William L. (William Leete) Stone.

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

. (page 22 of 49)
Online LibraryWilliam L. (William Leete) StoneLetters on masonry and anti-masonry, addressed to the Hon. John Quincy Adams → online text (page 22 of 49)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

withstanding all the cunning in putting the questions, actu-
ally testified to Bruce's own acknowledgement of having
had an agency in carrying Morgan away. Questions, which
had been prepared carefully beforehand, in writing, and
furnished to members of the jury, and which it was believed
would elicit the truth, were not allowed to be put by the
majority. The revelation before referred to, which was
made to a respectable man when at work upon the Welland
Canal, was testified to before this grand jury. One juror
insisted that the witness should name the person who gave
him this information, but he refused, and nearly, if not quite
all the other jurors present, sustained the witness in his refu-
sal, and he was allowed to retire without answering the
question. Jt has also been stated, without contradiction, so
far as I have been able to ascertain, " that a series of ques-
" tions, to be propounded to the witness, had been so framed,
" that the witnesses could answer without eliciting any dan-
" gerous information. This must have been the case, or real
" perjury must have been repeatedly committed, on the in-
" vestigation before them. All the important witnesses, to
" trace the whole abduction from Rochester to Fort Niagara,
" were examined before this grand jury ; the same witnesses,
" upon whose testimony, bills were afterwards found in other
" cases, and convictions had. Thirteen of the witnesses ex-
" amined before this grand jury, were subsequently indicted,
" not one of whom protected himself on the examination,
" on the ground that he should criminate himself. Three of
" them, were afterwards shown by the testimony of Eli
" Bruce himself, to have had a criminal agency in the ab-
" duction. Edward Giddings, in his published ' Statement of
"* Facts,' says he was subpoenaed before this grand jury,
" which much alarmed those who were implicated. One of
" them informed Giddings that he would go and see the fore-
" man, and state to liim Giddings' situation, that he might
'* know how to question him, so that hk answers might not


" injure others. He subsequently informed Giddings that he
" had told the foreman what Giddings knew of the affair, and
" that the foreman would put no question but what Giddings
" could safely answer." Nay, more than all, " while this
"jury was in session, the foreman took Eli Bruce privately
" into a side room, and was there with him some time. And
" this grand jury, so far from finding any indictment against
" Eli Bruce, or any other person, drew up a presentment
" to the court, that they had discovered nothing which would
"authorise them to find a bill against any person, and also
" framed and sent a memorial to the Governor, in which
" they stated that there was not a shadow of testimony im-
" plicating Eli Bruce, as guilty of, or accessary to, the ab-
" duction of Morgan, with the exception of one witness,
"who was so contradicted, and whose general reputation
" was so bad, that they did not place any reliance upon it."

This, sir, forms but a single chapter of the deep and
wide-spread iniquity which has impeded the march of jus-
tice in relation to the Morgan conspiracy. And there are
more to come. Is there, then, sir, let me again ask, any
cause for special wonder that the people should have been
excited — strongly and fiercely excited — while such trans-
actions, under the pretext of a due administration of the
law, were taking place under their own eyes I

Accept, sir, the assurances of my respectful considera-


New- York, Feb. 25, 1832.

It was on the Gth of March, 1827, that the memorials

of the Lewistou convention, and others, upon the subject of



the abduction of Morgan, were first presented to the House
of Assembly of the New- York Legislature. The prayer
of the petitioners was for the enactment of more efficient
laws for the punishment of the crime of kidnapping ; for
the adoption of more energetic measures for discovering the
authors of the outrage complained of; and for the appoint-
ment of a special commission, or tribunal of justice, for the
trial and punishment of the offenders. The memorials were,
in the first instance, referred to the committee on courts of
justice, but subsequently they were taken from that com-
mittee, and entrusted to a special committee, of which Mr.
Granger, of Ontario, was chairman. This committee made
a long report upon the subject, on the 4th of April. After
setting forth, briefly, the extraordinary facts of the case,
and examining the nature of the testimony by which they
were sustained, the committee arrived at a conclusion un-
favorable to the creation of a special tribunal for that sec-
tion of the country, clothed with special and peculiar powers
for investigating the transaction submitted to their conside-
ration. They did propose, however, two important reso-
lutions, the first of which authorised and empowered the
Governor to issue his proclamation, oflTering a reward of
five thousand dollars, for the discovery of the said William
Morgan, if living ; and the like sum of five thousand dol-
lars, for the murderer or murderers of Morgan, if dead.
The second resolution proposed the appointment of a joint
committee of the two houses of the legislature, consisting
of two members of the Senate, and three members of the
Assembly, whose duty it should be to visit the region of
the excitement, now including seven counties, with power
to send for persons and papers, to inquire into the facts and
circumstances connected with the abduction, and making it
their duty to report their proceedings to the next succeeding
legislature, that such measures might afterwards be adopt-
ed, as the liberty and safety of the people required. The


