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In the early 1840s, Joseph Smith, the Mormon Prophet, had been accused of treason and of an assassination attempt against a former Missouri Governor. The State of Missouri sought to extradite Smith from Nauvoo, Illinois to face these charges. After his arrest, Smith sued for a writ of habeas corpus to free himself from unlawful detention. In all three hearings, a court agreed that Smith should be freed. The issue of personal liberties was important during the Civil War when President Abraham Lincoln suspended habeas corpus to quash dissent. Most recently, prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba have used the writ in attempt to free themselves. In 2013, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, the Illinois Supreme Court Historic Preservation Commission, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the Community of Christ church partnered in a series of events to explore the issue of personal liberties through the tribulations of Joseph Smith, the Mormon Prophet. • In April, the first event brought together historians, lawyers, and judges in two separate panels to address court protection of individual liberties, particularly religious freedom in the United States.

• On September 23, eleven scholars stationed at historic locations in Nauvoo spoke on various topics of Mormonism, Joseph Smith, and antebellum society. In the evening, Dallin H. Oaks, a member of the Latter-day Saints Quorum of Twelve addressed a large crowd on Joseph Smith’s legal troubles in Illinois.

• On September 24, a dramatic performance of Joseph Smith’s use of habeas corpus occurred in Springfield, followed by a panel discussion of the historic and modern use of habeas corpus.

• On October 14, a second dramatic performance took place at the University of Chicago.

• On October 26 – 28, the Illinois State Board of Education sponsored a teachers workshop about Joseph Smith, religion in America, civil liberties, and Guantanamo Bay. Ten middle and high school teachers attended and created a two-week curriculum based on the new Common Core standards.

• In March 2014, the dramatic performances moved to Utah with one presentation at the University of Utah campus and the next night at the Brigham Young University campus.
  • Joseph Smith in his Nauvoo Legion uniform

    Photo courtesy of Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum

  • Governors Jim Thompson and Pat Quinn

    Executive Mansion, Springfield

  • Joseph Smith

    Photo courtesy of Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum

  • Illinois Governor Pat Quinn speaks with Utah Governor Gary Herbert in Springfield

    Executive Mansion

  • Joseph Smith speaks to the Native Indians

    Photo courtesy of Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum

  • Commissioners Jim Thompson and Mike McClain in Nauvoo

    Hotel Nauvoo

  • Joseph Smith

    Image courtesy of Community of Christ

  • Former Utah Governor Olene Walker and John Lupton in Nauvoo

  • Hyrum Smith and Joseph Smith

    Photo courtesy of Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum

  • Jim Thompson, Richard Turley Jr., and Dallin Oaks in Nauvoo

  • Joseph Smith

    Photo courtesy of Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum

  • Nauvoo, Illinois

  • Nauvoo, Illinois

  • Speakers at Nauvoo, September 23, 2013

  • Speakers at Nauvoo, September 23, 2013

  • Speakers at Nauvoo, September 23, 2013

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Feel free to contact us about our Retrial Collection or upcoming retrials. We try to plan for these events 6-12 months in advance. If you have an idea, or think a certain subject matter would make for a retrail, let us know.

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About the Commission

Since 2009 we have been collecting, archiving, and researching the history of the Illinois Judiciary. Our collections range from artifacts to dockets to recent oral histories.

Commissioners:

Honorable James R Thompson, Chairman
Honorable Kirk W Dillard
Kim B. Fox
Pauline Montgomery
Joseph A Power, Jr
William J Quinlan
Jane Hayes Rader
J. William Roberts
Michael J Tardy, Ex-officio