William Morgan Biography


(Critical Guide to Censorship and Literature)

Little is known with certainty of Morgan’s early life. Neither his parents nor the exact date or place of birth are known. He was apparently apprenticed to a stone-mason in Virginia. By 1823 he was living in western New York State, where he worked as a brick-and-stone mason in Rochester and Batavia. In May, 1825, Morgan was inducted into the Royal Arch Masons at Le Roy, New York. In August, 1826, he registered the title Illustrations of Masonry, By One of the Fraternity Who Has Devoted Thirty Years to the Subject, for copyright protection. As rumors spread through upstate New York that his book would reveal the secret rituals of Masonry, Morgan began to experience a number of petty persecutions, such as being sued and imprisoned for small debts several times. In September he was jailed in Canandaigua, New York, over a debt of $2.69. After someone paid this debt, Morgan was released; however, as he stepped into the street he was seized, gagged, and thrust into a carriage. The carriage took Morgan on a wild ride to Fort Niagara, where he was imprisoned. He was never seen again.

Rumors spread that Morgan had been murdered by Masons determined to prevent publication of his book. Despite denials by eminent Masons, town meetings in Batavia and Canandaigua called for an official investigation. But sheriffs and judges, many of them Masons, moved slowly, leading to suspicion of a cover-up. The sheriff who should have tracked down the kidnappers was a...

(The entire section is 466 words.)