My great great grandfather, The Father Of The NC Bar, words below.
"Holden's impeachment is demanded by a sense of public virtue and due regard to the honor of the state. He is an exceedingly corrupt man and ought to be placed before the people as a public example of a tyrant condemned and punished."
A Bill is circulating in the North Carolina Legislature with the intention of pardoning the infamous and impeached former-Governor William W. Holden. The information below is provided for the purpose of briefly informing our elected officials of the true character of Holden, and encouraging them to defeat this Bill. Former-Governor Holden was a stain upon the State of North Carolina, and committed treason against her by adhering to the enemies of the Old North State. A pardon for this disgraced and criminal politician would send the message that the mere passage of years is sufficient to make criminal behavior and treason by public officials acceptable in North Carolina. The ill-conceived and unfortunate Bill to pardon this unscrupulous politician should be quickly abandoned.
A Brief Background of William W. Holden:
“Most contemporaries of Holden characterized him as a bitter, unscrupulous and arrogant demagogue who frequently changed his political stripes to advance his own ambition. Writing in 1883, North Carolina editor Josephus Daniels remarked that Holden had made “bitterer enemies than any other man in our history.”
At the turn of the century Thomas Dixon in his popular novel “The Leopard’s Spots” even used Holden as the model for his unscrupulous scalawag governor, Amos Hogg.
Even in J.G. de Roulhac Hamilton’s treatise, Reconstruction in North Carolina, Holden’s legend received indelible treatment. Hamilton portrays Holden as an extremely ambitious and weak leader whose political deviation and unscrupulous conduct could be traced to his rejection for governor by the Democratic party in 1858. According to Hamilton, when Holden during Reconstruction finally achieved his ambition to be governor, he presided over “a highly partisan administration which was characterized by the most brazen corruption, extravagance and incompetency” in the history of the State.
Although Hamilton did not charge Holden with personal profit from the Reconstruction scandals, he claimed that the scalawag governor surrounded himself with “incompetent sycophants and highly skilled plunderers who robbed the State through the issuance of fraudulent railroad bonds.” When their schemes were jeopardized by a [conservative] Democratic resurgence in 1870, the corruptionists influenced Holden to institute a reign of terror to carry the State elections.
One of the most revered historians of the South, E. Merton Coulter, wrote that Holden “had an itch for office” and believed that cooperation with the enemies of the State, the Radicals, was the easiest road to success.” (Harris, pp. 3-4)
Governor Holden was head of the infamous Union League terror-organization in North Carolina in 1869, following the notorious carpetbaggers Albion Tourgee and Milton Littlefield. His constant pardoning of criminal members of the League and to his opponents he claimed a personal armed force of eighty thousand men to enforce his dictates. Hamilton states that “It became increasingly difficult and dangerous to arrest a member of the League, and once arrested, to hold him. In Chatham County on two different occasions the League opened the jail and released its members who were imprisoned, and in many places, prisoners were taken from the arresting officer. When, in spite of the activity, in their behalf, which was rather usual on the part of the [Republican] judges, conviction was secured, there was almost the certainty of a pardon from Governor Holden.” (Hamilton, pp. 336-339)
The office of magistrate in North Carolina had always been one of honor and importance. It now became a by-word and reproach. Governor Holden’s appointments were notoriously poor…Hundreds of them could not read or write. Much of the later trouble in the administration of justice was due to these ignorant and often corrupt appointees of the governor.” (Hamilton page 344)
“The two leading characteristics of the administration of public affairs during the Republican regime were extravagance, combined with corruption and incompetence. The former appeared in every department of government, for the poverty-stricken condition of the people was ignored and those in office sought to fatten at public expense. The salaries of the State officers were higher than ever before and their number was greatly increased. (Hamilton, page 410)
“Daniel L. Russell in his testimony before the Senate committee on the Ku Klux Klan said that the frauds were largely due to Holden’s incompetence and imbecility.” (Hamilton, page 413)
Holden presided over the vast railroad frauds that impoverished postwar North Carolina, and provided support to the notorious carpetbagger and former Northern General Milton S. Littlefield, and scalawag George Swepson. “Littlefield was made State proxy by Governor Holden [in 1869], who regarded the State interest in the railroads only as a political asset of the Republican party, and used it as such.” (Hamilton, page 438)
William Woods Holden, William C. Harris, LSU Press, 1987
Reconstruction in North Carolina, J.G. de Roulhac Hamilton, 1914
We appreciate the delay provided to learn more about disgraced-Governor Holden’s crimes against North Carolina. We encourage you to vote against any pardon of this person who was properly impeached, and adhered to the enemies of the State of North Carolina – the essence of treason according to the US Constitution. We provide some additional research findings on Holden’s infamy below.
William W. Holden’s Crimes Against North Carolina
“At the time of the convention in the fall of 1867 there were two clearly divided parties in North Carolina. The older, more established group called itself Conservative, but it might as well have been called the Democratic party. The main reason it did not use that name was that there were so many former Whigs in the party who had long opposed the Democrats in State politics.
