William L. (William Leete) Stone.

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

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ble, that in a town like this, where fAree newspapers were published, so ex-
traordinary a circumstance as the discovery of a man's body in the dock,
with his throat and side cut open, should escape notice. Now, all the papers
of that period have been minutely examined, and not the slightest allusion
to such an event can be met with. In the * Commercial Chronicle' of 7th
or 8th of June, 1813, which I examined, there is a paragraph headed * ano-
ther murder,' but it is in relation to an old woman in Scotland, and has refer-
ence to some shocking murders lately perpetrated in London. The time is
not very remote, and yet no one can be found in this place who recollects
any such tragical death, or its attendant rumors."

The story of Anderton had found its way to Ireland be-
fore my friend's communication had arrived there ;-— an ex-
amination had been instituted ; and in relation to it, the


Guardian, one of the most respectable newspapers in that
kingdom, remarks under the editorial head as follows : —

" We have made inquiry respecting this calumnious story, and find that
it is a tissue of falsehood from beginning to end. No such person as Wil-
liam Miller was ever admitted into any lodge in this town ; and Mr. Allan,
the coroner, declares that he has examined his books, or registry, from a
period prior to the year 1813, down to the present time, and that no inquest
was held on the body of any individual of that name ; and that if any re-
port of such a murder had been current in Belfast, he must have heard it."

But the refutation was not left to stand upon mere asser-
tion, however conclusive in its terms, or however respecta-
ble the affirmant. It was sustained by testimony under
oath, of which the following by the coroner would seem to
be irresistible : —

" The voluntary deposition of Henry Allan, of Belfast, in the county of
Antrim, in that part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland,
called Ireland, Esq., who, being duly sworn on the Holy Evangehsts, upon
his oath, saith, that he was appointed a coroner for said county in March,
1813, and hath regularly resided in Belfast since that period, and been the
only coroner resident therein ; and saith, he has carefully examined his re-
gister of inquests, and that he never did hold an inquest on any person of the
name of Wilham Miller, nor did he ever hear of a person of that name hav-
ing been found dead in Belfast, or of an inquest having been held on any per-
son of that name ; and deponent hath presided at every inquest held in Bel-
fast since he was appointed coroner, except one, on the bodies of two men,
named Grimes and Menary, who were shot in a riot in North-street, Bel-
fast, on the 12th of July, 1S13."

The secretary of the lodge in which Anderton lays the
scene of his tragedy, also made affidavit that there was no
man either of the name of Anderton, or Miller, admitted
into the lodge during the time of his secretaryship, which
embraced the whole period between 1811 and 1814. Eight
other persons, members of the lodge, testified under oath —

" That they respectively never knew a person of the name of Wm. Millei*
as a member of that lodge, nor does any of them ever recollect a person of



that name having been a visiter m that lodge; and deponents say, that they
never knew any person of the name <of Samuel G. Anderton to have been
admitted as a Mason in that lodge, or as a visiter in it, nor did they ever know
a person of the name of Anderton either as a mason or otherwise.^'' And tlie
deponents further ** severally swear that the statements made in said affida-
vit respecting the said Samuel G. Anderton, having been admitted a mem-
ber of said lodge, number 272, and respecting the murder of a person named
William Miller in that lodge, are in all respects, and in every particular,
gross, infamous, and unfounded falsehoods, as far as these deponents are
concerned, and as far as these deponents know, or have heard, no such
transactions having ever taken place."

These depositions were sworn to at Belfast on the 31st
May, 1830, before C. M. Skinner, police magistrate for
Belfast, and Henderson Black and Robert Thompson, Esqs.,
justices of the peace for the county of Antrim, and seem
in connexion with the representations of Mr. Tucker, and of
the editor of the Belfast Guardian, to form a refutation of
Anderton's story, as conclusive as can be established by hu-
man testimony.

