William L. (William Leete) Stone.

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

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Online LibraryWilliam L. (William Leete) StoneLetters on masonry and anti-masonry, addressed to the Hon. John Quincy Adams → online text (page 13 of 49)
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Rochester. On his arrival in Batavia, Johns put up at a hotel.
Being a man of plausible address, and great cunning, he suc-
ceeded in ingratiating himself into Miller's confidence, and
having plenty of money to advance in the enterprise, he

LETTER Xll. 137

was received as a partner, and into full confidence. Gan-
son seems to have been the employer and instigator of
Johns. But his success in destroying the papers, does not
appear to have been complete ; although during their ope-
rations, Ganson boasted that he had spirited av^^ay a part of
the copy, and left the work in such a condition that Miller
could not proceed with it.

Morgan, with his family, was boarding at this time, in the
compact part of the village of Batavia ; but for the double
purpose of security and retirement, while engaged in com-
posing his book, he occupied an upper room by himself, in the
house of a Mr. David, in a distant and less public part of
the town. On the 18th of August, while engaged in his
place of retirement, three persons, named Johnson Good-
will, Kelsey Stone, and John Wilson, residents of the vil-
lage, but holding no official situations, in company with the
constable of the town of Pembroke, fourteen miles distant,
named Daniel H. Dana, came to the house of David, for
whom they at Mrst inquired ; but no sooner had they enter-
ed upon the premises, than they rushed up into Morgan's
apartment, where he was then engaged in writing, and
seized upon his person by virtue of an execution, together
with all the papers there to be found. Morgan was instant-
ly hurried oif to prison, without being allowed a moment's
time to procure bail for the liberties ; — the sheriff, who had
been observed hovering near at the time of the arrest, join-
ing the party, and vv^alking with tiiem to the prison. This
was of a Saturday afteraoon ; and as a matter of course,
unless Morgan should procure bail before the commence-
ment of vSunday, he would be compelled to remain in close
confinement, until Monday. No sooner, however, liad the
prisoner's ftiends heard of his arrest, than they came for-
ward to procure his enlargement by bailing him out. But
from the moment the key was turned, until after 12 o'clock

at niQ:ht, Vv^hea it had become too late to transact secuistv



business, neither the sheriii'nor the jailor could be found,
although every possible exertion was made for that purpose.
In the absence of both these officers, there was of course no
one present who could let the olTending debtor to bail. Ear-
ly in the evening of the same day, Goodwill, and the con-
stable Dana, together with Mr. Thomas M'CuUy, the credi-
tor at whose suit Morgan was now in prison, proceeded to
the boarding house of the latter, and entered the apartment
of Mrs. Morgan, which was in the second story, and de-
manded if there w^ere any property to satisfy the execution.
Mrs. M. protested that they had nothing. The creditor
then went below ; but the officer, with Goodwill, pretending
not to be satisfied, commenced a general search, tumbling
over trunks and boxes, and examining whatever papers and
letters came in their way. Finding one small trunk con-
taining a few papers, they seized upon and carried it off, —
assuring Mrs. M. that should they find any papers therein
of consequence to her husband, they would be returned.
While, however, these people were thus employed above
stairs, a confession escaped the hps of the creditor below.,
which at once establishes the foul nature of this whole trans-
action, — proving it, beyond question, to have been the com-
mencement of that series of abuses of the civil law, which
have since so repeatedly occurred, in connexion, more or
less direct, with this subject. M'Cully then and there ad-
mitted, to a young woman in the house, that, although he
should like well enough to find property sufficient to satisfy
his debt ; yet, " he cared not so much about that, as he did
" to get some papers belonging to Morgan." On finding-
one of the trunks locked, and being told the name of the
owner, he said " he did not wish that to be examined, as the
" owner was a Royal Arch Mason."