report and resolutions were ordered to lie on the table and
be printed.

They were called up for discussion on the 10th of April,
and underwent a long debate. Mr. Granger explained the
views of the committee, and defended the report with dis-
tinguished ability. The friends of the report were opposed
to the erection of any new legal tribunal, not only from the
intrinsic difficulties that would attend such a measure ; but
from a belief that such a novel court would tend to increase,
rather than diminish, the excitement ; but it was believed
that the appointment of a special committee for investigat-
ing the whole matter, clothed with the power of the legis-
lature, would inspire the people with confidence, and allay
the agitation of the public mind. The resolutions were
strongly opposed by several gentlemen, among the foremost
of whom, were, Mr. Bucklin, of Jefferson ; Mr. Moseley, of
Onondaga ; and Gen. Root, of Delaware. The leading ob-
jections were, that the amount of money proposed to be of-
fered as a reward, would open the tribunals of justice in the
excited region, to such scenes of fraud and perjury, stimula-
ted by cupidity, and pushed on by the frenzy of the public
mind, as would jeopard the best interests of the people, and
involve alike, the innocent in ruin with the guilty. It was
not believed, by the opponents of the report, that the case
was beyond the reach of the laws ; and they contended
that a committee of the legislature might as well be sent
in pursuit of every absconding murderer, as in search of
those who had abducted Morgan, — for, as yet, there was
no testimony of his having been killed. Neither the com-
mittee in the report, nor did its chairman in opening the
debate, make any allusion to the institution of Freemasonry,
as having been the cause of the outrage, and the conse-
quent excitement. But the institution was introduced by
the opponents of the report ; and Mr. Bucklin made several
statements that had an evident effect against its adoption.


Being himself a Mason, Mr. B. stated, as an evidence of the
dangerous extent to which the excitement had arisen, that
but a few days before, a gentleman from the west, under-
standing that he was one of the order, plainly told him that
he must of course know all about the Morgan business ;
whether he was alive ; and, if so, where he was. Mr. B.
likewise commented upon the inflammatory and violent pro-
ceedings of the public meetings at the west, among which
had been several assemblages of the ladies, who had resolved
that their daughters should never be married to Freema-
sons. He further stated, that, as chairman of a committee
to whom the subject of public executions had been referred,
he had reported a bill, directing the sentence of the law, in
capital cases, to be carried into effect in private. For this
report he was directly threatened, by letters from Batavia,
the writers of which conceived the bill to be a project for
shielding Freemasons from the disgrace of being hung in
public ! Mr. Granger strongly deprecated the course of the
debate. The committee had hoped that the resolutions
would be acted upon without reference to the character or
conduct of any secret association. They had denounced
none : they had spoken of the transaction as a violation of
the rights of a citizen, owing allegiance to, and protected by,
the government, and he expressed his surprise and regret
at the course that had been pursued by the gentlemen op-
posed to him. Tlie result was the rejection of the report,
by a vote of 74 to 23.

On the 10th of April, however, an act was passed mak-
ing the a])duction or kidnapping of any person felony, which
had only been a misdemeanor before ; and the punishment
was prescribed to be imprisonment in the state prison for a
term of not exceeding fourteen years. Thus ends the le-
gislative history of Anti-masonry for the first year.

