William L. (William Leete) Stone.

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

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ed the nature of the prosecution, and the grounds upon
which a verdict was claimed. The exhibition of Wither-
ell, which had been held without the permission of the mag-
istracy of the town, they maintained to be an " idle show,"
within the meaning of the statute which prohibits the
exhibition of "idle shows, such as common showmen,


" mountebanks, or jugglers usually exhibit." The Masons,
it was likewise said, were " a distinct society," unlike all
"other societies." The exhibition, by the defendant, was
proved by two witnesses, who described the ceremonies.
One of them, on his cross-examination, said he had seen
several performances, but had never seen " common show-
" men, mountebanks or jugglers" give such an exhibition.
The question " whether the defendant had stated that what
" he had exhibited was true Freemasonry," was objected
to by the prosecution — argued on both sides — and the ob-
jection sustained by the court. The prosecution here rest-
ed their cause.

The counsel for the defendant in his opening, denied that
his exhibition was any violation of the statute. It in no
respect came under the section of the law prohibiting the
exhibitions " of common showmen, mountebanks and jug-
" glers," inasmuch as it was a true and genuine exhibition
of Freemasonry. There was neither jugglery, trick, nor
deception ; and they relied upon the proof of this fact for
the acquittal of the defendant. The first witness called,
was examined as to the nature of the exhibition. He gave
a minute account of all the particulars. On the swearing
of the second witness, an objection was raised by the coun-
sel for the prosecution, against calling upon Masons to
prove their ceremonies and secrets ; but, after argument
. upon both sides, the objection was overruled.

The examination proceeded, and the witness proved the
correctness of the exhibition, so far as it related to the first
three degrees. Gen. Augustus C. Welch, a Royal Arch
Mason, and sheriff of the county, was next called. He un-
derwent a long and minute examination upon the general
tenor, and particular phraseology of the masonic obliga-
tions, and upon the rites and ceremonies of the lodge-room.
The general scope of his testimony, confirmed the substan-



tial accuracy of the obligations, as given by Morgan and
Bernard, with the few and unimportant exceptions.

John Pike, a justice of the peace, also testified to the
general accuracy of the obligations, as read to him from
Bernard's book, although he pointed out a few variations.

Another witness was called ; but the counsel for the pro-
secution said they were perfectly willing to admit that he
would testify precisely as the two witnesses last mentioned
had done, and they entreated the defence to persist no long-
er in this examination. The witness was, however, very
briefly examined respecting a few prominent features of
the obligations, and his testimony strictly accorded with
that which had preceded him. General Welch and Jus-
tice Pike were both examined very fully as to the ceremo-
nies of the lodges and chapters — examinations which were
never gone into on any of the Morgan trials. Only a sy-
nopsis of their disclosures upon this branch of the subject,
has been preserved in the report of the case, as furnished
me by one of the counsel ; but, as far as this abstract goes,
it corresponds with sufficient verisimilitude, to the Ritual
recently published by Allyn.

The case was committed to the jury at six o'clock in
the morning. At nine, the jury came into court, and stat-
ed that they could not agree. They w^ere thereupon dis-
charged. Five were in favor of acquitting the defendant,
and one for liis conviction. Counsel for the prosecution,
Messrs. Nathan Beardsley, John Hyde, and Lyman J.
Daniels. For the defendant, Messrs. Noah Ely, Charles
A. Troup, and John C. Morris.

It is not the intrinsic importance of this case, in itself
considered, that has induced me to present a sketch of it
for your perusal. It derives some importance, however,
from the illustration it affords of the state of feeling which
yet pervades a large portion of the people, in regard to
the masonic institution.


In May, 1831, Solomon C. Wright was brought to trial
on the indictment against him for perjury, at the Ontario
General Sessions. He had sworn that no suspicious car-
riage had arrived at his house in September, 1826, and
had denied other circumstances calculated to identify the
persons and the carriage conveying Morgan. On his trial,
it was abundantly shown that his testimony in these re-
spects was false ; but the court held that the materiality of
these facts, in the original case, was not sufficiently shown,
and he, too, was acquitted. This is the last trial that has
taken place, growing out of the abduction of William
^ Morgan.

