William L. (William Leete) Stone.

Letters on masonry and anti-masonry, addressed to the Hon. John Quincy Adams online

. (page 11 of 49)
Online LibraryWilliam L. (William Leete) StoneLetters on masonry and anti-masonry, addressed to the Hon. John Quincy Adams → online text (page 11 of 49)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


corporation, in common with other trades in Scotland, for
the purpose of raising funds for the support of their poor,
sometime between the years 1520 and 1560. About the
year 1645, Wilham St. Clair, lord of Iloslin, was authori-
sed by the trade, to purchase and obtain from the king, " li-
" berty, freedom and jurisdiction over them, and their suc-
"cessors, in all times coming, as their patron and judge."
The grant was signed by William Shaw, master of the
work ; Thomas Wier, mason, of Edinburgh ; and Thomas
Robertson, warden of the lodge of Dumfermline and St.
Andrews, " with our hands laid on the pen, by the notary,
*' at our command, because we cannot write.'^ The masonic
courts continued to be held at Kilwinning under the direc-
tion of the vSinclairs of Roslin, until the year 1 736 — that is
to say, for the period of 1 06 years — during which time, as
Lawrie informs us. Masonry flourished, and many charters
and constitutions were granted. At the last mentioned pe-
riod, the earl of St. Clair resigned, and renounced his right
and title, by virtue of the grant of 1630, to the office of
" patron, protector, judge or master, of the Masons in Scot-
" land." A Grand Lodge w^as then organized, and the carl
was immediately chosen Grand Master. Speculative Ma-
sonry was then engrafted upon the order, and from that
period Freemasonry, as it is now universally understood, is
to be dated in Scotland. Kilwinning, however, continued
to grant charters, and gave the Grand Lodge some trouble,
as the York Masons did in the sister island.

But to return to England. At the moment of turning
my attention to the masonic history of Scotland, I had ar-
rived at a distinguishing landmark in its English history. I
refer to the memorable year of 1717, and the celebrated
meeting at the appletree tavern, of which so much has been
said by the Anti-masonic writers.

In the rapid glance I have taken of its antecedent his-
tory, I have aimed at touching only a few of its most pro**


mineiit features, — purposely omitting all unnecessary de-
tails respecting the names of the kings, and prelates, and
nobles, and eminent artists, who are claimed to have been
its patrons and Grand Masters, as well as of the diflerent
eras during which the society was in prosperous or adverse
circumstances. It is of little importance to the subject of
the present inquiry, whether the society was depressed
during the wars of the roses, or whether, after a long and
lingering existence, it rose with the accession of the House
of Brunswick. Suffice it to say, that, whatever were the
vicissitudes it experienced, or whoever were its officers and
patrons, the Masonry of that period was a very different
affair from what it is now ; for it was only in this same year
of 1717, that it received its existing " form and pressure."
After its renovation in the reign of Anne, the society had
again declined, until there were but four lodges existing, in
which the ancient symbols and usages were preserved. A
meeting of members v/as held at the appletree tavern, in
London, at which it was resolved to change the essential
characteristics of the society, by relinquishing it as a school
of architecture, and moulding it into an association of
brotherly love and truth. The constitutions were remo-
delled in 1721, upon the basis of that of York ; and in 1723,
its charitable character was imparted to it by the Duke of
Buccleugh, who first suggested the raising of funds for the
relief of distressed Masons. It is not contended, however,
that at the before mentioned meeting of the four lodges, in
London, in 1717, to resuscitate and reorganize the order, it
at once assumed the form in which it has since been hand-
ed down. Its rites, and its mysteries, its ceremonies, and
its legends, had been gradually accumulating. But the ac-
count which, in his candor, Lawrence Dermott, secretary
of the London Grand Lodge, and author of the original
Ahiman Rezon, gives of the resuscitation, shows that there


was a necessity for it, to keep the order Iroiii speedy extinc-
tion. He states, that, at the time mentioned, 1717, some
jolly companions of the fellow craft, met together, and re-
solved to form a lodge for themselves, endeavoring to recol-
lect, by conversation with each other, what jiSid formerly
been dictated to them, and •when they could not recollect,
they substituted something of their own, for the forgotten
matter. There was not one among them who could remem-
ber or perform the master's part, and they created it anew.
Some of the brethren objected to the continuance of the
aprons ; but the older members insisted that they should be
retained, since they were about the only signs of Masonry
then remaining among them. Such, says Dermott, was the
beginning of modern Masonry.

