"To preserve the reputation of the Fraternity unsullied must be your constant care."


Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Congresswoman Introduces Bill To Remove Pike Statue in D.C.


Washington DC's non-voting delegate to Congress, Eleanor Holmes Norton, introduced a bill in Congress Tuesday officially calling for the removal of a statue of the Scottish Rite's sage Albert Pike from Judicial Square in Washington, D.C. The 11-foot tall bronze sculpture by Italian artist Gaetano Trentanove was erected in 1901 and donated to the city by the Scottish Rite Southern Jurisdiction to commemorate their 100th anniversary. 

The original 'House of the Temple' was actually a series of three connected brownstones diagonally across the street from the statues' present location, which is why Pike is placed there today. In 1901 it stood on a tiny triangular sliver of land next to 433 Third Street NW, at the intersection of Third and D Streets. Because the Federal District is owned and operated by the Congress, it required an act of Congress to place the statue there 118 years ago. It now requires another such act to move or remove it.

Original House of the Temple at 433 Third Street NW in Judiciary Square.
Now demolished.
Out of their first 90 years, Albert Pike had served as the AASR-SJ's Sovereign Grand Commander for 32 of them—over a third of the Supreme Council's entire lifespan at that time. The original House of the Temple held their headquarters, their auditorium for putting on degrees, their vast and growing library, and Albert Pike lived and died there. So did his TWO successors. That makes this particular corner historically significant.

As the National Parks Service describes it, Pike is portrayed: 
“...in civilian dress and presented as a Masonic leader rather than a military man. Pike stands 11 feet tall upon a high granite pedestal. Below his feet about halfway down the west face of the pedestal, sitting on a ledge, is the allegorical Goddess of Masonry, holding the banner of the Scottish Rite. The figure is in Greek dress and posed as looking down. Pike holds a book in his left hand, perhaps his popular Morals and Dogma of Scottish Rite Masonry.”
There are eight inscriptions around the corners of its granite base: Author, Poet, Scholar, Soldier, Philanthropist, Philosopher, Jurist, and Orator. On the front is a Latin phrase, Vixit Laborum Ejus Super Stites Sunt Fructus. ("He has lived. The fruits of his labors live after him.") Despite the fact that detractors object to it on the grounds that Pike had served very briefly in the Confederate Army, making it the only statue of a former Confederate soldier in the District, the sculpture does not depict him as a Confederate soldier. There are no references to the Confederacy, and the banner in the hand of the Grecian figure is not a Confederate flag or symbol, but a Scottish Rite one featuring the double-headed eagle. It is purely a Masonic statue.

This current campaign by Norton to remove it dates back to August 2016 at the height of a national call to hide, move or destroy countless Confederate statues commemorating the Civil War. Nevertheless, Norton's bill is only the latest attempt to have Pike scraped off of this historic corner. The statue has been controversial for the last 30 years or more. Fringe politician Lyndon Larouche made an unsuccessful but noisy, high visibility attempt in the 1990s, and it is a frequent target of vandalism.

In 2016, D.C. radio station WTOP reporter Amanda Iacone interviewed Art de Hoyos for a follow up story:

“I think that people have misunderstood the intent of that statue,” said Arturo de Hoyos, grand archivist for the Scottish Rite in D.C.
The Scottish Rite is the largest branch of Freemasonry in the world. And the regional headquarters for the southern half of the United States is based on 16th Street at the House of the Temple, where Pike is interred.
His statue, erected at the dawn of the 20th Century by the Scottish Rite, celebrates his contributions to Freemasonry and his life as a civilian after the war, de Hoyos said.
Still, the organization will support whatever decision is made regarding the statue’s future, he said.
“We certainly don’t want a monument, which was really placed there to honor the fraternity, to be a divisive point within the community on racial matters,” de Hoyos said.
De Hoyos described Pike as a “man of his times,” who was known to abandon ideas and views over the course of his life. That included his views on slavery and he later developed a friendship with a leader of Prince Hall, a black Freemason society.
“Before and during the Civil War, he accepted slavery as a social institution …. He was a person who actually looked forward to a time when slaves would be free men,” de Hoyos said.
Norton’s full statement on the removal of the statue is included below:

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton
Statement of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes NortonOn the Introduction of a Bill to Remove the Statue of Confederate General Albert Pike
July 30, 2019
Madam Speaker.
I rise to introduce a bill to require the removal of a statue of Confederate General Albert Pike from federal land near Judiciary Square in the District of Columbia. This statue was authorized, not by the District, but by Congress in 1898, when the District had no home rule. The statue was constructed using both federal and private funds. The Freemasons, of which Pike was a member, donated the majority of the money needed to build and install the statue in 1901. I oppose tearing down Confederate statues, because I believe they should be moved to more appropriate settings, like museums, to avoid erasing an important part of history from which Americans must continue to learn.
Pike was a Confederate general who served dishonorably and was forced to resign in disgrace. It was found that soldiers under his command mutilated the bodies of Union soldiers, and Pike was ultimately imprisoned after his fellow officers reported that he misappropriated funds. Adding to the dishonor of taking up arms against the United States, Pike dishonored even his Confederate military service. He certainly has no claim to be memorialized in the nation’s capital. Even those who do not want Confederate statues removed will have to justify awarding Pike any honor, considering his history.
After meeting with the Freemasons, I believe that the best course of action is to remove the statue and find a more appropriate place for it. The Freemasons themselves support the statue’s removal, given its divisive nature. The D.C. Mayor and the Council also support the removal of the statue.
My bill clarifies that no federal funds may be used to remove the Pike statue. I urge my colleagues to support this important legislation.

There is much misinformation in her statement, and I discussed the statue, its history, and Pike's past in a much longer article in 2016. See Albert Pike, Statues, History and Hysteria. At the time I wrote that long, long diatribe, the country was enmeshed in statue removal fever, and locally we had just had a spate of bored teenagers vandalizing area statues using the excuse of political "offense" to justify getting drunk and breaking things. A deliberately provocative newspaper "reporter" had even published a helpful list of 'Indianapolis Statues You Might Find Offensive' so they could be more easily targeted for destruction.

The sad truth is that almost no one in America outside of perhaps 1/3 of current US Freemasons - a few hundred thousand at best - know or care who Albert Pike is anymore, including the tiny handful of Masonic members in Congress. In 1901, those numbers were legion. Not anymore. If we're honest, looking out over the back parking lot of the House of the Temple is probably where Pike's statue really belongs today. Although I can convincingly argue its current location is useful to mark the historic location of the former HOT and where he actually lived, worked, and died.

Or as an old indecisive ad executive I used to know frequently waffled, "I feel strongly both ways..."

H/T Mark Tabbert

13 comments:

  1. Just for clarification, she has no vote in Congress. She is a non-voting delegate for Washington DC.

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  2. Unfortunately, we knew this was coming. There is a great deal of ignorance out there with a society that likes to place labels and more damage will be done before it gets better.

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  3. The sculpture situation in Washington is discussed by me in an article in the current Sculpture Review at
    https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0747528419851733

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  4. Correcting the past is a big problem and the answers are elusive. For example, those women's groups who want women like Susan B. Anthony and Margaret Sanger added to the Rushmore presidents in Dakota have besides ideological challenges, the engineering challenge that some advice has been that further excavation might lead to the entire face cracking. Dr.King's new monument in Washington has led to demands that George Washington Carver be similarly honored. Now that Thomas Jefferson's children by slaves have organized and some descendants become prominent, some sort of abridgement of his Washington tidal basin memorial has been raised. We need discussion of what answers might be best. Suggestions prevjously of placing Pike near the statue of George Washington that was given to the Supreme Council by George Washington University for the House of the Temple lawn triggered comment about the two of them not being equal -- or worse, we could see agitation for a recall of the Washington bust.

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    1. *sigh* As I say with greater and greater regularity these days, I could pick a better century out of a hat blindfolded. I wish just 1/100th of the effort to rewrite the past to suit modern sensibilities was being spent on actually making substantively great human achievements for tomorrow. Not a lot of "giant leaps for mankind" being dreamed about anymore.

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    2. Yeah @Christopher I agree. Not only is there no attempt at collective consciousness or 'coming together', in fact I'd say we're more divided than back than.

