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 36 of 49)
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tified the law directing the employment of a special counsel. Under that
conviction, and with full and entire confidence not only in the formal con-
currence of the executive, but in his sincere and hearty co-operation, he en-
tered upon the duties of the employment to which Governor Van Buren in-
vited him."

Entering upon the duties of the office under such cir-
cumstances, he doubted not that he was to receive the sin-
cere countenance and support, not only of the Executive,
from whom he held his appointment, but from the legisla-
ture which had authorized it. But in this just and reasona-
ble expectation, he had been disappointed. He said : — ;

" Positive aid, beyond the performance of formal duties from which there
was no escape, has in no instance been rendered me. And instead of re-
ceiving any countenance or support, I have been sufiered to stand alone, an
isolated individual, carrying on the most laborious and difficult prosecutions,
as if they were private suits instituted by me, and without any participa-
tion of the responsibility by the members of that government wliich employ-
ed me. Indeed their responsibility has been disclaimed by every means
which the circumstances would allow. "

As evidence of the indisposition of the state government
to strengthen his hands in pursuing the arduous investiga-
tions in which he was engaged, he referred to the manner
in which the suggestions contained in his annual report had
been received, the debates in the legislature, to which I


have alread}^ briefly referred, and to the act limiting his
compensation to such an inadequate amount. Upon this
latter point, however, he held the following highly honor-
able language : —

" I owe it to myself to say that the mmunt of the compensation would
not deter me from continuing in the employ of the government, if the cir-
cumstances justified, and duty required that continuance. It is not in that
view that I regard the matter as worthy of a moment's thought; but it is,
that the amount proposed, the manner of the proposition, and the circum-
stances under which it was made, furnish to my mind indisputable evidence
of the unfavorable sentiments entertained respecting the prosecutions or the
agent conducting them, or both. The act presents the singular paradox of
disavowing as far as possible the agency it proposes ro renew, and of invit-
ing the agent to proceed, in such repulsive language as to render his accept-
ance incompatible with the least self respect."

But the cause of complaint, in Mr. Spencer's mind, at
least, did not terminate here : He prpceeded —

"1 have to complain also, that my official communications to your excel-
lency, have been divulged^ so as to defeat my measures and bring undeserv-
ed reproach upon me. Those communications related to the means of dis-
covering evidfmce of tlie fact of ¥f illiam Morgan's death ; they were not
only in their nature strictly confidential, but the success of the measures
suggested, depended entirely upon their being unknown to the parties and
their friends. Yet they became known to a counsel of the persons impli-
cated in the offences upon WiUiam Morgan. I can not comment on this
fact, in such a manner as to do justice to my feelings, and at the same time
preserve the respect which is due to the chief magistrate of the state. It
must be left to the consideration of all impartial men, with the single re-
mark, that as it interposes an insurmountable obstacle to all farther com-
munications of a confidential character with your excellency, I should thus
be deprived as special counsel of an aid altogethe r indispensable to further
proceedings. That the reproach which the revelation of that correspond-
ence has brought upon me, is undeserved, may at least be presumed from
the fact of your excellency's having continued my employment more than a
year after those communications were made to you."*

♦ Mr. Spencer has also elsewhere justly complained, that — " during the
preceding winter, the senate of the state, of whom a large proportion, if not


Fi'om these and other circumstances which Mr. S. enu-
merated, he believed that his services were no longer ac-
ceptable to the Executive, and the dominant party by whom
he was supported, and a sense of self-respect would not
allow him to retain the situation. He believed, moreover,
that, left as he was, without the aid of the executive arm,
the prosecutions, in his hands, would lead to no successful
results, — while, possibly, some other agent, more in favor
with the government, might better succeed in the vindica-
cation of the laws. Prompted by these considerations, Mr.
Spencer resigned his trust as special commissioner, — with
the assurance, that, in handing over his papers to his suc-
cessor, all possible assistance would be cheerfully rendered,
to aid in the further prosecution of the investigations — sev-
eral trials being then in a state of forward preparation.