Towards the close of the month of March, the storm
raged so licrcely against the fraternity, that a few of its


members at Batavia, offered a reward of one hundred dol-
lars, for the discovery of those who had set fire to Miller's
office. This prodigious -effort was made seven months af-
ter the transaction, and after those in the secret very well
knew that the offender was safe from arrest.

A grand jury assembled again in Monroe county, in this
same month of March. A majority of them were Masons,
and the efforts for a farther investigation of the conspiracy,
were so faint, that no indictments were found. At the
Court of Oyer and Terminer in Niagara county, held in
April, and also at the Court of General Sessions in the same
county, for May, grand juries were assembled ; but Bruce
had packed them with large majorities of Masons. The
conduct of the April grand jury has already been noticed,
in anticipation. Tliat of May was of so decidedly a ma-
sonic character, that it was deemed entirely useless to make
any complaint before it.

At the Court of Oyer and Terminer, held in the county
of Genesee, in April, 1827, — the Hon. John Birdsall, of the
eighth Circuit, presiding, — came on the trial of Jesse
French, James Hurlburt, Roswell Wilcox, and James Gan-
son, who had been indicted in October of the year before,
for the outrage upon Col. Miller. French, Wilcox, and
Hurlburt, were found guilty, and sentenced to close con-
finement in the county jail for different periods — viz. French,
the officer, as it will be recollected, who served the warrant
under color of which Miller had been carried away, — was
sentenced for one year, Wilcox for six months, and Hurl-
burt for three. The whole history of the outrage, as elici-
ted upon this trial, corresponds, with great exactness, with
the account given in a former letter. It appeared, in addi-
tion to what I have tl ;>rc stated, that when Miller was ta-
ken into the lodge-room in the stone-house at Stafford, the
door was " tyled" by two armed men. When Johns came
in with a drawn sword, he advanced in a threatening man-


ner upon Miller, until, after expostulation, he appeared to
relent, and gave the faltering reply heretofore mentioned.
It also appeared upon this trial, that the money, for the re-
covery of which a feigned suit had been commenced in thifi
most extraordinary manner, was actually pressed upon
Miller's acceptance by Johns. It was proved, very dis-
tinctly, by several witnesses, that Ganson was regularly ap-
pointed the captain, or leader of the armed mob which went
to Batavia on that occasion ; that he was there in person ;
was also with them in Stafford, where they halted so long ;
and likewise at Le Roy, where, during the difficulties, as
formerly related, Miller was rescued, and taken home by
his friends. It was also satisfactorily proved, that they had
no design of carrying Miller to the magistrate, but were
clearly intent on taking him, to use their own language,
" where Morgan was/' Mrs. Morgan, an unimpeachable
witness on the trial, testified that Ganson informed her that
he knew the mob was going to Batavia. On her return
from the fruitless mission to Canandaigua, in search of her
husband, Ganson had assured her, that if she never saw her
husband again, she should be supported ; he said he was
very much obliged to her for giving up the papers, adding,
that if they had not been given up. Miller's office would
have been torn down. It had, therefore, saved them a great
deal of trouble and expense. Miller, he declared, deserved
a worse fate than her husband, and would be punished
worse, for they had two hundred and eighty men at their
command. But, notwithstanding the testimony of this de-
scription, and the indisputable fact, that he was appointed
the leader of the gang in the lodge-room at Stafford, before
they proceeded for Batavia, Ganson was acquitted. Although
there were no improper practices resorted to, either with
the witnesses or jurors, on this trial, that attracted the at-
tention of the court, yet the result excited more attention,
and induced more suspicion, from the ilict of the acquittal


of the man who was known and proved to have been the
captain of the band, and the main-spring of the expedition,
while those who acted a subordinate part, were convicted.
As to the witnesses who were imphcated more or less in
the transaction, there was the prevarication and forgetful-
ness common to most interested witnesses, and ^^othing
more. Ganson, however, though a high Mason, was a man
of standing, of wealth, and of influence. Great efforts were
made by his counsel ; and the presiding judge has informed
me, that although his acquittal was a matter of surprise to
him, yet he has been as much disappointed in the verdicts
of juries, both before and since that trial. Two other in-
dictments were found against Ganson, at the same term of
the court, — one for a conspiracy with Daniel Johns and
George Ketchum, to obtain Morgan's manuscripts, or print-
ed sheets, — the other for a conspiracy with sixteen others,
to destroy Miller's office,

