Ep 66 – God Mode Jo
On this episode, Jo, Bennett (Brokeit), and Thompson, join forces to draft the Nauvoo Charter for approval by the Illinois State Legislature. We read right through the whole thing because that’s how we roll on this show. The Charter was essentially a copy and paste of the Springfield City Charter, but there were a few subtle additions which enshrined the city of Nauvoo as a sanctuary to Jo and the Mormons, and created a separate military arm, the Nauvoo Legion, as the law enforcement agency through which Jo exercised nothing short of martial law under the banner of his newly founded theocracy. Jo was untouchable.
Robert Flanders’ Nauvoo
Tanner Barker’s blog
Music by Jason Comeau http://aloststateofmind.com/
Show Artwork http://weirdmormonshit.com/
Legal Counsel http://patorrez.com/
Voicemail Line (864)Nake-dMo (625-3366)
Last episode we released a mini-episode with Ryan about a recent Mormon leak about a mission president denying communication access to his son on his mission in the Houston Texas area, which is currently being properly smote by Hurricane Harvey. We really hope that whatever happens as the story continues to develop that the best will come of this terrible situation, whatever that “best” happens to be. According to Ryan, it sounds like this guy was eventually able to track down his son, in spite of the Mission president’s efforts to keep them separated. We’ll keep everybody updated if anything new develops in the story.
But let’s jump back into our historical timeline, there’s so much to discuss. The last time we were discussing church history, things were in a similar melancholy tenor as we spent much of the time talking about the constant death and sickness ravaging the early destitute Mormon settlement of Commerce. Joseph Sr., along with Bishop Edward Party-Boy Partridge, and some other prominent members of the church since the earliest days succumbed to the tormenting sickness and perished in the foundational days of the Nauvoo church. To make matters worse, this was at a time when Jo and Hyrum were wanted by the Missouri government for skipping out on Jail during their transfer to Boone county a year prior and there were writs issued for their arrest. Somehow, John Bennett, was able to keep off the arresting officers for just long enough for Jo and Hyrum to attend their father’s deathbed blessings he conferred on their heads, wherein he transferred the power of Patriarch over the church to Hyrum. There’s an important syntactical distinction to make here as it would come into play in 1844. Big Daddy Cheese, Joseph Sr., was Patriarch over the church, not patriarch to the church. This was an office to be passed down through the Smith lineage alone, and served as a point of contention upon Jo and Hyrum’s deaths. Keep that in mind as we approach the 1844 schism grenade.
After discussing the death of Joseph Smith, we caught up with Bloody Brigham Young and the progress of the quorum of the Twelve on their mission in England. They were having incredible success which would only dramatically accelerate in the upcoming decade and a half.
Before we get to the meat, just a heads up, this episode doesn’t have an extended edition for patrons only, but if you are a patron subscriber, you’ll see another episode right next to this one in the feed. I’m picking up on an old project I started in March of 2015. For patrons only, I began reading D-Day David Whitmer’s “An Address to All Believers in Christ,” but finishing reading it on air completely slipped my mind until very recently. This may be better to read it now though because we know what happened on D-Day to David Whitmer so it offers a little context wherein Whitmer wrote the book in the first place. This will be the patron only episodes for the next few weeks, and the book is full of A LOT of historical gems through D-Day David’s perspective. So, if you support the show through patreon, thank you, and I hope you enjoy the next few weeks of reading that incredible publication.
Let’s wipe off that milk moustache and pick up our bibs for some meat.
One thing I’ve come to grips with is just how fast we move through the historic timeline in this show. Such a claim may baffle you who’ve been listening for the near three years we’ve been running as it’s taken that long to move through the 35 years of Jo’s life up to this point, but really, there’s so much we don’t cover and so many people we don’t talk about because it seems so inconsequential to the overall timeline and if we talked about every little detail of church history, we’d probably still be back in the Kirtland years right now and all of us would be bored out of our skulls. The reason I bring this up and we’re starting today’s show talking about this is because I have to tell you guys, I miss a lot. I am no authority on Mormon history, nor am I a Mormon historian, I just read the writings of accredited and trusted historians and try to check and expand on their work by going back to as many primary sources as possible. Built into the algorithm of how this show works, I’m learning the history at the same pace all of you are in listening to this show. I never want you to view me as somebody who’s read and seen it all when it comes to Mormon history as the majority of random Mormon history bloggers out there have studied church history just as much or more than I have, and every one of them have their own takes on the narrative, some more insightful than others, but none of which are valueless. Even Dan Petersen’s frequent posts on FairMormon and Deseret News offer some interesting insights from the apologist’s perspective on church history. While I think his logic is often flawed or wholly absent in his take on Joseph’s seer stone or the magical inclinations of the entire Smith family, he does offer interesting takes on church history, it just requires extra research and deeper dives to see through his thinly veiled bullshit and heavy reliance on logical fallacies and ad hominem attacks. On the opposite end of the spectrum, you have blogs like my good friend Craig Keeling, who runs WeirdMormonShit.com which is chock full of weekly posts of photoshopped church officials doing various ungodly things, you should really think about checking it out for a good laugh.