It is scarcely necessary to comment on the total illegality
of this latter transaction. Having the. body of the debtor in
custody on final process, the debt was satisfied in the eye of


the law ; and the vdiole proceeding, as related to the seizure
of the property, was a flagrant trespass, for which all the
parties concerned were liable to prosecution, and the con-
stable to punishment. But it must be admitted here, that
it was all worse than a trespass from the beginning,

Morgan remained in prison, of necessity, until Monday,
when he was admitted to bail. During Sunday, he was
visited by many of the Masons who were interesting them-
selves to induce him to relinquish the publication of their
mysteries. But no particulars of their conferences, so far
as 1 am informed, have transpired. There can be little
doubt, however, that the sole and entire object of this whole
proceeding, was to coerce their prisoner into a sm-render
of his all-important manuscripts. It was for this purpose,
and none other, that the execution had been issued ; that it
had been thus indecently served ; that the sheriff, and his
jailor, and the deputy, had disappeared, and remained in
concealment, until it became too late for Morgan to avail
himself, until another week, of the humane provision which
even a barbarous law has made for the comfort of those
who might otherwise remain forever immured within bolts
and bars, for the crime of indebtedness. In one .word, it
was a shameful prostitution of the forms of law, for the at-
tainment of a private purpose, w^hich, if forcibly accom-
plished, would also have been illegal. Failing in the first
object of their visit at Morgan's private roona, and also in
their search of his wife's apartment, time was wanting to
efiect their purpose in some other way. His confinement
in prison, might, peradventure, operate upon his fears. The
soft arts of persuasion, under such circumstances, might be
used with better effect. Or, if necessary, the harsher means
of intimidation might be resorted to, when the victim was
thus completely within their power. But neither threats
nor entreaties were found availing.

Accept, six, tlie assurances of my high regard.



New- York, Feb. 1, 1832.

During the fifteen or twenty days immediately suc-
ceeding the occurrences mentioned in my last letter, the ex-
citement continued rapidly to increase ; and the number of
strangers suddenly appearing and disappearing, at Batavia,
without apparently having any particular business in the
village, awakened unpleasant suspicions. Some further
publications were made in the newspapers, and among them
was an essay, on the 1st of September, intended, probably,
to allay the fever, by inducing the Masons to believe that there
was not the slightest danger of their favorite though unsubstan-
tial edifice being overturned — declaring that it had outlived
Thebes and Palmyra, Troy and Babylon, — and that neither
" the thunders of royal indignation," nor " the lightnings of
"popular fury," nor "ihe malice or treachery of man," could
shake its time-honored walls, which, sustained by " wisdom,
" strength and beauty," would stand until the last day of
doom, — or rather, to continue my quotation from the essay
itself, — despite of ail these, " it would endure till the last
" syllable of recorded time."* But it was all to no purpose.
It became daily more manifest that there was a growing
determination to suppress the intended publication, at any

* Brown's history of the excitement. Surely, in tlie essay to which I
have referred, the author could not have been any farther serious, than
in bis design to pacify his weaker brethren. If he really believed, him-
self^ what, lie said, the delusion must have left him before now. The
" ifisf/om" of the order, he mentions as one of its pillars. This is mii-
Bonic, I know. But it reminds me of a remark made by Gen. Lafayette, at
the time the Masons were pulling the good old General about in this city,
striving among each other for the honor of giving him some of the hiirher, de-
grees. "To-morrow," said he, *T am to visit the schools; I am to dine
with the mayor; and in the evening I suppose I am to be made very wise by
the Freemasons !" I never shall forget the arch look with which he uttered
the irony.


and every hazard. And it has been asserted that even thus
early, " the intenseness of their anxiety betrayed the par-
^' ties, in very many instances, into an avowal of intentions
" and feeUngs, showing how httle they were disposed to re-
"gard the laws of the land, and the lives of their fellow
*' citizens, if the violation of the first, and the destruction of
" the second, should become necessary to efi'ect that ob-

The next measure resolved on for accomplishing the de-
struction of the manuscripts, was a night attack upon the
printing office of Miller, in the hope of seizing either the
copy, or, if printed, the sheets of the work, or both. In-
deed they had reason to suppose, from certain information,
that portions of the work were printed, and nearly ready
for distribution ; another portion was also said to be in type»
and nearly ready for the press. For the execution of this en-
terprise, forces to the number of between forty and fifty
men, were collected from the ranks of the faithful in the
surrounding country, — for the excitement among the craft
had now become very extensive, — and a rendezvous estab-
lished at the public house kept by James Ganson, at the
village of Stafford, six miles distant from Batavia, to which
place he had removed from Le Roy. It has been given in
evidence that some of the persons collected for the execu-
tion of this branch of the conspiracy, came from a long dis-
tance — several even from Upper Canada. A number went
upon this expedition from Buffalo, and twenty-five were
expected from Fort George. Supper had been bespoken
at Ganson's for this company, for the night of the 8th of
September, — a.t wJiich time and place they assembled, and
at a late hour of the night, proceeded on the expedition,
under the conduct of Col. Edward Sawyer, a high Mason,
of Canandaigua. Before the conspirators had arrived at

