« PreviousContinue »
speaking in the name of his brethren, on a public anniversary, (and whose boastings, not altogether idle, perhaps, have been extensively circulated in masonic newspapers and publications,) that " masonry has the power of cooperating in the desk, in the legislative hall, on the bench, in every gathering of men of business, in every party of pleasure, in every enterprise of government, in every domestic circle, in peace and in war, among its enemies and friends, and in one place as well as another.” This idea of masonic influence, it will be seen, accords with
confidence," to which an able and faithful officer of the government ascribes the untimely fate of the unhappy Morgan.
In directing their inquiries towards that part of the subject which has relation to the legislation that may be necessary in reference to this subject, your committee have deemed two things important: first, to provide for the detection and punishment of those who committed the outrage, and then to guard against similar offences. Taking into consideration the circumstances of the case, your committee are persuaded that the act of April 15th, 1828, should be continued in force. The reasons given by Mr. Whiting for the adoption of such a course are, with them, conclusive.
In order that the subject may be fully investigated, it may be necessary to make some provision for those witnesses who are required to attend the courts in distant counties. The frequent delays that have occurred, in the legal proceedings that have been had, have rendered it extremely burdensome on those witnesses who have been called to a considerable distance from their homes. Moseley recommends that provision should be made for their relief, and your committee, believing that it would promote the ends of justice, by preventing the difficulty of procuring testimony, have incorporated a provision to that effect, into a bill which they ask leave to introduce, to continue in force the act entitled " An act to provide for the employment of counsel for the purposes therein mentioned."
They also ask leave to introduce a bill to prevent the administration of extra judicial oaths.
The subject referred to your committee, being one of
first impression and of vast importance, they do not feel fully prepared, at present, to say what legislation may be necessary, in relation to its full developement, and the furtherance of justice. They do not, therefore, ask to be discharged from the further consideration of the subject, but wish to be indulged with further time for reflection, on the measures which should be devised for the more effectual investigation of the outrages committed on the person of Morgan, and to provide against the recurrence of events, so alarming in their character, so destructive of the peace of society, and the safety of its members.
A. HAZELTINE, Chairman.
On the Abduction of William Morgan.—Made to the Senate, ( New York,)
Feb. 14, 1829. The select committee, to whom was referred so much of the governor's message as relates to the abduction of William Morgan, and the proceedings under the law of the last session upon that subject, beg leave respectfully to report in part:
That they have attentively examined the message of the Executive, of March 18, 1828, and the law appointing a commissioner, which was thereupon enacted ; as also the recent message of the present governor referring to the same subject. They have also perused with especial care, the report of the commissioner, which is to be presumed a fair and correct statement of what has been transacted by him, during the laborious duties of the last ten months; they cannot nevertheless abstain from expressing their surprise at the meagre character of the commissioners' report, when they call to mind that the first duty specified in the law creating that office was “ to institute inquiries concerning William Morgan and his fate subsequently, and all the incidents connected therewith.” That the report, coming as it does from a man of reputation, and high official standing, should be
thus jejune and bare of incident, confirms an opinion long entertained by individuals composing the committee, that all those criminal transactions, whenever an attempt should be officially made to bring them to light, would from causes of a peculiar character, be shrouded in a veil of impenetrable darkness.
Your committee have come to the deliberate conclusion, that the evils intended to be remedied by the legislation of 1828, were not at that period fully understood ; that their character was misconceived, and their importance underrated. That legislation seems to have been based upon the supposition, that the administration of justice was feebly dispensed, in the western section of the State, and that the deputation of a special counsellor or attorney, to give it tone and energy, was alone sufficient to remedy the evils complained of by the people. However much the appointment of such a commissioner might in different ways expedite and facilitate the trials growing out of the fate of Morgan, still such commissioner has been, and will hereafter be powerless, in bringing to merited justice the guilty individuals, who have been chiefly concerned in the transactions, that have so much disturbed and afflicted the community. In the judgment of the committee, the past evils cannot now be reached by any legislation within the range of our constitutional powers, and it is their opinion that remedial enactments having regard to the recurrence of similar evils, ought chiefly at this time to attract the attention of the Senate.
