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 26 of 49)
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" put into the canoe, and pushed into the rapids of the Nia-
" gara, where he perished. Hopkins further stated that he
*' made great efforts to save the life of Morgan, and offered
" to become responsible for him, if his companions would
" deliver him over to his care, — but they refused to do so.
" By whose hands the canoe was pushed off, Hopkins could
" not tell, because he turned his back upon the perpetrators
** of the deed." Mr. Ingersoll further deposed, that Hopkins
was of a good family, of a respectable character, and a man
of truth and veracity. It proved in the end, that this story
could not have been true ; and I have introduced it in this
place, only as affording another instance of the distracting
uncertainty which at all times hung over this fearful subject,
and the difficulties by which the prosecutions were at every
step environed. Very respectfully, &c.


New- York, March 3, 1832.

In the person of De Witt Clinton, the state of New-
York lost one of its brightest ornaments, and our country



a benefactor of noble mould. He died at Albany, on the?
evening of February 11th, 1828, very suddenly, — having
discharged his official duties on that day, and written seve-
ral letters in the course of the atternoon. He was sitting
in his office, or private cabinet, at the time of his decease,
and had but a few moments previously been engaged in fa-
miliar conversation with his son. But, sndden as was the
stroke of death, it was not unexpected, either by the illus-
trious man himself, or by his particular friends. It had
been evident for a number of months, that a disease had
seized upon his constitution, which, without impairing his
faculties, threatened an early and sudden termination of his
proud and brilliant career. Indeed he had been premonish-
ed of his situation, but a short time before his decease, by a
medical gentleman, standing deservedly high in his confi-
dence, who was his intimate friend in fife, and who has test-
ed the sincerity of his friendship, by an eloquent and well
earned tribute to his memory since dead.* When the friend-
ly monition was made to him, with all possible delicacy,
and not without emotion. Governor Clhiton received the
solemn intimation in a manner characteristic of the man.
He paused for a moment, as if indulging in deep refiection ;
then raising his head, with the most perfect firmness and
composure, he replied : " I am not afraid to die !''

An eulogy upon the character of this distinguished man,
whose memory is yet green in the affections of the people,
and whose fame will long be cherished as a rich portion of
the national inheritance, would be alike unnecessary, and
foreign from the purpose of this narrative. Unfortunately,
however, in the present era of our political history, the gall
and wormwood of party, have been infused not only into
public, but into individual feeling. Neither exalted talents,
nor pqrity of character in a public man,— nur his exten&ive

^ Dr. David Unpack.


and indefatigable beneficence, and splendid services, — can
protect him from the scorpion sting of slander, while living,
if a noisy partizaii thinks lie can further his sordid views by
the calumny. And even when he is dead, — when the pos-
thumous reward of greatness is bestowed, in the general
exhibition of those better feelings, which had been controlled
before by rivalry or self-interest, some hypocritical tears
will be shed over his remains, and sacrilegious defamation
will not only dare to attempt by violence an exposure of the
secrets of the grave ; but to deface his epitaph, and to stain
his spotless escutcheon. So it was with De Witt Clinton.
The Anti-masonic party, as we have seen, had already been
organized for political purposes ; and it had made a first
and second demonstration with so much encouragement of
ultimate success, that those who had mounted upon the
whirlwind of the excitement, were determined to protract
it, that they might the longer soar upon the tempest. This
object could be accomplished in no other way, so effectually,
as by continuing to insist upon the positive guilt of the whole
masonic institution, in the matter of Morgan, through all its
extensive and distant ramifications, and likewise to impli-
cate its chief officers, and most distinguished men. De
Witt Clinton was High Priest of the General Grand Chap-
ter of the United States, at the time of his death. He was
for the third time re-elected to that office in September,
1826, Gen. Jackson having been proposed as a candidate
in opposition. His station, masonically, was the highest in
the Union ; and whether viewed as a Freemason, or as a
statesman, he was the most shining and elevated mark to
be aimed at. If effective, the blow would indeed be sig-
nal ; because, if De Witt Clinton could be identified with
the project for the murder of Morgan, — if the spells of
Masonry could bind such a man to so damning a deed, how
much less potency would be necessary to bring the common
men of the order into plans of the deepest guilt ?