The next in order, is a trial before the Circuit Court of
this state, (Judge Vanderpool presiding,) held at Albany
on the 13th of September, 1831, wherein Jacob Gould was
plaintiff, and Thurlow Weed was defendant.

In the month of October, 1829, the defendant was edi-
tor of a newspaper at Rochester, (where both parties then
resided,) called the Anti-masonic Enquirer, in which three
publications were made, viz., on the 6th, the 13th, and the
20th of that month, constituting the grounds of the action
brought against him.

The first, viz., the paper of the 6th, stated that " some
" months after the abduction of William Morgan, a large
" sum of money was placed in the hands of General Jacob
" Gould, of this village, (Rochester,) the then Grand Scribe
" of the Grand Royal Arch, ostensibly for * charitable pur^
"^^y<^ses.^ That a part of this money was paid to a gen-
" tleman at Lewiston, and that other sums were expended
" at Gaines and Batavia — and that General Gould subse-
" quently reported to the Grand Chapter, that he had used
« the money in the manner, and for the purposes for which
" it was appropriated."

In the next, viz., the paper of the 13th October, a letter
from General Gould was published, in which he stated that


** In February, after the abduction of Morgan, I was elect-
" ed one of the officers of the Grand Chapter, and as it is
" usual, particularly in masonic bodies, there were funds
" appropriated for charity. During the year I held said of-
" fice, I received one hundred dollars,' and expended it in
" small sums, not only ' ostensibly,^ but really for charity,
" and it is the only money that ever came into my hands
" from the chapter, or any other masonic body, during that,
•* or any other year."

To this letter was subjoined a comment by the defen-
dant, in which he asserted, that the plaintiff" paid fifty dol-
" lars to a gentleman of Lewiston, to defra;f the expenses
** of Mrs. Monroe, her son, and the convict Cron, from
" Canada, to give testimony in relation to the body found
" at Oak Orchard Creek." He also averred, that in the
month of June preceding, a conversation was held in Ro-
chester between a distinguished counsellor at law whom he
named, and Jacob T. B. Van Vechten, Esq., of Albany,
the successor of General Gould to the office of Grand
Scribe, in which the latter stated, " that funds had been ap-
"propriated by the Grand Chapter, in 1827, for charitable
"purposes, six hundred dollars of wliteh were placed in the
"hands of General Gould, the then Grand Scribe, who had
" reported the following year, that he had expended the
" money for the purpose contemplated — but that he produc-
" ed no vouchers."

On the 20th October, the defendant copied into the Anti-
masonic Enquirer, a letter addressed by the plaintiff to the
editors of the Rochester Republican, 'in which he declares
that he is authorized by his successor in office, alluded to,
(Mr. V. V.) to pronounce the conversation mentioned, so far
as he is concerned, to be utterly false. He proceeds to re-
mark — " the statements also, that I paid fifty dollai's, or any
« other sum to get Mrs. Monroe, or any other person from
** Canada, or the insinuation that I ever paid one cent to

^ XdJf


"aid any one concerned in the abduction of Morgan, to get
" them clear of punishment, or any other person, is also
" false." To this communication, as well as to the former,
the defendant added comments on its republication. The
vituperative parts on both sides I shall omit, and present
only those substantial points that conduce to the issue. The
defendant repeats his former averment relative to the pay-
ment of fifty dollars by the plaintiff, towards defraying the
expenses of Mrs. Monroe and Cron, (the man who came
from Canada with her in search of the body of her hus-
band,) and adds — "I shall prove (alluding to the allegation of
" Gen. Gould that he had commenced a prosecution against
" defendant,) that while he was acting, (or pretending to
."act,) upon a committee appointed by the people of Mon-
" roe County, to investigate the masonic outrage, he fur-
" nished money to ■ enable at least one of the kidnappers to
" escape from justice. I shall (hen prove that he has de-
" liberately and solemnly sworn that he utterly disapprov-
" ed of the whole outrage, and that he had no agency in it,
" either before or after its commission."

The foregoing presents the ground on which the declar-
ation, consisting of several counts, was framed against the'
defendant. On the trial, the counsel for the plaintiff" aban-
doned all the counts except the third, which charged the
plaintiff with furnishing money to enable one of the kid-
nappers of Morgan to escape from justice, and that he af-
terwards swore before a grand jury that he had no partici-
pation in the transaction before or after its commission.
To these charges they would strictly confine the inquiry.

