William L. (William Leete) Stone.

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

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deponent had the following conversation : — Howard asked
Green if he w^as willing to aid him in suppressing the book.
He replied that he was willing to assist as far as was rea-
sonable and proper, or according to what was proposed at
the former meeting of the lodge. Howard requested a de-
cisive answer one way or the other — he wanted to know


whether he, the deponent, was for the Masons, or against
them. The deponent said he was for them, and was will-
ing to aid in suppressing the book if it was to promote the
interests of the masonic institution, and asked what plan
tliey intended to pursue. Howard said they intended to
go to Batavia and get the manuscript papers of the book;
they were to get them peaceably if they could, if not, by
force ; and if they could not obtain them without, they
would take Morgan and Miller and carry them off too.
This deponent finally consented to join the party, and go to
Batavia, for the purpose of obtaining the papers in the
manner proposed. The deposition proceeds to give an ac-
count of the fruitless expedition to " Batavia, on the night of
the 8th of September, of which a full narrative has been
heretofore given. It is in evidence that the chapter of Ro-
chester was consulted; and no doubt exists of the fact that
the profligate Johns was brought from Canada, and paid by
the Encampment of Knights Templars at Rochester. We
have the evidence, under oath, that a special lodge was
convened at Le Roy, at 10 o'clock, A. M. of the day oii
which Morgan was seized and carried away from Batavia :
and a cloud of witnesses have testified to the measures
concerted with reference to this outrage, in the chapter of
Lockport. Elder Bernard informs us, that five weeks be-
fore the outrage, the proposed work of Morgan was the
theme of conversation among his brother Masons in the
town of Covington, where he then resided, and that a Bap-
tist clergyman, — a Royal Arch Mason of high standing,
declared to him, that Morgan must be put out of the way,
— adding, that with so much complacency did God regard
the institution of Freemasonry, that he would be one who
would help to do it ! Indeed it may with safety be said,
ihat the zealous and acting Masons, generally, west of
"Canandaigua, were more or less cognizant of the measures
taking against Morgan, and many of them actually con-


cerned. At Lockport, in December, three months after
the outrage, Bruce was elected Scribe of the chapter, upon
the express ground that he was entitled to the office, from
his exertions in the case of Morgan. Colonel King was
elected and installed High Priest of the chapter at Lewis-
ton, at the moment when he held Morgan a prisoner in a
solitary cell, seven miles distant, and had murder in his
heart ; while a large assembly of Masons at the solemn
festival, were unquestionably assenting to the abduction.

But notwithstanding all their antecedent preparations,
they scarcely knew their own ultimate purposes. The first
determination was to suppress the book ; and all peaceable
means having failed in the accomplishment of that object,
arrangements were made for assembling a large body of
Masons from different and distant places, at Batavia, on
the night of the 8th of September, to act forcibly, if neces-
sary. A party of fifteen or twenty persons from Buffalo,
assembled at a tavern four miles west of Batavia, on the
afternoon of that day, and proceeded towards the village
in the evening. At the same time a party arrived in the
suburbs of Batavia, from Lockport. There were people
at Stafford from Canandaigua, and a large number were
marched from thence in the evening,^under Colonel Saw-
yer. Mr. Green testified that a large party were expected
from Canada. The forcible removal of Morgan was at
that time contemplated ; but the project then, was to have
taken him directly from Batavia to Lockport, and thence to
Niagara. Various circumstances conspired to defeat the
execution of the design, at that time. Green supposes that
a piece of inadvertency on his own part, was the means of
the frustration of the scheme. The taking of Morgan ta
Canandaigua, was a separate plot, not originally contem-
plated, and of sudden device. E' en the conspirators at
Batavia, were not aware of it, until the moment arrived for
its execution. " Indeed," to quote the opinion of Mr. Spenceiv


** no very definite purpose appears to have been originally
** formed. . The immediate exigency seems to have been
" his removal at all events, and his final disposition proba-
" bly did not enter into the calculation of those who v^ere
" concerned in carrying him to Lewiston."

