The Effects of Anti-Masonry

The First Quarter of the nineteenth century was a period of great prosperity for Freemasonry in the United States and the establishment of Lodges followed rapidly the onward march of the pioneers. The Institution was extremely popular and the end of the quarter found it in a preeminent position. In its membership were included a great many prominent, substantial and influential men. Ministers of the Gospel, lawyers, physicians, merchants, teachers, bankers, politicians, were not only members, but hold office in the various bodies, grand and subordinate. For example, DeWitt Clinton was elected General Grand High Priest in June, 1816 (after Webb had declined the office in his favor.) Clinton also became Grand Master of the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar of the United States upon its organization in the same month, and was continued in both offices until his death, which occurred February 11, 1828.

But adversity was waiting just around the comer and the first half of the second quarter of the century saw the Fraternity almost wiped out of existence in the United States. The excitement created by the disappearance of one William Morgan, of Batavia, New York, in September, 1826, ripened into what is known in history as the anti-Masonic movement, which became nationwide and extraordinarily bitter. It developed into a crusade against the Masonic Fraternity as an organization and against its individual members because of their membership. An anti-Masonic political party was formed, which actually nominated persons for the presidency of the United States and other offices. In its most repugnant form, it became persecution, bitter and relentless. The period has been aptly called the period of the "Morgan Warfare."

Nature of Attacks On The Fraternity

Anti-Masonic newspapers were published; by 1832, there were 141 of them. Orations were delivered. Collections were taken up for the support of Mrs. William Morgan. Anti-Masonic pamphlets, almanacs and address were printed and distributed in large quantities. Itinerant lecturers toured the country, each striving to outdo the others in denunciation of an institution which was declared to be "repugnant to the Christian religion and inimical to the republican form of government."

And not all were profanes who took part in the crusade; not by any means. Persons who had been members of Lodges "renounced" Freemasonry and joined in the attacks upon it. Such persons were referred to in the remarks of Dr. Mitchell, Past Grand Master, [J. W. S. Mitchell, October, 1844-1846] in his address before the Grand Lodge of Missouri: [October, 1848]

I have lived through a period made dark by the baseborn efforts of the political schemer and the cowardly desertion of the so-called Mason, uniting to bring derision and scorn and ruin upon an institution honored by long ages for its deeds of benevolence and charity and love.

in his study Dr. McCarthy related that [in The Anti-Masonic Party, a thesis prepared by Charles McCarthy, PhD, 1902]

Ex-Masons opened Lodges, and disreputable characters, as poor blind candidates, were initiated as entered apprentices, passed to the degree of fellowcraft, raised to the sublime degree of master mason, advanced to the honorary degree of mark master, installed in the chair as past master, received and acknowledged as most excellent master, and exalted to the degree of the holy royal arch, before delighted audiences.

Herbert H. Hines, in his article "Three Dates in Vermont Masonry [The Builder, November, 1925] recorded that in Vermont:

Caravans travelled from town to town giving exhibitions of the degree. One day, in the Windsor County court house, 300 received the Third Degree by proxy.

It will be recalled that the Morgan trouble had its inception in 1826 when he filed with the clerk of the U. S. District Court for the Northern District of New York an application for a copyright on a book to be written by him entitled "Illustrations of Masonry by one of the Fraternity—God said let there by light and there was light." a book with such a title purporting to be by William Morgan was published in 1827, after he disappeared. This book purported to be an expose of Freemasonry and with some variations was a copy of a work entitled Jachin and Boaz, which had been published in England many years previously and editions of which had appeared in the United States in 1798, 1803, 1812, 1817, and 1818. Following the "Morgan" work, the Reverend David Bernard, a Baptist minister, published his Rituals and Illustrations of Masonry, and Avery Allyn, an anti-Masonic lecturer, published his Rituals of Freemasonry. Allyn's book also included in its text what was claimed to be "a key" to the Phi Beta Kappa, the Orange, and the Odd Fellows work. These books were sold in large numbers.

Thaddeus Stevens

In the halls of the legislative assemblies of the Various states the political solons made the welkin ring. This phase of anti-Masonic activity is wen illustrated by the resolutions introduced in Pennsylvania by one Thaddeus Stevens directed against "Extrajudicial Oaths." These resolutions called upon the judicial committee to bring in a bill which when enacted into law would effectually "suppress and prohibit the administration and reception of Masonic, Odd Fellows and all other secret, extrajudicial oaths, obligations and promises in the nature of oaths." The lengthy preamble recited that in Masonry "the candidates are stripped nearly naked, and led to the imposition of their awful oaths, hoodwinked, and with a rope or cord around their necks, called a cable tow; that in the Royal Arch degree they affect to enact the sublime and sacred scene of God appearing to Moses in the burning bush on Mount Horeb." In his study, Dr. McCarthy condensed what followed by stating "here was a long statement accusing them of intemperance, drinking wine out of a skull, etc." The preamble also recited that Freemasonry "is an anti-republican and an insidious and dangerous enemy to our democratic form of government; that it creates and sustains secret orders of nobility, in violation of the spirit of the Constitution," etc., and that "the truth of all these things has been repeatedly proclaimed to the world under the signatures of thousands of honest men by authentic documents procured from the lodges themselves, and by the testimony under oath of numerous adhering Masons of good character; and it has never yet been contradicted by the sworn testimony of a single witness."

Mr. Stevens became so violent in the halls of the Pennsylvania legislature that finally that body set up two smelling committees, one to investigate Masonry and the other to investigate anti-Masonry. Then Mr. Stevens announced among other things, that he proposed to call the various Judges before the first-mentioned Committee to ascertain "whether … the grand hailing sign had ever been handed, sent or thrown to them by either of the parties litigant, and if so, what had been the result of the trial."

