When presented with the claim that Albert Pike was a racist, I was initially stunned. I was surprised only because I have read his book Morals and Dogma (1871) several times, and his words do not coincide with such a claim.
The word racist can be defined as, “prejudiced against all people who belong to other races.” And so I am thinking to myself, since Pike was white, he must have shown favoritism to the white culture in his writings, right? Wrong!!! Or maybe he disparaged people who were not white in his writings, right? Wrong again!!! You see, Pike had a great admiration for people of all cultures and colors. In truth, he wrote favorably about the Persians, who would be considered Iranians today. He also wrote favorably about other non-white cultures, including the Egyptians, Israelites, Indians (India), Japanese, Chinese, Africans and so forth. As such, when confronted with the claim that he was a racist, one can easily see my initial confusion. So I decided to do some research into this claim to see perhaps where it originated, and why it is so propagated today.
I discovered the belief that because Pike fought for the south during the American civil war, he must have been a racist. You see, some people today still believe the American civil war was fought exclusively to free black slaves from the southern states. This is an all too easy statement to make, but not truly supportable when researched; only because the war between the states was much too complex an issue to have been fought over one issue. Interestingly, history is replete with examples of men who fought during this war for a variety of reasons, not all of which are worthy of the racist claim. In fact, many free black men fought for the south; does this by extension make them racist as well? Of course not, nor should such a claim be made against Pike simply because he was a Confederate officer. You see, the 1860 census counted 240,747 free Negros in slave states; some of whom fought for the south. The sad truth is, most Americans were never instructed in this important fact; sadly, it is much easier to blame the war on slavery than to get into the more accurate details of this complex civil war.
In truth, Pike was in charge of Indian Affairs for the Confederacy, which made him partly responsible for rallying Indian support against northern aggression. Keep in mind, many Americans considered the Indian an inferior human during the period, but not Pike, who thought highly of them. In truth, Cherokee Chief John Ross was also a Masonic brother to Albert Pike, which certainly helped the Confederacy create a workable treaty with the Indians; and in fact, this close relationship with the Indians eventually led to Pike’s departure from the Confederate military in 1862, well before the war ended in 1865, for fervently defending Indian treaty rights during the war. Therefore, Pike’s behavior towards the native American Indian during the war were hardly the actions of a racist; and as a 1/16 Cherokee myself, I feel very comfortable making this claim.
Yet still others have claimed that Pike disliked blacks and in particular Black Masons; this too, I believe, is a fabrication and not a supportable claim. In fact, it is common knowledge today that Pike gave Prince Hall Masons his Scottish Rite degree ritual work, which was confirmed by Art deHoyos, who wrote, “Thornton A. Jackson, Sovereign Grand Commander United Supreme Council, 33°, SJ, PHA from 1887 to 1904 was a personal friend of Albert Pike. After Jackson mentioned to Pike how ‘seriously handicapped’ the PHA bodies were for a lack of adequate rituals, Pike is said to have given him an autographed, complete set of the Scottish Rite rituals.” Did you catch that? Not only did Pike give Thornton A. Jackson, Sovereign Grand Commander United Supreme Council, 33°, SJ, PHA, an autographed set of Scottish Rite rituals; but most important of all, the two men were personal friends.
Yet, there is an 1860 claim that said Pike would not attend lodge with a black man. This claim, as well, is questionable only because it appears to have come from a northern abolitionist Christian missionary’s personal journal, who may have had an agenda toward southerners. Although, this claim did favorably state that Pike said, ‘Prince Hall Lodge was as regular as any lodge created by competent authority and had a perfect right to establish other lodges, and make itself a mother lodge…’ (Minges, P. Slavery in the Cherokee Nation, 2003, p. 60). Now that sounds more like Pike. Nevertheless, Pike did live in an era of segregation, which makes such a claim possible. It should also be mentioned that Prince Hall Masonry was developed for a reason, which was because blacks were not allowed in most regular Masonic lodges throughout the country, not just in the south. Unfortunately, we will never truly know if Pike said that he would never attend lodge with a black man before 1860, or if eleven years later he simply reconsidered his views about blacks before he published Morals and Dogma in 1871. Yet, as mentioned earlier, we do know that Pike had befriended Thornton A. Jackson, a black Masonic brother, which stands in stark contrast to the claim made in Minges book, Slavery in the Cherokee Nation. If I had to go with credibility about Pike’s feelings regarding blacks, I would go with our Masonic brother Art deHoyos over the 1860 claim made by Jones and Warren (see reference 37 & 38 on page 240 in the book, Slavery in the Cherokee Nation). Nevertheless, from my research, this 1860 claim made by Jones and Warren appears to be the primary documented source of the racist claim propagated against Pike from the period.
