Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States

Edited by: Lalor, John J.
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New York: Maynard, Merrill, and Co.
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Includes articles by Frédéric Bastiat, Gustave de Molinari, Henry George, J. B. Say, Francis A. Walker, and more.
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ANTI-MASONRY (IN U. S. HISTORY). I. ANTI-MASONIC PARTY. The society of free masons was established in the United States during the last century, and before 1820 had enrolled among its members very many of the political leaders of the country. In 1826 William Morgan, of Batavia, Genesee country, New York, having prepared a book for publication which purported to expose the secrets of the fraternity, was arrested, and a judgment of obtained against him for debt. Upon his release, Sept. 12, he was seized and conveyed in a close carriage to Niagara. No further trace of the missing man was ever found, in spite of liberal rewards offered for him or his abductors. The affair caused intense excitement throughout western New York. Charges were made that the conspiracy to abduct embraced all the leading free-masons of that section of the State; that these had systematically thwarted all investigation; that members of the society placed their secret obligations above those of citizenship or official duty; and that they were necessarily unfit and unfaithful public servants. In town and county elections candidates who refused to resign their membership in the society soon found a strong, though unorganized, anti-masonic vote against them, and in August, 1828, the national republican party in New York, carefully nominated state candidates who were not free-masons. But an anti-masonic state convention, at Utica, a few days later, nominated candidates pledged against free-masonry, and polled 33,345 votes out of a total of 276,583. In 1830 they entirely displaced the national republicans in New York, as the opponents of the democrats, and, as Jackson, the democratic leader, was a free-mason, steps were taken by his opponents to extend the anti-masonic organization to other states, in hopes of thus gaining the small percentage of votes necessary to defeat the democrats in the national election. The attempt was a failure, in one sense, since the number of national republican free-masons who were alienated to the democracy more than counterbalanced the anti-masonic accession; but it resulted in the establishment of the anti-masons as the controlling anti-democratic organization in Pennsylvania and Vermont, and as a strong local party in Massachusetts and Ohio. In the state of New York, William H. Seward, Millard Fillmore, and Thurlow Weed, first appeared in politics as anti-masonic leaders.


—In February, 1830, a state convention at Albany, had decided in favor of a national anti-masonic nominating convention, and this decision was confirmed by a national convention, in September, 1830. John Quincy Adams had already lost control of the national republicans, and Clay had begun to develop some of that popularity with the party which afterward made the whigs almost a distinctive Clay party. In the hope of forcing Clay, who was a free-mason, out of the field, the anti-masons held their convention first of the parties, at Baltimore, in September, 1831, and nominated William Wirt, of Maryland, and Amos Ellmaker, of Pennsylvania, as presidential candidates. The national republicans, however, persisted in nominating Clay, and Wirt and Ellmaker received the electoral vote of Vermont alone. The anti-masons made no further effort to act as a distinct national party, and the rise of the whig party soon after absorbed their organization, except in Pennsylvania, where they retained existence in alliance with the whigs until about 1840, and in 1835, through democratic dissensions, succeeded in electing their candidate for governor, Joseph Ritner. But while acting as a part of the whig party, the anti masonic element was sufficiently strong and distinct to force the nomination of Harrison, in 1835 and 1839, instead of Clay. (See WHIG PARTY.) The anti-masons and the American party have been the only instances in our political history of an attempt to form a national political party not based on some controlling theory as to the proper construction of the constitution.


—II. AMERICAN PARTY. In 1868 a national convention, at Pittsburgh, formed the national Christian association, which has held annual meetings since, and now has branches in 14 states. In 1875 this body began political action as the American party. It is opposed to free-masonry as false religion and as false politics, and demands the recognition of God as the author of civil government, and the prohibition of oath-bound secret lodges as acknowledging supreme allegiance to another government than that of the United States. The vote of the party was in 1876 and 1880 included in the few thousand votes classed as "scattering." Its newspaper organ is The Christian Cynosure, published in Chicago, Ill., and its practical leader is president J. Blanchard, of Wheaton College, Illinois.


—See (I.) Creigh's Masonry and Anti-Masonry; 2 Hammond's Political History of New York, 369, 403; H. Brown's Anti-Masonic Excitement, in 1826-9; Ward's Anti-Masonic Review (1828-30); 1 Seward's Writings; Proceedings of the U. S. Anti-Masonic Convention, in Philadelphia, Sept. 11, 1830; Stone's Letters on Anti-Masonry; and earlier authorities under WHIG PARTY; (II.) Christian Cynosure, 1880; Greene's Broken Seal; Gasset's Catalogue of Anti-Masonic Books in Public Libraries.


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