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 35 of 49)
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dered ; and if so, the witness might be indicted as an acces-
sory before the fact, which did not come within the statute.
The court sustained the refusal. He subsequently testified
that Wright kept. a tavern at Newfane, on the Ridge Road,
about three miles northwesterly from Lockport, and seven
or eight miles east from Mollineaux's tavern in Cambria, —
that he does not know that defendant was at Wright's on
the evening referred to, — that Eli Bruce was at Wright's
on that evening, — thinks that Jeremiah Brown was there
at the same time, — and supposed that Brown and Bruce
left there in a carriage about eight or nine o'clock in the
evening. Some further questions were put, which the wit-
ness declined answering, and which the court decided he
was not bound to answer.

Daniels, the last mentioned witness, was a Mason, and
came into court accompanied by counsel to whom he re-
sorted on every difficult occasion, for instructions whether
he should answer or not. He not only several times declined
answering questions, but in one instance persisted in his re-
fusal, until the order for his commitment was nearly com-
pleted, when he relented. At one time, he referred to a
written memorandum, and read his answer to the question
pressed upon him ; and from inquiry it was ascertained
that the answer had been written by his counsel !

Robert MoUineaux testified to the fact of being called up
in the night, and furnishing horses, as on former trials, and
Corydon Fox again repeated his story of the night trip
from Lewiston down to the fort, without variation. Mr.



terry likewise again testified to the fact of having wit-
nessed the exchange of passengers from one carriage to
another, in the back street of Lewiston. One of the per-
sons taken out seemed to have a handkerchief bound about
his head, and had not the use of his feet.

David Maxwell kept the turnpike gate on the Ridge
Road about six miles east of MoUineaux's and near to Solo-
mon C. Wright's. On 13th September, between ten and
eleven o'clock at night, a two horse carriage passed the
gate to the west. The toll was paid by Jeremiah Brown, whom
he saw returning the next morning in the same carriage,
apparently asleep.

Here the testimony on the part of the prosecution closed.

The defendant called Israel R. Hall, relative to the trans-
actions at Canandaigua ; and also Cory don Fox and Fred-
erick B. Moon to describe the premises of Ebenezer Per-
ry, and how far it was practicable for him to have seen all
he related from the positions he described.

The defendant's counsel then called five witnesses who
testified that the character of the defendant, up to the time
of this transaction, had been always that of a good citizen,
peaceable, mild and orderly, and that he had been distin-
guished for the sobriety and rectitude of his conduct.

The testimony being closed, the counsel summed up, and
the judge having delivered a charge to the juiy, in the
course of which he instructed them, that if the jury were
satisfied, upon a review of the testimony in relation to the
removal of Morgan from the goal in Canandaigua, (as they
probably would be,) that a design had been formed by
Lawson, Cheseboro and others, to forcibly abduct or kid-
nap Morgan, then the inquiry would remain, was the
defendant a party to that agreement ? The judge also ad-
verted to the confidential relation of the circumstances of
the abduction of Morgan, to Benjamin Wright, Esq., in
which he said that if ho had known that Morgan was in


the carriage, he should never have driven it, as establish-
ing the fact, that, how^ever, guilty Mather might be in aid-
ing the execution of the conspiracy, he v^^as not a party to
it originally. The judge also charged the jury, (on a sug-
gestion made by the special counsel,) " that although they
" were satisfied that Mather assisted in carrying the con-
** spiracy into execution after its formation, that fact would
" not, in the opinion of the court, constitute him a party.*'

The jury, after retiring from the bar, returned with a
verdict of Not Guilty. Messrs. Spencer, A. H. Tracy and
J. B. Coles for the people. Messrs. Mathews, Adams and
Barnard for the defendant.

