William L. (William Leete) Stone.

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

. (page 20 of 49)
Online LibraryWilliam L. (William Leete) StoneLetters on masonry and anti-masonry, addressed to the Hon. John Quincy Adams → online text (page 20 of 49)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

tial cause existed for the excitement.

The most zealous, and I may perhaps say, unreasonable
of the Anti-masons, believing, as they did, or affected to do,
that the outrages had been sanctioned by the Grand Chap-
ter, had no right, of course, to anticipate the manifestation
of any special indignation against the conduct of their
western brethren, in this matter. The first and second
classes secretly took their own measures, as will be seen in
the result. But the third and fourth classes of the fraternity,
as I have classed them, and the great body of the people not
belonging to the order, did look forward to the adoption of
some strong and decisive measures on the part of the Grand
Chapter, which should clear its own skirts, and proclaim its
own innocence.

That lawless outrages had been committed in the name of
Freemasonry, was known to all : that those outrages had
been concluded by a fearful act, was believed by many :
and that, at least, three members of the fraternity had been
convicted, and were at that time in prison for their crimes,
was a matter of public judicial record. Equally well
known was the fact, that the local masonic bodies to which
those convicted brethren belonged, had taken no measures
to manifest their displeasure at their conduct. Under cir-
cumstances like these, wnac more just or natural expecta-
tion could have been entertained by an anxious public, than
that the highest masonic body in the state, if guiltless in all
these matters, and in no wisq cognizant thereof, should, at


once, have assumed an attitude that would have vindicated
its members from all suspicion ? It is true that the Grand
Chapter had no right to expel the olFenders from the re-
spective chapters to which they belonged. Nor, in regard
to those who were Masons of three degrees only, had they
any jurisdiction in the case. But they had power to insti-
tute the most rigid investigation into the causes of the ex-
citement at the west, and they were not destitute of funds.
They had power to demand explanations from the local
chapters, and require them to show cause why their char-
ters should not be tal^en from them. They had power, and
means, for offering a heavy reward for the apprehension and
conviction of the offenders ; — and they had among them
the ability, if the disposition had existed, to put forth a mani-
festo, showing, at least, that they were in earnest in any dis-
claimer they might proclaim to the public. Did they do
so ? Did they do any of these things ? — I am ashamed,
and w^as grieved at the time, to be compelled to reply, that
they did not.

The Grand Chapter met, and elected its officers ; and in
publishing the list, it was somewhat ostentatiously announc-
ed in the Albany Masonic Record, that upw^irds of one hun-
dred and ten subordinate chapters w-ere represented —
which was an unusaliy large number. But so far from tak-
ing any efficient step in the great matter before the public,
which was then agitating all minds at the west, and array-
ing friends, and neighbors, and christian brethren, and
churches in fierce unchristian liostility against each other, —
what did they do ? Why, sir, they contented themselves,
by issuing to tlie public a tame and spiritless resolution,
with a preamble, setting forth some common-place and ab-
stract propositions about personal liberty, and " the bless-
" ings of our republican institutions," — admitting that there
had been a violation of those rights under the " alledged''
pretext of the masonic nama &:c.. and ending by a simple

LETTER XXi.' 22t1

disclosure of all individual or collective knov^^ledge of the
transactions in question.* And this was all ! Sir, it was
a mockery. The crisis, and the occasion, demanded a doc-
ument of a difterent stamp.- Nor was a proclamation, of
any description, alone suificient to satisfy the public. There
should have been resolutions of inquiry ; an efficient com-
mittee of investigation, in whom the public wouldhave re-
posed confidence ; and a heavy rew^ard. But none of these
things were done. An empty " whereas," and an equivocal
denial, was all that the Grand Chapter could do by way of
appeasing a population of three hundred thousand souls,
who had been thrown into an unexampled state of excite-
ment by the conduct of members of the fraternity. Some
of those members had been arrested ; — they had confessed
their guilt ; — they w^ere then immured in a prison ; — and
yet there was not even a rebuke of their conduct at eom-^
mand ! I repeat, sir, it was a mockery : it w^as an insult
upon the people. For of what value, can it be supposed^
was such a disclaimer in the eyes of the public, when they
knew very well, that there were present in the Grand
Chapter, at that very time, in full communion, and passing
upon this very resolution, some of those very conspirators
themselves ! Such, sir, was the fact. Need we marvel,
then, that this preamble and resolution gave no satisfaction
to the public ; that it was viewed with disgust ; that it was
transparent, and was looked upon rather as an evidence of
guilt, than of innocence ?

