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Arguments in the Impeachment Trial of W. W. Holden: Governor of North Carolina


Arguments in the Impeachment Trial of W. W. Holden: Governor of North Carolina


This report goes into the various arguments used against governor Holden focusing on his suspension of writs of Habeas Corpus, wrongfully declaring states of insurrection in Alamance and Caswell counties, illegally using State funds to raise an illegal militia, and wrongfully imprisoning innocent victims. The document contains the closing statements from many lawyers and also shares the final verdict. In the end, the court refused to aknowledge the KKK as a presence that was real or one that could not be stopped by civil authorities and the power given to Holden was unconstitutional and therefore his acts were unconstitutional.






North Carolina

Original Format

Government Document


Returning to the evidence we propose to offer, it will, we believe, satisfy the minds of the court, that there existed secret associations in the counties of Alamance and Caswell, having a common purpose and design to subvert the laws by threats, intimidation, acts of outrage and murder: that the said associations, in furtherance of such their purpose and design, committee din the said counties many and various outrages, including six or seven murders, through the agency of a number of disguised men with arms in their hands; that the said associations exercised such extensive control and espionage over and within the said counties, that witnesses could not be induced to testify, or grand juries to represent, whereby the ordinary administration of the laws became wholly inadequate to protect life, property or the public peace.
The question arises, whether in case we succeed in proving what I have stated, it is sufficient for the defense. The managers insist that it is not, for the following reasons, as I understand them.
First: That the allegations proposed to be proved do not constitute an “Insurrection” within the meaning of the constitution.
Secondly: That the set commonly known as the “shoffner Act” does not authorize the offences with which the defendant stand charged; but, if, in fact, the respondent can show that he acted there under, he is, nevertheless, guilty, because the said act is unconstitutional and void.
Thirdly: that if the respondent can justify to the extent of declaring the counties of Alamance and Caswell in a state of insurrection, he is nevertheless guilty in this, that he arrested and detained without warrant, innocent persons, and especially, that he refused to obey, in their behalf, the exigency of the writ of habeas corpus.
Fourthly: that even supposing the foregoing propositions to be untenable, the respondent is still guilty in the maltreatment of the parties who were under arrest.
TO this the respondent replies
First: that there has never been any judicial construction of the manning of the word “Insurrection” as used in the constitution of North Carolina.
Secondly: that all acts of the legislature are presumed to be constitution, until declared otherwise by a tribunal of competent jurisdiction.
Thirdly: that his office of governor is executive and administrative and not judicial.
Fourthly: That the Shoffner Act has never been declared unconstitutional by any judicial tribunal of competent jurisdiction, and, thereof, he is not to be condemned in executing its provisions.
Fifthly: That in declaring the counties of Caswell and Alamance in a state of insurrection, he acted within the provisions of the said act, and upon the very state of facts contemplated by the legislature in the enactment thereof.
Sixthly: That by the force and effect of said act, his action there under in proclaiming the counties of Alamance and Caswell in a state of insurrection, cannot be made the subject of trial, or enquiry with a view to trial, by any other department of the government.
Seventhly: That if he had the legal power and authority to declare the said counties in a state of insurrection, he was justified in arresting, without warrant, all suspected persons therein, and of detaining the same until such time as the public safety permitted their surrender to the civil authorities, and this notwithstanding the exigency of the writ of habeas corpus.
Eighthly: that the alleged maltreatment of arrested parties, was done contrary to the orders of, and without the procurement, knowledge or consent of the respondent, and he is not to be held answerable thereof.


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Arguments in the Impeachment Trial of W. W. Holden: Governor of North Carolina, Civil War Era NC, accessed July 17, 2024,