SKETCHES OF THE MOR-MON ERA
In Hancock County---No. 5.
The events of the summer of 1843 were highly exciting, and produced a profound sensation throughout the country.
On the 5th day of June in that year, an indictment for treason was found against the Prophet Smith, in the Circuit Court of Daviess county, Missouri--the scene of his former operations. Whether this indictment was properly secured, or was necessary to the demands of justice, is doubtful. The fact that over four years had elapsed since the alleged treasonable acts were committed, is of itself suffi-cient to cast a shade of suspicion over the transaction. But we shall not now enter upon that field of enquiry.
On finding the indictment, and Smith being within the jurisdiction of Illinois, Gov. Reynolds of Mis-souri, issued a requisition on Gov. Ford of this State, demanding the arrest and delivery of Smith. This requisition was sent to Springfield in the hands of the Missouri agent, one Joseph H. Reynolds. Gover-nor Ford, in compliance with the demand, issued a writ for the Pro-phet's arrest, and it was brought to this county by the agent to be put in the hands of an officer for ex-ecution.
Harmon T. Wilson of Carthage, (now several years deceased) a man of nerve and energy, who had ser-ved as deputy sheriff, was selected for the undertaking, and the writ was placed in his hands.
It was doubtful whether the writ could be served in Nauvoo, and yet more doubtful whether, in case of service, the prisoner could be re-moved from the city. But it was ascertained that Smith and his wife were on a visit to some relatives, at Palestine Grove, in Lee county, Illinois, not far from Dixon, and more than 100 miles from Nauvoo
By the officers this was regarded as a fortunate circumstance, and they quietly repaired to Lee coun- to make the arrest. It was plan-ned that after securing the priso-ner they would drive as if making for the Illinois river, then turn and make their best speed to Rock Isl-and, where they would take steam for Missouri. Accordingly the arrest was made at the house of Mr. Wasson, the prophet's relative, and the three men started on their way; but they committed the unaccountable mis-take of stopping at Dixon. This was fatal to the success of their en-terprise. It gave Smith an oppor-tunity to see and consult lawyers, which he was not slow to do; and Messrs. Southwick and Patrick, two attorneys of the place were at once engaged, who procured a writ of Habeas Corpus, returnable before Judge Caton of Ottawa. The day following, in custody of the Sheriff of Lee county, they started for Ot-tawa ; but after travelling some 30 miles, they learned that Judge Ca-ton was absent in New York, and the party returned to Dixon. Now Smith commenced a suit against his captors for false imprisonment. An-other writ of Habeas Corpus was obtained in behalf of Smith, return-able before Judge Young at Quin-cy. Reynolds and Wilson also ob tained a similar writ, returnable at the same place.
Such was the position of affairs when two other parties appeared upon the scene. The election cam-paign was in progress—the election being held in August. This Con-gressional district embraced Han-cock and all the western counties northward to the State line, inclu-ding Lee. Hon. Cyrus Walker of Macomb, was the Whig candidate, and Hon. Joseph P. Hoge of Ga-lena, was the Democratic candidate for Congress. They were able and representative men of their parties—Mr. Walker being an old lawyer of distinguished legal attainments and character.
These gentlemen, at the time of the arrest, were engaged in stump-ing the district in the vicinity of Dixon. Walker, having been for-merly employed by Smith as coun-sel, was now again engaged, and he at once left his appointments, and remained with the party until the final discharge of Smith at Nauvoo.
It is stated that Hoge also offer his services. This may not be true; but we have the testimony of Wil-son that he and Reynolds asked his aid, and were refused.
On Monday the 26th, the whole cavalcade, consisting of Smith, the prisoner, with his three attorneys, Walker, Southwick and Patrick; Smith's relative Wasson, and Wal-ker's son-in-law and travelling com-panion Montgomery; Campbell, Sheriff of Lee, with his prisoners Reynolds and Wilson, and their at-torney Mason; with the necessary coaches, wagons and drivers,---in all about a dozen persons,---started southward, ostensibly for Quincy. They carried with them two writs of Habeas Corpus returnable to Judge Young, involving the liberty of three of their number.
Who was chief in that cavalcade of officers, attorneys and prisoners, may readily be guessed, when it is stated, that the procession, instead of going to Quincy, made directly for Nauvoo !
In the meantime there was intense excitement in that city. News had reached them that their leader was in danger. But among the conflic-ting rumors, the Mormon people knew not what course to take. It was conjectured that their prophet would be carried down the Illinois river, and so a little steamer owned in the city, was manned and equip-ped, and sent down the Mississippi, with the hope of intercepting him in that direction. Parties on horseback started across the country in the direc-tion of Dixon. These met the caval-cade of lawyers and prisoners, and officers and writs, at various points,—and before Smith reached Nauvoo, he was surrounded and escorted by prob-ably fifty or a hundred of his devoted and faithful followers. A correspon-dent of the Warsaw Message, stated to have been an eye-witness, says that these men were unarmed; a state-ment which, in view of all the circum-stances, is extremely improbable.
Arrived at home, Smith was very magnanimous and courteous to his guests and prisoners. He took them to his mansion; pledged his honor to them that they should not be molested; took them to his table and feasted them, introducing Wilson and Reyn-olds to his family--with whom the former was acquainted before.
The reader who has seen in the par-ty papers, after an election, the like-ness of the defeated rooster, with his feathers all ruffled and turned the wrong way, his comb torn and bleed-ing, and with a wretchedly wo-begone expression of countenance,—any one familiar with this picture, will be able to realize how those two officers FELT, on that memorable expedition from Dixon to Nauvoo, and especially after their arrival in the latter city.
Of course nothing now remained but to carry out the programme deter-mined on previously. Accordingly both the Habeas Corpus writs in favor of Smith were dropped, and a new one applied for and issued by the Munici-pal Court of the City, citing Reynolds ro appear with his prisoner before that tribunal. This he was compelled to do—though refusing to acknowledge its jurisdiction. Of course Smith was discharged. It was said, how truly we do not know, that Walker made a speech before the Court, on the trial of the writ, in which he avowed his belief that it had ample jurisdiction. How much ground existed for the opinion the reader can judge by an examina-tion of the following clause from the Charter of that City:
'The municipal court shall have power to grant writs of habeas corpus in all cases arising under the ordi-nances of the city council.
In our next we shall give the finale of this highly dramatic adventure, to-gether wich some particulars of the Prophet's arrest, not herein before mentioned. G.
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