Most heartily, sir, do I wish I could here dismiss this act
in the drama. But truth requires at my hands a disclo-
sure upon this subject, which, I believe, has never before
been made, in its details, and which speaks in a voice of
thunder against the masonic institution in the state of New*^
York. By the very terms of the boasted pre^cigmation pu^

^'- F?ce Appcmlix, F.

226 ^ I^ETTER XXI,

forth by the Grand Chapter, it will be seen that it camo
before that body as the report of a committee. Two of
the members of that committee w^ere, the late Adjutant Gen-
eral Beck, and a gentleman who was then a distinguish-
ed member of the legislature, of great moral worth, and a
professor of religion, whose daily w^alk and conversation
adorn hi^ profession. Believing, as these gentlemen did,
that the outrage upon Morgan was highly alarming, and
supposing that only a few miguided zealots had been en-
gaged in it, they accepted appointments upon the committee,
with a determination to do every thing in their power to
bring to light the truth. The committee had two or three
meetings ; and the gentleman to w^hom I have alluded, but
who does not desire to have his name introduced to the
public in print, expressed himself, as did some others, very
indignantly at the attack upon Morgan. One of the mem-
bers of the committee, however, was bold to hazard the as-
sertion, " that if Morgan had been put out of the way, he
« deserved it." But he was immediately told that such lan-
guage could come from no man, who knew what Masonry
was, and what the laws of God and man require. After
due consideration of the subject committed to them, the
committee prepared a report and resolutions, with the dis-
sent of the member last referred to, recommending the of-
fering of a reward of one thousand dollars, for the discovery
of the murderers, together with a declaratory resolution,
denying any knowledge, on the part of the Grand Chapter,
«is to the persons who had been engaged in the crime.

When the report was introduced, the resolution propo-
sing the reward was most furiously assailed by some of the
New- York, and the western members, and although defend-
ed by the late Gen. Beck, with my friend, and some others^
IT WAS REJECTED ! So also was the preamble of that re-
})ort rejected ; and a strong attempt was likewise made to
reject the concluding resolution, but it did not succeed —


although the gentlemen who had introduced the report,
considered that it had received its death-blow, so far as any
attempt at investigation was to be undertaken, or serious
exculpation made of the chapter itself. Why, it was urg-
ed, in the debate upon the first resolution, be unwilling to
offer a reward for the detection and arrest of the offenders,
and thus show to the world the sincerity of the regrets we
profess, and the truth of our protestations of innocence ? In
reply, sentiments were advanced, (particularly by the dis-
senting member of the committee, who lived westward of
Ontario,) which not only breathed the spirit of the wdldest
fanaticism, but were shocking to the feelings of the friends
of the report. He was not allowed to proceed by the
chapter ; and my friend left the lodge-room for a short time.
But judge of his surprise on returning into the chapter, to
find that a resolution, granting to the committee of charity
for the use of " the western sufferers," a term well under-
stood, the sum of one thousand dollars, had been offered
and passed suh silentio. Such an appropriation was with-
out precedent or parallel. " Its object," says my friend, in
a recent letter now before me, " I could not mistake. It
" was to give relief to the western brethren. I made some
" inquiries, but obtained no satisfactory answers. The
" next winter, while at Albany, I heard some complaint
" from one of the officers of the chapter, that the money
" had been drawn by General Gould, of Rochester, and that
*' no satisfactory account had been given of the manner in
" which it had been expended."

Referring again to the course of the Grand Chapter respec-
ting the Morgan affair, my friend remarks : — ^^* The whole
" business appeared to me to be done to smother up the af-
** fair, and I felt very much dissatisfied with the rejection of
*< the resolution profiTering the reward. I so expressed my^
^ self in the chapter, and declared my firm conviction, that


^' the course pursued was a death-blow to masonry ; — and
i'* although no prophet, my prediction has been fulfilled."

