The Great North-Western Conspiracy In All Its Startling Details
By I. Windslow Ayer

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Public Domain Books

Chap. IV.


A new era in the history of secret political orders was opened by the Sons of Liberty.

As the Presidential election of 1864 approached, the party in the minority began to appreciate the awkwardness of its attitude upon the political issues of the day, and appeared determined in its conclusion to obtain the ascendency in the coming administration, by means of fraud and force.

The great mass of the party had now become conversant and familiar with every species of political crime, through secret organization, and it only remained for the leaders to decide upon a programme, to have it executed with despatch and fidelity.

Languishing under the lash of chastisement inflicted upon those infamous enough to aid and abet the cause of dismemberment, mutual hate and slaughter, National extinction and death, they swore in this Order an eternal and most dreadful oath of vengeance upon their offenders, and pledged themselves, under fearful penalties of death, “ever to take up arms in the cause of the oppressed in their own country, first of all, against any monarch, prince, potentate, power or government usurped, and found in arms and waging war against a people or peoples, who had of their own free choice, inaugurated a government for themselves, in accordance with and founded upon the eternal principles of truth.”

Thus, the liveliest form of ancient or modern civilization, in a republic just rising to the glories of empire, was to be sacrificed to the mad notion of petty “State Sovereignty,” by a sworn band of desperadoes. How sad when other generations would ask, where is the Federal Government, to be answered only by poets, who would sing her elegy, as in the past they have sang that of the lamented Hellas:

“Ask the Paynim slave,
 Who treads all tearless on her hallowed grave;
 Invoke the spirits of the past, and shed
 The voice of your strong bidding on the dead!
 Lo! from a thousand crumbling tombs they rise–
 The great of old, the powerful and the wise!
 And a sad tale which none but they can tell,
 Falls on the mournful silence like a knell.
 Then mark yon lonely pilgrim bend and weep
 Above the mound where genius lies in sleep.
 And is this all? Alas! we turn in vain,
 And, turning, meet the self-same waste again–
 The same drear wilderness of stern decay;
 Its former pride, the phantom of a day;
 A song of summer-birds within a bower;
 A dream of beauty traced upon a flower;
 A lute whose master-chord has ceased to sound;
 A morning-star struck darkling to the ground.”

The thought of the miserable commentary stirs the ire of the patriot and nerves his arm to daring deeds, in the holy cause of liberty, the constitution, and his country.

Skulk back into your dark dens of iniquity, you Clement L. Vallandigham, and you James A. McMaster, and you S. Corning Judd, and you Amos Green, and you P.C. Wright, (in Fort Lafayette where you ought to be,) before the wrath of honest people falls upon your wicked heads! Each of you, with the exception of you, Wright, being too infamous for that, even, have been before the Commission at Cincinnati, and stand before an outraged people condemned out of your own lips! Dare insult the light of day with your hideous faces, and be dashed in pieces on the rocks of public scorn!

But to return to our text, the Sons of Liberty, we find that undaunted organization in full blast from the time of its official inception in New York up to the Monday morning of the arrests on the 7th of November last.

It is now proposed to show, by an allusion to certain prominent facts occurring during the summer of ’64, that the so-called Democratic party was the mainspring to the great conspiracy that has been attempted in the North with so much audacity that many men of the best judgment can scarcely believe it to be a reality. In this we do not wish to be understood that all men who have heretofore voted the “unterrified" ticket, have knowingly and willingly given aid and comfort to the treasonable plans and purposes of their leaders, for our personal acquaintance among that class of anti-administration men, is sufficient to enable us to say, with confidence, that many of them are as loyal at heart as any man who ever breathed the air of an American freeman.

But we mean this, and proclaim the fact in the face of every foe, that upon the death of that lamented statesman and patriot, Stephen A. Douglas, the Woods and McMasters of New York, the Seymours of Connecticut, the Vallandighams and Pendletons of Ohio, the Voorhees and Dodds of Indiana, the Judds and Greens of Illinois, and others of like ilk in other States, obtained the chieftainship of the party and inveigled its too pliable ranks into the prostituting embrace of this foul conspiracy, to overthrow the government and crown with success the cause of the confederate arms. It must be readily seen by every honest man of ordinary intelligence, that such an affair could never have gained a foothold among our people under a truly loyal condition of the opposing party. The truthfulness of this assertion is so very forcible to the candid reader, that illustration or argument in support of it would be superfluous. However, occasional incidents will serve better to connect popular leaders with the subject of these sketches, and call to the minds of participants practical facts.

