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Introduction to City of Nauvoo v. Bostwick

City of Nauvoo v. Bostwick
Nauvoo, Hancock Co., Illinois, Mayor’s Court, 26 February 1844
 
Historical Introduction
On 26 February 1844, was tried before JS in the , Illinois, mayor’s court for slander after spreading rumors that and “certain females of Nauvoo” were adulterous. The charges against Bostwick were made while rumors of plural marriage continued to circulate in Nauvoo. Even as JS publicly proclaimed against ’s adulterous practices of “spiritual wifery,” JS had been quietly practicing plural marriage in Nauvoo since 1841 and had shared the principle with a select group of Latter-day Saints as a commandment from God. Hyrum Smith, who had actively opposed plural marriage at first, came to accept the practice in May 1843 and had two plural wives by 1844.
The mayor’s court docket does not include an entry for this case; however, filed a complaint and witness provided a sworn statement summarizing ’s allegations to the court. According to Scott, Bostwick said he did not believe JS practiced “spiritual wifery” but was convinced his brother Hyrum did. Bostwick further stated that Hyrum had several “spiritual wives” with whom he committed adultery and referred to an unidentified young woman he knew who had been “virtuous” from her childhood yet became promiscuous shortly after Hyrum administered a healing blessing to her. Additionally, Bostwick claimed that “a number of English women” and other women in “good standing in the Church” earned a living in as prostitutes. Scott testified that he pressed Bostwick to divulge the identity of these women, but Bostwick refused.
The mayor’s court convicted and fined him fifty dollars plus costs. Defense attorney gave notice of the defendant’s intention to appeal the decision to the Nauvoo Municipal Court and, if necessary, the Circuit Court—a move JS interpreted as an attempt to incite mob violence.
Two days after the mayor’s court proceedings, drafted a statement on behalf of Latter-day Saint women, titled “The Voice of Innocence from Nauvoo.” The article condemned ’s allegations as a “corruption of wickedness which manifested itself in such horrible deformity,” and it defended and upheld the morals and virtue of women. JS presented the proceedings of the Bostwick trial in a public meeting on 7 March and gave notice for the Relief Society to adopt the statement. The “Voice of Innocence” was read and unanimously approved by the Relief Society in four “overflowing meetings” over the next several days.
 
Calendar of Documents
Between 18 and 26 February 1844 Hyrum Smith, Complaint, Nauvoo, Hancock Co., IL
Between 18 and 26 Feb. 1844. Not extant.
 
26 February 1844 John Scott, Deposition, Nauvoo, Hancock Co., IL
26 Feb. 1844; Nauvoo, IL, Records, CHL; handwriting of Willard Richards; certified by Willard Richards; docket in handwriting of James Ure.
City of Nauvoo v. Bostwick
Nauvoo, Hancock Co., Illinois, Mayor’s Court, 26 February 1844
 
Historical Introduction
On 26 February 1844, was tried before JS in the , Illinois, mayor’s court for slander after spreading rumors that and “certain females of Nauvoo” were adulterous. The charges against Bostwick were made while rumors of plural marriage continued to circulate in Nauvoo. Even as JS publicly proclaimed against ’s adulterous practices of “spiritual wifery,” JS had been quietly practicing plural marriage in Nauvoo since 1841 and had shared the principle with a select group of Latter-day Saints as a commandment from God. Hyrum Smith, who had actively opposed plural marriage at first, came to accept the practice in May 1843 and had two plural wives by 1844.
The mayor’s court docket does not include an entry for this case; however, filed a complaint and witness provided a sworn statement summarizing ’s allegations to the court. According to Scott, Bostwick said he did not believe JS practiced “spiritual wifery” but was convinced his brother Hyrum did. Bostwick further stated that Hyrum had several “spiritual wives” with whom he committed adultery and referred to an unidentified young woman he knew who had been “virtuous” from her childhood yet became promiscuous shortly after Hyrum administered a healing blessing to her. Additionally, Bostwick claimed that “a number of English women” and other women in “good standing in the Church” earned a living in as prostitutes. Scott testified that he pressed Bostwick to divulge the identity of these women, but Bostwick refused.
The mayor’s court convicted and fined him fifty dollars plus costs. Defense attorney gave notice of the defendant’s intention to appeal the decision to the Nauvoo Municipal Court and, if necessary, the Circuit Court—a move JS interpreted as an attempt to incite mob violence.
Two days after the mayor’s court proceedings, drafted a statement on behalf of Latter-day Saint women, titled “The Voice of Innocence from Nauvoo.” The article condemned ’s allegations as a “corruption of wickedness which manifested itself in such horrible deformity,” and it defended and upheld the morals and virtue of women. JS presented the proceedings of the Bostwick trial in a public meeting on 7 March and gave notice for the Relief Society to adopt the statement. The “Voice of Innocence” was read and unanimously approved by the Relief Society in four “overflowing meetings” over the next several days.
 
Calendar of Documents
Between 18 and 26 February 1844 Hyrum Smith, Complaint, Nauvoo, Hancock Co., IL
Between 18 and 26 Feb. 1844. Not extant.
 
26 February 1844 John Scott, Deposition, Nauvoo, Hancock Co., IL
26 Feb. 1844; Nauvoo, IL, Records, CHL; handwriting of Willard Richards; certified by Willard Richards; docket in handwriting of James Ure.