William L. (William Leete) Stone.

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

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ple. After an absence of four hours, the jury returned into
court with a verdict of GUILTY.

I must confess my surprise at this result, because, strong
as were the circumstances to warrant the belief that Mor-
gan was in the mysterious carriage that passed along the
Ridge Road, on the 13th of September, and also that he
was imprisoned in the magazine, I cannot perceive the
warrant which the jury had for rendering such a verdict.
For as yet there was no proof identifying Morgan, either
as having been in the carriage, or in the fort. No doubt
existed of the truth of the verdict, but it was clearly not
rendered according to law and evidence. But that is a
question of little moment for present consideration.

The rejection of Giddings as a witness, was a sore disap-
pointment to the people. It was known from the partial
disclosures he had made to the grand jury, upon which all
the above named defendants were indicted, and from many
other of his declarations, that his testimony, if received,
would be of the highest importance. Nothwithstanding,
moreover, the liberality of his opinions in matters of reli-
gion, his general character for truth and veracity, and in
all other respects, as a respectable and moral citizen, was
decidedly good. The facts intended to have been proved


by Giddings, in regard to Turner and Darrow, were these:
It had been well ascertained by this time, that three or
four projects had been originally devised for carrying Mor-
gan away. One was organized at Buffalo, to take him
from Batavia thence ; a second was to have taken him
from Batavia to Niagara direct, passing through Lock-
port. The third, for taking him to Canandaigua, was exe-
cuted. But in connexion with the second, it was believed
that Turner and Darrow — both living at Lock port, and
the former the editor of a paper at that place, — had been
sent to Canada to negociate with the Masons there for the
reception of Morgan, when he should arrive. Failing in>
this project, they returned, and, with Col. King and Gid-
dings, made arrangements for imprisoning their victim in
the magazine at Niagara, until the question of his final
disposition should be determined. Such, briefly, were the
facts, respecting Turner and Darrow, which it was intend-
ed to have been proved by Giddings, as also the personal
identity of the person confined in the Magazine, according
to the evasive, quibbling and reluctant testimony of

It is true that a part of the testimony against Giddings —
in regard to his religious belief — was of a questionable
character. The first witness, however, had neutralized his
own testimony by swearing to what was undeniably prov-
ed not to be true, before he left the court ; and another
witness had avowedly come from Canada, a long distance,
as a volunteer to protect a gentleman who was more than
suspected of some participation in the outrage. But still,
the burden of proof was against Giddings, and the court
were clearly right in rejecting him, both by the principles
of the constitution and the common law. The courts of
this state, when the bench was occupied by Kent, Spencer,
Thompson and Piatt — ranking amongst the most exalted ju-
rists of the country — had maintained the principle — incor-


porated, I believe in one of our statutes — thai a belief in
the existence of a Supreme Being, and a Juture state of re-
wards and punishments, is an indispensable requirement in
a witness. In the formation of our new constitution, in
1821, a strong attempt had been made to overthrow this
principle ; but the project was successfully resisted by the
then Chancellor Kent, and Chief Justice Spencer, together
with the late Rufus King, Daniel D. Tompkins and others,
who contended that atheists and blasphemers must be held
in check, or we should endanger the security of life, liberty
and property, and the comfort and happiness of our families.
Chancellor Kent said in that convention — indeed it was ad-
mitted on all hands, for it could not be denied, — that while
the Christian Religion had never been declared, or intended
to be declared, the legal religion of the state, yet it was in
fact, the religion of the people of the state. It was the foun-
dation of all belief and expectation of a future state, and the
source and security of moral obligation. The statute di-
recting the administering of an oath, referred to the Bible
as the sanction to it, on the ground that the Bible was a
volume of divine inspiration, and the oracle of the most af-
fecting truths that could command the assent, or awaken the
fears, or exercise the hopes, of mankind. Mr. King observ-
ed in the ' course of the debates to which I have referred,
that while the religions of all mankind are by our laws tole-
rated, yet the religious professions of the Pagan, the Ma-
hometan, and the Christian, are not, in the eye of the law,
of equal truth and excellence. According to the christian
system, men pass into a future state of existence, where the
deeds of their lives become the subject of reward or pun-
ishment ; — the moral law rests upon the truth of this doc-
trine, without which it has no sufficient sanction. Our laws
constantly refer to this revelation, and by the oath which
they prescribe, we appeal to the Supreme Being, so to deal
with us hereafter, as we observe the obligation of our oaths.