It is but too true, as wc have already seen, tliat the name
of Governor Clinton had been early used at the west, in
connexion vs^ith the Morgan outrage. Nor w^ere the Anti-
masons the first, or the most to blame, for thus using it. If,
sir, you have done me the honor to read the preceding letters
in detail, you will have seen that the idea was generally
impressed upon the minds of those in the secret of Morgan's
fate, on both sides of the national boundary, that the con-
spirators were acting under orders from a high masonic
power. Sometimes the directions for suppressing the book,
were said to have proceeded from the Grand Lodge ; and
at others, the belief was entertained that they came from a
yet higher body — the Grand Chapter. To neither of these,
however, did De Witt Clinton then belong, but to the still
higher body of the General Grand Chapter of the United
States ; — and we shall see presently how even that body,
though innocent, was near being compromised in this la-
mentable affair. In connexion with all these bodies, the
name of Clinton was used, because it was identified with the
institution ; and in general conversation there was little dis-
crimination between its separate branches. But it was not
in this incidental manner alone, that the name of Governor
Clinton became associated with these transactions. There
is no doubt, that the authors of the conspiracy and the abduc-
tion, were themselves guilUj of the additional crime of an
attempt, in the public opinion, to inculpate him in their own
guilt. Indeed, it is believed, that the leaders of the conspi-
racy were enabled by the power of his name alone, to push
the subordinates in their plot, into its full and fatal execu-
tion. For this purpose it was not only declared that they
had orders from Gov. Clinton to suppress the publication of
the book, but some of the co-workers in the iniquitous affair,
actually exhibited a letter, purporting to have been writ-
ten by the Governor, commanding the suppression of the
BOOK at all hazards. Major Ganson is believed to have


been concerned in this imposture, although he has certified to
the contrary, as will presently appear. He had repeatedly
been in the legislature, and was a political friend of Gov.
C. There is, therefore, reason to believe, that such repre-
sentations, coming from him, sustained by the exhibition in
some places, of a letter, which must have been forged, had
a powerful mfluence upon the minds of the weaker mem-
bers of the order ; and it is possible, that, could a voice come
from the grave, it would appear that there was one, who, by
that deception, was persuaded to take the deepest plunge
into the sea of guilt. Be that, nevertheless, as it may, a
fouler calumny was never invented, even by the father of
lies himself.

It is true that Gov. Clinton was early reproached by the
Anti-masonic papers, for an imputed want of activity and
energy in pushing forward the investigations. But these
reproaches, and other kindred calumnies, were to be expect-
ed from zealous and unscrupulous partizans, in the midst
of heated election contests. We should be too happy in
our political relations, perhaps, if the blessings of our free
institutions were in all respects unalloyed. The strife and
bitterness of our elections, therefore, and the slanders and
obloquy which candidates for public office, are compelled to
encounter, may be regarded as the natural consequences of
the hberty which allows them. Nor, in the aggregate, can
their endurance be counted a very heavy tax, for the enjoy-
ment of such perfect freedom, as that which is guaranteed
to American citizens. Long in political life, and always
fated to encounter a fierce, and, at times, a remorseless and
vindictive opposition, Gov. Clinton cared for these political
attacks far less than most men. Conscious, therefore, of his
own rectitude in this matter, the murmurings to which I am
now referring were suffered to pass by without notice or
regard. But when, in the autumn of 1827, he was specifi-
cally informed of the higher calumnies in circulation re-


spocting him, at the west, and of the liberty taken with his
nanne by the conspirators, h.e lost no time, as you will per-
ceive before the close of the present communication, in
adopting such measures as seemed most judicious for arrest-
ing the progress of the atrocious slander.

