William L. (William Leete) Stone.

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

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the side-walk, near the jail. He left Canandaigua on tlie
evening that Morgan was taken away, between G and 8
o'clock. He admitted that he was at Lewiston, attending
the installation of a chapter, two or three days afterwards.
Being asked if he saw Morgan at Fort Niagara, his counsel
objected to the question, and the court set it aside, as being
irrelevant. Whitney testified to the fact of his coming to
Canandaigua on the said 12th of September, in company
with Smith ; but declined telling at what time he departed on
his return, lest he should criminate himself Corydon Fox,
tlie stage driver from Lewiston to Youngstown, was also a
witness upon this trial. He testified merely" to the fact of
having driven a carriage, sometime in September, with
closed curtains, down to the river. Three or four persons
got out of the carriage, but he did not know tliat either, of
them was Morgan, or that any person in the carriage was
confined. He only knew one of the persons who rode with
him on that occasion, and that one was neither of the de-

I have ali>5ady stated that Slieldon was found guilty by
the jury. They were absent only one hour. On Friday
evening, .January 5th, the counsel for the defendants moved
an arrest of judgment upon one of the indictments, arguing
lliat the defendants could not be convicted both for a con-
spiracy to do an unlawful act, and also for the doing of that
act ; and they called upon the public prosecutor to elect the
indictment upon which he would take judgment. After
;ir,o-ument upon both sides, the court decided that judgment
should not be pronounced upon both indictments, but that


in each case, as soon as it should have been pronounced
upon, a nolle prosscqui should be entered upon the other.
On the following morning, January 6th, the defendants ap-
peared at the bar for judgment, and several witnesses were
called, and examined by the public prosecutor, in aggrava-
tion of the case. Among these Mrs. Morgan was examined,
and her appearance and manner made a favorable impres-
sion in her behalf. But no additional facts were elicited.

Depositions were then put in by their counsel, to be heard-
in mitigation of their offence, by three of the defendants.
Cheseboro deposed that he had not seen Morgan since the
night of the 11th of September, when he was taken from
the magistrate's office by the officer who committed him to
prison. He knew it was intended to take Morgan away,
but supposed that he had consented to go freely, and he
w^as not aware tliat any force had been employed against
him. Their object was to remove him from beyond the
neighborhood and influence of Miller, who was, as they be-
lieved, inducing him to publish a book, disclosing the secrets
of Masonry, which they thought was calculated to bring
disgrace upon the order. He declared that he had had no
hand in any subsequent transactions in respect to Morgan ;
that he had been informed that Morgan had been carried
into the county of Monroe — since which time he had not
heard what had become of him, and knew not where he
was. But in opposition to this, it was testified by Israel B.
Hall, called by the prosecution, that on the morning after
Morgan was taken away, he called on Cheseboro to explaiit
the transaction. The latter replied that Morgan was where
Miller would not get hold of him-^he guessed he might be
on boax I of a ship ; but avoided giving direct answers.

Sawyer deposed that he had never seen Morgan until the
same evening of the 1 1th September, in the justice's office, —
that he had heard nothmg previously of any designs against



Iiirn, — that he was not aware of any intention of taking him
from the jail, on the evening of the 12th, until Lawson met
him during the evening in the street, and asked him to go
to the jail to persuade the jailor's wife to release Morgan, on
his paying the amount of the execution. He thought dur-
ing the w^hole time, that it was all a matter of willingness
and consent on the part of Morgan, to go away, until after
he came out into the street, when he expressed his reluc-
tance, and the struggle ensued, at which the deponent was
surprised. He did not know how much resistance Morgan
made, or how much force was applied to compel him to go
along. He was prevented from interfering by the surprise
into which he was thrown, but deeply regretted that he had
not interfered. This omission was the only criminal part
of his agency in the matter, with which he could reproach
himself. He followed after Morgan, at the distance of somo
rods, and saw him taken into the carriage. He concurred
with Cheseboro as to the motive of his removal, and declar-
ed that he had never seen Morgan since he entered the car-
riage, and knew not what had become of him.

