveland to appoint judges who would deal mercifully with convicted polygamists and dissuaded Congress from disenfranchising all members by pledging that the church would abandon polygamy. But when Utah elected Mormon apostle Reed Smoot to the U.S. Senate in 1903, Cannon condemned what he called the reneging of LDS Church pledges to stay out of politics. He wrote scathing denunciations of Smoot and Mormon president Joseph F. Smith, co-authored the exposé Under the Prophet in Utah, and spearheaded the National Reform Association’s anti-Mormon crusade. Utah’s subsequent displeasure with Cannon ensured that his critical role in its statehood would be buried by omission.
About the Author
Val Holley is an independent historian living in New York City. His 25th Street Confidential: Drama, Decadence, and Dissipation along Ogden’s Rowdiest Road won the Utah Book Award in Nonfiction.
“Val Holley’s long-anticipated biography of Frank J. Cannon, one of the most controversial men ever to be born in Utah, is worth the wait. Cannon’s role in ending the political warfare over polygamy is what made him matter in Utah’s history. His scandalous conduct—and how he got away with it—is what makes him interesting.”
—Will Bagley, historian and author of Blood of the Prophets: Brigham Young and the Massacre at Mountain Meadows
“Holley gives full information, warts and all, about Cannon’s early life—including that Cannon was frequently drunk, was an adulterer, and fathered a son out of wedlock. He also provides information on the role Cannon played in the transition of Utah from territory to state and is clear about Cannon’s role in the silver movement and his eventual break with the Republican Party. We have needed a full-scale biography of Frank J. Cannon for some time.”
—Thomas G. Alexander, author of Brigham Young and the Expansion of the Mormon Faith
“Holley accurately presents the paradox that was Frank J. Cannon.… It's well past time that Frank J., the scoundrel of the Cannons, get some notice for his many achievements. Holley's biography is a valuable, interesting read.”
—Mormon History and Culture blog