The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 104, July 2000 - April, 2001

Southwestern Historical Quarterly

A Life of Albert Pike. By Walter Lee Brown. (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas
Press, 1997. Pp. 583. Notes, bibliography, index. ISBN 1-55278-469-5.
$48.oo, cloth.)
A nineteenth-century renaissance man, Albert Pike is probably known by most
for one or more of his many accomplishments. His life spanned much of the
nineteenth century and resonated with many of the events of the period. In
many ways, Brown's study is not only a biography, but a study of antebellum
Arkansas politics.
A native of Massachusetts, Pike settled in Arkansas as a teacher after a two-year
escapade in New Mexico and Texas. Not content in the schoolhouse, he subse-
quently became a newspaperman and lawyer. Along the way he married and
fathered eight children while becoming active politically, but, ironically, never
sought elective office. It was Pike's literary legacy that first brought him atten-
tion. His pastoral poetry gained him an international reputation, while in
America he was regarded as a new and significant writer and humorist. In his
later years, Pike refocused his writing efforts on Masonic treatises. In the interim,
he achieved his greatest fame, as a Confederate general. Perhaps reflective of his
Yankee origins, Pike considered himself a Unionist, even while editing his
Arkansas Advocate in Little Rock and practicing law there. As a lawyer, Pike real-
ized considerable success and was regarded as one of the wealthiest attorneys in
the United States. In the face of growing sectional upheaval, Pike became
involved with the Know Nothings and later with the Democrats as he tied him-
self closer to Southern sectional issues. Given his facility with Native American
languages, Pike negotiated treaties between the new Confederacy and the civi-
lized tribes who were left to their own devices with the withdrawal of U.S. troops.
Pike eventually assumed control of the Indian Territory. His reputation was tar-
nished with reports that his Indian troops mutilated Union dead and wounded
at the Battle of Pea Ridge. His notoriety was further enhanced by the conflicts he
had with Confederate generals Thomas C. Hindman and Theopolis H. Holmes
whom he saw as interfering in his governance of the Territory. In disgust he
returned to Arkansas and served on the state supreme court while continuing
his activities in freemasonry. Following the war Pike left his adopted Arkansas for
Memphis and then to Washington, D.C., to practice law and expand the Scottish
Rite Masonic membership roles.
This is an elaboration of the author's 1955 University of Texas dissertation. It
makes extensive use of Pike's prolific writings and publications. Especially note-
worthy is the inclusion of original documents housed in the library of the Mason
Supreme Council. Yet, in spite of the prodigious paper trail left by Pike, he still
remains an enigma if not a contradiction. This Massachusetts man who fought
with the South and budding political agent who left his parties in the lurch at
critical junctures remains as mysterious as the Masonic rites to which he devoted
his life. Still, given the extensive nature of this work, its status as the standard
account of Pike is assured for some time.

Kansas State University

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October

Daniel D. Liestmon

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 104, July 2000 - April, 2001. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101221/. Accessed July 24, 2014.