William L. (William Leete) Stone.

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

. (page 41 of 49)
Online LibraryWilliam L. (William Leete) StoneLetters on masonry and anti-masonry, addressed to the Hon. John Quincy Adams → online text (page 41 of 49)
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It was a rainy night, muddy foot-steps were distinctly imprinted upon the floor
and traceable from the house, and the track of a waggon could also be fol-
lowed some rods, where it was lost upon a hard surface of slate or gravel.
Another characteristic occurrence was a shrill whistling heard at the same
time, apparently in a remote field. These facts were proved both by Mrs.
Chase and Mr. Smith. At the time, too, the facts were not denied, and
seemed, undeniable. The Masons, instead of contradicting, were most anx-
jous to resist the impUcation against themselves, by charging the transaction
to a conspiracy of the Anti-masons with the elder, and to this effect they in-
dustriously circulated the story in all directions, the next morning, to the
distance of many miles. The character of Elder Witherell, and his friends
in Hartford, forbids the indulgence of the shghtest suspicion of this kind,
especially in the absence of any assignable motive. This additional oulrage
was not needed to strengthen their abhorrence or confirm their condemna-
tion of Masonry. Besides, the charge of conspiracy, thus hastily alledged,
indicated, a consciousness of guilt, or at least a just suspicion of it.

" To repel tliis sudden and infamous charge, and in compliance with the
advice of friends, the affidavits of Mrs. Witherell and her son, stating their
iinowledge of tlie transaction as it occurred, were drawn up, and Slade D.


Brown, Esq., a Royal Arch Mason, residing in the same village, requested
to administer the oath. This he declined Jot want of jimsdiction^ and because
he would not administer an extra-judicial oath I !

" A similar application was made to Solomon S. Cowen, Esq., another
justice of Hartford, (not residing in the village,) and another Royal Arch
Mason. And he, too,' refused to administer an extra-judicial oath ! ! These
proceedings were had at an informal meeting, composed indiscriminately of
Masons and Anti-masons, some of whom were from the adjoining town of
Fort Ann.

" On the refusal of these Royal Arch Justices to administer an extra-judi-
cial oath ! recourse was had to Arhoa T. Bush, Esq., of Hort Ann, who, not
being a Mason, was less scrupulous. He administered the oath, and the
affidavits were made and published. The citizens of Fort Ann^ for the pur-
pose of searching out the agents in this nefarious transaction, instituted a
committee of investigation, composed of Masons and Anti-masons. Subse-
quent events soon evinced the zeal and sincerity of the masonic part of this
committee, not in searching out the perpetrators of the outrage, but in sus-
taining Freemasonry against the influence of the aforesaid affidavits. . They
repaired hastily to Hartford, and there, with the above mentioned Royal
Arch justices, and. other Masons, plotted a most extraordinary conspiracy.
It was thought indispensable to prostrate the reputation of Mrs. Witherell,
and her son. To this purpose, the authority of office, and the forms of law,
were made subservient. No circumstance had yet transpired directing even
suspicion against any individual, and no person could therefore make the re-
quisite oath, charging any individual with offence. The object, therefore,
was not to detect and punish the alledged offence, but to institute the form
of a legal proceeding, for the sole purpose of impeaching the witnesses call-
ed to prove the charge. It would be difficult to explain how such a scheme
could be executed without perjury, and the gross violation of official duty.
It was nevertheless devised, and executed, under the counsel and active par-
ticipation of the magistrate who was to act the part of the examining justice.
But the co-operation of the person who was to play the criminal, was as in-
dispensable as that of the justice, and he was selected by concert and agree-
ment, and his consent obtained! Benjamin Hyde, the village tavern-keep-
er, and also a Royal Arch Mason, was first proposed, and Solomon S. Cow-
en, ^sq,, who afterwards took part in the pretended examination, actually
apphed to him to stand criminal. The tavern-keeper very properly declined
the honor, not from a motive indica^tive of a high sense of honor or proprie-
ty, but from an apprehension that it might injure his tavern. An applica-
tion to Alonzo Hyde, his son, was more successful. He entered into the
plan with great readiness. The scheme was now fully matured. Slade D.
Brown, the said justice, drew the complaint, setting out the principal facts
stated in the affidavits of Mrs. Witherell and her son. Colonel John Hilli-
but, of Fort Ann J a Royal Arch Mason, made oath that he believed them


true. Alanson Allen, another Royal Arch Mason, swore that he ' was in-

* formed that it was nimored, or reported, or suspected that Alonzo Hyde was

* one of the persons implicated.^ On this vague bath, the said justice issued
his warrant in the name of the people, and young Hyde was arrested. All
the parties to this afiair, thus far, except young Hyde, were Royal Arch Ma-
sons, and all this was done with the full knowledge by the said justice and
all the parties, that young Hyde was not even suspected of the offence.

