On the morning of September 12th, 1826, a stoneworker named William Morgan went missing from a local jail in Batavia, New York. Morgan was not a prominent man. In fact, he was known to be a drifter and a bit of a drunk. Furthermore, according to Andrew Burt, the author of American Hysteria: The Untold Story of Mass Political Extremism in the United States, Morgan “had moved his family relentlessly throughout the countryside, hauling his wife, Lucinda, and two young children from one failed venture to the next.”
However, Morgan was more than just the wanderer he appeared to be. He was able to infiltrate the infamous secret society of the Freemasons and even threatened to write a book exposing them. As expected, the local Masons started harassing Morgan so that he wouldn’t publish their secrets in his exposé.
Morgan was locked up on some old charges before a group of Masons bailed him out and carried him away… never to be seen again. The conspiracy surrounding his mysterious disappearance sparked local anti-Mason sentiment, which turned into a nationwide anti-Mason movement, hitting one of the most influential secret societies like a ton of bricks and changed American politics forever.
When we think of the Freemasons, many people associate the group with the Illuminati or powerful political figures who control the world. People are fascinated by this secret society because of all the mystery surrounding it. This is the story of what happened to a man who threatened to reveal their secrets.
The First Masonic Lodge
Before the freemasons became a turning point for politics in the early 19th century, the society was a simple stoneworker’s organization, thought to be created in England and Scotland back in the 1500s. The order soon took on a more philosophical approach and used their stonemasonry principles as a guiding tool to secretly help its members when it comes to business and society.
It was in the early 18th century that the first Masonic Lodges started popping up in the colonies and quickly acquired influence and power. Ultimately, the members of the society played an essential role in the development of the United States. Out of 39 signatures in the US Constitution, 13 of them belonged to Masons. By the 1820s, when Morgan disappeared, the society had representatives at every economic, social, and political hierarchy in the country, especially in New York.
Trying to Expose the Freemasonry
Morgan was friends with a local newspaper publisher, David C. Miller, who was struggling to keep his publication business afloat. The Freemasons were a group that represented wealth and power, which seemed unattainable to them. Therefore, they decided to try to find out the secrets behind the infamous organization’s success.
In his 1874 book History of the Abduction of William Morgan and the Anti Masonic Excitement of 1826-30, A.P. Bentley wrote that Morgan and Miller “entered into a partnership to print a book which the public was to be told disclosed the secrets of masonry, in hopes to make a fortune out of the gaping curiosity of the vulgar.”
A Freemason Fraud
By pretending to be a Freemason, Morgan managed to receive access to the local lodge. Once he got in, Morgan documented many of the group’s cryptic ceremonies and induction rituals. After he wrote down their secretive details, Miller started teasing their public release. In August 1826, Miller spoke about the upcoming exposé, claiming he had discovered the “strongest evidence of rottenness” in the secret society.
Let’s just say members of the institution were not happy about Miller and Morgan’s threat to disclose the well-kept secrets of their secret society. All the Mason chapters around the area panicked and were outraged about what these two men might reveal.
The Freemasons Arrested Morgan and Miller
Expecting the worst, actual committees were organized to evaluate the potential backlash from Morgan and Miller’s alleged story. As the publication date got closer, the Masons started a harassment campaign against the two men. They tried to scare these guys out of writing their book.
Police officers that were affiliated with the Freemasons arrested Miller and Morgan before throwing them in jail for outstanding debts. It didn’t take long for them to target Miller’s office. A group of drunk Masons tried to destroy his print shop on September 8th, 1826, and two days later, it was mysteriously damaged by a small fire. This shows how much power the secret society really had.
September 11th, 1826
By September 11th, a squad of Masons knocked on Morgan’s door with an arrest warrant for petty larceny. Apparently, the owner at the local tavern lent Morgan a shirt and a tie, which he never returned. Shortly after he got to the police station, the charges were dropped. However, he was rearrested on the spot for another insignificant debt of $2.65.