This, sir, is a revelation of truth. 1 submit it to you, sir,
^nd to all others who may chance to peruse it, without
comment, further than to add — for there are hundreds who
have heard me declare my unbelief in the existence of such
a spirit in the Grand Chapter at that time, — that I myself
■f* have only obtained the secret history of that convocation,

since the present correspondence was commenced. This
declaration ig due as an act of justice to myself.

Very respectfully, &c,


New- York, Feb. 20, 1832.

Wholly unsatisfactory as was the faultering disclaim^
er put forth by the grand chapter, yet the conspiring Ma-
sons and their allies, and those of the fraternity who yet
hoped for the best, pointed to it for some time as a vindica-
tion, at least of the constituted authorities of the order. But
jt had no effect upon the public mind in the excited districts,
and but very little elsewhere. Indeed at the west the ex-
citement continued to increase, if possible, more rapidly
than ever. Meetings were held in all directions ; the peo-
ple seemed to have relinquished all other business ; and the
fjtanding theme of conversation, in the tavern, the counting-
room, and the work-shop ; in the Held, and by the way-
side ; at home and abroad ; was Morgan and the Freemar
jBons, The disclaimer of the Grand Chapter was pronoun-
ced cold, lieartlcss and insincere ; and a degree of passion
began to be exhibited which threatened serious results. Not
Qn\y were county conventigps called, but numerous meet-^


ings were held in the various towns, and the most sweep-
ing resolutions passed, often breathing a spirit of persecu-
tion and revenge against the whole body of Masons ; de-
nouncing the officers and ministers of justice ; condemning
the sheriff of Canandaigua for the lenity extended by him
to the conspirators in confinement ; and proclaiming an in-
terminable war against every Mason, and, I may add, in
some instances, against all those who should refuse to join
in the crusade against them. Every term of vituperation
supplied by a language that is sufficiently copious in epi-
thets, was freely used. The resolutions proscribing Masons
as unworthy to hold any offices whatever, were multiplied ;
the most positive pledges were made, that none such should
ever thereafterwards receive their sufirages at the elections ;
and as the town meetings, usually held in that country in the
month of March, approached, arrangements were made for
carrying their resolutions into effect at the polls. The de-
nunciations of the press were continued in the bitterest
terms, and prpscriptive resolutions, against all papers that
did not demean themselves exactly as the committees de-
sired, w^ere sent forth in showers. That the people had
some cause for their distrust and jealousy of the press, I am
not disposed to deny. The truth will not allow me to do it.
But of this subject hereafter.

The war was likewise carried into matters of religion.
Ministers of that gospel which breathes " peace on earth and
" good will to men," were denounced ; and although their
walk and conversation during the whole of their lives might
have been pure and blameless, yet the popular mandate
went forth, that, unless they forthwith renounced their Ma-
sonry, they were no longer fit to minister at the altar. In
some places the people resolved that they would not even
licar a minister preach, unless he renounced the lodge-room.
Several clergymen were dismissed — " the relations which
'*' had subsisted for years between the pastor and his flock,


" were burst asunder — ^brethren and communicants of the
" same church, refused to partake of the holy sacrament, so
" long as it was tainted by a Mason's presence — the dearest
" relations of social life were severed in twain — brother was
" armed against brother, citizen against citizen, and neigh-
" bor against neighbor. The groans of Calvary were lost,
" and the precepts of the Redeemer forgotten, amidst the
" universal cry of " where is Morgan ?" And echo answer-
ed ichere ?

The violence of these proceedings began to create a re-
vulsion in the public sentiment without the boundaries of
the agitated district. Good men, who knew, and felt, that
it was " a blessed spirit" in its origin, now hesitated, paused,
and inquired to what such things might lead. Morgan, it
was true, was yet absent, and the mystery of his disappear-
ance was as dark as ever. But there were so many con-
tradictory and conflicting stories afloat, that the mind was
literally "in wandering mazes lost." And what contribu-
ted again to raise doubts upon the subject, were the facts,
that one man, as it was now on all hands admitted, had been
unjustly convicted. Another, who had been strongly charg-
ed as a principal in the alledged murder, by the Lewiston
committee, had been exonerated by two of its principal
members, from any knowledge of, or participation in, the
crime — or rather, (for he was now dead,) his memory had
been relieved of the reproach by that committee. In addi-
tion to these circumstances, another member of the same
committee, had airthorised the editor of a paper at Batavia
to declare to the public, " that no signs of blood, or any
" other probable evidences of the murder of Morgan, had
" been discovered at Fort Niagara." This was in direct
contradiction of what had been understood as one of the
principal discoveries in the magazine. And, in sober truth,
what with these contradictions, and the honest, and sincere,
and spirited denial of Brandt, of which I have already spo-