In addition to these depositions, a number of the most res-
pectable citizens of Canandaigua were examined as to the
general habits and character of the defendants, and these
testimonials were in all respects strongly in their favor.

In behalf of Sheldon, the deposition which I have already
noted above, was put in and read- Cheseboro, Sawyer,
and Lawson, all deposed that Sheldon, so far as they were
acquainted with tlie transactions in question, w^as entirely
innocent. But the jury had not so found him, and he was
sentenced with the others. In the address with which Judge
Throop prefaced his sentence, he was, I think, particularly
forcible, and his remarks were so just, and so well expres-
sed, that a few passages may, very properly, be transcribed
from it: —


**You have been convicted," said the judge, ''of a daring, wicked and pre-
sumptuous crime — such an one as we did hope would not in our day iiave
polluted this land. You have robbed the state of a citizen, a citizen of his
liberty, a wife of a husband, and a family of helpless children of the endear-
ments and protecting care of a parent. And whether the unfortunate vic-
tim of your rage has been immolated, or is in the land of the living, we are
ignorant, and even you do not pretend to know. It is admitted in this case,
and stands proved, that Morgan was, by a hypocritical pretence of friend-
ship and charity, and that, too, in the imposing shape of pecuniary relief to a
distressed and poverty bound prisoner, beguiled to entrust himself to one of
your number, who seized him, as soon as a confederate arrived to his aid,
almost at his prison door, and in the night time hurried him into a carriage,
and forcibly transported him out of the state. But, great as are the individ-
ual wrongs which you have inflicted on these helpless and wretched human
beings, they are not the heaviest part of your crime. You have disturbed
the public peace — you have dared to raise your panracidal arms against the
laws and constitution of your government — you have assumed a power
which is incompatible with a due subordination to the laws and pubhc au-
thority of your state. He was a citizen under the protection of our lavi's ;
you wei*e citizens and owed obedience to them. What hardihood and wick-
edness then prompted you to steel your hearts against the claims of humani-
ty, and to dare set at defiance those laws to which you Owed submission, and
which cannot suffer a citizen's liberty to be restrained with impunity, with-
out violating its duties of protection, assured to every individual under the
social compact. +♦*** +*** +* * + * + 4:
Our laws will resent such attacks as you have made upon their sovereignty.
Your conduct has created, in the people of this section of the country, a
strong feeling of virtuous indignation. The court rejoices to witness it — to
be made sure that a citizen's person cannot be invaded by lawless violence,
without its being felt by every individual in the community. It is a blessed
spirit, and we do hope that it will not subside — that it will be accompanied
by a ceaseless vigilance, and untiring activity, until every actor in this profli-
gate conspiracy is hunted from his hiding place, and brought before the tr>
l)unals of the country, to receive the punishment merited by his crime. We
think that we see in this public sensation the spirit which brought us into
existence as a nation, and a pledge that our rights and liberties are destined
to endure. But this in not all; your ofl'ence was not the result of passion
suddenly excited, nor the deed of one individual. It was preconcerted, delib-
erated upon, and carried into effect, by the dictates of the secret councils
and conclave of many actors. It takes its deepest hues of guilt from a con-
spiracy — a crime most dreaded from the depravity of heart it evinces, the
power for unlawful purposes which it combines, and from its ability to defy
the power of the law, and its ultimate danger to the public peace. Hence it is,
that the crime is considered full, when the wicked purpose is proved to have
been formed ; and the subsequent carrying into effect the object of the con^
apiracy, does not; in the eye of the law, elevate the degree of the crime."



In conclusion, the court intimated its regret that the laW
had only made the offence of which the defendants were
guilty, a misdemeanor, instead of a felony. The omission,
it was supposed, had arisen from the great improbability
that such a crime could ever be committed in this country ;
but the court thought it could not discharge its duty, with-
out depriving the defendants of a portion of that liberty,
which, in the plenitude of lawless force, they had taken
from Morgan. I.awson was then sentenced to two years
imprisonment, in the county jail ; Cheseboro, to imprison-
ment for one year, in the same place ; Sheldon to an impri-
sonment of three months ; and Sawyer to one.