Later that night, a group of Masons bailed him out. These Freemason members were led by Loton Lawson. Kidnapping Morgan was apparently his idea. He was quickly put in a carriage and got taken away. Never to be seen again… Allegedly, the last word anyone heard him say was “murder.”
The Kidnappers’ Punishment
It didn’t take long for the news of Morgan’s disappearance to spread through New York. As the story reached different counties, the brutality and drama of the apparent kidnapping grew significantly. No one cared about portraying what happened accurately. Nevertheless, these powerful Masons turned into a symbol of everything that was wrong with America.
In January 1827, the men accused of Morgan’s kidnapping were put on trial and received a relatively light sentence. (Despite being involved in a potential murder). Loton Lawson, Eli Bruce, Col. Edward Sawyer and Nicholas G. Chesebro, were found guilty for “forcibly moving Morgan from one place to another against his will,” according to Andrew Burt. Each one served jail time, ranging from one month to two years. To those who opposed them, it appeared as though these powerful Masons had just gotten away with murder.
Everyone Loves a Good Conspiracy Theory
It was obvious that the Masons had something to do with Morgan’s disappearance, and everybody was talking about it. Burt explained how “everybody loved a good conspiracy story, and that was the initial spark – headlines, outrage, crimes, a murder. It didn’t take long before a movement was born.”
The extreme outrage and violence led to calls for political action. Citizens all over New York met up and decided to stop voting for candidates with any ties to the Freemasons. If the state didn’t want to be controlled by the Masons, all they really had to do was vote them out. The media got on board, and newspapers owned by the Masons were boycotted.
The Ani-Masonic Movement
The commitment in New York eventually made its way around the nation. Anti-Masonic candidates were winning offices all over the country by the time the next elections came around in 1828. Even John Quincy Adams, the president at the time, declared that he never was and never will be a Mason. The Anti-Masonic party had gone national and was considered America’s first “third party.”
In 1830, the Anti-Masonic party held a presidential nominating convention, a tradition that all major American political parties eventually adopted. However, it ended up being the party’s first and last national convention. It turns out that mutual hatred for the Masons wasn’t enough to run a society.
They were arguing over who to nominate and needed to expand their platform to other issues – other than just hating the Masons. It led to the party’s demise. Burt explained the end of the movement: “Ultimately, there wasn’t enough substance to the movement to allow it to endure, and it simply collapsed under its own weight.”
But that’s not to say the movement was a total failure. Due to the matter concerning Morgan and the Anti-Masonic trend that followed, memberships declined, and Mason power all over the country dwindled. Obviously, the secret society still exists, but it’s a mere shadow of what it used to be.
An Attack on the Anti-Masonic Party
Shortly after their September national convention, an attack on the Anti-Masonic party began. It symbolically contradicted the Freemasons, who were aligned with peace, equal rights, and other positive qualities. The Anti-masonic party, on the other hand, was aligned with “darkness.”
The Anti-Masonic party blossomed after Morgan vanished, and people were fuming with anger towards the secret society. Folks all over the country were getting sick and tired of the power and control that the members of the institution seemed to have. Unfortunately, you can’t make policies based on mutual animosity, and the party was unsuccessful in expanding its platform to bigger social matters.
The Book Release
After Morgan disappeared, Miller published the long-awaited book Illustrations of Freemasonry with a cutting introduction that read: “In the absence of the author… who was kidnapped and carried away from the village of Batavia, on the 11th day of September 1826, by a number of Freemasons.” But that wasn’t all.
In the book, Miller stated: “When we now see the gaudy show in a lodge-room and a train of nominal officers with their distinction and badges, it may give us some faint idea of scenes that are past and may gratify an idle curiosity, but produces no substantial good under the heaven.”
