Knights of the Golden Circle (KGC)
The Bylaws of the Castroville Castle of the KGC
(5 image files | 1 PDF)
An Exposition of the KGC
(1 image file | 2 PDF’s)
(13 image files | 1 PDF)
In 1854, Virginia-born George W. L. Bickley organized the covert Knights of the Golden Circle to establish a commercial empire based on the expansion of slavery into the West Indies, Mexico, and parts of Central America. With the southern United States included, the area would become a “Golden Circle” intended to control commerce in tobacco, sugar, rice and coffee; the annexation of Mexico was the ultimate goal.
Bickley’s scheme was one of many that simmered beneath the surface of America’s republican crisis exacerbated by congressional decisions over the extent of slaveholding: the Missouri Compromise of 1820, the Gag Rule of 1836, the Wilmot Proviso, and the Compromise of 1850. Because the extension of slavery into the Mexican cession was part of the controversy, Texas became the location of thirty-two local chapters of the Knights. In 1860, these “castles” provided support for unsuccessful attempts to invade Mexico from Texas.
Although the organization became less visible as the American Civil War progressed, it operated as a fifth column and boasted that its membership included prominent Americans from both sides of the conflict. The Union arrested Bickley for spying in 1863 and held him as a prisoner until the end of the war.