"The conspiracy against Elder Witherell and his family, is prominent and
palpable. The court was organized, and what followed was in good keep-
ing with what has been already related. Process was issued for Elder Wi-
therell, his wife, and son, to appear as witnesses in behalf of the people.
They were arrested and taken into custody, and the prisoner Hyde permitted to
go at large I Elder Witherell and his wife were confined in separate apart-
ments, on pretence of ensuring their attendance, and of preventing concert-
ed testimony. They were examined in succession in a manner comporting
with the character of the whole proceeding, and its obvious design. Three
days were expended in questioning and cross-questioning these three wit-
nesses. They were subjected to every possible privation and indignity, and
treated like culprits rather than witnesses. They bore the whole with due
patience and meekness, and repeated over and over again the same story
detailed in their affidavits. Of course, not one word was testified implicat-
ing young Hyde, or any other known individual. And yet a multitude of
masonic witnesses were called to impeach their credibility. And this same
family, whom but a few weeks before, these same Masons were anxious to
retain among them, and for which purpose they had actually raised a hberal
subscription, were now pronounced, by them, infamous and unworthy of
credit for repeating on this examination, the same story detailed in their affi-
davits. It will here be remembered, that these affidavits had been taken
after an open public examination, and that tlie oath of Colonel John Hillibut,
one of the fraternity, affirming his belief of their truth, was the sole basis
upon which all these proceedings rested. A parallel cannot be cited in the
history of jurisprudence. A more gross perversion of the forms of law, and
of official authority, for the purposes of slander, and detraction, and malevo-
lence, and oppression, has never been practised. The court gravely discharg-
ed the prisoner, but convicted the witnesses for the people, by solemnly ad-
judging them unworthy of credit, and that no outrage had been committed !
A long report of the trial was immediately drawn out by Mr. Justice Brown,
and' the testimony discolored and misrepresented in a manner to further the
design of the examination. This was forthwith published in all the masonic
papers throughout the state. Not to exhaust your patience, and to confine
myself within reasonable limits,! am constrained to exclude several charac-
teristic features of the transaction, and all the detail of the testimony. These
have already been given to the public in a minute and able report upon the
subject, dr^wn up by a committee of gentlemen appointed for the purpose,


by a convention of the Anti-masons of the county of Washington, to which,
for more specific information, I beg leave to refer you.

. " On«a review of the whole affair, it must occur to every one, that the out-
rage of breaking and entering the private dwelling of Elder Witherell, * in
* the night time, and putting his family in fear,' scarcely exceeded the profli-
gacy of the pretended examination. It must ever remain doubtful which
was the greater offence against private right and public justice and decency.
It is to little purpose that the first should be denied, while the last stands

-The letter of my friend bears its own commentary upon
its face. As to the outrage itself, its objects, and the names of
its authors, are alike shrowded in doubt and mystery. Of
the conduct of the Masons,, however, subsequently, there
can be but one opinion.

In November of the present year, (1830,) James Gillis,
in whose case the jury had not, on a former occasion, been
able to agree, was again tried at the Ontario Sessions, and
acquitted. No objections were raised by the special coun-
sel to the sitting of Masons as jurors upon this trial. Gil-
lis, it may be recollected, had removed from the state, to the
southwestern part of Pennsylvania, shortly after the out-
rage. He took with him an important witness, whom those
interested managed to keep away. The consequence was,
that on this second trial, all the testimony against him was
of a circumstantial character only, and was not considered
sufficiently strong to justify a conviction.