Stipulations of counsel had been entered into relative to
the admission of certain facts, part of which were read by
the counsel for the plaintiff, and among which was the pub-
lication of the paragraph recited. The remainder of the
stipulation, the counsel for the defendant proposed to read,
but it was overruled by the court, except that which ad-


mitted Burrage Smith to have been concerned in the ab-
duction of William Morgan.

The defendant's counsel then offered to prove that the
article complained of, was in reply to the plaintifPs publica-
tion in the Rochester Daily Advertiser. This likev^ise was
overruled, as was also an offer on the part of the defen-
dant's counsel to read the whole of the article in the Anti-
masonic Enquirer of October 20th, upon a clause in which
the plaintiff relied for damages.

The defendant then offered a stipulation admitting that
Burrage Smith was concerned in the abduction of Morgan
which was allowed and proved.

John O. Cole, who had been secretary of the Grand
Royal Arch Chapter of the state of New- York, from 1825
to the date of the trial, was next sworn. He testified that
a resolution was passed by that body on the 10th of Feb-
ruary, 1827, in the following words : — " Resolved, that the
"** sum of one thousand dollars be placed at the disposal of
" the trustees, to be by them, in their discretion, applied to
" charitable purposes." Gen. Gould, as Grand Scribe, was
one of the trustees of this fund, as was also the witness.
On the same 10th February, another resolution was passed
to place three hundred of the one thousand dollars appro-
priated for charitable purposes, in the hands of Jacob Gould,
for which he was to account. These resolutions were en-
tered in the regular course of their occurrence, on the
books of the Grand Chapter. On the 9th February, 1827,
the day previous to the above appropriation, the following
extract is found upon the same book.

" The receipts of the year will not equal the expenses of
'« the session by more than three hundred dollars. Numer-
-« ous applications are made for widows and orphans, and
"there are other pressing claims upon the funds." The
witness further testified, that on the same day the commit-
tee on charities made a report, appropriating, in small sums.


to various applicants, two hundred and ninety-five dollars,
which was all .that could be bestowed in charities, without
encroaching upon the permanent fund of the Grand

Garret L. Dox, who was treasurer of the Grand Chap-
ter for many years, including the period alluded to, testifi-
ed that the usual mode of dispensing charity was to pass in
detail upon individual claims, after they had been examined
by a committee ; — was present when the appropriation of
one thousand dollars was made on the 10th of February,
1827 ; never knew an instance of general appropriation for
charity before, nor to so large an amount, either before or
since ; it was offered and passed, he thinks, without re-
marks. Witness paid Gould (plaintiff',) three hundred dol-
lars out of the one thousand dollars appropriated, immedi-
ate — and subsequently paid one hundred dollars more on
plaintiff''s draft — as also, at a still later period, one hundred
or one hundred and fifty dollars on Gould's drafts, for which
sums plaintiff* has never accounted, to witness's knowledge.

Garret W. Ryckman, who had been treasurer of the
Grand Chapter since 1830, produced the books, shewing
that nine hundred and fifty dollars were paid in 1827, un-
der the general head of " charity, ^^ without designating the
recipient. Witness was satisfied that the two hundred and
ninety-five dollars reported by the committee as before
mentioned, are not included in the entry of nine hundred
and fifty dollars. A receipt at the end of the year 1827,.
had been cut out of the receipt book. None other was mis-
sing from the whole book.

Robert Martin, testified, that in 1828 he was a member
of a committee appointed by the Grand Chapter, to audit
the accounts of the treasurer. Recollects among the vouch-
ers, a draft for three hundred dollars, with Mr. Watts's
name upon it, as money paid to Gould ; thinks also, there
was a draft of one hundred dollars from Gould. " In 1827


" Di'. Eights, of Albany, wrote to witness requesting him
" to get a draft for one hundred dollars, of General Gould,
" upon the charity fund. Witness called upon General
" Gould, received the draft, and sent it to Dr. Eights. Wit-
" ness did not shew Dr. Eights's letter to General Gould.
" There was nothing said about the object for which the
" money was wanted. Gould asked witness no questions
" and took no voucher."

