Among a number of fanciful and implausable confessions Thomas Hamilton, Edward Hopkins, R.H Hill, Edward Giddins there were two, contradictory, death-bed confessions of William Morgans murder that should be noted and debunked. Neither conform to the known facts of the case,n15 and neither can be proven.
In 1848 Dr. John L. Emery took the deathbed confession of one Henry L. Valance. Valance said, that since that dark night, he had been very unhappy and depressed.
"After committing that horrid deed he was as might well be expected, an unhappy man, by day and by night. He was much like Cain'a fugitive and a vagabond.' To use his own words, 'Go where I would, or do what I would, it was impossible for me to throw off the consciousness of crime. If the mark of Cain was not upon me, the curse of the first murderer wasthe blood-stain was upon my hands and could not be washed out. 'He therefore commences his confession thus:'My last hour is approaching; and as the things of this world fade from my mental sight, I feel the necessity of making, as far as in my power lies, that atonement which every violator of the great law of right owes to his fellow men' In this violation of law, he says, 'I allude to the abduction and murder of the ill-fated William Morgan.'
Emery published a pamplet entitled Confession of the Murder of William Morgan, as taken down by Dr. John L. Emery, of Racine County, Wisconsin, in the Summer of 1848, now first given to the Public the following year. It was republished, at least twice, in 1869 and 1899, and excerpts of it appeared in the Rev. C.G. [Charles Grandison] Finneys The Character, Claims and Practical Workings of Freemasonry published in 1869. Finney [1792/08/28 - 1875/08/16] ups the number of confessions to three, failing to note that the two confessions contradict each other, both claiming to have pushed Morgan into the Niagera river, Valence having tied him with ropes and Whitney using chains:
Two or three have since, upon their death-bed, confessed their part in the transaction. They drowned him in the Niagara River. The account of the manner in which this was will be found in a book published by EIder Stearns, a Baptist elder. The book is entitled Stearns on Masonry. It contains the deathbed confession of one of the murderers of William Morgan. On page 311, of that work, you will find that confession. "The following account of that tragical scene is taken from a pamphlet entitled, Confession of the murder of William Morgan, as taken down by Dr. John L. Emery, of Racine County, Wisconsin, in the summer of 1848, and now (1849) first given to the public.
This confession has continued to be reprinted, most recently on page 117 of Jack Harris' Freemasonry: The Invisible Cult in Our Midst, published in 2001.
The second "confession" comes to us by way of the man who almost singlehandedly created the controversy surrounding the Morgan Affair. Thurlow Weed, the man who had earlier identified the body of one Timothy Munro as that of William Morgan, died in 1882. On his deathbed he stated that in 1861 John Whitney, who had been convicted on the conspiracy charge, confessed to him the full details of the murder of Morgan. According to this alleged confession, Whitney and four others carried the abducted Morgan in a boat to the centre of the river, bound him with chains, and dumped him overboard. Weed stated that Whitney had promised to dictate and sign this confession, but died before he could do so. Whitney in fact died eight years later in 1869. Whitney provided Rob Morris a complete account of the Morgan incident, denying any foul play and branding Weed a liar.
These two unsubstantiated confessions aside, there is nothing to demonstrate or prove that Morgan met with foul play; only that he was last seen in the company of the men who subsequently pleaded guilty to conspiracy to "seize and secrete" Morgan, and served terms in prison for the offense.n18
1.Robert Freke Gould, History of Freemasonry, Vol IV. The John C. Yorston Publishing Co., Philadelphia: 1902. pp. 316-29.
2.P.C Huntington, The True History Regarding Alleged Connections of the Order of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons with the Abduction and Murder of William Morgan... New York: 1886.
3.Thomas A. Knight, The Strange Disappearance of William Morgan. Published by the author at Brecksville, Ohio. The Macoy Publishing and Masonic Supply Company New York City: 1932.
4.Rob Morris, William Morgan; Or political Anti-masonry, Its Rise, Growth and Decadence. New York: 1883. 398 pp.
5.William L. Stone, Letters on Masonry and Anti-masonry, Addressed to The Hon. John Quincy Adams. New York: 1832. The first of these letters is dated Nov. 20, 1831, there being a total of forty-nine of them.
6.J. Hugo Tatsch, "An American Masonic Crisis: The Morgan Incident of 1826 and Its Aftermath," Ars Quatuor Coronatorum Vol. XXXIV (1921), pp. 196-209. [Incorrectly notes Wells Lodge No. 282 at Batavia and that William Seaver was first Master of that lodge; otherwise one of the best presentations of the subject.]