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 15 of 49)
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creased the now rapidly awakening suspicion, not only that
all was not right, but that there was sometliing to be dis-
closed, flagrantly wrong.

The agent selected for the purpose above mentioned
proceeded to Canandaigua, and entered upon the duties of
his appointment. Morgan, it will be recollected, had been
lodged in prison on the evening of Monday, the 11th of
September, on the execution procured by Cheseboro, and in
the manner already related. The information procured by
this agent, — Timothy Fitch, Esquire, — seemed but to in-
crease the mystery he v/as attempting to penetrate. He
procured five depositions, and made a sixth himself, in
which he detailed certain important information communi-
cated to him by the keeper of a livery stable, named Hiram
Hopkins. These statements disclosed the following extra-
ordinary facts : Morgan was thrust into prison, at about tlie
hour of 9 o'clock in the evening. Immediately afterwards,
on the same night, a man named Loton Lawson, hired a
horse of Ackley, avowedly for the purpose of going to Ro-
chester — distant thirty miles. Ho returned early in tiie
morning, and went immediately to bed — informing Ackley,
the inn-keeper, that some gentlemen from Rochester would
call for him in the course of the day. In the afternoon, two
men from Rochester, viz : Burrage Smith, and John Whit-
ney, called, agreeably to the intimation. Lawson being
aroused from his sleep, came down stairs, and all three went
out together. In the evening of this day — September 12 —
(at which time, it will be remembered, that, under delu-
sive guidance, tlie alarmed and distracted wife of Morgan
was engaged in hov ineliectual pursuit of one 'who n.^

'21 •

1G2 letti:r xv,

vcr was destined to return,) — Lawson went to the jail,
and applied to Mrs. Hall, the w ife of the keeper — her hus-
band not being within at the time, — for permission to see
Morgan, and have some private conversation with him, for
which purpose he desired to be admitted into his cell. This
request was refused, and eventually Morgan was called to
the door, where some conversation took place between
them. Lawson informed the prisoner that he had come to
pay the debt and costs, and release him ; and asked him
whether, on being discharged, he would go home and stay
with him that night ; to which proposition Morgan replied
in the affirmative. Lawson thereupon requested Mrs. Hall
to let him out, and he would satisfy the execution. But the
request w^as declined. Her husband not being at home, Mrs.
IL was p] operly cautious in her proceedings ; and besides,
the execution being locked up in a desk, she could not as-
certain the amount due. Lawson then said he would pay
the amount of the execution when Mr. Kail came in ; but
Morgan, being then undressed and in bed, replied that it
was no matter that night — the affair might as well be left
till morning. Lawson, however, insisted upon doing it that
night, complaining, at the same time, of being much wearied,
in consequence of having been running about for him [Mor-
gan,] all day. He then went out, as he said, to look for
the jailor, and returned in about half an hour, averring that
he had been at every place where it was likely he should
find the keeper, but without success. He was now accom-
panied by a man named Foster, as he called himself, but
which Mrs. Hall believed was an assumed name. She
thought he was one of the prisoners on the limits. Lawson
again pressed Mrs. Hall to release Morgan, proposing to
leave five dollars, a sum much greater than the amount due
on the execution, by way of indemnity. The proposal was
again declined — the lady stating that she had understood
that Morgan was a rogue,— that great pains had been tal;cii


to secure him, — and she did not wish to let a rogue out.
Lawson pressed his request importunately, and ofiered to
leave fifty or a hundred dollars in pledge, to bring her hus-
band off harmless, if she consented. Bat she was inexora-
ble, and he again went away. While these proceedings
were going on without the debtor's apartment, Morgan him-
self seems to have had some misgivings as to the motive of
the proffered kindness — observing to a fellow prisoner, "that
" should that man [Law^son,] prove a traitor to him, he would
"^not give much for his lite." The applicant soon after-
wards returned once more to the jail, accompanied by Col.
Sawyer, and both urged Mrs. Hall again, very strongly, to
receive the money, and release the prisoner. Being still
resolutely refused, they went away in pursuit, as they said,
of Cheseboro, whom Mrs. Hall knew as the plaintiff in the
suit. On following them to the door, Mrs. H. sav/ two men
near by, one of whom proved to be Cheseboro himself. On
coming up to the jail, he directed her to let Morgan go, as
these men, he said, would pay the amount of the execution,
and he wanted no more of him. The money having been
counted down, Mrs. Hall took the keys, and was going to
release the prisoner, when Lawson interposed, and said he
would go with her — stepping at the door at the same time,
and giving a shrill whistle. Mrs. H., again looking out of
the door herself, perceived a man, whom she had seen with
Lawson at an earlier hour of the evening, coming towards
the steps. On reaching the outer door of the prison. Law-
son told her, as they entered, that she need not lock that af-
ter them ; but there were other prisoners in custody, and
she insisted upon doing it. She unlocked the door of Mor-
gan's apartment, and Lawson, calling to him, directed him
to hasten, and dress himself quickly. On coming out of the
cell, Lawson took him by the arm, though not in an unfriend-
ly or forcible manner, and they departed. Before Mrs. H.
liad secured the fastenings of the prison, however, she heard


