William L. (William Leete) Stone.

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

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ward, Hiram Hubbard, John Butterfield, James Ganson
Asa Nowlen, Harris Seymour, Henry Howard, and Moses
Roberts, before the Court of General Sessions for the coun-
ty of Ontario— Judge Howell presiding. These persons
had been indicted for a conspiracy to take William Morgan
from the jail of Ontario county, to kidnap and remove him
to foreign parts, without the jurisdiction of the state, and to
secrete and confine him there ; and for actually carrying
the conspiracy into effect. Undiminished interest was mani-
fested by the public in the progress of these successive
trials, and large collections of people attended, as in the
case of Cheseboro and others, in the preceding January.
Counsel for the people, Messrs. Whiting, (District Attor-
ney,) Wilson, Dickson, Talbot, and Benjamin. For the de-
fendants, Messrs. Marvin, Sibley, Penfield, Adams, Hubbell,
and Barnard.

In sketching this trial, and the several others that are to
follow, I shall, as far as possible, avoid minute details, and
repetitions of facts heretofore related, although references
to such facts will often become necessary. My object, how-
ever, will be, to give all such new facts and circumstances,
as are from time to time brought to light, and all those
points of the several cases, which will best illustrate the pe-
culiar character of this great conspiracy, and the conduct
of those who were engaged in it.

The trial of Evertson, named in the present indictment,
was postponed, in consequence of the absence of a material
witness ; and in the course of the proceedings, ^7iolle pro-
sequi was entered by the public prosecutor, in regard to
Butterfield and Nowlen. The case involved the arrest of
Morgan, at Batavia, on the morning of the 10th September,
1826, and his transportation to Canandaigua. Colonel MiU
ler was the first witness called. He testified, (in addition
to the particulars heretofore historically related,) that when
he came up to the carriage into which Morgan had already


been thrust at Donald's house, Hayward stepped forward,
and declared — " Morgan must and shall go." On being
spoken to by Miller, Morgan at first paid no attention, and
witness was surprised to see his appearance so much chang-
ed. His color had departed, and left an ashy paleness, and
his eye seemed fixed and glazed. Miller spoke to him with
more energy, upon which he started, and was partly rising,
when he was commanded by some one to " sit still," — upon
which the door was suddenly shut by Danolds. This last
fact was flatly contradicted by Danolds, in a subsequent
part of the trial. Dr. Butler, the messenger who went for-
ward from Stafford to announce the approach of Cheseboro
and Hayward, and their party, to arrest Morgan, testified to
the arrival of the Canandaigua party at Staflbrd,and his intro-
duction to them. The doctor stated that he tried to dissuade
them from their purpose of taking Morgan away, assuring
them that it would be bad policy. But they persisted, say-
ing: — " We have started for that purpose, and shall go on."
The witness said, that as he was then going to Batavia, he
was requested to inform Follett and Major Seaver of their
approach. He did so ; and Mr. Follett expressed his re-
gret upon the subject, as the village had already had trou-
ble enough respecting Morgan. As witness was returning
to Stafford, on meeting the carriage, he advised them, at
the request of Follett, to suspend the procedure. But they
were, most of them, determined upon accomplishing their
purpose ; and although the carriage was turned about, and
driven back to Ganson's tavern, Ganson himself being with
it still, yet the others proceeded forward to Batavia on foot.
The driver of the coach from Batavia, whose reluctance to
proceed has formerly been stated, was likewise called as a
witness. Cheseboi'o rode on the box with him, and kept a
sharp look-out behind, as though apprehensive of a rescue.
He declared that Morgan should not be taken from them
alive. He heard Davids (Miller's i)artner) remark, as they