On the day before the adjournment, Miller was brought
up before the court under the attachments that had been
issued on Tuesday, to answer for his contempt. It appear-
ed by his answers, on oath, to the interrogatories put, that
although the subpoenas had been served, directing his at-
tendance on Monday, yet, that he did not leave his home
until Wednesday ; and that after travelling to Avon, he
digressed from the road into another town, upon private
business. He further stated that no fees had been tendered
to him at the time of the service of the subpoenas, and that
he had not any money himself to bear his expenses. Under
these latter circumstances, he was discharged by the court.
Thus much for the first of the " Morgan trials."

I am, sir, very respectfully, yours, &c.


New- York, Feb. 15, 1832.

On the 22d of November, Governor Clinton had received
a long letter from Mr. Talbot, of the Batavia committee, ex-
pressing the satisfaction of the committee at the course that


had been pursued by him. " If," says this letter, " we have
" not sooner addressed you on this subject, it has not been
" for want of a desire to assure you of our regard and re-
" spect for you as our chief magistrate. I had no hesitation
" in assuring my friends here, that a violation of the laws
" would in every case meet with your strong and marked
" censure, and that all would be done by you that we had a
" right to expect. I well remember the course you pursu-
*' ed when mayor of New- York, and I felt then, as I do now,
" perfectly confident that neither your personal influence,
" nor your official authority, could be brought to the aid of
" any improper plan, whatever was the object of those con-
" cerned." Regretting that he was not able to furnish any
accurate information as to the fate of Morgan, Mr. Talbot,
the writer, then proceeds to detail to the Governor, an ac-
count of the mission of the persons who had been sent to
make inquiries along the ridge road, together with their
discoveries, tracing Morgan, as they supposed, into Cana-
da, or to fort Niagara. Repeating the stories that had been
circulated in Canada, that Morgan had been murdered by
having his throat cut, by two ruffians in disguise, (his body
having then been sunk in the river,) the writer yet expresses
his doubts, from the number and respectability of the persons
concerned in the abduction, as to the fact of the murder.
Some circumstances are then stated which induced the wri-
ter to believe that Morgan was confined somewhere in the
Canadas. A man had been seen, by accident, who was
<;hained, and who cried for food, which was refused, while
he was plied with di'ink, &c. Another report was, that
Morgan was confined at Quebec, on a charge of treasona-
ble practices, &c. After speaking of several legal steps
that had been taken, and referring to the conduct of the
sheriflfs of Genesee and Niagara, the letter proceeds — " We
" shall very soon make further attempts to elucidate this
^' dark and singular transaction. The election for a few


" days diverted attention from it, but the public excitement
" rather increases than abates." " Perhaps I have written
" more than is proper, or agreeable to you. I vs^ill, for my-
" self, assure you that the second proclamation gave great
" satisfaction, and served at once to enable your friends to
" put down every idle suggestion relating to your views of
" the transaction."

To this letter, of which I have presented as ample an
abridgement as the case requires, the subjoined answer was
returned by Governor Clinton : —

''Albany^ Sth January ^ 1827.
" Sir,

" I have received your letter of November, in behalf
of the Batavia committee, appointed in the case of Morgan,
and I deeply regret the whole transaction, as well as the
failure of the attempts to restore him to his family. I am
not, however, without hopes of ultimate success. If in a
state of duress, he is probably detained in one of the Cana-
das, under false pretexts. I have written to the Governor
of Lower Canada, at Quebec, and of Upper Canada, at
York, stating his abduction, and requesting their humane
interpositions in his behalf, if confined in any of the forts or
prisons under their government, and I strongly anticipate
favorable results. Tiiere are a number of circumstances
which induce me to concur with you in the opinion you
express, against his being murdered. I do not think that
the men engaged in the conspiracy, if as respectable as you
intimate, wouJd stain their hands with blood ; and if bent
on such a horrid crime, we can hardly suppose that they
Avould carry Morgan to such a distance, and expose them-
selves so .unnecessarily to detection. But, when the demon
of fanaticism is at work, there is no knowing to what
extent of miscliicf and turpitude he may lead his disci-


