Expose of the Knights of the Golden Circle - Member Knight

Chapter V.
Secession of the South

The close of Lincoln's Campaign—"Submissionists"—" Firing the Southern Heart" for Secession—Great Increase of the Knighthood—New Degrees instituted—the Sworn Brotherhood pledged to a southern government death of abolitionists and other crimes licensed—the election of Lincoln—A plea for "Southern Deliverance"—Charleston Castle—the "Cockade" excitement—Joy over the Election of Lincoln—Co-operationists" confounded by the "Precipitators"—Immediate Secession the war-cry of the K.G.C.—the Secession of South Carolina, and its Effect upon the Gulf States—the K.G.C. opposed to Compromises—the Different Modes of Adjustment proposed in Congress hooted at.

Toward the close of Mr. Lincoln's campaign it became apparent that his election was pretty certain. Nearly all the great Middle and Northwestern States had elected the Republican state ticket, and it now seemed that the grand object for which the Knights had labored so earnestly was about to be attained. In view of this contingency, they adopted a regular system of brow-beating, almost unequaled in the history of the world. They coined the appellation "Submissionist," and applied it, with great bitterness, to every man who indicated that he would await the committal of some overt act before he was willing his state should go out of the Union. Every editor and orator under their control, or within their hellish precincts, indulged in the most abusive epithets toward loyal citizens. Every appeal was made to Southern pride and Southern honor. Full well they knew the effects of this system of "coercing" the Southern people into the inextricable vortex of secession. Almost any really high-toned gentleman of the South prefers death to the name "coward" which term was considered by the "chivalry" as synonymous with "Submissionist." This devilish, domineering, and yet cowardly style of "tiring the Southern heart," did more to induce men to enlist in the cause of secession than any other that could have been adopted.

Further, it was now considered a good time to extend the Order of the K.G.C. Every man among them, therefore, who had education enough to read the ritual, was delegated to go forth and organize castles wherever he could find the material with which to construct one. In drumming for the Order, the agents took care to say nothing about the original objects for which it was framed, viz.: the re-establishment of the African slave-trade and the acquisition of slave territory. It was always represented to outsiders as a strictly "anti-submission" Order, only designed to aid in the securing of "Southern rights;" and of course almost every Southern man is for Southern rights. Castles were organized wherever a sufficient number could be got together for the purpose, irrespective of regalia, emblems, or any of the regular paraphernalia of the Order. Court-rooms, store-rooms, and even smoke houses and stables were used.

New degrees were instituted, which were called "preliminary" degrees. In these the candidate saw but little of the "inner beauties" of the castle. In the first, he was only sworn to resist the encroachments of "abolitionism" with all his powers; in the second, he was sworn to stand by the South, and especially his own state, and follow her destinies, wherever they tended; in the third, which was the last of the "preliminary" degrees, he was obligated to favor a Southern Confederacy, and to pledge himself, and all that he had, in its support, when it should be formed. The candidate was now prepared to enter the Outer Temple of the castle, where he was received according to the new ritual, (one framed and adopted in October, 1860,) which required the most solemn pledges that the initiate would never retrace a single one of his recent steps, and that he would, to the utmost of his powers, aid in promoting the formation of a Southern government. Further, this ritual demands that a man shall consider no act toward the enemies of "Southern rights" as too gross or unjust for him to commit. In other words, he is required to swear that he will do anything to punish "Abolitionists" and bring them to terms, the injury of their women and children excepted. This last feature, viz.: the exception, is really the only redeeming one of the whole affair. This ritual also gives the initiate license to kill any man whom he has reason to believe is a real Abolitionist, in any way he sees proper, and the Order is pledged to protect him to the end.

Time moved, and at last the joyful news of Mr. Lincoln's election was trumpeted throughout the South. I say joyful, because, to the Knights, it was the gladdest intelligence that could have been borne them. All the principal castles now put on their holiday garments, and men were heard in the streets to thank God that the hour for "Southern deliverance had come." (They should have thanked the devil, because he is their master.) Calhoun Castle, located at Charleston, considered itself as second to no place but Heaven, and hardly to that; and well might she have felt proud, because she was the mother of Southern harlots, and to her continuous and industrious workings, for many long years, were to be attributed the mighty growth of the secession snake, which, when she first found it, was indeed a very young one. No sooner had the news of the election of Lincoln been received, than every Knight in Charleston mounted a cockade on his hat, and ran through the streets, shouting, "Glory! we are free! we are independent! The d___d old Union is gone to hell!"

