Freemasonry and the Andrew Johnson presidency

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Andrew Johnson's connections with Freemasonry have been highly scrutinized.

Freemasonry and the Johnson presidency were highly connected—while standard history textbooks in the United States vaguely describe the impeachment proceedings against Democratic president Andrew Johnson as a dispute over civil rights, virtually no mainstream source explains the corrupting influences of Masonry rooted in the white supremacist obstruction of Republican efforts to secure racial egalitarianism for freedmen.

The acquittal of President Johnson in the United States Senate by a single vote has been attributed to Masonic influence.


Albert Pike, an Arkansas Democrat and high-ranking Freemason who incarnated the Scottish Rite, fought for the Confederate States of America during the American Civil War, and along with numerous Southern leaders, faced retribution by Republicans following the Union victory. The leader of the Radical Republicans, Thaddeus Stevens, was a lifelong avowed opponent of Masonry, denouncing its elitist secretive activities as incompatible with the classical liberal ideals comprising the bedrock of American society.

However, following the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, Tennessee Democrat Andrew Johnson, picked for vice president in 1864 to replace the Radical Republican Hannibal Hamlin in an effort of wartime bipartisanship, ascended to the presidency. Despite his bitter vitriol against the Southern planter class (the elitist faction of the social hierarchy which controlled the slave labor force), he shared the region's white supremacy, only supporting abolition to essentially deprive the planters of "hoarding" white supremacy from poor whites.[1] Johnson was also a Freemason.[2]

Johnson pardons Albert Pike

Radical Republicans initially held high hopes for Andrew Johnson, genuinely believing him to acquiesce with their hardline civil rights agenda as opposed to Lincoln's moderate skepticisms throughout the Civil War—RR Benjamin Wade told the newly sworn president: "Johnson, we have faith in you. By the Gods, there will be no trouble [now] in running the government."[3][4][5] However, they quickly became disillusioned with the new Administration after Johnson pardoned a number of Confederate generals, including Pike.[6] Among Masons all over the country, the 33-degree initiate B. B. French, a director on the board of the Supreme Council of the Scottish Rite, had urged Johnson in a letter on July 1, 1865, to pardon Pike.[7]

Pike's pardon by Pres. Johnson sparked major suspicion.

Christopher Hoddap notes that in "New World Order" by William T. Still, it was alleged that Johnson was but a subordinate within Masonry to Pike, the Sovereign Grand Commander.[8] Hence, Johnson was under a mutual obligation to aid and abet his superior, though waited nearly year prior to informing the public due to apparently rife anti-Masonry. Hoddap, himself a 33-degree Freemason, then castigates Still's research as "feverish imagination."

The Supreme Council of the Scottish Rite gathered on April 20, 1866, in Washington, D.C., where Sovereign Grand Inspector General T. P. Shaffner in a written request to the Attorney General asked for the pardoning of Pike.[7] In just two days, the Attorney General received a notice by Johnson's military aide to send a pardon warrant to the White House for "Albert Pike of Arkansas." According to author Paul Fisher:[7]

The following day, April 23, 1866, officials of the Supreme Council, including Pike, 'visited the President at the White House,' and the President handed Pike 'a paper constituting a complete pardon for his part in the Civil War.'

Nine months later, a list of 'pardoned rebels,' including Pike, was released to the press. The list showed the names of the pardoned individuals and the person or persons, if any, who had spoken on behalf of the pardoned. The entry for Pike read: 'Albert Pike, rebel Brigadier-General; by Hon. B. B. French, Col. T. P. Shaffner, and a large number of others.'

—Paul A. Fisher, "Behind the Lodge Door: The Church, State and Freemasonry in America"

Johnson purportedly was yet a high-ranking Mason, pardoned Pike for his own advancement among the fraternity's ranks, subsequently elevated from the third to the thirty-second degree "almost immediately."[6]

Pike's anger towards Radical Republicanism

The Democratic Party and their white supremacist allies despised the Radical Republicans for securing civil rights and dismantling their racial hierarchies which subjugated blacks and other ethnic minorities. Georgia Democratic leader Benjamin H. Hill branded the Republicans "assassins of liberty" he incited a local mob to resist, and Pike himself, in open disdain toward the Radical Republicans,[9] likened them to:[10]

...the darkest days of the French Revolution, when France was reeling drunk with blood.

—Albert Pike

Ironically, Pike would play a leading role in establishing the Reconstruction-era Ku Klux Klan responsible for a reign of terror in the South.

