Young--as prophet and leader of the Mormon people--would personally
guarantee jobs and pay for his followers.
It was a guarantee that would haunt him for years to come. But in the
summer of 1868 Young had little reason to question his contract with
the Union Pacific railroad. Almost immediately Young sought to convince
his assembling workforce that high wages were evil.
"Men should not look for the wages that were made here in 1864
and 1865. The days for such prices to be paid are long gone, and it
would be beneficial that they never return. Such high rates of wages
benefit neither the employer nor the employee. They only foster extravagance
and other bad habits.
The Deseret News, May 1868"
And that's what Brigham Young offered. He offered cheap labor. And he
offered it at a price that would discourage the railroad from bringing
in a flood of non-Mormon laborers. That was, in many ways, the worst
of his fears."
The contract gave Young extraordinary power to take care of his people.
. .and his family, giving his son's preferred positions.
Notice: Misters Joseph A. Young, Brigham Young Junior and John W. Young
left this city on the eight instant for the head of Echo canyon to let
contracts for grading on the Union Pacific Railroad. The Deseret News"
Few in the Utah territory would dare publicly question Brigham Young's
management of the contract, nor his preferential treatment for his sons
and ranking church leaders. It was viewed as consistent with his unique
role as the guiding force on all matters religious, economic and civic
in the Kingdom of God on earth.
Wherein is Brigham's power over us? In our love, and not our fear. We
Mormon elders love our chief. He is our people's father, and we look
upon him as such-Edward Tulledge"
For Young, his many hats were held forth as a defense mechanism to protect
his people in a hostile world.
In 1862 Congress passed the first in a series of anti-polygamy laws
aimed at the Mormon church. One key aspect of the 1862 law sought to
strangle life out of the church by barring it from economic activity.
"When the United States government in 1862 passed the law which
disincorporated the church and required the church not to have extensive
property in its own name, Brigham and his associates in the Quorum of
the Twelve assumed that the right way for Brigham to carry out the goals
and programs of the Kingdom was to leave some of the properties in his
". . .he began mixing the technical accounts of the church
with his accounts as trustee in trust, the legal term giving him sole
trusteeship over the financial assets of the LDS church. But then he
also mixed his own accounts with his accounts as the trustee of the
church, his personal accounts. . ."
In short, it was virtually impossible to separate the financial assets
of the Mormon church from the assets of Brigham Young.
And it would prove to be a critical part of the story of the transcontinental
railroad in Utah. Confident in his contract, Brigham Young time and
again offered his personal guarantee for the work and the pay, as he
urged men to leave their families and head to the work sites in Weber
and Echo canyons.
By mid-summer, thousands of Mormon men were carving a railroad bed
through the canyons of the Wasatch Mountains.
The Union Pacific felt it had beaten the Central Pacific to the punch
in taking advantage of a Mormon workforce.
In the summer of 1868 the Central Pacific dispatched partner Leland
Stanford to the Utah territory to try and wedge a foothold between Brigham
Young and the Union Pacific.
"June 9, 1868
We have been pretty industrious, and it appears we may get help from
President Young, without waiting until he can man the work he has undertaken
for the Union Pacific. Brigham has not got his men yet. The price he
pays is not satisfactory. But he will get what he wants, and his followers
will not work for any one else. -Leland Stanford"
Brigham Young started playing the Central Pacific against the Union
Pacific. . .deftly reading the heated competition, and the willingness
of both companies to strike back room deals to advance their cause.
The leading figures of the Central Pacific and Union Pacific were familiar
faces in Washington. . . Passing around cash and railroad stock as they
competed for an advantage.
. . .they spread around a lot of money. That is just the way the government
worked. Everyone benefitted. The Congressmen themselves, they benefitted
personally. They were sometimes given shares of the company and personal
financial benefit is a tremendous motivator for anybody."
