Ruled By Secrecy
PART III REBELLION AND REVOLUTION
SECRET SOCIETY AGITATION
The secretive Knights organization was the creation of surgeon and
author Dr. George W. L. Bickley, who in 1854 founded his first
knightly "castle" in Cincinnati, Ohio, drawing heavily from local
Freemasons. This society "had close ties with a secret society in
France called The Seasons, which itself was a branch of the
Illuminati," charged G. Edward Griffin.
Patterned after Masonic lodges, the Knights had similar passwords,
handshakes, "temples," and grand, lesser, and supreme councils.
Initiates were sworn to secrecy with a live snake held over their
head accompanied by this bloodcurdling oath:
Whoever dares our cause reveal, Shall test the strength of Knightly
steel; And when the torture proves too dull, We'll scrape the brains
from out his skull And place a lamp within the shell To light his
soul from here to hell.
The name Knights of the Golden Circle was derived from Bickley's
grandiose plan to create a huge slaveholding circular empire 2,400
miles in circumference with Cuba as the center point. This new nation
was to include the southern United States, Mexico, part of Central
America, and the West Indies in order to gain a dominance over the
world's supply of tobacco, sugar, rice, and coffee.
While modern historians either ignore or downplay the significance
of the KGC, it is evident from contemporary writings and newspaper
coverage that the organization was considered an extremely credible
threat at the time. Bickley was certainly a mysterious individual,
always claiming to be MI need of money, yet constantly traveling and
entertaining dignitaries. The "financial nucleus" of his order was
the American Colonization and Steamship Company, organized in
Veracruz, Mexico, and capitalized for $5 million. Somebody other than
Bickley was paying the bills.
He also had demonstrable ties to Great Britain, claiming to have
been an 1842 graduate of the University of London. Early in the war
Bickley was in the Confederate capital of Montgomery, Alabama,
identifying himself as a correspondent for the London Times, and
after the war he lectured extensively in England.
Bickley appeared to have shifting allegiances and philosophies.
Previously, he had founded a society called the Wayne Circle of the
Brotherhood of the Union, which purported to seek constitutional
unity. Just before the war started, Bickley wrote an article for his
Cincinnati paper Scientific Artisan in which he predicted the end of
slavery, stating "this institution is one altogether unenviable, [as]
every reasonable man in America will at once admit."
Despite the ideas put forth in his article, the first step in
Bickley's plans for the Knights of the Golden Circle was to create a
separate slaveholding Southern nation, then move southward to Mexico.
Like the Nazis much later, the KGC were concerned with purity of
blood, as demonstrated by his call for "Anglo-Saxon blood" for
the "Texasizing" of the Mexican population.
By 1860 there were more than fifty thousand Knights, mostly in
Texas, awaiting orders to march on Mexico. Headquartered in San
Antonio, Bickley gained popularity by pledging to "kill Wall Street"
bankers, who he said were scheming against the South. He also said
that if Lincoln was elected president, "Washington, not Mexico, would
become the target" of the Knights.
In fact there were two tentative invasions of Mexico in the spring
of 1860, but both were repulsed after Bickley failed to provide his
men with promised reinforcements and supplies.
Texas hero and governor Sam Houston reportedly was a member of the
Knights at the time but resigned when the Knights turned their
attention from the invasion of Mexico to the secessionist movement.
It was in the cause of Southern secession that Bickley proved more
successful, as the KGC came to form the nucleus of the Southern
military. According to writer Ollinger Crenshaw,
"The Southern press received the plans of the order with enthusiasm
and many newspapers became its exponents... The Vicksburg Sun said
tin Knights of the Golden Circle gave the South a military
organization capable of defending her rights at home and abroad."
The KGC was divided into three sections or "degrees"—the "Foreign
and Home Guard Militia," the "Foreign and Home Guard Corps" of
civilian support, and the "American Legion" which was the political
and governing arm. Reportedly, by 1860 membership in the KGC was more
than sixty-five thousand and constituted the "brains" of the South.
Bickley made their objective clear when he declared, "The fact is, we
want a fight, but how to get it is the question."
Through constant agitation, the Knights stirred up hatreds and
fears throughout the North and South.
"After Abraham Lincoln was elected in 1860, this minority of the
Southern minority conspired to bring off a last gamble. In 1861, to
the extremists' amazement, disunion triumphed," wrote historian
William W. Freehling.
KGC activity in Northern states involved a plan to create
a "Northwest Confederacy" composed of pro-Southerners in several
states, including Ohio, Indiana, Minnesota, and Michigan. Illinois
alone was reported to have a KGC membership of some twenty thousand.
The plan was to seize federal arsenals, then take control of the
states and release all Confederate prisoners. One state official,
Edmund Wright, tried to opposed the Knights, only to have his wife
poisoned and his home burned. In August 1862 sixty KGC members—out of
a reported fifteen thousand members in Indiana—were indicted for
conspiracy and treason but later released. Federal prosecutors were
fearful of creating martyrs and the conspiracy cases were weak.
