On 3 February 1841, the newly constituted city council of , Illinois, met for the first time and began to establish the organizational foundations of the municipal government. Two days earlier, a municipal election for the city council was held in accordance with the legislature’s 16 December 1840 act establishing the city of Nauvoo, known as the Nauvoo charter. Section 4 of the charter specified that the city council would consist of “a Mayor, four Aldermen, and nine Councillors.” From the ballot, voters selected as mayor; , , , and as aldermen; and JS, , , , , , , , and as councilors.
The charter for the city of , which was modeled on other liberal city charters in , granted a large variety of powers to the city council. JS and the commented that the Nauvoo charter contained “the most plenary powers, ever conferred by a legislative assembly on free citizens.” Among the powers vested in the city council was the authority to establish and execute city ordinances—so long as they were “not repugnant to the Constitution of the ” or to the Illinois state constitution. In essence, the municipal government had the power to create any legislation it deemed “necessary for the peace, benefit, good order, regulation, convenience, and cleanliness, of said city; for the protection of property therein from destruction by fire, or otherwise, and for the health, and happiness, thereof.” The charter also authorized the city council to organize a militia and a university and to impose and collect taxes, to license and regulate commerce, to regulate police, and to impose fines and penalties for violating city ordinances. Other enumerated powers included the license to appoint “a Recorder, Treasurer, Assessor, Marshal, Supervisor of Streets, and all such other officers as may be necessary, and to prescribe their duties, and remove them from office at pleasure.”
The minutes of this first city council meeting indicate that much of the council’s business related to remarks made by Mayor in his inaugural address. JS played an active role as a city councilor in this opening meeting. He presented two bills: one to organize the and the other to organize the University of the City of . After those ordinances were passed, JS proposed and the council passed a resolution of gratitude to the citizens of , Illinois, and to the state government for the assistance rendered to the Saints upon their arrival in the state. Finally, the city council established five committees, all of which JS was appointed to serve on as a member or chairperson.
After this initial meeting of the City Council, , editor of the Times and Seasons, published the mayor’s inaugural address, some of the ordinances passed by the city council, and an editorial that predicted the council would create wise laws and regulations that would lead Nauvoo to “prosper and increase in population to an extent unparallelled by any city.” The editorial further expressed the hope that such governance would help Nauvoo “become the brightest ‘star in the west.’”
recorded the meeting’s original minutes in a notebook. Sloan then used those original minutes to record the official minutes in the council’s ledger, titled “A Record of the proceedings of the City Council of the City of .” The official 3 February minutes include the text of city ordinances, which is not found in the original minutes. Because the ledger contains a more comprehensive version of the council’s discussion and decisions and represents the official minutes, that version is featured here.
The City Council met at the House of at Six OClock P. M. on Wednesday the 3rd. day of February1841.—
Esq. the Mayor, was sworn into office, by , J.P.
Meeting opened by Prayer, by Joseph Smith.
The Mayor gave Notice that had been appointed City Marshal, & requested the public to respect & obey him as such.
Aldermen, , , , & , and Counsellors, Joseph Smith, , , , , , , & , were sworn into office by the , having respectively subscribed their oath of office, & the Mayor, having duly subscribed his oath of office.
, who was Elected as the other City Colr. not being present.
was appointed City Marshal, & sworn, & to continue for two years ensuing.
appointed City Treasurer, & sworn, & to continue for two years ensuing.
appointed City Recorder, & sworn, and to continue for two years ensuing.
appointed Supervisor of Streets, not present, to continue for two years ensuing.
appointed City Assessor, & sworn, & to continue for two years.
The then addressed the Council, & Citizens, by an inaugural Speech of considerable length, and read, & [p. 1]
Section 19 of the Nauvoo city charter detailed the role of the city marshal: “All process issued by the Mayor, Aldermen, or Municipal Court, shall be directed to the Marshal, and in the execution thereof he shall be governed by the same laws as are, or may be, prescribed for the direction and compensation of Constables in similar cases. The Marshal shall also perform such other duties as may be required of him under the ordinances of said city, and shall be the principal ministerial officer.” (Act to Incorporate the City of Nauvoo, 16 Dec. 1840.)
Section 20 of the Nauvoo city charter detailed the role of the city recorder: “It shall be the duty of the Recorder to make and keep accurate records of all ordinances made by the City Council, and of all their proceedings in their corporate capacity, which record shall at all times be open to the inspection of the electors of said city, and shall perform such other duties as may be required of him by the ordinances of the City Council, and shall serve as Clerk of the Municipal Court.” (Act to Incorporate the City of Nauvoo, 16 Dec. 1840.)
Section 26 of the Nauvoo city charter detailed the role of the supervisor of streets: “The inhabitants of the ‘City of Nauvoo,’ are hereby exempted from working on any road beyond the limits of the city, and for the purpose of keeping the streets, lanes, avenues, and alleys, in repair to require of the male inhabitants of said city, over the age of twenty one, and under fifty years, to labor on said streets, lanes, avenues, and alleys, not exceeding three days in each year; any person failing to perform such labor when duly notified by the Supervisor, shall forfeit and pay the sum of one dollar per day for each day so neglected or refused.” (Act to Incorporate the City of Nauvoo, 16 Dec. 1840.)