The defendant's counsel offered to prove that Gould had
made a communication to the public, in a newspaper, stat-
ing that he had received one hundred dollars from the
Grand Chapter, which he had expended in small sums for
real charity, and that he had received no other money what-
ever from any masonic body for any purpose ; but the mo-
tion was overruled by the court.

Dr. Jonathan Eights testified, that as an officer of a lodge,
in Albany, having occasion to use some money for charita-
ble purposes, and knowing that Gould had the control of
the masonic funds for such purposes, he wrote to Mr. Mar-
tin to get a draft from Gould for one hundred dollars, which
was done, and the same was received by the witness.

To a question by defendant, as to what Dr. Eights did
with this one hundred dollars, the counsel for plaintiff* ob-
jected. The court asked the defendant's counsel what they
expected to prove, who replied that they would prove by
Dr. Eights that this one hundred dollars went to Burrage
Smith, one of the kidnappers of Morgan, to enable him to
escape from justice, and was the same one hundred dollars
referred to in the clause upon which the plaintiff' claimed
damages. The court decided that 4he defendant must first
prove that Gould knew the object to which the money was
to be applied, and therefore overruled the testimony.

The witness stated, in continuation, that Gould never
asked him to account for the money, nor did he ever con-
verse with him about its appropriation. Witness afterwards


received two drafts from Gould, of two hundred dollars
each, in favor of Edward Doyle, and drew therewith four
hundred dcllars from the Grand Treasury, and deposited
the same in a bank to Doyle's credit.

Samuel Barton was adduced to prove that Gould paid
fifty dollars to the witness, out of the one thousand dollar
fund, to defray, in part, the expenses of investigating a body,
said to be Morgan's, found on the shore of Lake Ontario;
but the testimony was overruled.

Robert King testified, that S. P. Gould & Co. (of which
firm the plaintiflf was one,) had an account against witness
and Burrage Smith, who were partners. When it was
rendered, witness told plaintifi" that fifty dollars of it was
Burrage Smith's private account, which he, (witness,) would
not pay, offering to pay the residue. Gould told witness
that if he would pay the whole bill, he (Gould,) would re-
ceipt it, and give v/itness a draft on John O. Cole, for the
fifty dollars which was due from Burrage Smith. The ac-
count was settled in the manner proposed, and witness took
a letter from Gould to Cole, in June, 1827, upon which he
got the fifty dollars.* Smith had absconded the February
preceding. Gould told witness that it was so arranged that
Cole would pay the order, which he did.

Mr. Cole, being recalled, stated that he paid the fifty dol-
lars to King, not out of his private monies, but from the
masonic funds.

General Vincent Matthews was sworn, by whom the
counsel for the plaintiff" proposed to shew that Gould, after
this action had been commenced, stated that he had never
received but one hundred dollars from the Grand Chapter,
and that it was distributed in small charities. They also
oflfered to prove, by the same witness, the truth of the whole
conversation attributed to J. T. B. Van Vechten, Esq., (as
published in the Anti-masonic Enquirer, of October 13th,
previously referred to,) from which the controversy and



action originated. Objections were made to the admission
on both points, and they were sustained by the court.

The plaintiff called no witnesses. The cause was sum-
med up by counsel on both sides, and committed to the
jury, who returned a verdict of four hundred dollars for the
plaintiff. A bill of exceptions was taken by the counsel
for the defendant, and the cause has been carried up to the
Supreme Court. It remains suh judice, and I shall there-
fore forbear making the comments which such an unusual
course of proceedings, in a libel suit, would, under other
circumstances, amply justify.

^ - With respect, I am, &c.


New-York^ March 30, 1832.