From the foregoing view of facts, which, necessarily, are
in part but a recapitulation, it is rendered positively cer-
tain, that, so far from the abduction having been the device
of a few mad-men, in a moment of passion, it w^as a work
of deliberation, and of extensive correspondence and con-
cert among the acting Masons, individually and collec-
tively, over a wide space of country. This conclusion is
inevitable, — the facts supporting it irresistible. The next
inquiry is, — to what extent, if any, were the Masons, either
indirectly or collectively, at a distance from the scene of
action, concerned in this nefarious transaction ? So far as
it regards a previous knowledge of the conspiracy, it is a
question of difficult solution. There is but little proof
either way. The assertions of Ganson and King, of hav-
ing had a previous correspondence with Governor Clinton,
have already been refuted. They were never entitled to
a moment's consideration. Among the depositions collect-
ed by the Lewiston convention, was one of a Mr. Wilder,
of Genesee county, who swears to conversations with a
Mason by the name of Grant, before and after the abduc-
tion. In the former, while conversing upon the subject of
Morgan's design to reveal the secrets of Masonry, Grant
stated, that " they had sent to the Grand Lodge for in-
*' structions, and when they should get word from that
" body, something would be done." In the subsequent con-
versation with the same man, and others, he was given to
understand that Morgan was dead. It is possible that
some of these infatuated men may have thus previously
written. to officers of the Grand Lodge, but hardly probable.
To the Grand Lodge they could not have written, as it was


not in session. General Stephen Van Rennsselaer was
Grand Master at that time, and Elisha W. King Deputy
Grand Master ; and in the names of those pure, high-mind-
ed and honorable men, the public has an ample guarantee
that they were never even improperly approached.

From the statement of Giddings, it appears that Colonel
King did have a correspondence upon the subject with Mr.
Gibbons, a distinguished Mason of Boston. But the letter
exhibited by King from that gentleman, was written after
the abduction, and was one of inquiry into the particulars
of the outrage. But this correspondence was a natural, and
doubtless an innocent one, since King was a near relative of
the writer, who had been a delegate to the General Grand
Chapter, to which the stolen manuscripts had so recently
been presented, and by which they had been so promptly
sent back. This circumstance, therefore, amounts to no-
thing. But there was another correspondence, which did
take place, and which disserves attention in this connexion.
It has been established beyond the possibility of dispute, by
disclosures made under oath early in the last year, that a
correspondence was opened between some of the Masons
in Batavia and its neighborhood, and the Masons of the
northern part. of Vermont, in regard to Morgan's anticipat-
ed treachery to the institution. Letters were received
by members of Mississque lodge, in Enosburgh, from the
master of a lodge in Genesee, stating that a man by the
name of Morgan was about to reveal the secrets of the or-
der, and soliciting advice in the premises. Replies were
sent, advising to a course of moderation. Two letters upon
this subject, were written to Vermont, previously to the
outrage, by Dr. S. Butler, with whose name you must by
this time have become familiar. This correspondence,
however, proves nothing criminal, or even censurable, in
regard to the conduot of the Masons to whom it was ad-
dressed. On the contrary, they gave proper advice in re-



ply. But it shows that there were some Masons far dis-
tant from the theatre of the excitement, who must have
been prepared for the event that did happen. A Mason of
high respectabiHty, of Saratoga, has moreover informed
me, that, soon after the abduction, he was told by a digni-
tary of a chapter in that county, that " the western bre-
" thren had approached the east in search of light* previ-
" ously to the outrage, — that Morgan would be conveyed
" to Canada, and thence across the Atlantic, — and that him-
" self and family would be amply provided for."

