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 31 of 49)
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" We have accordingly witnessed an excitement on the
*' subject, of great interest and extent, amongst a portion
" of our citizens greatly and justly distinguished for their
" piety, industry and intelligence. It would not be cxtra-
" ordinary if attempts should be made to pervert this honest
" indignation of the people, to selfish and sinister purposes.


" But the character of those who really feel what they pro-
" fess on this subject, affords us the best security, that the
" success of such unworthy schemes cannot be great, or
" of long duration." Governor Van Buren then repeated
what his immediate predecessor in the state administration,
had said before him, respecting the duty of maintaining
the supremacy of the laws, and pledged his best endeavors
to pursue the legal investigations of the subject, that the
innocent might be relieved from suspicion, and the guilty
brought to exemplary punishment. On the whole, the
matter was adroitly managed in the message. The origi-
nal excitement was justified and commended ; the people
engaged in it were flattered ; and the true thorough-going
party men were admonished, that it would be unsafe to
enlist in that cause, since it could not be of long duration.

Accompanying the message was a formal report of Mr.
Moseley, the special commissioner, rendering an account
of his proceedings in executing the difficult trust confided
to him by his appointment. After dwelling upon the diffi-
culties and embarrassments of the case, Mr. Moseley in-
formed the governor, that he had traversed one indictment
with success, and had traced Morgan to the magazine of
Fort Niagara, where he was in confinement on the 14th
of September, 1826. " Here," said the commissioner,
" are the boundaries of the testimony. As to his fate sub-
" sequently thereto, it is not yet developed ; nor can it be
" anticipated, with much confidence, to be judicially deter-
" mined, by any tribunal over which men have control."

That part of the message relating to this subject, togeth-
er with the commissioner's report, was referred to a select
committee, both in the Senate and Assembly. The com-
mittee of the Senate reported on the 14th of February;
and in reviewing the whole case presented to their consid-
eration, occasion was taken to rebuke his excellency for
the implied censure of the political action of the Anti-ma-


sons. They declared that the political movements to which
the governor had alluded, had been characterized "by
" great devotion to principle, and activity and firmness in
" pursuit of the objects they had proposed." These move-
ments they maintained, had " proceeded so immediately
" from the bosom of the people, that the ordinary restraints
" of parties and their discipline, together w^ith the efforts of
" those politicians who have heretofore inflamed pubUc
" opinion, had been laid aside and regarded with utter in-
" difference. Satisfied beyond all question, that the evils
" inflicted on the state dnd country, by secret, self-created
" societies, were a thousand fold greater than any that for
" many years past had been conjured up by the devices of
" cunning politicians, the people," it was said, " have
" sought with wonderful unity of design, of principle and
" of eflfort, to destroy, by the peaceful exercise of their
" rights at the polls, the^ existence of the masonic, as well
^* as all other secret associations."

The report of the committee of the House of Assembly,
was presented two days afterwards — the 16th. This was
a more ample statement than that of the other committee,
extending, with the documents annexed, to nearly seventy
large pages. In presenting the history of the case, the
same ground was necessarily travelled over again, without
the discovery of any new facts. The report of Mr. Mose-
ley, which had been submitted to the committee with the
message, had been received with disappointment by the
public, because it was thought the commissioner had not
entered so thoroughly into the matter as he might have
done, and had not made as many disclosures, or indulg-
ed in so many dark speculations, as the public expectation
demanded, and the public taste required. Entertaining,
perhaps, a common feeling with the people on the subject,
the committee addressed letters to the special commission-
er, and also to Mr. Wiiiting, the efficient district attorney



