Captain William Morgan
The following is an excerpt from United States President John Quincy Adams' Letters on the Masonic Institution as he gives the details of how Freemasons murdered Captain William Morgan.
(To view the entire book by President John Quincy Adams on Masonry Click Archives
The following is found in the preface as he gives a brief summery of the events that led to Captain Morgans murder.
The sole act of Morgan, whilst dwelling in Batavia, which formed any exception to the ordinary habits of men in his walk of life, was an undertaking into which he entered, in partnership with another person, to print and publish a book. This book promised to contain a true account of certain ceremonies and secret obligations taken by those who joined the society of Freemasons. The simple announcement of the intention to print this work was known to have been received by many of the persons in the vicinity, acknowledged brethren of the Order, with signs of the most lively indignation. And as the thing went on to execution, so many efforts were made to interrupt and to prevent it, even at the hazard of much violence, that soon after the disappearance of the prime mover of the plan, doubts began to spread in the community, whether there was not some connection, in the way of cause and effect, between the proposed publication and that event.
On Sunday, of all the days in the week, the tenth of September, 1826, the coroner of the county of Ontario, himself Master of the Lodge at Canandaigua, applied to a Masonic justice of the peace of that town for a warrant to apprehend William Morgan, living fifty miles off at Batavia. The offense upon which the application was based was larceny, and the alleged larceny consisted in the neglect of Morgan to return a shirt and cravat that had been borrowed by him in the previous month of May. Armed with this implement of justice, which assumes in this connection the semblance of a dagger rather than of its ordinary attribute a sword, the coroner immediately proceeded in a carriage obtained at the public cost, to pick up at different stations along the road of fifty miles, ten Masonic brethren, including a constable, anxious and willing to share in avenging the insulted majesty of the law. At the tavern of James Ganson, six miles from Batavia, the same place which had been the head quarters of the night expedition against Miller's printing office, the party stopped for the night. Had that expedition proved successful, it is very probable that this one would have been abandoned. As it was, the failure acted as a stimulus to its further prosecution. Early next morning, five of the Masonic beagles, headed by the Masonic constable, having previously procured a necessary endorsement of their writ to give it effect in the county of Genessee, from a Masonic justice of the peace, proceeded from Ganson's house to Batavia, where they succeeded in seizing and securing the man guilty of the alleged enormity touching the borrowed shirt and cravat. A coach was again employed, the Masonic party lost no time in securing their prey, and at about sunset of the same day with the arrest, that is, Monday the eleventh day of September, they got back to Canandaigua. The prisoner was immediately taken before the justice who had issued the warrant, the futility of the complaint was established, and Morgan was forthwith discharged. The case affords a striking illustration of the abuse of the remedial process of the law to the more secure commission of an offense against law. Morgan was free, it is true, but he was at a distance of fifty miles from home, alone and without friends, brought through the country with the stigma resulting from the suspicion of a criminal offense attached to him, and all without expense to the parties engaged in the undertaking, as well as without the smallest hazard of a rescue.
It turned out that the person of whom the shirt and cravat had been originally borrowed, had never sought to instigate a prosecution for the offense. The idea originated in the mind of the Masonic coroner himself. He had executed the plan of using the law to punish an offense of Masonry, to the extent to which it had now been carried. Morgan had been brought within the coil of the serpent, but he was not yet entirely at its mercy. Another abuse of legal forms yet remained to complete the operation. No sooner was the victim landed upon the pavement, exonerated from the charge of being a thief, than he found the same Masonic Grand Master and coroner tapping him on the shoulder, armed with a writ for a debt of two dollars to a tavern keeper of Canandaigua. Resistance was useless. Morgan had neither money nor credit, and for the want of them he was taken to the county jail. The common property and the remedial process of the State was thus once more employed to subserve the vindictive purposes of a secret society.
Twenty-four hours were suffered to pass, whilst the necessary arrangements were maturing to complete the remainder of the terrible drama. On the evening of the succeeding day, being the twelfth of September, the same Grand Master coroner once more made his appearance at the prison. After some little negotiation, Morgan is once more released by the payment of the debt for which he had been taken. But he is not free. No sooner is he treading the soil of freedom, and perchance dreaming of escape from all these annoyances, than upon a given signal, a yellow carriage and gray horses are seen by the bright moonlight rolling with extraordinary rapidity towards the jail. A few minutes pass, Morgan has been seized and gagged and bound and thrown into the carriage, which is now seen well filled with men, rolling as rapidly as before but in a contrary direction. Morgan is now completely in the power of his enemies. The veil of law is now removed. All that remains to be done is to use the arm of the flesh. Morgan is taking his last look of the town of Canandaigua.
It is a fact that this carriage moved along night and day, over a hundred miles of well settled country, with fresh horses to draw it supplied at six different places, and with corresponding changes of men to carry on the enterprise, and not the smallest let or impediment was experienced. With but a single exception, every individual concerned in it was a Freemason, bound by the secret tie; and the exception was immediately initiated by a unanimous vote of the Lodge at Lewiston. It afterwards appeared in evidence that the Lodge at Buffalo had been called to deliberate upon it, and moreover that the Lodges at Le Roy, Bethany, Covington and Lockport, as well as the Chapter at Rochester, had all of them consulted upon it. There is no other way to account for the preparation made along the line of the road traveled by the party. Nowhere was there delay, or hesitation, or explanation, or discussion. Every thing went on like clock-work, up to the hour of the evening of the fourteenth of September, when the prisoner was taken from the carriage at Fort Niagara, an unoccupied military post near the mouth of the river of that name, and lodged in the place originally designed for a powder magazine, when the position had been occupied by the troops of the United States. The jurisdiction was now changed from that of the State to that of the federal government, but the power that held the man was one and the same. It was Masonry that opened the gates of the Fort, by controlling the will of the brother who for the time had it entrusted to his charge.
On this same evening, there was appointed to take place at the neighboring town of Lewiston, an installation of a Chapter, misnamed Benevolent, at which the arch conspirator was to be made Grand High Priest, and an opportunity was given to all associates from distant points to come together and to consult upon what it was best to do next. Here it is, that in spite of the untiring labors of an investigating committee organized for the purpose, and in spite of the entire application of the force of the courts of the country to the eliciting of the truth, the details of the affair which thus far have been clearly exposed, begin to grow dim and shadowy. There is reason to believe that Morgan was carried across the river in a boat at night, and placed at the disposal of a Canadian lodge at Newark. The scruples of one or two brethren who hesitated at the idea of murder, brought on a refusal to assume the trust. Consultations on this side of the river followed, and messengers were dispatched to Rochester for advice. The final determination was, that Morgan must die, to pay the penalty of his violated oath. After this, every thing attending the catastrophe becomes more and more uncertain. It is affirmed that eight Masons met and threw into a hat as many lots, three of which only were marked. Each man then drew a lot, and where it was not a marked lot, he went immediately home. There is reason to believe that the three who remained, were the persons who, on the night of the 19th or 20th of September, took their victim from the fort, where he had been kept for sacrifice, carried him in a boat to the middle of the stream, and having fastened upon him a heavy weight, precipitated him into eternity.