No further evidence exists, of which I am aware, going
to establish the fact, or to countenance the belief, that, pre-
viously to the abduction, there was any general knowledge
or privity of the contemplated outrage, on the part of lodges,
chapters, or encampments, eastward of the county of Onta-
rio. Would that no higher impeachment could be brought
against lodges, and chapters, and grand lodges, and grand
chapters, for their conduct in this matter, after the conspi-
rators had matured and consummated their wicked pur-
porses. But facts of an opposite character rise up in fear-
ful array to the contrary. To particularize the transac-
tions to which I now refer, in proof of this assertion, would
be only to repeat a variety of details to which I have al-
ready had the honor to direct your attention in the progress
of these investigations. Still, a brief recapitulation seems
to be indispensable to the summing up of the case. I do
not wish to be understood, in what I am now going to say,
as inculpating, or intending to inculpate, the great body of
the lodges and chapters of this state, directly, as accessa-
ries to the abduction after the fact. But I do say, that while
great numbers of Masons individually, and some chapters
collectively, have laid themselves open to grievous censure
in this respect, the characters of all the lodges and chap-

+ Masonic language, now, I believe, well understood.


ters of the state have been compromised by the grand bo-
dies in which all are supposed to be represented. In the
month of February, 1827, five months after the perpetration
of the crime, the Grand Chapter rejected a proposition of-
fering a rew^ard of 1000 dollars, for the discovery and ap-
prehension of the authors of it : while, on the other hand,
they appropriated the like sum of 1000 dollars, under the
pretext of unspecified charity, but in fact to be used for the
aid, comfort, and assistance of the criminals. In the month
of March, of the same year, Howard, one of the murderers,by
his own confession, was cherished by certain of the Masons
in this city : he was kept in concealment from the officers
of justice : funds were raised for him : and he was finally
smuggled across Long Island, and put on board of one of
the foreign packets, oft' Gravesend or Coney Island. In the
month of June, of the same year, the sum of 100 dollars was
voted from the funds of the Grand Lodge, to Eli Bruce ;
and the additional sum for which he had applied, was raised
for him by the brethren out of the lodge. In the autumn of the
same year, the sum of 100 dollars was appropriated from
the funds of Jerusalem Chapter of this city, for the benefit
of " the western sufferers," as the conspirators were called.*
Money for the same object, was raised by one of the en-
campments in this city ; but to what amount, I have not
been informed. I have likewise abundant reason to be-
lieve, that other lodges and chapters of this city, contribut-
ed to the same object ; — and the sum of 500 dollars was
subsequently applied to the same benevolent purposes, by
the Grand Lodge. These facts are known: most of them
have already been proclaimed, as it were upon the house-
tops : and how many additional appropriations of the same
description, were made by other masonic bodies, at other

* The amount appropriated by this chapter at the time in question, has
been stated at 500 dollars, by Mr. J. F. Hanks, who first published the fact;
but I have been positively assured by a gentleman who was then a high of-
ficer of that chapter, that the appropriation was no more than 100 dollars.


times and places, for the same object, remains yet among
the undiscovered secrets of the order. But granting tliat
all the misdeeds of this description have been enumerated,
— that not a single dollar more was appropriated by either
lodge or chapter, or individual Mason, for the purpose of
retaining counsel for the accused ; of supporting the con-
victs in prison; of aiding in the escape of some ; of pay-
ing the expenses of others ; and of assisting in the spiriting
away of witnesses, — is the catalogue not enough ? Is fur-
ther evidence necessary to convince a virtuous community,
that the institution ought to be abolished? Do those Ma-
sons, who yet adhere to the institution, but who, neverthe-
less, would shrink from the commission of the most' venial
crime, — who would " feel a stain like a wound," — and who
have been kept in ignorance of these astounding facts, re-
quire more light to enable them to perceive that the insti-
tution is no longer entitled to the countenance or support
of good men and just ?

It has been said, however, in extenuation of most of these
appropriations of money by the lodges and chapters, that,
when they wxre made, those who voted for them, did jso un-
der a belief that great oppression was experienced by the
accused at the w^est, — that, in fact, (when the appropria-
tions were made,) it was not believed that any very consid-
erable crime had been committed ; — and, in short, it has
been maintained, that those voting the money, honestly be-
lieved the accused, to whom it was going, to be innocent
and persecuted men. Such, I am ^villing to admit, to a
certain extent, was the fact ; — suc^h, I have the best reason
for believing, was, in a very limited degree, the true state of
the case. But in all instances^ the master-spirits knew well
enough the true state of the case ; and, both in the Grand
Lodge and Grand Chapter, at the times of making the ap-
propriations, numbers of the conspirators were themselves
present, — wearing the lamb-skin emblems of innocence, and


