Golden Circle, Knights of The
About 1835 there were in the South an undetermined number of "Southern Rights" Clubs set up to send out slavers, to protect, and uphold, and to proclaim the slaveholding system. After they had flourished in separate centers, taking different forms, there crystallized out of them in 1855 a secret society entitled Knights of the Golden Circle, and the name of George C. Bickley, a native of Indiana, and later a resident of Cincinnati, Ohio, was prominently connected with it. It appears to have in part been designed as a foil to the Know Nothing Party, the most ambitious of the impossible attempts to organize in America a political party in the form of a secret society. The first of the professed aims of the Knights was to protect slavery; its second, was to snake the South an independent nation; its third was to conquer Cuba and Mexico.
Its historian says that it furnished the means for "General" Walker to conduct his once- notorious filibuster in Nicaragua an episode Americans have forgotten because it is too painful to remember. The Knights did not stop with dreaming of an independent Confederacy in the South; they envisaged it as the maker of an empire which would expand to include Mexico, the West Indies, and countries to the Isthmus.
The society came to an end (apparently) with the Civil War; historians, if they will search its local minutes, will find there recorded month by month a procession of ideas and ambitions and schemes which illuminate one or two corners in the Civil War period; otherwise the Circle belongs to the archeology of dead and forgotten secret movements. There was never any connection with Freemasonry; Grand Lodges both North and South, as hundreds of Lodge minutes shows kept themselves remarkably free from involvement in secret conspiracies; so free that they maintained much Fraternal comity during the War, and resumed the whole of it immediately after the War. (See the rare little book, a collector's item: An authentic Exposition of the Knights of the Golden Circle, by a member of the Order; Indianapolis; C. O. Perrins; 1861.)
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