Senate acquittal vote

According to one author, the Freemasons were divided on the Johnson impeachment: on the prosecutorial side, Democrat-turned–Radical Republican Benjamin F. Butler was a Mason, while Stevens and Charles Sumner, the leaders of the Radicals, were anti-Masonic.[2] However, Jewish historian Anton Chaitkin firmly describes the civil rights cause during Reconstruction as anti-Masonic, led by Stevens to overthrow the Masonic–cabalist–Mazziniite–Democratic white supremacist regime in the South which subsequently was manifested in the first incarnation of the Ku Klux Klan.[11]

Masonic influence on Edmund G. Ross's vote?

Ross's pivotal decision to acquit Johnson was marked with corruption.

After the Republicans of the United States House of Representatives overwhelmingly (both Moderates led by John A. Bingham and Radicals under Thad Stevens's lead) voted in favor of impeaching President Johnson, the Senate took up the debate on removal. Although Radicals until the vote were confident of removing Johnson, a handful sided with the Democratic Administration: Peter G. Van Winkle (R–WV), Joseph S. Fowler (R–TN), Lyman Trumbull (R–IL), John B. Henderson (R–MO), William P. Fessenden (R–ME), James W. Grimes (R–IA), and Edmund G. Ross (R–KS).

Ross was reportedly, from historical record, at first leaning towards the anti-Johnson side and about to support removal, even promising the impeachment managers and a reporter just days before the vote that he would oppose the president.[12] However, as the result of a corrupt bribery bargain between his "sponsor" Perry Fuller and the Administration, he voted for acquittal to cash in on ill-gotten patronage.

The Pike–Ream connection

Republicans, in bitter shock following the vote, speculated whether Ross was "seduced" by 18 year-old sculptress Vinnie Ream; one article lambasted him taking "his pleasures, not by the quart as drunkards do, but rather by the Ream."[13] According to Edward S. Cooper in his biography on Ream, Pike "was to play an important part in Vinnie's life."[14]

In early April 1868, Pike readied himself to leave Washington, D.C., and being a speaking tour whose culmination would be a speech in Charleston, South Carolina, to the city's Masonic Supreme Council.[9] He appointed charge over his itinerary to Ream, who asked, "Shall I be a comfort to you?" Photographs of herself sent to Pike led to his reply, "I have become discontented with your photographs. The face they show me is not yours. The eyes full of thought, with their curious, questioning, wistful loving look, are not there."[9]


  1. Gordon-Reed, Annette (January 18, 2011). Andrew Johnson: The American Presidents Series: The 17th President, 1865-1869, pp. 10–11. Google Books. Retrieved October 2, 2023.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Ridley, Jasper (1999). The Freemasons: A History of the World's Most Powerful Secret Society. Google Books. Retrieved October 2, 2023.
  3. Foner, Eric (1988). Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877, p. 177. Harper and Row. Retrieved October 6, 2023.
  4. Barr, John McKee (April 7, 2014). Loathing Lincoln: An American Tradition from the Civil War to the Present, p. 50. Google Books. Retrieved October 2, 2023.
  5. Havelin, Kate (September 2004). Andrew Johnson, p. 52. Google Books. Retrieved October 2, 2023.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Cameron, Jimmy C. (December 2013). Racism and Hate: An American Reality, p. 50. Google Books. Retrieved September 27, 2023.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Fisher, Paul A. Behind the Lodge Door: The Church, State and Freemasonry in America. Google Books. Retrieved September 27, 2023.
  8. Hodapp, Christopher (December 1, 2006). Solomon's Builders: Freemasons, Founding Fathers and the Secrets of Washington D.C., p. 240. Google Books. Retrieved September 27, 2023.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Cooper, Edward S. (2004). Vinnie Ream: An American Sculptor, pp. 66–67. Google Books. Retrieved September 27, 2023.
  10. Bever, Megan L.; Gordon, Lesley J.; Mammina, Laura (May 20, 2020). American Discord: The Republic and Its People in the Civil War Era. Google Books. Retrieved September 27, 2023.
  11. Chaitkin, Anton (April 9, 1993). Masons Conspire for World Power: the Pike-Mazzini correspondence. Executive Intelligence Review, Vol. 20, No. 14, p. 32. Retrieved October 3, 2023.
  12. Stewart, David O. (December 15, 2019). Edmund G. Ross Was a Profile in Impeachment Corruption, not Courage. History News Network. Retrieved September 27, 2023.
  13. Troy, Gil (November 17, 2019). This Man Thwarted America’s First Impeachment. The Daily Beast. Retrieved September 27, 2023.
  14. Cooper, "Vinnie Ream," p. 6.