The Secrets of the Ku Klux Klan

National Opinion (Bradford, VT)/May 1, 1868

A lodge of the recent Ku Klux Klan, at Memphis, Tenn., was broken up a few nights since, and from the constitution and other documents which were captured, some interesting facts have been learned respecting the order. The name of the “Chapter,” was the “Supreme Cyclopean Council.” On the centre table appeared a human skull, used in administering the oath to members. The constitution says: “The object of this organization is for the purpose of protecting the people of the South from the band of murderers and rotters now preying upon them, even to the last resort, assassination, and we pledge ourselves one to the other that nothing shall be allowed to deviate us from this noble object.” When a candidate is admitted, the constitution further says: “The members of the lodge, all shrouded, will rise and receive him, and conduct him to the middle of the room. Each member of the order shall have a drawn dagger or other weapon in his hand, pointed toward the candidate, and each member will be required, in the presence of the candidate, to swear that should said candidate prove recreant to the oath which he is about to take, that he will kill him, and make it his especial duty to do so on the first safe opportunity. After being admitted the candidate is compelled to subscribe so long an oath, of which the following is the closing part: ‘I further swear that all radicals and negroes who have placed themselves opposite to the interests of the owners of the soil of Tennessee shall forever be my enemy, and that under no circumstances will I have other connection with them, if I can help it, than to welcome them with bloody hands to hospitable graves.’ That my family and the family of a radical shall never interchange visits. And I further pray that the God of the Southland, whom I now invoke, shall strike me dead should I ever, either in letter or in spirit, infringe upon the things set forth in this oath. To all of which I swear in honesty of heart and sincerity of purpose. So help me God.’” The grip, pass-words, sign, &c, were likewise ferreted out by the authorities The klan was organized at New York, by Tennessee conservatives, and first put into operation in the town of Pulaski, in the latter state.

The New York Herald has what professes to be an official communication from some dignitary of the Ku Klux Klan, setting forth the origin and purpose of the Klan, from which it would appear that the organization numbers over seven hundred thousand members, and that it is spread over the whole country, from Maine to the Gulf of Mexico and from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Only white citizens of the United States can become members, and radicals, negroes and infidels cannot. The meaning given to the term Ku Klux Klan is a “circle of friends” which “first organized in Giles County,  Tenn., in August, 1866, and was an absolute necessity, resulting from the tyranny, domination and aggression of the Brownlow legislature.”

The communication closes thus: “Until recently, however, the enemies of the Ku Klux Klan possessed the government and wielded its mighty powers. They possess it today, but only in name; not in reality. Let the tyrants of a mongrel and infamously corrupt party beware! Your party is but a shell. The castle of radicalism has been permeated and undermined by the white ant of the Ku Klux.

“The Ku Klax Klan is, therefore, a secret political organization, the result of necessity, the sole object of which is to thwart radicalism, arrest negro domination in the South, negro equality in the north, perpetuate the federal Union, and preserve the Constitution as the fathers made it; and whoever asserts to the contrary utters falsehood. That the Ku Klux Klan have secrets unknown to the initiated is not denied, so have the ancient order of Free Masonry, Odd Fellowship, and other secret orders and societies; but, like Free Masonry and Odd Fellowship, the objects and purposes of the Klux Klan have thus, for the first time, been officially promulgated. The incredulous and guilty may carp and misrepresent; but the wicked, the ungodly, and the perjured, will soon feel the keen edge of the sickle and the invisible boring of the white ant.”

The frightful prospect held out in these sentences must make the radicals in Congress, and their sup porters at home, shake in their boots, in the words of another, “as Belteheezer did when Paul said to Moses, thou art the man!”

(Source: Chronicling America,