William L. (William Leete) Stone.

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

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Online LibraryWilliam L. (William Leete) StoneLetters on masonry and anti-masonry, addressed to the Hon. John Quincy Adams → online text (page 25 of 49)
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" the tones produced."

The little mound had scarce been raised, and the turf
planted upon the stranger's grave, before it was unluckily
suggested by somebody, that the body might possibly have
been that of William Morgan ! The name was no sooner
pronounced, than the report spread, with electrical rapidity,
that the body of Morgan had actually been washed on
shore at Oak Orchard Creek, and that he was hastily bu-
ried by those who had know^n him when living. Nothing
could have been better calculated to awaken the sensibili-
ties of the people, and rekindle the embers of the excitement,
which, though they had never been quenched, were burning
with less intensity than when the fires burst forth in their
primitive wrath, than such a report. The utter improba-
bility, or, rather, the physical impossibility, that the body
of a drowned man could have been so far preserved in the
waters of Ontario, regardless alike of the hunger of the
fishes, the action of the waves, and the heat of a summer's
sun, for the long period of thirteen months, as to be identifi-
ed, seems never once to have occurred to the people on this
occasion. Or, if such a doubt was suggested, the prompt
reply was — " Murder will out!" and it was fiercely contend-
ed that heaven itself had directly interposed a miracle, that
the murderers might no longer escape the vengeance of the
offended laws. The whole country, therefore, rang with
the exclamation — " Morgan is found." Even here, in New
York, I was startled from my sleep, early in the morning,


immediately on the arrival of one of the Albany steam-
boats, by a herald from the county of Monroe, who could
not repair to his hotel until he had announced to me the
brief message — " Morgan's body has been Ibund !"

No sooner had the reports of the discovery spread to
Rochester and Batavia, than the members of the respective
committees of investigation hastened to the county of Or-
leans, where the body had been driven ashore, and on Sat-
urday, the 13th of October, they repaired to the grave, and
caused it to be disinterred and examined. A variety of
striking resemblances were at once discovered between the
body, putrid, and black, and swollen as it was, and their re-
collections of William Morgan. Indeed so strongly were
these gentlemen impressed with the belief that it was none
other than the remains of the absentee, that they took mea-
sures for holding another inquest, and caused the body to
be carefully guarded, lest it should be stolen away by the
Masons, until they could make arrangements for that pur-
pose. Mrs. Morgan was sent for, together with various
witnesses from Rochester and Batavia, who had known
Morgan most intimately in his life-time ; and on Monday,
the 15th, a second inquest was held, in the midst of a largo
collection of people, who had spontaneously assembled ; for
every bosom now glowed anew with the excitement. Even
the conspirators themselves began to fear for the result, and
sent their counsel — and they had a large portion of the bar
constantly in pa}^ — to see that no unfair means were adopted
to create an impression that the body was that of Morgan,
without good and sufficient proof. The trial for poor Mrs.
Morgan was painful beyond description. Not only to have
all her wounds thus torn open afresh, but to be compelled
to examine the remains of one whom she came prei)ared
to believe had actually been the husband of her bosom, in
their present loathsome condition — awakening, as it must,
every painful sensation she had already sufTcrcd — must


have been a task almost beyond the enckirance of woman.
The examinations were protracted and minute, and several
witnesses were sworn, who had known Morgan intimately.
Among them were two physicians, of whom, a few years
previously, he had been a patient, at Rochester. And the
resemblances between the living and the dead, were most
striking and remarkable. Mrs. Morgan had not a particle
of doubt of the identity of the body — fully believing it to be
that of her husband. It was bald, and had a grey beard,
with long white hairs in the ears. It had much hair upon
the breast ; the leit arm had the mark of inoculation upon
it ; the teeth wx^re double all round : and in all these re-
spects, the resemblances were said to be exact. Two of
Morgan's teeth had been extracted : the dentist who had
extracted them was now present, having the teeth with
him ; — the body before them had also had two teeth extract-
ed on the same side of the face, and the teeth held by tbe
dentist, fitted them as exactly as though they had been drawn
from thence ; while tlie hair, hands, feet, nails, fingers, and
toes, in Mrs. Morgan's opinion, were exactly like those of
her husband. A surgical operation had been performed
upon the large toe of the left foot, which gave it a peculiar
conformation ; and precisely so was it with the body under
examination. In short, it appeared, most conclusively, and
beyond a doubt, from the testimony of many witnesses, phy-
sicians and others, that the body was that of William
Morgan, and none other. Only one difficulty remained,
and that was a mere trifle : there was not a single article of
the clothes found upon the deceased, — no portion of his
dress whatever — that had belonged to Mr. Morgan. Mrs.
Morgan, and various others, testified to his apparel, minute-
ly, and no doubt truly ; and neither shoes, stockings, shirt,
cravat, vest, coat nor pantaloons, corresponded with those
of Morgan, either in form, texture, or material.* And a
number of religious tracts were found iii the pockets of the