A motion was made to the Supreme Court for a new
trial in this case, by the counsel for the people, upon a
statement of evidence agreed to by the parties. It was
argued at the January term of the court, and the case de-
cided at the May term following, (1830,) of which a re-
port may be found in IV. Wendell, 229. Thirteen points
of exception were made by the counsel for the people ;
but the judgment of the circuit judge was sustained by the
Supreme Court on all the points but one, and that one they
did not deem to be such as could have influenced the jury
in rendering the verdict of not guilty. The motion for a
new trial was therefore refused. A very able and elabor-
ate opinion of the court was delivered by Judge Marcy,
but as my object is not the elucidation of points of law
but the facts in controversy, I have confined myself to
those parts only of the voluminous record that have a di-
rect relation to my purpose.

I have the honor, &;c.



New- York, March 20, 1832.

The Legislature of 1830, commenced its session on the
5th of January. In his opening message to that body, the
acting Governor referred to the Anti-masonic excitement in
the following terms : — " Although. in some sections of the
" state an unusual excitement has prevailed, I am happy
"to have it in my power to say, that it has not originated
" in a desire to change our constitution, or in a distrust of
"the integrity of our laws ; but in an honest zeal, overflow-
"ing its proper boundaries, misdirected in its efforts, and
" carrying into public affairs matters properly belonging to
" social discipline. Such feelings cannot long exist beyond
" the limits of their proper sphere of action ; and it is a
" source of gratification, that in this instance they give evi-
** dence of speedily subsiding into their natural and healthful
"channel." In framing this paragraph, his excellency
must certainly have been guided rather by his wishes, than
by the actual facts, as disclosed in the returns. Twenty-
eight members of the legislature, elected solely by the "ex-
citement," and an increase of nearly thirty thousand votes
from the preceding year, spoke a very different language.
On the 27th of January, the Executive transmitted to
both houses of the legislature, the report of the special coun-
sel, giving an accouut of his proceedings, and the result of
his investigations, since his appointment to execute the du-
ties of commissioner. This report was an able document,
though much of it necessarily consisted of a repetition, in
substance, of the history of the outrage, and of the facts


brought to light on the preceding trials. In addition to the
recapitulation of the earlier portion of the histor}^, it con-
tained a detail of the material facts of the evidence which
had been disclosed to successive grand juries, and the testi-
mony, inextenso, of several of the most important witnesses
who had at different times been examined. The materials
were so arranged as to furnish an intelligible view of the
whole subject, down to that period, with the omission only
of particulars the publication of which might have the effect
of defeating the ends of justice.

The legislature was summarily informed by this report,
of all the legal proceedings past or pending, under the charge
of the special counsel. The period, within which prosecu-
tions for the Morgan outrages could be legally instituted,
had now expired, and no new indictments could be found.
Up to the last moment, however, the special counsel had
attended all the courts in the several counties, where indict-
ments could be procured, and examined witnesses before the
respective grand juries. New indictments had also been
found in several instances where the preceding ones were
ascertained to be defective. There were at the time of
making this report, untried indictments pending in the coun-
ty of Niagara, against twelve persons ; in the county of
Genesee, four ; and two in each of the counties of Ontario and
Monroe. But two trials had taken place during the pre-
ceding year, viz : those of Whitney and Gillis, and ofElihu
Mather. The Court of Oyer and Terminer, which had
been appointed in the preceding April, for Niagara County,
had failed, in consequence of the indisposition of the circuit
judge. In July a special Court of Oyer and Terminer had
been held in that county, at which the indictments, then pend-
ing there, were removed by the defendants, by certiorari, in-
to the Supreme Court. The Circuit Court appointed for
that county in November, had failed, in consequence of the
prolonged sitting of the court on the trial of Mather, in the


county of Orleans ; — so that the indictments in Niagara
could not be brought to trial. In the month of August, a
Circuit and a Court of Oyer and Terminer, had been held
in the county of Monroe, at which the only indictment then
pending in that county, was removed into the Supreme
Court by the defendant. At the October term of that court,
a special motion by the defendant was argued and denied ;
and at the term of the same court, for January, not closed
when the report was written, the defendant interposed a
special plea in abatement. These proceedings had prevent-
ed the joining issue upon the innocence or guilt of the de-

In regard to the difficulties encountered in pursuing these
investigations, the commissioner made several statements
of high importance. All but two of the persons the most
actively engaged in the conspiracy, as far as the facts had
been ascertained, were Masons of the Royal Arch degree.
Some of the witnesses had escaped beyond the reach of le-
gal process ; others had peremptorily refused to testify, be-
ing in the situation which it was supposed placed them be-
yond the legal means of coercion.

