Letter, Emma Smith to Thomas Carlin, 27 August 1842 [Extradition of JS for Accessory to Assault]

  • Source Note
  • Historical Introduction

Document Transcript

August 27th. 1842
“To His Excellency
Dear Sir— I received your letter of the 24th. in due time, and now tender you the sincere gratitude of my heart, for the interest which you have felt in my peace and prosperity; and I assure you, that every act of kindness, and every word of consolation have been thankfully received and duly appreciated by my me and my friends also; and I much regret your ill health, and still hope that you will avail yourself of sufficient time to investigate our cause, and thoroughly acquaint yourself with the illegality of the prosecution instituted against Mr Smith.— And I now certify that Mr Smith, my self, nor any other person, to my knowledge, has ever, nor do we at this time wish your honor to swerve from your duty, as an executive, in the least. But we do believe that it is your duty to allow us in this place, the privileges and advantages guaranteed to us by the laws of this and the ; this is all we ask, and if we can enjoy these rights unmolested, it will be the ultimate end of all our ambition; and the result will be peace and prosperity to us and all the surrounding country, as far as we are concerned. Nor do we wish to take any undue advantage of any intricate technicalities of law; but honorably and honestly to fulfil all of the laws of this , and of the , and then, in turn, to have the benifits resulting from an honorable of those laws.
And now, will not consider me assuming any unbecoming dictation; but recollect that the many prosecutions that has been got up unjustly, and pursued illegaly against Mr Smith, instigated by selfish and irreligious motives, has obliged me to know something for myself; therefore, let me refer you to the eleventh Section of our Charter. “All power is granted to the council, to make, ordain, establish, and execute all ordinances, not repugnant to the constitution of the State or of the , or, as they may deem necessary for the peace and safety of said .” Accordingly there is an ordinance passed by the Council to prevent our people from being carried off by an illegal process. And if any one thinks he is illegally seized, under this ordinance he claims the right of under section 17th. of the charter, to try the question of identity, which is strictly constitutional.
These powers are positively granted in the charter over your own signature; and now, dear sir, where can be the justice in depriving us of these rights which are lawfully ours, as well as they are the lawful rights of the inhabitants of and and many other places where the citizens enjoy the advantages of such ordinances, without controversy. With these considerations, and many more which might be adduced, give us the privilege and we will show , and the world besides, if required, that the Mr Smith referr’d to in the demand from Missouri, is not the Joseph Smith of , for he was not in ; neither is he [p. 187] described in the writ, according as the Law requires; and that he is not a fugitive from justice. Why then, be so strenuos to have my husband taken, when you know him to be innocent of an attempt on the life of , and that he is not a fugitive from justice? It is not the fear of a just decision against him, that deters Mr Smith from going into Missouri; but it is an actual knowledge that it was never intended he should have a fair trial. And now Sir, if you were not aware of the fact; I will acquaint you with it now, that there were lying <​in​> wait, between this place and , twelve men from , Missouri, for the purpose of taking Mr Smith out of the hands of the officers who might have him in custody. Also those two men from that were here with Messrs and , divulg’d the most illegal and infernal calculations concerning taking Mr Smith into the evidence of which, we can furnish you at any time, if required. And dear Sir, our good feelings revolt at the suggestion that is acquainted with the unlawful measures taken by those engaged in the prosecution— measures which, if justice was done to others, as it would be done to us, were we to commit as great errors in our proceedings, would subject all concerned in the prosecution to the penalty of the law, and that without mercy.
I admit Sir— that it is next to an impossibility, for any one to know the extent of the tyranny, treachery, and knavery of a great portion of the leading characters of the State of : yet it only requires a knowledge of the constitution of the , and Statute of the State of ; and a knowledge of the outrages committed by some of the inhabitants of that upon the people called Mormons, and that pass’d unpunished by the administrators of the law; to know that there is not the least confidence to be placed in any of those men that were engaged in those disgraceful transactions.
If the law was made for the lawless and disobedient, and punishment instituted for the guilty, why not execute the law upon those that have transgressed it, and punish those who have committed crime, and grant encouragement to the innocent, and liberality to the industrious & peaceable. And now I entreat your honor to bear with me patiently while I ask, what good can accrue to this state or the , or any part of this or the , or to yourself, or any other individual, to continue this persecution upon this people, or upon Mr Smith— a persecution that you are well aware, is entirely without any just foundation or excuse. With sentiments of due respect I am your most obedient servant
To His Excellency
Governor of the State of .
P.S. Sir. You will please tender my best respects and considerations to your wife and family, and tell them I greatly desire to see them with yourself in our place as soon as can be convenient. .[”] [p. 188]


  1. 1

    See An Act to Incorporate the City of Nauvoo [16 Dec. 1840], Laws of the State of Illinois [1840–1841], p. 54, sec. 11.  

    Laws of the State of Illinois, Passed by the Twelfth General Assembly, at Their Session, Began and Held at Springfield, on the Seventh of December, One Thousand Eight Hundred and Forty. Springfield, IL: William Walters, 1841.

  2. 2

    Nauvoo City Council Minute Book, 5 July 1842, 86–87.  

  3. 3

    Carlin’s response to this letter, dated 7 September 1842, is copied into this journal. In his response, Carlin stated that the Nauvoo Municipal Court’s authority to issue writs of habeas corpus applied only to cases arising out of city ordinances—not in cases involving actions of higher levels of government.  

  4. 4

    Like Nauvoo, both Quincy and Springfield were granted authority to pass ordinances that did not conflict with the United States Constitution. Similar to the situation in Nauvoo, the judge of the municipal court of Alton could issue writs of habeas corpus for a time. (Kimball, “Nauvoo Charter,” 73, 75; Bennett and Cope, “City on a Hill,” 39.)  

    Kimball, James L., Jr. “The Nauvoo Charter: A Reinterpretation.” Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society 44 (Spring 1971): 66–78.

    Bennett, Richard E. and Rachel Cope. “‘A City on a Hill’—Chartering the City of Nauvoo.” The John Whitmer Historical Association Journal (2002): 17–42.

  5. 5

    The constitutional requirement for extradition was being charged with committing a crime in one state and fleeing to another state. (U.S. Constitution, art. 4, sec. 2.)