of Ontario, who, as we have seen, had had far the greatest
experience in these pecuUar investigations, to know if either
of these gentlemen had any farther information in their
possession, which could properly be imparted to the legis-
lature. Mr. W. wrote a very sensible communication in
reply, giving his views of the case, and such an historical
synopsis of the proceedings and developements made, as
were deemed suitable for the information and consideration
of the committee. " Down to this time," said Mr. W.,
" I am not aware that any proof has been given on the tra-
" verse of an indictment, identifying Morgan at Niagara.
" It can now be established that he was in the carriage
"which passed on the Ridge Road, on the 13th of Sep-
" tember. Such is my information from a source in which
" I have every confidence. This proof has not been in
" our power until very lately. No person who was en-
" gaged in the conspiracy at the frontier, except Bruce, has
" been convicted. Judgment has not yet been given
" against him, by reason of a question of law pending be-
" fore the Supreme Court, and which is not yet decided."
In regard to the outrage, Mr. Whiting, himself a mason,
expressed the following opinion. " The abduction of Mor-
" gan is a singular and striking event in our history ; and
" as in case of other irretrievable evils, it is easier to la-
" ment it than to find a remedy. I have no hesitation in
" saying, that it has resulted from the confidence which
" members of the masonic society have felt in its power
" and influence ; from a false estimate of the nature of that
" institution, and from an opinion that they were bound to
" preserve it from violation and injury." In conclusion he
adds,—" It 5s worthy of remark, that it has been proved
" or conceded, that all those who have engaged in these
" outrages, were m(^mbcrs of the masonic fraternity, — a
"fact not without ni(\'iiiinfr in rcforpnce to the objects of
" the conspiracy."

LETTER xxxin. 363

Mr. Moseley's reply to the committee, was short, and to
the purpose. He informed them, in substance, that he had
not submitted to the Executive a full report, because, in his
opinion, a just sense of propriety would not warrant the
publication of facts yet to become the subject of judicial in-
vestigation. There were already sufficient difficulties in
the way of empannelling juries, and he wished not to in-
crease these embarrassments. He informed the committee,
however, that since writing his report, he had elicited addi-
tional and material testimony in relation to the identity of
Morgan, and some precise circumstances that occurred in
carrying him off. He had also, he said, been put in pos-
session of information of a graver character, from a source
entitled to credit. The committee went largely into a dis-
cussion of the nature and tendency of the masonic obliga-
tions, as they had been disclosed in part by Morgan, and the
residue by the Le Roy Convention. These obligations re-
ceived their most pointed condemnation. In conclusion,
they reported in favor of continuing the office of special
commissioner for prosecuting the investigations, and, in or-
der to guard against the repetition of similar offences, they
likewise reported a bill prohibiting the administering of
extra-judicial oaths. The first of these recommendations
was adopted by the legislature. The second was not.

Notwithstanding the abatement of the popular clamor
marking the earlier history of the excitement, yet the Anti-
masonic feeling was sinking more deeply into the minds of
the people, and its influence continued gradually to extend.
Nor were the leaders sparing of time or money to sustain
the cause in which they had embarked. The result of the
preceding elections at the west, had taught them that they
had obtained a foot-hold, as a political party, and they were
resolved to lay its foundations broad and deep. For this
purpose, another state convention had been summoned to
meet at Albany, on the 19th of February, "to deliberate

364 LETTER xxxiir.

" upon, and adopt such measures as might be deemed best
" calculated to vindicate the laws of the land from masonic
" violence, and to redeem the principles of civil and political
" liberty from masonic encroachments." The county meet-
ings for selecting delegates to compose this convention, it
was wisely considered, would again serve to prevent the
public attention from slumbering upon the subject ; and each
meeting afforded a fresh opportunity of embodying addi-
tional appeals to popular passion and prejudice, in the form
of addresses, reports, and resolutions. Nor was the occa-
sion left unimproved. At the Genesee Convention held for
this purpose, one subject was discussed of a very questiona-
ble character. A committee was appointed to inquire
whether there was in existence, in those western counties,
any monied institution, monopoly, or other aristocratic es-
tablishment, which had been, or might be, perverted by
masonic influence to political purposes, or to exert an undue
influence upon the public mind. This committee reported
that the Holland Land Company, whose territory had extend-
ed over nearly seven counties, and to which the people, pur-
chasing their lands, were yet indebted to the amount of six
or seven millions of dollars, was such an aristocratical in-
stitution. A resolution was thereupon introduced and adopt-
ed, of an inquisitorial character, directing the appointment
of a committee of six persons to institute an inquiry, wheth-
er the agent of the company was a Mason, — whether the
sub-agents and clerks of the land ofllce, were Masons, —
whether the patronage of the company was bestowed upon
masonic newspapers ; and whether the power and influence
of the company was wielded in support of the fraternity
generally, and in hostility to the Anti-masons. This com-
mittee was hkewise instructed to co-operate with the people
of the other counties on the extensive tract of the compa-
ny's lands, and, if necessary, to convoke a convention of de-
legates from those counties, to take further measures in the