deceased, not of American, but of English typography —
issued from the British Tract Society. These discrepan-
cies, however, were not of the least possible consequence.
The body was indisputably that of Morgan. Of this fact
the testimony was decisive. And as for the clothes, why
the Masons were not fools ; and when they killed Morgan,
and cast him into the angry torrent of the Niagara, they
took care to change his garments, and furnish the corpse with
some religious tracts as passports to the other world. So
thought, and so reasoned, the multitude ; and so decided
the second coroner's inquest. The body was thereupon
officially declared, by the inquest, to be that of the long
lost and now found WILLIAM MORGAN.

The next step was the funeral. The body was removed
with great parade to Batavia ; a prodigious sensation being
of course created through the country traversed by the
melancholy procession. It is scarcely in my power to give
an adequate and just account of the popular feeling at tliis
particular crisis. Though I should color ever so highly, the
picture would yet fall short of the reality. The welkin
rang with the direst imprecations, not only upon the actual
murderers of Morgan, but upon the whole body of Free-
masons, far and near, not a man of whom but was believed
to have been acquainted with the murder, and consenting
thereunto. The contest of the election was thickening, and
the funeral show was not hastened too rapidly. Meantime
the tidings spread, and hundreds and thousands of people
once more poured in upon the village of Batavia, to join in
the funeral obsequies of the great Masonic Martyr. A
funeral discourse was preached, and at the close of the
solemn services, the body was once more committed to its
kindred earth, amidst the tears of the widow, and the curses
of the people, deep and bitter, against the Masons. Then
what showers of handbills, and addresses, and appeals to
the passions of the people, were sent forth, in clouds, upon


the wings of every breeze. " The majesty of the people !"
" The triumph of justice over oppression ;" " Morgan's
" ghost walks unavenged among us ;" " Murder will out ;"
" Masons have had their day ;" " ^e that sheddeth man's
" blood, by man shall his blood be shed ;" " The voice of
" thy brother's blood cries to me from the ground !" These,
and such-like expressions, were now the watch- words and
rallying signals of a political party ; and the still small voice
of reason and reflection was drowned amid the univer-
sal din.

But the body that had been so recently, and with so much
pomp and circumstance of woe, reinterred, was not yet
suffered to lie quiet in its repose. The Masons, during the
whole progress of the investigations respecting the body,
and the subsequent enactment of the funereal scene, had
scouted the idea of its being that of Morgan ; and many
even denounced the mournful parade, as an unreal mockery
of woe, for political eflect. With some of the participators
in the proceedings, there might have been justice in the im-
putation. But it was not so in respect to the multitude. With
them, there was no affectation in the matter. They believ-
ed what they heard, and were inspired with feelings of holy
indignation at what they believed. Be that as it may, how-
ever, an advertisement which appeared in one of the Can-
ada papers, near the frontier, happened to attract the at-
tention of some of the persons interested in proving that
the disputed body was not that of Morgan, and it was the
means of an eclaircissement, of an astounding character to
all those engaged in the scenes I have just been describing.
From this advertisement it appeared, that in the month of
September, then last past — that is to say, some five or six
weeks before the last interment, a man by the name of Ti-
mothy Monroe, of the town of Clarke, in New Castle Dis-
trict, Upper Canada, having gone in a boat to Newark, was

