William L. (William Leete) Stone.

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

. (page 42 of 49)
Online LibraryWilliam L. (William Leete) StoneLetters on masonry and anti-masonry, addressed to the Hon. John Quincy Adams → online text (page 42 of 49)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

keep his journey secret; witness saw no bandage over his
eyes ; no threats were used ; Morgan was told he could
not fexpect friends unless he used his friends well ;. he said
he had done wrong, and was willing to get out of the
scrape ; he knew they were going to Lewiston ; it was the
understanding that the arrangements to be made for him,
were to be as good in a pecuniary point of view, as the
speculation with Miller, in publishing the book; nothing
definite however, had yet been agreed upon.


Isaac Farwell was. examined on both trials. He lived
near Wright's tavern, and was there when the carriage
drove to the shed, towards evening, on the 13th of Sep-
tember, 1826. He was requested by Wright to go into
the barn, where the carriage was driven. He there got
into the carriage, to sit with the man whom he had been
told was Morgan, while the person whom he found in
the carriage with him, went in to supper. He, (witness,)
was a Mason ; and on inquiring what the disturbance was
about, and who Morgan was, they told him that he had
been publishing the secrets of masonry, and gave him an
account of the manner in which they had taken him away,
first from Batavia, for stealing a shirt, and then from Can-
andaigua. He inquired what they were going to do with
him, and was told that they intended to take him to Cana-
da, where they would procure him to be sent on board of a
British ship of war. Witness held no conversation with
him, either by signs or words. The person in the carriage
had a handkerchief drawn entirely and closely over his
f^ce. When witness entered the carriage, and the other

person left it to get his supper, he said : — " You d ^d old

" hag, if you open your head while I am gone, I will smash
" you on my return." Morgan was helped out of the car-
riage, while in the barn, and soon taken in again. Witness
was told that the fact of his being th^re was to be kept a
secret.' He had talked with Wright about it before the car-
riage came up. Wright said he did not know what the
matter was, but a man came along in a sulkey, and inquir-
ed if he had seen the Rev. Mr. Cumings, to which he repli-
ed that he had not. He was then directed by the man in
the sulkey, that if a carriage should come along, he must
drive it into the barn^ and say nothing about it. Wright
added that he knew not what it meant.

Eli Bruce was examined on both trials, testifying much
as on his former examination, with the addition of a few



particulars. Morgan's face, he said, was covered that he
should not see who were with him. He talked freely, and
was not bound. When asked if he knew where he was,
he replied that he was passing from Rochester to Lewis-
ton. On getting into the boat, he inquired what it was.
He was told, and then asked if all was safe, with which
assurance he was content. He was not landed on the Can-
ada shore. Witness supposed that Morgan was to be pro-
vided for — that he was to be placed on a farm, somewhere
back in the country, away from the knowledge or influence
of Miller. When the Canada people refused, to receive
him, witness thought it was because their arrangements
were not completed. When on coming back, Morgan was
put into the Magazine, he, (witness,) supposed he was only
to be kept there until those arrangements had been settled.
There was no restraint upon Morgan's limbs, — he was not
bound, even in the boat. A man was left with him, to keep
him company at the magazine, but witness did not go into
it himself. He did not previously know Morgan ; but was
informed that it was a voluntary proceeding on his part,
or he> (witness) would have had nothing to do with the af-
fair. When he heard, on the following day, at Lewiston,
that Morgan was uneasy, he had some misgivings ; but sup- '
posed from the character of the men, who were with him, "
that nothing dishonorable would be done, or any thing that
would affect his own character and standing. The last
that he had ever hoard upon the subject, except by rumor,
was, that he was quieted and contented. He had himself^
hoped for the best, and said nothing — being a public officer.
He heard no expression from any one, that Morgan had
forfeited his life. He remembered of their fastening the
magazine, but had not inquired into the particulars of the

John Jackson, the person who accompanied Giddings to
the magazine, on the morning of the 14th of September,


1826, and who was despatched to Lewiston, to inform Col.
King that " the man in the magazine was making a good
" deal of noise,'* was again called upon the stand. His tes-
timony on the present occasion, did not vary materially
from his former statements, especially that made on the
trial of Brown and Wright. In addition to his former re-
lations, however, he now testified that he was at Batavia
when Miller was arrested, on the 12th of September ; and
when he was first told that " there was a man in the maga-
zine," he thought it must be Miller. He denied, however,
that his business at Batavia had any connexion with the
proceedings against Miller. He knew not for what that
individual was arrested.