the cry of " murder," and hurrying to the door, saw Mor-
gan between Lawson and the other man, who had previ-
ously approached the steps, at the signal of the whistling^
struggling with all his might, and crying out in the most dis-
tressing manner. Both Lawson and the other man had
hold of his arms ; Morgan exerting himself in vain to get
loose, and crying out until his voice w'as suppressed, as if
by something thrust suddenly into, or placed over his mouth,
or across Ins throat. At this time, and while they were
dragging him away, Chcseboro and Sawyer were standing
near by, without showing any concern in the transaction,
w^liich was passing before them. Morgan having been tak-
en out of sight, a violent rap with a stick, was made upon
the curb of a well, and a carriage drove past, following in
the direction taken by those who had dragged him away.
Immediately after the carriage passed, Chcseboro and Saw«
yer went off in the same direction — the latter picking up
and taking with him the hat of Morgan, which had been
lost in the ailray. It likewise appeared, from the evidence
of a woman, who resided opposite the jail, that sundry men
had been walking, sitting, and standing, about the premises,
during a great part of the evening, appearing to be much
engaged in consultations, which were carried on in an un-
der-tone of voice. Among these men she recognized Chcse-
boro, Sawyer, and a man named Chauncey Coe. This
woman likevv^ise heard the cries of distress, as of one in peril-
ous circumstances ; and from tlie suspicious conduct of the
persons before mentioned, had apj^rised her husband of her
apprehensions that all was not right. After the noise upon
the well-curb, she saw the carriage of Mr. Hubbard, with
his gray horses — it was a bright moon-light night — driving
down the street, in the direction taken by the men, it being
at the time empty ; but it soon re-passed, taking the direc-
tion to Rochester, having several persons in it. These facts
were all distinctly corroborated by other deponents. One


of tell], Oil iieariiig tJie noise, went to the door, and seeing
the struggle, stepped up to Col. Sawyer, who was a little
behind, and inquired what w^as the matter ? To which he
replied : — " Nothing, only a man just let out of jail, has
" been taken on a warrant,- and is going to be tried." Saw-
yer being a respectable man, the answer was satisfactory-
The statement of Hubbard himself was, that he had been
engaged by a man whom he did not know, to take, a party
in his carriage to Rochester, on the night in question ; — he
expecting them to start from Kingsley's tavern. At about
9 o'clock in the evening, however, a man came and stated
to him, that the party had gone down the road towards Pal-
myra, and would get in when he overtook them. He there-
upon drove down the road past the jail, as requested, until
he saw several men in the street, w^ho directed him to stop.
He did so, and five or six of them got into the carriage,
directing him to turn round, and proceed to Rochester.
Stopping but twice on the way, they arrived in Rochester
at about the dawning of the day, but passed immediately
through that town, and proceeded to Hanford's Landing,
three miles below, where he understood it to be the de-
sire of the party to obtain a vessel. He drove about
eighty rods beyond Hanford's, towards the ridge road,
w^here he stopped — there being no house nearer than Han-
ford's. His party alighted here, in the road, near to a piece
of woods. He then turned about and drove back to Ro-
chester, — meeting two carriages, even thus early, one of
which was of a green or cinnamon color, — and thence pro-
ceeded home, — not knowing either of the party w^ho had
ridden with him ; nor received any pay; nor observed any
violence practised towards any one of the company.

