Thurlow Weed.

Life of Thurlow Weed including his autobiography and a memoir online

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I am, etc., DeWitt Clinton.

Theodore F. Taibot, Esq., Batavia.

The following is a copy of the letter Governor Clinton ad-
dressed to the governors of Upper and Lower Canada : —

Albany, January 6, 1827.

SiK, — A person of the name of William Morgan, otherwise called
Captain or Major Morgan, resided for some time with his family in
Batavia, in this State. He is said to have been a native of Virginia,
and to have carried on at one time the business of a brewer at York,
in Upper Canada. He is described as about five feet eight inches
high, well built, light complexion, and between forty-five and fifty
years of age. During the last year he put a manuscript into the hands
of a printer in Batavia, purporting to be a promulgation of the secrets
of Freemasonry. This was passed over by the great body of that fra-
ternity without notice, and with silent contempt ; but a few desperate
fanatics engaged in a plan of carrjdng him ofE, and, on the 12th of
September last, they took him from Canandaigua by force, as it is un-
derstood, and conveyed him to the Niagara River, from whence it is
supposed that he was taken to his Britannio Majesty's dominions. Some
of the offenders have been apprehended and punished, but no intelli-
gence has been obtained respecting Morgan since his abduction. I
have, therefore, to appeal to your justice and humanity on this occa-
sion, and to request your Excellency to cause inquiry to be made re-
specting him, and, if he is forcibly detained, to direct his liberation,
and to communicate to me the results. It is conjectured that he is
confined in some fort or prison under false pretenses.

I am persuaded that no apology is necessary for this intrusion on
your time and attention ; and permit me to assure you that I shall
always be happy to reciprocate your humane interposition, and to
evince the high respect with which,

I have the honor to be, etc., DeWitt Clinton.

The Eabl of Dalhouseb, Quebec.


To the letter the Eurl of Dalhousie replied from Quebec,
January 25, 1827, tliat it would afford him much pleasure to
comply with the wishes of Governor Clinton ; that up to that
time he had no information that Morgan had been in Lower
Canada ; and that he had inmiediately written to Sir Peregrine
Maitland, Lieutenant-Governor of the Upper Province, on the
subject. On the 5th of February, 1827, in a letter from York,
Upper Canada, Lieutenant-Governor Maitland informed Gov-
ernor Clinton that he had offered a reward of fifty pounds for
any satisfactory information relating to the whereabouts or fate
of WUliam Morgan. It was subsequently ascertained, however,
that several Canadian citizens were involved in the conspiracy.
Bates Cook, a leading member of the investigating committee,
went before a Canadian grand jury, sitting in the then village
of Newark, and made complaint against residents of that vil-
lage as being concemeil in the conspiracy against Morgan.
The foreman of the grand jury consulted with the district judge,
after which the jury resolved to ignore the (juestion. The result
of the trial of Chesebro and others disappointed everj-body.
Up to the moment that their plea of "Guilty" was entered,
their innocence was asserted boldly by themselves and their Ma-
sonic friends. Their good standing in the community created
considerable feeling in their favor. By pleading "Guilty," how-
ever, this impression was removed ; but no additional facts
were disclosed, and a general feeling of disappointment was
manifested. The conduct of Miller in absenting himself fav-
ored the impression, so industriously sought to be created, that
after all it might be a mock abduction, and that Miller feared i
its exposure. This, at any rate, was the aspect given to it by
the press in distant parts of the country. But the public mind
m the ■' infected district," as it was called, underwent no
^ ipge, except to deepen and strengthen the conviction that
was IS'" '^ heen spirited out of the coimtry by violence.
and th'''^ were now held, in which Freemasonry was fiercely de-
i^^^ fed as a dangerous institution. This latter idea was sug-~
gested by the publications of persons, mostly clergymen, who
renounced Masonry. Prominent among these was the Kev. Mr.
Barnard, a Baptist clergyman of high character and previously
unquestioned veracity, who, in renouncing Masonry, stated that
a Boyal Arch Ma-son, in good standing, had declared that he



would be one of a number to put Morgan out of the way ; that
God looked upon the institution with so much complacency,
that he would never punish those concerned in the disposal of
Morgan. After the abduction, at a meeting of the Coving-
ton Lodge, Mr. Barnard said that he was violently assailed for
rebuking those who were concerned in the abduction of Mor-
gan ; that a Knight Templar present stated that if Morgan had
revealed the secrets of Masonry, and that if his throat had

