Morgan Affair


The Morgan Affair illustrated a period of American History where the influence of Freemasonry in government was greatly diminished.

Heretofore, it was not uncommon for many elected officials to also have been Freemasons.  Owing to the great number of Freemasons in government, it could be construed that it was almost necessary to be a Mason to succeed in politics.  This condition contributed to a growing anti-Masonic sentiment across the Nation.

The Morgan Incident was sufficient to ignite this already smoldering discontent.

An individual by the name of William Morgan, who alleged that he was a Freemason, petitioned to a local Royal Arch Chapter in Batavia, New York, to become a member.  Characterized as an undesirable, he was rejected.  He then conspired with David Miller, a publisher whose habits were in harmony with Morgan, to print the "secrets" of Freemasonry.  The scheme was originated for the purpose of revenge and mutual financial gain.

On September 11, 1826, William Morgan was arrested and jailed for a bad debt.  Attempts were made to arrest Miller as well, but he eluded officials.  On the evening of September 12th, he was released after the debt was paid.  From here the story becomes confused.   Upon leaving the jail, Morgan was abducted, never to be seen again.

Conventions were held in adjacent counties with the express purpose of increasing the resentment against the Fraternity.  On October 7, 1827, the body of a drowned man was found at Oak Orchard Harbor, about 40 miles from Niagara.

Because the body was so badly decayed, an inquest and burial followed very quickly.  The result of this inquest was that the body was of a stranger and not Morgan.  An anti-Masonic group had the body disinterred the following week and held a second inquest.  At this inquest, Morgan's wife admitted that she could see no resemblance, however, other individuals claimed that the body was Morgan.

In view of the varying testimony and pressure brought by anti-Masonic politicians, the body was ruled to be that of Morgan.  On October 26, a third inquest was held, which determined that the body was that of Timothy Munro of Canada and not of William Morgan.  This inquest was too late.  Morgan anti-Masonic sentiment spread across North America.

During this period, the Anti-Masonic political party was founded.  It was the first major third party to be formed in the U.S..  It held its first National Convention in Philadelphia in 1830 and its candidate would be William Wirt of Maryland.  In the 1832 Presidential election the Anti-Masonic Party was able to draw votes away from Henry Clay the Whig candidate, and win several seats in the U.S. Congress for New England States.  Andrew Jackson, a Freemason, won reelection with an overwhelming majority.

During the 1836 Presidential elections, The Anti-Masonic Party chose William Harrison as its candidate.  He came in second to Van Buren.  After this defeat, the Anti-Masonic Party was absorbed by the Whig Party, and in the 1840 election nominated Harrison who was able to win the Presidency.

Pre Morgan Affair Lodges:

Lodges in old Washington County as of 1813:

  • Washington #11 Ft. Edward (July 12, 1785)/Sept. 20, 1785

  • Lodge of Unity #517 Ft. William Henry (1787)

  • Aurora #25 Hampton (1793)

  • Montgomery Lodge #23 Stillwater (Oct. 22, 1791)

  • Livingston Lodge #28 Kingsbury (March 6, 1793)

  • Rural Lodge #32 Cambridge (Sept. 4, 1793)

  • North Star Lodge #51 Salem (Sept. 7, 1796)

  • Liberty Lodge #55 Granville (Dec. 7, 1796)

  • Herschell Lodge #89 Hartford (Dec. 3, 1800)

  • Farmers Lodge #96 Easton (Dec. 4, 1802)

  • Rising Sun Lodge #126 Greenwich (1805)

  • Hamilton Lodge #144 Queensbury (1804)

  • Brothers Lodge #147 Ft. Ann (1806)

  • Social Hall Lodge #145 Whitehall (Dec. 6, 1806)

  • Hebron Lodge #216 Hebron (1813)

  • Morning Star Lodge #243 Argyle (1813)

Warren County Early Lodges:

  • Hamilton #144 Queensbury (1804)-formed prior to Warren Co.

  • Rising Virtue #225 Luzerne (1814)

  • Clinton #278 Caldwell (1818)

  • Perry #437 Bolton (1825)

 Saratoga County Early Lodges:

  • Montgomery #21 Stillwater (1791)

  • St John's #24 Half Moon (1792)

  • Franklin #37 Ballston Spa (1794)

  • Orange #43 Waterford (1795)

  • St John's Lodge #90 Greenfield (1802) (Feb. 20 received charter as St John's #90, duly organized on June 2)      

  • Malta #106 Malta (1804)

  • Friendship #118 Milton (1805-1828)

  • Union #128 Charlton (1805)

  • Farmers #149 Half Moon (1806)- moved to Clifton Park in 1827

  • Rising Sun Lodge #185 Northumberland (1809)- Petitioned to move to Saratoga Springs in 1821 

  • Schuyler #218 Old Saratoga (1813)

  • Galway #267 Galway (1816)

  • Corinthian #446 Corinth (1825 disbanded in 1826)

In 1827, there were 800 Lodges in New York State with over 20,000 members.  By 1830 only 82 Lodges were left with 3,000 members.  It was not until 1856 that New York membership would be back up to the 1827 level.  This incident actually had a similar effect in all of North America.

Post Morgan Affair Washington Co. Lodges:

  • Phoenix 96 Whitehall (1850)

  • Granville 220 Granville (1851)

  • Granville 55 Granville (1852)

  • Mount Hope 260 Fort Ann (1852)

  • Fort Edward 267 Fort Edward (1852)*

  • Sandy Hill 372 Hudson Falls (1855)*

  • Salem 391 Salem (1855-1985) merged with 481

  • Cambridge Valley 481 Cambridge (1860)

  • Herschel 508 Hartford (1865)

  • Argyle 567 Argyle (1865)

  • Ashlar 584 Greenwich (1866)

Post Morgan Affair Warren Co. Lodges:

Post Morgan Affair Saratoga Co. Lodges

On June 10,1840 met for first time as #22.  Old #90 was given to Brothers from discontinued Friendship 118 and Franklin 37, for new Franklin Lodge #90.(Chartered June 3 1842).  St. John's was the only Lodge in this immediate area that did not give up its charter during the Morgan Period.

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