-* Pccportof the Lcwiston committee.


the printing office, however, they were informed that, by
some means. Miller had been apprised of their intended at-
tack upon his castle, and had consequently made prepara-
tions for defending it. He had indeed collected some fire-
arms for the occasion ; and so w^ell satisfied were the inva-
ders of the fact, and so little disposed were they to jeopard
their own lives or limbs withal, even in the cause of Free-
masonry, that the assault was relinquished, and the forces,
in the gray of the morning, dispersed. Some of the party
returned back to the place of their evening's rendezvous,
where Col. Saw^yer was bitterly reproached for the coward-
ice which had resulted in the entire failure of such a formi-
dable expedition. One of the causes assigned for the dis-
persion, was the arrival of the western stage, before they
had concluded upon their measures, thereby rendering dis-
covery more likely, before they could proceed to the work ; —
but it was unquestionably the villainous smell of saltpetre,
which caused them to hesitate, and ultimately to disband
themselves, — each one taking the best care of himself that
he could.

But the design upon the printing office was not yet aban-
doned, and a yet more atrocious crime was attempted
within two days afterwards. It is only by degrees that
men become criminal. And how often would the lesser
crime go uncommitted, could he who contemplates it, fore-
see the deep abyss of guilt into which, possibly, this very
first transgression will ultimately hurry him. So in the
present instance : some of those who had intended no more
than a forcible entry, and a robbery of a few sheets of man-
uscripts, foiled in that enterprise, now resolved upon the
capital offence of arson, and all its direful consequences.
On the night of Sunday, the 10th of September, the people
of Batavia w^ere startled from their slumbers, by the appal-
ling, cry of fire. The flames were bursting from the stair-
way of the printing oflice of Col. Miller, but had been so

LETTER Xlir. 14S

early discovered, and assistance was so promptly rendered,
that they were soon got under, without occasioning any con-
siderable damage. Miller's offices were in the upper sto-
ries of two wooden buildings, with a stair-way between
them ; and the lower stories of both, were occupied, to the
number of sixteen persons, — so that the lives of all these
people were jeoparded by this diabolical act ; while, more-
over, had the expectations of the incendiaries been realized,
a large portion of the village would probably have been in-
volved in the common ruin. Indeed the calamity was
averted only by a signal interposition of Providence. It
appears that a number of teamsters had arrived in the vil-
lage on the evening of this memorable night, and stopped at
a public house nearly opposite the printing offices. Howev-
er, unable, all of them, to procure lodgings in the tavern, and
the weather being mild and pleasant, some of them took up
their residence, for the night, in the body of a covered stage
coach, standing in the street near to the offices. The flames
were therefore discovered the moment they burst forth. A
number of barrels of water, caught from the eves of the
house during a recent shower, were likewise standing in
providential readiness for the occasion, and the catastrophe
was thus averted. Although the materials for kindling a
fire were found on the spot, such as cotton balls saturated
with turpentine, and other combustibles, which had been
thrown under the stairs, while the sides of the buildings had
been smeared Vi^ith the same hquid, in order to ensure their
more rapid destruction, — a dark-lanthern being also found
in the street a few yards off; — yet, from the expedition
w^ith which the flames were extinguished, there were not
wanting those who insinuated that the torch had been ap-
plied by Miller's own hand, in order to increase the cry of
persecution, and excite the sympathy of the public in his
favor. The cruel device was effectual for many months ;
and the im nression that such was probably the fact, was not

144 LETTER Xiil.

removed from my own mind, until the spring of the ensuing
year. All this, however, in due season. Suffice it for the
present to say, that the evidence, in the end, was most
abundant, that the dark deed was attempted by at least one
of the ringleaders of the fruitless expedition of the prece-
ding Friday night.