LETTER xxvri. 275

were about starting from Danolds's — " they are going to
" smuggle Morgan away." Justice Ciiipman, who had
issued the warrant, related the circumstances attending the
issuing thereof, and the trials which took place on its return^
ending in Morgan's being taken to Canandaigua jail. All
the parties named in the bill, were clearly identified, as hav-
ing been engaged in the movements at some stage of the
proceedings. Dr. Lakey was at his office when the war-
rant was taken out, and on its return ; and Kingsley swore
that it was by Lakey's advice and urgency that he was in-
duced, against his own better judgment, to apply for the
warrant. He had sometimes said that Morgan had stolen
his shirt and cravat, and that the Masons ought to pay for
it ; but did not believe the taking of the articles amounted
to theft. The residue of the investigations related to the
imprisonment of Morgan, and his being taken from the jail.
They were long and minute ; but the testimony did not
vary in a single essential point from that given on the trial
of Cheseboro. In addition, however, to the witnesses for-
merly examined, there were some others, who gave a few ad-
ditional particulars touching the occurrences between the jail
and the carriage. A lady, not called before, heard the
whistling, saw the scuffling, and heard the cry of murder
three times repeated, together with a desponding groan that
followed. She saw nine men, of whom Coe was one, while
two were dragging a third along. A black boy, now first
examined, saw six men put Morgan into a coach, and he
also saw Cheseboro stuff* a handkerchief into his mouth.
George Ketchum, who will be recollected as the companion
of Mrs. Morgan from Batavia, when she came in pursuit
of her husband, was likewise called as a witness. He tes-
tified to the fact of his having known Morgan at Rochester,
in 1824, and of his coming with Mrs. Morgan to look for
her husband. While she was at the tavern, he saw Chese-
boro, Coc, and Evertson, and was informed by the first,


that Morgan had been taken away the night before, by an
officer from Pennsylvania. This was the falsehood, as you
will recollect, that was told by him at first to the disconso-
late woman ; but nothing appears on this trial, going to
show that Ketchum himself might not honestly have be-
lieved the story at the time. Mrs. Morgan was again exa-
mined, but her simple narrative remained unaltered. An
important witness was then called upon the stand, from
whom the first legal testimony was elicited, of Morgan's
having been carried through Rochester to Hanford's Land-
ing. Mr. Sibley, of Canandaigua, a silversmith, was called
to testify to revelations that had been made to him by Sey-
mour, one of the parties to this indictment. The witness
objected at first to make the disclosure, as he was very re-
luctant to repeat the confidential conversations of a friend.
His examination Avas very long, occupying a part of two
days. It soon became evident, that in the regular progress
of his testimony, other names than that of Seymour, would
be divulged ; and the counsel for the defence objected to this.
The question was reserved for consideration, and the exa-
mination proceeded, the names of all persons not now on
trial, being omitted. On the morning of the second day,
however, the counsel for the people succeeded in obtaining
a rule for the naming of two other persons, to whom the
witness had alluded, as being concerned in the conspiracy
to suppress the book. It appeared from Mr. Sibley's testi-
mony, that Seymour had given him an account of all the
measures adopted by them to get Morgan into their power,
and the manner in which he had been taken away from the
jail. Seymour was one of those who went to Batavia after
Morgan. It was the second attempt to take him away.
About two weeks previously to the time in question, a gen-
tleman came from Batavia to Canandaigua, and consulted
with Cheseboro and others respecting the proposed publica-
tion, and Cheseboro declared that it must and should be


suppressed. Seymour informed him, that after the man
[Lawson,] had succeeded in getting Morgan out of jail, he
was taken arm in arm, and led along a few yards, when he
was introduced to another person as a friend, but under a
feigned name. On reaching the street, Morgan resisted,
and witness thought he was told by Seymour that he
was bound and blind-folded. He was then placed in a car-
riage, and taken to Hanford's Landing, where he was
taken out, placed in another carriage, and carried along
the Ridge road to Lewiston; thence down to Youngs-
town, and confined in the powder-house of the fort —
" and that," he added, " was the last they had heard from
" him." A number of other witnesses were called, who
proved sundry particulars of the journey, such as the
procuring of a carriage at Rochester, the collection of peo-
ple at Wright's, &c. Piatt, the livery stable keeper of Ro-
chester, testified that he supposed he was furnishing the car-
riage for a party going to the Lewiston installation. No
one had ever paid him for it. Wright, at whose house, not
many miles from Lockport, it will be recollected there was
so great a collection of people, also supposed they were all
going to the installation. He confirmed the statement as to
the carriage having been driven into his barn. Eli Bruce was
subsequently called upon the stand, and after several objec-
tions to answering questions, lest he should thereby crimi-
nate himself, he admitted that he had seen Bur rage Smith,
of Rochester, on the afternoon of September 13th, but de-
clined saying where he had seen him. He also declined
answering the question, whether he was at Wright's on that
day, and likewise refused to say whether he was acquainted
with William Morgan. He admitted that he was at Lew-
iston on the 14th of September, and that he was at Fort
Niagara on the 13th and 14th or 15th. To the question
whether he was there on the 15th, he declined answering.
He answered promptly the question whether he was there
on the 14th, 15th, and 16th. He denied having ever seen


