Mormon History

Saving Joe Smith From Prosecution - 1842

The Warsaw Signal August 20, 1842


Regulating the mode of proceeding in Cases of Habeas Corpus, before the Municipal Court.

Sec. 1. Be it Ordained by the City of Nauvoo, that in all cases where any Person or Persons, shall at any time hereafter, be arrested or under arrest, in this city, under any Writ or Process, and shall be brought before the Municipal Court of this City, by virtue of a Writ of Habeas Corpus, the Court shall in every such Case shall have power and authority and are hereby required to examine into the Origin, Validity and Legality of the Writ or Process, under which such arrest was made, and if it shall appear to the Court, upon sufficient testimony that said Writ or Process was illegally or not legally issued, or did not proceed from proper authority, then the court shall discharge the Prisoner from under said Arrest; but if it shall appear to the Court that said Writ or Process had issued from proper authority, and was a legal Process, the Court shall then proceed and fully hear the merits of the Case, upon which said Arrest was made, upon such evidence as may be produced and sworn before said Court, and shall have power to adjourn the hearing, and also issue process from time to time in their discretion, in order to procure the attendance of Witnesses, so that a fair and impartial trial and decision may be obtained in every such case.

Sec. 2. And be it further Ordained, That if upon investigation it shall be proven before the Municipal Court, that the Writ or process has been issued, either through private pique, malicious intent, or religious or other persecution, falsehood, or misrepresentation, contrary to the Constitution of this State or of the United States the said Writ or process shall be quashed and considered of no force or effect, and the Prisoner or Prisoners shall be released and discharged therefrom.

Sec. 3. And be it also further ordained, that in the Absence, Sickness, Debility or other circumstances disqualifying or preventing the Mayor from officiating in his office, as Chief Justice of the Municipal Court, the Aldermen present shall appoint one from amongst them to act as Chief Justice pro tempore.

Sec. 4. This Ordinance to take effect and be in force from and after its passage.

Vice-Mayor and President Pro Tempore.       

Passed August 8, 1842.
                          James Sloan, Recorder.

We copy the above ordinances in order to show our readers the barefaced affrontery with which the holy brotherhood at Nauvoo set at defiance the civil authorities of the State. No man having claims to even an ordinary share of common sense, can ever believe that there is the least shadow of authority in the City Council of Nauvoo, to pass such an ordinance as the above; indeed the Legislature of this State has not power to do it. The City Charter gives to the Municipal Court power to issue writs of Habeas Corpus;evidently this power is only granted in reference to case of arrest under the Municipal Laws, and by the most latitudinarian construction, cannot be made to extend to cases of an arrest under the laws of the State -- but this Mormon ordinance, not only extends to all cases of arrest; but sets the laws of the United States at defiance, by giving authority to the Municipal Court to enquire into the causes of the arrest; a power which even the legislature of this State cannot confer.

By the constitution and laws of the United States, the Governor of this state is bound to deliver up fugitives from justice on the requisition of the Governor of any other State, and the judiciary of this state have no right to enquire under any circumstances into anything further than the sufficiency of the writ on which the arrest is made. If this is in due form, and properly served, there is no power for any tribunal in this State to make any further inquiry. The guilt or innocence of the accused must be determined by the Courts of the State from whence the requisition issued; and any court of law, which institutes any inquiry on this nature, oversteps the boundaries of its jurisdiction, and openly sets at defiance the laws of the land.

Now we ask our Citizens, what think you of this barefaced defiance of our laws by the City Council of Nauvoo, and if persisted in, what must be the final result? If these things are suffered to pass unheeded by the authorities of this state, who is safe whether in his person or property? A Mormon cut-throat may take the life of one of our citizens, and returning to the City of Saints, set a defiance the laws of the land.

Independent of the ordinances above quoted, which was evidently designed to give some semblance of legality to the protection of criminals, we believe that the Mormon church is just such a body, as can be the shelter to every blackleg, cut-throat, or horse thief, who chooses to take refuge amongst them. While under the protection of Joe, who can harm them; what means has an officer of either discovering or arresting a man sheltered by a band who regard the laws of the land as secondary to the commands of their Prophet?