Anti-Masonry, a political movement which originated in the state of New York in 1827. In the autumn of 1820 William Morgan, a mechanic of Batavia, N. Y., who was reported to be about to publish a volume exposing the secrets of the order of freemasons, of which he had been a member, was kidnapped and carried off. Committees of vigilance and safety were formed, and an investigation initiated, which resulted in tracing the abductors and their victim westward to Fort Niagara, near Lewiston, N. Y., whence it appeared that Morgan had been taken out upon Lake Ontario in a boat and drowned. This was the final conclusion of those who prosecuted the investigation, though reports were repeatedly current that Morgan had been seen alive and at liberty months after his reported abduction. One of these accounts placed him in Smyrna in Asia. The persons by whose aid he was rapidly and quietly conveyed, in a carriage drawn by relays of horses, from Batavia to Fort Niagara, were said to have been freemasons. Prosecutions were in due time instituted against those whom the investigation showed to have been in any way concerned in the abduction, and repeated trials resulted in the conviction of some of them on minor charges, but no murder was ever judicially established.
It was supposed to be shown in the course of these trials that the masonic oath disqualified masons in certain of the higher degrees for serving as jurors in any case where a brother mason of like degree was a party, and his antagonist was not. The anti-masonic party was thereupon formed in western New York, and polled 33,000 votes for its candidate for governor, Solomon Southwick, in 1828. This vote rose to 70,000 in 1829, and to 128,000 for Francis Granger for governor in 1830; in which aggregate, however, were included the suffrages of many who were not anti-masons. The excitement gradually diffused itself into other states, and in 1831 a national anti-masonic convention was held, wherein most of the free states were represented, and William Wirt of Maryland was nominated by it for president of the United States, with Amos Ellmaker of Pennsylvania for vice president. Mr. Granger was again the anti-masonic candidate for governor of New York in 1832, and received the votes of nearly all opposed to the reelection of Gen. Jackson, but was defeated by about 12,000 majority.
In Pennsylvania Joseph Rit-ner was this year brought forward as the anti-masonic candidate for governor, and beaten by barely 3,000 votes by Gov. Wolf, who had many enemies in his own party; but at the presidential election in the same year, Gen. Jackson carried the state over the combined opposition by 25,000 majority. Anti-masonic state and electoral tickets were supported in many if not most of the free states, but were successful only in Vermont, which cast her seven electoral votes for Wirt and Ellmaker. Vermont remained for two or three years under anti-masonic rule, but the party gradually faded out, and was absorbed by others during the political and financial struggle that grew out of Gen. Jackson's veto of the United States bank charter in 1832, and the removal' of the deposits in 1833. Until then western New York, the theatre of the Morgan abduction and the cradle of the anti-masonic excitement, gave large anti-masonic majorities; while western Pennsylvania, northern Ohio, and portions of Massachusetts and Rhode Island, evinced a preponderating sympathy therewith.
In 1835, during the struggle which followed the removal of the deposits, Joseph Ritner was chosen governor of Pennsylvania as an anti-mason, through a division in the democratic ranks; but the anti-masonic party gradually lost its distinctive character, and soon after ceased to exist.