950 LETTER xxxir.

The pagan world were, and are, without the mighty influ-
ence of this principle, which is proclaimed in the christian
system — their morals were destitute of its powerful sanc-
tion, while their oaths neither awakened the hopes, nor the
fears, which a belief in Christianity inspires. Vice Presi-
dent Tompkins maintained the same doctrines, insisting that
the principle must be preserved, to suppress those outrages
on public opinion and public feeling, which would otherwise
reduce the community to a state of barbarism, corrupt it
purity, and debase the mind.* The principle was retain-
ed : and under it, the testimony of Giddings, on that occa-
sion, was rightly rejected.

I am, sir, yours, &c.


New- York, March 8, 1832.

The general election of this state, occurring in the au-
tumn of 1828, connected as it was, with the last election of
President of the United States, and as both were, with the
progress of Anti-masonry, requires a passing notice in this
place. That election was considered of the highest impor-
tance, both in reference to the affairs of the state and na-
tion. On the decease of Gov. Clinton, the power of the
state had fallen entirely into the hands of those who had
been the most bitter and persevering in theii^ opposition to
him while living. Those, therefore, who had lost power
by that melancholy event, were anxious again to recover
it, and to place the executive department in the hands of
some efficient statesman, who would preserve the dignity of

* Vide Carter & Stone's Reports, N. Y. Convention, pp. 463—465, and


our state government, by administering it for the benefit of
the entire people, rather than merely to answer the selfish
purposes of a party. In regard to the election of President
of the United States, likewise, deep solicitude was felt for
the result.

Through the whole contest of the election of 1824, the
people of this state had been very decidedly in favor of the
gentleman who succeeded, and of whom I should probably
speak more at large at this moment, were it not for conside-
rations of delicacy. And although the politics of New*
York have not been remarkably stable, yet for the first two
years of the administration to which I refer, it received the
cordial support of a very large majority of the people.

There had, it is true, been a great and visible change in
the sentiments of a portion of the people, arising from the
change of position of certain leading politicians who have
signalized themselves in wielding the destinies of parties in
this state ; but it was still believed, by the National Repub-
licans, that on a fair trial of strength, notwithstanding the
defections which had been witnessed on every side, a hand-
some majority would yet be found sustaining an administra-
tion of whose measures, irrespective of men, no complaint
had been made. But in order to justify such an expecta-
tion, it was indispensably necessary that all those opposed
to the reigning powers at Albany, should act in concert.
No party could shut their eyes to the fact, that, as the Anti-
masons had been continuing and extending their political
organization through the spring and summer, with great in-
dustry and activity, no inconsiderable array of their strength
would be found at the polls of the western elections ; and
the political influence of that new party was rapidly extend-
ing into other sections of the state. Unfortunately, howe-
ver, for the National Republicans, the accessions to the new
party, were chiefly from their own rtuiks — the more rigid


party discipline of the Tammany party, being at all time*
much better calculated than that of their opponents, to pre-
vent desertions. While, therefore, the friends of the then
administration, were thus divided by this novel schism of
Anti-masonry, the friends of the central power at Albany,
having, after two years of considerate balancing upon the
neutral ground of non-committalism, determined, in 1827,
to sustain the pretensions of General Jackson, — had been
reinforced by a portion of the old Clintonians proper, and
the disappointed expectants of place, of all parties.

