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John Pool

 John Pool, a moderate Republican, and senator, served as an advisor to Governor Holden during the Ku Klux Klan violence and through the Kirk-Holden War. Senator Pool was an exceedingly able man, Conservative historian J.G. de Roulhac Hamilton called him Holden’s “evil genius.” (Trelease 1971, 216) Pool felt certain decisions and actions need to be taken, so he steered Governor Holden in that direction. Governor Holden’s actions were based upon decisions and measures of Pools’ as well as the rest of his advisors. Pool was the architect of the Shoffner Act, also known as “An Act to Secure the Better Protection of Life and Property” created after Holden appealed for a stronger militia law. It was passed by a subservient legislature. Under the terms of law, the governor was authorized and empowered, whenever in his judgment local authorities were unable to provide adequate protection of life and property, to declared such county in a state of insurrection and to call into service the state militia to suppress such insurrection. The grant also granted him the authorization to call upon the federal government for any needed assistance.  (Raper 1985, 162) Just like the Shoffner Act, Pool was the architect of many of the plans to suppress the Klan. A Republican caucus that consisted of Senator John Pool, James H. Harris, Isaac Young, Willie D. Jones, William J. Clarke, William F. Henderson, Richard C. Badger, Abial W. Fisher, S.T. Carrow, Henderson Adams, David A. Jenkins, and J.W. Hood met with Governor Holden on June 8, 1870. (Raper 1985, 166) In this meeting they decided that use of military force was the only way they could stop the Klan. In over to prevent the Ku Klux Klan from taking over the state, a militia was needed and since it was agreed upon the men that federal troops were ineffective a state militia needed to be formed. While Governor Holden always maintained that the decision for a militia was necessary and he had the final authority to approve it, he was not the originator of it. Many of the republicans who were in attendance of this meeting state that Senator Pool made the suggestion first and there upon everyone else agreed. The next critical issue that needed to be determined was whether or not the state militia would be limited to making arrests and turning over prisoners to the civil courts or whether the governor should violate the state constitution by suspending habeas corpus and establishing military tribunals. This is crucial because, in his impeachment charges Governor Holden was charged with violating habeas corpus and not turning over prisoners. Pool shared the same feelings that were felt in Washington that Holden had been very timid; Pool was ready to take action immediately. While action was desperately needed, Holden wanted to do it the proper he wanted to ensure that no violations of civil rights would occur and he was acting in accordance with the constitution. While Senator Pool just wanted to take action to suppress the Klan and quickly, due to the fact that elections were coming up quickly and before the Klan overtook the state, along with the white conservatist party. Pool advocated stern measures and was in favor and also proposed military tribunals, although later he denied doing so.

Governor Holden wanted reassurance from President Grant and other federal authorities, while Senator Pool did not think this was necessary, that Holden had the authority he needed. Thomas Settle, superior court justice and Republican from Rockingham County was sent to Washington to gain this assurance from President Grant. By the state’s constitution he declared that the governor had the authority to carry on with the militia and suppress all disorders. (Raper 1985, 167) This was the assurance that Senator Pool and the other Republicans were waiting on, they could not get to Raleigh fast enough to call another meeting. The administration made their final plans then, all the advisors, especially Pool, were determined that the use of military force would mean the protection of lives, property  and voting rights of black citizens and also protect their chances in the 1870 elections.

Governor Holden, did not hurry for a decision of military force, he did not want to provoke the conflict further with the Klan and the state’s citizens, especially to cancel the August elections. Governor Holden while considered timid, he was looking for ways to use peaceful and civil mean to maintain order. While Pool was pushing him and his plans for military force on him, they had no other alternative. Pool felt they needed to go after the Klan as aggressively as they were going after Republicans, and North Carolina citizens. Pool wanted to rush troops in even if it meant open warfare. The New York Tribune, quoted Pool as saying: “We intend to use the military in the election and must get these statements, of Klan outrages, disseminated throughout the North.”(Raper 1985, 170) Pool was not concerned with the violation of civil rights; he was more concerned with suppressing the Klan, especially before elections, regardless of what repercussions were faced. Governor Holden tried to be reasonable and make the smartest maneuvers possible but Pool was his puppeteer in a way, moving him in a certain direction. Pool’s actions and plans were very political motivated, while he probably wanted to protect the citizens, he no regard for the civil rights, especially not of the Klan. If Pool had been more aware of not violating certain rights like Holden was, the arrested Klan members rights would not have been violated and some justice might have been served rather than be released unscathed.

While Governor Holden received the brunt of the wrath from the Kirk-Holden War, Senator Pool was critically denounced for the role he played in the use of state troops, but since he was serving in the Senate he was beyond the reach of the General Assembly, in regards of impeachment. During his push for troops and his unrelenting demand for them at all cost, he had to have known that he would not face any punishment, but that Governor Holden would because while he was not the originator of the action he was the final authority so the blame would fall upon him. The Wilmington Journal made somewhat of the same observation, wrote on November 5, 1870: “If there had been honor among villains generally, as there is said to be among thieves, Chief Justice Pearson and Senator John Pool would not have allowed Governor Holden to bear alone the brunt of the defeat of the late battle…in which they made common cause.” (Raper 1985, 200) A committee was created to investigate the activities of Senator Pool in the Kirk-Holden War, in the hopes it would remove him from the Senate, but the efforts were not successful. Whether Pool’s sole motive was to protect the election of 1870 and keep the Republican Party in power, his plans illustrated that. Since he was the originator and played a key role in dictating Governor Holden’s decisions, Pool’s motives reflected as Governor Holden’s own. When in reality the two contradicted greatly, but only one alternative was left for the state, Pool took the initiative and Governor Holden got caught up in desperation to protect the state.