William L. (William Leete) Stone.

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

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Online LibraryWilliam L. (William Leete) StoneLetters on masonry and anti-masonry, addressed to the Hon. John Quincy Adams → online text (page 46 of 49)
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*' portion of the transaction, did come forward, and solemnly
" make oath of their entire ignorance of it; while others,
*' pretending to give an account of their knowledge of the
" transaction, testified in such a way, as to leave an impres-
" sion upon the mind of every auditor, that they had not
" satisfied that part of their judicial oath, which required
" them to tell the whole truth. Witnesses, in several in-
" stances, came into court with their own counsel, a cir-
" cumstance unheard of in courts of justice before, to ad-
" vise with them what questions they were legally bound
"to answer." The instances of peremptory refusals to tes-
tify, in the cases of Bruce, Turner and John Whitney, have
already been stated, in the progress of the trials, too pro-
minently to be soon forgotten — for which contumacy they
were severally fined and imprisoned. But fines and impris-
onment, for this, or for the si ill greater offence of having
participated in the abduction, were nothing. The prison-
ers were cheered by their friends without, and lavishly
supplied with the comforts and elegancies of life, not only
by individual contributions, but by lodges and chapters,

hundreds of miles from the scens of action. Indeed, it



seemed as if the guilty portion of the fraternity, and the
not guilty, who, by the cry of *' persecution," had been
brought to sympathise with the sufferers, "had set down,
" and coolly counted the cost of the matter ; and come to
" the determination, that it was wise to shut the door com-
** pletely against the bare chance of establishing the murder
" of Morgan, by any facts or inferences to be derived from
" their testimony, even though it should be done at the ex-
" pense of the liberty and property of some of its members.
" In these instances, the power of a portion of the fraterni-
" ty came into collision with the laws of the land, in a most
"marked manner, and set them, and their penal require-
" ments at defiance."

But notwithstanding all these difficulties, enough was
proved to render the fact morally certain, that the misera-
ble and unhappy Morgan was basely murdered, by a band
of assassins, in obedience, as they erroneously, and wicked-
ly, and most unaccountably, believed, to the laws of specu-
lative Freemasonry. Such was the belief to which Mr.
Spencer had arrived, in the course of his laborious investi-
gations ; and such, also, was the decided conviction of that
gentleman's successor in the office of special counsel. Mr.
Birdseye's language, in his final report to the Governor, is
this : — " The information thus elicited, is sufficient, I trust,
" to satisfy the public mind as to the ultimate fate of Mor-
" gan : that he was taken into the Niagara, at night, about
" the 19th of September, and there sunk. Yet the evidence,
" although apparently sufficient for all purposes of human
" belief, is not sufficient to establish, with legal certainty,
" and according to adjudged cases, the murder of Morgan."

There was strong circumstantial testimony warranting
this conclusion, in addition to that elicited at different times,
upon the various trials. The information communicated to
Mr. Terry, and several other Masons, in Canada, immedi.
ately after the transaction, was of a positive character, " that


" Morgan had been murdered, and his body sunk in Lake
" Ontario." The declaration of Ganson, (who, though he
was acquitted, was unquestionably one of the original con-
spirators,) to Mr. Lyman D. Prindle, who furnished a depo-
sition to the Levviston Committee, was very strongly cor-
roborative of this fact. " Let me tell you," said Ganson to
Prindle, who had expressed an opinion that Morgan might
have been rescued, " you know nothing about it : suppose
" there had been carriages at. every road leading into Ca-
" nandaigua, ready to receive Morgan, in case he had been
" pursued ; he could have been shifted ; and let me tell you
*' it was the case : let me tell you, if you could hang, draw,
" and quarter, or gibbet the Masons who had a hand in it, it
" would not fetch Morgan back. He is not dead, hut he is
^^put where he will stay puU until God Almighty calls for
" Aim." This is a strong item of circumstantial proof, — for the
words, " he is not dead," mean just nothing at all. The
emphasis belongs in the last clause of the declaration ; and
it was intended to convey a safe, and yet fearful meaning, not
to be misunderstood. At about the same period of time,
as it appears from the depositions of two individuals of the
town of Byron, in the county of Genesee, Dr. Samuel Tag-
gart, of said town, stated that he had long been apprised of
the fact,:— and that " he should not be afraid to bet a thou-
" sand dollars, that Morgan was not in the land of the liv-
" ing : that he had taken a voyage on Lake Ontario, without
" float or boat, and would never be seen again by any hu-
"• man being." Another Mason, at Batavia, stated, at about
the same time, in reply to an inquiry, that " Morgan had
" gone a-fishing, on the Niagara River."

