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By The Rev. CHARLES G. FINNEY
SCRAP OF HISTORY
IN number I must remind readers of some facts that occurred about forty years ago; which, as matters of history, though then well-known to thousands, are probably now unknown to the great majority of our citizens. Elderly men and women, especially in the Northern States, will almost universally remember the murder of William Morgan by Freemasons, and many facts connected with that terrible tragedy. But, as much pains have been taken by Freemasons to rid the world of the books and pamphlets, and every vestige of writing relating to that subject, by far the larger number of young people seem to be entirely ignorant that such facts ever occurred. I will state them as briefly as possible.
About forty year ago, an estimable man by the name of William Morgan, then residing in Batavia, N.Y., being a Freemason, after much reflection, made up his mind that it was his duty to publish Freemasonry to the world. He regarded it as highly injurious to the cause of Christ, and as eminently dangerous to the government of our country, and I suppose was aware, as Masons generally were at that time, that nearly all the civil offices in the country were in the hands of Freemasons; and that the press was completely under their control, and almost altogether in their hands. Masons at that time boasted that all the civil offices in the country were in their hands. I believe that all the civil offices in the county where I resided while I belonged to them, were in their hands. I do not recollect a magistrate, or a constable, or sheriff in that county that was not at that time a Freemason.
A publisher by the name of Miller, also residing in Batavia, agreed to publish what Mr. Morgan would write. This, coming to be known to Freemasons, led them to conspire for his destruction. This, as we shall see, was only in accordance with their oaths. By their oaths they were bound to seek his destruction, and to execute upon him the penalty of those oaths.
They kidnapped Morgan and for a time concealed him in the magazine of the United States Fort--Fort Niagara, at the mouth of Niagara River, where it empties into Lake Ontario. They kept him there until they could arrange to dispatch him. In the meantime, the greatest efforts were made to discover his whereabouts, and what the Masons had done with him. Strong suspicions came finally to be entertained that he was confined in that fort; and the Masons, finding that those suspicions were abroad, hastened his death. Two or three have since, upon their death-bed, confessed their part in the transaction. They drowned him in the Niagara River. The account of the manner in which this was will be found in a book published by EIder Stearns, a Baptist elder. The book is entitled "Stearns on Masonry." It contains the deathbed confession of one of the murderers of William Morgan. On page 311, of that work, you will find that confession. But as many of my readers have not access to that work, I take the liberty to quote it entire, as follows:
"THE MURDER OF WILLIAM MORGAN, CONFESSED BY THE MAN WHO, WITH HIS OWN HANDS, PUSHED HIM OUT OF THE BOAT INTO NIAGARA RIVER!
"The following account of that tragical scene is taken from a pamphlet entitled, 'Confession of the murder of William Morgan, as taken down by Dr. John L. Emery, of Racine County, Wisconsin, in the summer of 1848, and now (1849) first given to the public:'
"This 'Confession' was taken down as related by Henry L. Valance, who acknowledges himself to have been one of the three who were selected to make a final disposition of the ill-fated victim of masonic vengeance. This confession it seems was made to his physicians, and in view of his approaching dissolution, and published after his decease.
"After committing that horrid deed he was as might well be expected, an unhappy man, by day and by night. He was much like Cain--'a fugitive and a vagabond.' To use his own words, 'Go where I would, or do what I would, it was impossible for me to throw off the consciousness of crime. If the mark of Cain was not upon me, the curse of the first murderer was--the blood-stain was upon my hands and could not be washed out.
'He therefore commences his confession thus:--'My last hour is approaching; and as the things of this world fade from my mental sight, I feel the necessity of making, as far as in my power lies, that atonement which every violator of the great law of right owes to his fellow men' In this violation of law, he says, 'I allude to the abduction and murder of the ill-fated William Morgan.'