The earliest masonic procession took place in London, at
the installation of the Duke of Richmond as Grand Master,
June 24, 1724. They were now called " Free and Accept-
" ed Masons." \¥hy they were called free, we have seen,
in the freedom, compared with other trades, which the ear-
lier members of the craft enjoyed by virtue of indulgences
from the popes, and privileges granted them by the kings.
They were called accepted Masons, because, though not Ma-
sons in fact, they were, nevertheless, accepted as such.
The boasted mysteries of the order, originally meant no more
than the mysteries of any other trade. The " art and mys-
" tcry" of every trade, was a customary form of expression,
and is yet preserved in the indentures of apprentices to
every species of handicraft workmanship.

From this period, the institution has spread itself rapidly
over every part of the world where the English have form-
ed iutercourse. Into the United States, then the British
colonies, it was readily transplanted, as well as into the con-
tiguous nations of Europe, although the Roman CathoHc
See, and the absolute monarchs of Spain and Russia, have


ever been strongly averse to it, and have made frequent ef-
forts for its extirpation. Travelling lodges have often
accompanied the British and French armies, and were fre-
quently held in the American army of the revolution. Some
of the chiefs of the- North American Indians, were created
Masons by the English ; and the British residents at Cairo,
as I have recently been informed by a valued friend, who
has a personal knowledge of the fact, have imparted their
masonic wisdom to the Sheiks and principal Arabs. Into
India, the order was introduced as early as 1770. In 1779,
Omrah Bahauder, the eldest son of a distinguished nabob,
was made a Mason in the lodge of Trinchinopoly. The
news havinn^ been transmitted to the Grand Lodffe in En<?-
land, officially, a letter of congratulation was sent to him,
by a noble hand. It was answered by a letter written by
the young nabob, upon vellum, in the Persian character, und
enveloped in gold cloth. This letter has been framed and
hung up among the decorations of the lodge. But the
more the order has been extended, the less intimate has
become the connexion of the lodges ; secessions have
taken place ; new systems have been established ; rivalry
has often occurred ; to the first three degrees of apprentice,
companion, and master, additional ones have been added ;
until, in fact, it would be a difficult matter to give a general
character of Masons, in various states and countries ; — so
numerous are their lodges ; so dissimilar their degrees, and
so various their characters.

There can be no necessity, however, for continuing these
historical sketches, in their particular incidents, through the
last fifty years ; during which period, English Masonry has
in all places where it existed, been much the same. Allow
jne, therefore, to draw this branch of my subject to a close.
I have the honor, sir, to remain,

Very respectfully, yours, (fee.

116 LETTER y.


New- York, Jan. 20, 1832.

Freemasonry has enough to answer for, without being
in anywise burdened with false accusations, the offspHng of
ignorance, or prejudice ; or of wilful calumny. I must
therefore crave your indulgence, sir, for a short time, before
closing this first branch of these investigations, while I re-
pel one of the most serious charges that have been prefer-
red against it. I mean that of christian infidelity. This is
an accusation I have often heard made, as well before, as
since, the fatal occurrence which has caused the particular
excitement against the masonic order. And when combat-
ting the calumny, as I have frequently done, it has often
been gravely asserted, by intelligent men, and even by learn-
ed divines, that all its emblems had been artfully devised,
by wicked men, in forms leaving them susceptible, at one
and the same time, of double significations ; and all its lan-
guage, in the same manner, by some hidden cabalistic ar-
rangement, made to bear a double interpretation ; — so that,
while in the apprehension of virtuous men, the apparent ex-
planations and readings, inculcated principles of the strict-
est morahty, and the most beautiful precepts of charity, in
their true meaning, they were, in reality, nothing less than
the darkest and most impious lessons of infidelity. But,
notwithstanding the fact, that many disbelievers in the doc-
trines of the christian religion, have unfortunately been
admitted as members ; notwithstanding the laxity of morals
on the part of others ; and notwithstanding, also, the objec-
tionable forms of the obligations, the charge is unqualified-