To entitle this opinion to its just weight, some of the reasons which have led to its adoption will be briefly stated.
At no period since the revolution, has the public mind been so severely agitated as by the abduction and subsequent unhappy fate of William Morgan. The great moral shock has been felt with few exceptions, by people of every age, sex and condition. The high-handed violation of law, the great number concerned, the cheerless and desolate condition of his bereaved wife and children, the uncertainty that for a while attended the whole affair, were all calculated to arouse the public mind to an unexampled state of sympathy, indignation and abhorrence. But these passions, although intense at that period, are
in their nature evanescent, and before this time, would have spent their force, had not the attempt to bring the offenders to the bar of justice, produced a developement of facts, circumstances and principles as lasting in their effects as the love of liberty in man.
The committee think it proper to observe that a just regard for the wishes and feelings of their constituents, and the other requirements which grow out of the occasion, will compel them to lay aside all that delicacy in treating this subject, which is incompatible with a just and manly discharge of their duty-and reluctant as they are to give just cause of offence to any man, they feel themselves compelled to designate classes of men by the names they have seen fit to adopt, and to animadvert freely upon their conduct, when such animadversion comes within the legitimate scope of their duties.
The people of this State are distinguished by their attachment to a pure administration of justice as connected with the trial by jury-by their love of self-government, and by their aversion to every thing which directly or indirectly tends to thwart the operation of the democratic principles, which are the basis of our political compact. They are distinguished by their jealousy of powerful and talented men, and especially of the combinations of such men for
purposes either unknown, or known to affect improperly, the even and healthful current of our political affairs. They have learned that concentration of feeling, of interest and of effort, are to the moral and political, what the lever and the screw are, to the mechanical powers, and they dread their operation.
The order of the Jesuits, whose discipline secured unity of design and secrecy in action-which used the solemn sanctions of the most high God, to subserve purposes the most selfish and profane, presented to the 16th century a moral power greater than the world had ever known. It penetrated with the silence and certainty of fate, the secrets of every Court in Europe, and subjugated, without the force of arms, one half the continent of America to the dominion of the Pope. This order has been crushed, but within the last 120 years another has arisen- the society of free and accepted masons.
This institution, professing to be of ancient and even
of divine origin, adopting sanctions similar to those of the order of the Jesuits, and commanding a secrecy still more profound, have recently made demonstrations of a power, astonishing in its effects upon the social and political compact, and of a character such as the friends of free institutions cannot fail to deplore.
The powers manifested by the masonic institution which may have been exercised in its unlawful restraints of human liberty, or pretended jurisdiction over human life, are not now so much the occasion of alarm, as its fearful moral influence, exerted upon the public press, and its facility in controling results in the tribunals of justice. The public feeling at the West, which has borne the ridicule and sarcasm of those interested in quelling it, is not, as they would have it believed, the mere animal sensation indicated by brutes, whose bellowing marks the spot where some victim has been slaughtered ;-but is the result of sober, calculating reflection, looking to causes and their consequences ; to existing evils and the remedies to be applied ; to posterity, and not the present generation alone. The life of one man, or even a thousand, in a republic consisting of 12,000,000 of inhabitants, politically considered, is of but little moment. But that the streams of justice should flow pure and uncontaminated, is matter of infinite concern not only to the people of the West, but to the whole State; not only to the State, but the Union.
But they have lost the confidence they formerly reposed, in the tribunals of justice. They believe that masonry exerts its influence, in civil, as well as criminal cases ; in arbitrations, references, and in trials by jury, before justices of the peace, as well as in the higher courts. Formerly from one half to two thirds of their justices belonged to the fraternity of masons-now not one in twenty are initiated ; and this change has been chiefly produced by their entire conviction of the fact that masonry pervades and influences the courts of justice.
During what have been called the Morgan trials, and other civil cases which owe their origin to his abduction and subsequent fate, the people have crowded the courts of justice to overflowing. They have watched the deportment of masonic witnesses upon the stand; some of