^* I am persuaded, however, that the body of Freemasons,
so far from having any participation in this affair, or giving
any countenance to it, reprobate it as a most unjustifiable
^ct, repugnant to the principles, and abhorrent to the doc-
trines of the fraternity. I knovv^ that Freemasonry, pro-
perly understood, and faithfully attended to, is friendly to
religion, morality, liberty, and good government ; and I
shall never shrink, under any state of excitement, or any
extent of misrepresentation, from bearing testimony in favor
of the purity of an institution, which can boast of a Wash-
ington, a Franklin, and a Lafayette, as distinguished mem-
bers, and which inculcates no principles, and authorises no
acts, that are not in perfect accordance with good morals,
civil liberty, and entire obedience to government and the
laws. It is no more responsible for the acts of unworthy
members, than any other association, or institution. With-
out intending, in the remotest degree, a comparison, or im-
proper allusion, I might ask whether we ought to revile our
holy religion, because Peter denied, and Judas betrayed ?

" It appears that the abduction of Morgan from Canan-
daigua, took place on the 12th of September, and that the
Batavia meeting was held on the 25th. The affidavits pub-
lished by the committee of that meeting, sufficiently indica-
ted the perpetration of the outrage ; and it is to be regret-
ted that a judicial accusation did not immediately take
place, as it might, at that early period, have led to the dis-
covery of Morgan. On the 6th of October, I received your
communication, and on the next day issued the first procla-
mation. I took it for granted that the offenders would be
apprehended, and that Morgan would be discovered and
restored. But seeing, accidentally, in a Batavia newspa-
per, that these expectations were not realized, I issued, oij
the 26th of October, another proclamation, offering speci-
ilc rewards. I regret that, after the first communication, I


did not hear from you until the 22d of November. In say-
ing this, I do not intend the least blame, — the confusion and
derangement which must necessarily have grown out of
such an unprecedented and abominable transaction, must
present a sufficient apology for any omission on the part of
those who have been meritoriously engaged in detecting
and punishing an outrage which would scarcely be believed
were it not so well authenticated.

" I observe some imputations in your letter on the con-
duct of the sheriffs of Genesee and Niagara. If any accu-
sations, supported by testimony, are presented, I shall take
due notice of them.

" I pray you to accept for yourself, and to present to the
other members of the committee, my acknowledgments of
the laudable performance of your and their duties, as good
and fjiithful citizens, in a case so greatly to be deprecated,
and wiiich certainly demanded the energetic interposition
of the friends of liberty and good government.
" I am, (fee.


" Theodore F. Talbot, Esq., Batavia."

I trust, sir, that in the perusal of the preceding letter,
you will bear in mind that neither the distinguished writer,
nor other members of the masonic fraternity, at a distance,
was then aware of the extent to which the Masons of the
west were inculpated, directly or indirectly, in the trans-
actions in question. Nor Jiad the controlling bodies of
the order been convened, or taken any part in the premi-
ses, at that early period of the transaction. But these mat-
ters will be subjects of after consideration. The follow-
ing is a copy of the letter addressed by Governor Clinton
to the Governors of the two Canadas, as mentioned in the
|>receding communication.


" Albany, Gth January, 1827.
" Sir,

" 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 in-
to 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 fraternity, without
notice, and with silent contempt ; but a few desperate fana-
tics engaged in a plan of carrying him off, and, on the 12th
of September last, they took him from Canandaigua by force,
as it is understood, and conveyed him to the Niagara river,
from whence it is supposed that he was taken to his Britannic
Majesty's dominions. Some of the offenders have been ap-
prehended and punished, but no intelligence has been obtain-
ed respecting Morgan, since his abduction. I have, there-
fore, to appeal to your justice and humanity on this occa-
sion, and to request your excellency to cause inquiry to be
made respecting 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 pretences.

" 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 ycur
humane interposition, and to evince the high respect with

" I have the honor to be, (fee.