Corroborative testimony, going to show that Morgan was
put to death, has also been disclosed in another, and unex*
pected quarter — Vermont. You will not, sir, have forgot-
ten the name of Dr. S. Butler — the same person who was
sent forward from Staflbrd to Batavia, to herald the ap-


proach of Cheselioro's party in quest of Morgan, on the
evening of September 10th,— the same Dr. Butler who was
subsequently selected, by the sheriff of Genesee, as the fore-
man of a grand jury, whose duty it was to investigate the
circumstances of the outrage, and who, as foreman, declar-
ed that they must not permit the Masons to suffer. This.
Dr. Butler, it appears, sometime afterwards, removed to
Franklin County, in Vermont ; and I have now before me
sundry depositions, from respectable gentlemen in that coun-
ty, setting forth that, since Butler's removal thither, he has,
in repeated conversations with masons, admitted the murder
of Morgan to have taken place. . On- one occasion, during
an intermission in the meeting of Mississqui Lodge, he sta-
ted that " Morgan was killed, and that Col. William King,
" and two others, whose names the deponent does not now
" recollect, executed the penalty of his obligation, or words
"to that effect." To a remark that it must have been an
honorable business, as honorable men were engaged in it,
'* truly," he replied, " the most honorable we have in that coun-
" try /" And he further observed, that *' he did not know
" but the whole business would yet come to light, as there
" was one who was called on as an evidence, and who, it
" was feared, would disclose, the whole truth ; and that the"
" sheriff said, if he did he should not get home alive /" On an-
other occasion, in the town of Enosburgh, Vermont, in re-
ply to a question put to him by a brother Mason, whether
he believed, that Morgan was in fact murdered ? He said,
♦' there was not the least doubt of it, and that he justly de-
« served death I He further stated, that he might have
" known all the particulars about it — that Mr. Bruce, sher-
** iff of Niagara County, told him that Morgan was actually
" put to death, and would have told him the whole transac-
•' tion, but, said he, * I told him (Bruce) to stop ; if Morgan
** was dead it was enough. I also cautioned him to say
*• nothing about it to any person,"


It will be recollected that on the night of the 14th, after
the installation, a party of fifteen or twenty persons, be-
sides those belonging to the fort, came from Lewiston, and
were in consultation there,— taking supper at the house of
Giddings. During that nighf, consultations were held at a
meeting of these persons on the plain near the grave-yard,
as to the manner in which Morgan should be disposed of.
All agreed that by the violation of his masonic obligations,
he had incurred the penalty ; they determined to execute
that penalt}^ and cast his body into the river. But while
they were proceeding to the cell for that purpose, one of the
number relented, and the execution was deferred. On the
following night another consultation, was held, having the
object in view. Giddings expressed .a desire that Morgan
should be released, at which King became offended. Gid-
dings thereupon gave up the key of the magazine, which
was entrusted to Elisha Adams. Morgan was confined in
the magazine until the night of September 19th, when, ac-
cording to the belief of Mr. Birdseye, and others who have
investigated the circumstances, he was put to death by be-
ing drowned in the depths of the Niagara.

Col. King, David Hague, and Burrage Smith, were all
dead, long before the investigations were brought to a close.
King died very suddenly, in the spring of 1829, at a pub-
lic house in Lewiston, the morning after hearing of the tes-
timcHiy given by Bruce, on the trial of John Whitney, —
after which trial, confident as he had been on his return
from Arkansas, he could have had no hope of escaping
conviction. These three men were doubtless engaged in
the final deed, together with Howard, who had escaped to
England. Ehsha Adams, who received the key of the
magazine, where Moi^an was confined, when Giddings
surrendered it, and left Niagara for York, died soon after
his trial. King is represented through the whole of the
transactions after Morgan's arrival on the frontier, as the