It has indeed been asked what adequate motive could
have operated upon the mind of Anderton to induce him to
forswear himself? To this it may be answered, that it is not
easy at any time to assign an adequate motive for the vio-
olation of truth ; — and yet it is notorious that it is violated
from time to time, with and without the sanction of an oath,
and that too very often, with very small temptation. Pecu-
niary interest, and personal vanity, arising from the gratifi-
cation of becoming distinguished, are perhaps the most
common causes, — and although we are not aware that the
former could have operated in the present instance, yet it is
easy to conceive that the latter might ; and that it would
possess additional inducement at a time of public excite-

But it has also been suggested in relation to Anderton,
how could he have invented, by the mere force of imn^ina-


tion, a scene so minute in its details, and so vivid in its dra-
matic effect, unless it was founded in truth ?

Really I do not perceive in this narrative a greater min-
uteness or accuracy of detail, nor a more vivid creation of
fancy, than is often found in ordinary works of fiction, or
even in nursery tales. No man, in relating a murder of
which he assumes to have been a witness, (whether true or
false,) would forbear to state the particulars in minute de-
tail, if he expected to be believed, — for the whole scene,
and each particular, of such an awful occurrence, must be
presumed to have made a deep impression on his mind.
The relator, therefore, would naturally be ready to meet
such expectation ; and after the outlines of the piece have
been struck out, it can require no very deep reach of the
imagination to fill up the shades and coloring of the picture.
But there are points and errors in this representation which
show that it was not drawn by the hand of a master.

In addition to the extraneous evidence of its falsity, there
are internal proofs of its want of accuracy and truth.

Sixteen years had elapsed between the alledged occur-
rence, and the date of the affidavit ; and yet Anderton not
only swears to the year, and the month, and the day of the
month, on which the murder took place, but he also avers
that the number of Masons present was seventy-one, or se-
venty-two ! Now had he been a teller, instead of a visiting
brother, it is hardly to be credited that he could have arriv-
ed at such extreme accuracy among a floating body. What
inducement was there for him to count the number ? — -or if
he did, how unusual it is that it should be treasured up for
such a series of years ! I appeal for the test of its proba-
bility to the experience of every man who has been in the
habit of visiting a promiscuous assembly, of whatever cha-
racter. The very next sentence contains a falsehood. He
says, that on the night of the murder, he, the deponent, took
the degrees of Arch, Royal Arch, and Knight Templar.


Now it is susceptible of the most undoubted proof that there
exists neither in this country, nor in Ireland, the degree of
Arch as contradistinguished from the Royal Arch, and yet
he asserts, as clearly as language can convey a meaning,
that he took three degrees the same night, of which two only
have ever had existence ! Another part of the story is, to
say the least of it, very singular. The murder was per-
petrated, it would seem, in an encampment of Knights Tem-
plars, and the offence was an averment by Miller that Ja-
chin and Boaz, a book that does not profess to reveal the
secrets of the Knight Templar's degree, was true. Human
experience does not often record the perpetration of gratui-
tous murders ; yet here is an accusation of the spilling of
blood by one set of men, in revenge for the wrongs inflict-
ed upon another !

Without dwelling, however, upon the inaccuracy of stat-
ing that a highpriest presided over a Knight Templar's en-
campment, and various other inconsistencies, there is one
general and entire objection to its probability, which must,
I think, fully confirm the direct refutation that has been pre-
sented in contradiction to the story.

This barbarous murder is alledged to have been perpe-
trated, not like the supposed destruction of Morgan, in the
lone, dark border of a secluded frontier, but in the midst of
a populous city : — no conclave arrangements had excluded
from witness or participation those who might betray the
horrid secret ; — on the contrary, the doors of the lodge-
room or encampment, were open not only to those who had
plotted the guilt, but to visiting brethren and strangers !

Nor is this all. The strangets are made the executioners

a Dane — a Swede — an American — all foreigners, are to '
perpetrate this foul deed, at the mere instance and request
of their Belfast brethren ! The Dane, and the Swede,
made no objection ; but he, Anderton, was " so distressed,"
that they excused him ! !— Would men so deep in guilt,


when they found a comrade so faint-hearted, have excused
him — or would they not have plunged a dagger in his bo-
som to prevent his dangerous tales ? And is it credible that
Swedes and Danes, rarely visiting the port of Belfast —
rarely speaking the language, with correctness, and rarely
being able to understand each other, would have so readily
comprehended the foul offence of admitting Jachin and
Boaz to be a true hook, and have been so ready to embrue
their hands in blood to avenge the admission ?