" From the members of the masonic fraternity, who still adliered to it,
and who considered themselves included in the indiscriminate warfare of
which an accomit has been given, the special counsel said no assistance
whatever had been received, although the occasions demanding it had been
frequent. With but few exceptions, witnesses who still belonged to the in-
stitution, had been reluctant in their attendance at court, and apparently
indisposed to testify. Difiiculties which never occurred in any other prose-
cution, had been met at every step. Witnesses had been secreted ; they
had been sent off into Canada, and into different states of the Union. They
had been apprised of process being issued to compel their attendance, and
had been thereby enabled to evade its service. In one instance, after a
party implicated had been arrested and brought into this state, he was de-
coyed from the custody of the individual having him in charge, and finally
escaped. These occurrences, the commissioner said, had been so numerous
and various, as to forbid the belief that they were the result of individual
effort alone, and they had evinced the concert of so many agents, as to indi-


cate an extensive combination to screen from punishment those charged
•with a participation in the offences upon Wilham Morgan. No evidence,
hov*rever, had come to the knowledge of the special counsel, to justify the
belief that the members of the masonic institution generally, had been enga-
ged in any such combination."

The report having been read, was referred, In the Senate,
to the committee on the judiciary. On the motion of Mr*
Maynard that it be printed, some opposition was manifest-
ed. Mr. Benton, of Herkimer, and Mr. Hubbard, of Che-
nango, spoke in opposition to the motion. The former gen-
tleman first desired to have the opinion of the committee to
whom it had been referred, on the question of printing.
Mr. Hubbard contended that the special counsel in framing
the report, had travelled out of the record — beyond the line
of duty. He said the author might as well have sent a po-
litical pamphlet to the legislature, as such a document. He
was not required to give his opinion of the merits or demer-
its of any particular society. Mr. Maynard replied that if
the report ought not to be printedin furtherance of the views
of one political party, certainly the printing should not be
denied to aid another. There was great anxiety among
the people to see the document, and if the printing were re-
fused, it would only serve to kindle anew, and increase, the
excitement so much deplored. The motion prevailed.

It was stated by the special counsel, in his report, that,
from the peculiar circumstances of the case, he had deemed
it a solemn duty to object to the empannelling of any Royal
Arch Masons as jurors upon the trial of indictments against
their brethren ; and, on the trial of Mather, the objection
was sustained in the two instances in which challenges on
that ground had been made. In the trial of those challen-
ges, testimony had been taken at great length, as to the na-
tui'e of the masonic institution, and of the obligations im-
posed upon its members. But entertaining doubts whether
this testimony fell within that description of evidence which


the legislature seemed to have intended should be reported,
it had been omitted by the special counsel. In consequence
of this statement, Mr. Maynard, on the 28th of January,
offered a resolution calling upon the special counsel for a
full report of all the testimony given on the before mention-
ed trial, on the challenges of jurors to favor, in consequence
of their being members of the masonic fraternity, and who
were pronounced by the triers not to be indifferent : and
also requiring him to state the points or questions of law,
decided or discussed on said challenges, or affecting the
question of the indifferency of the said jurors. After some
further debate, an amendment, directing the judge who had
held the court, to make a report of the case, instead of the
special counsel, prevailed, and in that shape the resolution
was adopted.

