The New York Times, August 30, 1861
by Caveat Lector
THE KNIGHTS OF THE GOLDEN CIRCLE.
Under this head an article appears in the London Spectator, of Aug. 17, which is of especial interest, as the journal in which it appears is well known to be American property and under American inspiration. It has a prominent place among the articles on the leading topics of the day, which forms a conspicuous and valuable feature of the Spectator, and will be read with interest by men of all hues in politics on this side of the Atlantic;
Just before the descent of LOPEZ on Cuba, the American papers were full of allusions to an association called the Order of the Lone Star, said to be organized for the purpose of conquering Cuba and Nicaragua. M. SOULE was said to be its President, and the appointment of that individual as Minister to Madrid was regarded by the Court of Spain, as a wilful discourtesy. LOPEZ himself belonged to the society, and it was from the ranks of the Order that WALKER obtained his most ardent recruits. After the failure of WALKER’s first expedition, the rumors of the society died away, and though its members, under the quaint title of “Precipitators,” were supposed to be active in the work of disunion, the society itself, as such, ceased to play any prominent part. The more violent members, however, saw in it a power which might be effectively used, and on the first symptom of the predominance of the Free-Soilers, they organized a new association, under the name of the Knights of the Golden Circle, with new and better defined objects, and an obligation of secrecy. The secret of the Order, however, has been betrayed during the intestine strife raised by disunion in Kentucky, and the revelation exposes a plot which, for audacity, ability and wickedness, has rarely been surpassed in the long history of conspiracy.
The object of the Order may be briefly stated. It is nothing less than to raise an army of 16,000 men for the conquest of Mexico, and the establishment in that vast Territory of a strongly organized monarchy, resting on a basis of slave institutions. The precise mode of accomplishing this object has already been settled. As soon as the internal warfare is over, all members of the Order, under their secret leaders, are to repair to Guanajuato, with the Governor of which province of Mexico, MICHAEL DOBLADO, the Order has concluded a formal treaty. By the provisions of this precious document the Governor is to add 16,000 men of his own, and the entire army is to march forward under his command to the permanent subjugation of the country. Means are found from the revenues of the province, and its State property is “mortgagad” for the payment of the soldiery, at one-eighth above the American rates.
To secure the necessary cohesion, the Order has been organized after this fashion. Every applicant for admission is first sworn to secrecy under the penalty of death, and then the design of the Order is revealed. If he assents to its propriety, and is, moreover, an American born, and a slaveowner, or can produce proof that he is imbued with Southern sentiments, and is a Protestant, he is admitted as a soldier of the Order, and informed of its signs, pass-words, and organization. On the recommendation of the chiefs of the Order he is admitted to the second degree, informed that the stores and ammunition for the Army are collected at Monterey, and acquainted with the names of the officers to whom he is to look for pay. He is also supposed to be on active service, and the President has, we perceive, summoned all Kentuckian members to attend a rendezvous, where they will be drilled and organized by regular instructors, and whence they are, for the present, to control the Kentucky elections in favor of Southern men. If influential enough, he is next admitted to the third degree, the council of the Order, which under the Presidency of Mr. GEORGE BICKLEY, the future monarch, regulates the affairs of the Order, without communication, except through GEORGE BICKLEY, to the other degrees. He swears in this degree to obtain all the neophytes he can, to support his colleagues the Knights of the Columbian Star in all efforts for office, to conquer Mexico and “Southernize” its institutions; to drive all free negroes into Mexico, there to be enslaved, and to reduce the peon population of Mexico to slavery, dividing them as chattels among the members of the Order, and to recognize for the present monarchical institutions, as tending to strong government. Moreover, after the conquest of Mexico, he is to contend for the exclusion of every Roman Catholic from office and from the priesthood, and to support a system of passports enforced by the penalty of death. He again swears to a scheme of government which, from its utter want of resemblance to any American idea, we give entire:
13. The successor to GEORGE BICKLEY must be over thirty years of age, of Southern birth, liberally educated, Knight of the Columbian Star, sound of body and mind, and married, and Protestant. He shall swear to carry out this policy, and to extend Slavery over the whole of Central America if in his power. He shall try to acquire Cuba and control the Gulf of Mexico. No one else will I sustain. But for such a one, who must be proposed by the Cabinet Ministers and elected by all Knights of the Star, or a majority of them, I will sustain here, there, or elsewhere. When the Knights cross the Rio Grande, I will do all I can to send in recruits for the Army, and if I should ever cease to be an active worker for the Star, I will keep secret what I know of the real character of the organization, and I promise never to confer this degree in any other way than in the way I have here received it, and I will forward to GEORGE BICKLEY, or to the Governor-General of this State, the name and fees of every candidate whom I shall initiate as Governor. In witness, I do voluntarily, here and in these presence, sign my name and address.”