'been cut for it, nothing but simple justice had been done.
For denouncing this sentiment. Elder Barnard was expelled
from the Covington Lodge. Major Ganson, who was present,
said that Morgan was not dead, but had been put where he
would " stay put till God Almighty would call for him." In
the town of Attica, a Masonic member of the legislature said
" that the lives of half a dozen such men as Morgan, and better,
were of no consequence compared with the suppression of such
a book." A judge of the court of Genesee County said " that
whatever Morgan's fate might have been, he deserved it." A
Royal Arch Mason in Le Roy declared " that Morgan de-
served death, and he hoped he had received it." Gentlemen
were advised not to serve on committees of investigation, and
were told that the matter concerned none but Masons ; that
they " had a right to deal with their own members according to
their own laws," etc., etc. I have given only a few of tha nu-
merous instances of the violent and intemperate expressions of
excited members of the Order. For the truth of these state-
ments the public had the declarations of clergymen of various
denominations, who, xmtil they renounced Freemasonry, were
universally esteemed. They incurred, however, reproaches of
their adhering brethren, and were stigmatized as tmprincipled
and untruthful. Li February, the people of the towns of Biv
tavia, Bethany, and Stafford met, and resolved to withh/f
their support at elections from all such men of the MasonW'^"
temity as countenanced the outrages against Morgan. Af^on,
lar meeting, at which a kindred resolution was adoT)te;?if ?i.^

\Jield in the town of Wheatland, in Monroe County, about the
same time. And immediately afterwards, at a meeting in tiie
town of Seneca, the people resolved that they would not vote
for Freemasons for any office whatever. Thus was political
Anti-Masonry inaugurated. No effort was made by the inves-

1827.] VARIOUS RUMORS. 243

tigating committees in the difBerent counties to restrain that
movement. The Monroe County Morgan Committee made an
earnest effort, seconded by prominent friends in other counties,
to keep the question free from politics ; and their efforts, so far
as the then approaching town-meetings were concerned, were
not unavailing.

Soon after the Canandaigua trial, the investigating commit-
tees reassembled at Lewiston, and resumed their labors. Simul-
taneously, a large number of Masons, several of whom were
armed, assembled at Lewiston, and in an excited manner ut-
tered violent threats against the members of our committee,
inshing into the room, extinguishing the lights, and showering
epithets upon those who were engaged in the investigation,
the object being clearly to bring on a personal and physical
conflict ; but our committees, composed of such men as Bates
Cook, Samuel Works, and their associates, remained calm, but
firm, suffering nothing to divert them from their purpose. The
district attorney of the county, a very zealous and excited
Mason, maintained that the committees had no right to come
into his county for the investigation of criminal matters.

While the committees were at Lewiston, a seemingly well-au-
thenticated report came to us representing that an arrangement
had been made between the Masons and John Brandt, son of
the celebrated ^Mohawk Lidian Chief, to take Morgan off their
hands and transfer him to the British Northwestern Fur Com-
pany. In a few days, however, came an indignant denial of
this impeachment from the descendant of Captain Brandt, under
his own hand.

Another story was that Morgan had been taken over to Fort
George and tried there by a Masonic tribunal, and executed ;
again, it. was reported that Morgan had been taken to Quebec
to be shipped on board a vessel of war ; and still another report
was that he was placed in a boat above the Falls, cast adrift,
and thus hurried over the cataract. None of these stories were
true, nor were any of them believed by the committee. Before
its adjournment, however, information which they did credit
they received, to the effect that when Morgan was taken from
the carriage near the burying-ground in Youngstown, he was
carrie<l across the Niagara River blindfolded, pinioned, and
gagged ; that he had been taken into the Lodge in Newark,


where, after mueh deliberation, the Masons hail refused to incur
the responsibility of disposing of or receiving him ; and that he
was then taken back to the American side and confined in the
magazine of Fort Niagara. It was further alleged, but upon less
reliable information, that Morgan was tried by a Masonic Coun-
cil pursuant to an order from the Grand Chapter, and put to
death by one of the methods prescribed by the Masonic penal-
ties, namely, by having his throat cut, his tongue torn out by
the roots, etc., etc. WhUe some members of the committee
/• now incliaed to give credit to the alleged Masonic trial of Mor-
gan, others (including myself) thought the evidence unreliable
to base so serious an accusation upon.