Yet the super-remarkable incidents of this tragedy do not
end here. Unlike the skilful precautions that, as will here-
after be seen, were used in the case of Morgan, to prevent
the implication of each other, the Belfast murderers not
only perpetrated the deed in the open presence of many
and " distressed" witnesses, — foreigners and visiting bre-
thren assembled from any and every quarter of the world,
— but such was their infatuation, that after strangling their
victim until he was dead, dead, dead — they cut his throat,
without the fear of its tell-tale stain upon the floor, and put
upon him the masonic mark, by cutting open his side and
left breast, so as to show his heart ! ! ! This, as the invok-
ed penalty of the obligation that he had taken and violat-
ed, must have been done for the purpose of procuring tes-
timony to convict themselves ; — and then, to consummate
the evidence, the body, with this official label upon it, to in-
dicate the perpetrators, is cast into one of the most public
docks of the city ! ! !

When human nature shall tread backward, we may be-
lieve the story of Samuel G. Anderton — but until then —

With great respect, 1 remain, &c,



New- York, March 22, 1832.

The next tiial was that of Ezckiel Jewett, which com-
menced on the 15th of June, 1830, at the Niagara Special
Circuit. Hon. WilKam L. Marcy presiding. Counsel for
the government, Messrs. Birdseye, (special counsel,) Whit-
ney and Ransom ; for the defendant, Messrs: Matthews,
Griffin, Barnard and Mason. Mr. White appeared as coun-
sel for the masonic witnesses. Jonathan Aire was drawn
as a juror, and challenged by the counsel for the govern-
ment for principal cause, to wit, for being a Mason.

Judge Marcy, by consent of parties, was substituted for
the triers. Aire being sworn, testified that he was a Free-
mason, and had passed through three degrees. He had
heard that the defendant is a Mason, but should not feel
bound to show favor to a Mason on trial, — nor had he ever
said that Masons should not be punished for their acts rela-
tive to this affair. He did not recollect the precise words
of th(> obligations he had taken, but he believed he swore
by a book, which he had never read, but had looked into it.
His obligation was to live uprightly, but he did not consid-
er himself bound to show a Mason more favor than any
other man. There was a sign of distress, and he believes
that if a Mason or any other person was in danger of his
life, he was bound to assist him. There was an exception
in the obligation to render assistance, but what it was he
could not recollect. He was bound to keep the secrets of
a brother Mason, but could not recollect the clause about
going with a master's errand. There had been no commu-


iiications by masonic signs or otherwise, between him and
the defendant now on trial.

Milton W. Hopkins was now called as a witness to show
the purport of the masonic obligations. It was objected by
counsel for the defendant, that before the testimony of wit-
ness could be introduced to show the purport of masonic
obligations, it must be proved that the masonic oaths were
similar in the diiierent lodges. Witness then stated that he
had taken three degrees, besides one or two side degrees,
and was very conversant with Masonry. He had been in
many lodges in different parts of this state ; and all masonic
societies, with which he is acquainted, have the same signs
and tokens. He had been in the masonic lodges in Canada,
and heard the obligations taken there, — the ceremonies were
the same in Canada as in New- York. He had heard the
obligation of a Master Mason taken in'^several different
places, and it is substantially the same in all places, and so
are the ceremonies.

The court decided that as the testimony of the witness
showed that the masonic fraternity were the same throughout
the world — the oath or obligation of a Master Mason in one
lodge, ought to be received as prima facie evidence of the
oath or obligation administered to the juror.