Public meetings were called, and the greatest demonstrations were made. Everything was to be done in hot haste. All the speeches that were delivered at this period by the Knights partook of the hot, precipitous character of the conspirators. Notwithstanding their efforts to increase their numbers previous to the election, they were still in the minority, even in the Gulf States, and it was considered as fatal in the extreme to allow the common people of the country the least opportunity for thought or reflection. Many of these latter seemed to think that the matter of secession should be left with the border Slave States, it being clear to them that, inasmuch as these states were more interested than theirs, they should be allowed a controlling voice. Persons of this order of thinking termed themselves "Co-operationists," and favored the calling of a convention of all the Slave States. Hon. A. H. Stephens, of Georgia, was their leader; and had it not been for his great popularity, the co-operative theory would have dwindled much sooner than it did. It is, however, wonderful how the "Co-operationists," with a clear majority in every state but South Carolina, should have suffered themselves to be driven into the whirlpool of secession by the brow-beating force of the appellations "Submissionist," "Abolitionist."

It had never been the policy of the Knights to allow anything to be settled by the majority in a fair way. The cause which they advocated was not one which would admit of reflective deliberation, and hence, to allow the people time to reason in the premises, and determine the ultimate effects of secession upon the Slave States, or to ascertain the administrative policy of the newly elected President, would have proved fatal to their designs. It was a fact which none could deny, that the Democracy had a clear majority in both houses of Congress—a majority which could have held the administration in check, however much it might have been disposed to diverge from the path of constitutional rectitude—a majority which might have literally tied the President hand and foot, and have rendered him as incapable of encroaching upon "Southern rights" as an oyster is of making an aerial voyage across the Atlantic, or a Knight of getting to heaven—a majority even of Breckinridge Democrats, who would rather have their right arms torn from their sockets than deny that the extension of Slavery and the protection of the "nigger" is the genius of our Constitution and the sole end of Christianity—men whose motto was "nigger first! country second!"

I say, all this was well known to the intelligent men of the nation, and yet the Southern people were constantly told that nothing but secession could save them from a subjugation too horrible even to contemplate. All the newspapers under the control of the K.G.C., were constantly teeming with editorials and contributions deeply deploring the humiliating fact that there were "yet a few" men in the South, "so unpatriotic to their states, and so untrue to themselves," as to oppose a declaration of "Southern independence." Secession orators, upon the stump, branded every man of the slightest Union tendency as a "cowardly truckler" and a "traitor to the South." Everything must be done immediately; it was worse than folly to await an overt act; Lincoln's election was, of itself, an overt act—no time was to be lost.

A weak cause always demands precipitancy. Of this the Knights were fully aware, and, therefore, took the advantage of the chagrined condition of the Southern people to "rush matters." Complete arrangements for the whole secession movement had been made long before the Presidential election, and, therefore, nothing remained but to carry it forward. No respect was to be shown the Government or the U.S. laws after Lincoln's ascension to the executive chair. Ample provisions were made for stealing on a large scale; United States senators and congressmen were to proceed to Washington and receive their regular pay for blackguarding the North, defaming the Government, and talking treason, and then, so soon as their states had seceded, whip off home like a thieving hound leaves a meat-house, with a ham in his mouth and his tail between his legs.

All the plans for robbing the national treasury, securing U.S. arms, etc., were also being put into execution, and the people know the result. They don't, however, know all of them—that secession, with all its hellish concomitants was the legitimate result of the workings of a long and well organized band of robbers, more damnable than any who ever stood on the footstool, and pirates blacker than any who have preceded them to hell. Nor do they all know that some of the leading spirits of this clique had been at the very head of the American government for four years and more. There are, even yet, people who do not like to acknowledge that such men as Cobb and Floyd had been plotting the destruction of the American government, and the robbing of it3 treasury for nearly the whole time they were in its employ.

Finally, by the incessant hurrying and driving of the Knights, South Carolina was precipitated out of the Union, and her "independence" declared. This they considered "knocking the keystone out," which would be followed by the tumbling of the whole arch, as indicated by the motto inscribed upon some of the Charleston banners: "South Carolina leads, others will follow." No advantage was to be lost, and the old adage: "Give the devil an inch and he will take a foot," proved itself true in this instance. No sooner had the news of South Carolina's secession reached the principal cities in the Gulf States, than exciting bulletins were thrown broadcast, cannons fired, public mass meetings called, exciting speeches made, resolutions drawn up, read, and "adopted" by the crowd, and every other means of "firing the Southern heart" applied with great force.

At all these meetings and demonstrations, special arrangements had been previously made by the K.G.C. for the adoption of the resolutions they intended presenting. Thus, it was generally arranged that a certain number of the "chivalry" should, after taking a sufficient quantity of the inspiring beverage, go into the assembly where the meeting was to be held, "hurrah for South Carolina" and "the South," and curse Lincoln, the Union, and every man that would submit to "Abolition rule." Of course, respectable gentlemen knew not how to successfully withstand this kind of brutal persuasion. I do not know whether this could be called "coercion" or not; but I can certainly see very little difference between whisky and mob suasion, and what some people call coercion. Perhaps the question might be settled by Webster, were it not that, in these latter days, that inferior lexicographer had been superseded by such learned dignitaries as Vallandigham and Gen. Joe Lane.