It was, I believe, during the last visit of that eminent man
to the city of New- York, that, unsolicited, he placed in my
hands, with a request that they might be carefully perused,
a bundle of papers, comprising a lai'ge portion of his cor-
respondence, and other public documents, upon this subject.
Of these papers, which have been politely re-loaned to me
by his son Charles Clinton, Esq., I have already made
considerable use, in the course of the preceding narrative.
And upon these papers alone, so far as I have already
quoted them, I think I might confidently appeal to you,
sir, and to the whole community, whether they do not
amply redeem the character of Governor Clinton from
all insinuations, imputing a want of energy, promptitude,
and diligence, in the use of all measures judged by him to
be necessary and proper, in order to expose to light the
whole of those dark transactions, and bring the offenders,
whoever they w^ere, or however many of them there might
be, to the tribunals of the law for punishment.

The earliest complaint which I recollect to have heard
from the Morgan committees, against the conduct of Gov.
Clinton, was in reference to his first and second proclama-
tions. In the first, no specific reward was offered for the
apprehension and punishment of the delinquents : — in the
second, it was contended that the reward promised w\is not
sufficiently large ; — and I think the same objection was
likewise urged against the last — with how much reason will
be seen. In regard to the first, it must be borne in mind
that the outrage was then supposed to have been confined
to a very few persons at Batavia and Canandaigua. Little
was known at the time of the extent of the conspiracy ; or


of its enormity ; and still less of the difficulty subsequently
encountered in the numerous and wearisome endeavors
that have been made to discover and punish the guilty.
When the first complaint was made to the Governor, he
lost not a day in issuing his proclamation. His letter to the
committee, accompanying that proclamation, has already
been presented to your consideration, and need not be re-
peated here. In that letter he pledged himself, " that no-
" thing should be wanting on his part due to the occasion and
" the emergency. ^^ And I fearlessly appeal to the candor of
any man of good sense, to pronounce, whether, under the
then circumstances of the case, that first proclamation was
not of a sufficiently decisive and energetic character for
that " emergency ;" and also, whether the explanation with
which the proclamation was accompanied, ought not to
have been satisfactory. Was it reasonable to expect from
the chief magistrate, acting coolly and dispassionately, as it
was his province and his duty to act, a more marked and
severe condemnation of the outrage, than is expressed in
the letter referred to ? Subsequently, when the transaction
began to assume a more serious aspect, a second procla-
mation was issued, without solicitation, offering various
specific rewards. vSome months subsequently still, after the
disclosures respecting Howard, and the partial discoveries
made by the Lewiston convention had reached the Gover-
nor's ears, a third proclamation was issued, oflfering as high
a reward as the law would allow him to propose, even to
the full amount of the contingent funds in his hands. Nor
is this all : when the Governor became apprised that Bruce
was implicated in the transaction, he himself proposed that
a formal complaint should be preferred against the delin-
quent officer, that his conduct might be officially investiga-
ted. The complaint was made ; and, although a grand ju-
ry of Niagara, had, in a body, informed the Governor that
there was no evidence of Moi-gan's having been within


Br uce's Jurisdiction, yet he was removed from office in due
season, as I have already shown. In my view, sir, leaving
entirely out of the question the exalted character of Gov.
C, and the elevated standard of morals by which he was
governed, these circumstances look very unlike any partici-
pation in, or cognizance of, the conspiracy, directly or in-
directly, either by signal, word, or deed. If Gov. Clinton
had, in any form or manner, been previously apprised of
the conspiracy, or had he in any manner favored it, it can
hardly be supposed that those who had executed his purpo-
ses, would have tamely submitted to the loss of character,
honor, offices, and their personal freedom, without exposing
him. If they held his written letters, they would have been
exhibited. If any person had received his approbation of
the plot, or his commands for its execution, viva voce, the
fact would have been proclaimed, and the name of Clinton,
" doubly dying," would justly have gone down

To the vile dust from whence it sprung,
Unwept, unhonored, and unsung.