"He proceeds with an interesting narrative of the proceedings of the fraternity in reference to Morgan, while he was incarcerated in the magazine of Fort Niagara. I have room for a few extracts only, showing the final disposition of their alleged criminal. Many consultations were held, 'many plans proposed and discussed, and rejected.' At length being driven to the necessity of doing something immediately for fear of being exposed, it was resolved in a council of eight, that he must die: must be consigned to a 'confinement from which there is no possibility of escape--THE GRAVE.' Three of their number were to be selected by ballot to execute the deed. 'Eight pieces of paper were procured, five of which were to remain blank, while the letter D was written on the others. These pieces of paper were placed in a large box, from which each man was to draw one at the same moment. After drawing we were all to separate, without looking at the paper that each held in his hand. So soon as we had arrived at certain distances from the place of rendezvous, the tickets were to be examined, and those who held blanks. were to return instantly to their homes; and those who should hold marked tickets were to proceed to the fort at midnight, and there put Morgan to death, in such a manner as should seem to themselves most fitting.' Mr. Yalance was one of the three who drew the ballots on which was the signal letter. He returned to the fort, where he was joined by his two companions, who had drawn the death tickets. Arrangements were made immediately for executing the sentence passed upon their prisoner, which was to sink him in the river with weights; in hope, says Mr. Valance, 'that he and our crime alike would thus be buried beneath the waves.' His part was to proceed to the magazine where Morgan was confined, and announce to him his fate--theirs was to procure a boat and weights with which to sink him. Morgan, on being informed of their proceedings against him, demanded by what authority they had condemned him, and who were his judges. 'He commenced wringing his hands, and talking of his wife and children, the recollections of whom, in that awful hour, terribly affected him. His wife, he said, was young and inexperienced, and his children were but infants; what would become of them were he cut off; and they even ignorant of his fate?' What husband and father would not be 'terribly affected' under such circumstances--to be cut off from among the living in this inhuman manner?
"Mr. V.'s comrades returned. and informed him that they had procured the boat and weights, and that all things were in readiness on their part. Morgan was told that all his remonstrances were idle, that die he must, and that soon, even before the morning light. The feelings of the husband and father were still strong within him, and he continued to plead on behalf of his family. They gave him one half hour to prepare for his 'inevitable fate.' They retired from the magazine and left him. "How Morgan passed that time,' says Mr. Valance, 'I cannot tell, but everything was quiet as the tomb within.' At the expiration of the allotted time, they entered the magazine, laid hold of their victim, 'bound his hands behind him, and placed a gag in his mouth.' They then led him forth to execution. 'A short time,' says this murderer, 'brought us to the boat, and we all entered it--Morgan being placed in the bow with myself, along side of him. My comrades took the oars, and the boat was rapidly forced out into the river. The night was pitch dark, we could scarcely see a yard before us and therefore was the time admirably adapted to our hellish purpose.' Having reached a proper distance from the shore, the oarsmen ceased their labors. The weights were all secured together by a strong cord, and another cord of equal strength, and of several yards in length, proceeded from that. 'This cord,' says Mr. V., 'I took in my hand [did not that hand tremble ?] and fastened it around the body of Morgan, just above his hips, using all my skill to make it fast, so that it would hold. Then, in a whisper, I bade the unhappy man to stand up, and after a momentary hesitation he complied with my order. He stood close to the head of the boat, and there was just length enough of rope from his person to the weights to prevent any strain, while he was standing. I then requested one of my associates to assist me in lifting the weights from the bottom to the side of the boat, while the others steadied her from the stern. This was done, and, as Morgan was standing with his back toward me, I approached him, and gave him a strong push with both my hands, which were placed on the middle of his back. He fell forward, carrying the weights with him, and the waters closed over the mass. We remained quiet for two or three minutes, when my companions, without saying a word, resumed their places, and rowed the boat to the place from which they had taken it.'"
They also kidnapped Mr. Miller, the publisher; but the citizens of Batavia, finding it out, pursued the kidnappers, and finally rescued him.
The courts of justice found themselves entirely unable to make any headway against the wide-spread conspiracy that was formed among Masons in respect to this matter.
These are matters of record. It was found that they could do nothing with the courts, with the sheriffs, with the witnesses, or with the jurors; and all their efforts were for a time entirely impotent Indeed, they never were able to prove the murder of Morgan, and bring it home to the individuals who perpetrated it.
But Mr. Morgan had published Freemasonry to the world. The greatest pains were taken by Masons to cover up the transaction, and as far as possible to deceive the public in regard to the fact that Mr. Morgan had published Masonry as it really is.
Masons themselves, as is affirmed by the very best authority, published two spurious editions of Morgan's book, and circulated them as the true edition which Morgan had published. These editions were designed to deceive Masons who had never seen Morgan's edition, and thus to enable them to say that it was not a true revelation of Masonry.