At the opening of the session of the legislature, January
5th, 1831, the Governor again, and probably for the last ,
time, directed the attention of that branch of the govern-
ment to the subject of these prosecutions. He mentioned '
the resignation of the special .counsel in May, as an event
equally sudden and unexpected ; and as he had " deemed
« it his duty to omit no proper measures for the vigorous
" prosecution of those trials," he announced the appoint-
ments of Messrs. Birdseye and Whiting, to continue the
legal proceedings left unfinished by Mr. Spencer.



" It was much to be regretted," his excellency said, "that the ample
provisions heretofore made by special statutes, to punish the actors in this
conspiracy, have not produced results as favorable to the cause of Vindica-
tory justice, as all well-wishers to good order have desired. Money has
been placed at the discretionary disposal of the officer intrusted with the pro-
secutions, and has been liberally expended by him. No item which he has
certified to be necessary, has been rejected by the accounting officer, and no
justifiable aid, within the constitutional power of the Executive, during my
administration, has been withheld. It is but justice to myself to say, that in
all cases where the Executive arm was necessary to reach fugitives, who
had taken shelter, from the ordinary process of our courts, within the juris-
diction of other states, it has been stretched iout for that purpose ; and that
where, from accidental causes, courts were Hke to fail, for want of presiding
officers, my exertions have always been unremitted, and uniformly success-
ful, to sustain them."

Something in regard to this matter, by way of a vindi-
cation of his own conduct, it was necessary that the Gov-
ernor should say, after the severity of his arraignment be-
fore the public by the late special counsel. Less in his own
defence, than what I have just quoted, could not have been
expected. More would have betrayed a want of dignity.

The report of Mr. Birdseye, communicated with the mes-
sage of his excellency, comprised a succinct history of his
proceedings under the special commission. Much of what
he stated, however, has already appeared in the condensed
histories of the trials conducted by him, already presented
to your consideration. On the trial of Jewctt, Giddings,
who had been subpoenaed as a witness, suddenly absconded.
His reasons for so doing will appear hereaftej, as stated by
himself. It will be recollected (hat this man had been in-
troduced as a witness on the trial of Bruce aiid others, in
1828, and rejected in consequence of his infidehty. Mr.
Birdseye, in the report before me, states one incident in re-
gard to this witness, which it is important should be preserv-
ed here, because of its bearing upon trials yet to be narra-
ted. On the arrival of the special counsel at Lockport, to
prosecute the case of Jewett, he says :


"'i was addressed by the defendant's counsel, to knowif I should examine
Giddings. I took time to ascertain all the facts, so as to answer under-
standin^ly, but reciprocating the freedom which had dictated the inquiry, I
asked the defendant's counsel to say to me whether, if he were examined,
any attack would be niade upon his character for truth and veracity. I re-
ceived for answer that his character, in that respect, would not be attacked, for
THEY KNEW IT coFLD NOT BE. Haviug made deliberate examination as to
the extent of the testimony in the power of the prosecution to produce, to
sustain him on the matter of fact ruled against him in Ontario ; and also
having formed a most deliberate conviction that that decision was erroneous
in point of law, and after the assurance of the defendant's counsel as to his
character for truth and veracity, which I found confirmed on inquiry, I felt
bound to say that I should examine him if permitted."

In adverting to the case of the witness at Lockport, who
persisted, on the trial of Jewett, in swearing impliedly to
the murder of Morgan, in order, to protect himself from an-
swering the questions put to him ; swearing, as the reason
for such refusal, that he might thereby implicate himself as
an accessary before the fact, in the murder, and persisting
in the answers, after being cautioned by the Judge that he
would perjure himself by such answers, unless Morgan was
in fact murdered, and unless he knew of the fact, and that if
the laws of man did not punish him, the laws of God would, —
the special . counsel suggested whether the constitutional
guarantee that no man in a criminal case should be compel-
led to be a witness against himself, ought not to be placed by
a general statute upon a different footing than that of judi-
cial immunity from testifying, on the ground that such testi-
mony' may be subsequently used for the conviction of the
witness. " Ought not," asks the special counsel, " the wit-
« ness to be compelled to testify ; and would not his secu-
" rity from any ill effects of such disclosure be sufficient, if
"that testimony were inadmissible in any criminal case
« against himself?" A general statute, the special counsel
thought, would be preferable to any common law practice
of favoritism, or the practice of giving rewards to witness-
es to testify ; a practice occasionally resorted to by most


governments, but not congenial to the feelings of our peo-

In the course of his report, the special counsel mentioned
the fact that Judge Gardinei% of the eighth circuit, had re-
fused to try any more of these causes ; and he expressed a
wish that one of the judges of the Supreme Court might find
it convenient to hold the circuit in Niagara, which, in con-
sequence of Judge Gardiner's refusal, had been adjourned
over to the second Monday in February.

