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Anti-Masonic Party

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ANTI-MASONIC PARTY, an American political organi zation which had its rise after the mysterious disappearance, in 1826, of William Morgan (c. 1776—c. 1826), a freemason of Batavia (N.Y.) who had become dissatisfied with his Order and had planned to publish its secrets. When his purpose became known to the freemasons, Morgan was subjected to frequent an noyances, and finally in Sept. 1826, he was seized and surrepti tiously conveyed to Ft. Niagara, whence he disappeared. Though his ultimate fate was never known, it was generally believed at the time that he had been murdered. The event created great ex citement, and led many to believe that freemasonry and good citizenship were incompatible. Opposition to freemasonry was taken up by the churches as a sort of religious crusade, and it also became a local political issue in western New York, where early in 1827 the citizens in many mass meetings resolved to support no freemason for public office. In New York at this time the National Republicans, or "Adams men," were a very feeble organization, and shrewd political leaders at once de termined to utilize the strong anti-masonic feeling in creating a new and vigorous party to oppose the rising Jacksonian De mocracy. In this effort they were aided by the fact that Jackson was a high freemason and frequently spoke in praise of the Order. In the elections of 1828 the new anti-masonic party proved unexpectedly strong, and after this year it practically superseded the National Republican Party in New York. In 1829 the hand of its leaders was shown, when, in addition to its antagonism to the freemasons it became a champion of internal improvements and of the protective tariff. From New York the movement spread into other middle States and into New England. A national organization was planned as early as 1827, and in 1831 the party at a national convention in Baltimore nominated as its candidate for the Presidency William Wirt of Maryland. In the election of the following year it secured the seven electoral votes of the State of Vermont. This was the high tide of its prosper ity, for by 1836 most of its members had united with the Whigs.

The growth of the anti-masonic movement was due to the po litical and social conditions of the time rather than to the Mor gan episode, which was merely the torch that ignited the train. Under the name of "anti-masons" able leaders united those who were discontented with existing political conditions. The fact that William Wirt, their choice for the Presidency in 1831, was not only a freemason, but even defended the Order in a speech before the convention that nominated him, indicates that simple opposition to freemasonry soon became a minor factor in holding together the various elements of which the party was composed.

See J. D. Hammond, History of Political Parties in the State of New York (Albany, 1842) ; the Autobiography of Thurlow Weed (Boston, 5884) ; A. G. Mackey and W. R. Singleton, The History of Freemasonry, vol. vi. (1898) ; and Charles McCarthy, The Anti masonic Party: A Study of Political Anti-Masonry in the United States, 1827-1840, in the Report of the American Historical Associa tion for 1902 (1 903) .

political, york, national, freemasonry and freemason