And yet again, I was confronted with the claim that Pike was a founding member of the Scottish Rite KKK Project. What is that you might be asking yourself? I know, I said the same thing when I first heard about it. Well, this too is a fabrication made by the Anton Chaitkin, founder of the Lyndon LaRouche movement. Like so many things written about Pike, there is no source material supporting the claim that there was such a group, or that Pike was even a member of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). I personally like what the Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon wrote on the topic of Pike and his supposed association with the KKK, “Although easily disproven as either maliciously mendacious or willfully ignorant, the texts have been extensively used on at least two anti-masonic websites online since mid-2006.” Therefore, the claims made against Pike are often propagated by anti-Masonic groups, which demonstrate either “maliciously mendacious” or are “willingly ignorant.” And for those who don’t know, the word “mendacious” can be defined as, “not honest; likely to tell lies, based on lies.” In truth, the Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon did an extensive study on the topic, which included researching the primary sources for this claim, and came to the conclusion that it is unfounded. This research included the writings of Captain John C. Lester (1884), one of the founders of the Klan, Dr. Walter L. Fleming, who republished Lester’s booklet in 1905 and Ms. Susan L. Davis’ publication, Authentic History (1924), who contradicts both Lester and Fleming’s earlier writings about the Klan. With all this said and done, the Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon wrote, “Strongly influenced by the Dunning School, Fleming wrote four monographs, one dissertation, and two articles on the Ku Klux Klan. Both Fleming’s Civil War and Reconstitution in Alabama and The Sequal of Appomattox contain chapters on the Klan’s history and administration; nowhere does he mention Albert Pike.” And, “Fleming provides no quotes from Albert Pike or other corroborating references.” Furthermore, “Susan L. Davis… has no direct primary source reference or other documentation.” And finally, “John C. Lester makes no mention of names in his history except once, that of “Gen. Forrest. [p. 95.]. Lester makes two references to the Grand Wizard that differ from Susan L. Davis’ book, although she claims to be working from his later notes.” Simply stated, Pike was never a member of the KKK; or a member of the Scottish Rite KKK Project, which appears to be a fabrication by Anton Chaitkin, a political operative of Lyndon LaRouche, who promoted the idea of taking down the Albert Pike statue in Washington DC in the 1990’s. A divide and conquer strategy to win political influence.
Furthermore, in Walter Lee Brown’s book Life of Albert Pike (1997) it was claimed that Pike said blacks were an “inferior race:” a term that was taken out of context. Brown wrote, “Though he considered blacks biologically and intellectually inferior to the white man, a common tenet of the proslavery argument and a not uncommon belief of white men everywhere at that age, he believed them capable of learning and looked ultimately to the emancipation of the entire race” (p. 341). Interestingly, Brown took several liberties with regard to Pike’s statement. I read the Pike quote in which he referenced the term “inferior race,” and what I gathered from it was that Pike noted the blacks lack of education and liberty because of slavery, not their biological or intellectual inferiority. Here is what Pike wrote in the quote Brown referenced,
‘Then the southern laws would soon make the institution of marriage more sacred; the gospel would be more generally preached; the children would be taught to read; additions would from time to time be made to their privileges and they would be allowed a portion of their earnings; until at some time in the future, when by long training are fitted to be free, the transition from servitude to liberty would be so slight and insensible to change as to produce no convulsion in the state, no loss of property, no pauperism, and no annihilation of the inferior race’ (p. 340-341).