In concluding his report, this officer passed a high com-
pliment upon Mr. Whiting, who had been associated with
him by the Governor, after the resignation of Mr. Spencer.
His previous acquaintance with the facts and questions
arising in these investigations, as well as his local and per-
sonal information of the whole subject, added to his talents
and experience as a lawyer, rendered his aid most welcome ;
and his assistance was found very essential.

I am, sir, &c.


New- York, March 26, 1832.

The fate of William Morgan, as far, probably, as it will
ever be disclosed by human testimony, will now rapidly be
developed. Another special circuit was held in the county
of Niagara, commencing in February, 1831, and extending
considerably into the month of March. His Honor Judgje
Nelson, of the Supreme Court, presiding. At this circuit,
all the pending indictments in the case of Morgan, which it
was believed the public good required to be proceeded with,
were disposed of. The two principal trials were, 1st, that
of The People vs. Elisha Adams ; and, 2d, the same vs. Park-


hurst Whitney, Timothy Shaw, Noah Beach, WilHam Mil-
ler, and Samuel Chubbuck. Both trials were severely con-
tested, and of long continuance. But as the alledged par-
ticipation of the defendants in the transaction, took place
while Morgan was in and about Fort Niagara, and as far
the greater part of the testimony was the same on both tri-
als, I have thought it best to unite them in a single narra-
tive. For all the necessary "purposes of history, this course
will answer as well, if not better, than a separate outline of
the respective trials ; while time and labor will alike be
saved, both to writer and reader.

The trial of Adams commenced on the 24th of February.
That of the other parties above mentioned, who were im-
pleaded together, on the 28th. Much difficulty was expe-
rienced, on both trials, in obtaining a jury, — the greater
number of the panel having been set aside for having form-
ed, opinions against the defendants. A man by the name
of Raymond, a Freemason, was drawn upon both trials,
and excluded in each instance, by the court, for ^n unwil-
lingness to disclose the obligations he took as a Mason, un-
less the court should require it ; and also for having object-
ed to doing so, unless the court should peremptorily require
it of him, and for appealing to the court for that purpose.
The next juror called in the case of Whitney and others,
said he had formed an opinion ; but he had taken three de-
grees in Masonry, and had never taken any oath, that, ac-
cording to his understanding of it, required him to do any
thing contrary to the strict laws of morality, and religion,
and the laws of the country. It was enjoined by the rules
of Masonry, he said, to be gnod citizens, and obey the laws.
He never felt himself under any obligations whatever to
show any favor to a brother Mason as a juror or witness.
[On the trial of Adams, when .told • by the court he must
disclose his obligations, the juror remarked that he thought
it was driving a man to a great extremity.]


Edward Bissell, a very respectable citizen of Lockport,
and a Royal Arch Mason, was called, and challenged to the
favor, by the special counsel. The obligation of the Royal
Arch degree, as disclosed in Barnard's Light on Masonry,
having been read, to him, he was asked whether he had tak-
en the same in substance, to which question, according to
the report from the office of the Lockport Balance, politely
furnished me by the Judge, Mr. B. said: —

" The oaths I took were materially different ; murder and treason were
expressly excepted, and there was nothing said in the oaths I have taken
about pohtical preferment, nor about voting for a brother Mason in prefer-
ence to any other man, as mentioned in the book. That part of the obliga-
tion which requires to assist a brother Mason out of trouble, whether nght
or wrong, is always explained in the lodges to mean, and I have always un-
derstood it to mean, like this : — if I should see a brother Mason in a quar-
rel wdth another man, it would be my duty to go to him, and by reminding
him of his duty as a Mason, endeavor to get him away without inquiring
whether he was on the right or wrong side of the question. It would be my
duty to prevent the quarrel if possibjle. I think the oaths morally binding ;
and should think it dishonorable to violate them without a cause. I look
upon them In the same light that I should a solemn pledge of my honor in
any other case. The whole tenor and object of the lectures and other pro-
ceedings, is to inculcate a strict obedience to the laws of the country, and a
faithful observance of the rules of moraUty and religion. With regard to
that part relative to keeping a worthy brother's secrets, if a brother Mason
should communicate to me a secret involving the commission or concealment
of a legal or moral crime, I should not consider him a icorthy brother, and of
course should be under no obligations to keep it. In any legal proceedings,
I should feel myself under no obligations, on any account, to favor a brother
Mason more than any other man. The juror was admitted and sworn."