There were two witnesses sworn upon the trials of
Adams, and Parkhurst Whitney, and those impleaded with
him, whose testimony was of a pecuUarly important and
decisive character. The first of these was James A. Shed,
now a practising lawyer in Ohio, whose name has not be-
fore appeared on any of the trials. He testified that he
happened to be at Fort Niagara, on the afternoon of 12th
of September, 1826, when he was inquired of by Col. Jew-
ett whom he previously knew, whether he was a Mason.
On replying in the affirmative, he was informed that a very
high-handed measure was about to be entered into by the
Masons, a parallel of which could not probably be found
in the history of the world, unless in the case of King
Stanislaus, who was seized and carried off" by the Poles ; —
that it was their intention to carry off Morgan for pubhsh-
ing the secrets of Masonry — take him to Montreal or Que-
bec, and there put him on board a British vessel, if one
could be found whose commander was a Mason. In the
evening of that day, witness, on request, assisted to row a
boat over the river, in which were two other persons be-
sides himself, one of whom was Jewett. On reaching the
shore, witness and Jewett went up to the village of Niaga-


.^. ra, attended a meeting of eight or ten Masons at a lodge
*^ room, where the subject of Morgan's disposal was discuss-
ed; one proposed harsh measures, and even death. Anoth-
er repelled the proposal with indignation. The meeting
was broken up, nothing done, and the party returned in the
boat to Fort Niagara. On Wednesday, witness assisted to
remove powder out of the magazine, which was said to be
spoiling on account of dampness. On Thursday, he was
informed that Morgan had been brought to that place the
night previously — went that day to Lewiston and attended
the installation. Returned the same evening. On tl]c
Monday or Tuesday morning following, witness and
another person met Adams coming from the magazine,
who seemed to be agitated, and said he believed they had
taken Morgan away. Went to the magazine — Adams call-
ed Morgan thrice, but received no answer — unlocked the
door — entered — discovered a quantity of straw which had
the appearance of having been lain Upon by a man — an
ammunition box, flag silk handkerchief, pitcher, decanter,
and a plank that was broken, on the floor. The straw was
removed, the boxes taken out, the plank refitted to its pro-
per place, the handkerchief destroyed, and the pitcher and
decanter carried down to Giddings's house. Witness heard
no explanation whether Morgan had been removed by the
Canada Masons or not. He was intimately acquainted
with the person who first spoke to him, and they had the
sign and grip between them. Witness made no inquiries
of him as to the effect of this transaction ; but did make en-
quiries of him as to the propriety of the measure ; he said
it was with extreme reluctance that he had had any thing to
do with it, but felt himself bound as a Mason. Witness re-
mained at Youngstown about six months afterwards, teach-
ing school— conversed with Mr. Shaw, one of defendants,
at Lewiston, in the following January, who stated that he
knew Morgan was there, and felt very bad about it. Heard


Shaw endeavor to dissuade Giddings from disclosing the

On his cross-examination, witness stated that no one was
present at the time of Shaw's admissions — never heard either
of defendants acknowledge that they had had any part in the
transaction — never saw any of the persons who were pre-
sent at the meeting in Canada afterwards, except Garside,
— who wished witness to introduce him to some Mason of
high standing, that he might get his permission to put Mor-
gan to death. Witness refused.

Orsamus Turner, whose name has become quite familiar
in connexion with these transactions, testified, in substance,
that he was at Batavia some time before the abduction of
Morgan, and heard a good many hard things said. He had
learned from sheriff Thompson and others, that Morgan
was dissatisfied with Miller, and wished to get away, if the
Masons would give him an equivalent for the book he was
writing. With this view, he, (witness,) crossed over into
Canada, to * complete the arrangements for taking Morgan
thence, and settling him upon a farm. This farm, it was
understood, was to be paid for by the Masons in Canada.
It was situated near the Short Hills, and was to be given to
Morgan, on condition that he should take back the manu-
scripts already in Miller's possession, and suppress the book.
Witness supposed the bargain with Morgan had been made,
and that it was well understood on both sides. Four men
were to be responsible ; and indeed they had offered to pay
Morgan an equivalent in money, should he prefer it. On
his return from Canada, witness stopped at Youngstown to
take tea. While tea was preparing, witness and his com-
panion, Darrow, walked to the house of Mr. Giddings, who
kept a tavern, where the subject of the removal of Morgan
into Canada, was talked over. It was " ..ggested that it
might be necessary for Morgan to stop there over night ;
and the question arose where he should be kept. Giddings


