Now to turn once more to the potential dangers that made the California crisis a reality. About three-eighths of the population were of southern descent and solidly united in sympathy for the Confederate states. This vigorous minority included upwards of sixteen thousand Knights of the Golden Circle, a pro-Confederate secret organization that was active and dangerous; in all the doubtful states in winning over to the southern cause those who feebly protested loyalty to the Union but who opposed war. Many of these ” knights ” were prosperous and substantial citizens who, working under the guise of their local respectability, exerted a profound influence. Here then, at the outset, was a vigorous and not a small minority, whose influence was greatly out of proportion to their numbers because of their zeal; and who would have seized the balance of power unless held in check by an aroused Union sentiment and military intimidation.