My point is, all of these viewpoints of Mormonism and Mormon history add to the conversation, each side often seeing the other side’s contributions to be of less or no value, but that’s not the case. All of these perspectives add something to the conversation, and the value they contribute is subjective to the consumer of the information.
This podcast is merely my contribution to the world of Mormonism and Mormon history, and the value derived from it is subjective to you, the one listening to my voice right now while you’re out running errands, working, gardening, exercising, playing video games, or whatever it is you do while consuming podcasts. In that respect, you wouldn’t listen to this if you didn’t find value in it or find it interesting, so for finding that value and interest, I want to personally thank you.
The whole reason I brought this up was to essentially ask for your forgiveness. There are so many relevant things I’ve never even brought up. There’s a whole gang of people I’ve never discussed at length or have only made passing reference to who had a dramatic impact on the historical timeline that deserve so much more investigation. I can try to say that I’ve spared talking about these people or instances in depth to spare you the boredom, and while that is often the case, much more frequent of an offender in this regard is simply my own ignorance. I don’t have a regimented structure of books I need to read to fulfill a syllabus. I just pick up random Mormon books, read, and come away with a whole new understanding based on what I just consumed.
Recently I’ve been burning through Robert Flanders “Nauvoo Kingdom on the Mississippi”. I read a few passages from it when we introduced John Brokeit a few episodes ago, but am only this past week actually diving into the pages. This book is known as one of the seminal historiographies of Nauvoo, trusted and recommended by the majority of Mormon historians, and, the most important part, incredibly unbiased in its treatment of church affairs. Needless to say, the book has offered some very interesting insight and contextualized a lot of information in a way that plays into the larger context of what happened during those 5 years the Mormons spent in Nauvoo. I’m giving a major recommendation of this book, it has me on the edge of my seat. I’ll be relying on this book and likely frequently sourcing it as we move through Nauvoo.
Today, we’re going to be discussing one of the main points that served to divide the Mormons and the Illinoisans which heavily contributed to the Mormons being removed from Nauvoo and chased to Utah beginning in 1845. In order to get into this topic, which will be the entire focus of today’s episode, I have a quick question. How many of you are gamers? This reference won’t appeal to everybody, but to those who get it, this will color the conversation for today. My favorite game type is open world type games. Grand Theft Auto has been one of my favorite franchises for over a decade. One of the most fun aspects of Grand Theft Auto are the cheat codes that allow you to do all kinds of remarkable things like spawning cars and weapons, making vehicles fly, making people riot on the streets and on and on it goes. However, there is one cheat in Grand Theft Auto, Saints Row, Crackdown and a bunch of other games which seems great when you first use it, but eventually you realize it’s really not all that great. That cheat is known as God mode. God mode gives you all the guns and equipment, unlimited money and points for upgrading the character, and most importantly, invincibility. You simply can’t be touched. Bullets turn into marshmallows and falls from the tops of buildings become a step off a curb.
God mode is great for a while. You wreak havoc on the city, squash every foe, destroy every altercation with the flick of the joystick, all while the power of the death star aimed straight at your face couldn’t end your fun. However, the fundamental flaw with the God mode cheat is boredom amidst utter destruction. Most video games which invoke God mode rely heavily upon destruction and chaos to make them fun, but when the finitude of death and restarting from the last save point is removed, mindless destruction becomes monotonous. The only way to break the monotony is through creation instead of destruction, and very few games have mastered creation with God Mode cheat on, Minecraft being a great example. Once the finality of death or paying for consequences is removed, unbridled limitless creation is truly the only thing which can keep a God occupied.
During the October of 1840 conference, Jo, John Brokeit, and Robert B. Thompson were tasked with drafting the Nauvoo charter to send it to the Illinois state legislature for approval. Once approved, the small town of Commerce would be officially endorsed by Illinois as the official city of Nauvoo, Illinois. Putting the Nauvoo charter together was Jo and Brokeit’s first cooperative task after Bennett moved to Commerce in late August or early September, right before this October conference. It’s likely that the charter was mostly drafted before the conference, but Jo, Brokeit, and Thompson had to put the final touches on it.
The Nauvoo charter was basically a copy-paste job from the Springfield Illinois charter, probably a good move as the phrasing was similar enough to expedite the process of pushing it through the Illinois legislature. Illinois was hungry for cities and businesses to crop up. The Mormon high council voted on the Nauvoo charter during the October conference and in its incomplete form was approved to send up to the Illinois Twelfth General Assembly for approval.
