In "The Cask of Amontillado," how were the masons perceived in the United States during the 19th century?
Poe very much drew upon popular culture’s attitude toward the Masons, and that attitude was one of distrust and fear. Here is a case that might have influenced him. Captain William Morgan of New York, an intelligent man, and an inflexible republican, convinced of the dangers of Secret Societies, in a free Government, resolved to use his best endeavors for their suppression. Being a Royal Arch Mason, he had witnessed the corruption of the Institution. He saw it was an engine of personal advantage and political aggrandizement. In 1826 he published a book about his insider’s view of the Masons, and shortly afterwards he was found dead, bound and weighted and drowned in the Niagra River by the Masons. Following the murder of Captain Morgan, three state legislatures investigated Freemasonry. New York, 1829; Massachusetts, 1834; and Pennsylvania, 1836. In addition to obtaining corroborative testimony from other Masons who left Freemasonry, as to the nature and substance of the oaths, the investigations revealed that an operative criminal empire had entrenched itself in America. Obstruction to the investigations was encountered at every level