These circumstances alone would have rendered the po-
sition of the National Republicans sufficiently difficult, but
there were other peculiarities in the case, which added
seven-fold to these perplexities. The great body of the
supporters of the administration, and who were in favor of
re-electing the President, in opposition to General Jackson,
in the old parts of the state, where Anti-masonry was little
known, cared not a rush whether the candidates for Gover-
nor and Lieut. Governor were Masons or not. But the
Anti-masons were determined, not only that their candidates
should not be Freemasons, but that they should be Anti-
masons : while a large number of our most zealous and
worthy political friends, — soundly with us both in state and
national politics, — being unrenouncing Freemasons, were so
bitterly hostile to the spirit of Anti-masonry, that we anti-
cipated, — not without reason, as it proved in the end, — that
great difficulties would be encountered in bringing them to
act together upon any subject. Still, discordant as were
the materials, it was essential to success, that they should
be brought to act together. In regard to measures of public
policy, however, both state and national, there, was no essen-
tial difference of opinion between the Anti-masons and the
National Republicans: and hopes were for a long time en-
tertained, that an honorable compromise might be effected,
which would be mutually satisfactory.


The Lg Roy Convention of March 6 — 8, had prescribed
the 4th of August as the day for holding their state convention
at Utica. It was well understood that Mr. Francis Granger
would be named as their candidat? for Governor. This
gentleman, a son of the former distinguished Post Master
General, and inheriting much of his father's genius and po-
pular address, by a short and brilliant career in the state le-
gislature, had rendered himself a very general favorite
among the people. His course in the House of Assembly,
upon the Anti-masonic question, had been fair and liberal,
and yet so much in favor of the Anti-masons, that they had
set their hearts upon his election as Governor. It being al-
so well understood that the national administration had no
more decided friend than Mr. Granger, in this state, his
Anti-masonic friends flattered themselves that the National
Republican Party, although at that time out-numbering them
in the proportion of nearly foMr to o?ie, would unite with them
in that nomination. The position, likewise, of Mr. Granger,
as a western man, — living in the richest and most beautiful
portion of our state, from whence a Governor had never
been selected, — and where he would be supported, as it was
supposed, with the greater unanimity, by a western esprit
du corps, gave him another advantage.

Still, it was feared, by the veteran politicians, — for the
younger men were generally in favor of Granger, — that he
was rather too young a man to be proposed as a candidate
for the chief magistracy of the state. His fine talents, and
his great personal worth, were universally conceded ; but
in addition to his want of years, it was apprehended that he
was not yet sufficiently known in the older parts of the
state, to command a strong vote for the office of Governor.
There were too many important considerations involved in
that election, to justify rash experiments. Hence it was
deemed advisable to convene an administration convention
at Utica, to meet a few days earlier than the day on which



the Anti-masons had been summoned. The object was
neither to discard Mr. Granger, nor to irritate his friends ;
but, if possible, to conciliate them by measures, in which, if
they were reasonable men, as it was hoped they were, they
would acquiesce, — in which event, victory over the com-
bined forces, and parti-colored banner of our opponents,
would be certain and triumphant.

For this purpose, it w^as necessary to select a candidate
for Governor, standing prominently before the pubUc for his
talents and virtues, and who, withal, was no Freemason.
By voluntarily making this concession to the Anti-masons,
and in connexion with such a candidate, of high and exalted
worth, having Mr. Granger for the office of Lieut. Governor,
a confident expectation was entertamed, that there might be
a thorough understanding, and a perfect coincidence of ac-
tion. Exactly such a candidate was found in the person of
Smith Thompson — then, as now, one of the firmest pillars
of the national judiciary. He w^as most reluctant to allow
his name to be used, and never fully gave his consent; — but
his long and useful public life,— his great purity of character, —
his ripe scholarship, — his eminent services upon the bench
of the Supreme Court of this state ; in the cabinet of Presi-
dent Monroe ; and in the situation which he yet adorns, —
together with the fact that he had never been a Freema-
son, — pointed him out as the man, and the only man, who
could render the most essential service to his country, in
that emergency. Under these circumstances, therefore, he
was prevailed upon by the most pressing solicitation of his
friends, to allow the use of his name as a candidate for the
office of Governor. The National Republican Convention
convened at* Utica, on the 23d of August, and with great
enthusiasm and unanimity, nominated this gentleman for
Governor, and Mr. Granger for the second office of the state.
Never was a nomination more cordially received by the
party for whose support it was intended, than this, and the
prospect of success was tliought to be very fair.