From page 96 of Nauvoo by Robert Flanders:
“When the state legislature convened in December, 1840, General Bennett was in Springfield as lobbyist for the proposed city and associated charters. The circumstances of the legislative session were propitious for their passage. The lawmakers were preoccupied with the state fiscal crisis caused by the depression and the collapse of the heavily indebted internal improvements programs. Furthermore, they were deluged with requests to enact charters for incorporation of every conceivable sort, of which the Nauvoo City bill was only one. Forty-seven acts of incorporation were finally passed by the Twelfth General Assembly including seven other city charters. But the legislators did not overlook the fact that the Mormons represented a powerful political bloc, which they were at that time disposed to serve. The young Stephen A. Douglas, then Secretary of State and already a power in the Illinois Democracy, lent his support to Bennett’s measure; so did Whig Senator Sidney H. Little of McDonough County, which adjoined Hancock on the east…
The hurried passage of the ill-examined charter owed much to political expediency—Ford and the historian Frank Stevens sardonically assigned this as the only reason—as well as to the inexperience and legal incapacity of many legislators and the press of other business. But beyond these circumstances, its routine enactment seems natural considering the high optimism that prevailed in the state. Illinois was growing and society was moving ahead. New counties, new cities and towns, new institutions, new groups of every sort were springing up across the state, clamoring for recognition, for legal status, for power and political preferment. The tendency was to welcome them and to help them; there was presumably room for all and a need for all. The Mormons were desirable as an especially populous new group. The years 1839-1840 were something of an “Era of Good Feeling” between the Mormons and Illinoisans…”
And now we see the power of Brokeit to help the Mormons with his considerable experience in government and politics.
“Bennett’s role in promoting the enactment of the charter is not clear; Ford accorded him considerable credit. ‘He flattered both sides with the hope of Mormon favor,’ wrote the old governor, ‘and both sides expected to receive their votes.’ While the charter might have passed without his presence, Bennett was accorded both status and prestige by his new Mormon brethren in thanks for the achievement. However, Joseph Smith wrote in his journal, ‘The City Charter of Nauvoo is my own plan and device; I concocted it for the salvation of the Church, and on principles so broad, that every honest man might dwell secure under its protective influence without distinction of sect or party.’”
The Nauvoo charter had some incredible provisions enshrined into law. Remember this, the charter was very similar to the Springfield charter, but had some interesting additions which made it unique and allowed ‘every honest man …[to]… dwell secure under its protective influence,’ but also allowed dishonest men like Jo and Brokeit to dwell and do pretty much anything they wanted under its protective influence.
We’re going to read through the Charter. There are a ton of inconsequential clauses which we won’t spend any time on, but we need to read through the important parts which had profound impacts throughout the Nauvoo years. The entire document is available through wikisource, and you’ll find a link in the show notes if you want to read through the entire thing. This next section of the show may get a little dry, sorry about that, but we need to read a bunch of these clauses because they lay some crucial foundation for what Jo was able to do during the Nauvoo years. Also keep in mind the entirety of church history up to this point. There are historical reasons why Jo wrote some of these provisions into the charter and we’ll try to briefly discuss them in context as we go.
“Section 1. Be it enacted by the people of the State of Illinois, represented in the General Assembly, that all that district of country embraced within the following boundaries, to wit' beginning at the north east corner of section thirty-one in Township seven, north of range eight, west of the fourth principal meridian, in the county of Hancock, and running thence west to the northwest corner of said section, thence north to the Mississippi river, thence west to the middle of the main channel of the said river; thence down the middle of said channel to a Point due west of the southeast corner of fractional section number twelve in township six, north of range nine, west of the fourth principal meridian, thence east to the southeast corner of said section twelve, theme north on the range line between township six north, and range eight and nine west, to the southwest corner of section six in township six north of range eight west, thence east to the southeast corner of said section, thence north to the place of beginning, including the town plats of Commerce and Nauvoo, shall hereafter be called and known by the name of the "City of Nauvoo," and the inhabitants thereof are hereby constituted a body corporate and politic by the name aforesaid, and shall have perpetual succession, and may have and use a common seal which they may change and alter at pleasure.
(Sets boundaries for the city and designates it as “Nauvoo”)
Sec. 2. Whenever any tract of land adjoining the "City of Nauvoo" shall have been laid out into town lots, and duly recorded according to law, the same shall form a part of the "City of Nauvoo."
Sec. 3. The inhabitants of said city, by the name and style aforesaid, shall have power to sue and be sued, to plead and be impleaded, defend and be defended, in all courts of law and equity, and all actions whatsoever; to purchase, receive and hold property, real and personal, in said city, to purchase, receive, and hold real property beyond the city, for burying grounds, or for other public purposes, for the use of the inhabitants of said city, to sell, lease, convey or dispose of property, real or personal, for the benefit of the city, to improve and protect such property, and to do all other things in relation thereto as natural persons.
(This was a standard copy-paste from the Springfield charter which lays the foundation of the legal processes the city would control. There’s nothing really special about this, but it does put all executive and legislative processes in control of the city and the city government which is laid out in the next section)
Sec. 4. There shall be a City Council, to consist of a Mayor, four Aldermen, and nine Councilors, who shall have the qualifications of electors of said city, and shall be chosen by the qualified voters thereof, and shall hold their offices for two years, and until their successors shall be elected and qualified. The City Council shall judge of the qualifications, elections and returns of their own members, and a majority of them shall form a quorum to do business, but a smaller number may adjourn from day to day, and compel the attendance of absent members, under such penalties as may be prescribed by ordinance.