Loton Lawson, until within a day or two of his present ex-
amination, in the prison near by. The court excused him
from answering the question whether he had heard any con-
versation about Morgan on the 1 3th ; and in consideration
of the appeal of Bruce to the court, on the ground that the
transactions under discussion, were the subject of a com-
pkiint against him now pending before the governor, and
also at the suggestion of the public prosecutor, that the grand
jury had just then found a bill of indictment against the wit-
ness, he was excused from any further examination. I
omitted to mention one fact stated by Sibley, viz : that in his
conversations, Seymour expressed deep regrets at what had
been done, and the part he himself had acted. But another
witness was called, who swore that, in January, after the
offence was committed, Seymour declared " he would go
" bare-footed and bare-legged to New-Orleans," through
jeopardy, to do the same thing over again. A Mr. Perry,
who was watching with a sick person, on the back street in
Lewiston, where the party changed carriages, saw a man
taken out of the first coach, and put into the one that drove
into the street after it. He appeared to be helpless, as
though intoxicated, and his head was bound up. Noah
Beach and Parkhurst Whitney, testified, that a large party
went down from Lewiston to the fort, on the night of the
14th ; but they did not search the fort, and neither of these
witnesses saw William Morgan.

Several witnesses were called for the defence, the prin-
cipal of whom was Nicholas G. Cheseboro. His examination
was very long, but the substance of it, as taken down by the
prosecuting attorney himself, was, that there was no under-
standing between him and the defendants, " of any thing
" to be done to Morgan, other than the bringing him from
^' Batavia to Canandaigua, and trying him." " The idea of
" Morgan's going west, originated in Canandaigua, after
*' the discharge from the warrant ; and Cheseboro did not
" understand 4hat Morgan was to leave the jail, until near


" night on the 12th." He also swore that his motives in
prosecuting Morgan, were to convict him of steahng, and
thus to suppress the pubUcation of his book. They were
apprehensive that Miller would come from Batavia, pay the
debt, and release him, and a communication was there-
fore sent to Morgan's friends at Rochester, informing them
that he was in jail for debt. Towards evening, on the 12th
September, several persons communicated to him the pur-
pose of removing Morgan ; they were the same persons
who had been informed of Morgan's imprisonment, by the
communication sent to Rochester, — and he, (Cheseboro,)
asserted, that he had hired the carriage in which Morgan
was carried off, and paid for it. There was no doubt of all
the parties to the indictment having been more or less con-
,cerned in getting Morgan to Canandaigua, and into jail ; but
the indictment w^as for taking him out, and transporting hinl
to parts unknown ; and of the intention, or conspiracy, to
effect this object, Cheseboro solemnly declared that neither
of the defendants were " by words, significant signs, hints,
" writings, or in any other manner apprised."

The cause, having lasted four days, was submitted by
the counsel without argument. His honor Judge Howell,
gave an able and luminous charge to the jury. The proof
to establish both the conspiracy and the consummation, was,
he said, full and conclusive. That Morgan had been un-
lawfully kidnapped and carried off, was abundantly cer-
tain, and that he had been subsequently unlawfully put to
death, there was but too much reason to believe. All ex-
ertions, praiseworthy to those who had made them, and
honorable to the country, had thus far failed to develope the
nefarious transaction. Exertion and investigation, how-
ever, ought not, and would not, cease, until this abominable
crime should be exposed, and the perpetrators of it punished.
These defendants, continued the judge, if innocent of the
ofTence charged in the indictment, must not suffer for the


foul and black deeds of others. Courts are established to
protect the innocent, and punish the guilty ; and it is better
that ninety and nine guilty men should escape, than that an
innocent person should suffer. After briefly stating the ev-
idence, and explaining the law, he gave his opinion, that the
testimony, though abundant to prove abstractly, all that was
alledged, did not bring the charge home to the defendants.
The time of the court, he remarked, had, notwithstanding,
been profitably spent in eliciting testimony which must ul-
timately unravel this horrible mystery.

