Illustrations of Masonry
by William Morgan
This book has a controversial backstory which is part of the mythology of anti-Freemasonry. 'Captain' William Morgan, the author, was a disappointed Freemason in Batavia, New York. Rejected by the local lodge, he announced that he was going to publish a work exposing Masonic rituals and secrets. Shortly before publication in 1826, he disappeared, and three Masons were later convicted of kidnapping him. Although claims were made that Morgan had been murdered, some say that he was forced to leave the US. Either way, it was good publicity for this book, which was published in 1827, but bad for the Masons. The incident led to widespread protests against Freemasons in the US, and eventually an anti-Masonic Party, which at its height in 1832 got seven electoral votes for William Wirt for President.
So why read this book? Stripped of the fevered historical background, and ignoring the publisher's antimasonic introduction, this becomes simply one of the first published accounts of US Freemasonry in the early 19th century. It seems accurate, based on other published Monitors, such as Ducan's. At this perspective, Illustrations is no more offensive than Robert's Rules of Order, although it makes more interesting reading.