ly, and in all respects, untrue. Indeed, so utterly unfounded
is the accusation, and so directly to the contrary is the fact,
with respect to every degree with which I am acquainted,
that I cannot but flatter myself its falsity has been rendered
evident in the course of the preceding expositions, — none of
which, by the way, have hitherto been written with imme-
diate reference to this point of the discussion. The idea of
the double readings, and the double and directly opposite
interpretations of the emblems and symbols used in the work-
ing of the lodges, is too preposterous to require a grave
refutation. And if I had not actually heard the objection
seriously made, and its truth as seriously contended for, by
reverend divines of no ordinary reputation, I should have
supposed it must require an Uncommon degree of credulity
in any one, to believe even in the existence of such an opin-
ion. The thing is in itself impossible.

Nor do I apprehend it will appear very probable, in the
eyes of most men, that in the very first step of an infidel in-
stitution, the initiate would be presented with the bible, as
translated " by order of the most high and mighty prince
" James," with a pledge that he receives it as the " rule and
" guide of his faith and practice." The bible is accompanied
by the square and compasses, and the charge is in the fol-
lowing words : — " The Holy Writings, that great light in
^' Masonry, will guide you to all truth ; it will direct your
*' path to the temple of happiness, and point out to you the
" whole duty of man. The square teaches us to regulate
" our actions by rule and line, and to harmonize our conduct
" by the principles of morality and virtue. The compasses
" teach us, properly, to circumscribe our views and desires
" in every station ; that rising thus to eminence by merit,
" we may live respected, and die regretted." Really, sir, it
strikes me, that it would be a most extraordinary procedure,
for a club of infidels, to attempt building up and sustaining
a perpetual association of infidel men, upon such a founda-


tion. The Bible ! — the book of books, — the Hvely oracles
of the Most High, — the revelation of his will to man, — the
humble christian's richest treasure, — containing, as it does,
those divine rules of conduct, and those precious promises,
on which alone he builds his hopes of a blessed immortality,
in a world of light, and life, and glory: — The Bible ! — the ob-
ject of the infidel's scorn and dread, — containing as it does,
the awful threatenings of God's vengeance upon the evil-
doers : — surely it will not be contended that such a book
has been selected as the basis of a society of unbelievers !
Had it, on the contrary, been " The Age of Reason^^ which
the speculative Mason received as the ground-work of his
religion, and the basis of his morals ; and had the blasphe-
mies of Voltaire and Lalande been prescribed as their text-
books, instead of the moral lessons and allegories of which
I have spoken in the preceding letters, the case would have
been far different — but scarcely worse than it has been re-

Again : not only has the institution been charged with
infidelity in general, — that is, with a universal disbelief in
things holy and sacred, — but the specific charge of Deism,
and a disbelief in the divine mission of the Saviour of Men,
has been predicated of the order, by those, who, probably,
would not be quite so uncharitable as to accuse it of down-
right Atheism. But, here again, I stand ready to meet our
accusers at the threshhold, and plead the general issue.' I
have already, in the exposition of the Templar's degree,
shown that in the orders of knighthood, a belief in the Sa-
viour, is an essential pre-requisite ; and, consequently, that
neither Jew, Turk, nor infidel, can become participators in
those degrees.

It is true, however, that from the circumstance that what
is called ancient Masonry, is derived from traditions and
historical incidents, supposed to be connected with the old
testament dispensation, the belief in the identity of God the