proposed the magazine of the fort, and introduced witness
to a person, who, he said, would make the necessary ar-
rangements. From the rash expressions which witness
had heard at Batavia,. which he now mentioned to Gid-
dings, it was feared that some violence might be offered
to Morgan, and this, they thought, would have a bad effect.
The arrangement for taking him into Canada, was made for
the double purpose of preventing violence, and suppressing
the book. Witness expressly told Giddings, that the ar-
rangement had been made with a full understanding that not
a hair of his head should be hurt. Giddings, who felt as
he did upon the subject, was charged to see that no violence
should be offered to Morgan. The information had been
communicated to witness by men of honor, in whom he
thought he could confide — men of character and standing.
After this interview with Giddings, and the other man, on
the night of the 10th of September, witness had never
had any thing to do with the matter, du'ectly or indi-
rectly. He attended the installation of the chapter, at Lew-
iston, but knew nothing in any wise inculpating either of. the
parties on trial.

The next witness called, and far the most important of
any examined, on either of the long chain of trials, was
Edward Giddings, who had been rejected, in consequence
of his alledged infidelity, on the trial of Bruce, in 1828. He
was again objected to, by the counsel for the defence both on
the trial of Adams, and on thatofParkhurst Whitney and oth-
ers, on the same ground as before, viz : his disbelief in a Su-
preme Being who will punish perjury. A long trial ensued upon
this point, and the testimony taken in respect to his religious
belief, was, if possible, still more contradictory than before.

It was most clearly testified by several witnesses, that
Giddings, on various occasions, had used expressions show-
ing that he doubted, if he did not disbelieve in, the immor-
tality of the soul, and the future accountability of man. He


seemed to have read bad books, in an unenlightened man-
ner'; — books especially calculated to mislead the vulgar and
ignorant portion of the community, as they profess to com-
municate a v^orld of (to them) new information. I shall
not incumber these pages, already too much protracted,
with specimens of the evidence given on this trial, as to his
infidelity. He quoted much from Volney's Ruins ; than
which I do not know any book better calculated to promote
the cause of the Arch Fiend, among the illiterate. Accord-
ing to this part of the testimony, Giddings did not profess
to know what he believed in, beyond the consciousness of
his own existence ; and a little more loose reading might
have taught him to doubt the evidence of that. He had a
vague idea

" Of the Great Whole,
" Who hath produced and will receive the soul,"

but it was little tinctured with either poetry or philosophy*
It was proved, on the other hand, that he had spoken at
times of temporal punishment as being the retributive jus-
tice of heaven for sins done upon earth. A wide range of
testimony was allowed to be gone into ; in which it was
sworn that he was in the habit of alluding to a God, — as an
overruling Providence, in his letters to his children, and the
relations with whom he corresponded. But taken altogeth-
er, as I have already stated, this testimony proved that his
ideas as to the sanction of morals, and his obligations to-
wards his Creator and his fellow men, were crude and fan-
tastic. Had he been well educated, he would probably
have been either an enlightened christian, or a dangerous
skeptic. «