Another Anti-masonic state convention was held in Al-
bany, commencing its sittings on the 26th of February.
Its objects were manifold. About one hundred delegates
appeared, notwithstanding the inclemency of the season.
Delegates to the National Convention, which was to as-
semble in Philadelphia during the ensuing summer, were
appointed, and arrangements made for the holding of ano-
ther State Convention, with immediate reference to the
next state election, then nearly nine months distant. A
memorial was adopted, and ordered to be presented to the
Legislature, praying for the appointment of a committee,
to inquire whether the Grand Chapter of the state of New-
York had interfered in the administration of justice, or in
any manner aided, countenanced, or protected the viola-
tions of our laws, or departed from the objects of its incOij|'^|[
poration, or perverted the purposes of its creation. As sT '
reason for such an investigation, the memorial referred to
the charges publicly and repeatedly made, that money had
been appropriated from the funds of the said Grand Chap-
ter, for aiding in the escape of some of the persons accused


of participation in the Morgan outrage, and for the defence
and support of others of the conspirators. This memorial
was presented on the 6th of March, and after an ineffectual
attempt on the part of its friends to refer it to a select com-
mittee, empowered to send for persons and papers, it was
ordered to he on the table. It was called up, however, on
the 8th ; but its opponents adroitly proposed so to amend,
as to send the whole subject to the Attorney General, re-
quiring that officer to examine and report, whether, in his
opinion, the Grand Chapter had misused its privileges, and
if so, requiring him to file a quo warranto before the pro-
per court, to obtain a judgment of forfeiture. An animated
debate ensued, but the amendment prevailed by a vote of
75 to 30. This movement was merely a device to gei rid
of the subject as quietly as possible ; and it succeeded.

On the 16th of April, the Attorney General reported, that
an information in the nature of a quo warranto against a
corporation, could only be exhibited upon leave granted by
the Supreme Court, or some one of its justices ; and to ob-
tain leave, either direct or circumstantial evidence must be
given of the truth of the matter upon which the informa-
tion is founded. He had addressed a letter, on the 10th of
March, to Gen. Bellinger, President of the Convention,
whose name was at the head of the memorial, requesting
him to furnish an affidavit of such facts and circumstances
as would establish the truth of the charges against the Grand
Chapter. On the 16th of that month he received a reply,
stating, in substance, that the writer knew nothing of the
facts, save what he had derived from the newspapers, re-
ports, &c. He referred to certain persons, however, who
he supposed would be able to furnish information. But on
inquiry of these, the Attorney General had obtained no evi-
dence of the truth of the charges. The memorialists had
not stated the grounds of the charges, nor even averred that
they themselves believed them. The Attorney General


419 LETTER xxxvin.

said he would not advise whether mere hear-say evidence
was sufficient to warrant a legislative investigation ; but
no such proceeding as that contemplated by the resolution,
could be instituted by him in the absence of legal proof.
Nothing further was heard of the subject.

No further legislative proceedings took place during that
session, excepting the renewal, for another year, of the act
authorising the Governor to continue the services of the
special counsellor. But from the tone of Mr. Spencer's
report, in which he had come directly to the point, respect-
ing the conduct of the western Masons on the Morgan
trials, he had given offence to certain members not to be
forgiven ; and they avenged themselves by cutting his pay
down to the beggarly allowance of 1000 dollars. This
measure was little short of a direct insult to Mr. Spencer,
although it was probably dictated more by party spirit,
than any other motive. This same spirit of party, is the
vilest demon which walks to and fro in our land. Its in-
terference is not confined to the political relations of our
country, but is too often felt in our social, and even religious
affairs. In the instance before us, the evidence was clear
as though written in sun-beams, that party spirit was poi^
soning the sources of the law, and the streams of justice.
The fact is not to be disguised — contradicted with truth it
cannot be — that Anti-masonry had become so thoroughly
political ; its spirit was so vindictive towards the Freema-
sons, without discrimination as to guilt or innocence ; and it
was in every respect so unyielding, that, almost in the
words of Mr. Spencer's report itself, " its effect had been
" to compel a more strict and close union among those mem-
" bars who still adhered to the institution, and to excite a
" sympathy in their favor among many of their fellow-citi-
" zens ; and thus to retard and obstruct the attainment of
♦* its professed object." The ardor with which the Anti-
masons pressed their political designs, abated the zeal both


