Appendix: Missouri Extradition Attempt, 1842–1843, Selected Documents

Appendix: Missouri Extradition Attempt, 1842–1843, Selected Documents

1. Lilburn W. Boggs, Affidavit, 20 July 1842

Editorial Note
Lilburn W. Boggs, Affidavit, [Jackson County, MO], 20 July 1842; handwriting probably of Samuel Weston; signature of Lilburn W. Boggs; one page; JS Extradition Records, 1839–1843, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, Springfield, IL. Includes endorsements on verso.


TEXT: Portions of text in this document are obscured by a ribbon or are missing because of page tears. All supplied text in this transcript comes from a copy of the affidavit inscribed by William Clayton and housed in JS Collection, CHL.  

State of Missouri
[Th]is day Personally Appeared before [me]  [Sam]uel Weston a Justice of the  peace within and for the County of Jackson the Subscriber  Lilburn W Boggs who being Duly sworn Doeth Depose  and say that on the night of the Sixth day of May  184[2] while sitting in his Dwelling in the Town of  I[nde]pendence in the County of Jackson he was Sho[t] [wit]h  intent to kill and that his life was Despaired  of for several days an[d] that he beleives and has good  reason to beleive from Evidence and information now [in]  his possession that Joseph Smith Com[mo]nly  [cal]led the Mormon Prophet was Accessary before  the fact of the intended Murder and that the said Joseph  Smith is a Citizen or resident of the State of Illinois  and the said Deponient hereby Applyes to the  Governor of the State of Missouri to make a Demand [on]  the Governor of the State of Illinois to Deliver  the said Joseph Smith Com[m]only Called the  Mormon prophet to some person Autherised to receive  and Convey him to the State and County aforesaid  there to be dealt with according to Law
Sworn to and Subscribed
before me this 20th d[a]y of
July 1842 Samuel Weston JP [p. [1]]
On 6 May 1842, former Missouri governor Lilburn W. Boggs was shot at his home in Independence, Missouri. Boggs’s injuries were serious but not fatal. The ensuing criminal investigation focused first on a silversmith named Tompkins.1

McLaws, “Attempted Assassination,” 53–55.
Comprehensive Works Cited



McLaws, Monte B. “The Attempted Assassination of Missouri’s Ex-Governor, Lilburn W. Boggs.” Missouri Historical Review 60, no. 1 (Oct. 1965): 50–62.

However, early insinuations about a possible Mormon involvement soon gained greater traction after John C. Bennett, the former mayor of Nauvoo, Illinois, published reports alleging that JS’s associate Orrin Porter Rockwell, who was in Independence at the time of the assassination attempt, committed the crime at the express direction of JS. While no direct evidence implicated either Rockwell or JS, animosity was known to exist between the accused men and Boggs because Boggs had played a pivotal role in the expulsion of the Mormons from Missouri in 1838.
In an affidavit dated 20 July 1842, Boggs stated that based on “evidence and information now in his possession,” he believed JS was an accessory before the fact in orchestrating the assassination attempt. Based on that affidavit, Missouri governor Thomas Reynolds issued a requisition on 22 July 1842 for the extradition of JS from Illinois to Missouri, claiming he was a fugitive from justice.2

This requisition began the second of three attempts (1840–1841, 1842–1843, and 1843) to extradite JS to Missouri.  