Brig. Gen. Charles Walsh, some time during the winter of ’64 and ’65, received his quantum of a fund, of which we shall hereafter speak, to purchase arms to be distributed in the 1st Congressional district of Illinois, comprising the county of Cook, and the scene of the late Chicago conspiracy, the enactment of which was to be the signal for a general conflagration of our cities, and thus fulfil the prophecy of Jeff. Davis, that the grass would grow again, on the streets of the cities of the North.

Do the leaders of the Invincible Club, among whom are W.C. Goudy, John Garrick, Malcom McDonald, and Dr. Swayne Wickersham, remember that that institution was to be the public mouth-piece of the Sons of Liberty, in an address to the Democracy of Chicago, to have been issued during the Presidential campaign?

Do they also remember the joint delegation of Invincibles and Sons of Liberty that received Vallandigham and the Woods of New York, on their arrival in Chicago to participate in, and mould the proceedings of the National Democratic Convention?

Do they further remember the remarkable speech made in their Hall during the Convention, by Capt. Rynders of New York, whom they hissed from the platform for his bold and fearless expression of loyal sentiments?

Do they remember the motto, “Never worship the setting sun,” which appeared on transparencies, and frequently fell from their own lips, and was meant as a hit upon those who were supposed to have allied themselves with treason, because of their belief in its eventual success?

Do they remember how it was proposed that Charles Walsh, of the Sons of Liberty, was to negotiate a purchase of the Chicago Post, and convert it to the same villainous purpose of its contemporary, the Times?

Have they forgotten the fifty or sixty thousand dollars raised by subscription to the books of the Club, nominally to be used for procession and illuminating purposes, but which was used for the purchase of arms and the importation of butternuts, to engage in the attack upon Camp Douglas?

Have they forgotten that large sums of this money was obtained under false pretences–under pretences that it was to be used for ordinary campaign purposes?

Have they forgotten that through their instrumentality the McClellan Escorts, then organized in every ward, were officered by Sons of Liberty?

Have they forgotten the meeting of Invincible Club members and Sons of Liberty in the sanctum sanctorum of the Chicago Times, where the question of punishing Col. R.M. Hough and Mr. Eddy, in redress of personal injuries alleged to have been inflicted upon Wilbur F. Story, was gravely discussed by B.G. Caulfield, O.J. Rose, Alderman Barrett, S. Remington and others, and where also, large numbers of muskets and smaller arms were exhibited?

And lastly, have they forgotten that the Sons of Liberty, upon a certain occasion well known to every Copperhead member of the last Common Council of the city of Chicago, held themselves in readiness till after midnight, expecting to be called to the assistance of that, at that time, treasonable body?

None know the significance of these questions better than the persons above mentioned, and others who were on hand about those times. The merchants of South Water street in Chicago can now, perhaps, explain why they were called upon to subscribe so heavily to the books of the Invincible Club, and the writer would suggest the propriety of these merchants compelling those who solicited these subscriptions, to deliver up the arms so purchased, or refund the money to its rightful owners.

It is pretty well understood, we believe, that the Bridgeport Irish, vote the “straight ticket.” It is said, also, that James Geary, a Son of Liberty and “old clothes man” on the corner of Wells and Madison streets, could “influence hundreds of them by the wave of his hand.” Now this “old clothes man” was empowered to furnish food, raiment and shelter to all escaped rebel prisoners, and charge the same to the Sons of Liberty, alias the Invincible Club, which, it is thought, sometimes paid such bills out of South Water Street money subscribed for processions and illuminations. These facts are the keys to the revenue plan of the Sons of Liberty.

The complicity of the “straight ticket” voters in this scheme is further shown by the character of their State ticket, headed by Robinson for Governor, Judd for Lieut. Governor, and Hise of La Salle for Auditor, each Sons of Liberty, and Judd the Grand Commander of the State. If, as it would be made to appear, there was no complicity between the Democracy and the Confederate agents, why did Vallandigham, the Supreme Commander of an Order having its inception in Richmond, address the people from every stump in Illinois? If there was no complicity, why did Vallandigham, on his return from exile, in his official capacity, with his staff around him, defy the United States government that had justly banished him–with 80,000 Ohioans at his command?

If no complicity, why did all the rebels and confederate agents in Canada come to the Chicago Convention, and why were they here again at the November election? Copperheads of Chicago and elsewhere, answer these questions!


Introduction.  •  Chap. I.  •  Chap. II.  •  Chap. III.  •  Chap. IV.  •  Chap. V.  •  Chap. VI.  •  Chap. VII.  •  Chap. VIII.  •  Chap. IX  •  Chap. X  •  Chap. XI.  •  Chap. XII.  •  Chap. XIII.  •  Chap. XIV.  •  Chap. XV.  •  Chap. XVI  •  Chap. XVII.  •  Chap. XVIII.  •  Chap. XIX.  •  Chap. XX.  •  Chap. XXI.

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