The jury, after a short deliberation, returned a verdict of
Not Guilty. Eli Bruce, David Hague, Orsamus Turner,
and Jared Darrow, of Lockport, were at the same time in-
dicted for a conspiracy to kidnap William Morgan. Orsa-
mus Turner being at Canandaigua, was arrested, and dis-
charged on a recognizance to appear at the next term of
the court, and answer the indictment. His own recogniz-
ance was in the sum of one thousand dollars, and two sure-
ties of five hundred dollars each. Paul Mosher, Corydon
Fox, Edward Giddings, and Ebenezer Perry, were at the
same time recognized to appear as witnesses at the same

In the course of the investigations before the grand jury
at this court, it was ascertained that Col. King was at can-
tonment Towson, at one of the farther extremities of the
territory of Arkansas. Smith and Whitney were also be-
lieved to be residing somewhere in the valley of the lower
Mississippi, and the idea was suggested of sending a spe-
cial commission to apprehend and bring all three back as
fugitives from justice. The testimony produced to the
grand jury, would have warranted the indictment of Col.
King, as one of those most deeply involved in the great
crime. But Gen. Whiting, the District Attorney, had spe-
cial reasons for not wishing his indictment in that county.
After the lising of the court, this officer entered into a full


correspondence with Gov. Clinton upon the subject of the
additional disclosures, furnishing him with a transcript of
the testimony taken before the grand jury, and suggesting
the expediency of deputing messengers to the far west, in
search of the fugitives. The Governor entered fully and
cordially into his views upon the subject, and the trust was
confided to Mr. James Garlinghouse, sheriff of Ontario, and
Mr. Phincas P. Bates, the late sheriff. It being understood
that King was in the service of the United States, at a
military post. Gov. C. opened a correspondence with the
War Department for the purpose of obtaining the necessary
orders, to secure the assistance of the officers at the remote
military posts of the west, and such other facilities as might
the more effectually insure the success of the mission. Gov.
Barbour, then at the head of the War Department, compli-
ed most readily with the request from Gov. Clinton, and
the officers departed with every reasonable encouragement
of success.

I am, sir, very truly, &c.


New- York, March 1, 1832.

The result of the preceding trial gave no satisfaction
to the public. The acquittal of the defendants was clearly
just, according to the evidence ; but the excited multitude
were bent on having somebody punished, and it is at no
time an easy task to make the great body of the people per-
ceive the nice distinctions of the law. There was conse-
quently much additional clamor, and the excitement, which
had not raged quite so furiously during the summer solstice,

again bade fair to blaze forth in all its primitive fervor.



There were causes, other than the pubhc diHappointmcnt
at the result of the trial, moreover, that contributed to hi-
fuse fresh activity into the angry elements. Immediately
after the defendants w^ere acquitted at Canandaigua, a pub-
lication appeared at Rochester, purporting to give a correct
and true account of all that had taken place at Niagara,
respecting Morgan, from the moment he is lost sight of in
the testimony as given by Sibley, of the confessions of Sey-
mour. The facts detailed in that account, if true, were
such as to harrow up the souls of all who read them. By
some means or other, likewise, the substance of various hor-
rible disclosures, said to have been made to the grand jury
of Ontario, during the recent sittings of the court, found
their way into the newspapers ; and the public mind at
once became highly inflamed. Those salutary principles
of the law, which have been estabhshed, as well for the se-
curity of innocence, when unjustly accused, as to prevent
the escape of the guilty, were entirely lost sight of ; and po-
pular prejudice, refusing to listen for a moment to the dic-
tates of reason, could only perceive more distinctly in each
successive trial, the power of the strong and invisible ann
of Freemasonry.

