Knights of the Golden Circle

The Knights of the Golden Circle is a notorious secret society you may have never heard of. In 1861, a history of the K.G.C. was published stating the Southern Rights movement began in 1834, although the first charter for a K.G.C. “castle” (their name for a lodge) was in 1854. I suggest watching The Conspirator, a film produced by Robert Redford a few years ago. I much prefer it to Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln.

Redford spent years researching the Lincoln assassination, and the film focuses on Mary Surratt, the patsy, and Edwin Stanton, who took charge of the country after the assassination. After submitting almost entirely to Stanton’s will for a brief time, President Andrew Johnson attempted to fire him, and that’s what sparked the impeachment vote. Stanton barricaded himself in his office until the impeachment trial was over, at which point he was forced out of office.

Obviously, Lincoln’s assassination was a conspiracy, and since Captain John Wilkes Booth of the Confederate Secret Service would have most likely been working with elements of the K.G.C., and it’s offshoot, The Sons of Liberty, it might have also been useful to investigate those links during the trial. Strangely, that never happened. Instead, some innocents, including Mary Surratt, were railroaded into a military courtroom and quickly hung, something that never could have transpired had they been afforded a regular trial and effective counsel. You have to wonder why Stanton was so eager to close the case with a fabricated trial stuffed with perjuries, and after some of his hoodwinks were unmasked, refused to vacate his office where the official records were stored. Stanton, it should also be noted, was a devoted Freemason, and his connections ran wide and deep.

The film doesn’t really go into Stanton’s motivations, although it does demonstrate some of his manipulations in the rush to judgment against an innocent woman he painted as mastermind of the assassination. Stanton would reverse Lincoln’s plans for national healing and instead open up the South to the sort of ruthless exploitation favored by Thaddeus Stevens and Ben Wade. Stanton supported General Grant for President, but was not rewarded with a return to the Cabinet, but later offered a seat on the Supreme Court, although Grant sat on that appointment for weeks and Stanton died mysteriously before it was signed.

Stanton got his job as Secretary of War in 1862, one year after the war’s start because the previous secretary had just been sacked thanks to implementing a ruthless strategy that had initially been suggested by Stanton. Lincoln was unaware of that fact, and probably felt having a Democrat as Secretary of War provided some strategic advantage. Mostly, Stanton had the backing of the leaders of both houses of Congress, as well as a reputation as the best lawyer in the country.

I find it fascinating Stanton got his start with a $500 loan from Clement Vallandigham (left), who would go on to become leader of the pro-slavery “Copperhead” Democrats, so named by Republicans to sheep-dip them as venomous snakes. However, before the Civil War got started, the K.G.C. was collecting funds for an invasion of Mexico (similar to the plans of British spook Aaron Burr, who’d been arrested and tried for fomenting a similar plot).

Vallandigham served two terms in Congress, where he voted against every proposed military bill, but after he lost his seat, he was arrested as an enemy agent, convicted and deported to the South as an alien.

Interesting John Brown was the terrorist who helped spark the Civil War and after Brown’s Harper’s Ferry raid, Vallandigham was one of a handful of Congressmen allowed to interrogate the terrorist. I suspect the abolitionist movement might have been funded by economic forces making plans for war-for-profit. Brown’s biggest source of financing was William Russell, heir to the North American opium cartel, and founder of Yale’s secretive Skull & Bones society.

Redford’s film doesn’t mention any of these important details, including the connection between Vallandigham and the K.G.C., which had begun in his home state of Ohio. The society went through an interesting evolution, morphing into the Order of the American Knights and then becoming The Order of the Sons of Liberty, at which point Vallandigham emerged as the Supreme Commander.

There are many lessons in this story, but the most important is that whenever a military tribunal is called when a public criminal trial is needed, you should immediately suspect a hidden agenda and cover-up. And that’s why the creation of the Guantanamo Bay Prison and the torturing of people for decades, many of whom were found to have been innocent, is just another suspicious detail in the sordid history of 9/11.


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