He is then informed that Mexico can provide any amount of means, that funds to the extent of a million of dollars are lying at Matamoras, and two millions more at Monterey; that the Governor of Guanajuato is rapidly organizing his province for the reception of the Order, and that the march of the invading Army will commence on the 6th of October, 1861.
It reads, all this, rather like a dream of some mad slaveholder than a grave and definite project, which, nevertheless, we believe it to be. The Order is already powerful in the South, the alliance with the Governor is sufficiently probable, and the whole plan is strictly in accordance with the views known to be entertained by the most prominent slaveholders. Nor is the execution of the plan so difficult as to create any prima facie suspicion of falsehood. The South is full of men without slaves, with no place in society, and hungry for profitable adventure. They have been accustomed for years to regard the immense republic to their south, with its vast territory, its real and imaginary wealth, its disorganized government, and powerless white population, as a certain and easy prey. The successful annexation of Texas is a proof of what may be accomplished by a few unscrupulous and resolute men, and the laws of the Order tend directly to secure effective cohesion among its members. Quarreling and seduction are absolutely forbidden, every member is responsible for the orphans of those who fall, and societies released from the law are apt to protect themselves by somewhat effective guarantees for their own extra-legal code. The Order has men at command, so numerous that they are said to be objects of terror in Kentucky, Missouri and Arkansas, and the bribe offered is of stupendous magnitude. It is nothing less than to bestow on 16,000 men a body of slaves equal to the whole slave population of the South, and slaves, too, more easily controlled than the negro race. To men thirsting for ownership, and convinced that Slavery is lawful, the temptation must be almost irresistible, more especially as every American overratesthe case with which Mexico might be subdued. The pure Spaniards and the landed proprietors, utterly weary of anarchy, would probably bail a strong Government of any sort, while the native and quadroon population have never been able to resist the hated and dreaded “North.” Of the awful increase of human misery which would follow the conquest it is unnecessary to speak. Slavery, as it exists, is bad enough, but the deliberate addition of 3,750,000 people and their children forever to the ranks of a slave population, is a crime from which the imagination itself recoils. It seems from its very magnitude impossible. CORTEZ, however, conquered these people with far inferior means, and there is no evidence that the Mexican peon of to-day is better able to resist a rifleman than his ancestor was to defeat CORTEZ’s heavy armed cavalry. The only element of effective resistance would be the religious fanaticism the laws of the Order are so well adapted to arouse. These laws, however were obviously intended to serve only a tem porary purpose, the exclusion of Catholics being rendered essential by their friendly feeling for Mexico. A priest informed of the design in the confessional would be certain to put the Mexicans on their guard, perhaps cause the arrest of the Governor who is so coolly selling his country. Mexico once conquered, the necessity for the restriction would disappear, and though one of the laws of the Order, an obligation to dissolve all monasteries and open all convents, seems dectated by a real religious dislike, it is difficult to believe that it would endure in spite of the political advantage of tolerance. The whole scheme may be unreal, and the Knights of the Golden Circle as little disposed to fulfill their promises as Masons are to preserve the obligation of Christian brotherhood. But it must not be forgotten that this whatever the truth as to this society, is one of the designs of the South, and that the plan, which thus boldy stated seems incredibly atrocious is part of the permanent policy of the Government which has just won its first battle in front of Manassas Gap. The design, we fear, if the North succumbs, is at once as possible of execution as it is remorselessly wicked in concention.