There were other causes, likewise, contributing to keep
the feeling alive, and even to increase it. The annual elec-
tions of this state now rajndly approached; and the oppo-
nents of Freemasomy were seen on all sides, at the west,
arraying themselves under the new and singular banner of
Anti-masonry. There is probably no state in the Union,
where the elections are more earnestly contested than in
New- York, or where the parties are more thoroughly dis-
ciplined—particularly the party, at present, and for several
years past, composing the majority. But wherever the
Anti-masons had carried the Morgan (question to the polls
at the town elections early in the })rece(ling spring, with ve-
ry few cxceptiojis, they had Ihxm) siiccessfnl over both of

LETTER xxviir. 283

the old parlies ; and by their dispositions for the coming
contest, (the first week in November,) it was very evident
they had no design of losing an inch of the ground already
obtained. Neither of the previously existing parties, how-
ever, could at first be made seriously to believe that such a
party as this, organized upon principles, and avowedly for
the attainment of objects, wholly distinct from those hereto-
fore connected in any manner with either our state or na-
tional politics, could obtain any extensive or durable foot-
hold in the country. But pamphlets, and handbills, and ar-
guments, and all the usual ammunition for the prosecution
of an electioneering campaign, were alike thrown away
upon the converts to the new party. To every appeal,
the reply was — " Where is Morgan ?" " Bring us back
Morgan." " Down with all secret societies."

Eli Bruce yet held the office of sheriff of Niagara ; and
the people, without heeding the causes which had hitherto
prevented the decision of his excellency the Governor in
that case, murmured loudly against that revered chief ma-
gistrate for the delay ; and the circumstance was used to
the best advantage by those who had embarked their for-
tunes with the disciples of the new political creed. This
weapon, however, was wrested from them on the 1st of
October, by the appearance of the Governor's proclama-
tion, for the removal of the offending sheriff. Fault had
been found, most unjustly, with the tone of the earlier pro-
clamations of his excellency upon the subject of the abduc-
tion. But with this there was, I believe, no complaint on
that score : it was sufficiently energetic and decisive even for
the most zealous Anti-mason. This proclamation set forth
that the delinquent officer " had been heard in his defence ;"
that " in the investigation of the accusation, it appeared that
" it was completely in the power of the accused, if innocent,
" to establish his innocence ;" that " in order to afford him
" an opportunity for that purpose, the. decision on the com-

284 LETTER xxviir.

" plaint had boen suspended for an ample time, but that ho
" had given no explanation of his conduct." It also set forth
the fact, that at the recent trials at Canandaigua, when call-
ed upon as a witness, " he refused to testify on several
" material points, on the ground of self-crimination ;" from
all of which the Governor declared his belief, "that he was
" a participant in the said abduction, and had thereby ren-
" dered himself unworthy of the official station which he
" occupied," &c. ; — for which reasons his removal from the
said office was definitively pronounced.

But an incident of an unlocked for, and, in its consequen-
ces, of a most extraordinary character, followed so closely
upon the heels of this proclamation, that the political friends
of Governor Clinton, among whom I had the happiness to
bear a part, were not enabled to turn it to the smallest pos-
sible advantage. On the 7th of October, 1827, the body of
a stranger, who had been drowned, and washed ashore by
the surf, was discovered upon the beach of Lake Ontario, at
the entrance of Oak Orchard Creek, about forty miles from
Niagara, on the American territory. An event of this
description is by no means unusual on the coasts of naviga-
ble waters ; and in tlie regular discharge of the duties of the
living towards the dead, in such cases, a coroner was called
on the present occasion, and an inquest held, which resulted
in the body being pronounced that of some person to the
jury unknown, who had perished by drowning. It was
thereupon decently interred. It was much bloated, and in
a highly putrid state, when discovered. It was therefore
necessary to commit it to the earth with all convenient
speed. So far, there was nothing worthy of note in the
occurrence. But the scenes which followed, were of a
truly extraordinary character ; — presenting one of the stron-
gest illustrations afforded in all history, of the easy mastery
which an excited imagination sometimes obtains over the
human understanding, and also oi" the general sympathy


which exists between difTerent minds wiien wrought upon
by the same causes. , " When the common feehng of dan-
" ger, and the animating burst of enthusiasm," says Sir
Waher Scott, '• act on the feehngs of many men at once,
" their minds hold a natural correspondence with each
" other, as it is said is the case with stringed instruments
" tuned to the same pitch, of which when one is played, the
" chords of the otliers are supposed to vibrate in unison with

Online LibraryWilliam L. (William Leete) StoneLetters on masonry and anti-masonry, addressed to the Hon. John Quincy Adams → online text (page 24 of 49)