The Rise of the Democratic Party
The result of Governor Holden’s impeachment was the fall of the Republican Party and the rise of the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party would control North Carolina’s legislature for many years after the failure of Reconstruction, which is important because it falls into the broader scope of the failure of Reconstruction as a whole. According to historian Steven Hahn, as the Democratic Party grew in power the Republican Party was exposed and vulnerable. He states, “Chief among those vulnerabilities was the failure to provide more than sporadic protection to the party’s leaders and followers. With federal troops in diminishing supply and governors reluctant to activate militias, local supporters had to rely on their own devices and resources, which could obstruct but rarely derail Klan terrorism.” (Hahn 2003, 287) This clearly supports the fact that government intervention was needed to protect citizens from Klan violence. Governor Holden had called in militia to protect Republican Party supporters, but he was impeached because he exceeded his power. If Republican leaders had continued to protect not only their supporters but also their leaders against violence then they might have had a chance of defeating the Democratic Party. Historian Jim Brisson states, “Conservative newspapers, falsely claiming that the campaign was only an attempt by Republicans to intimidate Democratic voters, instead created the inflammatory term 'Kirk-Holden War' to describe the events. Using these smear tactics. Democratic newspapers successfully obscured the true reason for the 'Kirk-Holden War' and created anti-Republican sentiment throughout the Piedmont. Democrats used this political ammunition to retake the state legislature in August 1870, and by December, they had already introduced articles of impeachment against the governor. Holden's subsequent removal from office so greatly damaged the Republican Party in the state that it never fully recovered.” (Brisson 2011, 126)
After the Democratic Party gained control, the Klan disappeared, in part as a result of the Ku Klux Klan Act. This act listed many crimes that the Klan had been known to commit, and it created fines or imprisonment for anyone who committed these crimes. One major point of this act was that it “made it a crime to deprive any citizen of the rights guaranteed to him by the Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments to the federal Constitution.” (Zuber 1969, 47) This act would provide protection for not only North Carolina citizens but also for citizens throughout the South, which is ironic because Governor Holden attempted the same thing that this act enabled. As a result, citizens of Alamance and Caswell Counties would legally be protected from the violence of the Klan.