most bitter and vindictive in his feelings against him, for
having betrayed the secrets of Masonry. He was proud
of his masonic honors, zealous in the cause of the institu-
tion, and the leader of the conspirators, after the victim
had been brought v^^ithin his power. It was he who awak-
ed Giddings in the night, when Morgan was brought to
the brink of the river, with the exclamation — " we have got
" the d d perjured rascalj" <^c. It was he who repeat-
edly proposed, even as early as the night of the 14th, that
Morgan should be put to death. It was King, and Bruce,
and Hague, who took Morgaa, bound and hood-winked*
from the coach, by the grave yard, near the fort, on the
night of the 13th. It was King, who endeavored to push
matters to extremities, by representing, as Ganson had done
at Batavia, that he was authorized to suppress the book by
a letter from Gov. Clinton ; and it was he, who, with Col.
Jewett, signified to Giddings, on his return from York, that
Morgan had been executed during his- absence, and request-
ed him to walk the beach, and keep a look out for the body.
In corroboration of this latter statement of Giddings, a
piece of circumstantial testimony was ehcited by Mr. J. C.
Spencer, before a grand jury, previously to the death of
King, which is directly to the point. The death of King
having prevented his being brought to trial, this testimony
never came out in court. It was this : A witness, (under-
stood to be Dr. Pope,) testified to the grand jury of Niagara,
that at some time, from two to six weeks after the abduc-
tion of Morgan, he heard that a body had floated upon the
beach, one or two miles below Fort Niagara, and that a cor-
oner's jury had been summoned to hold an inquest upon it.
Witness was at Lewiston, and saw Col. King walking to
and fro upon the steps of a hotel. King called. to him, and
said — " Doctor don't you want a subject ?" He replied in
the negative ; but King followed up his question by saying
that a body had floated upon the beach, a coroner's jury


was about to be held, — and the body would be buried — but
the doctor could take it to the fort, and have any room [for
the dissection,] that he pleased. The witness answered that
the body would be of no use, as it had probably been spoil-
ed by the water. King replied, — "the coroner has sum-
" moned me ; I told him I had business at Lewiston, and
" could not stay : I am afraid it is the body of Morgan :
" Should it prove to be so, we shall hear to-night. You
" must go to-night and take it up and hide it, and take care
" of it : You must put it where it can never be found."
King was extremely agitated, and the witness was alarmed
for him, as he evidently believed it was the body of Mor-
gan. The doctor answered, — " If you have got into any
" difficulty, you must work your way out of it, — I will have
" nothing to do with it." King thereupon turned to wit-
ness and said, — " You must go." Witness repeated " that
" he should not, — that he would have nothing to do with it."
Upon this refusal, the manner of King became changed,
and he said, as if in a jocose way, — " I guess it is Morgan
" — it is Morgan," — and laughed quite heartily, as if he had
passed a joke upon witness. But the laugh was evidently
affected, and the doctor thought it any thing else than a
joke. King knew him to be a Mason.

This disclosure, taken in connexion with a request made
by King to Giddings, that he should watch the shore, lest
the body should float up and be discovered, is of great im-
portance in making up a decision ; and, when added to the
numerous other circumstances, bearing upon the same
point, leads to the irresistable conclusion that the murder
was perpetrated, in manner and form before indicated.
But there is. yet other testimony. Mr. James A. Shed, the
witness examined on the trials of Adams, P. Whitney, and
associates, and whose demeanor was such, through long
and searching examinations, as to acquire the fullest confi-
dence of the co\n*t and bar for integrity and veracity, has


presented the world with another and most interesting sec*
tion of this fearful history. The confession was made to
him about six months after the deed was committed, by a
Knight Templar.

