The Morgan Murder Trial, Continued

Posted: April 18, 2009 in Murder Of William Morgan
JAMES A. SHED – Sworn. – Was at fort in Sept. 1826; arrived on the 12th; had a conversation under an injunction of masonic secrecy, about a message to be delivered in Canada; was requested to assist in rowing the boat with another on the evening of the 12th; object of message was explained to him; a very high-handed measure was about to be entered into; a measure, the parallel of which could not be found, perhaps, in the history of the world, except when King Stanislaus, the King of the Poles, was seized and carried away; the measure was, to seize a free citizen for the publishing the secrets of masonry, and convey him out of the country, and carry him to Montreal or Quebec, and put him on board of a British vessel, if one could be found, whose Commander was a mason, he engaged with great reluctance, but felt himself bound by the obligations of masonry to do it. – Two messengers had left a few moments before; they had given him (the witness) a letter to a mason in Canada; the letter was simply a letter of introduction, stating the bearer was a freemason. In the evening they crossed over to the village of Niagara, in Canada, to find the man; the witness went along; in Niagara they discovered a man in the street, of whom they inquired for the man to whom the letter was directed; the person replied, that the person alluded to was not at home; and further said, I suppose I know your business; in a short time we shall have a meeting of the lodge in the house near by; it was not a regular meeting of the lodge, officers did not take their places; a tyler was placed at the door; the project of taking and carrying away Morgan was introduced and discussed; they could not agree upon any plan; they were requested to cooperate with the masons on this side in carrying the plan into execution; the manner of taking him to Quebec was talked of; one proposed harsh and violent measures, alluded to the death of Morgan – a respectable gentleman opposed it; he would give money freely to transport Morgan, but to be accessory to the murder of a man was too revolting to his feelings; the council broke up without coming to any conclusion whatever. – They returned home with two stages, who accompanied them from the lodge, one of them spoke much about the atrocious act of Morgan in revealing the secrets; said he ought to be put to death because, by exposing the secrets of masonry it might prove its ruin, and to destroy masonry would be a great injury to our country; said that the benefits of masonry were incalculable; it dried up the tears of widows, or words to that effect – that evening after returning to the Fort, they walked round the Fort; the question was asked where Morgan would be confined if brought; place not stated; next day witness was requested to assist in removing some powder from the magazine by the same person who first spoke to him about it; the powder he said was spoiling on account of the dampness of the room; the powder was removed into the adjoining building; a wooden one; there were some cartridges and boxes, magazine appeared to be damp; nothing was said about preparing a place to confine Morgan.
On the 14th witness was told that Morgan was brought the night before and put into the magazine; witness went to installation; did not go to the magazine himself; heard it told to others at Lewiston that Morgan was noisy; understood a message came up to still the noise; returned to the Fort that night; did not go to the magazine at any time when he understood Morgan was there; saw Elisha Adams at the ferry at Giddins’; had not any conversation with defendant while it was said Morgan was there; on the subsequent Monday or Tuesday morning, Tuesday he thinks, he was walking across the yard of the Fort, and met the defendant coming from the magazine; witness observed that he appeared somewhat agitated; he made this remark; they have taken Morgan away, he is not now in the Fort; he was asked how he knew; he said he had been to the magazine, and he was sure he was not there; they then went to the magazine, person walking with witness, was the same that gave witness the first information; defendant at the door put his mouth to the outer door of the magazine and called Morgan three times; no one answered from within; he then unlocked the door, he had the key with him, all entered; first thing witness discovered was a bunch of straw, on which some person had evidently lain, this was on the 19th; saw a flag silk handkerchief on the floor, one of them requested witness to destroy it; he did so; both present he thinks with witness; saw a cartridge box which had been used by Morgan for the calls of nature; saw an earthen pitcher and decanter; a floor plank being broken in two, between two sleepers; sunk down in the middle; something said about it and some disposition made of it; caution was taken to restore the room to order; the box was carried out and thrown down near the door on the ground; straw was part, or all taken out; the pitcher and decanter were taken home to Mr. Giddins’; a quart decanter; Giddins was absent at this time; had been gone since the Saturday preceding; he believed the magazine was locked when they left it, but does not know who kept the key; it was when the Lewiston committee was there, he had a conversation with defendant; he was very much distressed about his situation, and said he was afraid Mr. Giddins was going to disclose the transaction; said if he was called upon to testify, he thought he should swear he knew nothing about it, but if Giddins disclosed it, it would ruin all, for his own account, he would not have it known for the world; he did not say at any time, what disposition was made of Morgan; there was a good deal of apprehension among those concerned, that Giddins would disclose, and much persuasion was used to prevent him from disclosing; in the winter they were apprehensive he might disclose their proceedings, and they proposed to raise money, to get him to leave the country; he never was present when any proposition was made; witness was requested to go to Lewiston, and apprize them that there was danger that Giddins would disclose; he had a confer with a man, who said he would send to this place (Lockport) and see what money could be procured in the Lodge and Chapter there; learned afterwards, that they sent to Lockport by way of the Falls, and understood they could raise but a small sum of money, that the Treasury had already been