, Letter, , Sangamon Co., IL, to JS, , Hancock Co., IL, 17 Dec. 1842; handwriting of ; two pages; JS Collection, CHL. Includes address and dockets.
Bifolium measuring 10 × 8 inches (25 × 20 cm) when folded. It is ruled with thirty-one horizontal lines printed in blue ink with header space. The letter was inscribed in blue ink and trifolded twice in letter style before being addressed. It was later refolded for filing.
The document was docketed by , who served as JS’s scribe from December 1841 until JS’s death in June 1844 and served as church historian from December 1842 until his own death in March 1854. It was also docketed by , who served as JS’s scribe from 1843 to 1844 and as clerk to the church historian and recorder from 1845 to 1865. In summer 1845, Richards directed Bullock to include the letter in JS’s history, and it was copied into the 17 December 1842 entry. Presumably, this letter was among the “letters” and other “old Papers” that an 1846 inventory of the Church Historian’s Office (later Church Historical Department) indicated had been “recorded in the history.” The document was listed in an inventory that was produced by the Church Historian’s Office circa 1904. By 1973 the document had been included in the JS Collection at the Church Historical Department (now CHL). The document’s early dockets, its likely inclusion in the 1846 inventory, and its inclusion in the circa 1904 inventory and in the JS Collection by 1973 indicate continuous institutional custody.
See the full bibliographic entry for JS Collection, 1827–1844, in the CHL catalog.
On 17 December 1842, governor wrote a letter to JS in , Illinois, concerning ’s extradition request, counseling him to submit to arrest and come to , Illinois, for a hearing. Some of JS’s close associates spent nearly four days lobbying in the state capital, and this letter was the culmination of their efforts. On 9 December, JS’s brother , JS’s clerks and , and five other Latter-day Saints left Nauvoo to attend to urgent legal business in Springfield. On 14 December, one day after their arrival in the city, several members of the party met with state supreme court justice and , an influential lawyer and the attorney for Illinois who was also reviewing JS’s and Hyrum Smith’s ongoing bankruptcy petitions. Both Douglas and Butterfield independently counseled the men to petition Governor Ford to “countermand the writs” ordering JS’s arrest and his extradition to Missouri on charges that he had been an accessory before the fact to the attempted assassination of . The group then engaged Butterfield as JS’s attorney in the matter, and Butterfield prepared a formal petition to Ford, which he and the delegation delivered that afternoon. At the meeting with Ford, Butterfield argued that the attempt to extradite JS to Missouri was illegal because JS had been in Illinois when the assassination attempt occurred and therefore was not a fugitive from justice. At the conclusion of the meeting, Ford promised to review the matter with members of the state supreme court.
The next afternoon, 15 December, , acting as JS’s attorney, met with and the six state supreme court justices, of nine total, then in . The judges unanimously agreed that the extradition request for JS lacked legal standing and that it should be dismissed. That evening Butterfield met with JS’s associates and informed them of these developments. On the morning of 16 December, the men again met to discuss the bankruptcy cases. Afterward, visited the secretary of state’s office and made copies of legal documents relating to JS’s extradition. That evening, met with the delegation and discussed his and the other supreme court judges’ meeting with Ford. He again counseled JS to come to Springfield and promised that the supreme court would discharge him on a writ of .
Although they had heard from both and about the results of the meeting between and the supreme court justices, the delegation members remained in until 17 December 1842, when Douglas accompanied the men to another meeting with Ford, in which Ford gave his opinion that JS should submit to arrest and come to Springfield to obtain a writ of habeas corpus. requested that the governor put this statement in writing, and Ford then wrote JS the letter featured here. The delegation showed Ford’s letter to Butterfield and other allies in the city and then around eleven o’clock that same morning started the return journey home. They arrived in in the afternoon of 20 December, and, “after resting a little,” Clayton, , , and two other delegation members met with JS and presumably delivered this letter to him along with letters from Butterfield and .
It is unclear which of the nine justices aside from Douglas were present at this meeting with Ford and Butterfield. (An Act Reorganizing the Judiciary of the State of Illinois [10 Feb. 1841], Laws of the State of Illinois [1840–1841], p. 173, secs. 2–3.)
Laws of the State of Illinois, Passed by the Ninth General Assembly, at Their First Session, Commencing December 1, 1834, and Ending February 13, 1835. Vandalia, IL: J. Y. Sawyer, 1835.
After the negotiations the day before, Butterfield agreed to grant Hyrum Smith’s bankruptcy petition. He likewise tentatively agreed to a proposed compromise regarding JS’s petition by accepting a bond from the Nauvoohigh council guaranteeing payment on debts JS owed the federal government. Butterfield promised to write to the Department of the Treasury recommending that it accept JS’s offer and approve his bankruptcy. (See JS, Journal, 9–20 Dec. 1842; and Clayton, Journal, 16 Dec. 1842.)
Your petition requesting me to rescind proclamation and recall the writ issued against you has been received and duly considered. I submitted your case and all the papers relating thereto, to the judges of the Supreme Court, Or at least to six of them who happened to be present. They were unanimous in the opinion that the requesition from was illegal and insufficient to cause your arrest but were equally divided as to the propriety and justice of my interference with the acts of . It being therefore a case of great doubt as to my power and I not wishing ever in an Official Station to assume the exercise of doubtful powers; and in as much as you have a sure and effectual remedy in the Courts, I have decided to decline interfering. I can only advise that you submit to the laws and have a judicial investigation of your rights If it should become necessary, for this purpose to repair to , I do not believe that there will be any disposition to use illegal violence towards you; and I would feel it my duty in your case, as [p. ]