It was on the morning of this same Sunday, the 10th of
September, that Mr. Nicholas G. Cheseboro, one of the
coroners of the county of Ontario, and master of the lodge
in Canandaigua, applied to Jeflrey Chipman, Esq., of the
same village, for a warrant for the apprehension of William
Morgan, on a charge of petit larceny. It appears that dur-
ing the m.onth of May preceding, when on a visit to Canan-
daigua, Morgan had borrowed a shirt and cravat of a man
named Kingsley, the tavern-keeper with whom he lodged,
which articles lie had not returned. Such was the nature
of the larceny charged, and tiie necessity of the case which
demanded the issuing of a peace-warrant on the christian
Sabbath ! It is but justice to Kingsley, however, to say,
that he had never an intention of entering any complaint
in this matter, until prompted thereto by Cheseboro. But
be that as it may, the warrant was granted, and directed to
Cheseboro, as Coroner, who, taking with him a constable
named Halloway Hayward, and four other persons, viz :
Henry Howard, Harris Seymour, JMoscs Roberts, and Jo-
seph Scofield, immediately proceeded for Batavia, in an
extra coach, engaged expressly for that purpose. The par-
ty was recruited, from time to time, on the way, it being
joined by Asa Nowlan, an inn-keeper, at Avon ; by John.
Butter field, merchant, of Caledonia, and at Lc Roy b}-
Ella G. Smith. At this latter place, the warrant v/as en-
dorsed by a justice of the peace, of Genesee — a cere-
mony necessary to give it force and virtue in that county^
The party proceeded thence to the late rendezvous at Gan-
son's, in StafF:>rd. where they supped ; and it is in evidence

LETTER XllI* 145

'that all the party seemed well aware, that the object of this
journey was the arrest of Morgan. While at Ganson's, the
party of Cheseboro were introduced to a Dr. Samuel S But-
ler, of that place, who was dispatched in advance, to Bata-
via, with a message to Wilham Seaver, master of Batavia
lodge, and to Nathan Follett, who has formerly been men-
tioned. Leaving Stafford, with Ganson as an addition to
the company, they proceeded forward towards Batavia,
but when within one mile and an half of the village, they
were met by Dr. Butler, with a message from Follett that
they should not come on — (in so large a party, probably
meaning,) — lest their appearance in Batavia should cause a
fresh alarm. After a short consultation, the party now se-
parated ; several of the persons, and among them Chese-
boro and Hayward, the constable, proceeded to Batavia,
on foot, while others returned with the carriage.

Early on the following morning, (the 11th,) Morgan was
arrested by Hayward, and brought to a tavern kept by Mr.
Danolds — Morgan making no objections to going along
with him., and breakfasting with the officer and his asso-
ciates. An extra coach was again engaged for the return ;
but while preparations were making for their departure,
Colonel Miller appeared, and objected to Morgan's being
taken away, on the ground that he was then on the limits,
and, .of course, in the custody of the sheriff of Genesee :
Miller, being his bail, feared that should he be carried be-
yond the prison limits, he (Miller) would then become re-
sponsible for the debt and costs. In answer to this objec-
tion, it was maintained, that, inasmuch as the warrant wag
issued in the name of the people, for a criminal offence, the
officers had a right to hold his person, and take him to Ca-
nandaigua. Morgan made no objections himself, and volun-
tarily entered the carriage, according to the account of
Brown ; but the narrative of the Lewiston committee,
which appears to have been drawn up with great Gaution,



conveys a difierent impression. Miller, it says, was rudely
pushed aside by Danolds, the inn-keeper, who closed the
door, while Cheseboro, mounting upon the outside, direc-
ted the coachman to drive fast, until they should cross
the line of the county. The coachman, it appears, was
suspicious that all was not right ; and being reluctant to
proceed, was persuaded by Cheseboro to keep on to Staf-
ford, on the assurance that Ganson would then become se-
curity against all responsibility — and this responsibility
was assumed by Ganson. At Le Roy, Morgan was told
by Hayward, that if he chose, he might go before the ma-
gistrate who had endorsed the warrant, and be discharged,
on giving bail for his appearance to answer to the charge,
at the next term of the General Sessions of the Peace for
Ontario. It may have been that Morgan, being thus aw^ay
from home, felt that it would be difficult for him to procure
bail, should he make the exertion ; — but he said he preferred
going on to Canandaigua, where, as he believed, he could
soon satisfy Kingsley, that, although he liad not returned
the trifle of clothing, yet he had no intention of stealing it.
The distance between Canandaigua and Batavia, is fifty
miles ; and the party having Morgan in custody, arrived on
their return, at about sun-set. The prisoner was inuiie-
diately taken before Justice Chipman, and examined upon
the charge preferred against him, but which soon fellto the
ground. It appeared that he had merely borrowed the shirt
and cravat of Kingsley, and of course there was nothing felo-
nious in the transaction. On being discharged from this pro-
secution, however, in which a Mason, by the name of Loton
Lawson, appeared on his behalf, he was immediately arrest-
ed by Cheseboro for a small debt of two dollars, due to one
Aaron Ackley, another tavern-keeper in Canandaigua, and
for the collection of which Cheseboro produced a power of
attorney. Morgan admitted this debt ; judgment was taken
by confession ; and an execution was sued out on the spot.


