actual event, which took place on American soil, occurred in 1826, but its
immediate repercussions encompassed the next 19 years [to 1845.]
affected the New England States, Massachusetts and last but not least, N.Y.,
where it all began.
appreciate events one has to understand that Masonry prior to this period was
flourishing. There were public processions and ceremonies and the Fraternity
attracted men from far and wide.
were the glory days of Freemasonry!
did it start?
1826 a Resident of N.Y., a William Morgan was apparently abducted, disappeared
and presumed murdered by Freemasons.
event strengthened the anti-Masonry movement to the effect that an Anti-Masonry
political party was formed which was so powerful that it eventually succeeded in
electing 2 State Governors.
would be apposite at this point to note that the anti-Masonic Political Party
was the first in the USA to announce a platform and a nominating convention.
1832 they even had a party candidate for presidency, a former Mason!
More on this later.
what was this affair?
Morgan, born in 1774, in Culpepper County, Virginia, was probably a Mason but
there is no record of his membership of a blue Lodge. He claimed to having been
initiated abroad and indeed gained admittance, presumably on proof, to Lodge 282
at Batavia, N.Y. as a visitor.
was subsequently described by several persons as envious, malicious, vindictive,
a heavy drinker, neglectful of
family. He was also in debt to several persons, the last being the prime mover
to what eventually transpired.
1819, having worked as a brick-layer, he married a 16 yrs old, Lucinda Pendleton
of Richmond, Virginia.
1821 he moved to York, Canada and became a brewer. After a fire destroyed the
distillery and being reduced to poverty, he moved to Rochester N.Y. and thence
to Batavia in 1826.He had a common English education and was a pleasant
individual by all accounts, except when intemperate, which he was to a great
it is documented that in 1825 he was received into the York Rite Royal Arch
Degree at Leroy, N.Y. on 31/5/1825, in the Western Star Chapter no. 33.
subsequently, a Chapter was opened in Batavia , and despite his name being on
the petition, the other petitioners rejected him.
Chapter duly established, he then applied for affiliation and was blackballed in
consequence of his intemperate and unworthy habits.
rejection led Brother Morgan to proceed to repudiate the Order in the following
in other places Batavia had a local newspaper, the Republican Advocate [The
People’s Press], edited then by a Colonel David Miller
who was, apparently, of similar disposition to Morgan but not a
practicing Mason .Some say that he had been initiated but had also prevented
from further advancement. He, too, was in awkward financial straits.
approached Miller with the sole purpose to publish a malicious book on
Freemasonry incl. its secrets, to be entitled. – ‘An Exposition of Ancient
Craft Masonry’. - in hopes, no doubt, to make a fortune from such disclosures.
It was as ‘Morgan’s Illustrations of Masonry’ a best seller after the
events below. [The pamphlet consisted of 125 pages at one $ per copy]. Indeed as
demand outstripped supply other publishers joined the fray, the sole purpose
being to destroy Freemasonry, and to cash in.
town’s Masons, being informed made efforts to halt its progress with limited
someone set fire to the newspaper building
in September 1826,without serious damage. As a result of this stupidity
four Freemasons were arrested, 3 indicted and jailed. Their actions were not
ordered or condoned in any way by the Lodge. Indeed a number of Masons joined in
a printed notice, offering a reward of $100 for the apprehension of the
is safe to say that, if this whole incident of an attempt to prevent the
printing of a booklet, of a type that had already been published elsewhere, had
been ignored then there would have been no sequel; Morgan and Miller would have
sunk into obscurity and I would not be standing here before you today.
9/8/1826 a notice appeared in a local newspaper denouncing Morgan as a swindler
and a dangerous man.
months later, September 11th 1826, he
was arrested by a legal ‘Masonic’ posse and tried for theft, accused by a
Mason- Ebenezer Kingsley - for
stealing wearing apparel, but discharged.
nature of the charge was that he had borrowed a shirt and tie, which he had not
seen fit to return. He was immediately rearrested for the non payment of a debt
[the princely sum of $2.69] by a member of one of the posse, a taverner, and
found guilty and locked up in the Ontario County Jail.[ Canandaigua]
12/9/1826 he was released, the debt having been settled [by someone called
Lawson] and he was never seen again in the vicinity!
the members of the posse conspired together. Immediately on his discharge, he
was seized, forcibly thrust into a carriage and taken via Fort Niagara to Canada
where his presence was recorded on 14/9. After that there is no recorded
information about him.
transpired, at a subsequent inquiry [Lewiston Convention] that several Masons
and the sheriff at the jail had colluded to abduct Morgan and transport him
safely across to Canada with a promise that he would not return
He was to have found a place to live and send for his family. Instead
he disappeared. His disappearance was noted and subsequent to an
investigation four Masons were arrested, tried and convicted and sentenced to
jail terms ranging from one month to three years.
they were afraid that Morgan was going to continue with his Masonic exposure.