Such was the information obtained by the investigations
at Canandaigua ; and it may readily be imagined that a de-
Velopement of facts so extraordinary in themselves, was httle
calculated to allay the excitement now rapidly enkindling


in Batavia, and the country adjacent. Although there was
no positive testimony that Morgan had been carried away
in the carriage, which made the unusual night-ride from Ca-
nandaigua to Rochester and Hanford's Landing, yet the
circumstantial evidence was so strong as to leave no ra-
tional doubt that he had been spirited away, in the manner
related. The circumstances of the transaction assumed a
more alarming character, and a darker shade of suspicion
was cast around them, at every new disclosure. It had
already been ascertained, that, when the attack upon Mil-
ler's office was to have been made, on the night of the 8th
of September, there was a party of fifteen or twenty men,
connected with the conspiracy, assembled at a tavern four
miles west of Batavia, who had come all the way from Buf-
falo ; a large party had gathered at Stafford, six miles east,
composed of men from many quarters, — some of them even
from Canada. These had marched into the village, through
different parts of which squads were distributed. Others
had gathered there from Lockport and its vicinity. And
the occurrences and discoveries made at Canandaigua, pro-
ved, very satisfactorily, that, in that village, and in Roches-
ter also, there w^ere men of character and respectability,
intimately associated with, and some of them active agents
in, these transactions. It was therefore clear, that the con-
spiracy was widely extended, comprehending in its ranks
men high in the confidence of the public, and against whose
good names the breath of scandal had hitherto never whis-
pered a reproach. These facts began to arrest the deep
attention of the public. A fellow citizen, an American free-
man, guilty of no crime within the cognizance of the laws
of the land, and living under their protection, had been re-
moved from among them by means unknown, and in a man-
ner unexampled in the annals of the nation. He had been
kidnapped in the face of day, under the disguise of the law,
and held in duress by its forms, until the arrangements for


his abduction were completed ; after which he had been
hurried mysteriously away, and left among men unknown,
under circumstances of time and place, awakening the
strongest suspicions that the crime of murder had probably
been added to the other outrages that had been witnessed.
Under this aspect of the case, a public meeting was con-
vened at Batavia, on the 25th of September, and another on
the 4th of October. These meetings were numerously at-
tended, and their proceedings were of an impressive char-
acter. The very fact, perhaps, of the poverty, and low
standing of the victim, contributed essentially to the inter-
est of the occasion, and the determination of the people to
ascertain his fate, and, if possible, avenge his wrongs.
The facts laid before the meeting were such as caused tlie
lightning of popular indignation to flash from the eyes of the
assembled multitude. It did not — it could not appear — that
all those who belonged to the masonic fraternity, were con-
cerned in the conspiracy. Many of the most respectable
of these were among the foremost in resenting the outrage
upon the laws, and demanding an investigation. But it did
appear, that all those engaged in the conspiracy, so far as
the facts had been ascertained, were Freemasons — the most
zealous and active of the order. And there were not
wanting those amongst them, who ridiculed these manifesta-
tions of the public feehng, and added to the public indigna-
tion, by laughing at their anxiety to ascertain what had been
done with the absentee. A committee of ten highly respect-
able citizens was appointed by the meeting, with instructions
to follow up the investigations that had been commenced^
in order, if possible, to discover the person of Morgan, if
living, or his body if dead, and bring the guilty to punish-
ment. This committee entered upon the immediate dis-
charge of its duties, and published a notice to the public,
briefly setting forth the nature of the outrage that had been
committed — acknowledging the fears entertained tii9.t Mor-


gaii had been murdered, but expressing a "hope, at the same
time, that he might only have been kept in conceahnent, or
imprisoned in Canada — and caHing upon the people gene*-
rally to assist, by the discovery, if possible, of the victim, in
allaying such painful apprehensions. The committee like-
wise sent an agent to make inquiries along the road from
Hanford's Landing to Lewiston and Niagara.

