Freemasonry During the Civil War: Acts of Treason? Part Nine
Submitted by Illustrious Companion Kevin A. Wheeler, District Inspector 4th District, Grand Council of Illinois
IC Kevin A. Wheeler
My research paper dealt with a particularly sensitive topic, it dealt with events that occurred during the Civil War by Freemasons that were at least then considered to be acts of treason. My paper sought to first determine and prove that Freemasons while aiding one another and being on opposing sides of the war did indeed commit acts of treason. I also sought to determine why such acts, especially the ones that were clearly treasonous were not prosecuted.
While conducting research for this paper I examined books and articles both peer-reviewed and non-peer-reviewed, and through careful analysis, I had initially determined that Freemasons were involved in various acts of treason throughout the Civil War by assisting one another despite serving on opposing sides of the war. However, after a more careful and detailed look at the incidences and definitions of what constitutes treason, I no longer agree with my first assessment.
There are several reasons why I no longer consider the supposed treasonous acts committed by Freemasons during the Civil War to be treasonous. The first reason that led me to change my perspective were the acts being committed in the first place, however, the acts that were being committed by Freemasons in aiding one another would not be considered acts of treason, immediately following the war, and definitely not in today’s day and age, for the Geneva Convention was ratified in 1864. (Thorndike & Barnhart, 1988) Additionally, at least while conducting my research it was apparent that the majority of the supposed treasonous acts were being committed by the Confederate Soldiers while aiding Union Soldiers, something that the Union surely would have not considered to be treason. As a result of the Geneva Convention, prisoners of war are to be treated fairly, there are to receive food, medical care, and have the right not to be tortured, or executed without just cause. (Wikipedia, 2018).
Another reason why I decided to change my position regarding the acts that were committed by Freemasons during the Civil War not to be treasonous, is because of the nature of the war itself. I agree with Bennett when he stated that the Civil War was less like a war and more like a fratricidal conflict. (1990) The word fratricidal as described by Thorndike & Barnhart (1988), “having to do with the killing of relatives or fellow citizens”. (p. 441) When considering the above definition we can see how it can be reasonably argued that it is seemingly impossible for treason to be present when fighting a Civil War. Additionally, it may have been a good thing that Masons assisted each other during the war, not only by fulfilling their Masonic Obligations but as a precursor to the healing process, the country would eventually go through following the end of the war. In fact, the very first act following the signage of the surrender documents by the southern states was an act to start the healing process and was done by the order of a Masonic Union soldier.
Overall, although some of the acts may have been considered treason during the Civil War, the only true act of treason was that of cessation itself. And when considering the Sothern States Cessation from the Union, “Gen. Ulysses S. Grant assured all Confederate soldiers and officers a blanket amnesty, provided they returned to their homes and refrained from any further acts of hostility, and subsequently other Union generals issued similar terms of amnesty when accepting Confederate surrenders. All Confederate officials received a blanket amnesty issued by President Andrew Johnson as he left office in 1869”. (Wikipedia, 2018, p.3)
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