drowned in the Niagara river, while on his reWn. A de-



scription of his person, bis clothes, his cravat, and the tracts,
at once pointed to the body found at the mouth of Oak Or-
chard Creek, as that of this same Timothy Monroe ; and a
reward of one hundred dollars was offered for its discovery.
The widow of Monroe, and her son, were soon apprised of
the transactions detailed above. She therefore came directly
on, accompanied by the young man, and a friend who was
acquainted with her deceased husband. It was charged
upon the Morgan conspirators, that she had been informed
by them of the circumstances respecting the body, and that
the expenses of her journey were also paid by them. But
whether this charge be true or not is of no consequence,
since these circumstances could neither alter the truth, now
about to be developed, nor make one hair of the deceased
white or black. Mrs. Monroe came over to the county of
Orleans, and was first examined by three members of the
Lewiston committee, as to the clothes that had been found
upon the body of the deceased ; and here, again, there could
be no mistake. The clothes, every article of them, -were
those of her husband, — those which he had on when upset
from his boat in the Niagara, and the tracts had been seen
in his possession at Newark, on the day he was lost. In
regard to his apparel, there were a variety of circumstances
and marks, and peculiarities touching the various garments,
about which there could be no diversity of opinion. The
color ; the description of cloth ; the flannel shirt, which
Morgan had not ; the fashion of the garments, and even
the particular darnings of the stockings, were all minutely
described, and marks referred to which had not been de-
tected by the committee, that made the matter certain. Re-
specting the pantaloons, the son had purchased the cloth :
and his mother had cut and made them. The pattern be-
ing scant, a part of one of the legs had been eked out with
another piece of cloth, &c. Mrs. M. then proceeded to
Batavia, where the corrupting spectacle of mortality was


once more torn from the embrace of its parent earth, and a
third coroner's inquest held upon it. Another close examina-
tion succeeded, in which many of the former resemblances
between this body and Morgan, were not now discovera-
ble ; and among others, on a re-examination, it was found
that the teeth had not the peculiar and distinguishing char-
acteristic of being double all round in front, as was the case
with Morgan, and five had been extracted from this body,
whereas Morgan had lost but two. In short, without de-
scending into further particulars, it now appeared beyond
doubt or cavil, that the body was that of TIMOTHY
MONROE, late of Upper Canada.

This result was received with high satisfaction by the
western Masons, generally. Those who had been engaged in
the conspiracy, had their own reasons for rejoicing at the
discovery of the truth of this matter, proving that it was
not the body of Morgan ; while the still greater number of
the order, who were yet hoping against hope, that the out-
rage was not so great as had been charged, and that Mor-
gan might yet be brought to light and life — but who, in any
event, were determined not to give up Masonry on compul-
sion — had yet room to hope on still. But the discovery of
the mistake, to call it by no harsher name, came too late to
create a re-action in a political sense. The last coroner's
inquest sat on the 29th of October. The election com-
menced on the following Monday. And under the watch-
words which I have already indicated, the new party
achieved a victory in several of the agitated counties, of the
most decisive description. Serious inroads were made in
others ; and from that day to the present, I have seen no
diminution of their numbers, nor marked any abatement of
their energy.

As it is my purpose to embody facts rather than to in-
dulge in speculations, in these desultory essays, I shall not
stop to remark at length upon the extraordinary incidents of


the preceding narrative. I question not the integrity of
the majority of the actors in these scenes ; and the witnesses
who so completely established the fact that the body of
Timothy Monroe was actually that of William Mor-
gan, are not in the least obnoxious to censure on the
score of veracity. But the case presents one of the strong-
est instances within my recollection, of the eliects of a po-
pular delusion upon the human mind — and it may perhaps
afford a suitable subject of philosophical investigation for
some future Dugald Stuart.