The Knights' actions created havoc with the national government,
prompting President Lincoln to lament, "The enemy behind us is more
dangerous to the country than the enemy before us."
The Lincoln administration was compelled to imprison more than
thirteen thousand people on charges of "disloyalty," which meant
anything from speaking against the government to discouraging
military enlistment. "Those who before the war had been called 'the
loyal opposition' found themselves after 1861 commonly referred to as
traitors," wrote author Larry Star key.
Such repression incensed Democrats and anti-Republicans, who
charged federal officials with exaggerating the KGC threat in order
to suppress criticism of the administration. Membership in the
Knights' organization and its spin-offs, the Order of American
Knights and the Sons of Liberty, grew to number in the hundreds of
thousands. According to Griffin, the Knights went underground after
the war, eventually emerging as the Ku Klux Klan.
In 1863 Bickley was arrested as a spy in Indiana and held without
trial until his release in 1865. A broken man, Bickley died in
Baltimore on August 10, 1867.
With national attention focused on the Southern Rebellion and
disunity in the North, far-reaching financial measures were being
taken in Washington.
In mid-1861, with the war just beginning, U.S. Treasury secretary
Salmon Chase (the namesake of Chase Manhattan Bank) asked for and
received from Congress the first income tax instituted in America. It
began as a meager three percent federal tax on all income, but only a
year later the tax was raised to five percent on all income over
$10,000. "It was a graduated income tax, just as proposed by Karl
Marx just 13 years before," noted Epperson, intimating that hidden
agendas were being pressed behind the contingencies of war.
As the war progressed, Lincoln desperately needed more money.
Instead of borrowing from the European banks as expected, in 1862 he
issued about $450 million in currency printed with green ink
called "greenbacks." This paper money was legalized by an act of
Congress with nothing to secure it. Endorsing this debt-free, fiat
money, Lincoln proclaimed,
"Government, possessing power to create and issue currency... need
not and should not borrow capital at interest... The privilege of
creating and issuing money is not only the supreme prerogative of the
government but it is the government's greatest creative opportunity."
It is fascinating to note that the two U.S. presidents who have
issued debt-free currency—Lincoln in 1862 and John F. Kennedy in 1963—
were assassinated. Lincoln's assassin, Southern sympathizer John
Wilkes Booth, has been established as a member of the Knights of the
Golden Circle (along with the famous outlaw Jesse James). Various
conspiracy researchers have connected Booth to the previously
mentioned Illuminati, the Italian Carbonari, and through Southern
secretary of state Judah Benjamin to the House of Rothschild. After
the war, Benjamin, often called the "sinister power behind the
throne" of Southern president Jefferson Davis, fled to England where
he became a successful attorney.
As in the Kennedy assassination, Lincoln's death sparked cries of
conspiracy which still echo today. The Lincoln assassination
conspiracy involved several persons, four of whom were hanged,
including Mary Surratt, the first woman executed in this country for
a capital offense. It is historic fact that the Lincoln assassination
case was a complex plot including smuggling and kidnapping plans that
involved Knights of the Golden Circle agents.
"The fact remains that the story of why Abraham Lincoln was murdered
can only be completed within the confines of the Confederate cabal in
Canada [which included KGC members as well as British agents] ..."
noted author Starkey.
The plot also involved some of the highest offices in Washington,
including Lincoln's secretary of war Edwin Stanton. The full story of
this plot has yet to reach a wide audience.
Despite pervasive use of the term, the conflict between 1861 and
1865 was never truly a civil war, which is defined as a conflict
between factions or sections within a nation. The majority of
citizens in each Southern state freely elected to leave the Union.
Confederate President Davis, a former United States senator and
secretary of war, in his inaugural address on February 18,1861, cited
"the American idea that governments rest on the consent of the
governed, and that it is the right of the people to alter or abolish
them at will whenever they become destructive of the ends for which
they were established. . . . Thus the sovereign states here
represented have proceeded to form this Confederacy; and it is by
abuse of language that their act has been denominated a revolution."
"Secession—or rebellion, as the Jacobins preferred to call it—
might be treason, but no court had ever said so—or ever would say so—
no matter what the opinion the radicals had on the matter," observed
historian Shelby Foote.
But Lincoln and the radical Republicans did proclaim that
secession was treason and prepared huge armies and a naval blockade
to force the Southern states back into the Union. And while twenty-
two million Northerners were locked in strife with nine million
Southerners, France and Britain made moves to encircle the conflicted
With regimental bands playing "Dixie," Britain sent eleven
thousand additional troops to Canada, which had become a haven for
Confederate agents. France's Napoleon III installed Austrian Archduke
Maximilian as emperor of Mexico, which promptly opened negotiations
with the Confederacy and allowed the transportation of supplies into
Texas, bypassing the Union blockade. French troops were poised on the
Texas border. Both France and England were ready to step in just as
soon as flu- North and South had bled each other dry.
Two eventualities forestalled the complete breakup of the United
States: Lincoln's proclamation freeing slaves in Confederate states
and the quiet intervention of Russia.