A TALE OF MASONIC RESISTANCE
Inscribed to R. W. Bro. John Warren Hunt, OF MADISON, WISCONSIN.
THE “Morgan Affair,” as it was popularly termed, or rather the Antimasonic boil, which came to a head—a bad sore it was for all parties—between 1826 and 1836, was the experimentum crucis of Freemasonry in America. It was “the time that tried men’s (Masons’) souls. “The Institution of Freemasonry had previously stood all manner of persecutions from the ruling powers, political and religious, and stood them well; but now it was doomed to encounter persecution from the people.
But to the story. In one of the villages of Eastern Ohio, there was a peculiarly malignant, spirit of Antimasonry manifested, and about the year 1830 it gained its hieght. It amounted to as much as its votaries dared to do. To deface the outside of the lodge-hall with obscene emblems (the symbology of Antimasonry—foul as Baal-peor’s, and very much the same figures, too); to blacken the character of Masons; to buy up Giddings’ Almanacs by the cartload, and give them away to all who would read them; to vote against all “who had the mark of the beast in their foreheads” (as the Rev. Mr. Slidel elegantly expressed it, in his memorable sermon from Rev. xix: 20); to separate father and son, pastor and people, husband and wife, partner senior and partner junior, the upper and lower millstone, the antagonistic blades of scissors, and all other separable things, upon this important question; these and similar acts were the fitting works of the crew that ruled, and the sheep that followed.
A few years before that period, about the time that Lafayette visited the United States, and the Masonic Fraternity generally were roused up to extraordinary feeling by his sentiments of approval and attachment to Masonry, one of the most zealous and enlightened members of the Institution (there was but one secret society in the United States at that time, so that the adjective Masonic was seldom used and never necessary) died suddenly, and under circumstances that awakened the profoundest sensations of the Brethren, his co-members.
They built a costly monument to his memory, and selected the highest knoll in the burial-ground as its site. It was the broken column upon a platform of three steps; in fact, the same figure that is given in the Monitor in the third degree.
There the beautiful monument stood, undisturbed, for several years, and glittered in the sunlight, or glowed under moonbeams, to the eye to every traveler, early or late, who journeyed from the southwest toward the county. It became the center of various other Masonic graves. Death is ever at work; and as his work thinned out the ranks of the lodge to which the deceased had belonged, processions were seen to wind slowly thitherward with melancholy loads, and around “the weeping Virgin” stout-hearted men were seen to weep, and by the side of the broken column they laid other columns, broken in like manner, until a group, silent but suggestive, was formed of the Fraternal dead.
This elegant monument became the scene of the incident we are describing. During the crisis of the fever so often referred to, it was a standing eyesore, a stench in the pure nostrils of Antimasonry.
To tower so high, to glare so brightly, to cry out its lessons so loudly, that every beholder was in a manner compelled to hear them, and all this, too, in a time when their honest, disinterested efforts had almost rendered Freemasonry a broken column—the thought was insupportable. An order of court was petitioned for to remove it, but the presiding judicial was too conscientious to grant that, though he had been elected as an Antimason.
Then the parties consulted a lawyer, to know the damage of openly tearing it down; but that proving several figures too high for their pecuniary ability, they decided at last upon convening under the shadow of night for the purpose. The plot came to the ears of a Brother Mason through the instrumentality of an old lady, who, though she had been in the chimney corner too deaf for twenty years to hear much, had her auditory nerves wonderfully keen when anything was stirring in regard to a society to which all three of her deceased husbands had belonged.
The Brother Mason, of course, communicated it to the rest, and a counter-plot was devised, as ingenious as anything in the strategy of Brother N. Bonaparte, of Corsica.
The malignant Antimasons met, to the number of three, one wet, dark, cold night, and, with Masons’ tools, went together to the graveyard. The very nature of their errand demanded silence, and a silent party in a dark night is necessarily a superstitious one. By the time they got half-way from the graveyard gate to the doomed monument, every grave had its ghost perched upon it, and every puff of wind emitted its sigh. If the reader will try the plan of entering a well-peopled graveyard, after midnight, upon an unholy errand, he will exactly realize the pleasant feelings of these three ruffians.
They soon found themselves walking so close together as actually to impede one another’s steps, whereupon one of them fell headlong, and screamed as his hand came in contact with something cold as a dead man’s forehead. It was no fancy, as the result proved, that made the other two hear a subdued chuckle, in response, from behind a gallows-looking oak hard by.
The party had barely arrived at the broken monument, and settled their hats upon their heads, which had been pushed off by their electrified hair, when blankets were thrown over them; and, in spite of their agonizing attempts to scream, they were silenced, thrown down, gagged, and bound, in a space of time quite miraculous in its brevity.
Who committed the act was not known for ten years afterward; but those three night-walkers were found by their anxious friends, next morning, in the court-house, with corncobs arranged horizontally in their open jaws; their hands and feet tied with their own suspenders; and their bodies completely tattooed with all the emblems of seven degrees of Masonry, done in monochromatic—that is, in lunar caustic.
The color came out by a few weeks’ vigorous rubbing, but no second attempt was ever made upon the integrity of the monument, and the BROKEN COLUMN stands UNBROKEN yet.
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