Sec. 5. The Mayor, Aldermen and Councilors, before entering upon the duties of their office, shall take and subscribe an oath or affirmation that they will support the Constitution of the United States, and of this State and that they will well and truly perform the duties of their offices to the best of their skill and abilities.
(These sections set out the structure for the city government. This is where Nauvoo departs from most other city charters of its day. Most cities had either Aldermen or Councilors, but usually not both. Nauvoo established these groups of councilmen as sub groups operating under the mayor, who essentially had complete executive power. That may not mean much right now, but it will very soon. This Nauvoo charter essentially put the Mayor’s powers on par with that of the Governor’s powers. Can anybody guess who the mayor would be? We’ll get to it soon.)
Sec. 6. On the first Monday of February next, and every two years thereafter, an election shall be held for the election of one Mayor, four Aldermen, and nine Councilors; and at the first election under the Act, three Judges shall be chosen viva voce by the electors present. The said Judges shall choose two Clerks, and the Judges and Clerks, before entering upon their duties, shall take and subscribe an oath or affirmation such as is now required by law to be taken by Judges or Clerks of other elections and at all subsequent elections, the necessary number of Judges and Clerks shall be appointed by the City Council. At the first election thus held, the polls shall be opened at 9 o'clock a.m. and closed at 6 o'clock p.m,; at the close of the polls the votes shall be counted and a statement thereof proclaimed at the front door of the house at which said election shall be held; and the Clerks shall leave with each person elected, or at his place of residence, within five days after the election, a written notice of his election; and each person so notified shall within ten days after the election take the oath or affirmation hereinbefore mentioned, a certificate of which oath shall be deposited with the Recorder, whose appointment is hereafter provided for, and be by him preserved; and subsequent elections shall be held, conducted and returns thereof made as may be provided for by ordinance of the City Council.
(A term limit of 2 years was pretty standard. As I said before, this charter was similar to many other city charters so it would be rubber-stamped through the Illinois legislature without any hiccups. What this did mean is fairly interesting though as it essentially made it so whoever was running for these offices always had reelection on their minds. If your seat is only guaranteed for 2 years, you try to do whatever necessary to pander to your constituents for those 2 years to keep your place and income secure.)
Sec. 7. All free white male inhabitants, who are of the age of twenty one years, who are entitled to vote for State Officers, and who shall have been actual residents of the city sixty days next preceding said election, shall be entitled to vote for City Officers.
(This is only fascinating because the probationary limit for residency was set so short to gain the ability to vote. They couldn’t make the limit longer than 60 days because Nauvoo was growing so quickly and they wanted people to feel as if their voices mattered so soon after moving to town.)
Sec. 8. The City Council shall have authority to levy and collect taxes, for city purposes, upon all property, real and personal, within the limits of the city, one-half per cent per annum, upon the assessed value thereof, and may enforce payment of the same in any manner, to be provided by ordinance, not repugnant to the Constitution of the United States or of this State.
Sec. 9. The City Council shall have power to appoint a Recorder, Treasurer, Assessor, Marshal, Supervisor of streets, and all such other officers as may be necessary, and to prescribe their duties and remove them from office at pleasure.
Sec. 10. The City Council shall have power to require, of all officers appointed in pursuance of this Act, bonds, with a penalty for the faithful performance of their respective duties, such as may be deemed expedient; and also to require all officers appointed as aforesaid, to take an oath for the faithful performance of the duties of their respective offices.
(Section 8, 9, and 10 set out the ability of the Nauvoo government to collect taxes and instate or remove public officials at their will. It’s not worth reading in detail as this was pretty standard practice.)
Sec. 11. The City Council shall have power and authority to make, ordain, establish and execute all such ordinances, not repugnant to the Constitution of the United States or of this State, as they may deem necessary for the peace, benefit, good order, regulation, convenience, and cleanliness of said city: for the protection of property therein from destruction by fire, or otherwise, and for the health and happiness thereof: they shall have power to fill all vacancies that may happen by death, resignation, or removal, in any of the offices herein made elective; to fix and establish all the fees of the office of said corporation not herein established; to impose such fines, not exceeding one hundred dollars, for each offense, as they may deem just, for refusing to accept any office under the corporation, or for misconduct therein; to divide the city into wards; to add to the number of Aldermen and Councilors, and apportion them among the several wards as may be most just and conducive to the interests of the city.