Did you catch that? Nowhere did Pike write in the quote above that blacks were biologically or intellectually inferior, which brings the whole Brown claim into question. Also, did you notice how the author took the two words “inferior race” out of context; he never mentioned the earlier portion about assimilating blacks into southern culture and the fact that the south would not suffer any convulsions because of it. Moreover, it is truly unfair to compare the language from the mid 19th century to the language of the late 20th or early 21st centuries, which is what Brown had done. Although, to be fair to Brown, he did better clarify Pike’s position regarding blacks when he included Pike’s written words, “The black was intelligent; he was capable of advancement; he was progressing slowly toward ‘the level of the white man;’ and he would ‘be free in God’s good time'” (p. 340).
Basically, Pike has been proven correct in his assessment; which is after the slaves were set free, they have in fact assimilated into the culture; learned the Gospel, etc. I believe that is what Pike was trying to say in his statement. As such, did Pike use the idiom “inferior race?” Yes, he in fact did; however, I believe he meant it in relationship to the blacks condition because of slavery, not because they were biologically or intellectually inferior to other races, as Brown inappropriately wrote in his book.
Nevertheless, despite my criticism of Brown’s interpretation of Pike’s quote, he did make another valuable claim, which helps dismiss the KKK-Pike argument mentioned earlier; Brown wrote, “Pike then left the impression that he neither belonged to the organization nor considered it worthy of his support” (p. 439). We can therefore assume that Pike was aware of the KKK organization, but did not think very highly of it, as he wrote, ‘It is quite certain that it will never come to much on its original plan. It must become quite another thing to be efficient’ (p. 439).
I do need to interject a very important historical comparison at this junction. I think it is safe to say that Pike held abolitionist tendencies, but he was also a political pragmatist, which meant he wanted to free the slaves, but was concerned with its process; like that of other progressive men of the era. A process which got out of hand with the eventual civil war. I safely say this because Abraham Lincoln, the man who received credit for freeing the slaves, held the same abolitionist position as Pike; and some far more extreme positions. It is common knowledge today that Lincoln was not an abolitionist; did not believe blacks should have the same rights as whites; believed that colonizing blacks back to Africa would resolve the issue of slavery; believed in a gradual Emancipation policy; and even after the Emancipation Proclamation was proclaimed, the border slave states of Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky and Missouri, all of which had remained loyal to the Union, allowed slavery by order of Lincoln. Therefore, Lincoln, who has been deemed the Great Emancipator is heralded, while Pike is called a racist; yet both men held similar abolitionist views, while Lincoln held several other extreme views by today’s standards.
Yet, most important of all are Pike’s own words from Morals and Dogma, which will prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that he held no racist views, regardless of what others have written about him. To my knowledge, I don’t know of anyone who has used Pike’s own words from Morals and Dogma to prove he was not a racist. Why might you ask? I don’t really know for certain; however, I think many Masons have shied away from the racist claim because of the probable backlash associated with anyone trying to defend a person who has been labeled a racist. It could also be because most Masons have never read Morals and Dogma, primarily due to its prolixity. Regardless, I will now use Pike’s own words to prove he was not a racist, which is why the Scottish Rite, Southern Jurisdiction, has maintained his book and its teachings for every Mason to enjoy and learn from since his death. I can’t honestly think that any true Masonic organization today would purposely support the writings of a racist; yet sadly, some Masons still think such thoughts, even though they have never bothered to read his book.
Interestingly, Pike was very fond of eastern and middle eastern cultures, like the Parsees, an Indian culture, and of Zoroaster from the Persian (Iranian) culture; and of further importance, he believed that God had no skin color:
“The Parsees, retaining the old religion taught by Zaradisht, say in their catechism: ‘We believe in only one God, and do not believe in any beside Him; Who created the Heavens, the Earth, the Angels… Our God has neither face nor form, color nor shape, nor fixed place. There is no other like Him, nor can our mind comprehend Him‘” (Albert Pike, Morals and Dogma, 1871, p. 620).
Better yet, how about when he wrote that black and white will commingle when the depots ceased to slay and ravage:
“Where the armies of the despots cease to slay and ravage, the armies of ‘Freedom‘ take their place, and, the black and white commingled, slaughter and burn and ravish. Each age reenacts the crimes as well as the follies of its predecessors, and still war licenses outrage and turns fruitful lands into deserts, and God is thanked in the Churches for bloody butcheries, and the remorseless devastators, even when swollen by plunder, are crowned with laurels and receive ovations” (Albert Pike, Morals and Dogma, 1871, p. 295).
