On 3 February 1841, the newly constituted city council of , Illinois, met for the first time and began to establish the organizational foundations of the municipal government. Two days earlier, a municipal election for the city council was held in accordance with the legislature’s 16 December 1840 act establishing the city of Nauvoo, known as the Nauvoo charter. Section 4 of the charter specified that the city council would consist of “a Mayor, four Aldermen, and nine Councillors.” From the ballot, voters selected as mayor; , , , and as aldermen; and JS, , , , , , , , and as councilors.
The charter for the city of , which was modeled on other liberal city charters in , granted a large variety of powers to the city council. JS and the commented that the Nauvoo charter contained “the most plenary powers, ever conferred by a legislative assembly on free citizens.” Among the powers vested in the city council was the authority to establish and execute city ordinances—so long as they were “not repugnant to the Constitution of the ” or to the Illinois state constitution. In essence, the municipal government had the power to create any legislation it deemed “necessary for the peace, benefit, good order, regulation, convenience, and cleanliness, of said city; for the protection of property therein from destruction by fire, or otherwise, and for the health, and happiness, thereof.” The charter also authorized the city council to organize a militia and a university and to impose and collect taxes, to license and regulate commerce, to regulate police, and to impose fines and penalties for violating city ordinances. Other enumerated powers included the license to appoint “a Recorder, Treasurer, Assessor, Marshal, Supervisor of Streets, and all such other officers as may be necessary, and to prescribe their duties, and remove them from office at pleasure.”
The minutes of this first city council meeting indicate that much of the council’s business related to remarks made by Mayor in his inaugural address. JS played an active role as a city councilor in this opening meeting. He presented two bills: one to organize the and the other to organize the University of the City of . After those ordinances were passed, JS proposed and the council passed a resolution of gratitude to the citizens of , Illinois, and to the state government for the assistance rendered to the Saints upon their arrival in the state. Finally, the city council established five committees, all of which JS was appointed to serve on as a member or chairperson.
After this initial meeting of the City Council, , editor of the Times and Seasons, published the mayor’s inaugural address, some of the ordinances passed by the city council, and an editorial that predicted the council would create wise laws and regulations that would lead Nauvoo to “prosper and increase in population to an extent unparallelled by any city.” The editorial further expressed the hope that such governance would help Nauvoo “become the brightest ‘star in the west.’”
recorded the meeting’s original minutes in a notebook. Sloan then used those original minutes to record the official minutes in the council’s ledger, titled “A Record of the proceedings of the City Council of the City of .” The official 3 February minutes include the text of city ordinances, which is not found in the original minutes. Because the ledger contains a more comprehensive version of the council’s discussion and decisions and represents the official minutes, that version is featured here.
Counsellor Joseph Smith presented a Bill to Organize the “University of the City of ,” which was read three times, the rules were dispensed with, & it passed Unanimously.
An Ordinance organizing the “University of the City of .”
Sec. 1. Be it ordained by the City Council of the City of , that the “University of the City of ” be, & the same is hereby organized, by the appointment of the following Board of Trustees; to wit, , Chancellor, , Registrar, & Joseph Smith, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , & , Regents; who shall hereafter Constitute the “Chancellor & Regents of the University of the City of ,” as contemplated in the 24th. Section of “An act to incorporate the City of ,” approved December 16th., 1840.
Sec. 2. The Board named in the 1st. Section of this Ordinance shall hold its first Meeting at the of Joseph Smith, on Tuesday, the 9th. day of February 1841, at 2 oClock, P. M.
Sec. 3. This ordinance shall take effect, & be in force, from & after its passage.
<passed 3rd. Feby 1841.>
Counsellor Joseph Smith presented the following resolution, which was unanimously adopted.
Resolved by the City Council of the City of , that a vote of <the unfeigned> thanks of this City of <Community be respectfully> Tendered to the Citizens of , Council of Revision, & Legislature, of the State of , as a feeble testimonial of their respect & esteem for noble, high minded, & patriotic Statesmen, [p. 4]
In his inaugural address, Bennett spoke at length about the university and its goals. He indicated that the university should be practical, or “a ‘utilitarian’ institution.” “‘Knowledge is power,’” Bennett stated, proclaiming that if the Saints fostered education they would be “forever free!” JS and his counselors in the First Presidency also wrote about the practical importance of the university in a proclamation to the Saints on 15 January. “We hope,” they wrote, “to make this institution one of the great lights of the world, and by and through it, to diffuse that kind of knowledge which will be of practical utility, and for the public good, and also for private and individual happiness.” (John C. Bennett, “Inaugural Address,”Times and Seasons, 15 Feb. 1841, 2:317, italics in original; Proclamation, 15 Jan. 1841.)
A November 1840 Times and Seasons editorial highlighted the Saints’ feelings about Illinois governor Thomas Carlin after their arrival in Illinois: “Governor Carlin freely gave us his protection, extended to us the warm hand of friendship, bestowed liberally from his purse to supply our numerous wants, and, in fact, was one of our principal temporal saviors.” (“Gov. Carlin,” Times and Seasons, 1 Nov. 1840, 2:205.)
Times and Seasons. Commerce/Nauvoo, IL. Nov. 1839–Feb. 1846.