(This is an interesting section and the phrasing leaves some loopholes you could navigate a planet through. Giving the city power to enact ordinances is necessary to establish any city, but the broad platitude this sets out with saying they can’t be ‘repugnant to the Constitution of the U.S.’ can be interpreted pretty loosely. It means that every ordinance they passed needed to be interpreted through the lens of constitutional Originalism, which was much more prevalent back then as there was a fair amount less juris prudence compared to now, but how do you evaluate a law that limits the practice of a certain business in town only viewed through a constitutionalist lens? When Nauvoo passed an ordinance to outlaw the sale of liquor within the city limits, couldn’t somebody approach them and say my religion requires the use of alcohol which would make the ordinance repugnant to the free exercise of religion. That’s one example, but what if an ordinance was passed which said that the city could levy a tax on anybody who doesn’t attend an assembly of some sort on Saturday or Sunday. Or maybe the church doesn’t have to pay property taxes on property it purchases for ecclesiastical matters, which is current law, but Jo was using the church to buy everything and sell it back to people settling in the area at a profit. None of those ordinances could be interpreted as repugnant to the constitution, affording a broad latitude of actions by Jo and other public officials which could be considered legal, regardless of how immoral those actions might have been. But this becomes more sinister as we get further into the charter.)
Sec. 12. To license, tax, and regulate auctions, merchants, retailers, grocers, hawkers, peddlers, butchers, pawnbrokers, and money-changers.
Sec. 13. The City Council shall have exclusive power within the city, by ordinance, to license, regulate, and restrain the keeping of ferries; to regulate the police of the city; to impose fines, forfeitures, and penalties for the breach of any ordinance, and provide for the recovery of such fines and forfeitures, and the enforcement of such penalties; and to pass such ordinances, as may be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the powers specified in this Act; provided such ordinances are not repugnant to the Constitution of the United States or of this State, and in fine to exercise such other legislative powers as are conferred on the City Council of the City of Springfield, by an Act entitled an Act to Incorporate the City of Springfield, approved February 3rd, 1840.
(Section 12 and 13 lay out the city’s ability to enforce laws and ordinances as well as grants exclusive power to license, regulate, and restrain the use of ferries, meaning nobody could operate a private ferry business inside the Nauvoo limits. This would be incredibly important once the Mormons established their immigration system for converts coming over from Europe as they would hold exclusive rights to moving those people, which made Jo a very healthy profit in the near future. There’s a breakdown of 39 sections later in the charter which subdivide the actual legislative actions included in section 13. We won’t read these as most of them are redundant and don’t offer any insight above and beyond what is included in the sections we’re already reading.)
Sec. 14. All ordinances passed by the City Council shall, within one month after they shall have been passed, be published in some newspaper printed in the city, or certified copies thereof be posted up in three of the most public places in the city.
Sec. 15. All ordinances of the city may be proven by the seal of the corporation, and when printed or published in book or pamphlet fog purporting to be printed or published by authority of the corporation the same shall be received in evidence in all courts or places without further proof.
(Section 14 and 15 just say that once a city ordinance is passed it must be posted in all available public places to make people aware of it and also incorporate the ordinance immediately into the city’s court system.)
Sec. 16. The Mayor and Aldermen shall be conservators of the peace within the limits of said city, and shall have all the powers of Justices of the Peace therein, both in civil and criminal cases, arising under the laws of the State; they shall, as Justices of the Peace, within the limits of said city, perform the same duties, be governed by the same laws give the same bonds and security, as other Justices of the Peace, and be commissioned as Justices of the Peace in and for said city by the Governor.
(This basically made JoPs out of the Aldermen and the Mayor, consolidating and granting a ton of judicial power to these two offices. This section alone is no issue, but when it’s coupled with the following section, the implications are absolutely incredible. Pay attention to the power of Mayor in the next section, it essentially makes him out to be the sole executive and judicial authority in Nauvoo, which may as well have been its own nation-state with the system the Charter fully constructs.)
Sec. 17. The Mayor shall have exclusive jurisdiction in all cases arising under the ordinances of the corporation, and shall issue such process as may be necessary to carry such ordinances into execution and effect; appeals may be had from any decision or judgment of said Mayor or Aldermen, arising under the city ordinances, to the Municipal Court under such regulations as may be presented by ordinance; which court shall be composed of the Mayor as Chief Justice, and the Aldermen as Associate Justices, and from the final judgment of the Municipal Court to the Circuit Court of Hancock county, in the same manner of appeals are taken from judgments of the Justices of the Peace; provided that the parties litigant shall have a right to a trial by a jury of twelve men in all cases before the Municipal Court. The Municipal Court shall have power to grant writs of habeas corpus in all cases arising under the ordinances of the City Council.
(That was a bit of gobbledy-gook, but let me put that into context for you. One of the main issues which arises when trying to prosecute the catholic church for any violations in any regard is the fact that they operate as their own nation-state with their own set of laws. For example, when a priest is convicted of child rape, as an off-the-wall example, the Vatican can petition whatever country the priest is being held in for extradition to bring him back to the Vatican, where they undergo their own disciplinary actions under their own laws. There’s a lot of nuance in this example, but it functions for the purposes of illustrating the point. Essentially though, the Catholic church operates world-wide under its own set of laws and ordinances which usually only come into conflict with the laws of other countries when it comes to convicting a serial child rapist. All executive power of the Vatican falls under the Pope and his highest councilors.