Illinois governor Thomas Carlin then issued an arrest warrant for JS based on Reynolds’s requisition. JS was arrested in Nauvoo on 8 August 1842 and immediately petitioned for a writ of habeas corpus. The Nauvoo Municipal Court granted the writ and ordered JS to appear before it for a hearing on the arrest. The arresting officer, uncertain as to the legality of the municipal court’s actions, returned the writ and arrest warrant to Carlin, thereby necessitating the release of JS. Governor Carlin disputed the effort to review the arrest, claiming that the municipal court lacked legal authority to rule on the warrant. On 20 September 1842, Governor Carlin increased his efforts to comply with Missouri’s extradition request by issuing a proclamation offering a reward to any citizen for the capture of JS, who had gone into hiding to avoid arrest.
In August 1842, Thomas Ford, a lawyer and former associate justice of the Illinois Supreme Court, was elected Illinois governor, replacing Thomas Carlin. Following this change in administration, a delegation representing JS traveled from Nauvoo to Springfield in early December to determine Governor Ford’s disposition regarding the extradition efforts. Meeting with several prominent attorneys, judges, and politicians, including Ford, the delegation concluded that should JS appear in Springfield, the entire situation could be resolved satisfactorily. The delegation also met with Justin Butterfield, the United States attorney for the district of Illinois, and retained him to represent JS in the matter.
Accompanied by a few close colleagues, JS left for Springfield on 27 December 1842 and arrived on 30 December. Upon JS’s arrival, Butterfield recommended filing a new petition for a writ of habeas corpus in federal court before Judge Nathaniel Pope. As the petition needed to be based on an arrest and as the original arrest warrant was not immediately available, the following day (Saturday, 31 December 1842) Butterfield filed a petition for a new arrest warrant. Governor Ford issued the new arrest warrant the same day, and Butterfield filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus. Pope granted and issued the writ, set bail at $4,000, and scheduled the hearing on the writ for the following Monday, 2 January 1843.
On Monday morning, JS (represented by Butterfield) and the state of Illinois (represented by Illinois attorney general Josiah Lamborn) appeared before Judge Pope. Lamborn asked for a continuance to prepare for the hearing on the writ. Pope granted the request and moved the hearing to Wednesday, 4 January 1843.
At the hearing, Lamborn, speaking first, made two substantive arguments: First, the case should be dismissed because the federal court lacked jurisdiction to rule on the arrest warrant and underlying requisition as these matters were governed by the state. Second, no factual inquiry was appropriate and the court should consider only any procedural irregularities in the extradition pleadings. Butterfield and his associate counsel, Benjamin Edwards, countered that a matter of extradition arising between two states was inherently, perhaps exclusively, a federal issue as contemplated by the United States Constitution. Second, Butterfield argued that it was appropriate for the court to examine both the legal sufficiency and the accuracy of the facts underlying the extradition request. This argument included an attack on the admissibility of Boggs’s affidavit and proffered additional affidavits rebutting the facts alleged by Boggs. These affidavits were submitted to establish that JS could not be considered a fugitive from Missouri justice because he was in Nauvoo when the assassination attempt occurred.
The following day, Judge Pope announced his opinion from the bench. He ruled that the federal court had jurisdiction over the proceedings as conferred on it by the United States Constitution. Pope then addressed the merits of the case, ruling that he did not need to determine the admissibility of the affidavits submitted by JS, his colleagues, and others, as the Boggs affidavit itself was insufficient to support the requisition. Pope found Boggs’s allegations to be both opinion and conclusions of law, neither of which were admissible factual contentions. Finally, the Boggs affidavit failed to aver that JS had actually fled from the state, a prerequisite to his being classified as a fugitive; Missouri governor Reynolds’s inclusion of such an allegation in the requisition did not remedy this defect. Based on these findings, Judge Pope ordered the discharge of JS.
Relying in part on the notes that Willard Richards had taken throughout the proceedings, Pope prepared a written opinion of his 5 January ruling. This opinion was first published on 16 January 1843 in the Times and Seasons; soon after, it was published in the Springfield newspaper Sangamo Journal, as well as in various other newspapers, including the Nauvoo newspaper The Wasp. The official version of Judge Pope’s opinion was first published in McLean’s Reports in 1847.3

A comparison of the earlier published versions with the McLean version shows no substantive differences.  

1. Lilburn W. Boggs, Affidavit, 20 July 1842
2. Thomas Reynolds, Requisition, 22 July 1842
3. Thomas Carlin, Proclamation, 20 September 1842
4. Joseph Smith, Petition for New Arrest Warrant, 31 December 1842
5. Arrest Warrant, 31 December 1842
6. Joseph Smith, Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus, 31 December 1842
7. Writ of Habeas Corpus, 31 December 1842
8. Joseph Smith, Affidavit, 2 January 1843
9. Wilson Law and Others, Affidavit, 4 January 1843
10. Jacob B. Backenstos and Stephen A. Douglas, Affidavit, 4 January 1843
11. Court Ruling, 5 January 1843
12. Thomas Ford, Order Discharging Joseph Smith, 6 January 1843