A Most Undeserving Memorial
I lived in Washington, DC for over 20 years and as weird as it sounds had a good idea of most of the memorials that were contained therein. So I was surprised (but not shocked) that one of them was of a Confederate general. Through the years the United Daughters of the Confederacy met at this memorial to decorate it, protesters gathered at it to condemn it and most people, like myself, just walked on by, oblivious to it all.
All of the controversy that surrounded the Albert Pike Memorial, centered on the fact Mr. Pike¹ was an officer in the Confederate States Army (CSA). He had fought as a member of the Regiment of Arkansas Mounted Volunteers in the Mexican-American War, though "differences" with his commanding officer led to a duel (shots were fired, but no one was harmed). In 1861 he was appointed Confederate Envoy to the Native American nations, and subsequently was commissioned a brigadier general in the CSA, commanding Native American cavalry. His very short service was less than memorable or admirable, his troops were found lacking in battle, and he subsequently resigned his commission in 1862 in the wake of charges of mishandling money and material, as well as the scalping of Union soldiers.
Besides being a traitor to his country, and a failed soldier, what else did this man do to rate a rather large memorial just two blocks from the United States Capitol?
1. He wrote a book of poetry, which believe it or not included a poem titled "Dixie", which starts as follows "Southrons, hear your country call you! Up, lest worse than death befall you!". Verse that one would not confuse with Shakespeare.
2. He was a reporter who covered the Alabama Supreme Court.
3. He wrote a book Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, that plagiarized content from French occultist Éliphas Lévi's work Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie.
4. He had a minor connection to the Ku Klux Klan. Freemasonry has continued to refute any connection, though Pike did state his main problems lay not with the Klan's aims, but with its methods and leadership.
5. He was actually born in Massachusetts where he lived until his early twenties!
This man was so unaccomplished that he fills me with hope, a hope that someday, I may have a memorial named after me! So how did such an unaccomplished man get a memorial? Did I allude to the fact that he was a Mason? Well he was, rising to become the Sovereign Grand Commander of the Scottish Rite's Southern Jurisdiction. Well, sometime after the Sovereign Grand Commander's death in 1891, the Supreme Council, wanted to memorialize their long serving leader (and Freemasonry), so they lobbied members of congress for public land in Washington, D.C. where the memorial could be placed. When members of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), a powerful, fraternal organization of Union Civil War veterans, became aware of plans for a public memorial to be erected in Washington, D.C. in honor of a Confederate general, they lobbied members of congress and told them it would be a disgrace to the memories of all Union soldiers. Well, Mason beats GAR (rock beats gun?), as congress approved that the Mason funded memorial to be built on federal land at Judiciary Square, 3rd & D Streets, NW (the current location of the memorial is quite close to original site, as it was later moved to allow construction of I-395).
This odd memorial became a little bit odder in 1992, when followers of convicted fraudster, cult leader, and Marxist, Lyndon LaRouche, organized a series of protests demanding the memorial be removed. It was serious enough that two followers did jail time for "unlawful statue climbing" and the Masons had to openly defend General Pike's curriculum vitae. One would think they would not want this hack associated with the Freemasonry brand, then again sometimes people can't admit a mistake without thinking it makes them look weak.
Protests against the memorial continued since, though with fewer Freemasonry rebuttals, culminating with its toppling on June 19 2020. The National Park Service (NPS) did a better job removing the statue, then defending it, as the statue was removed for "safekeeping" the very next day. And that the "destatueteers" were better at their job, then the NPS was at theirs, as the smaller bronze sculpture representing the Goddess of Masonry that rests halfway down the base, was unharmed.
The base of The Albert Pike Memorial is ringed with such puffery that, after you read about the good general, is laughable: "AUTHOR – POET, SCHOLAR – SOLDIER, ORATOR – JURIST, PHILANTHROPIST.
I need to come clean at this point, as part of the reason I have written a Report about this specific memorial, is to allow me to share my feelings about statues and memorials dedicated to former members of the Confederacy.
I have discussed the subject of Confederate statues and memorials extensively with both subscribers and non-subscribers. I do agree with the argument that removing statues and memorials is a slippery slope, once started where does it end. If owning of slaves is a deal-breaker, then there goes George Washington (and you can't move that one); if defending slavery is, then there goes Roger Taney (in the works); if you killed Native Americans, then there goes George Custer (safe for now); if you converted Native Americans to Christianity, then there goes Junípero Serra (oh, no, already toppled). Where do you draw The Line?
I think most will agree that one long and unequivocal line cannot be drawn to adjudicate every statue, memorial, bust, road, park, stadium in the country. Each must be specifically reviewed with some amount of context, especially viewing each within the time in which they lived.
That being said, One Line does need to be drawn that is long and unequivocal. One that can be applied to every statue and memorial ever built in the United States:
If you have taken up arms against the United States of America, you do not get a statue.
It is just that simple. The United States does not have statues or memorials for Charles Cornwallis, Yusuf Karamanli, Robert Ross, Santa Anna, Pascual Cervera y Topete, Erich Ludendorff, Erwin Rommel, Choe Yong-gon, Võ Nguyên Giáp, Salah Aboud Mahmoud, or Akhtar Mansoor.
What to do with all these statues and memorials to our Confederate "heroes"? Don't worry (as always) I have a solution!
We are not the first country to suffer this problem. Many of the countries of the Eastern-Bloc, that threw off the shackles of Communism, were littered with statues to "heroes" such as Erich Honecker, Che Guevara and Joseph Stalin. Instead of being destroyed, they were moved to alternate locations. Hungary may have the best solution. They moved many of the statues and sculpted plaques from Hungary's Communist period (1949 - 1989) to Memento Park, an open air museum located on the outskirts of Budapest. It is here that the likes of Vladimir Lenin, Friedrich Engels, Georgi Dimitrov can stand in a empty field² and preach their failed ideology to . . . not . . . a . . . single . . . person (except, of course, foreign tourists who pay a 1,500 HUF entrance fee).
What to do with the statue pedestals that remain? Just leave them where they are, as a lesson to those that contemplate the wisdom of taking up arms against the United States.
Endnotes: I wanted to provide some very specific details which while vaguely interesting did not contribute to the overall narrative. Perhaps just wait until the end to read.
¹ Brother Pike plays a minor role in the movie National Treasure: Book of Secrets, exchanging letters with Queen Victoria regarding a stockpile of lost gold. A good friend's review of the predecessor movie holds true for this one, "it's not bad, especially if you have kids". Though may I add, co-star Diane Kruger is a very good actress.
² The idea of having Communist statues preach to an empty field may have come from Adolf Hitler ordering the destruction of the Alsace-Lorraine Memorial and rest of the Armistice of 11 November 1918 site, as well the removal of the Compiègne Wagon (where the WWI armistice was signed), so that a statue of Marshal Ferdinand Foch would be honoring a wasteland.