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GUEST,josepp BS: A concise history of Freemasonry (18) RE: BS: A concise history of Freemasonry 04 Jul 12

The Murder of Capt. Wm. Morgan

I am fortunate these days to have the movie The Gangs of New York to back me in my narrative of this incident. The Morgan incident is by far the blackest mark upon Freemasonry and the Mason-haters never hesitate to seize on it when attempting to demonstrate how dangerous Freemasonry is to our great democracy. The truth is less dramatic, but let us recount the incident and then we'll examine it to see what there is to see.

William Morgan was a Freemason in the town of Batavia, New York in Genesee County in the fateful year of 1826. Born in the county of Culpepper in Virginia, Morgan moved briefly to Canada but took up residence in New York state, living in several cities and towns before finally settling in Batavia. He was called "Captain" because he stated that he had served as an army captain in the War of 1812, something which has yet to be verified and was doubted by many that knew him. He was a stonemason by trade.
Exactly how far back his relationship with Freemasonry went is not known. We only know that he was a lodge member in Batavia. There were apparently rumors that he drank too much and borrowed money too much thereby making Masonry look bad and this resulted in bitter quarrels between Morgan and his fellow Masons. Angered, Morgan left the Freemasons and shortly after announced that he was working on a book that would reveal all the Masonic secrets and rituals. He further stated that a local newspaper publisher named David C. Miller was interested in the exposé and had already paid Morgan a substantial advance for the rights to publish it.

The Masons boycotted Miller's newspaper and would not advertise in it. They also placed ads in other newspapers warning other Masons to beware of Morgan. They also decided to burn down Miller's newspaper office but Miller had received advance warning of the attack and remained on watch at the office and was able to put out the fires the Masons had set.

Other Masons stated that Morgan owed them money and, on a Friday, had him arrested and placed in jail until such time that his debt was paid off. Miller tried to locate the jailer in order to pay Morgan's debt but the jailer, a Mason, avoided Miller. Morgan remained in jail over the weekend.

The Masons then came clean with Morgan and told him they would let him out of jail if he would hand over the manuscript of his exposé. Morgan refused to do so, then again, he may not have been in possession of it. Miller probably put it away for safekeeping. The reason I think this is the case is because the Masons went to Morgan's house that night and, over his wife's angry protests, barged inside and ransacked the place in an effort to locate the manuscript. They failed. Miller finally paid off Morgan's alleged debt and he was released.

Next, the Masons stated that Morgan owed a debt in Canadaigua over a shirt he had stolen. He was again taken off to jail but this time in Canadaigua about 50 miles from Batavia. Miller too was arrested and jailed but was released after a few hours when he convinced his captors of the folly of their actions. Evidently, some of the Masons were getting cold feet about the whole thing.

Then a Mason named Lotan Lawson arrived at the Canadaigua jail on September 13th and announced to the jailer's wife that he was a friend of Morgan's and had come to pay off his debt and take custody of the man. Having no reason to doubt him, the jailer's wife accepted the payment and released Morgan who was reluctant to go anywhere with Lawson but, at the same time, had no wish to remain in jail. Morgan went outside with Lawson but declined to ride in his carriage. At this, two Masons—Nicholas Chesebro and Col. Edward Sawyer—came out of nowhere and laid a hold of Morgan. Lawson and the other two then dragged Morgan into the carriage as witnesses watched and heard Morgan screaming, "Murder!"

Investigation revealed that Masons had transported Morgan 105 miles via Rochester, Gaines, Ridgeway, Lockport, Lewiston, Youngstown very near the U.S.-Canadian border and finally to Fort Niagara. Along the way, Masons provided the kidnappers with fresh horses and food. In Youngstown, Sheriff Eli Bruce of Niagara County, himself a Mason, watched Morgan in the carriage while the other men went to eat. No food was given to Morgan. Witnesses heard Morgan ask Sheriff Bruce for water, which Bruce told him would be forthcoming but he did not keep his word.

When they arrived at Fort Niagara on 14 September. The fort had been recently vacated by the Defense Department of the U.S. Government since Canada was no particular threat to the nation. Morgan was placed in what had been the powder magazine and held there for several days. The government later wanted to know how the Masons had gotten access to the fort. The caretaker of the fort, they discovered, was a Freemason and the government had left all the keys to the place with him and he used them freely to assist his brother Masons in their crime.

Finally, four Masons took Morgan to the Niagara River. From there, they took him across by boat into Canada. They asked their Canadian brethren waiting for them on the other side to dispose of Morgan for them so that there would be no trace of him in America. The Canadians refused to get involved and told the Americans to leave. The kidnappers then took Morgan back the fort and put him back in the powder magazine. After this, no one claims to have seen him again. Apparently unable to think up a better solution, the Masons took Morgan back out on the river, tied weights to his body and dumped him in. The corpse was never recovered.