The committee visited Fort Niagara, and satisfied themselves
by careful examination that some person had been recently con-
fined in its magazine. The Lewiston committee prepared a me-
morial to the legislature, praying that an additional and larger
reward should be offered for the apprehension and conviction of
persons engaged in the abduction and probable murder of Mor-
gan, and for the appointment of a special commissioner to con-
duct the prosecutions.

The memorial was signed as follows : —

Members of the Eochester Committee : Josiah Bissell, Jr.,
Frederick F. Backus, Samuel Works, Frederick Whittlesey,
Thurlow Weed, E. S. Beach.

Committee of Niagara County : Bates Cook, Alexander Dick-
erson, S. De Venux, Samuel Lacy of Chili and Wheatland
Committee, William Pixley, Isaac Lacy, Benjamin Bowen, Al-
fred Scofield.

Batavia Committee on behalf of the Citizens of Genesee
County : Freeman Edson, Clark HaU, Jonathan Lay, Timothy
Fitch, TrumbuU Cary, WiUiam Davis, F. Holden, Theodore F.
Talbot, William Keyes, James L. Smith.

Committee of Le Roy : Edward Barnes.

Livingston County Committee: Philo C. Fuller and Jettis

Bloomfield Committee : B. Wilson, Barri Bradley, O. Ben-
jamin, Jonathan BueU, Heman Chapin, and Josiah Porter.

Committee of Victor: James M. Wheeler, Samuel Pearson,
John Sargent, Nathan Jenks, Thomas Wright, Sampel Ewmg.

Committee of Canandaigua : Evan John.


Colonel King, previously spoken of, left his home in De-
cember, calling at .Vlbany on Governor Clinton, to whom he
applied for a loan of money, which was declined. He then
asked Governor Clinton to recommend him for an appointment
at Washington, which was also declined. At Washington, with-
out any authority, he drew on Governor Clinton for two him-
dred dollars. He obtained from the War Department an ap-
pointment as sutler at Fort Towson, in Arkansas.

Early in February, John Whitney and Barrage Smith left
their homes and families at Rochester. The money previously
spoken of as having been devoted by the Grand Chapter to
charity was paid in part to Wliitney and Smith, when on their
way to New Orleans. Mr. ^\Tiiting, the district attorney of
Ontario County, being at Albany, obtained a warrant for the
arrest of Smith, who, however, was apprised of the fact in sear
son to enable him to effect his escape.

The Grand Royal Arch Chapter of the State met at Al-
bany on the first Tuesday in February. This was an occasion
of absorbing interest both to Masons and to Anti-Masons. The
late Colonel William L. Stone, editor of the " Commercial
Advertiser," who, although an adhering Mason, pursued an en-
lightened, impartial, truthful, and yet independent course
throughout the whole affair, in speaking of that session of the
Grrand Chapter, says : —

The Masons were, at this time, divided into four classes. First,
there were the guilty Masons and their immediate confidants, if not
allies. Second, the thorouf^h-going il.osons, who, if not actually guilty,
were rather disposed to think that the actors had served the traitor
right. Third, retired Masons, who had resumed their aprons in con-
sequence of the spirit of persecution that had gone abroad, and who,
conscious of their own innocence, felt bound to resist the intolerant
spirit of Anti-Masonry. Fourth, a much larger body of Masons than
either of the preceding, having virtually retired from the institution,
were now mere passive Masons, condemning the outrages as far as
they believed them true, but doubting, nevertheless, whether any sub-
stantial cause existed for the excitement.

To this I may add that there were at that moment two
classes of Anti-Masons : first, those who believed that the out-
rages perpetrated upon Morgan had the sanction of the lodges,
chapters, and encampments ; second, those who believed that

246 A UTOBIOGRAPHY. [1827.

the outrages which had been committed by zealous and mis-
guided members of the order had only the sanction of Masons
kindred in character and spirit. This second, or latter class,
now looked for some emphatic and decisive .action on the part
of the Grand Eoyal Arch Chapter in condemnation of the out-
rage upon Morgan, in asserting its own innocence, and in vin-
dication of its character. I wrote an editorial article myself,
stating that inasmuch as it was now well known that a citizen
had been unlawfully deprived of his liberty, if not his life, by
Masons in the name of Masonry, that Masons had been con-
victed of the offense and were then in prison, but that the local
Masonic lodges and chapters to which they belonged had in
no way manifested their sense of the outrages committed, it
became the imperative duty of the Grand Chapter, the highest
Masonic body in the State, to assxmie high ground, in vindica-
tion not only of the violated laws, but of its own respect for
and obedience to lawful authority.