ken, from the testimony now before the pubhc, all the ma-
terial discoveries of the Lewiston convention during its
January visit to the frontier, had been successively discred-
ited. It is therefore not at all strange, that there should
have been a pause in the public mind at a distance from
the scene of the commotion. The history of the world
forms, for the most part, but a humiliating record of tho
crimes, the vices, and the follies of men, arising from the
indulgence of selfishness, or the still baser passions of the
human heart ; and this history is fruitful in examples of the
dangers resulting from popular excitements. However
just and holy may be the feeling in which they commence,
the moment they obtain the mastery over reason and the
law, there is no foretelling the lengths to which an excited
populace may be hurried, either by the unrestrained power
of their own passions, or by the uses to which their origi-
nally honest indignation may be moulded by the artful and
aspiring demagogue. Mankind are essentially the same in
all ages and countries, modified only by circumstances of
climate, education, and their civil and pohtical condition ;
and these advantages have never yet so far exalted the hu-
man character, as to raise the mass of men above the preju-
dices, and the passions of party, or to place them beyond
the reach of flattering and knavish leaders. The history
of New-England furnished a striking example of the extent
to which a popular excitement can be carried, even amongst
the best informed and the most pious race of men that have
ever existed. Without recurring to the bloody annals of
France, the gun powder and the Popish plots in England,
furnish evidence to the same effect ; the Saviour of Men fell
a victim to a popular excitement in Jerusalem, wiiich in-
timidated the Roman government ; — on one day the peo-
ple of Lycaonia could scarce be restrained from offering sa-
crifice to Paul and Barnabas, and on the next the same peo-
ple were excited to stone and drag them ignominiously


through the streets, leaving them for dead in the suburbs ; —
and, not to multiply examples, in returning to our own
country, at a comparatively recent day, we have seen the
civil authorities of a fair city at the south, paralyzed by a
popular excitement, and its streets reeking with the blood
of its murdered citizens. In one word, there is as yet no
sufficient evidence but that any large mass of men, heated
by excitement, no matter how created, might be so wielded
by another Antony, as to be made gladly to apply the torch
to the house of that same Brutus, who w^as the chiefest idol
of popular idolatry one brief hour before. Cautioned by
facts and reflections like these, the discredit that had for the
moment been thrown upon the revelations of the Lewiston
convention, although Morgan was still absent, and his ab-
sence unaccounted for, had the effect of checking the pub-
lic feeling in other parts of the state, if not of causing a po-
sitive re-action.

But in the excited region, there were ample causes for
keeping the elements in commotion. Several of the per-
sons who went from Canandaigua to Batavia, to arrest
Morgan on the trumped-up charge of larceny, were tried
at the General Sessions of Ontario, held during the month
of February, of which I am now WTiting, on a charge of
forcibly seizing and falsely imprisoning Morgan ; but they
were acquitted, on the ground that they were protected by
the warrant for his arrest. But the manner in w'hich Dr.
S. S. Butler gave his testimony, was the cause of dissatis-
faction. This gentleman, it may be recollected, was the
same who had been sent forward from Stafford to Batavia,
on the evening of September 10th, to announce to certain
friends in the latter place, the approaching visit of Chese*
boro and Hayward, in pui^uit of Morgan, with the war-
rant. Connected with this individual also, was the still
more important faqt, that, on the organization of the grand
Jui-y for the term of the Genesee Court of General Sessions,