taking part in the proceedings ! Making, however, all
possible allowance for the erroneous views under which the
plea I am now considering supposes them to have act-
ed ; — making, also, an additional allowance for the sympa-
thies that had been awakened in behalf of their western
brethren, and for the indignation that had been kindled by
what was justly deemed an undistinguishing, intolerant,
and indefensible proscription of the whole masonic body, for
the offences of a part, — it yet falls immeasurably short of a
justification for the helping away of Howard, and the ad-
vancing of money to enable Burrage Smith to fly to New-
Orleans, and Howard to England. Nor can even this excuse
avail to any extent, for more than a very short period.
Grant, if you please, — which by the way could not have
been the fact, — but grant, for the sake of the argument, that
a majority of the members of the Grand Lodge and Grand
Chapter, at the time of making those appropriations, did
suppose the accused were innocent, they must have soon
been undeceived. Upon what principle, then, are we to
account for their subsequent conduct ? Trials of the con-
spirators were occurring every few months, and volumes of
appalling testimony were following each other, in rapid suc-
cession, placing the innocence of the accused, and of numer-
ous unknown accomplices, entirely out of the question, — hut
710 example was made of any of these. In the earlier part of
the excitement, several members of the order w^ere tried
for the conspiracy, and convicted by their own confessions,
— hut none of these, even to this day, have been expel-
led from cither lodge or chapter. Several more have been
convicted, after warmly contested trials, who, with the
former, have served out their respective terms of imprison-
ment, — hut none of these have been expelled. Witnesses
have stood mute, braving the authority of the civil law,
even in the presence of the highest of our criminal tribu-
nals, — hut none of these have been expelled. Other witness-

558 LETTER XLViri.

es have refused to testify, expressly upon the ground that in
doing so, they must criminate themselves, — neither have these
been expelled. Witnesses have testified falsely, as their
subsequent examinations have fully proved, — neither have
these been expelled. It has been proved in court, over and
over again, that the measures for the abduction of Morgan,
were concerted in the lodges and chapters of the west, —
hut the warrants frr such lodges and chapters have never
been recalled. Indeed, there has never yet been utter-

There is, however, one word to be said, before I close
the present letter, in mitigation of the offences of those who
were first engaged in depriving Morgan of his liberty.
There is no reason whatever for believing that his murder
was contemplated when he was first arrested, or by any of
those engaged in transferring him from the jail in Canandai-
gua, to Niagara. I have already said, that the carrying of
Morgan to Canandaigua, was not connected with the origin-
al plan. That movement was projected and executed by
Cheseboro, merely for the purpose of disgracing him by the
imputation of petit larceny. When acquitted upon that
charge, feeling that it would not answer to allow Morgan
to return to his labors with the ability to excite the public
sympathy by the tale of his wrongs, Cheseboro procured his
imprisonment on the civil process, merely to give time for
ihem to mature some new scheme to suppress the proposed
disclosure of the momentous secrets of Masonry. The ar-
rangements for his transportation to Canada, were hastily
made, although it had been so long determined that some-
thing should be done to suppress the book ; and the murder


of the man was rather the result of the imperfection of those
arrangements, than of previous design. In this belief I am
strengthened by the opinions of all the gentlemen, as I be-
lieve, who have acted as special counsel in the prosecutions,
and also of Mr. Whiting, their able and constant auxiUary.
Those who took him to the fort, calculated on nothing more
than his temporary confinement, until he could be sent away
into Canada, or to sea, via Quebec. But when the Cana-
dians utterly refused to receive him, and the conspirators
found him thrown back upon their hands, they were unex-
pectedly embarrassed. They had violated the law ; — they
feared to set their prisoner at large, to blazon the outrage
they had thus far committed ; — they could not advance, and
dared not recede. In this posture of affairs, they sent back
an express to Rochester, for advice. One of the conspira-
tors in that place proceeded instantly to the frontier, and
in an evil hour, excited by passion, — pushed on by fear, —
and laboring under a strong delusion, — they were led to shed
the blood of their victim. That blood yet cries from the
ground for vengeance !