One hundred and ten subordinate chapters were represented
at the session of the Grand Chapter. The Morgan matter was
referred to a committee, which, previous to its adjournment, re-
ported, —

That from the highly agitated and inflamed state of public feel-
ing on this subject, and from the false and undeserved imputations
which had been thrown upon the Masons and the Masonic order gen-
erally, your committee deem it proper that this Grand Chapter should
make a public expression of its sentiments in relation to the afiair
alluded to. Tour committee, as expressive of their views, would offer
for the consideration of the Grand Chapter the following resolu-
tions : —

Resolved, By this Grand Chapter, that we its members, individually
and as a body, do disclaim all knowledge or approbation of the pro-
ceedings in relation to the abduction of the said "William Morgan.

And that we disapprove of the same as a violation of the majesty
of the laws, and an infringement of the rights of personal liberty se-
cured to every citizen of our free and happy republic.

Resolved, That the foregoing report and resolution be published.

This, considered in connection with the weU-known fact that
a large number of " individual " Masons from Western New
York, who were concerned in " the violation of the majesty of
the laws," were members of the Grand Chapter present and


voting for the foregoing i-esolution, added fuel to the flames
that had been previously kindled.

Some months afterwards facts were disclosed showing that
the Grand Chapter acted in a manner much more reprehensi-
ble. It appeared on the authority of General Beck, a brother
of Dr. T. Romeyn Beck, and a gentleman of the highest intel-
ligence and character, who was a member of the Grand Chap-
ter and in attendance at its February session, that the committee
to whom the jMorgan question was referred reported a resolu-
tion condemnatory of the conduct of ilasons engaged in the
outrage, and offering a reward of one thousand dollars for the
apprehension of the offenders. When the report was read, the
resolution offering a reward was violently opposed by some of
the New York and most of the Western members, and was re-
jected, as was the denunciatory preamble.

In the debate an Ontario member uttered sentiments so
&natical and fiendish as to shock the feelings of all reflecting
men. And it was after that debate, and after the rejection of
the resolution offering a reward, that a thousand doUars was
appropriated for the relief of the " Western sufferers." The
veracity of General Beck, from whom these statements were ob-
tained, was never questioned.

Several persons who went from Canandaigua to Batavia to ar-
rest Morgan on the tnunped-up charge of larceny were tried at
Canandaigua in February on the charge of falsely imprisoning
Morgan ; but they were acquitted on the ground that they were
protected by the warrant they acted under. In Genesee County,
at the February Court of General Sessions, Dr. S. S. liutler was
appointed foreman. lie was a Knight Templar, and two thirds
of the jurors were Masons. To one of the jurymen, also a Tem-
plar, Dr. Butler said : " We have a majority of jurors, and our
friends must not be indicted." This was the first direct evi-
dence that Masonry was endeavoring to obstruct the course of
justice ; and this led to an investigation, which disclosed the
facts that the sheriffs of all the counties of the " infected dis-
trict " were Masons ; that, under the law of our State, grand
jurors were then selected and summoned by the sheriffs of
counties, and the further fact that on previous grand juries in
these counties a majority of Masons had been summoned, and
hence the impossibility up to that time of obtaining indict-


ments against the real perpetrators of the outrage in Genesee,
Monroe, Orleans, Niagara, or Erie. In Ontario Joseph Gar-
linghouse, although a Mason, sherifE of that county, regarded
his duty to the State and to the laws as paramount to all other
duties. He summoned jurors whoUy irrespective of other con-

