To bring up the Knights of the Golden Circle is to bring up what is a very thorny problem in American history:
If, as has been suggested, the Knights Templar have from time to time, allowed similar sounding organizations to germinate, and then flourish, and then slowly pass away -- in order to divert attention from themselves or the true location of their children and their resources, then this could be one of those puzzles.
The principal historical resources available today postulate that the Knights of the Golden Circle were a semi-secret organization, based originally in Cincinnati, Ohio, and founded by one Dr. George Bickley. Their first units of organization were called "castles" and their purpose -- if we can but believe it -- was to advance the interests of the slave-holding classes and to keep the character of "the Southern man" on the straight and narrow.
Radicals and certain left-wing scholars have concluded that the Scottish Rite Freemasons were the true authors of the Golden Circle worldview, and that this "social disease" was a kind of mass hysteria that was generated by fear of the potency of the Negro male, or was a reaction to the influx of Irish immigrants, and so on. One author was much more bold, and wrote a paper which was later posted on the Internet, accusing one Killian Van Rennselaer of being the British agent who sponsored the actual formation of the Golden Circle. He was not clear as to whether this man was the same man who, as a New York member of Congress in 1810, provided one of three "no" votes against the Titles of Nobility Amendment (the lone vote against it in the Senate also coming from New York), or whether it was his son or nephew.
The Golden Circle was envisioned as encompassing the lands from Florida to southern Mexico, and the council of the Golden Circle was charged with assembling the necessary leadership "cadres" to enable a new southern empire to arise, once secession split the chivalrous southern States off and away from the federal union.
This was certainly the view of those radical abolitionists who wrote about the Golden Circle in 1862. They noted that the Knights had sympathizers in every State of the union.
A similar organization which apparently developed in Missouri was called "the Order of American Knights," and this may be the group that Jesse James was active in, or initiated into: the Golden Circle has been accused by left-liberals of being the "precursor" for the Ku Klux Klan, and these "thinkers" also tied the actions of Masons like John A. Quitman, Governor of Mississippi, and the accused leader of the Cuban Filibusters of 1850, to the Golden Circle. I have not encountered such information coming from non- leftist sources, however. Quitman may have followed the Templar philosophy, tho' in which case his murder was a pro-British action benefitting pro-slavery lawyers in New York City.
It is certain that there exists, today, a John A. Quitman Masonic Lodge.
Without being too specific, it seems that the Golden Circle was at its peak in or around 1856, when the left-liberals accuse it and John Quitman of assembling "a secret army" to conquer Cuba and then to move on to Mexico, where the Catholic Church was to be exterminated in detail, and a new slave-based aristocracy was to be installed. Here they agree with the abolitionists of the early 1860s.
After the War of Rebellion got going in earnest, it appears that the leaders of the Order and of the Golden Circle agreed on a merger, which was conducted in 1862 and which was closely associated from then on with Copperhead Democrats.
The Copperheads were led by Clement Vallandigham, a member of Congress from Ohio, and were bitterly opposed to the war policies of Abraham Lincoln. It is for certain that the Order of American Knights absorbed some of the "castles" of the Golden Circle and that the new group was strong enough, by December of 1863, to meet in convention in New York City. Held early in 1864, this group or Order was pledged -- openly -- to defying the draft law of the union, the war orders of Lincoln, and to assisting men who either refused to enter the army or who actually deserted. That aspect of the Order's activities remains in question.
One historian claims that the Order of American Knights, when they met in convention in 1864, had some $500,000 in gold in their treasury and at least 250,000 adult male members in the northern tier of States alone. At the convention Vallandigham was elected to be the president of a new and re-styled group, which decided to call itself "the Sons of Liberty." Other historical sources insist that this motley crew plotted to separate the northwestern States from the union by creating an armed insurrection against Lincoln, from which a new Northwestern Confederacy would arise. It would call back all of their State regiments from the war -- which means all of Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota's troops would have been withdrawn.
Here the story gets cloudy. By hook or by crook, Abraham Lincoln seems to have finally focused on this Order and on Vallandigham, and he took steps to have its principal leaders arrested or intimidated (including Vallandigham), and the so-called plot or Northwest Conspiracy evaporated like winter snow in the spring of 1864. Nor was the Order of American Knights heard from again.
Here is where the problems begin: if John A. Quitman was the leader of the Golden Circle, as a Scottish Rite Freemason, what was his motivation for helping to organize an expedition to free Cuba from Spanish rule? The pro-slavery lawyers of New York and Philadelphia -- who clustered around the Bar of Philadelphia and James Buchanan, as Secretary of State -- were busily defending every American engaged in the smuggling of slaves at that time.
As the case of "La Amistad" shows, the Spanish agents who were operating out of Cuba were always the main culprits in helping to bring slaves into the United States, and their business interests were adamantly defended by the royal government of Spain. The queen of Spain was so irked by the refusal of the federal courts in the United States to return the Amistad, and its cargo of slaves to its Spanish owners, that she pursued it vigorously until the end of the Civil War, or late 1865.
When the Cuban Filibusters failed to incite an insurrection in Cuba, and were arrested by the Spanish authorities, the people of New Orleans were so irate about this reversal that they burned the Spanish consulate and trampled its flag in the mud. When John A. Quitman was indicted for being the leader of "these Filibusters," the man hired by the federal court system to prosecute him was none other than Judah P. Benjamin, the British West Indies born Jew who had risen to prominence in New Orleans.