This well-organized, violent and widespread persecution could have but one result—about three-fourths of the Lodges in the United States either gave up their charters or were "sunk without a trace." In Vermont, where anti-masonry was most violent, every Lodge succumbed; the legislature revoked the corporate charters of the Grand Lodge and of the Grand Chapter, and no meetings of these bodies were held for ten years, 1836-1846. In lesser and varying degrees the Fraternity was seriously affected in all the states.

Anti-Masonry In Missouri

In Missouri, then the Masonic frontier, far from the center of the violence, the opposition to our Institution became so strong that in October, 1831, it was actually proposed to dissolve the Grand Lodge, and October, 1833, that body adjourned to meet at Columbia in December, and continued to meet there (except 1935, when no communication was held) up to and including October, 1836, at which communication only four Lodges were represented. Communications of the Grand Lodge in Saint Louis were resumed in October, 1837. Missouri Lodge No. 1, located in Saint Louis, the premier subordinate Lodge in the State, surrendered its charter to the Grand Lodge on October 5, 1833, and did not resume labor until it was reorganized and its charter was returned to it in October, 1842.

Two great figures in the Grand Lodge of Missouri in the days of the Morgan Warfare were Colonel Stephen W. B. Carnegy of Palmyra Lodge No. 18, who was elected Grand Master at Columbia, in October, 1836, and who served to October, 1839, and Judge Priestly H. McBride of ParisUnion Lodge No. 19, who succeeded him and served to October, 1844, the longest period of service of any Grand Master in the history of the Grand Lodge.

At the Grand Lodge Communication, October, 1841, held in Saint Louis, a Past Grand Master's jewel was presented to Colonel Carnegy by the Grand Lodge, The quotations which follow are from the address of Judge McBride in making the presentation, and the response of Colonel Carnegy, as preserved in the official proceedings:

Said Judge McBride:

You labored in a period of travail… at a time when the clouds lowered and the storm of persecution beat most violently and furiously, when the feelings of despondency were visible in every countenance, and the stoutest hearts became faint and almost ready to yield our citadel to the ruthless hand of ignorance, blind fanaticism and unhallowed pollution—and what would have been the consequences had you not been a faithful sentinel at the post assigned you by … the Grand Lodge, can only be a matter of conjecture… You enjoy that delightful state of feeling which invariably springs from a consciousness of having fought the good fight and kept the faith…

In responding, Colonel Carnegy said:

When the government of the Grand Lodge … was first confided to my hands, I found whatever of ancient Freemasonry that belonged to the Grand Lodge located far, far upon the confines of our western population, just upon the line which separates civilized from savage man… It was then the stout-hearted little band, which then composed the Grand Lodge, came forth to the rescue, and the hopeless wanderer in the wilderness … was triumphantly led back to the goodly City,(2) … And now that the clouds have passed away … I … delight to acknowledge that to others in an equal, if not a superior way, is Masonry in Missouri indebted for the happy issue… Nor must I fail, sir, to remark in justice to myself and you, that to no one in Masonry more indebted for the high and honorable station now occupied by her, than yourself, for that which was begun in weakness by me has been performed in strength by you…. Bigotry, prejudice and irreligious fanaticism have, for the last time, we trust, usurped the place of reason. The reign of tyranny is past, and liberty, reason and true religion, so long trodden down, are once more, and we hope forever, restored to their rightful influence in the hearts of men. The hydra monster, intolerant persecution, frowned down by the good sense and love of justice of our fellow citizens, has slunk back into the covert darkness from which it came forth, and our peaceful institution is again standing forth, a guide to the wanderer, a beacon fight to the tempest-tossed mariner on the ocean of life, the shield of the oppressed, the succor. of the weak, the solace of the distressed; to the orphan a parent, to the widow a friend, nay, to all a friend to teach and practice toward all "brotherly love, relief and truth"…. Such, M. W. Sir, is the happy condition in which I rejoice to find that heaven-inspired and heaven-preserved institution for which we all have so long and so ardently contended…

Chaotic Conditions

The long years of the Morgan Warfare were, of course, a period when very little, if any Masonic work was done in the Lodges which remained alive. The older and more skillful members either passed away or lost their proficiency. The old professional lecturers sought other means of livelihood. So, when the petitions commenced to come in to the Lodges once more, the younger generation received instruction only in an imperfect way.

Then too, conditions which had arisen as a result of the Morgan Warfare obliged the Fraternity to guard very carefully against the approach of cowans and eavesdroppers, and evidence of membership had to be critically and severely tested. Examining committees were obliged to proceed on the theory that the presumption was against the would-be visitor, or as Dr. Mackey expressed it in his Lexicon, it is better that ninety and nine true men should be turned away from the door of a lodge, than that one cowan should be admitted.

Under conditions such as these, a lack of uniformity in the lectures among the subordinate Lodges in the same State, was a formidable obstacle to fraternal intercourse.

It was only natural that a demand should have come for relief from these chaotic conditions and that the form of relief suggested should have been uniformity of the lectures, because if such could be adopted and promulgated, a basis for working the degrees would be established and identification of members could be made more readily, and the Lodges could discontinue turning away so many visitors, among whom must have been large numbers who were members in good standing.

(1) Part III of "From Mouth to Ear" by Henry C. Chiles, then Junior Grand Warden of the Grand Lodge of Missouri. Published by the Grand Lodge in 1936. This is a study prepared for the Masonic Research Council of Missouri (the predecessor of the Missouri Lodge of Research) and presented at its annual meeting at St. Louis, September, 23, 1935.

(2) He referred to the fact that the Grand Lodge, after having been driven from Saint Louis to Columbia, had returned to its ancient seat and resumed its communications there in October, 1837. This occurred at the close of his first year as Grand Master.