Historically Speaking

Making sense of it all!

The Third Degree

Posted by Elyse Bruce on August 26, 2010

Everyone knows that if you’re given the third degree, that you’re under “intense interrogation by police” or some other authority figure.

The police reference has been around since 1900, and is a reference to the Third Degree of master mason in Freemasonry dating back to changes made in 1721, four years after the first Grand Lodge of Freemasonry was founded in London, England.  The third degree ceremony involved an interrogation ceremony before the degree was conferred upon the Freemason. 

In American, the third degree defined the seriousness of a particular type of crime and is recorded as early as 1865.  In 1910, Richard H. Sylvester,  Chief of Police for Washington, DC divided police procedures into the arrest as the first degree, transportation to jail as the second degree, and interrogation as the third degree.    

And in 1931 the Wickersham Commission found that use of the third degree was widespread in the United States and was misused at times to extract confessions from suspects.

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2 Responses to “The Third Degree”

  1. Nice job Elyse.. You definetly do your research. That is what I need someone who can research like you and check my spelling and grammar. Maybe one day if I ever become rich and famous.. One has to have goals….Thanks for your hard work this week… Great phrases.

    • You’re welcome, Gary. There’s a lot of work involved in researching each expression, phrase, cliche, etc., however it’s well worth the effort. It’s good to know that this blog has had such a positive impact. Thanks for your comments. 🙂

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