The conduct of the newspaper press in regard to the
facts comprised in this eventful history, has been a prolific
source of complaint. After the sitting of the Le Roy Con-
vention, however, in February, 1828, the denunciations of
the press became less frequent in popular meetings, although
the Anti-masonic conventions have never ceased to recur
to it, and the subject has repeatedly called forth the finest
declamatory powers of the Hon. Richard Rush. But while
in the preceding pages I have more than once been con-
strained to admit that there has been a very grievous fault
in this matter, on the part of a large portion of the public
press ; yet there has been much of exaggeration in the
charges so sweepingly urged against it ; and even Mr.
Rush, upon this topic, appears throughout to more advan-
tage as an impassioned rhetorician, than as an accurate
commentator upon matters of fact. Much, therefore, can


be said on both sides. The charge is, that, by masonic
influence and masonic power, — by the appHcation of gold in
some instances, and of threats in others, — the whole news-
paper press of the land, prior to the establishment of pro-
fessedly Anti-masonic papers, and the whole press except the
Anti-masonic, since, down even to the present day, — has'
been kept dumb in regard to the unparalleled outrage upon
Morgan, and the extraordinary transactions connected
therewith. To this extent, or to any thing like it, the charge
is untrue.

There are several considerations upon this subject which
require weighing before it can be properly understood. In
the earlier part of the excitement, the apparent silence of
the press, especially at a distance, arose from a cause
which I have already explained, — the incredulity, as hon-
est as it was general, — that existed in regard to the whole
matter. It was not believed that any real outrage had been
committed, — or rather, perhaps, such were the doubts and
contradictions respecting the affair, that the conductors of

the press knew not what course to take, or what to say

When, however, it was discovered to be a reality, there
was by no means that degree of profound and universal si-
lence that Anti-masons represent to have been observed.
If I am not very widely mistaken, the earlier trials were
published in many papers. The Ontario Repository,— one
of the most faithful and vigilant of the public sentinels at
the west, — stationed in the midst of the excitement, — though
far from being an Anti-masonic paper, was, nevertheless,
prompt and full in its reports of the trials, — the greater
number of which were held in the beautiful village of its lo-
cation. The reports of that paper uniformly reappeared in
the journals with which I am connected, until all the facts
of the conspiracy, abduction, and journey to Fort Niagara,
had been published over and over again. Ample notices
were likewise published, from time to time, of the trials that


followed, in which every new fact was carefully noted, un-
til the last great trials came on at Lockport, when another
case was published at once, and spread before the public
with all its appalling and lengthened details. The occa-
sional proceedings of the legislature, including most of the
debates, were also published to as full an extent as the
limits of an imperial sheet would permit, allowing a rea-
sonable share of space for the discussion of the various
other important matters crowding upon the public attention.
These facts are referred to, not for the purpose of claiming
any particular merit, but merely to show, that Mr. Rush,
and other declaimers upon this subject, have paid too little
regard to the actual facts of the case. There w^ere other
papers' which adopted the same course, until their conductors
honestly believed that the public had become thoroughly
acquainted with the leading facts of the case.

But the truth is, the Anti-masons required too much at
the hands of those publishers who were actuated by a sin-
cere desire to deal with the most perfect fairness towards
all parties. They required the republication of all the tri-
als, at full length, (hough column after column of the testi-
mony taken at each, was but a stale repetition of what had
often been proved and published before ; — they required a
republication of all the reports and documents, which follow-
ed each other upon the subject, in one or both branches of
successive legislatures, though, like the trials, these papers
were again for the most part repetitions ;~and they also
required at our hands, a publication of all the reports and
speeches, and resolutions, and journals, which the thousand
and one popular meetings and conventions sent forth, de-
luging the country for three or four years. A compliance
with requisitions like these, was impracticable. It would
have excluded almost every thing else of public interest, re-
specting the affairs of foreign nations, and the high and va-
ried interests of our own country, from the columns of the


largest papers in the Union ; while the small village jour-
nals, published but once a week, which at best can do no
more than furnish an inadequate abridgement of the events
of the day, would have been smothered with Anti-masonry
in a single month : and yet the charge against the press,
without discrimination or exception, was, that it had been
bribed, or- awed into silence, by the Masons. Sir, however
reprehensible may have been the conduct of a large pro-
portion of the public press in this matter, — and that it was
reprehensible I have not hesitated to admit, — the evil was
not thus produced. I have no idea that either bribery, or
intimidation, was exerted to any considerable extent. There
might, it is true, have been a few individual cases, like that

Online LibraryWilliam L. (William Leete) StoneLetters on masonry and anti-masonry, addressed to the Hon. John Quincy Adams → online text (page 44 of 49)