The publication of this extraordinary letter of resigna-
tion, produced a great sensation in the public mind. The
charges against the Executive, were of a very grave char-
acter, and they were preferred with too much explicitness,
to be evaded. They were accordingly answered, semi-of-
ficially, through the medium of the state paper. The charge
of having betrayed the confidential correspondence of the
special counsel, so as to enable the counsel of the delin-
quents to profit by the knowledge they possessed of the

a majority, wore masons, had passed a resolution calling on the comptroller
for a detailed account of all the expenses incurred by the special counsel,
with all the vouchers for the items. The accounts and vouchers were ac-
cordingly furnished and published, and thus disclosed to the world and the
accuseci, the name of every witness who had been examined on the finding
of the several indictments, and who was relied upon to sustain them. Eve-
ry facility was thus given to the operation of the causes that had so often
prevented witnesses from being found when they were wanted ; and, when
found, had prevented their attendance ; or, if they attended, had produced
short and imperfect nlemories. The eiforts of an officer of the government
were thus repudiated by the government itself; something worse than in-
difference was exhibited at the success of his exertions ; and, instead of be-
ing sustained by the countenance of the govei-nment, he was left to contend
against the large body of indicted individuals, and against the whole ma-
chinery of raasoiiic combination, including the libels of the press, singly
and unaided."


measures taking by the prosecution to bring them to justice,
was flatly contradicted on behalf of the acting Governor.
Several publications were made, pro and con., and among
them was a statement, under the hands of the counsel of
the conspirators, declaring that neither of them, had
ever received any information of the description referred
to, from the Governor, or any person connected with the
Executive. The information alledged to have been receiv-
ed in consequence of a betrayal of confidence by the act-
ing Governor, was likewise certified by one of the defend-
ant's counsel to have been imparted to him by none other
than his own client. Two other documents were also dis-
closed, in a long and labored defence of the acting Governor,
viz : — A letter from the special counsel, of the 29th of
March, 1830, to the acting Governor, with the reply there-
to of the latter, dated the 6th of April. The special coun-
sel's letter here referred to, embraced many suggestions
respecting the duties devolving on the writer as special
counsel, the expenses necessarily incurred, &c. &c., upon
which the advice of the Executive was desired. He also
dwelt briefly upon the difficulties wich still encompassed
his path in the prosecutions. These were represented to
be of the most formidable nature, and were thus enumerated
by himself, viz : —

*' 1st. From the difficulty of discovering witnesses. 2d. From the fow
and slight means afforded by law to compel their attendance. 3d. From
their reluctance and refusal to testify. And 4th. From the unceasing and
untiring exertions of the Masons in the places where I have been, to thwart
every effort, by getting witnesses out of the way, and by every other device
to which human ingenuity can resort. I am sorry, (he adds,) to be compel-
led to give this account of the conduct of Masons. There are some honor-
able exceptions ; but they are few."

But the prominent object of this letter, was to state to the
Executive the important fact, that the special counsel had
it at length in his power, as he believed, at once to bring the


investigations to a successful close ; — to accomplish which
most desirable object, however, it would be necessary for
him to have the disposition of the sum of two thousand dol-
lars, which had been offered as a reward for the discovery
of the criminals, by the late Governor Clinton, and w^hich
proclamation was yet in full force and virtue. Liberty to
apply that sum of money, and also an assurance of pardon
to the witness to be used, were accordingly requested. But
I will quote from the letter itself : —

"In^prosecuting my inquiries concerning the fate of William Morgan,
there appears a witness of the utmost importance, vsho, I am persuaded,
can disclose all the facts and circumstances of Morgan's death. His name
is Elisha Adams, and he is now indicted as an actor in the abduction of Mor-
gan. He has hitherto refused to disclose. Without his testimony, we
shall never be able to establish, judicially, the fact of Morgan's death. I have
prevailed upon an old and intimate friend of his, in whom he has the utmost
confidence, residing at Sacket's Harbor, to visit A., who is now at Youngs-
town, surrounded by Masons, and to endeavor to prevail on him to tell tho
whole truth. To accomplish this, it will be necessary to offer strong induce-
ments. I propose therefore to apprise him, that a nolle prosequi will be en-
tered on his indictment, that he will receive a pardon, and the reward offer-
ed in the proclamation of Governor Clinton, of March 19th, 1827. But I
should not feel authorised to do so without the instruction of your excellency
to that effect ; and I presume it will be indispensable that I should be able
to produce written evidence of your directions. I therefore respectfully soli-
cit your instructions on this head."