On the 19th of September, eight Masons, having finally
determined to put their prisoner to death, believing, proba-
bly, that it would be safer to have a smaller number actu-
ally concerned in the execution, held a consultation as to
the best mode of proceeding. The object was to select
three of their number for executioners, and to have the
other five excluded, and so excluded, that neither should
know who else, besides himself, was thus released, or, who
were the executioners. For this purpose, the following in-
genious process was devised : — They placed eight tickets
in a hat, upon three of which were written certain marks,
and it was agreed that each one of their number should
simultaneously draw a ticket. They were instantly to se-
parate, before examining their tickets, and walk away in
different directions, until entirely out of sight of each other.
They were then to stop and examine ihe slip of paper they
had drawn, and the five drawing the blanks were to return
to their own homes, taking different routes, by which
means neither of them would know who had drawn the
fatal numbers, and of course no one of the five could be a
witness against the others ! The three drawing the tickets
designated, — a bloody hand should have been the device, —
were to return to the magazine at a certain hour, and com-
plete the hellish design. The manner of his murder, is be-
lieved to have been by attaching heavy weights to his bo-
dy, and taking him out into the middle of the stream in a
boat, where, at the black hour of midnight, he was plung-
ed into the dark and angry torrent of the Niagara ! — The
boat for this purpose was got in readiness by Adams, in
obedience to the commands of the vengeful conspirators.
But he, with a,ll those deeper than himseif in guiit, (e:jcept-


mg the villain Howard,) failing in being brought to justice
in this world, has been summoned to render an account at
the bar of a higher tribunal.

Such was the melancholy fate of William Morgan, — a
free American citizen, whose death is unavenged. He was
stolen from the bosom of his family by an infamous perver-
sion of the forms of law, — he was thrust into prison for
the gratification of private malignity, — he was kidnapped
under the guise of friendship, — transported like a malefac-
tor one hundred and fifty miles through a populous coun-
try, — and executed in cold-blood by a gang of assassins,
under circumstances of as damning atrocity as ever stain-
ed the annals of human delinquency ! Nor was the crime
perpetrated by ignorant or hungry banditti, or for the lust
of power, or of gold. The circle of the conspirators, em-
braced, directly and indirectly, hundreds of intelligent men,
acting, not on the spur of the occasion, from sudden im-
pulse or anger, but after long consultations, and weeks, and
even months, of preparation. Those immediately engag-
ed in the conspiracy, were men of information, and of high
standing in their own neighborhoods and counties ; em-
bracing civil officers of almost every grade ; sheriff's, legis-
lators, magistrates; lawyers, physicians, and even those
whose calling it was to minister at the altar in holy things. .
Along the route of the captive, the members of the mason-
ic fraternity left their occupations, however busily or ur-
gently engaged, and flew at a moment's warning, to aid in
his transportation to the spot where his suflferings were
ended. A clergyman preceded him, moreover, heralding
his approach from town to town, and announcing his cap-
tivity to the assembling brethren before whom he was si-
multaneously to deliver a discourse, dedicating a masonic
temple to the service of God and the holy St. John ; and
enforcing the golden maxims of " peace, harmony, and

Arrived at the end of his journey,


the wretched victim was imprisoned in a fortress over
which the banner of freedom was streaming in the breeze.
In vain did he plead for his life ; and in vain did he im-
plore the privilege of once more beholding his wife and
children. Nay, more, with worse than barbarian cruelty,
was his final request of a Bible, to sooth his last hours, and
point him the way to a brighter world, — brighter, far,
had he been prepared to enter it, than that upon which he
was in a few hours forever to close his eyes ! And what
was the mighty offence of the miserable man, that he must
thus be hurried to his final account, without being allowed
a last farewell of his wife, — ^without suffering a single ray
of divine light to glance across his path, or illumine the dark
atmosphere of his dungeon, — but sent to his dread abode
with all his imperfections on his head! — Why, forsooth, he
was about to expose the wonderful secrets of Freemason-
ry ! — It was feared he would tell how " poor blind candi-
" dates" are led about a lodge room by a ** cable tow," and
how they kneel at the altar, at one time on one knee, and
at another time upon the other ! It was feared he would
tell how they stumble over the emblems of " the rugged
path of human life," or bend with humility beneath " the
living arch I"

" If it were so, it was a grievous fault ;
And greviously hath Morgan answered it."

It is but too true that his virtues did not plead like an-
gels in his behalf. But Humanity weeps over the deed,
while Justice was " trumpet-tongued, against the deep
damnation of his taking off!'

Very truly and respectfully yours, &g.



New- York, April 1, 1832.