It was w^ell known, by the repeated publications of
Giddings, and by his evidence given before grand ju-
rors, that his testimony was of the highest consequence,


in these trials ; and corresponding efforts , were made on
both sides ; by the prosecution, to have him sworn as a
witness, and by the defence, to exclude him. A formida-
ble array of witnesses had consequently been brought
forward, both to impeach, and to sustain him, on other
grounds than his religious belief There was one cir-
cumstance disclosed in the course of this collateral inves-
tigation, which it would be unfair not to mention. By the
former law of this state, as settled by the Supreme Conrt,
on the opinion of the late Chief Justice Spencer, a belief, not
only in a God, but in a state of future rewards and punish-
ments, was required to make a competent witness. But in
the late revision of our laws, the common law has been al-
tered ; and it appeared in evidence on this occasion, that in
the course of a conversation between Giddings and the late
special counsel, Mr. Spencer, the former having complain-
ed of the law by which his testimony had been excluded
at Canandaigua, the latter had told him that the law would
probably-be altered in this respect. Mr. Spencer was one
of the revisers of the laws and a member of the legislature.
The law was altered, and the two provisions upon this sub-
ject are now incorporated in the statute book, in the follow-
ing words : —

" § 87. Every person believing in the existence of a Supreme Being who
will punish false-swearing, shall be admitted to be sworn, if otherwise com-

" § 88. No person shall be required to declare his belief or disbelief in the
existence of a Supreme Being, or that He will punish false-swearing, or his
belief or disbelief of any other matter, as a requisite to his admission to be
sworn or to testify in any case. But the belief or unbelief of every person
offered ag a witness, may be proved by other and competent testimony."

I do not intend any impeachment of the hiotives of Mr.
Spencer, by adverting thus to the above mentioned cir-
cumstance. I have no evidence that the proposed change
was made at his instance ; nor do I believe that, were such


the fact, however anxious he might have been to convict
the Morgan conspirators, he w^ouldhave aided in changing
the settled principles of the law of evidence for that pur-
pose. If the law had been erroneously expounded, and laid
down incorrectly in the books, it was proper that it should
be corrected ; but the conversation with Giddings, as given
in the testimony, required explanation, and that explanation,
1 conceive, has not been here improperly introduced.

The testimony having been closed in support of the com-
petency of Giddings, his Honor Judge Nelson said, that the
more he reflected upon it, the more he was convinced, that
he ought not, upon this preliminary inquiry, to stop to weigh
and canvass the facts, and see on which side the balance
of proof lay. The witness was presumed in the first in-
stance, to be competent, and the defendants held the affirma-
tive, and were bound to sustain it, and as at present advis-
ed, he should always hold the party objecting, to make out
a clear and undoubted case of disqualification, before he
would exclude. Doubt ought to admit. He would there-
fore admit the witness, allowing the counsel to urge the
facts to the jury upon the question of credibility.

Giddings was thereupon sworn. He testified, that in
September, 1826, he lived at Fort Niagara, and kept the
ferry. About midnight of the 12th he was called up by Col.
King, who said he had got the d- — d perjilred scoundrel
who had been revealing the secrets of Masonry ; that he was
bound, hood-winked, and under guard ; wanted witness to
take them over the river, and dehver him up to the Masons
in Canada, for them to do with as they thought proper ;
went over the river with them ; Morgan was sitting on a
piece of timber when witness went out of the house ; he had
a handkerchief oTer his eyes ; he was then led to the boat
^y two men ; one had hold of each arm ; was not intoxica-
ted ; appeared to be very weak ; his legs were not bound ;
nothing was said to him before they got to the boat ; on«



of the men, (Eli Bruce,) called for some water, and said the
wretch is almost famished ; there were four of us with him ;
five, in all, including Morgan, went into the boat, viz : Col.
King, Hague, Bruce, Morgan, and witness ; two of the
men, when we got over, went up to the town, (Niagara:)
While they were waiting in the boat, Morgan said, " the
" handkerchief pains me most intolerably ;" the man who
sat in front of him felt under the handkerchief, and said,
" it is not tight, keep silent ;" he then said, " gentlemen, I
" am your prisoner, use me with magnanimity ;" the man who
sat before him pressed a pistol against his breast, and toLd
him if he said any thing more he would shoot him. Mor-
gan tried to put his hands into his vest pocket, and could
not ; witness then saw that his hands were tied behind him.
In about two hours they returned with intelligence that the
Canadians were not prepared to receive Morgan, where-
upon he was brought back and put into the magazine.
Witness had the key; went up the next morning to give
him food and refreshments. They went into the porch
door, and were about opening the door leading to the ma-
gazine, when Morgan said, you had better not come in ; for
as there are but two of you, I can defend myself against you,
as I am situated ; I am determined not to be bled to death.
John Jackson then said, where is that pistol, is it loaded, is