The investigation complete, 26 Masons were charged with Morgan's disappearance but 20 of them never went to trial. Three of the indicted were helped by their fellow Masons to flee to New Orleans and Europe. Of the six that went to trial, two were acquitted and four—Lawson, Chesebro, Sawyer and someone named John Sheldon—were convicted of kidnapping. All except Sheldon had pled guilty (to prevent any evidence of murder from being heard as that would require a separate trial). Kidnapping in New York State, amazingly enough, was only a misdemeanor. Lawson got two years, Chesebro got one year, Sawyer got three months and Sheldon got one month. Another investigation revealed that at least half the jurors were Freemasons. The deck had been stacked.

The governor of New York, DeWitt Clinton, a Freemason, was furious with these local rubes in Batavia acting on their own and murdering someone in the name of Masonry—as though the Masonic secrets and rituals were really worth a man's life. He had no sympathy for them. He offered substantial rewards for information about the incident. After the trials, Clinton fired Eli Bruce and had him charged for his part in the Morgan debacle. Bruce received two years. Governor Clinton also changed the penalty for kidnapping in New York State from a misdemeanor to a fourteen-year felony. But it was all too little too late.

An anti-Masonic backlash gripped the country and Morgan's book became a bestseller. This prompted many Masons to declare that Morgan had not been murdered but had vanished of his own free will as a publicity stunt to sell his book. Amazingly, there are Masons to this day who believe this. The public, however, wasn't having it.

Freemasonry started to become a liability. Where membership in the Craft was once a sign of prestige, it was now a mark of disgrace. Politicians who once relied on it to win offices were now desperate to dissociate themselves from it. So many Masons were voted out of office and so many anti-Masons voted in, that many ambitious non-Masons saw anti-Masonry as a viable ticket by which they might secure political office.

The Anti-Masonic Party was the first of America's third parties to form. It had split off mostly from the Whigs. They held a convention in Baltimore in 1831, America's first political convention, and nominated William Wirt for president. Another prominent anti-Mason was William H. Seward who had served in Lincoln's cabinet and had purchased Alaska (a transaction then known as "Seward's Folly"). Senator Charles Sumner was another well-known anti-Masonist. The newly formed party announced to the electorate a platform dedicated to the abolition of Freemasonry from American public life, the first time any political party had ever announced a platform. The Anti-Masonic Party captured about 8% of the vote, taking the state of Vermont. After 1835, however, they had ceased to be a political force when anti-Masonic sentiment died down and the party members eventually drifted quietly back into the Whigs in the latter part of the decade as issues as slavery became highly volatile. By that time, though, Freemasonry in America was very nearly dead and had completely died out in some states such as Vermont and Michigan.

Strangely, Morgan's widow married Joseph Smith, founder of Mormonism, becoming his first plural wife. When Smith was attacked by a mob in Nauvoo, Illinois and murdered in 1844, he supposedly yelled out Masonic distress signals ("Oh, Lord! My God! Was there no help for the widow's son?" or "Oh Lord! My God! I fear the Master's Word is forever lost!"). Smith's successor, Brigham Young, was definitely a Mason and can be seen in photographs wearing Masonic regalia and accoutrements.

As far as can be known, the Morgan murder was the first and only known murder committed by a Masonic conspiracy. How can we account for it? Really, the reason is not so hard to see. While Masonry seeks to compel its members to behave in a moral manner, this is not possible among those who have no morals. If a crack-dealer is made a Mason, he will continue to be a crack-dealer. If a serial killer is made a Mason, he will continue to be a serial killer. Earlier, I made mention of the movie, The Gangs of New York. The reason is quite simply that many New York residents were gangsters, former-gangsters or descendants of gangsters who were never taught that the gangster mentality is a bad one. They grew up being instilled with the gangster mentality and resorted to it whenever they felt such was appropriate even if they occupy important public positions. Boss Tweed and Tammany Hall come to mind. Murder is an integral part of that mentality. When someone declares himself your rival, then, like a true gangster, you get rid of him. Hence, Masons with the gangster mentality in New York State conspired to get rid of William Morgan once he had become a rival. And the gangsters did as we would expect them to do: kill the rival, buy off witnesses, hide defendants from the law, exploit legal loopholes, and tamper with the jury. The murder of William Morgan should by no means be held against Freemasonry itself, only against those who participated. If Freemasonry had the reputation of killing defectors in all the countries where the Craft is found, that would be one thing; but this is simply not the case. The murder of William Morgan was an unfortunate incident in the history of Freemasonry but the fault should be laid solely on those who decided themselves his judge, jury and executioners.

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