Reed Smoot

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For the cinematographer, see Reed Smoot (cinematographer).
Reed Smoot
Black and white portrait of Reed Smoot
Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
April 8, 1900 (1900-04-08) – February 9, 1941 (1941-02-09)
Called by Lorenzo Snow
Predecessor Rudger Clawson
Successor Hyrum M. Smith
LDS Church Apostle
April 8, 1900 (1900-04-08) – February 9, 1941 (1941-02-09)
Called by Lorenzo Snow
Reason Death of Franklin D. Richards
Reorganization
at end of term
Harold B. Lee ordained
United States Senator from Utah
In office
March 4, 1903 – March 4, 1933
Predecessor Joseph L. Rawlins
Successor Elbert D. Thomas
Political party Republican
Personal details
Born Reed Smoot
(1862-01-10)January 10, 1862
Salt Lake City, Utah Territory, United States
Died February 9, 1941(1941-02-09) (aged 79)
St. Petersburg, Florida, United States
Resting place Provo City Cemetery
40°13′30″N 111°38′40″W / 40.225°N 111.6444°W / 40.225; -111.6444 (Provo City Cemetery)
Alma mater Brigham Young Academy
Spouse(s) Alpha M. Eldredge
Alice Taylor Sheets
Children 7
Parents Abraham O. and Anne K. Smoot

Reed Smoot[1] (January 10, 1862 – February 9, 1941) was a businessman and apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) when he was elected by the state legislature to the United States Senate in 1903; he served as a Republican senator until 1933. From his time in the Senate, Smoot is primarily remembered as the co-sponsor of the 1930 Smoot–Hawley Tariff Act, which raised U.S. import tariffs on over 20,000 dutiable items to record levels and is widely regarded as having exacerbated the Great Depression.

Smoot was a prominent leader of the LDS Church, chosen to serve as an apostle in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles prior to his election to the Senate. His role in the LDS Church (together with rumors of a secret church policy continuing polygamy and a secret oath against the United States) led to a lengthy controversy of four years after he was elected to the Senate. A Senate committee investigated his eligibility to serve and recommended against him, but the full Senate voted to seat him. After being defeated for office in 1932, the year Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected to the presidency, Smoot returned to Utah in 1933. Retiring from politics and business, he devoted himself to the church. At the time of his death, he was third in the line of succession to lead the LDS Church.

Early life, family, and religious activity[edit]

Reed Smoot was born in 1862 in Salt Lake City, Utah Territory. He was the son of Mormon pioneer Abraham O. Smoot from Kentucky and Iowa, who served as mayor of the city from 1856 to 1862. His mother was Anne Kristina (Morrison) Smoot, his father's fifth wife of six plural marriages. (She was also known as Anne Kirstine Mauritzen before her marriage.)[2] (His father practiced polygamy and had a total of six wives and 27 children, three of whom he adopted.)[2]

The family moved to Provo, Utah, when his father was called by Brigham Young to head the stake there. Reed Smoot attended public schools and the University of Utah (then a seminary), and graduated from Brigham Young Academy (now Brigham Young University) in Provo in 1879. After graduation, Smoot served as a Mormon missionary in England.

After returning to Utah, Smoot married Alpha M. Eldredge of Salt Lake City on September 17, 1884. They had seven children together. Smoot became a successful businessman.

From 1895 he became increasingly involved in the hierarchy of the LDS Church, advancing in authority. On April 8, 1900, Smoot was ordained an LDS Church apostle and member of the church's Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

Smoot (right) with Heber J. Grant, president of the LDS Church, ca 1918-1920.

United States Senate[edit]

After becoming an apostle in 1900, Smoot received the approval of LDS Church president Joseph F. Smith to run for office in 1902. He had joined the Republican Party.

Smoot was elected by the Utah legislature to the United States Senate (58th Congress) on January 20, 1903, as a Republican Senator, representing the state.[3] Smoot was introduced to the United States Senate by Utah's senior U.S. Senator, Republican Thomas Kearns, a Catholic who was elected in 1901. Kearns, a prominent mining magnate, newspaper owner, banker, and railroad owner, had competed with Smoot in the legislature for election to the Senate at that time. and was elected. LDS Church president Lorenzo Snow had not then supported Smoot for the position and was influential among legislative leaders.

Controversy over religious affiliation[edit]

Smoot's election sparked a bitter four-year battle in the Senate on whether Smoot was eligible and should be allowed to serve. Many senators (and Americans) were suspicious of the LDS Church because of its earlier polygamous practices. In addition, some thought Smoot's position as a Mormon apostle would disqualify him from representing all his constituents. Many were convinced that his association with the church disqualified him from serving in the United States Senate. Only a few years earlier, another prominent Utah Mormon, B. H. Roberts, had been elected to the House of Representatives. He was denied his seat on the basis that he practiced plural marriage (polygamy), which was illegal in other states.

Smoot did not practice plural marriage, but the Senate likely learned that his father had had six wives and 27 children. The LDS Church had officially renounced future plural marriages in an 1890 Manifesto, before Utah was admitted as a state. But the Salt Lake Tribune reported that church leaders continued to approve secretly of new, post-Manifesto plural marriages.[4][page needed]

Because of the controversy, the Senate began an investigation into Smoot's eligibility.[5] The Smoot Hearings began on January 16, 1904. The hearings included exhaustive questioning into the continuation of plural marriage within the state of Utah and the LDS Church, and questions on church teachings, doctrines and history. Although Smoot was not a polygamist, the charge by those opposed to his election to the Senate was that he could not swear to uphold the United States Constitution while serving in the highest echelons of an organization that sanctioned law breaking.