"We have always been on the defensive. . .and have sought no particular
legislation more than to sometimes endeavor to obtain the repeal of
the obnoxious. If legislative bodies had let us alone, we would have
been glad to stay out of politics.-Charles Crocker."
". . .The interest of the government was pretty much the interest
of the railroad, and vice verse. The capitalists pretty much ran the
government, and that is what made America America. You can have whatever
political thoughts 150 years later that you might want, but the reality
is the railroad would not have been built if not for the interests of
[David Haward Bain]
But the brilliance of what happened with the Union Pacific, and it's
a kind of diabolical brilliance, is that Thomas Durant, the up vice
president, realized that you don't have to actually finish the railroad
in order to make big money. And the way he did that was to form a construction
arm, a completely separate entity, which was called the Credit Mobilier
of America, after a French corporation that had done the same thing
in France. And so basically what you would do would be you would set
up a dummy corporation, and you would pay yourself to build the railroad.
So if you've got $50,000 for a mile of construction and it actually
costs $35,000, then you would be pocketing the difference per mile.
. .and walk away with cash in your pocket."
The warnings of corruption and financial mismanagement were largely
brushed aside by the anticipation of the railroad nearing completion.
Central Pacific crews were on the Utah-Nevada border, ready to make
quick work of the flattest stretch of the Great Basin.
Before them was the Great Salt Lake. . .and a critical decision affecting
the people of the Utah territory.
From the moment the transcontinental railroad had been approved by
Congress, Brigham Young had lobbied hard for the rail line to pass through
Salt Lake City.
After he signed his railroad contract, Young told a large audience
in the Salt Lake Tabernacle that going south of the Great Salt Lake
was the only route that made sense.
'If I could direct the route they should take, I should have it come
down Echo and Weber canyons, and from there through the lower part of
Salt Lake City. It would be the height of folly for the managers of
this great enterprise to pass by what has been accomplished in this
territory for the past twenty years.
"Both railroad companies in 1868 decided that the preferred route
would be around the north end of the Great Salt Lake, and bypassing
Salt Lake City. I think they left Brigham out of the loop as long as
possible because they knew it would aggravate him.
"He and everybody here was dead set for the southern route. How
to meet this bothered me a great deal. There does not seem any of them
to be aware of the location to the north end of the lake. I have thought
it not advisable to enlighten them-Leland Stanford"
Secretly, Union Pacific and Central Pacific surveyors had agreed that
the best and shortest route to complete the railroad would skirt the
north end of the Great Salt Lake, and completely bypass Salt Lake City.
Young had no influence, and the decision was kept from him to assure
Mormon work crews for the railroad.
And so when it was finally announced to him, August of 1868, as a fact
that the railroads were not going to go through Salt Lake City, as he
had been led to believe for some years, I think it was a shock. But
it was a shock that he had to hide because of his position. And the
notion of trying to make the best of a bad thing, became the thing to
Young said he was insulted by the railroad shunning his capital city,
and vowed to build his own rail line to link the saints to the world.
It was one of many downsides that were starting to present themselves
to Brigham Young.
Nationally, the railroad was being championed as a means of breaking
apart the Mormon Kingdom of God through a mass in-migration of the type
of non-believer that the Mormons called "gentiles":
These gentiles will swarm into every part of Utah by the thousand as
actual settlers, while thousands of others will constantly pass and
repass through the territory. A free press will be set up in the territory,
and open its batteries daily upon the iniquity of harem life. Various
religious sects will soon erect church edifices, and from these pulpits
will go forth mighty influences to destroy Mormonism..
The Chicago Republican, May, 1868"
"We want the railroad. We are not afraid of its results. We know
the better the truth is known, the more it will be loved by the good,
the virtuous and the noble. And when this road is finished our friends
can come and see us, and witness the peace, the order, the freedom from
crime that possesses our cities of Zion, and they will compare them
with the sinful, depraved cities of our neighbors, and we shall lose
nothing in the comparison."
But Young's optimism was tempered by the wild side of life that was
following just behind the railroad construction camps.
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