And yet, in the face of all these facts, in disregard of all
these circumstances, the remains of this eminent patriot had
scarce become cold in their grave, before the vile calumny,
which, during his lifetime had already been apparently ex-
tinguished, was revived in the broadest and most cruel man-
ner. The death of Clinton had thrown our state into mourn-
ing, and created a sensation throughout the whole country,
equalled only, in recent times, by the simultaneous departures
to anoth^- world, on the 4th of July, 1826, of your illustri-
ous father, and liis distinguished colleague in the revolution.
But the funeral ceremonies had scarce been concluded, and
the first shock of the blow given place to the more temper-
ed, though equally unequivocal evidences of deep and heart-
felt grief, before the interested and envious harpies of de-


traction were at work. Wretches who would have cow-
ered in his presence, like the spaniel before the lion, or
shrunk like the fig-tree withered before the lightning-glance
of his eye, were now engaged in poisoning the public ear,
like the arch fiend in reptile form, " squat" at the ear of the
mother of men. Not content with the repetition of the
stale falsehoods in whispers, a portion of the public press
was found base enough to lend its assistance in the ignoble
project of " staining with infamy a spotless name." As-
suming daily a bolder and yet a bolder tone, one short
month had not elapsed, before it was blasphemously-heralded
forth, that the deceased had been struck dead by the aveng-
ing arm of the Almighty, for his guilty participation in the
murder of Morgan, — to which, as the climax of audacity,
it was soon added, that, stung with remorse at the deed
which he had sanctioned, he had ended his life by his own
hand ! It might well be supposed that such gross and mon-
strous fictions would have been too much for the popular
credulity, and that the most envenomed shafts of calumny,
directed at such an object, would fall harmless to the earth.
But " excited passion is a whirlwind that extinguishes the
*' taper of reason, — a rushing flood that renders turbid the
" pure stream of the judgement, so that truth cannot be
" clearly discerned." And I am sorry to be obliged to add
my conviction, that, so far from making no impression, or
leaving even a transient one, the calumny is still at the
present day widely circulated, and by many religiously be-
lieved. You, sir, have yourself informed me, although you
lent no ear to the talc, that within a few months past, two
gentlemen in Massachusetts, .of intelligence and respecta-
bility, had repeated the story of Gov. Clinton's guilt in this
matter, both of whom seriously affirmed the existence of
two letters from his own hand, proving the fact. And I have
now before me a printed address, under the signature of N.
B, Boileau, Esq., an old and distinguished politician of Penri-



sylvania, in which the tale is repeated, without scruple or
qualification, and with an improvement which has in no
other place fallen under my observation. The charge of
Mr. Boileau, that Gov. Clinton was an accessary before the
fact, to the abduction and murder of Morgan, is explicit.
Nor is Gov. Clinton alone traduced by that gentleman. Not
content with this atrocious libel of the dead, the zealous ca-
lumniator endeavors also to inculpate the governors of two
other states in the same transaction !

Had it not been for the publication of Mr. Boileau, to
which I refer, and the statement of the two gentlemen of
Massachusetts made to yourself last autumn, I should pro-
bably have omitted the present chapter in this history. But
De Witt Clinton is dead, and cannot answer. His fame,
however, belongs to his country, and it is a high and solemn
duty incumbent upon those who were his cotemporarics, to
preserve that fame in its splendor, and his good name in its
purity. However great a politician may be, his memory,
merely as such, will scarcely survive his death for a single
generation, unless he shall have identified his name with
some great deed in arms, or work of art ; by some success-
ful effort in the moral improvement of our species, or some
project of national magnitude and utility, which will stand
as an enduring monument of the talents and enterprise of
the age in which it was produced. It is in this way that
the name of Clinton belongs to posterity. His popularity
will be immortal, because the influence of his talents, and
the eflects of his labors, will endure while our nation has an
existence. It is from considerations like these, having the
means in my possession, that I have thought it a part of my
duty, on the present occasion, to step forward, and by at
once silencing the calumny, put to shame tlie traducers of
this eminent and excellent man.

