22. Charter for the City of Nauvoo (1840)

Background: Members of the Church of Latter-day Saints, known as Mormons, began settling in Missouri in the early 1830s. As the Mormon population increased, tension and hostilities with non-Mormons in those areas of settlement arose and escalated. The Mormons were eventually forced out of Missouri and relocated into Illinois by 1839. In Illinois, the Mormons purchased large tracts of land in and near the town of Commerce, located on the Mississippi River in present-day Hancock County. They renamed the town Nauvoo. However, tensions with the non-Mormon population in western Illinois led to hostility between the Mormons and the non-Mormons. This hostility culminated in the deaths of Mormon leaders Joseph and Hyrum Smith by an armed mob on June 27, 1844 while they were being held in protective custody at the jail at Carthage. In 1845 the General Assembly repealed the Nauvoo charter and by 1846 the Mormons began an exodus from Illinois to the Salt Lake Basin in present-day Utah.

The Document: The General Assembly approved "An Act to Incorporate the City of Nauvoo" on December 16, 1840, with an effective date of February 1, 1841. The law gave the city council the power to establish and execute any ordinances not repugnant to the Constitutions of the United States or the State of Illinois. It also created a city council to be comprised of a mayor, aldermen and councilors, which was unlike any city council in Illinois at that time. The incorporation was also unique in that it provided for the establishment of a municipal court, a university and an independent militia unit to be known as the Nauvoo Legion.

Note: Before the 1870 Illinois Constitution, municipalities could vote to incorporate themselves or could be incorporated by special acts of the General Assembly. The 1870 Illinois Constitution prohibited the passage of special legislation by the General Assembly which included the incorporation of cities, towns and villages. These incorporation documents are available at the Illinois State Archives as part of Secretary of State Record Series 103.030, "Enrolled Acts of the General Assembly."