Some opponents claimed that temple-attending Latter-day Saints took an "oath of vengeance" against the United States for past grievances. As a leader of the LDS Church, Smoot was accused of taking this oath, which he denied. Five of the U.S. Senators who participated in the investigation agreed, writing,

"As to the 'endowment oath,' it is sufficient in this summary to say that the testimony is collated and analyzed in the annexed statement, and thereby shown to be limited in amount, vague, and indefinite in character, and utterly unreliable because of the disreputable and untrustworthy character of the witnesses."[6]

Although the majority of the investigative committee recommended that Smoot be removed from office, on February 20, 1907, the full Senate voted and defeated that proposal, allowing him to serve.

Political career[edit]

Willis C. Hawley (left) and Smoot in April 1929, shortly before the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act passed the House.

Senator Smoot (Republican, Ut.)
Is planning a ban on smut.
Oh rooti-ti-toot for Smoot of Ut.
And his reverend occiput.
Smite, Smoot, smite for Ut.,
Grit your molars and do your dut.,
Gird up your l__ns,
Smite h_p and th_gh,
We'll all be Kansas
By and by....

Nash, Ogden (January 11, 1930), "Invocation", The New Yorker: 30 .

Smoot was reelected in 1908 and continued to be re-elected to successive terms until 1932, serving in the Senate until March 1933. A constitutional amendment mandated the popular election of US Senators after 1913. He was defeated in the 1932 election, the year in which Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt won the presidency, carrying many other Democrats with him to office.

In 1916, William Kent was the lead sponsor in the House of Representatives of legislation to establish the National Park Service. Smoot sponsored the similar Senate bill. The legislation passed the House of Representatives on July 1, 1916, passed the Senate on August 5, and was signed by U.S. President Woodrow Wilson on August 25, 1916. The agency was placed within the cabinet Department of Interior.[7]

Smoot was Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee from 1923 to 1933, and served on the Senate Appropriations Committee. He became active in the national Republican Party and served as a delegate to the Republican national convention every four years between 1908 and 1924. He was Chairman of the 1928 Resolutions Committee at the 1928 Republican National Convention and Chairman of the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Smoot was a co-sponsor of the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act in 1930, which raised U.S. import tariffs on over 20,000 dutiable items to record levels. Historians generally believe that it exacerbated the Great Depression. U.S. President Herbert Hoover signed the act into law on June 17, 1930.

Smoot served five terms before being defeated in the 1932 election by Democrat Elbert D. Thomas. After his unsuccessful reelection campaign, Smoot moved back to Salt Lake City. He retired from active business and political pursuits to dedicate his remaining years as an apostle for the LDS Church. Smoot died on February 9, 1941, during a visit to St. Petersburg, Florida. He was returned to Utah for burial in Provo.

Further reading[edit]

  • Flake, Kathleen. The Politics of American Religious Identity: The Seating of Senator Reed Smoot, Mormon Apostle. The University of North Carolina Press, 2003. excerpt and text search
  • Paulos, Michael Harold. The Mormon Church on Trial: Transcripts of the Reed Smoot Hearings. Signature Books, Salt Lake City, Utah, 2008.
  • Heath, Harvard S. In the World: The Diaries of Reed Smoot. Signature Books, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1997.
  • Merrill, Milton R. Reed Smoot: Apostle in Politics. Utah State University Press, 1990.
  • Smith, Konden R. “The Reed Smoot Hearings and the Theology of Politics: Perceiving an ‘American’ Identity,” Journal of Mormon History, 35 (Summer 2009), pp. 118–62.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Several sources indicate that Smoot's middle name was "Owen", but this is disputed by his descendants, who claim he had no middle name.
  2. ^ a b Whitney, Orson Ferguson (1904). History of Utah: Biographical. Salt Lake City: G.Q. Cannon. p. 101. 
  3. ^ "Business of the House: Proceedings Before That Branch Late Yesterday Afternoon.". Deseret News. Salt Lake City, Utah. January 21, 1903. Retrieved November 29, 2013. 
  4. ^ B. Carmon Hardy, Solemn Covenant: The Mormon Polygamous Passage (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994) extensively documents Mormon-sanctioned post-Manifesto polygamy.
  5. ^ Kathleen Flake, The Politics of American Religious Identity: The Seating of Senator Reed Smoot, Mormon Apostle (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004).
  6. ^ Senate Resolution 205, Fifty-seventh Congress, second session.
  7. ^ Swain, Donald C. (September 1969). "The Founding of the National Park Service". The American West. Palo Alto, CA: American West Publishing Company. VI (5): 6–9. 

External links[edit]

  • Media related to Reed Smoot at Wikimedia Commons

Archival materials[edit]

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints titles
Preceded by
Rudger Clawson
Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
April 8, 1900 – February 9, 1941
Succeeded by
Hyrum M. Smith
United States Senate
Preceded by
Joseph L. Rawlins
U.S. Senator (Class 3) from Utah
March 4, 1903 – March 4, 1933
Served alongside: Thomas Kearns, George Sutherland, William H. King
Succeeded by
Elbert D. Thomas
Political offices
Preceded by
Porter J. McCumber
North Dakota
Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee
1923–1933
Succeeded by
Pat Harrison
Mississippi
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Furnifold M. Simmons
North Carolina
Dean of the United States Senate
March 4, 1931 – March 4, 1933
Succeeded by
William E. Borah
Idaho
Most Senior Living U.S. Senator
(Sitting or Former)

April 30, 1940 – February 9, 1941
Succeeded by
Charles Dick
Ohio