This application, just and proper in itself, and usual in
the administration of the criminal law of England and Ame-
rica, was coldly and cavalierly refused ; and it was this re-
fusal, that formed the basis of the charge of the late special
counsel, of a want of co-operation on the part of the Ex-
ecutive. It is proper, however, that the acting Governor
should be allowed to speak for himself ; and I will therefore
quote all that part of his letter referring to the point at
issue : —



*' 1 understand that you consider the testimony of Elisha Adams indispen-
sable to prove Morgan's death ; that he stands indicted for his abduction ;
and that you propose as inducements to him to testify, that a nolle prose-
qui shall be entered on his indictment, that he shall be pardoned, and that
he shall receive the reward of }^2000, promised by Governor Clinton's pro-!,
clamation. You ask my assent to this course. However desirable I may
consider it to bring to punishment the murderers of Morgan, I cannot give
my assent to a measure which would have so strong a tendency to induce a
man, who now presents to the public unfavorable points of character, to
commit perjuiy. If it were in my power, and you thought it advisable, I
would pardon him, so as to take from him the power of refusing to answer
under the pretence of criminating himself ; but the 5th sec. of art. 3 of the
constitution, which confers on the Governor the power of pardon, limits it to
cases * after conviction.' The most that can be done to reach this evidence,
is to exercise the common law power of favoritism to the accomplice who
gives material testimony, and so far as my assent maybe necessary and pro-
per, it shall not be withheld. But that the accused may not be deprived of
his legal rights, it is proper that every inducement to testify, which may be
thus held out, should be made public, that the jury may judge of the bias
under which he gives evidence.'*

Of most of the acts of Gov. Throop, in regard to the ad-
ministration of the criminal law, so far as the executive ac-
tion has been required, I have had occasion to express my
decided approbation. Several cases are fresh in my mind,
in which his excellency has been exceedingly pressed for
pardons, or commutations of punishment ; and the course
he has taken on such occasions, with the opinions given,
have been such as to gain him credit both for his legal tal-
ents, and his firmness. But in the case under consideration,
I am confident that every criminal lawyer in the land, whose
judgment is unwarped by party feeling, would, without the
smallest hesitation, declare him clearly in the wrong. The
request, under the circumstances, was perfectly reasonable
and proper. The contingency had occurred which was
contemplated by Gov. Clinton, when the reward was offer-
ed ; and had that distinguished jurist, — for he was alike a
lawyer and a statesman, — yet lived, it would have beer^



promptly paid. The proclamation had not been revoked
by either of the administrators of the government since his
decease ; and it was therefore as much in force, as on the
day after the seal had been affixed to it. The suggestion
on the score of encouragement to bribery, made by the
Governor, and subsequently used as the burden of his de-
fence by all the " arranged" presses in the state, was a mere
pretext, — an attempt to frame a plausible and popular ex-
cuse for an act calculated at once to disappoint the expec-
tations, and cool the ardor, of the public prosecutor, while,
at the same time, it would most likely have the still further
effect of preventing those full disclosures, so anxiously
sought by the public. You may call it bribery, if you please ;
but it would have been no farther a bribe, save only in
amount, than is authorised by the criminal law of England,
and every state in this Union, in all cases where the ad-
ministrators of the law believe that the cause of justice can
be furthered, and the pubhc interests benefitted, by the em-
ployment of states' evidences who have been participators,
directly or indirectly, in the crimes sought to be disclosed
and punished. Every states' evidence who receives from
the counsel for the prosecution, an assurance of pardon, on
condition of testifying against his accomplices in guilt, may
be said in the same sense to be bribed. And yet it is the
every day practice in our criminal courts to employ such
testimony, of which fact no man is better aware than Gov.
Throop. He has been on the bench ; and if, at Canandai-
gua, Loton Lawson had come forward as a states' evidence,
with a promise of making a full disclosure, I have no doubt
that the Judge's approbation of" the blessed spirit," would
then have prompted the measure. I regret being obliged
thus to speak of this act of our generally correct and esti-
mable chief magistrate ; but I feel that my censures are
just, and I do not wonder at the disappointment and chagrin


of the special counsel, on receiving such an unlooked for
and abrupt refusal.