exhausted in some measure; was present at two interviews with Giddins; they were very earnest in their solicitations that he would promise never to disclose; he did promise once; about six weeks after, he overheard two masons talking; one said if Morgan was thrown into the river, his body would probably be consumed or eat up by the fish; also stated that Giddins walked the shore of the Lake every morning, to see if any body had washed ashore during the night previous; they thought that was a prudent measure; witness came from New Hampshire (to Fort Niagara,) town of Ridge, Chester county; came directly there; stopped at mess-house; was there about six months; left last of February; his masonry originated at the east; went down on Steam Boat from installation; was at the Fort during evening; did not hear of him at any time while in the magazine; was most of the evening at mess-house, not at Giddins; heard Giddins testify; was not once mentioned by Giddins; believes he did step into Giddins’ grocery; did not hear any conversation about Morgan; saw others about there than those who belonged to the Fort; has since ascertained some of them belonged to this county; saw some about Giddins’ house; some walking arm in arm about the Fort, and about the magazine; saw no one at the door of the magazine; witness retired about 10 o’clock; did not sup at Giddins’; when he crossed to Canada, two men crossed besides witness; one did not go into the village; thinks it was Giddins; all there knew the errand over; it was distinctly understood; Giddins did not assist about the magazine; was not there; the men talked with Giddins about walking the Lake shore; has heard Giddins say it was an outrageous transaction; did not hear that Giddins threatened to disclose; the conspirators said Giddins read Miller and Southwick’s papers, which disturbed him, troubled his conscience and his mind; wished Freemasonry had never existed; never heard Giddins say any thing about money; they appealed to him not to violate his obligation; he promised he would remain true; when about going over witness gave him a sign; then was asked if he was a mason; understood that Morgan was to be brought there by force; that Morgan was expected Tuesday night; when he left the Fort he went to Michigan; now resides at Dayton, Ohio; did not disclose to any one of the fraternity before he left; he got acquainted with Giddins; knew something about the money; when they found that but about $300 would be raised, he understood Giddins offered to take $2,000; witness taught school at Youngstown heard Giddins talk about religion; – heard him say he did believe in a God – that if there was a future state it was not a state of punishment – the Deity he believed in was far above his comprehension; a better God than Presbyterians believed in; was a being of benevolence; filled immensity; did not know but there might be a heart in a stick of wood; did not think it worth while to pray; the Almighty knew as well before as after our wants; heard him say he did not believe the bible, did not hear him say that God did not punish; witness left Dayton on the first of January; was sent for; the late sheriff went after him; had communicated to a person in Ohio, not a mason, that he knew something about the affair; was willing to be a witness; stated nearly all he now has; came to this state, and went to Geneva; expects nothing but his expenses; has assurance of something: all that was stated to witness was $1 per day for his loss of time, besides his expenses: Mr. Phillips stated that he ought to receive that; no arrangement since he came here or at Geneva.
William H. Adams, Esq. addressed the Jury more than five hours on behalf of the defendant. The Special Counsel spoke for the people nearly two hours.
Judge Nelson gave the Jury an elaborate charge. The Defendant, he said, if guilty at all, was guilty of assault and battery, and false imprisonment of William Morgan, and of a conspiracy actually carried into effect. The punishment was imprisonment not exceeding two years, and a fine not exceeding $100. The guilt or innocent of Defendant, the Court said, depended upon the testimony of Edward Giddins, John Jackson, Eli Bruce and James A. Shed. The testimony of Jackson and Bruce corroborates, in part, that of Giddins and Shed. If Giddins and Shed were to be believed, no doubt remained of the guilt of the Defendant. The Court defined the character of a conspiracy, and adverted to what Adams told Giddins on his return from York, which, if true, established the charge of conspiracy. The Court then stated that Shed’s testimony corroborated Giddins on material points. If Giddins was not to be believed, Shed’s testimony, if entitled to credit, was ample evidence to make out the conspiracy. Giddins had been excepted to on the ground of Atheism. The testimony in support of & against the exception, was of such a nature, and so contradictory, that the Court did not feel justified in depriving the people of his evidence. The Jury must weight it impartially, & give it what credence to which, under all the circumstance, it was entitled. The Court stated the law to be, that a witness must believe in a God who would punish for perjury, but that the rule did not require a belief that the punishment will be in a future state only. The Court stated that having been an accomplice, Giddins’ testimony, to justify a conviction, must be corroborated by other circumstances and facts. The Counsel for the People relied upon Giddins’ good moral character, which seemed to be beyond reproach. IT WAS, INDEED CONCEDED, THAT HIS CHARACTER FOR TRUTH AND VERACITY, WAS UNIMPEACHABLE. This, the Court added, was to be put to his account in weighing his evidence. It is alledged, also, that Giddins was acting under the masonic delusion when he became a co-conspirator. The Court then stated those parts of the testimony of Bruce and Jackson, that went to corroborate Giddins. In relation to Shed, Judge Nelson said he was free to admit that the frank manner in which he confessed his own participation in the affair, inspired the Court with confidence in his testimony. Shed’s testimony, corroborated Giddins’ in many material points.
The charge occupied more than an hour. The Jury retired on Saturday evening, and had not agreed on Monday. Several attempts were made to induce the Court to discharge them. It is understood that one mason stands out against the eleven other Jurors.

Source: Star, March 23, 1831, page 2

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