On 30 January 1843, as mayor of , Illinois, JS signed an omnibus ordinance that attempted to regulate increasingly concerning behaviors in the city as Nauvoo’s population grew. Owing to its wide-ranging purposes, the ordinance is made up of six divisions, each split into its own sections establishing laws on a different issue. The Nauvoo City Council approved the new measures with the goal of increasing law and order in the city amid rapid population growth. Extant records indicate that during 1842 and early 1843, the arrival of Latter-day Saints from Great Britain may have added more than 1,800 people to Nauvoo and the surrounding regions. The additions represented a dramatic population increase for a city that, according to the national census, had approximately 2,450 residents in 1840.
As ’s population grew, city and leaders became increasingly preoccupied with disorderly conduct in the city. In an attempt to solve these problems, on 14 November 1842 the city council appointed , , and as “a select Committee to prepare a Code of Criminal Laws.” Two months later, on 14 January 1843, the city council added and to the committee. On 30 January, the city council met at six o’clock in the evening, and the committee presented a bill titled “Laws and Ordinances of the City of Nauvoo” for the council’s approval.
The proposed ordinances included several provisions intended to maintain order in the city. The ordinances were designed to help the city handle the population increase by enumerating disturbances of the peace, keeping streets and alleys free of construction supplies and other impediments, preventing fires, granting the city council power to regulate the night watch, and furthering regulations on the public market and the disposal of garbage and other nuisances. The city council passed the proposed ordinances, whereupon JS signed them.
A preliminary draft of the ordinances, which the committee presumably used during its proposal to the city council, was filed with other municipal documents. On 8 February 1843, the Wasppublished a copy of the ordinances, evidently basing its version upon the draft copy or another manuscript copy that is not extant. City recorder recorded a fair copy of the ordinances in the Nauvoo City Council Minute Book, presumably on or shortly after 30 January. The fair copy recorded in the Nauvoo City Council Minute Book is featured here as the official ordinances by which the city was governed. Because it is not possible to feature each of the city ordinances passed during this time period, these ordinances represent a sample of the kinds of ordinances and laws the Nauvoo City Council passed between September 1842 and February 1843.
No reliable count of Nauvoo’s population during the 1840s exists. Different estimates of the city’s population range from 12,000 to 15,000. In January 1843, for instance, JS estimated the population was about 12,000. Nearly three years later, however, an actual count of city residents reported a population of only 11,057. (Black, “How Large Was the Population of Nauvoo?,” 91–94; JS, Journal, 5 Jan. 1843; “Mobocracy,” Times and Seasons, 15 Nov. 1845, 6:1031; “Nauvoo,” Times and Seasons, 1 Oct. 1842, 3:936.)
Godfrey, “Crime and Punishment in Mormon Nauvoo,” 198–212. Available evidence does not suggest higher crime rates in Nauvoo than in surrounding areas with comparable populations, but critics of JS and the church denounced Nauvoo as crime ridden, causing city authorities to try to reassure observers that order reigned there.
or resolution of the City Council, or who shall hinder or obstruct any person employed by the City Council, or the supervisor of Streets, or the person employed by him in making or repairing any public improvement, or work ordered by the City Council, shall for every offence forfeit & pay a penalty of ten dollars.
Sec. 7. No person shall cast or throw, or cause to be cast or thrown into any of the drains or sewers within the , any straw, shavings, Wood, Stones, shells, rubbish or any filthy or other substances, or any obstructions nuisance or injury in or to the same by diverting or stopping the course thereof, or otherwise, under a penalty not exceeding ten dollars, nor less than one dollar for every offence, in the discretion of the Court convicting.
Sec. 8. No person shall without permission from the City Council, dig, remove, or carry away or cause the same to be done, any Stone, Earth, sand, or gravel from any public Street, highway, Alley, or public ground in this , under the penalty of five dollars for each offence.
Sec. 1. Nuisances.
No person shall throw, place, or deposit, or suffer any person in his or her employ to place or deposit any dead animal, carrion, putrid meat, or fish, or decayed vegetables, or nuisances of any kind in any Street, Alley, public square, in said , any person who shall violate any of the prohibitions contained in this Section, shall for each offence forfeit and pay a penalty of two dollars.
Sec. 2. No owner or occupant of any lot or in said , shall cause or permit any nuisance to be or remain in or upon the same lot or tenement or between the same & the centre of the street adjoining, upon the pain of forfeiting the penalty [p. 154]