Complaint, 29 November 1842 [City of Nauvoo v. Davis for Slander of JS–B]
JS, Complaint, before , against , , Hancock Co., IL, 29 Nov. 1842, City of Nauvoo v. Davis for Slander of JS (Nauvoo, IL, Municipal Court 1842); handwriting of ; signature of JS; certified by , 29 Nov. 1842; one page; JS Collection (Supplement), CHL.
Single leaf, measuring 6⅛ × 7⅝ inches (16 × 19 cm) and ruled with twenty blue printed horizontal lines. The document was folded in half horizontally and then folded in half twice vertically, likely for storage. Pin holes in the upper left corner of the document indicate it was once fastened to another document.
This document was presumably kept among city records. In 1845, the city of Nauvoo was disincorporated. Many if not most of the city records were likely included in the various collections of city records listed in an inventory produced by the Church Historian’s Office (later Church Historical Department) in 1846, when they were packed up along with church records and taken to the Salt Lake Valley. The city records are also listed in inventories of church records created in 1855, 1878, and circa 1904. The Church Historical Department (now CHL) published a register of the JS Collection in 1973. Between 1974 and 1984, staff continued to locate documents authored by or directed to JS in uncataloged church financial records and in name and subject files. The department also acquired additional JS documents from donors, collectors, and dealers. These newly located and acquired documents were kept together in a supplement to the JS Collection. A preliminary inventory of the supplement was created in 1992. This group of records was named the JS Collection (Supplement), 1833–1844, and its cataloging was finalized in 2017.
“An Act to Repeal the Nauvoo Charter,” 14th General Assembly, 1844–1845, Senate Bill no. 35 (House Bill no. 42), Illinois General Assembly, Enrolled Acts of the General Assembly, 1818–2012, Illinois State Archives, Springfield.
Illinois General Assembly. Bills, Resolutions, and Related General Assembly Records, 1st–98th Bienniums, 1819–2015. Illinois State Archives, Springfield.
“Inventory. Historian’s Office. 4th April 1855,” –; “Index of Records and Journals in the Historian’s Office 1878,” ; “Index to Papers in the Historians Office,” ca. 1904, 7, Historian’s Office, Catalogs and Inventories, 1846–1904, CHL.
Historian’s Office. Catalogs and Inventories, 1846–1904. CHL. CR 100 130.
See the full bibliographic entry for JS Collection (Supplement), 1833–1844, in the CHL catalog.
On 29 November 1842, JS swore out a complaint before , Illinois, alderman accusing of insulting him. Davis, a merchant in Nauvoo, had a turbulent relationship with JS. Although he joined the in 1840, by 1842 his relationship with JS had soured. In March 1842, JS stopped at Davis’s tavern for tea, but Davis refused to enter the room where JS was and loudly accused him of trying to swindle him in their business dealings. One witness claimed that Davis also asserted that he was willing to meet JS “in the Woods, with Words, Fists, or Rifles.” Based on a complaint JS made shortly after the confrontation, a jury found Davis guilty of violating Nauvoo’s vagrancy and disorderly persons ordinance and ordered him to pay a hundred-dollar bond and to keep the peace for six months. JS and Davis’s relationship did not improve during that period, and in September 1842, recorded a rumor in JS’s journal that the posse attempting to arrest JS for extradition to had used Davis’s tavern as a base of operations.
JS swore out another complaint against on 29 November, claiming he had learned that Davis had again insulted his character on 25 November. , a alderman with authority to act as a justice of the peace in and for Nauvoo, heard the complaint. Acting on behalf of Wells, city recorder wrote up JS’s complaint, which JS then signed and Wells certified.
Based on JS’s complaint against , issued a warrant for Davis’s arrest, subpoenaed witnesses, and set a trial for the next day. At ten o’clock in the morning on 30 November, the city aldermen assembled to try the case. After the witnesses testified, —Davis’s attorney—claimed that the prosecution had not produced evidence “to support a breach of the Ordinance” in JS’s complaint. Accordingly, he argued that the city should be nonsuited with costs. After hearing a discussion among Higbee, JS, and city attorney , the court agreed with Higbee.
In the 30 November 1842 entry of JS’s journal, attributed the nonsuit to “the informality of the writ drawn by .” Subsequent events suggest, however, that the issue was the city ordinance JS had accused of violating in the complaint. After the trial, JS swore out a second complaint related to the 25 November incident, this time merely accusing Davis of “indecent unbecoming, abusive ridiculous Language concerning the acts and Character” of JS, which presumably violated the ordinance relating to vagrants and disorderly persons, though the complaint did not specify which ordinance Davis had violated. A trial based on this second complaint was held before the municipal court on 3 December 1842, and the court found Davis guilty. Davis subsequently appealed to the Circuit Court, which dismissed the case in May 1843 on the grounds that the municipal court lacked jurisdiction.
According to minutes of the trial that stemmed from this interaction, Davis claimed that JS had promised to pay a debt in the spring of 1842 but had not done so. JS claimed that he had offered to pay the debt using land but that Davis would accept only cash. (Minutes, 10 Mar. 1842, City of Nauvoo v. Davis [Nauvoo Mun. Ct. 1842], Nauvoo, IL, Records, CHL.)
This complaint was one of two JS swore out before Wells on 29 November. The other accused Thomas Hunter of violating the city statute concerning religious societies by maligning JS, thereby “depreciating” his moral and religious character. (Complaint against Thomas Hunter, 29 Nov. 1842.)
Smith, Joseph. Collection, 1827–1846. CHL. MS 155.
State of Illinois)
City of )
Personally appeared before me one of the Justices of the Peace and an Alderman in and for the City of , Joseph Smith who being first duly Sworn according to Law, Deposeth and Saith that he has been informed and verily believes that on or about the 25th. instant one of the and aforesaid did use and make ridiculous and abusive language concerning Deponents Character, thereby depreciating Deponents moral and religious Character,— and Deponent <further> Saith that the said did make use of the said language contrary to an Ordinance of said , entitled, “an Ordinance in relation to religious Societies,” and further this Deponent Saith not.