premises, should such measures be judged expedient. I am
not aware that any serious consequences followed the adop-
tion of these resolutions ; but when we consider the delicacy
of the relations between landlord and tenant, — between
debtor and creditor, — and the extreme excitability of a
large population upon such a subject, it cannot be consid-
ered otherwise than remarkable, that an inquiry of such a
nature should have been set on foot by men of unquestiona-
ble character, worth, and intelligence.

This second state convention of Anti-masons convened at
-Albany, on the 19th of February, and held a session of
three days. It was most respectably attended — forty coun-
ties being represented, by upwards of one hundred mem-
bers. The session was a very laborious one, — the printed
record of its proceedings extending to forty large and close-
ly printed pages. The reports, resolutions and addresses
of this assembly were exceedingly well devised to preserve
and extend the excitement against Freemasonry. Indeed,
the highly respectable gentlemen who composed it, must
have partaken largely of the excitement themselves ; for
more extensive drafts upon the imagination for facts, were
probably never made ; and yet, the character of the body
which sent them forth to the public, and of the individuals
who affixed their names to them, forbids the supposition
that they did not religiously believe all they stated. I might
adduce many particulars illustrating the truth of what I
have just said, as to the character of these proceedings.
But a single instance shall suffice. Among the committees
for facilitating the labors of the convention, was one whose
duty it was to examine the statute books of the state, and
ascertain whether they contained any, and, if any, what, le-
gislative enactments, in favor of the Freemasons. This
committee reported, with great solemnity, "that in examin-
" ing the statute book, they had ascertained that there exist-
" ed two public acts of the legislature, on the subject, — the

366 LETTER xxxrri.

" first, entitled ' An act to incorporate the Grand Chapter of
"Uhe state of New- York, passed 31st March, 1818 ;' and
" the other, entitled * An act to enable masonic lodges to
" * take and hold real estatej for certain purposes therein
"'mentioned, passed April 16, 1825.' — both of which were
«* extraordinary in their nature, and could have beenprocur-
" ed by no less powerful an influence than that which the in-
" stitution it incorporates has long possessed, and, it is be-
" lieved, exercises, as well in our legislative halls, as in our
" courts of justice^ Then followed a long and grave argu-
ment, to show the dangers arising from the statutes refei'-
red to, and the enactment of which couldnot have been pro-
cured but by the « power" and " influence" of all-powerful
Masonry. Now it so happens that the writer hereof was a
humble instrument in obtaining both of those acts, so " ex-
" traordinary in their nature." As to the first, the fact was
simply this : a Grand Treasurer of the Grand Chapter, had
been a defaulter, having appropriated all the funds in his
hands, amounting to the sum of five thousand dollars, and
upwards, to his own use. On being called to an account
for the default, he offered in payment of the debt, a tract of
land, in the vicinity of Albany. But the Grand Chai)ter
could not purchase and hold real estate, without an act of
incorporation. It was for the purpose of securing that debt,
and that alone, that a committee was appointed, of which
I had the honor to be chairman, to apply for a charter. I
wrote and presented the memorial and bill, and it was pass-
ed with but little opposition, and without the least particle
of masonic influence, other than a simple statement of facts.
The act of 1825 was passed merely to enable a few gentle-
men in this city to form a joint stock company, for the erection
of the noble Gothic edifice which now adorns a section ol
Broadway. I had no personal interest whatever in the ap-
plication. But happening to be in the Senate chamber,
writing a report of legislative proceedings, one evening