Not the least remarkable feature of the Anti-masonic ex-
citement, was the successive alternations which for a long
time took place in the public sentiment. I do not speak,
now, of the public feeling in the disturbed district, for
within the boundaries of that territory, enlarging as addi-
tional towns and counties caught the fever, the spirit, once
awakened, was much the same. It was speedily aroused
to the highest point of excitation, when, after exhausting it-
self with over-action, it settled down into the solemn and
deliberate purpose of prosecuting an endless war against
Masons and Masonry. But at a distance, where the facts
and circumstances appealed to the judgments, rather than
the feelings, of men, the effects were different. With such,
the thousand stories set afloat by those interested upon both
sides at the west, — the one party wishing to increase and
extend the excitement, and the other to diminish it, the per-
plexities in which people were continually involved, were
very great. The Anti-masons, or rather that portion of


them whose chief object was to make a living out of it,
were equally ingenious and industrious in the multiplication
of masonic murders; and many were the suicides, long
gone by, and forgotten by every body save the coroners
who had sat upon them, or the editors who had chronicled
them, that were now raked up in all their terrific details,
and the half-remembered circumstances so warped and em-
bellished, as to make it appear at least possible that in fact
the deceased might have been murdered by the Masons.
Stories of this class were greedily published, and as greedily
believed by thousands of people, who never troubled them-
selves to inquire into the circumstances, or even the pro-
babilities of the respective cases. On the other hand, the
Morgan abductors were equally active in distracting the
public mind, with regard to the absent victim of their ven-

The reluctance of the people eastwardly of the Cayuga
bridge, to believe the worst that had been asserted, was very
great ; willing ears were consequently lent to every tale,
wearing an air of probability, going to exculpate the accu-
sed from the more aggravated part of the accusations under
which they were laboring, if no more. Various accounts
of the existence of Morgan, were coined and put into cir-
culation, and some of them given with so much particulari-
ty of the times, places, and circumstances, under which he had
actually been seen, as also by whom, and so plausibly told
withal, that the former opinion, viz : that Morgan was in
fact living, and only keeping out of sight until the books
could be sold, was extensively revived in the month of May.
The account of his having been seen somewhere in the inte-
rior of Canada, keeping a retail grocery concern, though
widely circulated, was not much credited. But there was
one statement published at this time, which I am free to
confess greatly staggered my own behef in his death. It
inust be n^.coIJccted that the Lewiston convention had not


yet put forth its official report, as digested from the evidence
they had obtained. Bruce, when first arrested, and brought
before a magistrate, in December, had been discharged, be-
cause it did not appear, from the evidence adduced, that
any such person as Morgan had been with him. The trial
of Cheseboro, had not traced the absentee twenty rods from
the jail of Canandaigua : that of Ganson and others, scarce-
ly involved the name of Morgan, as Miller only was direct-
ly concerned in that transaction : Mann, who had made
the disclosures respecting Howard, was now insane : other
occasional disclosures from the Lewiston committees had
fallen into disrepute. All the attempts to procure indict-
ments in Monroe and Niagara counties, where the suspi-
sions of guilt were fastened upon certain persons the strong-
est, had failed. And the manner in which those grand ju-
ries had been summoned, and the gross violations of their
duty, in shielding the persons implicated, by preventing the
disclosure of facts, and thus stopping the fountains of jus-
tice, as I have already stated, were not yet known to us in
the eastern and southern sections of the state. Accustomed
to the regular and harmonious movement of all the machine-
ry of our civil and criminal courts, and the steady adminis-
tration of the laws, in their purity and their might, we
could not suppose, — the possibility of the thing was not
dreamed of, — that the judges and magistracy of the land
could be thus mocked, and the sword and balances of Jus-
tice herself, snatched from her hands, by the primary
inquests — the grand jurors of the land — selected, as they
had ever been, and were yet supposed to be, from the most
intelligent and respectable yeomanry of the country. And
when the accused had been again and again pronounced
guiltless by these preliminary tribunals, if I may call them
such, nothing could be more natural and proper than that
we should again pause and suspend our opinions. It was