I have quoted this explanation thus at length, because it
so closely corresponds with my own vievTS, heretofore giv-
en, of the nature of the same Qbligation,~which views, or
more properly explanations, were written two months be-
fore this report had fallen under my observation.

The first witness called upon both trials, was Loton Law-
son, who gave an account of the taking of Morgan away
from the jail in Canandaigua. Before Morgan was put in-


to the jail, witness had had some conversation with him in
regard to his^ proposed book. Morgan said he was in a
scrape with Miller, and wished to get out of it. Witness
went to Rochester, to communicate to some Masons that
Morgan was willing to be privately carried awiay. On
his return Morgan was taken out of jail, as heretofore rela-
ted. Lawson denied that he gave a signal at the door of
the jail, although he heard a whistle, but. did not believe it
was connected with that affair. No force was used in tak-
ing him from the jail. After he had left it a few rods, an-
other man came up, and said, " Morgan, you are my prison-
" er," upon which the latter cried murder; but on being
assured that he would not be hurt, he was pacified. No
force was used in putting him into the carriage, neither was
he blindfolded, or bound. He conversed as any body else
would, and went willingly ; sometimes the curtains were
up, and sometimes down ; — Morgan wished them to be
closed, that he might travel privately, and be kept away
from Miller, or from his knowledge,— -that he might not be
followed by him. On their arrival at Hanford's, Morgan
made no objection to the change of carriages ; he was not
intoxicated, or drowsy, and nothing was given to make him
so. Witness went with the carriage to Gaines, at which
place he took another conveyance, and struck off to Lock-
port, where he passed the night, and went into Lewiston, to
the installation, on the following morning. He did not,
while there, hear of Morgan's making any noise at the fort ;
he was not himself at the fort, and had never been there
He saw Parkhurst Whitney at the installation, — he being
one of the officers. He believed Whitney went down to
Youngstown, [to the fort,] in the. boat, but was not certain..
When Morgan was asked why he had made the noise after
leaving the jail, he said he was sorry he had made such a
fuss. Witness saw no restraint used upon Morgan, on any
subject, during the day ; it was fine weather, and they had


a pleasant ride. He complained much of Miller, who was
to have paid him five hundred thousand dollars, but he had
not furnished money enough for the expenses of pubUca-
tion. He was willing to go any where, to get away from
that man.

John Whitney, (tried formerly, it will be recollected, and
acquitted,) was sworn as a witness on the trial of Park-
hurst, Whitney and others. . He stated that he rode on the
carriage with the driver, Hubbard, from Canandaigua to
Victor. He there procured a horse, and proceeded to Ro-
chester, on horse-back ; thence to Hanford's Landing; from
which place to Wright's, he rode with Morgan in the car-
riage. Witness fully corroborated the testimony of Law-
son, in regard to the absence of restraint, and of liquor, ex-
cept two or three glasses, and also to Morgan's willingness
to go. He did not recollect that any one had hold of Mor-
gan when they got out of one carriage into another ; they
got out and in like the others; there was no scuffle nor was
any force used ; he had a talk with Morgan on the road ;
he expressed a willingness to go if his situation could be
made to suit him, and he was assured it should be so ; the
object of keeping him secret, was, that Miller, aiid those
with whom he had been engaged in printing the book, should
not know where he had gone, so as to follow him ; he said
Miller had misused him, and he did not wish him to know
where he had gone ; appeared as anxious as any one to

Online LibraryWilliam L. (William Leete) StoneLetters on masonry and anti-masonry, addressed to the Hon. John Quincy Adams → online text (page 41 of 49)