Father and the Son, is not specifically required ; yet the
symbols and emblems of every degree, from the first to the
seventh inclusive, point to, and distinctly indicate, a belief
in the doctrine of the Trinity. Among these emblems, in
the very first degree, is the blazing star, in commemoration
of the STAR IN THE EAST, which appeared to guide the wise
men to the place of the nativity of the Messiah. In former
times, lodges and chapters were dedicated to king Solomon ;
but latterly, they have been dedicated, either to John the
Baptist, or the Evangelist, " because they were christians^*
And although in the general lectures upon the lower orders,
it has been usual to charge the initiates, as they proceeded
from step to step, to adhere to those essentials of religion
in which all men agree — leaving each individual to exercise
his own private judgment as to creeds and forms, — yet it
is expressly enjoined in the lecture on the " temper and
" qualities requisite in those who would be Freemasons,"
that they " cannot tread in the irreligious paths of the un-
** happy LIBERTINE, the deist, or the stupid atheist." Nor
is this all : in the first prayer of the first degree, the aid of
the Almighty is invoked, that the candidate " may devote
" his life to his service," that he may be the better " ena-
" bled to display the beauties of virtuousness to the honor of
*' THY holy name." Another prayer for the same degree,
has the following passages : — " Most holy and glorious God !
** the great architect of the universe ; the giver of all good
*' gifts and graces ; thou hast promised that ' where two or
** * three are gathered together in thy name, thou wilt be in
" ' the midst of them and bless them.' " And " we beseech
" thee, O Lord God, to illumine our minds through the in-
" fiuence of the sun of righteousness, that we may walk
*< in the light of thy countenance," &c. One of the prayers
for the opening of the Royal Arch degree, concludes in

* Vide Ahiman Rezon^ New-York ed., 1 804.



these words : — " This we most humbly beg, in the Namb


" viouR." In another place, the Saviour is recognized in
the significant title apph'ed to him by the prophet Daniel —
" The Ancient of Days."* In short, sir, I might multiply
proofs and authorities, of the same description, to an inde-
finite extent. But I imagine that enough has been said upon
this point. If the facts here stated, do not amply vindicate
the order from the accusations to which I have adverted, I
must confess my lack of knowledge as to what would be
considered competent testimony, and my want of ability to
execute the task. But in any event, however much the in-
stitution may have been corrupted by bad, or misunder-
stood or misused by ignorant men, I trust I have succeeded
in showing, that good and pious men may very well have
joined the order, and retained their standing as members,
during their whole lives, without compromising their reli-
gious faith and principles, " though founded upon the pro-
" phets and apostles, Jesus Christ himself being the chief
" corner stone." I know that many such have been its mem-
bers, and that many such even yet continue attached to the
order, though I hope they will shortly be persuaded to re-
linquish it. They have been instructed " to practice out of
" the lodge, those duties which they have been taught within
'' it ;" they have labored by their amiable, discreet, and vir-
tuous conduct, to convince others of the goodness of the
institution — believing it to be one in which the burthcned
heart might pour out its sorrow^ to their brethren ; to
which distress might prefer its suit ; whose hands were

* And yet the Rev. Joel Parker, late of Rochester, and now of the city of
New- York, has certified in a letter, and stated from the pulpit, in a sermon
which has been printed, that "therehgions worship of masonry is pmcly
*' theistical." " Freemasonry," he says, "makes many prayers, but they are
" prayers offered up without the acknowledgment of a Saviour." The rev-
erend gentleman could never have attended properly instructed masonic bo-
dies, or his memory has been treacherous ; or, he could never have investi-
gated the subject.


^guided by justice, and the hearts of whose members were
expanding with benevolence. These, having received the
holy scriptures as " the rule and guide of their faith and
" practice," have endeavored to acquit themselves with re-
putation and honor, and sought to lay up for themselves a
crown of rejoicing which would endure when time shall be
no more.* To these individuals, of pure and honest mo-
tives, — of worthy and honorable conduct, — whose charity
" white as the angel's wing," thinketh no evil, — it may seem
marvellous that I add my conviction, that, notwithstanding
all which can be said in favor of the order, by the most un-
prejudiced and impartial men ; — that, although I do not
believe the principles of the institution to be of themselves
immoral or irreligious ; — that, although I do not believe it
was ever contemplated that the laws and obligations of Ma-
sonry should come into collision with the laws of the land ; — •
that, although I do not believe the great body of the Free-
masons of our country, had any previous knowledge of, or
participation in, the great masonic crime of the west ;- — and
thar, although I do not believe that the Morgan conspirators
have any of them been tried or punished for deeds which
they were compelled by the terms or tenor of the laws of
Masonry to commit ; — yet, I say, notwithstanding all these
considerations, and maugre all that can be said in its favor,
I am fully persuaded, after much examination and reflec-
tion, that, upon its own merits, and independently altogether
of the events that have transpired since the summer of 1826,


TO BE RELINQUISHED. To tliis couclusiou I havc arrived
from the following considerations, among a variety of oth-
ers that might be enumerated, viz : —