The next and only remaining inquiry, is, to what ex-
tent were the members of the masonic body, collectively,
or the lodges and chapters, as such, concerned in the con-
spiracy, which ended in the murder of William Morgan ?
That several lodges and chapters, and a large number of
Masons in the western part of this state, were parties to
the conspiracy before the fact, — that a very considerable
number of the fraternity were actually engaged in it, — -
and that many more subsequently became cognizant of it, —
are facts which have been conclusively shown in the pro-
gress of the preceding narrative. But it is unfair and unjust
that the innocent should suffer in reputation with the guilty ;
and it has been an important part of my design to preserve
the line of separation distinctly in the preceding pages. But
notwithstanding all my anxiety, and all my eftbrts to re-
duce the circle of the guilty, with their aiders and abettors,
to the smallest possible circumference, it is yet much broad-
er than I could have wished, or than I hoped to have found
it, on a careful re-investigation of the whole matter.

It has been the impression of Anti-masons generally, —
and with many the impression has ripened into conviction,
— that the project of the abduction of Morgan was planned
and matured in the lodges, and that his murder was resolv-
ed upon from the outset. The idea has likewise prevailed,
erroneously, as I flatter myself has already been shown,
that, from the very nature and constitution of the society.


whatever is devised in one lodge or chapter, must be known
to all, and whatever is known to one Mason, touching the
interests and affairs of the craft, must be alike familiar to
all. Such, however, is not the fact. The particular local
measures of a lodge in Batavia, or a chapter in Rochester,
are no more likely to be known in the lodges of Boston,
New-York, or New Orleans, than are the purely local
transactions of the Phi Beta Kappa Society of Harvard, to
the members of Yale College, or of Brown University. In
regard, moreover, to far the larger proportion of men who
are called Masons, — who, although they have long since
taken the degrees, have also long since ceased turning their
attention to the subject, and are consequently Masons only
in name, — they are no more likely to become acquainted
with masonic secrets, or masonic transactions, than those
who have never entered the vestibule of a masonic edifice.
For a long time after the outrage, it was my sincere belief,
that the crime was the work of a very small number of ig-
norant masonic zealots, without the knowledge or coun-
tenance of persons of character or intelligence ; and it was
much longer still, before I could bring myself to believe,
that any masonic body whatever, had in any wise been ac-
cessary to the atrocious transaction. But these opinions
were successively forced to yield before accumulating proofs
that could not be withstood.

That the conspiracy was extensive, is evidenced by the
whole history of the investigations. From the moment it
became known that Morgan's work was in preparation, it
excited great commotion among the Masons at Batavia,
and its immediate neighborhood. Consultations were held,
and various expedients suggested for preventing the publi-
cation, and for suppressing it, after it had been commenced.
The most flagrant of those means have been disclosed in
the progress of the present work. Morgan was alternately
flattered and threatened ; but to no purpose. His expecta-


tions of immense profits were excited, and he already fan-
cied that he was half enabled to purchase an El Dorado for
himself. He was therefore not to be persuaded, or purchas-
ed, to abandon his design. Consultations were then held upon
a larger scale, and the attention of the several masonic bo-
dies at Buffalo, Rochester, Lockport, Canandaigua, and
elsewhere, was called to the subject. We have seen by the
testimony produced by the state, on the last of the Lock-
port trials, that the Chapter of Bethany, at the head of
which was the Rev. Lucius Smith, had sent forth a visiting
committee to various masonic bodies, upon this subject. A
very particular account of the consultations of the lodge in
Buffalo, was furnished to the Lewiston Convention by
Thomas G. Green, who made oath to the facts. From his
deposition it appears that he attended a meeting of the lodge
sometime between the 20th of August, and the 7th of Sep-
tember, 1829, at the invitation of Howard, alias Chipper-
field. This deponent presided on that occasion. The busi-
ness before them was the threatened publication of Morgan,
and the most suitable means that could be adopted to sup-
press it. Howard proposed himself and another member,
as a committeee to attend to the subject. The motion was
agreed to, with an understanding that no measures of vio-
lence were to be taken. A short time afterwards, Howard
requested Green to go with him to the lodge-room that eve-
ning, where, he said, a few were to meet. In the evening,
the deponent started to go thither, and on the way, fell in
with Howard, but did not go to the lodge-room. They
walked together back of the village, where Howard and the

Online LibraryWilliam L. (William Leete) StoneLetters on masonry and anti-masonry, addressed to the Hon. John Quincy Adams → online text (page 46 of 49)