Introduction to City of Nauvoo v. Easton

Document Transcript

City of Nauvoo v. Easton
Nauvoo, Hancock Co., Illinois, Mayor’s Court, 1 April 1844
 
Historical Introduction
On 30 March 1844, JS learned that a Black resident of , Illinois—a man known as Chism—had been whipped by white vigilantes in an act that the Nauvoo Neighbor described as “lynch law.” JS, using his authority as mayor and working with other justices of the peace, sought to prosecute the perpetrators. Few mayor’s court documents for this period—and none for this case—are extant, but the details can be reconstructed from other sources.
During the night of 29 March, the Key Stone Store in was robbed of approximately $1,700 in money and property. Upon hearing of the robbery, JS issued a “general search warrant” to seek out the missing goods and money. Concurrently, vigilantes, whom Chism identified as W. S. Townsend, James Easton, and , targeted Chism as the culprit. They dragged him into the woods, where they bound, stripped, and whipped him “with 20 or more lashes,” leaving “his back lacerated from his shoulders to his hips.” JS “fou[n]d the black man” in his office after the attack, and , JS’s clerk, “kept him secreted.” , Illinois, justice of the peace , apparently at JS’s instruction, issued a warrant for Townsend and heard testimony, but the testimony did not “prove the full particulars of the case.” Although subpoenaed, neither Easton nor Marr agreed to testify. Johnson convicted Townsend of but, due to lack of concrete evidence, fined him only five dollars.
Following the trial, city marshal arrested Easton “as being accessory to whipping chism” and scheduled his trial in the mayor’s court on 1 April 1844. Although Greene made the arrest under JS’s orders, the marshal evidently did not do so with a warrant; he may have detained Easton under a Nauvoo city ordinance that authorized city officers to make arrests “with or .” JS also issued a subpoena for to testify against Easton, but it was not served. JS’s prosecution of Easton was interrupted by , another justice of the peace. Foster, who later claimed he was unaware of JS’s efforts, issued his own warrant for Easton and acquitted him on 1 April, before JS could hold the scheduled trial in the mayor’s court. At that point, JS “referred the case to .” After reviewing the case, Wells concluded that because Foster had acquitted Easton, the charge could not be revived due to protections against . JS and others publicly condemned the earlier proceedings before Foster as “a sham trial, and a mere mockery of justice.” Because Easton could not be prosecuted for the lynching, noted in JS’s journal, “it was thought best” to bring charges against him in the Hancock County Circuit Court for contempt as a witness, presumably for his refusal to testify before . The circuit court dismissed this charge against Easton in October 1844.
 
Calendar of Documents
This calendar lists all known documents created by or for the court, whether extant or not. It does not include versions of documents created for other purposes, though those versions may be listed in footnotes. In certain cases, especially in cases concerning unpaid debts, the originating document (promissory note, invoice, etc.) is listed here. Note that documents in the calendar are grouped with their originating court. Where a version of a document was subsequently filed with another court, that version is listed under both courts.

Footnotes

  1. 1

    Willard Richards spelled the name “Chism” in JS’s journal, but the Nauvoo Neighbor spelled it “Chisem.” (JS, Journal, 30 Mar. 1844; “Robbery and Lynching,” 3 Apr. 1844 [City of Nauvoo v. Easton]; see also Pfeifer, Roots of Rough Justice, 12–31; and Rushdy, American Lynching, 22–50.)  

    Pfeifer, Michael J. The Roots of Rough Justice: Origins of American Lynching. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2011.

    Rushdy, Ashraf H. A. American Lynching. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2012.

  2. 2

    In February 1843, William W. Phelps replaced James Sloan as clerk of the mayor’s court. While it is evident that Phelps produced case documents and kept a docket for JS, those records—for reasons that remain unclear—were not subsequently preserved by church clerks along with the records kept by Sloan. (Nauvoo City Council Minute Book, 11 Feb. 1843, 159; see also Summons, 14 Feb. 1843 [Dana v. Brink]; Docket Entry, 8–ca. 17 Aug. 1843 [Butterfield v. Mills]; Nauvoo Mayor’s Court Docket Book, 12–50; Judicial Proceedings, Mayor’s Court, Nauvoo, IL, Records, CHL; and Howcroft, “A Closer Look at Nauvoo Mayor’s Court and Municipal Court Records.”)  

    Nauvoo Mayor’s Court Docket Book / Nauvoo, IL, Mayor’s Court. Docket Book, 1843. In Historian’s Office, Historical Record Book, 1843–1874, pp. 12–50. CHL.

    Nauvoo, IL, Records, 1841–1845. CHL.