for this same month of February, and when it was probable
that some further judicial proceedings would be instituted
upon this subject, this Dr. Butler was appointed foreman.
He was a Knight Templar, and a large portion of the jury
were Masons. Of this fact the foreman was not slow to
avail himself. To one of the jurymen, also a Templar, he
remarked : — " A majority of the jurors are Masons : we
" have got the stuff in our own hands : our friends must not
" be indicted !" The promulgation of such facts as these,
was calculated to produce fresh irritation. It was the first
direct evidence yet disclosed, that Freemasonry was, at
least in that section of the state, endeavoring to impede the
march of justice, even in its very sanctuaries ; and glad
should I feel, could it truly be said it was the last. But it
so happened, that the sheriffs of all the counties of that dis-
trict of country, were at that time Masons. As the law of
New- York then was, the grand jurors were selected and
summoned by the sheriffs. And it generally occurred that
large majorities of the juries so summoned, were Masons
likewise. This was the fact in January, at the Niagara
General Sessions. The Lewiston committee were then
making their investigations along the Niagara frontier ; and
Eli Bruce, the sheriff, summoned sixteen Masons upon
the grand jury. No applications, however, were made at
this term, for indictments ; but it will, by and bye, appear
to what uses Mr. Bruce did bring his Masonry, at a sub-
sequent period, in this very respect.

At the term of the Court of General Sessions of
Ontario, just mentioned, the grand jury renewed the
inquiries in the case of Morgan. They found a bill
of indictment against seventeen persons, for a conspi-
racy to kidnap and carry away that person, and for
falsely imprisoning and carrying him to parts unknown.
These persons were James Lakey, a physician, Chaun-

cey H. Coe, Hiram Hubbard, John Butterfield, Jaraes



Ganson, formerly s. member of the stale legislature, Asa
Nowlen, Harris Seymour, Henry Howard, Joseph Sco-
field, Moses Roberts, Halloway Hayward, a constable,
James Gillis, a respectable farmer, John Whitney, Bur-
rage Smith, Simeon B. Jewett, an attorney and counsel-
lor at law, and Willard Eddy.

The preceding details bring this eventful history down to
the close of February ; and along with " the ides of March,"
came fresh disclosures of -deep and awakening interest.
There was a bookbinder, by the name of Richard Howard,,
alias Clipperfield, or Chipperfield, a foreigner, who had been,
strongly suspected of a participation in the Morgan outra-
ges, but down to this period, no circumstances had trans-
pired, sufficient to warrant his arrest. He was known
to have been at Batavia at the commencement of the out-
rages, or at about that time ; and from his own conversa-
tions, and admissions, at various times, it was by many sup-
posed that he was also at Fort Niagara, on the 14th, and
probably a few days afterwards. I was told at Buffalo, in
the autumn of 1829, of the manner in which some of the
presumptive testimony, in the case of Howard, was obtain-
ed ; and as the same process was adopted in other places,
and with similar success, it may not be amiss to note it in
this place, as an evidence of the deep and universal interest
which pervaded the community in that quarter, upon this
subject, and of the persevering efforts of people, whether
committee-men or not, to disclose, if possible, the hidden
mystery of the fate of Morgan. With this view, in some
villages, the inhabitants were, in fact, committees of the
whole. It was so in Buffalo ; and many of its citizens were
continually provided with pencils and paper, to note down
every word, hint, or incidental remark, which they might
hear in the course of the day, bearing upon the matter up-
permost in their thoughts ; and with these memoranda they
were wont to meet in the evenings, for a comparisoa of


Tiotes. These notes not unfrequently reflected light upon
each other, and in the case of Howard, had afibrded almost
sufficient matter to authorise an arrest. But an affidavit
was now received by the committee at Batavia, which left
no further doubt of the propriety of such a procedure. It
was the deposition of John Mann, then of Buffalo, stating,
that in the latter part of the preceding month of August, or
early in September, and a few days previously to the at-
tempt to burn Miller's office, in Batavia, he took a ride with
the said Howard. While they were riding, Howard appli-
ed to the deponent to procure for him a keg of turpentine —
avowing that he wished to obtain it in order to " switch"
Miller's office therewith, it being his determination to burn
that office, and thus prevent the publication of a book re-
lating to Freemasonry. Mann declined purchasing the
tirticle, for the want of money, as he alledged to the appli-
cant. Sometime afterwards, subsequently to the attempt
upon the office, (the deponent proceeded to say,) Howard in-
formed him that he did make the attempt. Having procur-
ed the turpentine, and purchased a broom at a store a short

Online LibraryWilliam L. (William Leete) StoneLetters on masonry and anti-masonry, addressed to the Hon. John Quincy Adams → online text (page 20 of 49)