" The Earl of Dalhousie, Quebec."


A duplicate of the same letter was, at the same time, ad-
dressed to Sir Peregrine Maitland, the Lieutenant Governor
of Upper Canada. Answers from both these functionaries
were received in due season, which, as the originals are
before me, I v/ill transcribe for your perusal : —

*' Castle of St. Lewis,

" Quebec y 25th January, 1827.
f* Sir,

" I have had the honor of receiving your excellency's
of 6th January, instant, making inquiry for a person of the
name of Morgan.

" It will give me much pleasure to comply with your
wishes on this subject, and no time shall be lost in sending
you whatever information I can obtain. At present I can
only say, that nothing has been heard of him in this province
of Lower Canada ; and I may add that I am very certain
he cannot be detained in any clandestine manner in the Up-
per Province. The information, however, which I have
required of Sir Peregrine Maitland, shall be transmitted,
so soon as I receive it.

" It gives me much pleasure to sieze this opportunity to
express to j^our excellency the high respect and esteem with

" I have the honor to bo

" Your excellency's most obedient,

*• Humble servant^

" His excellency

** De Witt Clinton, Esq. &c. .&c. &c."

The annexed letter is the reply of the Governor of the
I^pper Province : —


" Upper Canada,

" York, 5th February, 1827.
^' Sir,

" I have the honor to aclvnowiedge the receipt of your
excellency's communication of the — ultimo, and to ac-
quaint you, that, to meet your desire, I have directed a no-
tice to be inserted in the Government Gazette, oftering a
reward of £50, for any satisfactory information that shall
be given respecting William Morgan. Should any thing in
consequence be learned, regarding him, I shall not fail to
- communicate it to your excellency.
" I have the honor to be, sir,

" Your excellency's most obedient,

" Humble servant,
" P. MAITLAND, Lieut. Governor.
^* His excellency,

" De Witt Clinton, Governor of Nev^^-York."

In order, at once, to complete this correspondence, it will
be necessary for me to anticipate the progress of my narra-
tive, by transcribing for your perusal, in this place, the sub-
joined communication from the Earl of Dalhousie : —

" Castle of St. Lewis,

" Quebec, 31s^ Marchy 1827.
*' Sir,

" I have the honor to inform your excellency that hav-
ing called upon the Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada,
to communicate to me any information he could obtain, re-
specting William Morgan, the person mentioned in your
letter of the 6th January last, the Lieutenant Governor has
stated to me that no such information has been received
from him, although he had caused a reward to be offered,
on the part of the government, for any authentic intelli-
gence respecting that individual. He further i-nforms.mo



that the report of Morgan's having been heard of in thai
province, had been pubhcly and positively contradicted, by
those persons who were accused of having a knowledge of
that circumstance.

" I have the honor to be, sir,

" Your excellency's most obedient,

*' Humble servant,

" His excellency,

" De Witt Clinton, Esq., &c. &:c. &c."

Neither the Earl of Dalhousie, nor Sir Peregrine Mait-
land, however, could well have been ignorant, that several
Canadian citizens w^ere, beyond a doubt, very seriously in-
volved in the conspiracy. An atternpt to procure an inves-
tigation on the Canadian side of the frontier, had been made
early in January. It having been satisfactorily ascertained
that Morgan had been taken into Canada, a member of the^
Niagara Committee crossed the river to Niagara, (com-
monly called Newark,) while a grand jury w^as in session.
" He went before the grand jury, and proposed to furnish
" them with the names of witnesses residing in Canada, if
" the grand jury would agree to investigate the matter.
" After consulting together, they resolved to do so ; and they
" were accordingly furnished with the names of several Ma-
" sons residing in the town of Niagara, which is more com-
" monly called Newark, who were believed to be impor-
"tant witnesses. The jury adjourned soon after. The
*^ next day the complainant was informed that after the ad-

Online LibraryWilliam L. (William Leete) StoneLetters on masonry and anti-masonry, addressed to the Hon. John Quincy Adams → online text (page 18 of 49)