At the February term of the Ontario County Court, Dr.
James Lahey, Chauncey H. Coe, Hiram Hubbard, John Butter-
field, James Ganson, Asa Nowlan, Harris Seymour, Henry
Howard, Joseph Sheffield, Moses Eoberts, HoUoway Hayward,
James Gillis, John Whitney, Burrage Smith, Simeon B. Jew-
ett, and Willard Eddy were indicted for a conspiracy to kidnap
"William Morgan and for carrying him away to parts imknown.
In March some disclosures implicated Richard Howard, alias
Chipperfield, a bookbinder at Buffalo, who had long been sus-
pected from his conversations and admissions of being connected
with the Morgan affair. The Batavia Committee, therefore,
sent a messenger to Buffalo to confer with Thomas C. Love
and others about the arrest of Howard. But before his arrest
was effected, he obtained information of the design and sud-
denly disappeared. Howard went to New York, representing
himself as a persecuted Mason, and received the sympathy and
protection of Masons who believed him innocent, by whom
money was raised to pay his expenses to Europe. Long after-
wards, Avery Allen made an affidavit, stating that when attend-
ing an encampment at St. John's HaU, in the city of New York,
to perfect himself in the higher orders of Masonry, he was in-
formed by another Templar that one Howard, an Englishman
from Buffalo, came to St. John's Hall in the winter of 1827,
confessed himself to have been one of the persons who executed
Morgan, and that he had with difficulty avoided an arrest ; and
that, after consultation in the hall, money was raised, and How-
ard sent to Europe. Allen's affidavit was corroborated by that
of a Mr. Mann, who swore that Howard had made substan-
tially the same admissions to him before leaving Buffalo. The
statements of Allen and Mann were vehemently denied and
denounced by the Masons generally and by the press of the^
city of New York. The fact of Howard's sudden and secret
escape from Buffalo, and his departure for Europe, were unde'
niable. Nothing was ever heard of or from him.


And now for two or three months, though the committees
were diligently at work, no further developments were made.
The warfare, however, grew more and more bitter and vindic-
tive, and had by this time assimied an aspect quite as hostile >
to the Masonic institution as to the individual Masons impli- '•■
eated in the alleged outrage. It raged also with painful vio-
lence in matters of religion. Churches were distracted. Mem-
bers of churches refused to listen to preachers who adhered to
Masonry. The churches most affected were of the Baptist,
Methodist, and Presbyterian faith. The crusade against Ma-
sonic clergymen brought troops of friends to their support and
out of the " infected district " weakened the Anti-Masonic cause.
Indeed, during the months of March, April, and May, in 1827,
there was a popular reaction, not so much in favor of Masonry
as against Anti-Masonry. Early in February Governor Clin-
ton wrote to Mr. Talbot, chairman of the Batavia Conuriittee,
inquiring if any further authentic information had been received
in relation to Morgan, and whether the executive could do any-
thing more for the discovery and punishment of the offender.
Mr. Talbot, in behalf of the committee, in reply transmitted
the depositions of Trumbull Cary, Timothy Fitch, and llimnan
Holden, testifying that discoveries had been made at Lewiston,
affording strong reason for believing that Mori,^an had been
put to death, and directly inculpatini; Bruee, sheriff of Niagara.
To this letter Governor Clinton replied on the 7th of March,
asking for a copy of the report of the Lewiston Convention as
soon as it was printed, adding, " As the next step on my part
may involve important consequences, I hope to have before me
all the light that can be fiu-nished." That letter was followed
by another, from which the following is a copy : —

Albany, March 11, 1827.

Sm, — In reviewing my letter to you of the Tlh of March, instant,
I think it proper to avoid all ambiguity by stating explicitly that im-
mediate measures ought to be adopted for proving and testing the
allegations contained in an affidavit respecting a person criminated at

In the affidavit of Messrs. Cary, Holden, and Fitch, it is stated
that the sheriff of Niagara County was concerned in the abduction of
Morgan. I wisli this charge to assume a specific shape, and to be
accompanied by all the evidence that can be produced, in order that
he may have a hearing, and, if guilty, be ejected from office.


I should be gratified in knowing whether any exposition of the
affair is to be made by the Lewiston Convention or any other body
of men. As most of the information is said to emanate from Dr.
T., it would be important to have his affidavit, and such testimony as
can be adduced to support his statement and character, both of which
have been seriously impeached.

I have only to add, that I am determined to use every means in
my power to develop all the mysterious proceedings connected with
the abduction of Morgan, and to bring the offenders to condign pun-
ishment. Sooner or later this wiU in all probability be accomplished ;
but the sooner it is done the better ; and I rely upon your continued
and faithful cooperation as good citizens and useful members of so-
ciety. I am, etc., DbWitt Clinton.

Theodobe F. Taibot, Esq.

On the ITtli of March GoYernor Clinton sent the following
message to the Assembly : —

Online LibraryThurlow WeedLife of Thurlow Weed including his autobiography and a memoir → online text (page 25 of 64)