The witness then proceeded to recite the substance of a
Master Mason's obligation, substantially as disclosed by
Morgan; after which he underwent a long examination
upon the subject of the obligations and rules of the order in
general, which it is quite unnecessary to repeat in sketching
the present trial. The witness said he was made a Mason
in Jefferson county, in 1817. There are weekly meetings
to rehearse the obligations ; — at these meetings it is usual
to go through all the masonic ceremonies. He had learnt
the oaths so perfectly that he could now repeat them verbatim.
He had heard the obligations administered in different lodg-


es, and they were the same in each place ; — sometimes,
however, a clause, not material, is left out, or, perhaps, a
part is omitted by mistake. In 1827 he revealed these ob-
ligations to others than Masons. A lecturer, he said, was
sent every year from the Grand Lodge, for the purpose of
correcting errors, and seeing that the signs, obligations, &c,
are kept precisely the same in all the lodges. The juris-
diction of the Grand Lodge of New- York is confined to the
limits of the state ; and he knew not of any connexion be-
tween the lodges in this state and the lodges in Canada.
Witness had never heard that political obligations were in-
corporated into the oath in this or foreign countries. A
charge is given when a member is admitted : the charge is
written in a book, and is often read. The substance of this
charge is, to be good citizens, good men, and good Masons.
Charity and obedience to the laws are inculcated, and the
candidate is assured before taking the obligation, that it will
not interfere with his religion or his politics. It was object-
ed by defendant's counsel, that if the charge was written, or
printed in a book, it ought to be produced, but the objection
was over-ruled by the court. The witness further stated,
that the charge enjoined upon the candidate to perform all
his relative duties as a citizen, but more particularly his du-
ties as a Mason.

William Hodgkirs was now introduced. He stated that
the defendant was a Mason. He did not know of exactly
what degree, but he did know him to be a Royal Arch

Mr. Birdseye here intimated to the court, that a connex-
ion by signs, &c. existed between Aire the juror and the

The testimony as to the qualificationsof the juror being clo-
sed, and the counsel for the prosecution, and for the defend-
ant, having been heard, Judge Marcy, after recapitulating


the substance of the masonic obligations as disclosed in the
testimony of Hopkins, in giving his decision, remarked, in
substance, as follows : —

" That the conclusions to which he came in relation to the challenge to
the juror, (Jonathan Aire,) were, that the oaths taken by Masons are whol-
ly extra-judicial, and in a legal point of view, are not to be regarded as bind-
ing upon the persons to whom they are admmistcred. If, by fair construc-
tion, these oaths enjoined partiality to a brother Mason in the relation of
juror and party, the engagement Would not be strictly and legally obligatory.
The taking of such an oath would not, therefore, be a principal cause of chal-
lenge to a juror. But, if, by the fair construction of masonic obligations,
and the juror^s understanding of them, he had engaged to extend favor to a
brother Mason, when that favor would be an act contrary to law, or in any
respect contrary to his duty as a juror, the fact of his having placed liimself
under such an obligation, would be a good ground of challenge for favor,
and substituted as 1 am, by consent of parties, for the triers, I should feel it
my duty to set aside a juror on such a challenge, if it was sustained.

" It is quite uncertain what were the obligations which Aire took,— but
assuming that they were similar to those in the oath repeated by Hopkins-
most of them, it will be observed, enjoin acts in accordance with high moral
duties ; — and all of them, I think, may apply to acts which do not necessa-
rily conflict with the laws of the state, or any duty enjoined by those laws.
Considering the nature of these obligations, the assurance given to the candi-
date, before they are administered, and the charges that follow, I cannot say
that a Mason could rightfully suppose that he thereby became barred to do
any thing contrary to his duty as a good citizen.

" That there are Masons so infatuated as to entertain an opinion that
their masonic obligations are paramount to the civil laws, in some instances,
and that they violated the latter by obeying the former, cannot now be doubt-
ed ; — but I cannot yield to the belief that such is the general condition of
the order. To any of those who act upon such a principle, and form, as I
apprehend they do, an exception to the mass of the fraternity, I should hold
the objection now made to this juror as well taken. But in relation to this
juror, it does not appear that he assumed a masonic obligation clearly in-
compatible with his civil duty ; nor is there evidence to call up a reasonable
suspicion that he ever regarded his masonic obligations in any other light
than as subservient to his civil duties.