Although it came too late for political effect, yet there
was somewhat of a re-action, after the exposition of the
case of Monroe's body. A large public meeting was held
at Rochester, and several addresses were delivered — some
of them, however, by the counsellors of the conspirators ;
but this fact was lost sight of for the moment, in the indig-
nation felt at the imposture. 'A series of resolutions was
likewise adopted, well written, temperate, and dignified. In
these it was declared, as the opinion of the meeting, that
the committees of investigation had exceeded their instruc-
tions, and perverted the sacred cause in which they had
engaged, to political and prescriptive purposes. It was
declared that the eflbrts of tliose committees ought to
have been merely auxiliary to the ministers of justice, and
that in the exercise of the powers confided to them, they
ought to have confined themselves exclusively to such acts
as were necessary and proper to bring the perpetrators of
the outrage to legal trial and punishment. They were
charged with having proscribed a large and respectable
portion of the people without proof, censuring individuals up-
on mere suspicion, and with attempting to organize political
parties for the promotion of selfish and ambitious purposes ;
with breaking up families, and exciting neighbors against
neighbors. The meeting pledged itself to use all possible
exertions to discover the falc of Morgan, and to bring the

Lj^TTER xxvin. 293

porpe!ra!ors of iho outrage to punishment ; and in conclu-
sion, they denounced the Morgan comm ittce as altogether
unworthy of (he public confidence. In the aspect of the
case, as it was then presented, thcvse resolutions appeared
very just and proper. But the people, who were some-
w^hat indignant at first, soon returned to their former state
of feeling ; and in the end it appeared that some of the con-
spirators themselves, or at least those who had even aided
them by money to abscond, were at the bottom of this meeting.
Whilst the proceedings in regard to the body of Monroe
were going forward, a circumstance occured at Buffalo, of
rather a singular description, which created considerable
interest for some time, and occasioned, but for the moment
only, a partial diversion from the fresh impulse given to the
excitement at Batavia. A man calling himself R. H. Hill,
came voluntarily forv/ard, avowed himself the principal of
the murderers of Morgan, and surrendered his person to
the civil authorities. He was thrown into prison, where he
wrote a confession of his participation in the bloody trans-
action. He declared that he had been induced to make the
acknowledgment from the stings of conscience, for having
assisted in taking the life of a man whom he had never seen
before. He would not, disclose the names of any of his as-
sociates, inasmuch as they had each bound themselves, by
the most solemn and fearful oaths, that, should either of
them ever be detected, they were to abide the penalty of
the law, without betraying the names of either. He de-
clared himself ready and willing, nay, anxious, to under-
go that penalty, and seemed pious and penitent. As the
crime was supposed to have been committed in the county
of Niagara, Hill was transferred to the jail in Lockport^
where he was kept until the empannclling of the first grand
jury. He then went before that body and repeated his con-
fessions. Rut his tale, unsupported by any other evidence,
and uncorroborated by circumstances, was. discredited, and


he was ultimately discharged as one having a mind diseas-
ed. Since his liberation, 1 have never heard a syllable of
or from him.

The year 1827, however, was not to pass away without
one further illustration of human weakness and credulity.
Almost from the origin of the Anti-masonic excitement, the
country had been infested with mountebank Anti-masonic
professors of Masonry, travelling about from village to vil-
lage, giving lectures upon the subject, and professing to pre-
sent the public with practical representations of the process of
working in lodges, and conferring the various degrees of Ma-
sonry. These exhibitions have, for the most part, been made
for lucre, after the example of strolling professors of slight-
of-hand dexterity, the feats of fire-eaters, sword-swallowers,
&;c. Among the earliest of these travelling merchants of
vendible nonsense, was a man named Thomas Hamilton.
His character will appear presently. Although a very ig-
norant man, he was, in truth and in fact, one of the boldest,
most impudent, and, for a time, most successful of im-
postors. He had the art, for several weeks, of imposing
himself upon a portion of the religious community, and
succeeded tolerably well. Having, however, been a Free-
mason, and seeing how well the illustrations of Masonry
by Morgan, had taken with the western public, he resolved
to turn the same thing to his own private account. He ac-
cordingly commenced delivering lectures against the craft,
and preaching Anti-masonry. Crowds of people thronged
his exhibitions ; and many were the towns he visited where
the excitement had not yet broken out, but which he speedi-
ly wrought up almost into a state of delirium upon the sub-
ject. Not content, however, with this harvest of populari-
ty, he must needs play the hero, and become all but a second
jifiartyr to the cause he had espoused. He was an intem-
perate man, and having, on one occasion, while engaged in
the work of imparting intellectual light to the good people


