Mormon History

Special Privileges of the Nauvoo Charter - 1844

Warsaw Messenger February 21, 1844

The Nauvoo Charter.

Much has been said in this community, in relation to the Nauvoo Charter -- one party contending violently, for its repeal, and others, urging that the Charter is in itself unobjectionable -- and that a repeal would be attended with no beneficial effect. As for ourselves, we are of the opinion that the existence of these chartered privileges in the Mormons, is one of the most fruitful causes of the animosity existing between them, and the Old Citizens. As much interest has been manifested on this subject, we propose in this article to present what we conceive to be a proper view of the case.

We have found in conversation with intelligent individuals, that doubts exist, as to the right of the Legislature to repeal this Charter. They urge it would be an interference with vested rights -- and to repeal it, although beneficial, in this case, would be deleterious as a precedent. Now, this argument is based entirely on ignorance of the distinction which exists between the various kinds of Corporations....

But there is another view of the case. We hold that the Mormons have transcended their chartered powers -- knowing that they had no shadow of authority for the passage of many of their ordinances. Some however, pretend to believe that these ordinances were passed because the Mormons did not understand the true limitation and provisions of their Charter. Now we hold it to be an incontrovertible maxim that "we should not give the sword to knaves, or power to fools." If the Mormons knowingly and knavishly transcend the limits of their Charter, using it for purposes not contemplated by the Legislature -- converting the bread that was given for their nourishment into a stone wherewith to wound their benefactors, would it not be just as reputable to grant chartered privileges to a band of blacklegs or horse-thieves as to such men? On the other hand if the Mormons are not capable of understanding their charter -- so stupid that they cannot comprehend the "King's English," would it not be quite as sensible for the Legislature to grant extensive corporate powers to a band of idiots, or babes, who are utterly incapable of construing them, and whose blundering would be a source of annoyance to all who happened to be so unfortunate as to live in their vicinity. Take which horn of this dilemma that you please. If the Mormons have palpably transcended their corporate powers, they have either done it knavishly or because they are to great fools to understand them. Who would wish to give extensive corporate power to knaves? None! How much more sensible then is it, to give them to fools. Trust not a knave, for he may injure you for his own benefit. Trust not a fool, for like the Indian's white man he is very "unsartin,"

There is but one way to evade this dilemma, and that is by assuming (terrible assumption) that the Mormons are neither knaves or fools, that they have exercised no power but what is rightfully delegated to them by their Charter. Well then, if they have power under their Charter, to pass such ordinances, as some that have emanated from their Council, we say that such privileges should not be delegated to any body of men, in any civilized community. If the Mormons have these powers we have a sovereignty within a sovereignty -- the creature having power to annul the laws of the creator.