daring the session of 1825, 1 heard a member of one of the
select committees, which were sitting in consultation upon
divers applications, remark, on reading the title of this bilJ,
— " Come, let us kill this, and have done with it ;" to which
proposition his associates assented. Having some know-
ledge of the merits of the question, and there being no friend
of the application present, I immediately rose and stated
the simple object of the bill ; whereupon the committee,
neither of whom were Masons, very readily and cheerfully
agreed to report in favor of it, and the bill was passed.
Such, sir, and such only, were the objects in view, and the
means used, to obtain the passage of those bills. And yet
how wonderful the " power" by which they were obtained,
and how " extraordinary their nature," — in the eyes of
this very respectable convention ! It would be a source of
amusement, were the results pertinent to the present inves-
tigation, to examine the proceedings of many of these Anti-
masonic conventions, and by divesting their statements of
the colorings imparted to them by the distempered imagi-
nations of their leading members, exhibit them to the pub-
lic in the simplicity of truth and innocence. The result
would prove many circumstances and transactions which
have been the subjects of clamor, to be as unexceptionable
as christian man can desire.

The great object of this convention was to devise ways
and means for the more effectual and extensive political or-
ganization of the Anti masonic party. With this view, an-
other state convention was resolved upon, and it was like-
wise determined to convene a national convention of Anti-
masons, to meet in Philadelphia, in the summer of 1830. It
was further resolved, that the character of Morgan deserv-
ed an eulogium, and his services a " storied urn." A series
of resolutions were thereupon adopted to raise money to
build a monument, and likewise to make a suitable provi-
sion for the support of Mrs. Morgan, and the education oi


her children. Although neither of these last-mentioned re^
solutions have been carried into effect^ yet they probably


On the 3d of March — Mr. Moseley having been appoint-
ed to the office of Circuit Judge^ in the place of Mr. Throop,
elected to the second officd of the state, — Gov. Van Buren
sent a special message to the Legislature, announcing the
resignation, by Mr. M., of the office of Special Counsel, and
the appointment of Mr. John C. Spencer in his place. A
more acceptable appointment could hardly have been made.
In addition to his high professional ability, his untiring in-
dustry, perseverance, and zeal, in any cause he undertakes,
and his unbending integrity, afforded an ample guaranty
for the faithful performance of the duties devolving upon
him by this new and important trust. These anticipations
were very speedily realized. Mr. Spencer entered forth-
with upon the duties of his office, and in the course of the
same month was engaged a number of days in pushing ex-
parte investigations preparatory to further proceedings, be-
fore the grand jury of the county of Monroe, at Rochester.
But his labors were impeded at every step by the obstacles
thrown in his way by the members of the fraternity, and
their able array of counsel, always at hand. Among a
great number of witnesses examined on this occasion, was
a Mason named Isaac Allen, who refused to answer the
Grand Jury whether a carriage stopped before his door on
the 13th of September, 1826, and whether a person applied
to him on that day for a pair of horses. He objected, on
the ground that the answer might criminate himself. The
Grand Jury thereupon went into court, and the question
whether the witness should be peremptorily required to
answer, was argued by able counsel on both sides. The
court decided affirmatively. But the witness persisted in
his refusal, and was committed to prison for a contempt.
At this term, two bills were found for participation in the


conspiracy, viz : against Simeon B. Jewett, an attorney at
law, and Burrage Smith. These persons had both been
previously indicted, but in a different county.