A lawyer who had written a comprehensive review of Louisiana's laws, and who had been elected to their State legislature, Benjamin was admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of the United States in 1848 (or when Buchanan and his pro-slavery cabal were busily promoting their new edition of the Constitution, one without any mention whatsoever of the original Thirteenth).
Four trials were commenced against Quitman and four hung juries were the result: at some point in the proceedings, Quitman did publicly accuse Benjamin of having accepted $25,000 in Spanish gold to continue the "persecution." If that had been proven, and if the case had been taken into a court where the original Thirteenth Amendment might have been recognized, then a duly- convicted Benjamin would have been automatically stripped of his citizenship. He would be unable to practice law, sign a bond, witness a deed, serve on a jury in most states, or get elected.
But Quitman went free, the Slidell brothers got Benjamin elected to the Senate in 1852, and Buchanan was sent to England. When he returned, Quitman was now a Representative of Mississippi in the federal capital and a leading contender for the Presidency, with a commendable war record and enormous popularity.
By the end of 1857, Quitman was dead of a slow-acting poison, one ingested at a dinner honoring the new President, James Buchanan, and the power brokers of Slidell and Benjamin were firmly in control of the Democratic Party. It was Buchanan who cajoled and bullied Roger Taney into making the decisions we now refer to as "the Dred Scott case." It was Buchanan who did nothing while the country slid down the slippery slope into secession and war.
Furthermore, two anomalies appear with regard to Quitman and the Golden Circle: three times during his life, the legislature of Mississippi voted to issue books of their laws -- with the Constitution and the original Thirteenth Amendment intact and in its proper position. He was both Acting Governor and Governor, and a man of property there, so he would have owned these books.
Second, in the waning weeks and days of the Buchanan regime, with several States having left and others leaving, the House tried repeatedly to draft and pass a compromise as originally set forth by John J. Crittenden of Kentucky. One version consisted of five separate articles of amendment preserving slavery in the States where it existed and banning it in new territories. Another one created, by law, a prohibition against any man of African origin ever holding citizenship or obtaining the privilege of voting.
Just two or three days before the inauguration of Lincoln, a very short version of those proposals -- known as "the Corwin Amendment, for Thomas Corwin of Ohio -- was passed by the House in a 2/3rds vote of the members present. It acted to preserve the terms of labor and service in any State where slavery was then in existence, forever, and it was moved with the blessings of James Buchanan. It begins with the words "Article Thirteen:"
It is the only amendment ever written by Congress with a number included in its text! Thomas Corwin was from the Cincinnati area and was surely familiar with George Bickley and the Knights of the Golden Circle (unless he was elected by ghost voters). What is more puzzling, is that Abraham Lincoln later appointed Corwin to be his ambassador to Mexico! The whole purpose of the Circle was, apparently, to subjugate and conquer all of Mexico.
The Corwin Amendment was mentioned, indirectly, by Lincoln in his inaugural address of March 4, 1861, and then never again so far as I know. It was ratified by Maryland and Ohio and then it was forgotten (except for an irregular ratification by convention in the State of Illinois). It remains "in play" today, an active article of amendment never since withdrawn by a 2/3rds vote of Congress and it could be ratified by the action of 3/4ths of the thirty-four States in the union as of 1861.
So there are three separate amendments which have been called "thirteen:" the real one passed in 1810 and ratified in 1819, the faux or Corwin article, passed on March 2, 1861 (and not yet ratified), and the Anti-Slavery article of 1865, which is the lawful Article XIV and was so recognized by both Kansas as a State (1868), and in the Territories of Colorado (1868) and Wyoming (1876). It was also labelled Article XIII by Lincoln.
Given that the Knights Templar have been at odds with the bloody British and their banking monopolies, it is hard to see how they could have been involved in perpetuating slavery in the new world and specifically by overthrowing the Spanish government of Cuba.
Had the Cuban Filibusters succeeded in stirring up a revolt in Cuba, the laws of the United States would have come into effect when the island was admitted as a Territory, and the slave trade there would have ceased -- even if slavery itself had continued!
This would have seriously impacted the financial well-being of the brokers and ship-owners who occupied the finest houses in Portsmouth, Providence, and New York City. It would not have been a benefit to the British cotton factors or their factories, and all at a time when free men and free labor in Texas were showing the whole world that cotton could be had more cheaply under freedom and on free soil than not! It would have been a serious impediment to persons writing mortgages on land and on the slaves held in southern plantation States, or even out west in northern Missouri. A free Cuba would have made southerners like Quitman even more popular than they already were!
My conclusion is that there is some serious disinformation at work, here, and that if Jesse James was an enemy of the railroad tycoons of that time, he was an enemy of British financial power.
It may be that the Knights created some aspects of the Order of American Knights, only to see it suborned and converted to the purposes of the New World Order, a la' Queen Victoria, the scion of Opium and the destroyer of China. Or the left-liberals may be correct and the British agents installed in New York at the time of Alexander Hamilton may have created both the Knights of the Golden Circle and the successor organization, the Ku Klux Klan.
It is for certain that the lawful actions of the Territory of Nebraska established yet one more set of bona fides for the original Thirteenth Amendment, which is apparently a major thorn in the paw of the British Lion, and its plans for creating a new slave class in the new global economy, on their new Global Plantation.