On the 2d of October, the committee appointed at the first
meeting of the citizens at Batavia, addressed a letter to Gov.
Clinton,- enclosing him a copy of the proceedings of that
meeting, together with the depositions which had been tak-
en at Canandaigua. In that letter, the committee invoked
the prompt interposition of the governor, that a speedy and
vigorous investigation might be had. '• The excitement
"which pervades the people in this section of the state," say
the committee, " for many miles around, has assumed an ap^
" pearance which we think is a just subject of alarm — an ex-
" citement which it will be difficult to restrain or allay, un-
" less the cause be investigated and removed." They there-
fore prayed the governor " to take such measures as might
" be within his prerogative to redress private wrongs, secure
"individual rights, and restore public peace and tranquil-
" lity." This letter was received by Gov. Clinton on the
6th ; and on the following day his excellency transmitted
to Mr. Talbot, chairman of the committee at Batavia, his
first proclamation upon this subject, — setting forth the evils
to be apprehended from such violations of the public peace
as those complained of, and enjoining it upon the state offi-
cers and ministers of justice to pursue all proper and effi-
cient measures, for the apprehension of the offenders, and
<:ommanding the co-operation of the people in maintaining
the ascendancy of the laws.* This proclamation was en-
closed in a private letter, of which I find the following draft
among the papers of that l^mentec} man : —

* Vide appendix, D.


" Albamj, Itli of October, 1826.
*^ Gentlemen,

" I received your communication yesterday, by Mr.
Evans, and after mature deliberation, I have come to the
conclusion that the enclosed paper, which you are authoris-
ed to publish, will answer the purpose of maintaining the
peace and good order of the community. Indeed, I do not
see how I can interfere to a gi'cater extent at present.
Any forcible opposition to the execution of the laws which
cannot be put down by the civil authority, must be met in
another shape ; but, as it does not appear that any such
has been exhibited, and I trust that none will be, the ma-
gistrates of the county must proceed, in the ordinary
t^hannels of justice, to arrest the oilenders, to vindicate the
rights, and to protect the property, liberty, and persons, of
individuals, and to maintain the ascendency of the laws :
and if there should prove to be any delinquency on this
occasion, measures suitable to such default will be prompt-
ly pursued.

" As it appears that the principal offenders are known, I
have not thought it necessary to offer any specific reward
for their detection and apprehension ; but I am willing to
pay any reasonable and necessary expenses that may be
incurred for those purposes. Deeply regretting, and en-
tirely condemning the outrages of which you complain,
nothing shall be wanting on my part, that is due to the oc-
casion, and the emergency. Nothing can justify a resort
to personal violence, or an aggression upon the peace of
society ; and no person can be punished for his acts, how-
ever deplorable or depraved, except by the legitimate
authorities of the country. I am, &c.

•' To Tkeodore F. Talbot, and others,

" A Committee in behalf of the citizens of Genesee
•• countv.*-


170 3.ETTER XV.

The effect of the meetings at Batavia, In directing the
pubhc attention to the subject, was prodigious. Every man
who atteiided them, returned to lids home in a high degree
of excitement, communicating his feelings to his neighbors,
who, in turn, imparted like feelings to others, until, like the
spreading fires which sometimes sweep with irresistabk
and desolating fury over the wide prairies of the west, that
whole district of country was agitated by an unappeasable
spirit of indignation. The example of convoking pubhc
meetings was followed in many other places, particularly
in the counties of Livingston, Ontario, Monroe, and Niaga-
ra, in each of which similar committees were appointed^
and the deternfiination w^as nearly universal, that the mys-
tery should be probed to the bottom.*

Unhappily, however, a very different feeling pervaded
the bosoms of a portion of the masonic fraternity, which
was but ill-concealed ; nay, this counter-feeling was fre-
quently and openly avowed. I have already more than in-
timated this disgraceful, and, to me, exceedingly painful
fact ; and in order to a just understanding of the case, and
to show how^ it happened that the public mind became
w^rought up to so higii a pitch of exasperation against the
w^hole masonic fraternity, not only tliere, but elsewhere,
without discrimination, or distinction of persons, it is neces-
sary that 1 should be more specific. It is unquestionably
true, then, that those of the fraternity who were directly
accessary to the abduction, so far from countenancing the
generous and righteous spirit which had gone forth, either
openly justified the act, or treated the matter w^ith levity
and ridicule. Even the distress of Mrs. Morgan was scout-
ed by them, not only in conversations, but repeatedly in the