of the legislature, and the Executive, in the prosecution of
the investigations. With the return of every election, as
the Anti-masons gained strength, in a corresponding ratio
did those in power, who began to tremble for their places,
become more reluctant in pushing forward the prosecutions,
by reason of which their new opponents were so greatly
profitting. Indeed, from the very outset of this controver-
sy, in every legislative measure proposed or attempted, it
was perfectly evident that the ruHng majority were secretly
opposed to the adoption of any extra efforts to bring the of-
fenders to justice. Notwithstanding all their pretended
anxiety to have the mystery of the fate of Morgan -s'olved,
and the delinquents punished, there was always a lurking
feeling of reluctance visible in every motion of the majo-
rity, and in every debate. Not, perhaps, that they really
wished murderers to go unpunished, but they feared, in the
peculiar circumstances of the present case, that in the same
degree in which they were aiding the ends of justice, they
were likewise assisting a political party that might ere long
push them from their places of dignity and power. It was
very natural, therefore, that this spirit should have been
'more observable during the present session of the Legisla-
ture, as had been fully exemplified in the reception of the
special counsel's report. More than sixty thousand Anti-
masonic votes had been polled at the late election ; and from
the preparations then making for the next campaign, there
was little reason to believe, that that number would be at
all diminished. Most certainly it would not be, if, by the
energy, the talent, and the perseverance of the special coun-
sel, he should at last succeed in unravelling the mighty mys-
tery, (of which result he now began to entertain strong
hopes,) should that mystery be found to have terminated in
the dreadful tragedy which was now on all hands believed
to have marked its end. Looking at the matter, therefore,
as 'party politicians, they had no special desire to produce


any further disclosures ; and from the unbending integrity
of the special counsel, and his untiring industry, it was ob-
vious, that nothing on his part would be wanting to probe
the matter to the bottom, — let the axe of justice fall wherever
it might. Such are believed to have been some of the con-
siderations which entered into the minds of the legisla-
ture, when in re-enacting the law making provision for the
employment of the special counsel one year longer, they in-
serted a proviso limiting his pay to the sum of 1 000 dollars.
Such, unquestionably, was the opinion of the special coun-
sel himself, founded not alone upon the action of the legis-
lature, as we shall see presently, although at his suggestion,
provision had been made for holding a special Court of
Oyer and Terminer, early in the then ensuing summer, at
which one of the judges of the Supreme Court was to

Immediately after the receipt of a copy of the new act,
thus continuing his appointment, but limiting his compen-
sation, the special counsel addressed an able communica-
tion to his excellency the acting Governor, giving a histo-
ry, in language of firm but temperate indignation, of the
treatment he had received at the hands of the government,
almost from the day on which he entered upon his duties.
From this document, in order to give a just view of the
case, it will be necessary for me to quote at considerable
length. The only inducements to his acceptance of the
commission, Mr. Spencer said, had been the hope of allay-
ing the fears and anxieties which prevailed respecting the
sufficiency of the laws to punish the outrage which had
been committed, and the belief that a faithful and thorough
investigation would satisfy an alarmed community, wheth-
er it resulted in the punishment of the guilty or not. In
the appointment of a special agent to manage the prosecu-
tions, Mr. S. contended that —


" The government became the prosecutor, and in that, as in every other
executive function, it vi^as represented by the Governor. The special coun-
sel was not to be a private prosecutor, but the agent of the Executive. As
such, it is most evident, he was entitled to the aid, advice, direction and
support of the Executive and of ihe other branches of the government. In
order to exhibit the urgent necessity of such aid and support, it could not be
necessary to refer to the nature of the investigation, the large number of
persons accused, their connexion with a powerful society, and their individ-
ual influence : for, said^he, your excellency and the whole community but
too well know the magnitude and amount of the obstacles to be encountered.
Whether the whole constitutional power of the government would be suffi-
cient to overcome them, was problematical ; that any thing short of that
power, would fail, was certain. Nothing but this conviction could have jus-

Online LibraryWilliam L. (William Leete) StoneLetters on masonry and anti-masonry, addressed to the Hon. John Quincy Adams → online text (page 35 of 49)