I am, sir, with respect, &c.


New- York, April 2, 1832.

It is a subject of no ordinary satisfaction to me, and
will doubtless afford still greater relief to yourself, to find
that these somewhat desultory communications have at length
been brought to a point at which it can be said, in the words
of the wise preacfier of old, " let us hear the conclusion of
" the whole matter." At the close of the rapid survey of
speculative Freemasonry with which the preceding essays


were commenced, a variety of reasons were oHered, why,
in my humble opinion, the institution ought to be totally
abandoned, on its own merits, independently of any charges
of malconduct that might, have been preferred against it.
The more I have reflected upon this matter, the more strong-
ly have I become persuaded, that the reasons there set forth
are sound and just. Every hour of thought that I have
been enabled to devote to this subject, has but rendered the
conviction stronger, that Masonry is wholly inconsistent
with sound reason, and with the state of society at the pre-
sent day. Let it be granted, if its votaries please, that its
objects were originally laudable and humane, and arc so
still, in the estimation of the better portion, and even of the
great majority of its members ; yet, I would ask, why fortify
the performance of duties so eminently incumbent upon us all
as men and christians, by oaths and penalties, which, howe-
ver explained, must yet always sound barbarous and shock-
ing when repeated. The duties of the Gospel are not im-
posed by any such sanctions ; and I do believe this feature
of the society infinitely behind the age in which we live,
even if it be not more barbarous than would ever have been
openly tolerated in any age or community. But, throwing
these considerations entirely aside, I am constrained to say,
that, in full view of the facts which have been disclosed in
the preceding irregular narrative, the institution of Fi'ce-
masonry ought to be entirely abolished for its demerits, —
and that for the following reasons : —

I. On account of its laws and its obligations. Liberal
minded and good men seldom do wrong, whether they are
Masons or not. Masons of this character look to the spirit
of the obligations, and practice the virtues inculcated by its
lessons and its emblems. But we have seen in the course
of these disclosures, that a great number of Masons, — ■
perhaps a majority of the adhering members, — not only
believe the obligations to be binding, but are even ready


to act upon them to the letten They think every thing
about it means what it says ; and have shown that they are
ready to act accordingly.

II. Many of its members believe the institution to be of
divine origin. They make it a substitute for religion : they
have been so taught, and are honest in the opinion : and
when the case occurs, they act upon this belief. Such men,
though not by its spirit, are yet justified by the letter of the
laws. The institution therefore leads to fatal error, in re-
gard to matters of infinite moment to the immortal interests
of man.

III. The garments of Masonry are stained with blood.
An American citizen has been sacrificed upon its altar, for
no breach of the civil laws of the land, but only for the vio-
lationof his masonic obligations. What has once happen-
ed, may happen again : and the only safe and secure disposi-
tion of the subject is to abandon it, and blot it out for-

IV. The power of Masonry has proved too strong for
the arm of the civil law. The cry which earth sends up to
heaven, when her bosom is stained with the blood of a mur-
dered son, seldom fails to ensure just retribution from the
hands of her children : but in this instance it has fail-
ed. " Although," — says Chancellor Walworth, when
speaking upon this subject — " it is the duty of Masons, as
" well as of Christians, to throw the broad mantle of charity
" over the imperfections and frailties of their brethren, yet
*' neither should ever permit themselves to extend its ample
" folds for the purpose of screening those who have disgraced
" themselves, and disturbed the peace of society by their
" crimes." Ought, then, an institution, which has exercised
such a power, to exist in a free country ?

V. The crime that has been committed in the name of
the institution, was not perpetrated, as it has been contend-
ed, by ignorant fanatics ; but the conspiracy embraced much



of the intelligence and respectability of that enlightened
portion of the country, and the murderers themselves were

Online LibraryWilliam L. (William Leete) StoneLetters on masonry and anti-masonry, addressed to the Hon. John Quincy Adams → online text (page 47 of 49)