Gov. Van Buren having accepted the station of Secreta-
ry of State, in the cabinet of Gen. Jackson, resigned the of-
fice of chief magistrate of New- York, in a few days after
sending the special message above mentioned, and the dis-
charge of the executive functions devolved upon Lieuten-
ant Governor Throop. This gentleman, it may be recol-
lected, had originally acquired considerable popularity with
the Anti-masons, by pronouncing it " a blessed spirit" by
which they were actuated. On leaving the chair of the Sen-
ate, however, for the audience chamber of the state exe-
cutive, the now acting Governor addressed the senators at
considerable length, and in the course of his remarks, he
took occasion to speak somewhat at large upon the subject
of Anti-masonry. In regard to the excitement, as he had
first known it, the acting Governor declared his opinions to
be unchanged. He had himself partaken of that excite-
ment, and was yet in feeling with it, while confined to its
original and legitimate object. But he could not join them
in their proscription of the whole masonic fraternity. He
was no Mason, and was opposed to all secret societies ;
but he did not believe, " that a society which has enrolled
" amongst its members persons of all ranks and conditions,
" and many distinguished for piety, for, the purity of their
" lives, and devotion to their country, could be founded on
" principles tending to subvert all government, or exact
" obligations from its members incompatible with their duty
" to their fellow-citizens, their country, and their God." In
conclusion, he declared his determination that political An-
ti-masonry " should meet in him a mild and temperate,


day to the present, there has been " a great gulf between"
the x\nti-masonic party and the Executive. The hostility



has been mutual and ceaseless. Which party will in the
end be found most powerful, remains to be seen.

This letter is already sufficiently long ; but there is one
other incident in the regular progress of the history, which
requires noticing in this place. The crusade against the
whole masonic fraternity, whether innocent or guilty, had
been waged with such bitterness and effect, and so heavy
was the load of popular odium beneath which its members,
without distinction, were laboring, that the most respecta-
ble and intelligent portion of the craft at the west began
now to see the propriety of yielding to the fury of the
tempest, by relinquishing the institution, and resigning the
charters of their lodges and chapters. Accordingly, dur-
ing the present month of March, a convention of delegates
from the several masonic bodies of Monroe county, was
held at Rochester. Forty delegates were present, repre-
senting lodges, chapters, and an encampment of Templars.
After full consideration, it was determined to make a sur-
render of the charters of each of the bodies represented,
with a view of an ultimate relinquishment of the institution
of Masonry altogether. Having come to this resolution^
they published an address to the public, containing a decla-
ration of the reasons which had induced the procedure.
They wished the public fully to understand, that, in coming
to such a decision, they at the same time repelled the idea of
a tame submission to the denunciations so prodigally lavish-
ed upon them by their opponents. They denied the justice
of such denunciations, and invited a free but impartial in-
quiry into the reasons by which they were actuated in
coming to this determination. These reasons w^ere set
forth at large in the address — the duty of good citizens
to submit to the voice of public opinion, being regarded as
the most efficient of the number. They conceded that an
utter disregard of public opinion, when once clearly settled
and ascertained, was unwise on the part of the citizen, un-


der any form of gorernmont, — that, especially under such
a government as we have the happiness to enjoy, a reckless
opposition to the confirmed public sentiment cannot be de-
fended, — and, that it is not only unwise to treat it with in-
difference, but, where no violation of principle is involved,
to set it at defiance is to be culpably obstinate. Public
opinion, they said, beyond all doubt, unequivocally called
for the relinquishment of their masonic rights; and under
such circumstances, they held that personal gratification
must be made to yield to the higher claims arising out of
their relations to society. In regard to the abduction and
probable murder of Morgan, they declared, most solemnly,
*' that the transaction had been uniformly condemned by
" them as an oflfence obnoxious to the principles of Ma-
" sonry, to the laws of the country, and to the laws of
" God." As it respected the character and principles of
Masonry itself, as they had received and understood it,
they denied " that there was any thing contained in it im-
" moral in its tendency, or in any wise dangerous to either
" civil or religious liberty, or opposed to the christian reli-
" gion." The address admitted that they had not arrived
at this determination to sever all their masonic ties, with-
out a considerable effort ; and although there were many
others, who, from pride of opinion, or from a repugnance
to the adoption of such a course, as it were upon compul-
sion, would look with displeasure upon the determination
to which they had arrived, yet they exhorted all such " to
" remember that there lay before them a wide field for il-
" lustrating, practically, that wholesome rule, cherished by

Online LibraryWilliam L. (William Leete) StoneLetters on masonry and anti-masonry, addressed to the Hon. John Quincy Adams → online text (page 31 of 49)