The document reproduced below is the so‑called "Ritual" of a local secret organization known to its members as "No. 298." This order flourished in the Florida parishes of Louisiana between 1872 and 1877 when the rule of the reconstructionists was at its worst. I am informed that this paper contains all about p576the order of "No. 298" that was ever reduced to writing. A congressional investigating committee could hardly find fault with the almost meaningless statements made in this official document of the organization. In this respect the Papers of "No. 298" resemble those of most other secret political organizations of the time; they are all innocent enough to the uninitiated and it is quite probable that few of them had any real or hidden meaning. Probably they were designed to mislead the curious and unfriendly.
"No. 298" had chapters or "conclaves" in several of the Florida parishes of Louisiana — among them East and West Feliciana, East Baton Rouge and Livingston. Prominent men were included in the membership, among them the commanding officer of federal troops in that district. The latter was able to render service to his fellow members when the United States deputy marshals were after them. On one occasion a deputy marshal came up from New Orleans with warrants for several leading members of "No. 298" and asked for the aid of the troops. The commander took the list of names and marked "col." (colored) after the names of those most in danger on account of "bulldozing" activities. The deputy marshal, aided by the soldiers, spent some time looking for Negroes who bore the names marked on the list; the real owners of the names had time to escape.
The manuscript from which this reprint is made was given me by Mr. Philip H. Jones of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Originally it was the property of the Jackson (Louisiana) "Conclave of the Order No. 298."
Walter L. Fleming
1st. Opening Ode.
2nd. Great Jehovah, descend now and fill this room with thy glory and our hearts with thy good will towards all mankind. Teach us humility, in this, our initiatory step in advancing another Brother to fellowship with us. May we at all times find true pleasure in advancing the objects of our Order; the extension and perpetuity of science, literature and liberty.
3rd. The Candidate is seated in chair, facing the Worthy Master.
p577 4th. Reading 1st, 2nd, 11th, 20th, 21st and 22nd versesa of Proverbs.
5th. The Candidate, standing, the Marshal says: "Worthy Master, I have the pleasure of presenting Mr. for initiation into our ancient mysteries."
W. M. Brother Marshal, is he prepared and qualified?
Marshal. He is.
W. M. By what other right does he demand this honor?
Marshal. By right of a pass word.
W. M. Has he our pass word?
Marshal. He has not, but I have it, and will communicate it for him.
W. M. Advance and communicate it.
Marshal advances and communicates it.
W. M. The pass word is right. (To candidate) Thus far have you gone, do you wish to proceed? [The candidate having answered in the affirmative the oath is administered.]
I, . . . . . . of my own free will, do voluntarily swear or affirm, that I will not reveal any of the secrets connected with this Order, that shall in any manner come to my knowledge, to any human being, neither will I make any mark or sign, or do anything whatever, whatever the same may be made known or discovered, except to a person who I know has been regularly initiated, or in open conclave and then only in the manner and form, in which they are communicated to me. All of which I swear, without any equivocation or mental reservation whatever. Binding myself under the penalty of being deprived of liberty or life, at the option, of my comrades, so help me God.
W. M. (To Candidate who is prompted by the Marshal.) Where were you born?
Marshal. In Persia.
W. M. Were you born free?
Marshal. I was.
W. M. Who was King of Persia at that time?
Marshal. Abdul Ad Hazed.b
W. M. then instructs in pass word and grip.
W. M. There is a short legend connected with our order which I will now recite to you. Partially explanatory of the scene through which we are now passing, in the year 193 A. Ad. H. was King of Persia. A. Ad. H. was a very bitter and tyrannical monarch and his subjects were seldom seen to smile. It was his custom to wander among them alone and in disguise to discover who might speak ill of him, and then severely punish them. On one of these occasions, while wandering through the country, without the city limits, he encountered a large number of people p578marching around a pole, which was surmounted by the mysterious numbers "298." These people were apparently in great glee, and the King was astonished to see so much joy among them. When the King expressed his surprise, he was informed that they were in possession of certain great secrets that made them jubilant. The King desired to have these secrets communicated to him, which the people consented to, provided he would deposit a certain sum of money and receive them in the same manner and form in which they had been communicated to them.
And now, my Brother, if you wish to follow the example of our illustrious predecessor, Ab. Ad. H. and be entrusted with these secrets, you will allow yourself to be placed in proper position by the Marshal for the reception of the same.
Marshal. W. M., the candidate is in proper position.
W. M. Now brother marshal, you have my permission to impart to him the secrets.
a Sic. If, as seems almost certain, the Biblical Book of Proverbs is intended, it is divided into (31) chapters, and each of these into verses: as Order No. 298's references stand, they are meaningless.
b The unwary Web surfer coming across this page on a quest for information on Persian history should go away — fast. (A better place to start: the Livius website.) There has never been a king of Persia by this name; taking "193" to mean 193 A.D., the Parthian king was Vologases V; and the somewhat scrambled name in No. 298's document is clearly intended to be Islamic, when Mohammedanism dates from the 7c.
If the aims of the Ku Klux Klan had not been so nefarious, this and the other absurdities in the text would just be rollicking good fun on a par with the biography of Johann Nepomuk Offdewallensis.
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