The Robert A. Woods Masonic Collection
(Gift of Robert A. Woods, 1944)
William Morgan: Morgan's Freemasonry Exposed and Explained (1882), Henry L. Valance: Confession of the Murder of William Morgan (1869), and Thurlow Weed: The Facts Stated: Hon. Thurlow Weed on the Morgan Abduction (1882)
The case of William Morgan (1774-1826?) is an interesting example of the often fierce socio-political struggle between Masonic and anti-Masonic groups during the nineteenth century in America.
Morgan was an ex-Mason living in Batavia, New York who wrote a short pamphlet in 1826 entitled Morgan's Freemasonry Exposed and Explained in which he endeavored to provide a "clear and correct view of the manner of conferring the different degrees, as practiced in all lodges throughout the globe; together with the means to be used by such as are not Masons to gain admission therein."
This pamphlet was seen by many Freemasons as a threat to the secret activities of their organization and was the start of a controversy lasting decades. Shortly after the publication of the pamphlet, Morgan's body was reportedly discovered in a local river; this added to the growing anti-Masonic sentiment when a group of Freemasons were accused of Morgan's abduction and murder. The case was never satisfactorily settled, but more than twenty years later, in 1848, Henry L. Valance gave a deathbed confession of his involvement in the alleged crime.
In 1882, thirty-four years after Valance's confession and fifty-six years after the original incident, anti-Masonic activists were still using the Morgan case for political gain. The National Christian Association, a well-known anti-Masonic group, honored Morgan by erecting a statue of him in Batavia and invited Thurlow Weed, a retired politician and newspaper-owner, to write an article about Morgan. Weed responded with The Facts Stated, which he described as an attempt to "...vindicate the violated laws of my country, and next, to arrest the great power and dangerous influences of 'secret societies.'"
Updated: 27 April 2004, RKB
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