The charge of the special counsel, that the Executive
had betrayed the contents of his confidential letters to the
counsel of the conspirators, was not well founded. I have
no idea that Gov. Throop knowingly did any such thing. I
have heard a suggestion, however, which, if correct, would
account for the incident that induced Mr. Spencer to sup-
pose he had been thus trifled with, without compromising the
conduct of the Executive. In these high criminal matters,
as in all other state aflairs, it was probably the practice of
Gov. T., — certainly it ought to have been, — to call in the
advice of those official gentlemen by whom he is surround-
ed, and who are his friends. One of his cabinet counsellors
had recently been a partner in business with a western
gentleman, who was at that period a member of the legis-
lature. And that former partner, and member of the legis-
lature, was so unfortunate as to have a brother among the
parties under indictment for the conspiracy. Does not this
fact render the matter of easy solution ?

I am, sir, with respect, (fee.


New- York, March 21, 1832.

I have heretofore mentioned some instances, and hint-
ed at others, in which efforts have been made, from time to
time, by the political leaders of the Anti-masonic party, to
prolong the excitement by artificial means, and to rekindle
the dying embers with additional fuel, as occasion might
require. It is now proper to advert, in chronological or-


der, to another, and perhaps the most interesting of those
attempts. This was the publication in all the Anti-mason-
ic papers in this state, of an affidavit made at Boston be-
fore John W. Quincy, Esq., by Samuel G. Anderton, rela-
tive to an alledged murder by Freemasons, of one William
Miller, at Belfast, in Ireland.

The affidavit states, that in the spring of 1813, the depo-
nent revisited Belfast, (having been there before, and be-
come acquainted with Wm. Miller and other Masons,) and
was induced to offer himself as a candidate for the higher
degrees of Masonry. On th(5 evening of the 4th of June
of that year, he went to the lodge room. " The whole
" number of Masons there of all degrees, was seventy-one,
" or seventy-two. That night I took the degrees of Arch,
" Royal Arch and Knight Templar." Anderton proceeds to
say that during the same evening, and soon after he was dub-
bed a Knight Templar, he was told that a Mason would be
there who had violated his obligations, by saying that Ja-
chin and Boaz was a true hook ; that he had broken his
oaths ; was a damned perjured wretch ; had forfeited his
life ; and ought not to live any longer among men or

He (the deponent) wished to leave the room, but was
told that " it was never allowed on such occasions." They
were then ordered to cast lots to see who should officiate
as executioners, and the lots fell (he thinks unfairly,) upon
three foreigners, viz, a Swede, a Dane and himself. The
Swede and Dane were strong, athletic men, — masters of
vessels, — and strangers to the deponent, who was struck
with indescribable horror and astonishment, beyond any
exigency to which he had been previously reduced.
" Amidst all my other dangers," says he, " I felt that I was
" doing my duty ; but this I concluded would be murder in
" cold blood."


The narrator had been told in the course of the day by
Miller, that he (Miller,) was to be made a Knight Temp-
lar that evening /ree of expense; and he (Anderton,) now
learned that Miller was the individual about to suffer death,
and for whose murder he had been specially designated.
^* I told them, (says Anderton,) I could not do it. I begged
*' and entreated ; told them I had as lief have my own
" throat cut as commit such an act. My feelings were so
" distressed, and I expressed myself in such a manner, that
" after some time I was excused. The Swede and Dane,
" according to my best remembrance, did not object. Sev-
" eral others said ' they would help to execute any one who
" broke his obligations ; that every Mason ought to help
" to do it,' or words to that effect." " They had a canvass
" cloth cap, or bag, to put over his head, and to come down
" a little below the chin, rigged with small ropes or strong
" cords, fixed in the lower part of it, so as to slip easily,
" that when the cap was on, and the cords drawn each
" way, right and left, the cap would be gathered tight un-
" der the chin so as to shut his mouth, and at the same time
" draw so close round his neck and throat as to strangle
" him." — " It was now the black hour of midnight. The
" executioners took their stations a little to the left of the
" high priest." Miller having doubtless been decoyed by
the promise of being made a Knight Templar free of ex-
pense, was then conducted into the room, hoodwinked, with
his coat off, somewhat in the condition that candidates usu-
ally are. " He was led along slowly from the west up
>♦ near his executioners, when some one said, ' Who comes
" there V * who comes there V The answer was bawled out
" as they siezed him, * a damned traitor ; one who has brok-
♦' en his masonic obligations.' With that he exclaimed, * O
^* my God ! are you going to murder me? O my wife ! O
" my children !' The agony, the strong struggle, and the