Vow of Loyalty
If you were to compare the book to a political tell-all you might come across today, it seems pretty tame. For example, Morgan gave a word-for-word account of what went on at the dull lodge ceremony. However, it also included some juicy information for early 19th century readers.
Morgan revealed that all potential members were required to sign and declare an oath of loyalty to the Masons, and vow to never disclose any of the society’s darkest secrets. If they break the promise, the punishment is torture and death. No wonder the truth about the society is one of the best-kept secrets in history.
Morgan claimed that he observed the Senior Deacon of the Lodge poking the bare chest of a newly appointed member with a compass before warning him: “As this is a torture to your flesh, so may it ever be to your mind and conscience if ever you should attempt to reveal the secrets of Masonry unlawfully.”
The outrage over Morgan’s disappearance, combined with people’s morbid curiosity about the Freemasons, made the book an immediate bestseller. Unfortunately, Morgan wasn’t around to enjoy any of its success. Different theories are claiming that Morgan fled to Canada under a new identity, or that he was killed as a pirate in the Cayman Islands. The truth about what exactly happened to William Morgan remains a mystery.
Conspiracies and Controversies
There are many conspiracies surrounding the JFK assassination, but did you know that the Freemasons have been blamed for the former president’s assassination? To be fair, the Masons have also been accused of controlling a “New World Order” that is supposedly currently in power.
Many anti-Semitics use Freemasonry as a scapegoat to their prejudiced views. A lot of it comes from a hoax that argues that Jews + Masons = world domination. The Catholic Church went as far as to call the organization “the Kingdom of Satan.” Reportedly, the current Pope Benedict XVI denies Holy Communion to Catholics involved in masonry.
Loyalty is Key
Most of the time, when you think about the Freemasons, frat boys at prestigious colleges come to mind. That’s because they truly are a brotherhood. They literally call each other “Brother” and can’t stress enough how important loyalty is to them. If you aren’t one to keep secrets, maybe this exclusive society isn’t for you.
Their strong union and brotherhood is literally the most important thing in masonry. The group’s tight-knit bond keeps the centuries-old organization as successful as it is. They continue to emphasize the importance of their close connection. It makes perfect sense; at the end of the day, they are a fraternity.
They Don’t Discriminate… Unless you’re an Atheist
Many people believe that the Freemasons are some kind of cult, brainwashing their members to believe in one specific faith. However, members are allowed to believe whatever they choose… for the most part. It is important to note that they are not a religion. The masonry doesn’t discriminate against religion, political beliefs, race, sexuality, or anything like that.
With all that said, the masonry doesn’t accept agnostics or atheists. Only God-fearing members are allowed. It doesn’t matter if you are Catholic, Jewish, Christian, or don’t identify with any religion; as long as you believe in God, you are entitled to your own opinions on all other topics.
They Are Not a Secret Society
Contrary to popular belief, the Freemasons don’t consider themselves a secret society. The United Grand Lodge of England, the oldest and most respected Lodge in the world, denies being a secret society. Although there is a lot of mystery surrounding them, they must not be as secretive as we thought.
The most secretive thing about being a Freemason is his “traditional methods of proving he is a Freemason when visiting a lodge where he is no known.” It seems like William Morgan figured that one out. They claim that what goes on in their meetings is not a secret, but non-members aren’t allowed entry.
Debunking the Myth
If you look at the back of the dollar bill, you’ll notice an uncompleted pyramid with an eye on top of it. A huge conspiracy theory is that it’s a Masonic symbol that has been subliminally planted in our brain for years. Well, that isn’t necessarily the case. These symbols have been used by various groups throughout history, including the Freemasons.
In his book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Freemasonry, Brent Morris said: “The eye is God; a common icon looking over the affairs of man. It’s an icon that appears in cultures across the centuries. The uncompleted pyramid [which also appeared on a 50-pound Colonial note] represented that our country was not yet completed, that we were continuing to grow.”
If you’re interested in other historic secrets in America, this is what really goes on in Area 51.