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masonic matters

Willaim Walker

by Ed Halpaus
Grand Lodge Education Officer
Grand Lodge of A. F. & A. M. of Minnesota

We have in our area a fine little publication that is fun to read. It is free for the taking, and it is found in café’s, Gas Stations, Movie Theaters, and the like, it’s called “Tidbits.” I think it is nation wide here in America, so many of you may know it in your area too. I like to read it when I find it in a business, and recently when my good wife and I were out to the movies I picked up a copy of Tidbits to bring home. The theme of the issue was “The Letter W,” and in it was this bit of information: “There is only one person born in America who went on to become president of a foreign nation. His name was William Walker, and this journalist, physician, and lawyer added president of Nicaragua from 1856-1857 to his list of accomplishments.”[i]

That was interesting, so I thought I’d take a quick look in a book or two here in my office to see if I could find out something about him. The first, and easiest book to look in, that was within reach, was 10,000 Famous Freemasons, and there he was. I also looked in a couple of history books and he was there too, then I looked on the web and found more information. In my reading I found this statement: “William Walker, the greatest American Filibuster.” Well, That’s an interesting term, and I wanted to know what it meant, it means a freebooter, or buccaneer, and also one who engages in an unlawful military expedition into a foreign country to inaugurate or to aid a revolution. In addition it also means an irregular military adventurer. That’s who our Brother William Walker was. He was a Freemason, for a while anyway.

He didn’t live to be very old, but he packed a lot into his short years, (1824-1860,) and when you hear about everything he did you may not be too pleased about him. He might be best listed as a notorious Freemason rather than a famous one.

He was born May 8, 1824 in Nashville Tennessee. He evidently was quite a gifted and brilliant student because he graduated from the University of Nashville at the age of 14 and by age 19 had earned his Medical Degree. He practiced Medicine in Philadelphia, studied Law in New Orleans, became part owner of “The Crescent” a newspaper in New Orleans, and in 1850 sold the paper and moved to San Francisco where he worked as a newspaper man for a while and then moved to Marysville, California where he practiced Law.[ii] He was a Charter member of Texas Lodge #46 in San Juan Bautista, California, but he later withdrew as a member of the Lodge[iii], and it appears he never again affiliated with any other Masonic Lodge.

William Walker stood 5 foot 2 inches and weighed 120 pounds, he was a forceful, and convincing speaker, and a fearless fighter who commanded the respect of his men in battle. He was a complex man with some complex, goals and ideas. His first adventure was to obtain the independence of Sonora and Baja California for the ultimate annexation to the United States, and for the extension of slave territory so as to obtain a balance of power for the south.

In 1853 he opened a recruiting office in San Francisco. Recruits came; many who were from the south, and were therefore adherents of slavery, and the manifest destiny doctrine.[iv] [That doctrine simply stated is that the United States by destiny was entitled to rule the North American Continent.] Hundreds of people also bought the “Script” he issued and sold, which was to be redeemable in the lands of Sonora. With the funds he raised by selling the script he financed his expedition. He sailed on October 16, 1853 to the Guaymas and landed 3 weeks later at La Paz where 200 additional men reinforced him, he took the country and proceeded to set up a government. He proclaimed the independence of the “Republic of Lower California” from Mexico, and applied the laws of Louisiana to the newly created government, which permitted slavery if anyone should care to bring slaves into the country. Because of fights with the Mexicans, and the fact that he was facing too much exposure in La Paz. He moved his headquarters to Ensenada, abolished the Republic of Lower California, and established the Republic of Sonora declaring himself President, and his top associates as Vice-President, and Secretary of State.

Walker’s popularity soared; hundreds of men flocked to join his expedition, the newspapers in the United States greatly applauded him in his victory. But then the tide turned and problems arose. For some unknown reason the vessel with his supplies sailed away with the best part of his supplies, then 200 recruits arrived from San Francisco, and he was forced to send men out on foraging expeditions. The Local citizenry residing in Baja California didn’t want to give their Cattle and provisions for Walker’s script. Fights with the Mexicans occurred and some of Walker’s men began to desert, and as problems worsened on May 8, 1854 Walker, and his party, crossed the border near Tia Juana, and surrendered themselves to United States Authorities.[v]

Walker was arrested and tried for a violation of the United States Neutrality Laws; he was acquitted, and went back to his law practice, but next turned his attention to Central America.