under circumstances like these, that accounts, apparently



well authenticated, reached us from Boston, that Morgan
himself had been seen in that city. Davids, one of his
partners in the book concern, had been in New- York seve-
ral weeks during the winter, and it was now said he was in
Boston, where a large edition of the masonic revelations
was printing in the Spanish language, with which New-
Orleans, and the people of Mexico, were to be supplied.
Circumstances were stated, with an air of sincerity and
truth, that even Loton Lawson, Whitney, and Smith, were
all secretly interested in the book, and that the former had
encountered the imprisonment which he was then suffering,
as a part of the scheme, — knowing that he was sure to come
out of prison with a fortune, — while Smith and Whitney had
departed for New-Orleans, to take charge of the adventure
in that part of the world. But the most imposing part of
the tale was the circumstance reported, that a gentleman
from Batavia, a Mr. Brown, whose name was given, and
who was well acquainted with Morgan, being in Boston
upon business, had actually seen him in the street. Mor-
gan, it was asserted, was partially disguised, and when
accosted by name, by his former neighbor, appeared some-
what disconcerted at first ; but drew his cloak close around
his face, and turned off into another street. He was pui'-
sued for some distance, through various streets and alleys,
and ultimately avoided a positive disclosure, by losing him-
self in a crowd of people. The editor of a paper published
at Pawtucket, concluded the account as follows : — " Such
" are the facts stated at the time by Brown, of whom loe
" know nothing, but have only the particulars from a geu-
" tleman who received them from Brown himself, and from
" others to whom he related them, in Boston and Newbiiry-
" port, where he gave an account of the matter. We do
" not hesitate to say, that our authority is respectable and
" authentic, ctnd that ivc shall at all times hold ourselves re-
" sponsible for the statement we have made,^' This state-


ment was fully corroborated by the Masonic Mirror, pub-
lished in Boston, the editor of which positively avowed his
belief that Morgan was in that city, living incog., and pre-
paring to extend the book speculation, as before mentioned.
These accounts created a re-action in the public mind,
which continued for several weeks, although circumstances
soon transpired to convince me that they were but another
attempt to deceive.

I have the honor to remain, &c.


New- York, Feb. 27, 1832.

The next step of this important history, was the an-
nual communication of the Grand Lodge of the state, which
assembles in the city of New-York, on the first Wednes-
day in June, of each year. This body has the supreme
government and control of the lodges of Master Masons,
as the Grand Chapter has of the Royal Arch ; and I looked
forward to the meeting with no little interest. Dissatisfied,
as I had been, with the Grand Chapter, albeit as yet igno-
rant of the iniquity of its secret counsels, I hoped, on this
first assembling of the Grand Lodge since the perpetration
of the Morgan outrage, that a thorough investigation would
be set on foot by this body, — the conduct of the lodges un-
der its jurisdiction, supposed to have been either directly or
indirectly implicated, inquired into, — and the charters of
offending lodges withdrawn, &c. I had another purpose in
view. I did entertain a hope, that, from my extensive ac-
quaintance with the fraternity, and by the help of my Free-
masonry, I should be enabled to penetrate the great secret


of Morgan's fate. And I accordingly devised such schemes
as seemed best for the accomplishment of that object.

A day or two previously to the meeting of the Grand Lodge,
I had the honor of a call from Eli Bruce. I v^^as aware that
lie had been cited by Governor Clinton to show cause why he
should not be removed from the sheriffalty of Niagara, for
his allcdged participation in the Morgan outrage. Indeed,
although Gov. C. has frequently been censured for the deli-
beration with which he proceeded in this matter, as well as
upon other points of this controversy, yet it is a fact, as must
already have been seen from one of his letters, that it was
at his suggestion, after he had seen the deposition of Mo-
sher and others, that a complaint against Bruce had been
formally laid before him. Mr. Bruce stated to me that he had
come to New- York to make his defence, — Gov. Clinton
having left Albany for a visit of a few weeks to this city.

Online LibraryWilliam L. (William Leete) StoneLetters on masonry and anti-masonry, addressed to the Hon. John Quincy Adams → online text (page 22 of 49)