      Now not to play the devil's advocate but lets just assess the last 100years. Women got rights, blacks were far less marginalized and now more accepted, being gay is far more accepted, drugs of all types have been made illegal, and despite an age of access to near all the current knowledge of mankind most are arguably more unintelligent (in the big picture) than ever before.
      Now I'm not saying ALL those changes were bad; but I'm betting >1 of those changes has exacerbated this degradation of society (EU society NEVER really recovered from the fall of the Ottomon/Habsberg/etc dynastic monarchies circa WWI) so we're talking 100% US. We'll save the convo about current US dem. liberalism and hegemonic affairs for some other time as well.

      My bet: It wasn't giving blacks more rights and less stigma. It was really giving women as many rights as we did, as suddenly as we did. (We, being guys). Yes, eventually they should get equal rights, but it was probably too much, too quickly. (The outlaw of drugs WAS definitely a bad idea, and we'll skip past the other topics.)

      75,000 years of society says we're(men) the ones that've been doing things the way we have, we didn't just automagically come up with the idea of guys making decisions from a lost rock-paper-scissors match lost to time. Evolution, human thinking, pragmatism/logic, etc all played a role well before the beginning of ~1000AD. Global exploration/conquest, waging war, building the libraries and schools, designing roads/banks/bridges/cathedrals/etc, ALL the sciences and 99% of the schools of philosophy. It wasn't women; it was men. Now the female brain isn't really too different from the males, but c'mon. The ideas of; 'with great power comes great responsibility', 'respect is earned not given', 'ultimate power corrupts ultimately', 'the grass isn't always greener on the other side', and 'no such thing as a free lunch'. These are all ideas that the group at large needs to put some effort into fully grasping the context, connotations, and implications of. (Yes, I know many guys don't know the 411 on half this, but ~1/2 do I'd say). Not to trope ~140mil people, but if you look at it from afar in a non-emotional, non-human approach; they are sorta like children. Easily distracted by toys, new goods, interesting plot twists/stories of rather mundane or totally stupid stuff, self-infatuated, attention-seeking, I WANT [insert], etc. Coming off the era when the West was won we can see we didn't prepare society for the whole series of repercussions that's occurred. All of a sudden communication increased, people could buy more things, women could actually work due to increased transportation networks, etc. No thanks from them ever, instead absorbing all the new advances like a 21yr old on their bday like the booze is going to go bad if it ALL isn't drank.

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    3. WOW anonymous, maybe you should read what you wrote. Then maybe you will see the arrogance & intolerance in it.

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  5. A sad commentary on our present day society as revisionist continue to ply their ugly trade in so call political correctedness that permeates what passes as historical perspective. As far as Albert Pike, move him to the Temple grounds where he will be truly appreciated.

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  6. Did we expect otherwise? When we adapted our rituals and customs to fit the "modern inclusive world," did we not understand that doesn't matter to them? The progressive/socialist side does not care one whit about that. They see us as part of the "patriarchy" and supporting "white supremacy" because we revere mostly dead white guys.

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    1. Was ritual changed to fit the modern world? Now, I'm rather new to masonry, but from what I've witnessed, heard, and read, one of the few changes to ritual would be the removal of the penalties in certain jurisdictions. Customs? Sure, those have seen changes, such as lodges becoming more inclusive (my lodge recently initiated its first non-Christian), grand grand lodges have finally begun to realize that Prohibition ended decades ago, and in some jurisdictions there is an increasingly friendly acknowledgement of other equally good and equally legitimate masons who may or may not he black, or women, or possessing some other non-important characteristic. These are all long overdue.

      If people think that masons support white supremacy, maybe masons should do more to demonstrate the opposite. One of the first things that could be done (and it's rather easy) is to present the facts about men like Pike when accusations are leveled: that he promoted African-American masoney, that he expressed support for the idea of women in masonry (not OES, he seemed to disapprove of it), and that he couldn't possibly have beena member of the Klan, much less a founder. Maybe masons could get their act together and stop promoting the "seperate but equal" lie when it comes to Prince Hall Affiliated. Maybe masons should do more than repeatedly lie to themselves about "masonic funerals" and have their petitions state clearly that Freemasonry is not for racists or bigots of any kind, and have their investigative committees put that near the top of the list of things to investigate.

      As to the Pike Statue itself, I think it would probably be best to move it to the House of the Temple. It will be appreciated there, and will hopefully be safer from vandalism.

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