♦ 0epiTta!ions from these committees subsequcDtly assembled at Lewis-
ton, as a convention, and franud the < eh hmt(>d rej,oit of the facts which
had been ehcited by their exertions. That report was drawn up with jirrat
care, and the ociu^ral accuracy of its statements has stood the test of the
most rigid examination. To its pages [ ihall have frequent recourse in com-
piling the present uurritlivc.


public newspapers ; — in many of which the whole subject
was treated as a hoax, while by far the greatest number, it
was passed over in comparative silence. Cheseboro had at
one time declared that " Morgan had gone where Miller
** would never see him again." We have the evidence of
the Rev. Mr. Barnard, of the baptist denomination, whose
veracity is unquestioned, that previously to the abduction,
when the publication was talked of, a Royal Arch Mason,
then, also, a clergyman, in good standing, remarked, ^'^ that
*^ Morgan's writing Masonry was the greatest piece of de-
" pravity he ever knew ; that some measures must be taken
*' to stop it ; that he would be one of a number to put him
^* out of the way ; that God looked upon the institution with
" so much complacency, that he would never bring the per-
"petrators to light." &c. After the abduction, and while
ids fate was a matter of doubt, Mr. Barnard states that the
Masons in that neighborhood, justified the abduction, and
tfie murder also, — ^should a murder have taken place« A
meeting of the Covington Lodge, to which Mr, R beio^iged,
having been called, for the purpose of coi>certing measures
of agreement among the fraternity, Mr. B. attended, and ex-
pressed his abhorrence at the conduct of their brethren, in
this matter. His rebuke at once kindled the lodge with an-
ger, and he was scandalously assailed witli abuse. A
Knight Templar present, declared, that i ' Morgan had been
writing Masonry, and if his throat had been cut, and his
tongue torn out by the roots, &c., he could not complain in
liot having justice done him. For dissenting with firmness,
from such horrible principles, EJder B. was expelled. Gan-
son, who has so often been mentioned, jeered at the commit-
tee, and told them, " that if they could hang, draw and
" quarter all the Masons who liad a hand in his abduction,
"they could not get him back.;" he declared that " he was
" not dead, but was put where he would stay put, until God
•^ Almighty should call for him," A public officer at Buf-



falo, declared his astonishment that Miller should have been
permitted to proceed so far — (as far only as they then sup^
posed he had,) — in printing the book, adding, " that should
" Morgan come there, there were twenty men who would
" take his life in less than half an hour." In the town of
Attica, a Mason, who had been a member of the legislature,
said : — " If tliey are publishing the true secrets of Mason-
" ry^ he should not think the lives of half a dozen such men
" as Morgan and Miller of any consequence in suppressing
"the work." A Mason in Le Roy, a physician, and for-
merly a sherifl' of the county, declared, that " the book should
" be suppressed, if it cost every one of them their lives."
A magistrate of the same town openly declared, that " if he
" could catch Pdorgan on the bridge in the night, he w^ould
" find the bottom of that mill-pond" — pointing to one near
by. A judge of the court of Genesee county, remarked,
that " whatever Morgan's fate might have been, he deserv-
" ed it — he had forfeited his life." A Royal Arch Mason in
Le Roy, declared, " that Morgan deserved death, and ho
" hoped he had received it" — " a common death," he added
" was too good for him." Another magistrate, always count-
ed a worthy citizen, asked — " What can you do ? what can
*' a cat do with a lion ? who are your judges ? who are your
" sheriifs ? and who will be your jurymen ?" The mem-
bers of the committee were ironically asked — "have you
" found Morgan yet V They were assured that their ef-
forts would be unavailing. Gentlemen were cautioned
against acting on the committees ; and were openly told,
that whatever the Masons might have done with Morgan,
it was all right — it was a matter of concern to none but
themselves ; that they had a right to deal with their own
members according to their own laws, &c. Such, sir, was
the language — not, by any means, of all — but of far too
many members of the fraternity, in the region where the
outrage was committed. Nor were these remarks, and

LETTER XV. ' 173

thousands of others of similar and shocking import, confined
to a single neighborhood, or spoken in a corner, as you
will have seen. And as these facts and declarations were
repeated from mouth to mouth, and spread abroad over the
face of the land, is it strange, that the excitement should

Online LibraryWilliam L. (William Leete) StoneLetters on masonry and anti-masonry, addressed to the Hon. John Quincy Adams → online text (page 15 of 49)