In consequence of the publication of Morgan's book, and the revelations that were made in regard to the kidnapping and murdering of Mr. Morgan, great numbers of Masons were led to consider the subject more fully than they had done; and the conscientious among them almost universally renounced Masonry altogether. I believe that about two thousand lodges, as a consequence of these revelations, were suspended.
The ex-president of a Western college, who is himself a Freemason, has recently published some very important information on the subject though he justifies Masonry. He says that, out of a little more than fifty thousand Masons in the United States at that time, forty-five thousand turned their backs upon the lodge to enter the lodge no more. Conventions were called of Masons that were disposed to renounce it. One was held at Leroy, another at Philadelphia, and others at other places, I do not now remember where. The men composing these conventions made public confession of their relation to the institution, and publicly renounced it. At one of these large conventions they appointed a committee to superintend the publication of Masonry in all its degrees. This committee was composed of men of first-rate character, and men quite generally known to the public. Elder Bernard, a Baptist elder in good standing, was one of this committee; and he, with the assistance of his brethren who had been appointed to this work, obtained an accurate version of some forty eight degrees. He published also the proceedings of those conventions, and much concerning the efforts that were made by the courts to search the matter to the bottom, and also several speeches that were made by prominent men in the State of New York. This work was entitled "Light on Masonry." In this work any person who is disposed may get a very correct view of what Freemasonry really is. This and sundry other reliable works on Freemasonry may be had at Godrich's, and Fitch & Fairchild's bookstores, in Oberlin. In saying this, it is proper to add that I have no direct or indirect pecuniary interest in the sale of those or of any book on Freemasonry whatever, nor shall I have in the sale of this which I am now preparing for the press. Freemasons shall not with truth accuse me of self-interest in exposing their institution.
Before the publication of "Bernard's Light on Masonry," great pains were taken to secure the most accurate knowledge of the degrees published by the committee, as the reader of that work will see, if he reads the book through. An account of all these matters will be found in "Light on Masonry," to which I have referred. In the Northern or non-slaveholding States Masonry was almost universally renounced at that time. But it was found that it had taken so deep a root that in all New England there was scarcely a newspaper in which the death of William Morgan, and the circumstances connected therewith, could be published. This was so generally true throughout all the North that newspapers had to be everywhere established for the purpose of making the disclosures that were necessary in regard to its true character and tendency. The same game is being played over again at the present day. The "Cynosure," the new anti-masonic paper published at Chicago, is constantly intercepted on its way to subscribers. Four of its first six numbers failed to reach me, and now in December, 1868, I have received no number later than the sixth. The editor informs me that the numbers are constantly intercepted. The public will be forced to learn what a lawless and hideous institution Freemasonry is. But at present I refrain from saying more on this point.
It was found that Masonry so completely baffled the courts of law, and obstructed the course of justice, that it was forced into politics; and for a time the anti-masonic sentiment of the Northern States carried all before it. Almost all Masons became ashamed of it, felt themselves disgraced by having any connection with it, and publicly renounced it. If they did not publish any renunciation, they suspended their lodges, had no more to do with it, and did not pretend to deny that Masonry had been published.
Now these facts were so notorious, so universally known and confessed, that those of us who were acquainted with them at the time had no idea that Masonry would have the impudence ever again to claim any public respect. I should just as soon expect slavery to be re-established in this country, and become more popular than ever before--to take possession of the Government and of all the civil offices, and to grow bold, impudent, and defiant--as I should have expected that Masonry would achieve what it has. When the subject of Freemasonry was first forced upon our churches in Oberlin, for discussion and action, I can not express the astonishment, grief and indignation that I felt on hearing professed Christian Freemasons deny either expressly or by irresistible implication that Morgan and others had truly revealed the secrets of Freemasonry. But a few years ago such denial would have ruined the character of any intelligent man, not to say of a professed Christian.
But I must say, also, that Masonry itself has its literature. Many bombastic and spread-eagle books have been published in its favor. They never attempt to justify it as it is revealed in "Light on Masonry," nor reply by argument to the attacks that have been so successfully made upon it; neither have they pretended to reveal its secret. But they have eulogized it in a manner that is utterly nauseating to those that understand what it really is. But these books have been circulated among the young, and have no doubt led thousands and scores of thousands of young men into the Masonic ranks, who, but for these miserable productions, would never have thought of taking such a step.