The 9th of August speedily came, and with it the Anti-
masonic Convention. But instead of showing any disposi-
tion to unite upon those nominations, there was a sudden
determination to oppose them. It was not enough that
Judge Thompson was not a Mason ; they had no evidence
that he was an Anti-mason. Nor, if he had been such,
would that have been sufficient ; — to be entitled to their sup-
port, he must be an Anti-mason, selected and nominated by
themselves alone. This convention, therefore, proceeded
to nominate an independent ticket for Governor and Lieu-
tenant-Governor — naming Francis Granger for the former
office, and Mr. John Crary for the latter. Mr. C. very prompt-
ly accepted the nomination, although he had indirectly pro-
mised to decline, should Mr. Granger do so, and, only
two months before, had apparently been among those
who were most anxious to have Messrs. Thompson and
Granger nominated by the friends of the administration.

At the time the second nomination was made, Mr. Gran-
ger had not accepted the ffi'st ; and all eyes were now turn-
ed to the west, to learn the result of his decision. It was
still hoped by the National Republicans, that he would choose
to abide their nomination, — in which event it was presum-
ed the Anti-masons would not think of naming another can-
didate, but generally acquiesce in the first nomination. Af-
ter nearly a month's consideration, — that is to say, on the
30th of August, — Mr. Granger made his election. He had
been placed in a very difficult and delicate position, by his
friends of both parties ; but at length, in a letter equally cre-
ditable to his head and his heart, declined the Anti-masonic
nomination for the higher office, and accepted that which
had been proftered him first. But the satisfaction of the Na-
tional Republicans at this result, was only momentary, and
they were soon taught that they might as well attempt to
grasp the lightning, or draw out leviathan with a hook, as di-
vert the new party from its purposes. The whole mass of it


turned their backs upon the previous state nominations, al-
most as one man, and nominated Solomon Southwick as a
candidate for Governor ! Not that they thought him a pro-
per person for that station, — not that there was the remot-
est possibihty of his success, — not that they even desired
success. But they were angry at having their favorite can-
didate taken from them, and this last selection, as they
openly told us, was made for the purpose of showing the
irrepressible energy, and the indomitable spirit, of Anti-ma-
sonry !

With the month of September came the Tammany-Jack-
son Convention, at Herkimer, at which Martin Van Buren
was nominated for Governor, and our present Governor,
Throop, for his Lieutenant. Divided as were the friends
of the national administration, none was so blind as not to
foresee, that the contest for the executive offices of the state,
w^as hopeless. Gen. Jackson, how^ever, w^as a Freemason,
and Mr. Adams was not, — and hopes were entertained that
from this circumstance, the opponents of the former would
present an unbroken front upon the presidential election,
whatever might be their minor differences. But " unto-
*^ w^ard circumstances" seemed to tread each other's heels.
Many of the papers then in opposition, with a degree of
recklessness but too common in our political controversies,
began to insinuate, and soon afterwards boldly to declare,
that Mr. Adams was a Freemason, as much so as General
Jackson. The natural effect of this assertion was to drive
a portion of the Anti-masons back upon their original par-
tialities in the presidential contest, regardless of their con-
nexion with the new party. To counteract this effect,
an individual at Canandaigua who had some time previously
written directly to Mr. Adams for information upon that
point, now published his reply, although Mr. A. had ex-
pressly enjoined his correspondent not to publish it. Un-
fortunately, as it proved, though evidently undesigned by


the writer of the letter, it contained an expression which
gave offence to many thousands of those most sensitive of
all beings, the acting Freemasons. In stating that he was
not a Mason, the writer had simply added, " that he never
" should be one." Nor was it very likely, after arriving at
his years, that he ever w^'ould, even though Morgan and
Anti-masonry had never been known. But all looks yellow
to the jaundiced eye ; and although the letter was strictly
confidential, and the gentleman to whom it was addressed
was positively charged not to publish it, yet the unfortunate
expression was greedily seized upon by the party jackalls,
for the purposes of mischief, and many were the good men
who worked themselves into the belief that they themselves,
and the whole masonic fraternity, had been grievously insult-
ed ! Certain it is, that the misrepresentation of this very inno-
cent affair, had considerable effect in this state ; while it is
believed that the vote of Ohio for Gen. Jackson, was justly
to be attributed to the masonic indignation kindled there
upon the subject of that letter.