the flint in good order ? for I will shoot the d d rascal ;

this was said in a loud voice to intimidate him. Morgan
then cried murder and made much noise. Witness request-
ed a man, (John Jackson,) who was going to Lewiston, to
send somebody to still Morgan. A person, (Hague,) came,
and in going up to the magazine, he said, " I know Morgan,
" and he fears me as he does the devil : he will make no more
** noise after I see him." Afterwards thirty more came, of
whom all returned except the six defendants. The collo-
quies that attended the interviews between them and their
prisoner, do not s^ecm to be> material to the issue, until tlie


evening of the 15th, when his further disposal became a
matter of dehberation, — and it was at first determined to
put him to death. While they were proceeding to the ma-
gazine for that purpose, under the direction of Col. King,
one of them made an objection. He said he felt bound to
assist, but could not approve of the deed. They concluded
thereupon to defer the execution until they could send to
" the Grand Lodge now sitting at Jerusalem^^ for instruc-
tions. They apprised Morgan that they had determined to
send to the east for instructions what to do with him. At
this interview he said he thought that by climbing up on a
frame, he could see to read, and he asked for a Bible. He
also requested permission to. see his wife and children ; and
these indulgencies were promised to him, — but not granted.
After leaving the magazine, they were joined by Adams,
and the manner of disposing of Morgan was again discus-
sed. One man said by putting a rope round his body, arms
and legs, and sinking him in the river, no trace of him could
ever be discovered. Miller said he could prove from scrip-
ture that it was right to take his life ; quoted a passage, but wit-
ness don't recollect what it was ; some high words passed be-
tween King and witness, who told King he would go and
release Morgan ; King was in a great passion, and told
witness to do it at his peril ; witness then gave him up the
key and told King he would have no more to do with it ; he
(King,) took the key and gave it to another person. On the
17th, witness went to York, (U. C.) and returned on the
21st, when he was told by Col. Jewett, that "they had
" murdered that man." The witness also testified to murder-
ous designs expressed by Garside, (the same person named
by Shed,) but they do not seem to have pertained to the

A cross-examination followed of considerable length, one
of the prominent points of which was the disclosure of terms
of pecuniary advantage, upon the performance of which the


witness had agreed to leave that part of the country, and
not appear as a witness* The Masons were very anxious
to have him go off, and made him hberal offers, and he at
one time agreed to go. The fact was admitted by Giddings,
but as that was a matter touching his credibihty only, it
does not seem to be necessary to my purpose to enter into
the detail. The examination and cross-examination were
very long, and at times full of fearful and tragic interest.

Kneeland Townsend was next called. His testimony
related principally to the proposition that had been made
to silence Giddings, by money. The witness (then a Ma-
son) approved of the plan ; but it was so evident, from his
own confession, that the witness was so intemperate and for-
getful, that very little reliance, it is presumed, could have
been placed upon his testimony, even if it had been impor-
tant in its character.

Four witnesses, viz : Oliver Grace, Gustavus W. Pope,
Loton Lawson, and Alexander Stewart, were then called
to invaHdate the testimony of Giddings. They swore to
facts at vq.riance with what he had asserted under oath, and
also to his different versions of the trans actions — but these
w^ere points for the consideration of the jury, as questions
of fact, rather than as involving any important principle.

The two next witnesses called by the defendants, were
for the purpose of impeaching the testimony of Kneeland
Townsend, but their evidence was of little importance to
either party. The next and last witness, however, was
called by the prosecution, and his testimony was so impor-
tant that (especially as it is brief,) I give it entire as report-

" Amos Bronson. — I had .a conversation with Chubbuck (one of the de-
fendants,) day before yesterday : (this is Saturday, 5th,) we were talking
about Giddings's testimony ; he said, as far as he has gone he has told the
truth ; this is a misfortune that has come upon us like the crash of an earth-
quake ; we could not avoid doing as wc did, and the first we knew it was


upon our shouldoig ; at this time Giddings had got to where he told that

Online LibraryWilliam L. (William Leete) StoneLetters on masonry and anti-masonry, addressed to the Hon. John Quincy Adams → online text (page 42 of 49)