of Avon, imposed too heavy a quantity of alcohol upon hia
stomach, became sick, and a portion of what he had sv^'al-
lovi^ed was ejected. The landlord was a Mason ; of which
fact he availed himself, in connexion with the circumstance
of the undesigned emetic he had taken, to prefer a charge
against his host, of an attempted assassination of his pre-
cious self. A full account of the suspicious circumstances'
was written, certified to by five respectable citizens of Avon,
and published in the new^spapers under his own hand. The
poor landlord was astounded ; but there was no resisting
the popular prejudice against his caste, and he was obliged
to submit to the imputation. He did not submit quietly,
how^ever, but instituted an action of slander against one
person who had helped to circulate the atrocious calumny.*
Hamilton, meantime, fled from that part of the country, and
proceeding westward to Buffalo, succeeded in producing a
great excitement there. His lectures were crowded, as
they had been in other places, and he occasionally embellish-
ed his exercises with recitals of his own personal persecu-
tions from the Masons, and their blood-thirsty attempts up-
on his Hfe. Finally, the day after he had uttered one of his
bitterest philippics against the craft, he was missing. No
traces of him could be discovered ; and many were the
dark surmises respecting his fate that were breathed forth
in mysterious whispers. On the following day, nothing
could be heard of Mr. Hamilton. But on the next, there
was a discovery. News was received that a man had
been found drowned in the Tonawanta Creek, but a few
miles from Buffalo, and the conviction flashed at once
upon the minds of the good people, that it must be tho
corpse of the ill-fated Hamilton. His life had once before
been attempted ; and now, alas I he had doubtless been
called to pay the penalty of his masonic obligation. The

♦ The landloid recovered a handsome verdict of damagcSj the jury, by
consent, he'iuir composed entirely of Anti-masons.


body had been interred ; but no matter : a party imme-
diately proceeded from Buffalo, with witnesses, and all the
necessary implements for opening the grave. They arriv-
ed at the spot, and the body was speedily raised once more
above the earth. Happily, however, there was no excuse
for pronouncing it to be that of Hamilton ; and the compa-
ny returned ; somewhat disappointed, it is true, in the pre-
sent result, but still believing that the man for whom they
were seeking had been mysteriously made away with. But
on reaching the village, their anxieties were speedily re-
moved by the martyr himself. He had just crawled forth
from a tippling stew, in the outskirts of the village, where
he had been lying for several days in a state of beastly in-
toxication. It was time now for the fellow to change his
theatre of action. He accordingly fled eastward! y to the
county of Ontario, — pursued his lecturing for a short period,
— was taken into the domicil, and the confidence, of a kind-
hearted Anti-mason-^abused his hospitality, — and, in the
end, attempted an outrage upon his daughter, a girl of ten-
der age, for which he was sentenced to the state-prison for
seven years.

You may suppose, sir, that this last is an exaggerated
representation of the extent to which the credulity of the
people was abused during the great excitement. But it is
not so. The case of Hamilton affords but one instance,
although perhaps the most flagrant. I have recorded it,
however, in the words of truth and soberness.

On or about the 1st of November, 1827, Gov. Clinton
received a communication from Gov. Cass, of Michigan, in-
closing an aflidavit of an extraordinary character. It was
the deposition of Erastus Ingersoll, corroborated by the
statement of Amos Mead, both of whom Gov. Cass certifies
to be " citizens of character and standing, incapable of
" stating any thing but what they believe to be true," giving
the substance of a confession made to them in August, of


that year, of a man named Edward Hopkins. This man
was at the time a resident of the county of St. Clair, in that
territory, lately from Upper Canada, and a native of Berk-
shire, in the state of Massachusetts. Hopkins declared that
" he knew the circumstances connected with the death of
" Morgan ; that he, with others, had Morgan in charge se-
** veral days, at Niagara, and was present at, or below, a
*' place called Schlosser, on the Niagara river, where a num-
" ber of persons were assembled with Morgan, and held a
" consultation on the manner in which he should be dispo-
*' sed of, and that it was finally determined to send him
" adrift in a canoe down the falls. He was accordingly

Online LibraryWilliam L. (William Leete) StoneLetters on masonry and anti-masonry, addressed to the Hon. John Quincy Adams → online text (page 25 of 49)