In Nicaragua there were two factions known as the Granada & Leonese, those forces known as the Democrats and Legitimists who were fighting each other. The leader of the Democrat Faction in Nicaragua invited Walker to bring an army and join in the war with the Legitimists. So William Walker on May 3, 1855 arrived in Nicaragua with a force of about 60 men to join in the fighting. He quickly won many victories and after the battle of Rivas he was given the title of Generalissimo. He called his army “The Immortals,” which consisted of his original 60 men plus a native rebel force. This force soon routed the Legitimists and Walker captured their Capitol of Granada on Lake Nicaragua, and thus the war was over[vi] Even though the war had ended there were still troubles; Walker revoked the franchise of the Vanderbilt Steamship Company for carrying passengers and freight on all the waterways in and around Nicaragua and awarded a 25 year franchise to Edmund Randolph. In the meantime Walker held an election and had himself elected President of Nicaragua. The United States recognized his government, but his enemies continued to cause him trouble. Cornelius Vanderbilt who was seeking control of the San Juan River & Lake Nicaragua from the Caribbean to the Pacific armed Walkers enemies, and the British attempting to thwart American influence in the region regularly harassed his supply ships. Soon other countries in Central America formed an alliance against him and in mid 1857 he surrendered to a United States Naval Officer and returned to the U.S.

President Buchanan [a Mason] in his presidential message condemned Walker as a filibuster, and Walker was again tried for violation of neutrality, and was again acquitted.

Walker was not content with regular private life and he again organized a force and expedition to go back to Nicaragua. He sailed for Honduras landing at Trujillo with the intention of marching overland into Nicaragua, His men began to desert him, and his mission was rapidly failing. He surrendered himself to the Captain of a British Naval Vessel off the coast of Honduras, and instead of protecting him, the Captain handed Walker over to the authorities in Honduras. He was tried by Court-Marshal, put up against a wall and shot on September 12, 1860. His body is buried in the “old Trujillo Cemetery” with a marker showing his name and “Fusilado” (I don’t know hat that means, but Fusil means, “rifle” and Fusilar means, “to shoot.” So a good guess by a Brother of mine is that it means “Death By Firing Squad.” Thanks Brother Mark.)

The final comment on this is that because of Walkers actions in Mexico and setting up the Republic of Sonora. That paved the way for the United States to purchase land from Mexico, (known as the Gadsden Purchase because our Brother James Gadsden was U.S. Minister to Mexico and he handled the purchase,) for 10 million dollars the United Stated received 45,535 square miles of land containing 30 million acres, which runs south of the Gila River extends to El Paso and west to California. This purchase includes the area where Tucson Arizona is located, and it was the final boundary adjustment between the United States and Mexico.

This purchase was a very unpopular thing, so unpopular in fact that General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna [a Mason.] President of Mexico was unseated from his office; James Gadsden was recalled as minister to Mexico. But this is an interesting conclusion to the story: When the citizens of Arizona asked congress for a territorial government in 1854 one of the names suggested for the Territory was Gadsonia, a Latin adaptation of the last name of Brother James Gadsden.

"Friendship consists in forgetting what one gives, and remembering what one receives."
Alexander Dumas, the younger

Friendship and Brotherly Love: Those two things are not the same, one is a choice and the other is a duty. We are fortunate indeed when we genuinely like to be in the company on another, and if that other is also a Masonic Brother so much the better. I'm sure you may be able to relate to the fact that there are some in Masonry with whom we have Brotherly Love, but whom we prefer not to spend our time with. That is the difference between the choice, (choosing our friends,) and our duty, (to love one another.)

Have you ever visited a Masonic Lodge that was unfriendly? Where you could sense that there were factions at work within the Lodge? I have, and usually when that is present the Lodge is headed for trouble, or it is already in trouble. Contrast that kind of a Lodge with one where the Masons are happy to be together, and where they all respect the other Brothers, and their motives. I'm certain you know Lodges like that. Those lodges are the most fun to be a member of, and to visit; they are on the move doing the kind of things that will keep Masonry alive.

Politics in Masonry: We are admonished not to speak of politics in a Masonic Lodge, what does that mean to you? Does that mean speaking of political candidates? Or does it mean that, and something else too? I think that it does mean something else as well, or in my opinion it should mean something else, and that something else is a very hard thing to avoid, but avoiding it builds character.The kind of politics I'm speaking about is the "office politics," the choosing up sides, the backbiting and other counter productive activities that sometimes Masons practice in a Masonic Lodge. There are Masons whoreally don't like each other, and unfortunately it sometimes appears that they don't have any love for each other either, (the choice, and the duty,) and consequently the Lodge as a whole suffers when they play politics in the Lodge.It is my opinion when we speak of the fact that politics is forbidden in a Lodge all Masons should be reminded that it does not mean only politics of the day where elections, and other political party issues are concerned, butalso the politics that can creep into our thoughts, words, and actions, that will cause disharmony, and problems in the Lodge. So, that is in my book the story behind the story on Politics.

That does not mean that we will always agree with the opinions of our Masonic Brothers, in fact I'm sure that won't be the case, but it does mean that we respect each others opinions and we want to understand why our Brother feels the way he does. I'm convinced that the cause of most difficulties is misunderstanding,[vii] so Masons would be better off if they would do their best to understand, and if they don't to ask again to get an explanation. There is a saying that says: "Seek first to understand, then be understood."[viii]

If we, as Masonic Brothers, can see each other for what we are, the good and the bad everyone has in them, and still enjoy being together in person, by voice, and by writing, we are fortunate indeed, and it would indicate that we are doing our best to act in a brotherly manner.

