Originally posted on September 12, 2021 @ 9:09 pm
Albert Pike (December 29, 1809 – April 2, 1891) was an American novelist, poet, orator, editor, lawyer, and judge who served on the Arkansas Supreme Court in exile from 1864 to 1865. He had previously served in the Confederate States Army as a senior general, commanding the District of Indian Territory in the Trans-Mississippi Theater. Pike was a famous Freemason who served as the sovereign grand commander of the Scottish Rite from 1859 until 1889.
Early Childhood and Education of Albert Pike
Albert Pike was born on December 29, 1809, in Boston, Massachusetts, to Benjamin and Sarah (Andrews) Pike. He spent his youth in Byfield and Newburyport, Massachusetts. His colonial ancestors, who included John Pike (1613–1688/1689), the founder of Woodbridge, New Jersey, inhabited the region in 1635. He went to school in Newburyport and Framingham till he was 15 years old. He passed the admission examinations to Harvard University in August 1825, but when the college required payment of tuition fees for the first two years, he opted not to enroll. He launched a self-education program and subsequently became a schoolteacher in Gloucester, North Bedford, Fairhaven, and Newburyport.
Pike was a towering figure, standing 6 feet (1.83 m) tall and weighing 300 pounds (140 kg), with shoulder-length hair and a lengthy beard. He left Massachusetts in 1831 to go west, arriving first in Nashville, Tennessee, and subsequently in St. Louis, Missouri.
He joined a hunting and trading trip to Taos, New Mexico, from there. Pike’s horse broke down and bolted on the way, forcing him to walk the last 500 miles (800 km) to Taos. Following that, he joined a trapping trip to New Mexico and Texas’ Llano Estacado. Trapping was limited, and he arrived at Fort Smith, Arkansas, after trekking around 1,300 miles (2,100 km), half of which was on foot.
Albert Pike’s Career
After settling in Arkansas in 1833, Pike taught in a school and published a series of articles under the pen name “Casca” for the Little Rock Arkansas Advocate. The stories were favorably appreciated enough that he was requested to join the newspaper’s staff. In December 1832, the Advocate advocated the Whig Party’s position in a politically turbulent and divided Arkansas under Pike’s administration. He bought the newspaper after marrying Mary Ann Hamilton in 1834.
He was the Arkansas Supreme Court’s first reporter. He authored a book named The Arkansas Form Book, which was published anonymously and used as a guideline for attorneys. Pike began studying law and was called to the bar in 1837, the same year he sold the Advocate. He established himself as a highly effective lawyer, representing clients in courts at all levels, which he continued to do after being granted permission to practice before the United States Supreme Court in 1849.
He also developed many interactions with the local Native American tribes. He specialized on lawsuits against the federal government on behalf of Native Americans. In 1852, he defended the Creek Nation before the United States Supreme Court in a case involving surrendered tribal land. He pushed for the Choctaw and Chickasaw in 1854, despite the fact that the compensation ultimately given to the tribes in 1856 and 1857 was inadequate. These connections would have an impact on the path of his Civil War duty.
He also began a newspaper essay campaign urging support for the construction of a transcontinental railroad extending from New Orleans to the Pacific coast, moving to New Orleans in 1853 and preparing to pass the state bar in furtherance of his campaign, and was eventually able to secure a charter from the Louisiana State Legislature for a project, after which he returned to Little Rock in 1855.
He joined the anti-Catholic Know Nothing Party at its inception and helped launch it in Arkansas in the summer of 1854. In 1856, he attended the national convention but left after it failed to approve a pro-slavery platform. Pike signed a leaflet proposing the expulsion of all free African Americans from Arkansas in the run-up to the Civil War. It said that “the existence among us of a class of free colored individuals is bad.”
Pike also published on a variety of legal topics. He also continued to write poetry, a passion he began as a child in Massachusetts. His poetry were well-regarded when he wrote them, but they have now been mostly forgotten. His daughter secretly released many volumes of his works after his death. Harvard bestowed upon him an honorary Master of Arts degree in 1859.
Poetry by Albert Pike
Pike began writing poetry as a young man of letters and continued to do so for the remainder of his life. “Hymns to the Gods,” his first poem, was published when he was 23. Later works were published in literary magazines such as Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine and local newspapers. Prose Sketches and Poems Written in the Western Country, his first book of poetry, was published in 1834. Many of his works were eventually collected and released in Hymns to the Gods and Other Poems (1872). Following his death, these were reprinted in Gen. Albert Pike’s Poems (1900) and Lyrics and Love Songs (1900). (1916).
Pike was credited with writing “The Old Canoe.” He was considered as the author because, around the time of its publication, while it was making the rounds in the newspapers, presumably without attribution, a doggerel called “The Old Canoe” was written against Pike by one of his political opponents. The topic was a canoe in which he departed Columbia, Tennessee, when he was a young lawyer there. Pike informed Senator Edward W. Carmack that he did not write “The Old Canoe” and couldn’t understand how he gained credit for it. Emily Rebecca Page was the rightful author.
Albert Pike and Freemasonry
In 1840, Pike became a member of the fraternal Independent Order of Odd Fellows. He then joined a Masonic Lodge, where he got quite involved in the organization’s activities. He was appointed Sovereign Grand Commander of the Scottish Rite’s Southern Jurisdiction in 1859. He remained Sovereign Grand Commander for the remainder of his life, dedicating most of his time to refining the order’s ceremonies.
In 1871, he released the first of numerous versions of Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry. During the nineteenth century, this aided the Order’s growth. In addition, he studied and authored the key work Indo-Aryan Deities and Worship as Contained in the Rig-Veda. Pike is still regarded as a famous and important Freemason in the United States, particularly in the Scottish Rite Southern Jurisdiction.