Having no money to satisfy it, he pulled off his coat, and
made a tender of that ; — but the officer refused to take it,
and the unhappy man was forthwith taken to prison, and
locked up at about 10 o'clock in the evening. It was on the
morning of that day, that the sun last dawned upon his
freedom. ' •

Frequent and labored attempts have been made to create
an impression, that the proceedings respecting Morgan last
narrated, were had in due course of law. But the trans-
action itself, and all the circumstances attending it, are too
transparent not to be seen through at a glance. If the pro-
secution for the larceny was instituted for an honest pur-
pose, to vindicate the offended law, and bring an offender to
justice, why was the business not taken in hand sooner?
Why was the matter of the shirt and cravat suffered to lie
along from May till September ? And why did not Kings-
ley take the affair in hand of his own motion himself ? Why
was Cheseboro so deeply interested in the matter, and
whence the necessity of taking along so large a quota of
the posse of Ontario, for the security of a poor man, who
seems certainly to have been rather a submissive and quiet
citizen ? How happened it, also, that these men were so
ready to halt at Ganson's on the way ? What meant the
mission of Dr. Butler — his errand back, and the disper-
sion ? How, moreover, are we to account for the manner
of Cheseboro, on leaving Batavia with Morgan ? And how
happened his ready preparation for the second suit, for the
paltry debt of Ackley's, and the indecent haste with which
Morgan was hurried ofi' to the gloomy prison-house, if this
matter was nothing more than a fair and proper legal pro-
cedure ? The fact is not so : for notwithstanding the subse-
quent trial and acquittal of Howard, Seymour, Roberts,
Scofield, and others who accompanied Hayward and Chese-
boro to Batavia on that occasion, on an indictment as par-
ticipants in the conspiracy, there is yet testimony of a di-


rect and conclusive character, showing that this transaction
was most foul ; — that it was, in fact, another prostitution of
justice, and a solemn mockery of the laws of the land.

The unexpected arrest of Morgan, so early on the morn-
ing of the 11th, and the suddenness of his departure in the
custody of the officers from the village, had left his wdfe
ignorant either of the cause of his absence, or the direction
in which he had gone. Becoming uneasy at his continued
absence, on the forenoon of the 12th, Mrs. Morgan sent for
Mr. William R. Thomson, the sheriff, to procure tidings, if
possible, upon both points. Mr. Thompson gave her the
particulars of the arrest, and the charge against him, — add-
ing, that he presumed the allegation respecting the shirt and
cravat was a mere pretext to get him away. Mrs. M. then
inquired whether it was probable the restoration of her
husband could be procured, provided she were to give up to
the Masons the papers in her possession. Mr. Thompson
thought a suri'ender of the papers might effect that object ;
but he would give no pledge upon the subject. He how-
ever advised Mrs. Morgan to take the papers, go to Ca-
nandaigua, and make the attempt, — stating, at the same
time, that it would not do for any person to go along with
her but a Mason, — he not being one himself, as he then
alledged. ^' r. T. then proposed that Mr. Follett, or Mr.
Ketchum, should be requested to accompany her on the
journey, for which purpose he went and saw those per-
sons upon the subject. Returning soon afterwards, he
said that neither of them would go, unless they were al-
lowed previously to see and examine the papers, as Follett
said, " they were not going on a fool's errand." To this
proposition Mrs. M. objected for some time, lest she should
be deprived of them. But on the assurance of Mr^ T. that
they would not keep them from her, she assented. Follett

Online LibraryWilliam L. (William Leete) StoneLetters on masonry and anti-masonry, addressed to the Hon. John Quincy Adams → online text (page 13 of 49)