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North Carolina Through Four Centuries, 1989


North Carolina Through Four Centuries, 1989


William Powell’s North Carolina Through Four Centuries, does a phenomenal job of offering a broad history of the Old North State. Powell begins his book by discussing the geography and makeup of North Carolina, and the original inhabitants of these lands, the Native Americans. Highlighting every major period of North Carolina’s history, Powell discusses the colonial, early-America, Antebellum and Civil War periods prior to discussing Reconstruction in North Carolina. Writing on the period of Reconstruction, Powell discusses the many political influences that emerged in the state from carpetbaggers and scalawags, northerners who had moved south to become advocates for the rights of the Negro population; to the issue of the Ku Klux Klan and the political power that this secret organization held throughout the state. Powell also refers to the passing of the Shoffner Act in early 1870 that allowed for the governor to issue specific counties in a state of insurrection and to declare martial law. Powell continues to study what became known as the Kirk-Holden War from Governor Holden’s declaration that the Counties of Alamance and Caswell were in a state of insurrection, and his ordinance of troops to maintain martial law in the counties. William Powell continues on highlighting the impeachment of Governor Holden and highlights Senator William L. Saunder’s testimony and his continuous declination to answer questions, bringing to light what would become to be known as “Pleading the Fifth.”


William S. Powell


William S. Powell, North Carolina Through Four Centuries. (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1989.)






Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Original Format



The trial got under way on 2 February 1871 and lasted until 22 March, a period of seven weeks. A separate vote was taken on each of the eight charges, and Holden was found guilty on six. Although Holden was the second American governor to be impeached, he was the first to be convicted. By a vote of 36 to 13 the senate expelled him from his post and declared that he should never again be eligible for public office in the state. Thus culminated the long feud between Holden and his political opponents.

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William S. Powell, North Carolina Through Four Centuries, 1989, Civil War Era NC, accessed February 21, 2024,