Search using this query type:

Advanced Search (Items only)

"The North Carolina Troubles," August 20, 1870


"The North Carolina Troubles," August 20, 1870


Harper's Weekly was a Republican-based newspaper. The article, "The North Carolina Troubles," was an account of what was occurring in North Carolina regarding the Kirk-Holden War, which involved the Ku Klux Klan and Governor Holden. While this article came from a Republican newspaper, it gave a non-biased account describing the inevitability of civil unrest and disturbance of the peace due to the condition the state was left in after the war. The article also described how organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan would "defy civil repression" after the war. On the other hand, the article did state how civil authorities had the power to bring order back to the state and that once all civil forces were exhausted the governor had the power by the constitution to use military force. The article describes the unrest in the state and provides insight into how the state handled the violence.


Harper's Weekly


"The North Carolina Troubles," Harper's Weekly, August 20, 1870. Accessed September 18, 2014.




Shanlyn Wagoner




North Carolina

Original Format

Newspaper Article


There has been in certain quarters, noto-
rious for sympathy with the late rebels and re-
bellion, such a vehement denunciation of Gov-
ernor Holden, of North Carolina, as a pecul-
iarly malignant “satrap,” who was waging
fiendish war upon “the people” of North
Carolina, that it is well to understand the
facts. The organization of the Ku-Klux Klan
has been especially vigilant in that State, where
the comparative smallness of the colored popu-
lation promised that a rigorous system of terror
and coercion would practically annual their vote.
To this end the efforts of the Ku-Klux have
been directed. Of the existence and operations
of this body there is no question. We have
ourselves received details of its proceedings
from the most “conservative” authority. It is
the natural result of the war. It is a sucker
from the root of the rebellion.

That there must be disturbances of all kinds
in the States of the rebellion there was, of
course, no question. That great care and for-
bearance would be necessary upon the part of
the civil authorities was evident; and that it was
very desirable to restore the normal condition
of society as soon as practicable was unques-
tionable from the first. It was the duty of the
civil officers of those States to postpone appeals
to military interference to the last possible
moment; and this was most desirable, not only
in itself and upon general principles, but, for
the Republican party, upon partisan grounds.
For it was clear that an appeal to force would
injure the party in two ways: first, it would
suggest the suspicion that it was, as has been
alleged of the present difficulty in North Car-
olina, oppression for party purposes; and, in
the second place, it would be cited as proof
of the inefficiency of Republican reconstruc-
tion. For every reason, therefore, it was most
desirable that the civil authority should be
every where paramount.

But it was equally evident that in the con-
dition of society which the war left in the States
of the rebellion there must necessarily be such
occasional disturbances of the peace, so organ-
ized, so persistent, so formidable, that the or-
dinary civil processes would not avail. It was
unreasonable to expect that the disordered
States would be restored to a normal situation
without very serious troubles, in which military
interference would be wholly justified. And
precisely this is the case in North Carolina.
The crimes of the Ku-Klux defied the civil
means of repression. The Governor, who is
the responsible executive officer, states, as a
fact, what all the probabilities confirm, that the
organized ruffians and assassins laughed at
proclamations, exhortations, and the civil proc-
ess, and he was compelled either to tolerate
anarchy in the State or to use military force.
He decided not to surrender to the rebels, and
placed certain counties under martial law, and
invoked, as the Constitution authorizes, the as-
sistance of the national power, which was
promptly granted. Governor Holden did
what Governor King, of Rhode Island, did in
the “Dorr war” in that State in 1842.

Of course, a Governor is to be held respons-
ible if he invokes national aid before it is nec-
essary; if he does not exhaust the lawful re-
sources of the State before this final appeal;
and if he permits any abuse of the military in-
terference when it becomes indispensable. But
the passionate assertion of his partisan opponents
can not be accepted as evidence of his guilt.
We have the testimony of the Chief Justice of
the State, that the power of the civil process
was exhausted. And while there is unques-
tionably exaggeration in all the reports, no one
who has been a faithful student of the spirit and
methods of the Ku-Klux Klan will believe that
the action of the Governor has been merely a
partisan trick to carry the election.


"The North Carolina Troubles." Harper's Weekly, August 20, 1870. Accessed September 18, 2014.


Copy the code below into your web page


Harper's Weekly, "The North Carolina Troubles," August 20, 1870, Civil War Era NC, accessed May 21, 2024,