Now, about this time, it was ascertained that the people in the North were getting exceedingly anxious about the Union. The telegraph was repeatedly announcing the calling and holding of "big mass meetings," the passage of "conciliatory resolutions," etc. These were laughed to scorn, derided, scoffed. One artistic Knight, who was a native of Boston, Mass., even went so far as to produce a couple of pictures expressive of the extreme plasticity of the Philadelphians. The first of these pictures presented a view of the citizens of the City of Brotherly Love, immediately after the election of Lincoln, paying homage to "Old Abe," and a big "nigger" who stood by his side as Mr. Hamlin. The second presented the same citizens after the secession of South Carolina, driving the "nigger," with clubs and hounds, back to that state, and kicking "Honest Old Abe" off a rickety old bench, which bore the inscription "Chicago Platform" unto another called "Compromise." These pictures were reproduced in great numbers, and sent, per mail, to every castle in the country. They were also sent to certain private individuals in some of the Northern Border State towns. I was informed that no less than fifty were mailed to northern Knights.

The offers of compromise, and the repeal of Personal Liberty Bills by the North were considered not only humiliating to those who offered them, but insulting to those to whom they were offered. By some they were presumed to be hypocritical artifices, intended to hold the South in the Union while she should be lashed by slavery restriction. The truth is, the K.G.C. would accept no compromise, and none could have been framed to suit them. Secession they had been working zealously to achieve for several years, and secession they were bound to have. They had expended time and money; they had sacrificed the last vestige of honor, and gone, heart and soul, into the most diabolical plots and conspiracies for secession, and no compromise short of the adoption, by the North, of the proposed Confederate constitution, would have satisfied them.

In the mean time, there was immense excitement in Congress, as everybody knows. All sorts of modes of adjustment were being proposed there; almost every man seemed to have his own way of "saving the Union." Knights heeded none, cared for none. But among all others, the vigorous plan proposed by such men as Wade, of Ohio, and Andy Johnson, of Tennessee, produced the most decided effect The only practical mode of affecting Secessionists is to make them either angry or afraid. The speeches of Johnson did both—angry, because he was decidedly hostile to their plans, whereas being a Southron, they thought he should be their friend—afraid, because, in consequence of his great popularity in Tennessee, they had good reason to believe he might prove a serious drawback to them in that state. If every Senator and Congressman who had taken the solemn oath to obey and defend the United States Constitution had been as faithful to his pledge as Johnson was, the Confederates would never have gained the time on the government they did. But with a weak-spined, indecisive, disconcerted, treacherous Congress, a majority of genuine Knights in the Cabinet, and a literal mad max in the Presidential chair, they had ample time and facilities to drag six more states out of the Union, occupy forts, steal arms, fortify themselves, and laugh defiance in the very face of the government.

Among all the compromises proposed, that known as the Crittenden Compromise seemed to attract most attention. It will be remembered that Jeff Davis proposed that if the Republicans would present this compromise "in good faith," the South would be satisfied. Never did a greater lie escape from under the forge-hammer of the father of lies than was this. In the first place, he (Davis) is one of the oldest Knights in the South, and had been the chief devil in all the black work described in the preceding pages, especially that of the three last years, to wit: 1858-'59-'60, and had sworn in castle to take the South out of the Union, if it were in his power to do so. In the second place, he had written all the principal castles to work steadily and earnestly; that the Knights in Congress and in the Cabinet were acting their parts nobly, (the parts they had to perform were blackguarding and stealing,) and that everything betokened the speedy achievement of Southern independence. In the third and last place, he knew that such a thing as the offering of the Crittenden Compromise "in good faith," by the Republicans, was an utter impossibility.

Then, asks the reader, what was Davis's object in making the proposition? It was, that the eyes of the country might be blinded to the real character and objects of the Secessionists, and thereby an opportunity afforded for the more successful carrying out of their nefarious plans, in the first place; and, in the second place, that the people of the North might be led to believe that the Southern States would be satisfied with what was, by many, thought to be a fair compromise. The latter consideration was one of no small value, since it was presumed that the offers of "fair adjustment" by the South would go very far to strengthen and increase their friends, and disarm their foes in the North.

During the early compromise discussions in Congress, many of the hotter Secessionists in the Gulf States were declaring they would have no compromise; but Jeff wrote them to be still and allow "things to work as long as they would work," as by that means "much valuable time was to be gained." The injunction was obeyed. Finally, a "Peace Conference" was called by the commanding voice of Virginia, and much "valuable time" was gained by its pointless, useless deliberations. It was about as well known before, as after, the meeting of the Peace Conference, that the North would never accept the proposed "ultimatum" of Virginia; because, in truth, the so-called ultimatum was nothing more nor less than the Breckinridge platform stewed down; and the men who drew it up, being mostly Knights, so far from wishing to settle the disturbances of the country by it, only aimed to carry out the deep laid plans of Davis, in allaying Northern suspicion, dividing Northern sentiment, and winning Northern sympathy, while their brothers in Washington were stealing, and those in the seceding states were robbing and preparing for defense.

[Image] from Expose of the K.G.C. by Member Knight