" If it had been, or could be, shown, that Aire entertained the opinion
that his masonic obligations were inconsistent with his civil duties as a citi-
zen of this government, — that he had in the slightest manner countenanced
the outrage committed in this part of the state,— or even approved of the
principle on which the infatuated men, engagdd in that transaction, proceed-



ed, — I should not hesitate to pronounce him disqualified to take a seat
among the jurors who are to try this cause. But, as he stands before this
court, I cannot reject him without setting a precedent that would subject to
a challenge for faror, every Mason in the state, in those^ cases'where any of
the fraternity might be parties. Such a proceeding has not yet been sanc-
tioned, and, I trust, is not yet required, for the purposes of the due adminis-
Iration of justice. I therefore decide that Aire be admitted as a juror."*

Nathaniel Denman was now drawn as a juror, — being
sworn as a witness to prove his qualifications to serve, — he
stated, that he was a Mason, and had, about two years ago,
sat in a lodge. The obligations which he had taken were
the same as detailed by Hopkins. He had met with the
lodge ten times or more, — but had never heard any thing
said in the lodge as to the Morgan affair. He. believed that
Masons carried off Morgan, but never approved of it. He
yet believed himself bound to keep his oath. The grand
hailing signs of distress, he said, were given only when life
was in danger, and not on such a trial as the present. He
thought, however, he should show all the favor he could to
a brother Mason.

The court thereupon put this question to the witness : —
Should you be disposed to show more favor to a Mason
than to a person not a Mason, on a trial ? The witness
replied that he did not know but he should. The court de-
cided that he was disqualified to sit as juror. All the jurors
drawn were challenged, and several others were set aside,
for having expressed an opinion touching the guilt of the
defendant at the bar, or of the masonic fraternity generally.
In several instances, the persons drawn as jurors, not Ma-
sons, had expressed the strongest opinions, not only as to
the guilt of the defendant, but of every member of the ma-
sonic fraternity. Such jurors were of course set aside.

After a very brief opening by Mr. Whiting, to the jury,
in which he explained the nature of the cause they were

♦ This decision is substantially copied from the manuscript notes of tlw-
Judge himself, politely furnished for my use in the present work.


empannelled to try, and alluded to the more prominent facts
which the counsel for the government expected to prove,
Orsamus Turner was called upon the stand. Before giving
his testimony however, the witness requested permission
to confer with his counsel, which was objected to by the
counsel for the prosecution, on the ground that he had
known for ten days that he would be called to testify in this
cause. The court refused to grant the application of the
witness, at this stage of the trial, and the examination pro-

Turner stated, that in September, 1826, he resided in
Lockport — was at that time a member of the masonic fra-
ternity, and knew the defendant, who then resided at Fort
Niagara, and was the keeper of the fort. The fact that one
William Morgan was about publishing a book relating to
Freemasonry, was known among Masons at the time just
mentioned. The propriety of suppressing the book was
discussed, and measures proposed for accompHshing the
object. One of these measures was the removal of Mor-
gan from his friends in Batavia. Certain persons in Bata-
via were consulted as to the propriety of this measure ; they
did not approvc'of it, and it was finally concluded not to
make any definite movement in the matter. Witness had
heard that Morgan was coming to this place, (Lockport,)
but at present knew not from whom he heard it. He was
also, ignorant as to any measures for his removal and con-
finement in jail.

The following question was now put to the witness : — :
" Was the defendant one of the persons consulted with, in
" relation to separating Morgan from his friends at Batavia,
" as a means of suppressing the contemplated publication of
" a book concerning the secrets of Freemasonry ?" This
question the witness declined answering on the ground that
his answer might subject him to a similar prosecution — and
his counsel contended that the answer of the witness might


involve himself in an indictment for murder, — as it v^as
alledged that Morgan was murdered, and such w^as proba-
bly the fact.

The court remarked that the v^ritress must know that a
crime had been committed, before he could claim the privi-
lege of not answering a question upon the ground that the
answer might have a tendency to involve him in a prosecil-
tion for that crime. The counsel for the people contended
that the prosecution had not set up any. such ofFehce as
murder, — that it was not in possession of any positive evi-
dence upon which to found such an indictment, — and that
the record of acquittal then before the court, exonerated
the witness from any prosecution for a misdemeanor.

Online LibraryWilliam L. (William Leete) StoneLetters on masonry and anti-masonry, addressed to the Hon. John Quincy Adams → online text (page 37 of 49)