I read the Ottawa Herald editorial letter “Confederate Statues” by Elbert Swank of Williamsburg (Aug. 19th issue). Mr. Swank made good points. That article reiterated the sad news reports of the newest frenzy of removing historical markers that some people find objectionable. While I frown on removal of the monuments, it doesn’t erase history. History still stands. However we live in a new culture in this 21st Century and, sadly, statues are the newest form of people with thin skins taking “offense” and inciting violence. I believe in peace.
It is obvious a trend is sadly sweeping the nation. I am a Freemason, myself, for over 35 years in the Scottish Rite. And having 34 years as a member of the York Rite of Freemasonry, even I think that the statue of former Confederate General Albert Pike does not belong on Judiciary Square in Washington, D.C. Although Pike was the top national officer in only one branch of the Masonic Order (the Southern Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite composed of 35 mainly southern U.S. States and D.C.), a peaceful fraternal civic order. Albert Pike is best remembered for being a local presiding officer of all four York Rite bodies in Little Rock, Arkansas — the basic Masonic Lodge; the Royal Arch Masons, the Cryptic Masons, and the first presiding officer of Hugh de Payens Masonic Knights Templar.
At Little Rock, there is a nearly city-block-long building named “The Albert Pike Memorial Masonic Center.” I’ve been inside it. The statue of Pike in Washington sits on federal land maintained by the National Park Service in a predominantly African-American part of Washington. Although erected in 1898 by an Act of Congress, the statue of Pike no longer fits cultural norms in 2017, even if he is depicted in the statue wearing civilian clothing. I am a history buff. I admire “the good aspects” of Pike’s life; but I frown on the figurative warts on his biography.
Pike’s troops (mainly American Indians) were accused of “taking scalps” and Albert Pike was even accused by fellow Confederates of “being either insane or untrue to the South.” Pike was briefly imprisoned in Warren, Texas, in 1862, long before the end of the war. After the civil war, Pike fled to Canada as a fugitive until a presidential pardon was secured.
I can fully understand why tempers would flare at the statue of an ex-Confederate general being in that neighborhood of Washington. It simply doesn’t belong in D.C. anymore, and I’d respectfully wish that Masonic leaders from Little Rock move the statue to be placed in the interior of the building at Little Rock. Or, another alternative would be the inside auditorium of the Wichita, Kansas, Scottish Rite Center where I became a member in 1982. It would probably accommodate the statue of Pike and separately the accessory statue, holding the fraternal banner. The concrete base could be left outside. The Wichita Scottish Rite Masonic Building was built in the year 1887 (while Pike was even alive) but not used for Masonic purposes until 1897, some six years after his death. But it would be contemporaneous to his lifetime.
By moving it to the interior of any large Masonic building — whether in Little Rock or in Wichita — people such as myself who want to “appreciate Pike’s work as a Freemason” can do so — in a building meant to honor Pike. Plus, it would quell tensions among protesters in Washington, thus avoiding more violence or racial tension. The Fraternity of Freemasonry is a friendship society, not a secret society. In the name of peace, I’d like to see the Pike statue relocated to the interior of a Masonic building in Little Rock or Wichita. That would be fair and proper for everybody. Even Albert Pike Masonic Lodge No. 303 is located in Wichita; although it conducts its meetings now in the Kansas Masonic Home. Whereas the Wichita Scottish Rite already has large portraits of Albert Pike adorning its walls, along with an authentic hand-signed letter written by Pike in 1890 within its library and museum. So, inside a Wichita Masonic building would be a logical choice to discreetly preserve the Pike statue and possibly prevent bloodshed over it.
— James A. Marples, Longview, Texas