  3. 3

    JS, Journal, 30 Mar. 1844; “Robbery and Lynching,” 3 Apr. 1844 [City of Nauvoo v. Easton]. JS, as a justice of the peace, was authorized, “upon complaint made before him upon oath or affirmation[,] . . . to issue a warrant” for the search of the locations. However, the Illinois Constitution specifically prohibited the issuing of “general warrants, whereby an officer may be commanded to search suspected places without evidence of the fact committed, or to seize any person or persons not named, whose offences are not particularly described and supported by evidence.” (An Act to Regulate the Apprehension of Offenders, and for Other Purposes [6 Jan. 1827], Public and General Statute Laws of the State of Illinois [1839], p. 240, sec. 11; Illinois Constitution of 1818, art. 8, sec. 7.)  

    The Public and General Statute Laws of the State of Illinois: Containing All the Laws . . . Passed by the Ninth General Assembly, at Their First Session, Commencing December 1, 1834, and Ending February 13, 1835; and at Their Second Session, Commencing December 7, 1835, and Ending January 18, 1836; and Those Passed by the Tenth General Assembly, at Their Session Commencing December 5, 1836, and Ending March 6, 1837; and at Their Special Session, Commencing July 10, and Ending July 22, 1837. . . . Compiled by Jonathan Young Scammon. Chicago: Stephen F. Gale, 1839.

    Illinois Office of Secretary of State. First Constitution of Illinois, 1818. Illinois State Archives, Springfield.

  4. 4

    JS, Journal, 30 Mar. 1844; “Robbery and Lynching,” 3 Apr. 1844 [City of Nauvoo v. Easton]; Nauvoo City Council Rough Minute Book, 8 June 1844, 15.  

  5. 5

    “Robbery and Lynching,” 3 Apr. 1844 [City of Nauvoo v. Easton]; JS, Journal, 30 Mar. 1844.  

  6. 6

    JS, Journal, 30 Mar. 1844; Docket Entry, 30 Mar. 1844 [State of Illinois v. Townsend]. Illinois statute prohibited Chism, as an African American, from testifying “in favor, or against, any white person” in courts of law. Witnesses “could not positively swear to” Townsend’s involvement. The law permitted justices to fine those convicted of assault and battery between three and one hundred dollars. (An Act relative to Criminal Jurisprudence [26 Feb. 1833]; An Act to Extend the Jurisdiction of Justices of the Peace [29 Dec. 1826], Public and General Statute Laws of the State of Illinois [1839], pp. 201, 415; “Robbery and Lynching,” 3 Apr. 1844 [City of Nauvoo v. Easton].)  

    The Public and General Statute Laws of the State of Illinois: Containing All the Laws . . . Passed by the Ninth General Assembly, at Their First Session, Commencing December 1, 1834, and Ending February 13, 1835; and at Their Second Session, Commencing December 7, 1835, and Ending January 18, 1836; and Those Passed by the Tenth General Assembly, at Their Session Commencing December 5, 1836, and Ending March 6, 1837; and at Their Special Session, Commencing July 10, and Ending July 22, 1837. . . . Compiled by Jonathan Young Scammon. Chicago: Stephen F. Gale, 1839.

  7. 7

    JS, Journal, 1 Apr. 1844; “Robbery and Lynching,” 3 Apr. 1844 [City of Nauvoo v. Easton].  

  8. 8

    JS, Journal, 1 Apr. 1844; Nauvoo City Council Minute Book, 1 Mar. 1841, 13. The fact that the arrest was made by Greene, rather than a constable, indicates that JS was pursuing the prosecution under a city ordinance—perhaps the disorderly persons ordinance—rather than the state assault and battery statute, as Johnson had done. (Docket Entry, 2–ca. 3 Apr. 1844 [State of Illinois v. Greene et al. on Habeas Corpus]; Nauvoo City Council Minute Book, 13 Nov. 1841, 31.)  

  9. 9

    Docket Entry, 2–ca. 3 Apr. 1844 [State of Illinois v. Greene et al. on Habeas Corpus].  

  10. 10

    Docket Entry, 2–ca. 3 Apr. 1844 [State of Illinois v. Greene et al. on Habeas Corpus]; “Robbery and Lynching,” 3 Apr. 1844 [City of Nauvoo v. Easton].  

  11. 11

    JS, Journal, 1 Apr. 1844.  

  12. 12

    “Robbery and Lynching,” 3 Apr. 1844 [City of Nauvoo v. Easton].  

  13. 13

    “Robbery and Lynching,” 3 Apr. 1844 [City of Nauvoo v. Easton]; JS, Journal, 1 Apr. 1844; “More Lynching,” Alton [IL] Telegraph and Democratic Review, 20 Apr. 1844, [3].  

    Alton Telegraph and Democratic Review. Alton, IL. 1841–1850.

  14. 14

    JS, Journal, 1 Apr. 1844; Hancock Co., IL, Circuit Court Records, 1829–1897, vol. D, p. 180, microfilm 947,496, U.S. and Canada Record Collection, FHL.  

    U.S. and Canada Record Collection. FHL.