Jo and Brokeit set up a similar structure with the last two clauses. They set the Mayor as the single person with exclusive power in all cases within the jurisdiction of Nauvoo. But that last line is the most important which puts all the power into the rest of the clause. ‘The Municipal court shall have power to grant writs of habeas corpus in all cases arising under the ordinances of the City Council.’ A writ of habeas corpus is basically a petition to have a prisoner released when they’re being held without charge, at least that’s how it is frequently used. This is the actual definition from criminal.findlaw.com “A writ of habeas corpus (which literally means to "produce the body") is a court order to a person or agency holding someone in custody (such as a warden) to deliver the imprisoned individual to the court issuing the order and to show a valid reason for that person's detention”
During Jo’s years before his high status in Nauvoo, he’d written a number of these habeas corpus writs to get himself released from prison, most were met with no success. While this line should have been interpreted narrowly to only fall in the jurisdiction of Nauvoo, the power was extended to all jurisdictions, and was used accordingly. What that means is somebody living in Nauvoo or having a residence within the city limits could be arrested anywhere in the country and the Nauvoo Mayor could issue an approved writ of habeas corpus on behalf of the imprisoned individual to have them extradited to Nauvoo to be tried under its jurisdiction. This was Jo’s get out of jail free provision in the Nauvoo Charter which really came in handy when he was arrested in 1843 under pesky charges of treason by the state of Missouri for that whole 1838 scrape the Mormons had in Missouri. With this single item being signed into law, Jo could be arrested anywhere in the country and the mayor could immediately bring him back to Nauvoo and release him. Guess who the mayor would be? We’ll find out soon.)
Sec. 18. The Municipal Court shall sit on the first Monday of every month, and the City Council at such times and place as may be prescribed by city ordinance; special meetings of which may at any time be called by the Mayor or any two Aldermen.
(Section 18 just calls important meetings at regular intervals for all the city government.)
Sec. 19. All process issued by the Mayor, Aldermen, or Municipal Court, shall be directed to the Marshal, and, in the execution thereof, he shall be governed by the same laws as are or may be prescribed for the direction and compensation of constables in similar cases. The Marshal shall also perform such other duties as may be required of him under the ordinances of said city, and shall be the principal ministerial officer.
(Section 19 basically turned the city Marshal into the mayor’s private enforcer. This was commonplace, but it is worth keeping in mind that the Mayor had rule over the enforcement of all laws in Nauvoo, even when those laws should have been enforced by a higher authority than the Mayor, like by Governor Thomas Carlin.)
Sec. 20. It shall be the duty of the Recorder to make and keep accurate records of all ordinances made by the City Council, and of all their proceedings in their corporate capacity, which record shall at all times be open to the inspection of the electors of said city, and shall perform such other duties as may be required of him by the ordinances of the City Council, and shall serve as Clerk of the Municipal Court.
(Section 20 basically says that the city Recorder should make and keep accurate records of everything that happens in the city.)
Sec. 21. When it shall be necessary to take private property for the opening, widening, or altering any public street, lane, avenue, or alley, the corporation shall make a just compensation therefor to the person whose property is to be taken, and if the amount of such compensation cannot be agreed upon, the Mayor shall cause the same to be ascertained by a jury of six disinterested freeholders of the city.
(Section 21 establishes the eminent domain powers of the Nauvoo government to expropriate private property for the good of the city. This is standard practice as well, but the usage of eminent domain could be interpreted rather broadly in extenuating circumstances; like when a private business, like ferry on the Mississippi, interfered with the business interests of the city as a whole.)
Sec. 22. All jurors compelled to inquire into the amount of benefits or damages that shall happen to the owners of property so proposed to be taken, shall first be sworn to that effect, and shall return to the Mayor their inquest in writing, signed by each juror.
(Section 22 limits the ability of jurors to know the value of property involved in any legal case. I don’t know how this could be misused, but it wouldn’t surprise me if a situation came up where this was a useful little loophole to put in the charter.)
Sec. 23. In case the Mayor shall at any time be guilty of a palpable omission of duty, or shall wilfully, and corruptly be guilty of oppression, mal conduct, or partiality, in the discharge of the duties of his office, he shall be liable to be indicted in the Circuit Court of Hancock county, and on conviction he shall be fined not more than two hundred dollars, and the Court shall have power on the recommendation of the jury to add to the judgment of the Court that he be removed from office.
(Section 23 was pretty standard practice, it’s essentially an impeachment clause in case anybody steps out of line.)
Sec. 24. The City Council may establish and organize an institution of learning within the limits of the city, for the teaching of the Arts, Sciences, and Learned Professions, to be called the "University of the City of Nauvoo," which institution shall be under the control and management of a Board of Trustees, consisting of a Chancellor, Registrar, and twenty-three Regents, which Board shall thereafter be a body corporate and politic, with perpetual succession by the name of the "Chancellor and Regents of the University of the City of Nauvoo," and shall have full power to pass, ordain, establish, and execute, all such laws and ordinances as they may consider necessary for the welfare and prosperity of said University, its officers and students; provided that the said laws and ordinances shall not be repugnant to the Constitution of the United States, or of this State; and provided also, that the Trustees shall at all times be appointed by the City Council, and shall have all the powers and privileges for the advancement of the cause of education which appertain to the Trustees of any other College or University of this State.