The friends of the administration had yet another misfor-
tuae to encounter. Just on the eve of the election, when
it was too late to counteract the calumny, a poor wretch
in the county of Onondaga, — then the eastern boundary of
Anti-masonry, — was induced to charge Mr. Adams with
falsehood, in having denied that he was a Mason, and by
solemn affidavit to swear that he not only knew to the con-
trary, but that he had repeatedly sat in lodges with him, and
that even so lately as 1817 or 1818, when, as he averred,
Mr. A. had made a visit to Pittsfield, Mass. So high did
this profligate witness declare the masonic character of the
President to be, that extra lodges were called in his honor,
which he attended, the deponent himself being present !
The boldness and particularity of these charges, made un^
der the solemnity of an oath, were appalling. Those ac^

358 LETTER xxxn.

quainted with the high and unblemished character of the
President, knew that a foul perjury had been comniitted, as
the last deperate resort of party ; but among the common
people, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to counteract
so audacious an imposture. The western country was
flooded with hand-bills containing the perjuries of this
wretched instrument of political knavery ; and although an
express was sent to Pittsfield, and counter-affidavits ob-
tained, establishing the falsehood of the tale beyond contra-
diction, yet the poison had done much of its work, before
the antidote could be applied.*

Such is a rapid view of the circumstances under which
the elections of New- York were held, in November, 1828,
when Anti-masonry first took the field as an organized po-
litical party, for state and national purposes. In regard to
the presidential election, all was done by the National Re-
publicans, that, under such circumstances, could reasonably
be required of them. They lacked but one of carrying an
equal number of the electors, with their opponents, — and
that one was lost by a providential occurrence. In the
state election, Mr. Van Buren received 136,785 votes ;
Judge Thompson, 106,415; and 33,335 votes were madly
thrown away upon Mr. Southwick, — by which means Mr.
Van Buren came into the executive chair of New- York,
by a plurality only. Had the votes given for Mr. South-
wick been cast upon Judge Thompson, the political com-
plexion of New- York would at the present time have been
widely diflTerent.

This letter may perhaps be considered rather as an epi-
sode, than as forming a part of a continuous history ; but

* Mr. Adams was at Wnshinjrton, in the discharge of liis duties as Se-
cretary of State, at the time he was allcdged by the wretched affidavit-ma-
ker to have been in Pittsfiekl, in altendance upon the lodges, and, indeed, at
tlxat time had never been in that dehjihtful town !


it seems, nevertheless, to be an essential link in the chain,
presenting, as it does, a view of the peculiar traits of the
Anti-masonic party, as they were then developed,^ and
without which its history would not be complete.

I am, sir, yours, &c.


New- York, March 10, 1832.

An organized political party, exhibiting, in the first
year of its existence, a force of thirty-three thousand and up-
wards, and increasing daily, not only by accessions from
both of the other parties, (as men became converts to An-
ti-masonry from principle, or as the aspiring beheld new
paths opening to the foot of " young ambition's ladder,")
was not likely to escape the keen observation of the new
chief magistrate. The subject of the outrage upon Mor-
gan, and the consequent excitement, was, therefore, so-
lemnly presented to the consideration of the legislature,
in the opening message of the session commencing on the
6th of January, 1829. " That an act," said his excellency,
" so destructive to the peace of society, and the safety of
" its members, should have made a deep impression upon
*' the public mind, ought not to surprise us. It would have
" been an unfavorable indication of the state of our mor-
" als, and our respect for the laws, had it been otherwise.

Online LibraryWilliam L. (William Leete) StoneLetters on masonry and anti-masonry, addressed to the Hon. John Quincy Adams → online text (page 30 of 49)