You see, Pike, being a man of his age, I believe, did what he could as a southern progressive. He did, in fact, speak out against the injustice of slavery:
“The slave-trade is as acceptable to a people enthralled by that greed, as the trade in ivory or spices, if the profits are as large. It will by-and-by endeavor to compound with God and quiet its own conscience, by compelling those to whom it sold the slaves it bought or stole, to set them free, and slaughtering them by hecatombs if they refuse to obey the edicts of its philanthropy” (Albert Pike, Morals and Dogma, 1871, p. 70).
As the above quote proved, Pike mentioned that he did not believe in the slave trade, primarily because he believed in elevating all of mankind, not just the white culture. Please take note of the word philanthropy, which is commonly defined as, “goodwill to fellow members of the human race; especially: active effort to promote human welfare.” Or how about the term hecatombs, which can be defined as, “
Pike again wrote, “just as that disease whose spectral shadow lies always upon America’s threshold, originated in the avarice and cruelty of the slave-trade” (Albert Pike, Morals and Dogma, 1871, p. 812). Or even:
“The old religions had failed to give happiness and peace to the world. The babbling and wrangling philosophers had confounded all men’s ideas, until they doubted of everything and had faith in nothing: neither in God nor in his goodness and mercy, nor in the virtue of man, nor in themselves. Mankind was divided into two great classes, the master and the slave; the powerful and the abject, the high and the low, the tyrants and the mob; and even the former were satiated with the servility of the latter, sunken by lassitude and despair to the lowest depths of degradation.
When, lo, a voice, in the inconsiderable Roman Province of Judea proclaims a new Gospel—a new ‘God’s Word,’ to crushed, suffering, bleeding humanity. Liberty of Thought, Equality of all men in the eye of God, universal Fraternity! a new doctrine, a new religion; the old Primitive Truth uttered once again” (Albert Pike, Morals and Dogma, 1871, p. 308-309).
This exercise could go on and on, but for the sake of time and space, I will now recap and conclude my thoughts on this critical matter. Through my research, I discovered many racist claims have been propagated against Pike, one on top of the other, based on no reliable, supportable or documented proof. Sadly, many people would rather believe a lie about Pike than the truth, especially if it fits an agenda of social hatred and division of the races, which the Enlightened Mason knows, from his Masonic lessons, is an injustice to humanity. Pike believed that God had no skin color, so why is it so hard to believe he felt differently about his human brothers and sisters. In fact, he did not; and fought such injustices whenever he could. Nevertheless, his time was very much different from ours today, so any social comparisons must be taken into account from the time period in which he fought the social injustice. To do otherwise is simply disingenuous, and such behavior is not worthy of a Mason seeking a high moral character. Yet, the most prevailing evidence today are his own words from Morals and Dogma (1871), which prove he only wanted to raise the level of all the races, like when he compared Hiram to that lofty goal:
“Whatever Hiram really was, he is the type, perhaps an imaginary type, to us, of humanity in its highest phase; an exemplar of what man may and should become, in the course of ages, in his progress toward the realization of his destiny; an individual gifted with a glorious intellect, a noble soul, a fine organization, and a perfectly balanced moral being; an earnest of what humanity may be, and what we believe it will hereafter be in God’s good time; the possibility of the race made real” (Albert Pike, Morals and Dogma, 1871, p. 225).
Therefore, in this author’s humble opinion, I do not believe Albert Pike, upon his death and who was certainly ready to meet the Great Architect of the Universe, held any racist views; and that his soul did transcend, which was an issue he constantly wrote about in Morals and Dogma. I certainly hope everyone, Mason and non-Mason alike, will first read his book before propagating any further racist claims against him in the future. A lofty goal I must admit, one which will sadly not be fully adhered to. Yet, in the end, it is God who will judge us all, including Pike, certainly not imperfect men (or women); a concept I am most thankful for!
As such, I believe the racist claim against Albert Pike is hyperbole, and at the same time a sad reality; only because some people want it to be so, despite any arguments to the contrary.
So Mote It Be!!!