(Section 24 established yet another school under the direction of church authorities. Granted, it does explicitly say that this university will be run by a Board of Trustees, but where do you think they formed that board from? As an extension of that question, where do you think all of the people who formed the government of Nauvoo came from? The highest ranks of church officials. Out of all the government positions created in this charter, only one person wasn’t a Mormon, Stephen A. Douglas, who later converted and followed Brigham out to Utah. This isn’t inherently a bad thing. The government is made by the people for the people and elected officials should represent their constituents, and with very VERY few exceptions, every person living in Commerce and the areas around were all Mormons who’d fled Missouri the previous winter. It becomes a problem when the government officials are enshrined as untouchables of the community based on their standing within the church and their refusal to run contrary to anything the prophet did. What we’re reading right now is the quasi-legal foundation of an actual theocracy within a democracy. Jo had finally done what he’d tried to do for nearly a decade by this point. All of the rules and statutes set out in this Nauvoo charter become much more insidious in nature when we read the very next section, but I’m going to make you guys wait for just a second so we can end reading this Charter on the most important and amazing section.)
Sec. 26. The inhabitants of the city of Nauvoo are hereby exempted from working on any road beyond the limits of the city, and for the purpose of keeping the streets, lanes, avenues, and alleys in repair, to require of the male inhabitants of said city, over the age of twenty-one, and under fifty years, to labor on said streets, lanes, avenues, and alleys, not exceeding three days in each year; any person failing to perform such labor, when duly notified by the Supervisor, shall forfeit and pay the sum of one dollar per day for each day so neglected or refused.
(Section 26 basically reserved the labors of the Nauvoo working men to work only on Nauvoo infrastructure, saying they can’t be coopted by the US or Illinois government to build infrastructure beyond the city limits of Nauvoo.)
Sec. 27. The City Council shall have power to provide for the punishment of offenders by imprisonment in the county or city jail, in all cases when such offenders shall fail or refuse to pay the fines and forfeitures, which may be recovered against them.
(Section 27 basically sets out the ability of the Nauvoo government to enforce the laws and create a debtor’s prison if somebody refuses to pay a debt for whatever reason. This is a powerful clause, but the means by which they enforce it is where things become insidious in nature which is section 25 that I said I was going to make you guys wait for. Everything in the charter so far has been infrastructure and a lot of bark, Section 25 adds the necessary bite to accompany said bark.)
Sec. 25. The City Council may organize the inhabitants of said city subject to military duty, into a body of independent military men, to be called the "Nauvoo Legion," the Court Martial of which shall be composed of the commissioned officers of said Legion, and constitute the law-making department, with full power and authority to make, ordain, establish, and execute all such laws and ordinances as may be considered necessary for the benefit, government, and regulation of said Legion; provided said Court Martial shall pass no law or act, repugnant to, or inconsistent with, the Constitution of the United States, or of this State; and provided also that the officers of the Legion shall be commissioned by the Governor of the State. The said Legion shall perform the same amount of military duty as is now or may be hereafter required of the regular militia of the State, and shall be at the disposal of the Mayor in executing the laws and ordinances of the city corporation, and the laws of the State, and at the disposal of the Governor for the public defense, and the execution of the laws of the State or of the United States, and shall be entitled to their proportion of the public arms; and provided also, that said Legion shall be exempt from all other military duty.
Sec. 28. This Act is hereby declared to be a public Act, and shall take effect on the first Monday of February next. WM. L. D. EWING, Speaker of the House of Representatives. S. H. ANDERSON, Speaker of the Senate.
Approved Dec. 16, 1840. THOS. CARLIN. State of Illinois, Office of Secretary of State.
I, Stephen A. Douglas, Secretary of State, do hereby certify that the foregoing is a true and perfect copy of the enrolled law now on file in my office. Witness my hand, and Seal of State, at Springfield, this 18th day of December, 1840. [L. S.] S. A. DOUGLAS. Secretary of State.
If there had been any question of Jo’s military acumen and drive during his time in Missouri, he just annihilated all doubts. Basically, the only grounds Missouri was able to charge Jo with treason on was the fact that he had his own quasi-militia who operated under his direction. There was the Army of Israel which was the public arm of the militia, then there were the Daughters of Zion, who would be known as the Danites, the underground enforcement arm of the church. If you offended Jo in Missouri, you could expect a late-night visit from the Danites. Jo founded his own militia without state approval in Missouri and used them in some military capacity multiple times throughout the months from July to October 1838, this was an act of high treason, but the militia wasn’t officially recognized by the state nor was Jo recognized as a military leader so there was some ambiguity to his explicit involvement.