They came, so they said, to a financial agreement with Morgan, in that Morgan
consented to be abducted in exchange for $500. It was the sheriff, at his trial,
who confirmed that Morgan was going willingly and he actually accompanied them
to Fort Niagara.
writes were issued against those who drove him to the border and those who held
him in Fort Niagara – all
it seems that the whole Batavia Lodge was indicted but, nothing being proven
against the majority, these were
squashed. The Grand Royal Arch Chapter [comprising 110 chapters] disclaimed all
knowledge and approbation of the affair, in which they were followed by most of
the Lodges in the state.
trial of the abduction made headline news, especially for Miller’s paper, and
it was not long before rumours started that the Masons had murdered Morgan by
drowning him at the Falls. There were supposed confessions but not one was
identical. However, with deliberate encouragement from the Anti-Masonry
movement and by word of mouth ,
Morgan’s demise became a fact, more so when, on 7th October 1827, a body was
found on the shore of lake Ontario,
Oak Orchard Harbour, some 30 miles from the Niagara River. Immediately all the
newspapers claimed it was Morgan. There was an inquest [accidental death being
recorded by the Coroner]; the body
was buried, name unknown, but a week later , after the facts of the inquest
being published, the body was disinterred and another inquest arranged, at which
a new person appeared , named Thurlow
Weed, a newspaper man with the Albany Register, looking for publicity. [More
inquest and jury of 23 souls concluded, after denying the primary witnesses, and
the fact that the description of the facial features had been somewhat altered,
that indeed it was Morgan. Even Mrs. Morgan denied it being her husband , [ the
clothing was not that of her husband] and the body was moved to Batavia and
interred as Morgan – ‘the ghost
of Morgan was said to walk’.
note is the fact that, another lady, a Mrs. Monro of Clark, Upper Canada, who,
claimed the body was her husband, Timothy, eventually received the remains for
burial, after satisfactory proof and identification
had been established. But the feelings of anti-Masonry were so rife that people
refused to accept this as it would detract from their aims to destroy
Freemasonry. It was said “that he was a good enough Morgan, until after the
this very day there has never ever been any proof brought forward that Morgan
was murdered despite multiple inquiries.
people started to complain that the original sentences had been too light
because of undue Masonic influence within the Courts but the law at the time was
that abduction of a white man could only be punished by imprisonment;
also there was no body to cite proof of homicide.
aforementioned Weed, seeking publicity out of his desire to wield political
influence, proceeded to drive this Anti-Masonic feeling to a fury and succeeded.
When the Anti-Masonic movement erupted in Le-Roy,
New York Weed became further politically active in its cause. He also
shrewdly sought to align Anti-Masonic politics with the National Republican
organization supporting John Quincy Adams in 1828. In this he succeeded.
declaration of independence from the Masonic code was adopted involving 18
charges against Freemasonry. The declaration stated specifically that the
candidates for governor and Lt.-Governor be anti-Masonic. One of the main
signatories to this charter, apart from Weed, was a Rev.David Bernard. This
‘gentleman’ was a Pastor of the Baptist Church in Warsaw, New York who, on
the announcement of Morgan’s disappearance, renounced Freemasonry and spent
the next 20 years vilifying and organizing all the anti-Masonic conventions. It
was he who insisted that Masonic clergymen resign or be dismissed from their
spread more or less extensively into all the states. It denounced first the
system, and then the men, as unfit for any office, and unworthy of any
countenance. It not only denounced the men, but denounced those who would not
denounce them! Anti-Masonic committees were established. Masonic meetings were
disrupted. Weeds support of anti-Masonry made him an influential staunch
supporter of Abraham Lincoln .He became an advisor to the new president on
political appointments as well as serving as an unofficial envoy, during the
Civil War, to Britain and France.
and others claimed that there had been a cover up. At that time Masons were
considered by many to be above the
law, a secret cabal. Jealousy .coupled with greed by those not able to gain
membership, together with those denied membership, were factors which fueled
Anti-Masonry. Society abounded with politicians seeking popularity, like Weed.
There was the clergy who saw souls to be saved [see above] and finally the press
– news created equals money, as we well know to our cost today. Nothing
of illegal and immoral activities were rife; Masons were accused of subverting
political and religious institutions. Women and the church joined in against
Freemasonry but for the movement to progress they had to become a political
animal and in this they eventually
1840 an Anti –Masonic President was elected, supported by Thurlow Weed who had
failed in a previous election . William
H. Harrison was set to enact the Whig programme but he died 31 days later, in
office, from pneumonia.
1860 Weed failed to secure the presidential Republican nomination for his friend
William Seward, a veteran and
active Anti-Mason politician of the 1830s, and as a result Weed then lost his
Anti-Masonic political party had now lost all its potential, but I must note
here that its decline really started in 1932 after the Presidential election in
which Anti-Masonic candidates took a beating; only Thurlow Weeds presence gave
it a semblance of respectability.
Masons, who were prominent politicians, made anti-Masonic statements to curry
favour. These included President Quincy Adams, Thaddeus Stevens and Daniel
Webster who may be better known to our American Brethren. To quote the
former,” Masonry should be abolished; it is wrong- as seed of evil, which can
never produce any good. This order is a foul blot on the community.”
anti-Masonic press printed the following, “Freemasonry is the step that leads
down to hell, the path of perdition,
conclaves of corruption, protection of fraud and villainy and the academy of
all the above, it is of interest that Andrew Jackson, a former Grand Master of
Tennessee, was twice elected President, in 1828 and 1832 before the anti-Masonic
Party eventually merged into the new Whig Party, the fore-runner of the
Republican Party. However, 4 Anti-Masonic State Senators and 17 Assembly men
were elected during the 1830-45 period.
much damage was done. The number of Masons dropped from 100,000 to 40,000 in 10
alone, went from 20,000 to just 3,000, down from 480 lodges to 82. Some Grand
Lodges ceased to meet- indeed the
Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania had to surrender its charter in 1834 having conveyed
its property to trustees. It was
1859 before it was reincorporated.
Masons were identifiable – the well dressed leaders of community and business.
Masonic clergy were dismissed from
their churches. Lodges were burnt. Public Masonic ceremonies ceased. The Craft
was discredited as an intellectual society – no longer did someone try to join
in order to be socially conscious.
the Anti-Masonic Party led to other challenges – Prohibition, Women’s
Suffrage etc – in that they felt the ends justified the means. It was only
after the Civil War that Freemasonry began to stage a significant comeback.