" half utterance of these words, and the final shriek, as the
" cap went over his head and face, pierced me to the heart,
"and was enough as I should think, to soften the hearts of
" savages, if they had not taken masonic oaths."

" Those horrid sounds of the tortured victim seem still to ring in mine
ears. No sooner was the murderous cap drawn over his face, and his whole
head enveloped, than, at the same instant, the Swede and Dane appeared
to spring with all their might and strength, drawing each in opposite direc-
tions, by ropes or cords around his neck ! ! Poor Miller, after the most
frantic struggles, like a person in a fit, then settled down to the floor in the
most dreadful convulsions. Other Masons fell on him, while the Swede
and Dane, bracing their feet against his body, still pulled by the cords ! there
while struggling on the floor, they cut his throat ! and then cut his left breast
and side open, so as to show his heart ! ! Some, very few. Masons present,
seemed, by their looks, to express some sympathy and compassion, while
the rest, using the most profane, revengeful language, with their fists
clenched, grinned with horrid approbation ! The body was then carried
down stairs, while several Masons kept watch for fear of detection, and was
thrown over into Limekiln Dock ! ! 1 got away from this scene of masonic
murder as soon as possible, with the most awful impressions. Before I left
Belfast, I heard by common report, that the body was taken up the next
day, and that a coroner's inquest decided that WiUiam Millier was murdered
by persons unkaown — or something to that effect."

Such is the relation of Samuel G. Anderton, and it is not
to be denied that the publication of this tragical story made
for a time a deep impression upon the public mind. The
minuteness of its details, and the general air of probability
thrown over it, was calculated to make such an impression.
I felt it myself, and held repeated conversations with some,
of my friends who were Masons, and who were equally as-
tounded with myself. So important did I consider it, that
I resolved if possible to institute an investigation of its truth
or falsity. An American gentleman, — -a Royal Arch
Mason, with whom I am intimately acquainted, — who
had been much in Ireland of late, undertook the investiga-
tion. He was well acquainted with a gentleman in Bel-


fast, a man of intelligence and undoubted integrity, who
was not a Mason ; and it was deemed proper to seek
through him the requisite information.

The act alledged by Anderton to have taken place at Bel-
fast, was even more atrocious than the murder of Morgan.
It was more barbarous in its character, and perpetrated
officially, by a lodge, instead of being the act of infatuated
individuals. Assuming this fearful aspect, both myself and
my friend determined that if the investigation did not re-
sult in the refutation of Andertons statement, we would
publicly renounce Freemasonry.

Pursuant to this arrangement, a letter was addressed on
the 15th of May, 1830, to Mr. Edward Tucker, of Belfast,
requesting full and accurate information on the subject. A
copy of Anderton's affidavit, was inclosed, together with a
copy of the affidavit of Agnes Bell, and a copy of the re-
port of a committee in Boston, — the two latter, however,
principally for the purpose of facilitating inquiry. The re-
ply was not received until the 15th of October of the same
year ; but it proved most conclusively that the whole story
was a gross fabrication.

" If such an occurrence, says Mr. Tucker, had taken place, it is incredi-

Online LibraryWilliam L. (William Leete) StoneLetters on masonry and anti-masonry, addressed to the Hon. John Quincy Adams → online text (page 36 of 49)