"A friend is one who sees through you, and still enjoys the view." Wilma Askinas

I have a question or two, some would say I have a whole lot more questions than that, but here are two. Have you ever been where an anti-Mason was spreading rumors in the area in which you live? Have you ever wondered why some places you can find lists of famous Freemasons?

Well in reference to the first question; in this part of Minnesota I run across the handy work of the anti-Mason every once-in-a-while, and it surfaced again today. As to the second question it is my opinion that when non-Masons see a list of men who were, or are, Masons they can get a good idea of what kind of organization it is. I don’t know the quote exactly but it is something like show me the kind of people you associate with and I will be able to gauge the kind of man you are. Well we Masons associate with good men. And one of the good men who was a famous man and a fine Mason was Brother Norman Vincent Peale.

I have a few of Brother Peale’s books in my own little library, and while I’ve read them all I will reread and reference into them every now-and-then. I also have a good book by Ruth Stafford Peale, our Brother’s Widow, and that’s what I would like to make a short report on now.

Her book is titled “A Lifetime of Positive Thinking,” and in it there is a section on the family. She says that family’s matter, and that they always have. She also says that the time spent with and for our families bring us incredible joy, the joy our Creator wants us to have. And she uses the letters of the word Family to convey her points on the family. I think that they not only apply to good family life, but also to our Masonic Family, so here they are. F-A-M-I-L-Y

“Faithful to one another.” [That seems obvious, but in Masonry are we faithful to the Brothers in our Lodge? Do we take to heart the admonition; that around the altar we have promised to befriend and relieve every Brother who shall need our assistance, and that we have promised to remind him in the most tender-manner of his failings, and to help him in his efforts to correct his ways and to get back on track. Do we show to the world how Masons love one another?]

“Amenable attitudes.” [When conflict arises in our relationships with others, including our Masonic Brethren, how do we handle that? Do we remember our Brother is basically a good man wanting the same things we do? Do we approach a disagreement with the idea that we should be able at the very least to disagree agreeably?]

“Memories, meaningful memories.” [If we are active in our Lodge, and participate with our Brothers in the extra curricular activities Masons and their families are involved in, we will get to know our Brothers better, and when we think about them a smile will come to our face.]

“Involvement, total involvement.” [Are we involved with, and in, our Brother’s life, even just a little bit? Do we go out of our way just a little to know what his wife’s name is, and if he has kids? Do you like it when someone remembers your wife’s name and asks questions about how your loved ones are doing? Well so do our Brothers.]

“Loving interactions.” [When we interact with our Brothers do we do it out of love, do we act lovingly toward all the members of our family? Sometimes that’s a hard question. Being a member of a family, our own, or our Masonic Family is not for wimps. Can you love someone but not really like him? One is an obligation the other is a decision, would life in your Lodge be better for you and at least one of your Brothers if you decided that he had some qualities that you could focus on so that you could like him better? We will do out of love what needs to be done, but we will do out of affection, and friendship, many times much more, and in a friendlier manner.]

“Yes-focus.” [Mrs. Peale calls the 5 attributes; Faithfulness, Amenability, Memories, Involvement, and Love a Yes-Focus, which is a positive perspective to help us enjoy life more, both inside our Family and our Lodge.]

“All happy families resemble each other, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Leo Tolstoy

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“Professions of Brotherhood in a Masonic Lodge are of no more value than professions of religion in a church --- unless they are acted upon.” Brother Joseph Fort Newton in “The Men’s House.”

It’s You
By Anonymous

If you want to be in the kind of Temple
Like the kind of Temple you like,
You needn’t slip your clothes in a grip
And start on a long, long hike.

You’ll only find what you left behind,
For there is really nothing that is new.
It’s knock at yourself when you knock at the Temple
For it isn’t the Temple, it’s you.

Real Temples are not made by men afraid
Less someone else get ahead.
When everybody works, and nobody shirks,
You can raise a Temple from the Dead.

And if you make your personal Strike,
Your Brother can make one too.
Your Temple will be what you want it to be,
For it isn’t the Temple it’s You.

[i] Tidbits – dist. by Falcon Prince Publishing, Minneapolis
[ii] The Saga of William Walker by Don Fuchik
[iii] 10,000 Famous Freemasons by William R. Denslow
[iv] William Walker by Miss Fanny Juda
[v] William Walker by Miss Fanny Juda
[vi] The Saga of William Walker by Don Fuchick
[vii] Stephen Covey – Applying the 7 Habits
[viii] First Things First by Stephen Covey

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Last modified: March 22, 2014