I. The main superstructure, in its history and traditions,
and its pretensions, (in its present organization,) to antiquity,

♦ Vide charge to the master, at the installation of a lodge,


122^ LETTER X.

is founded, to a very considerable degi'ee, in fraud and im-
posture : —

II. Its rites and ceremonies are puerile and frivolous, —
altogether beneath the dignity, and unw^orthy of the atten-
tion, of enhghtened and educated men : it is vastly behind
the age : —

III. From its inutility : At the present period, when know-
ledge and civilization have taught the nerves to vibrate to
the touch of sympathy, and when the diffusion of Christiani-
ty has so widely cultivated the graces of philanthropy and
benevolence, men do not require an accumulation of barba-
rously-constructed oaths, to compel them to practise the
social duties, and the moral and charitable virtues : —

IV. From its inutility in another respect : In an age and
country like this, where the freedom of speech is uncheck-
ed ; where opinion is as free as the air we breathe, and
where all are dwelling in the broad blaze of religious light,
symbolic representations, and allegorical emblems, can be
of little use in imparting ethical instruction, or the science
of theology, to adults, of either sex : —

V. Its legality may well be questioned : All extra-judicial
oaths are uncalled for, and improper, if not contrary to the
spirit of the civil law^s. The divine command is — " swear
NOT AT all" :

VI. Attendance upon its calls and its duties, occasions a
great waste of time. JNo instruction is given in the lodge-
room, now-a-days, whatever may have been the fact in times
past, either in literature ; or in the arts ; or in the exact sci-
ences. The frequent meetings of lodges, w^hich are general-
ly connected with public houses, is very liable, moreover^
to beget idleness and dissipation, especially among the
weaker brethren : —

VII. There is a growing jealousy among the people, of
secret societies, their character and influence ; and there


have been more reasons than one, to warrant that jea-
lousy : — :

VIII. If the institution has been abused, — if evils have
resuhed from it, — the same abuses, and the Hke evils, may
proceed from it again.

These reasons, to my mind, are abundantly sufficient to
sustain my proposition : but, if there be any vi^ho think
otherwise, there are other reasons at hand, of infinitely
higher moment, not only rendering such a measure proper
in itself, but demanding the dissolution of the institution
in a voice potent as thunder. This fact, as I trust, will
be made most satisfactorily to appear, in the history that is
to follow.

With respectful consideration, I am, te.


New- York, Jan. 25, 1832.

In the pleasant and flourishing village of Batavia, the
shire town of Genesee county, in this state, resided, in the
years 1825-26, a man by the name of WILLIAM MOR-
GAN. Perhaps it would be more proper to speak of
him as " a sojourner" in Batavia, " and the region round
-*' about," rather than as a permanent resident. As this Wil-
liam Morgan was the victim of the dark tragedy which is
to form tiie subject of the following narrative, and is cer-
tainly destined to live in history, for a length of time little
anticipated by those who most foully made way with him,
some preliminary account of his life and character may nat-
urally be expected. I have exerted myself not a little to
procure information upon both points. Of the former, how-
ever, little can be ascertained. Respecting the latter, more


can be said than will do good to his memory. But I shall
" drag his frailties from their dread abode," no farther than is
necessary to the just and impartial accompHshment of the
present history.

Morgan's last place of residence, previously to his ap-
pearance in Genesee county — for it was in Le Roy, a vil-
lage some twelve or fifteen miles distant from Batavia, that
he first made a halt — was Rochester. He was a native of
Culpepper county, Va., where he was born in 1775 or 1776.
Of his life, down to the time of his appearance in Roches-
ter, as I have already intimated, but little is known. Ma-
ny stories have been put into circulation respecting him, as
'well by those who have thought it expedient to apotheosize
him for the advancement of their political purposes, as by
those other individuals, who may have supposed that his
blood would leave a lighter stain in their skirts, if they
could induce the public to believe him to havd been unwor-
thy of the life that was taken away by treachery and vio-
lence. Thus, on the one hand, he has been extolled as a

Online LibraryWilliam L. (William Leete) StoneLetters on masonry and anti-masonry, addressed to the Hon. John Quincy Adams → online text (page 11 of 49)