Mr. Boileau, in liis address to the people of Pennsylva-
nia last autumn, promulgated the calumny of which I have


been speaking, in the following language : — " A seceding
" Mason from New- York, of high character and intelli-
" gence, informed me that when it was first rumored that
" Morgan was about to reveal the secrets of Masonry, a
" council was held in New- York, by the highest order of
" Masons, to consult on what means should be adopted to
" suppress the publication ; at which council, the Governor
" of New-York, and the Governors of two other states as-
** sisted in the deliberations, and at that council decided that
" the publication should be suppressed at all hazards, and
** Morgan put out op the way. These facts are corro-
" borated by the strongest circumstances, furnished by the
^^ judicial proceedings which have taken place, as well as
" other circumstances. Fellow-citizens, pause for a mo-
" ment, and view this appalling fact. Three chief execu-
" tive magistrates, of three different states, all sworn to see
^' the laws faithfully executed. Yet under the paramount
" obligations of their masonic oaths, they deliberately join in
" council to sanction the commission of a most atrocious
" crime. We say the crime of MURDER is justly charg-
" ed to the masonic institution, and all those who still ad-
" here to that institution are totally unworthy of confidence.
" The actual perpetrators of the crime deserve death," ifec.
The charge against Gov. Clinton could scarcely be more
positive than in the form in which it is here presented. The
author of the calumny, in its present shape, and all his rea-
ders, well knew that De Witt Clinton was Governor of
New- York, at the period referred to. Nor can Mr. Boi-
leau escape the odium of the slander, upon the plea that he
has only repeated a story which had been communicated to
him by others. Repetition is not all. He goes farther, and
indorses the statement himself, by the declaration that the
relation thus given, has been " corroborated by the judicial
" proceedings that have taken place, as well as by other cir-
'' cumstances.^^ In bringing forward such an accusation, and


attempting thus to sustain it, Mr. Boileau has assumed a
fearful responsibility. The repetition of a falsehood told
by another, is bad enough ; but language wants terms to
stamp with adequate detestation, the man, who, to calum-
niate the virtuous dead, will deliberately coin a falsehood
of his own, to sustain that which has been related to him.
Had Mr. Boileau confined himself to the repetition of the
falsehood, I might have suffered it to pass unchastised.
But how dared he assert, in the face of the world, that the
slander which he was then posting on the winds of heaven,
had been corroborated by the legal proceedings of the
courts of New- York in the premises ? He had no right Jo
hazard such an assertion, even though that, also, had been
told him — which he does not pretend was the case. The
legal proceedings of our courts are matters of record ; and
the testimony elicited in the various Morgan trials, has been
amply reported, and has become matter of history. It
woi;dd have become Mr. B., therefore, before venturing
upon such a sweeping assertion, involving character to such
an extent, so important alike to the feelings of the living,
and the memory of the dead, to have looked into the facts
of the charge himself. Had he done so, he would have
found, that there is not a particle of truth, written or un-
written, in the statement upon which, with such singular
• hardihood of assertion, he has presumed to venture.

I will not content myself, however, with a mere empty
denial of this accusation, resting on my own word. Its
principal feature is not new with Mr. Boileau, as we have
seen, although it has been greatly amplified in his hands.
% The idea of this grand council in New- York, had its origin
at an early period in the history of Anti-masonry ; and it
would have been no easy matter for Proteus himself to have
worked more transformations, than the story built upon it
lias undergone. Strange as it may seem, moreover, while
every version that I have met with has been essentially


false, there was, in the outset, an iiiciclent of actual occur-
rence, which originally imparted to it a semblance of truth ;
so that, like other historical romances of the day, composed
entirely of fiction, it was nevertheless in its origin, appa-
rently founded in fact. It has long been my purpose to en-
lighten the public in regard to the particular feature of this
history to which I have just referred ; and I rejoice in the
present opportunity, inasmuch as I confidently believe it to
be within my power for ever to put the calumny at rest.

You may recollect, sir, the statement in a former letter,
that among the devices for obtaining possession of Mor-
gan's manuscripts, a portion of them were abstracted from
Miller's office, by his pretended partner, Johns, which pa-
pers were sent to New- York, by an express, to be laid be-
fore the General Grand Chapter of the United States, as-
sembled in this city in September, 1826. Johns took these
papers, I believe, on the 9th of September ; and the mes-
senger who brought them, resided at that time in Roches-

Online LibraryWilliam L. (William Leete) StoneLetters on masonry and anti-masonry, addressed to the Hon. John Quincy Adams → online text (page 26 of 49)