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Governor Holden was impeached as the governor of North Carolina on March 22, 1871.  Governor Holden’s impeachment signaled the downfall of the Republican Party and brought the Democratic Party back into power, which would bring a resurgence of white supremacy and terrorist violence.  There were eight charges brought against Governor Holden:

Article I. Unlawfully declaring the County of Alamance in insurrection and raising bodies of “armed, desperate and lawless men” who arrested and detained eighty-two citizens, when in fact there was no insurrection and civil authorities were in full exercise of all their functions.

 Article II. Unlawfully taking the same action, in the same manner, against the County of Caswell, where eighteen men were arrested.

Article III. Unlawfully ordering “evil disposed persons” to arrest the editor Josiah Turner Jr., in Orange County.

Article IV. Unlawfully arresting and detaining John Kerr, Samuel P. Hill, William B. Bowe, and Nathaniel M. Roane in Caswell County, four men whose names had already been included in Article II.

Article V. Unlawfully refusing to obey a writ of habeas corpus in the case of Adolphus G. Moore of Alamance County.

Article VI. Unlawfully refusing to obey writ of habeas corpus in the case of nineteen citizens arrested in Caswell County.

Article VII. Unlawfully recruiting and arming five hundred men and more, “many of them most reckless, desperate, reffianly and lawless characters,” and placing them under the command of George W. Kirk, “a notorious desperado”; unlawfully arresting and imprisoning many men; hanging by the neck William Patton, Lucien H. Murry, and others; thrusting Josiah Turner into a “loathsome dungeon”; and illegally drawing more than $70,000 from the state treasury to pay the troops.

Article VIII. Unlawfully causing the state treasurer to disregard an injunction that would have restrained him from making the money for the troop payments available.[8] (Item 2713) (Folk and Shaw 1982, 226-227)

Holden was charged with every article except for Article I and II.  Most of these charges dealt with the illegal arrest of the men and the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus.  The lawyers who represented Governor Holden defended him by saying that his actions were not unlawful.  On the twenty-first day of the impeachment trial for Governor Holden, Mr. Edward Conigland opened the day on behalf of Holden.  Mr. Conigland spoke of the violence that took place in Alamance and Caswell counties.  He defended Governor Holden’s actions by stating that the definition of insurrection was unclear, the Shoffner Act was never declared unconstitutional, and Holden was justified in arresting the suspects because he had the authority to declare a county in a state of insurrection. Governor Holden acted within his provision when he declared these counties in a state of insurrection.[9]  (Item 2762) Conigland argued that persons responsible for impeaching Holden did so based on the fact that no insurrection existed.  On the contrary, the multitude of public murders, punishments, and humiliation directed toward a certain race and political party in these counties was grounds for declaring them in a state of insurrection.  In sum, Conigland concluded that the actions Governor Holden took during the Kirk-Holden war were not unlawful because the actions were an attempt to protect the citizens of Alamance and Caswell counties. (Folk and Shaw 1982, 233-234) (Zuber 1969, 43-44) 
[8] "Argument in the impeachment trial of W.W. Holden, governor of North Carolina," State Library of North Carolina, accessed November 4, 2014,
[9] "Argument in the impeachment trial of W.W. Holden, governor of North Carolina," State Library of North Carolina, accessed November 4, 2014,