This section in the Nauvoo charter created the Nauvoo Legion and the Illinois legislature approved the charter in December, meaning Jo now had his own official government sanctioned militia. But the section was sure to include some provisions which made this militia different in regards to other state militias. Normally, militias were founded by counties not specific cities. It was also sure to make the Legion the law enforcement arm of the government, without a separate section founding a police force. When a specific militia doubles as the police force, that strikes some martial law tendencies. It put the militia in complete control of the Mayor, who the Mormons would elect very soon, as opposed to putting it in control of the Governor. And the last line in the section is very important. ‘that said Legion shall be exempt from all other military duty.’ This made it so the Nauvoo Legion was the Nauvoo Legion and no other legion. The members of the Nauvoo Legion owed fealty to only the mayor and were completely exempted from serving in any other military capacity.
The usual purposes for a state, county, or in this case, a city, militia were for fighting of any advances of Native Americans, and to be an early forerunner to the national guard, slated to handle any situation which may arise requiring armed militia to interfere. Scenarios requiring a Nauvoo legion were significantly lacking, so it equated to a men’s club of dressing up in military garb a few times a month and running drills before all retiring to the Nauvoo hotel for a brew. During these dress-up military drills, Jo would frequently don full Leuitenant-General uniform with sword and musket riding around on his white horse supervising the drills. Jo also used any excuse possible to call out the Legion to woo visitors and show them just how awesome and well put together Nauvoo was.
Jo couldn’t have been happier with the foundation of this Legion. He sang its praises in his journal with passages like this, which I’m reading from 111 of Nauvoo by Flanders:
“The appearance, order, and movements of the Legion were chaste, grand, and imposing, and reflected great credit on the taste, skill, and tact of the men comprising said Legion. We doubt whether the like can be presented in any other city in the western country.”
And he was right. The Nauvoo Legion would prove to be a military force superior to nearly any other militia in the western states by the time of Jo’s death a mere 3.5 years after the passing of the Nauvoo Charter. But Jo couldn’t help but overuse the Legion. The Warsaw Signal, a local newspaper in Illinois, reported in 1842 this, and I’m reading it from later on page 113 of Flander’s Nauvoo:
“Everything they say or do seems to breathe the spirit of military tactics…. Truly fighting must be the creed of these saints.”
From another newspaper called the Sangamo Journal around the same time:
“What would be thought if the Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, or Episcopalians of this state had military organizations…?”
Let’s sum up the amazing powers the Nauvoo Charter granted to Jo. We won’t sum up the regular or mundane things, because there are just a few subtle things in the charter that when combined together created a veritable sanctuary city for Jo to do whatever he wanted.
The city of Nauvoo could now collect taxes on the citizens to be dedicated to the overall city fund. They could issue writs of habeas corpus on behalf of any prisoner in any jurisdiction to extradite them to be tried in Nauvoo’s jurisdiction, or just to let them loose from the grasp of the law in Jo’s case. And finally, the Nauvoo Legion was created as a militia under the control of the Nauvoo city mayor, commanded to do anything necessary to protect the people of Nauvoo, and, more importantly, carry out the will of the church leadership.
Jo was untouchable to the law, had his own private military that the state of Illinois couldn’t prosecute him for having, and had an endless revenue stream in the form of taxation. After so many years of trials and tribulations, fights with various governments, quarrels with citizens of nearly every locality, and bickoring with the President of the United States himself, Jo had finally, through legal means, unlocked God mode. Unlike nearly every video game that loses all playability a few hours after using the God mode cheat, the game of life presented and endless well of opportunity for Jo to play and create whatever he wanted to, and the Saints were subjected to any negative repercussions because Jo had insulated himself with the city of Nauvoo as his legal shield.
Once Jo could enjoy the beauty of invincibility from all legal issues and near invincibility from any rogue vigilantes who may decide the Mormon problem was too scary and take out the head Mormon was the right answer, he became a factory of ideas. The evolution of Mormon doctrine and the incredible business ventures undertaken by Jo and the Saints from this time forward will never cease to blow the mind. Jo had fostered the perfect sandbox to manufacture any playground or battlefield he saw as favorable to him or his endgame goals. Jo would do nothing but unlock achievements from this time forward.
Whenever I’m playing video games with God mode active, the boredom becomes crushing, and there’s only one way to restore the enjoyability to the game, challenge has to be reinstated for the game to be playable again. Eventually I have to turn off the God mode cheat code and make it so I can die again to make things an actual challenge. Jo was no stranger to finding a new challenge in the midst of boredom and embarking upon it with utter reckless abandon. Eventually, to keep things challenging and interesting, Jo ran for president of the United States. Enough people were mad about this that Jo didn’t have the protection of his Nauvoo Legion or his garments, and eventually was assassinated by a faceless mob, being shot like a rat in a cage in Carthage Jail, 3.5 years after this charter was passed. After that happened, the state of Illinois realized the major issues the Nauvoo Charter created and they dissolved Nauvoo as a state approved city and forced the Mormons to flee to the new Zion and create Morridor.
Tanner Barker NaMoHE
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