The party which came out against the Conservatives…called itself the Republican party. The party was officially organized at Raleigh in March, 1867. Its outstanding leader was William W. Holden, who by this time had changed his mind and his party connection so many times that people had lost track of it all. The Conservatives called the native white supporters of the Republican party “scalawags,” and the name stuck.
[Although Jonathan Worth was the legally-elected governor] William W. Holden gave his inaugural address on the fourth of July, 1868. Then he went to the governor’s office to get the keys from Governor Worth, who was upset and angry because he had been forced out of his position by Congress and a military order from General [Edwin] Canby. Before Worth left his office he protested his removal, saying that Holden’s election was not legal.
The Republicans [under party leader Holden] controlled the legislature only from 1868 to 1870, but this was long enough to earn them a very bad reputation among the historians of North Carolina. It has been described as the time of “bad government” and a time of “pillage and plunder.” The main criticism of the legislature was the way it mismanaged the State’s money, and especially the manner in which the railroads secured money from the taxpayers with the approval of the legislature.
This is how it worked. A railroad would ask the State for help. Most of them were in bad condition as a result of the war…The legislature would issue bonds to raise money…The railroads sold the bonds themselves. The money from the sale of bonds was supposed to be used for building railroads and for no other purposes. Altogether the Convention of 1868 and the Republican legislatures of 1868 and 1869 approved the issue of about $28 million dollars in bonds.
The lawmakers also violated the Constitution by supporting new railroads without getting the approval of the people in special elections…and even worse was the fact that some of the members [of the legislature] were involved in activities that were fraudulent. To be more exact, some of the members sold their votes for large sums of money. The main villain in the story was a New York carpetbagger named Milton S. Littlefield [whose railroad fraud schemes were assisted by] a businessman named George W. Swepson, a native of North Carolina who had been appointed by governor Holden as president of the Western Division of the North Carolina Railroad.
Swepson would give the money to Littlefield and Littlefield would buy votes [and do] …a number of special favors for important members of the legislature. Some of them got bonds, others got fine meals, and any of them could get alcoholic drinks from a bar set up in the west wing of the Capitol building. Persons both outside and in the legislature profited from these illegal and fraudulent activities.” (Zuber, excerpts, pp. 12-21)
Buying Republican Votes in the Legislature
“In a conversation with Gen. Littlefield on the 30th day of April of this year , he stated that he heard that Swepson alleged that about $240,000 was paid out by him (Swepson) to members of the [Republican] legislature to procure the passage of bills; that he (Littlefield) could prove that it was not all paid for that purpose; that a large portion of it was paid for outside influence, among them, a large amount to John T. Deweese for outside matters.”
Anna B. Cavarly, Sworn to and subscribed to the commission. (Report of 1871-72 Fraud Commission, pp. 145-146)
Holden’s Military Rule
“Probably the worst part of [Holden’s] military rule and certainly the part that resulted in Holden’s downfall was the arrest of eighty-two men in Alamance county and nineteen in Caswell. A military court was set up to try these persons…In some case the prisoners were not told why they were being put into jail. All [Holden’s] soldiers could tell them was that they were acting under orders from Colonel Kirk, who in turn was acting under orders from Governor Holden.
In the American system of justice, a prisoner who think he is being held unjustly may apply for a legal paper called…a writ of habeas corpus…” Governor Holden’s refusal to honor a writ of habeas corpus issued by the State’s chief justice [Richmond M. Pearson] was undoubtedly a serious mistake. He also made a mistake when he had [editor] Josiah Turner arrested in Orange county, which was not under military rule. The governor had no authority for such action. (Zuber, excerpts, pp. 35-39]
Conservative Victory in 1870
“The election [of 1870] was a disaster for both the Republican party and Governor Holden. The Conservatives won enough seats in the Senate and House of Representatives to impeach the governor. Some people were angry with Governor Holden because of the way he had acted…too much like a dictator. After the Conservatives were in control of the State legislature it was only a matter of time before they impeached Governor Holden for his role in the events of the year 1870.
Just before Christmas, 1870, the house…drew up eight charges against the governor. The first two were that he had acted unlawfully by raising troops and sending them into Alamance and Caswell counties when there was no rebellion there and the civil authorities were in control. The next two articles concerned the arrest of Josiah Turner and John Kerr…that their arrest and imprisonment had been illegal…and for refusing to obey writs of habeas corpus. The seventh article said that the State laws had not been followed in raising…a regiment and recited some of the [deplorable] actions of the troops, and finally the house charged that it had been illegal for the governor to pay the soldiers [in the illegal regiment]. (Zuber, excerpts, pp. 41-42)
Holden Charged with Defrauding the State:
“Swepson also had as his attorney Augustus Summerfield Merrimon, who had drawn so much of his bond legislation but was also one of the attorneys employed by the North Carolina House of Representatives a year later when it moved to impeach Holden….Interesting in that connection is the fact that in the articles of impeachment then adopted by the House was one alleging that Holden conspired with Swepson to defraud the State by the wrongful issue of bonds to the Western Division of the Western North Carolina Railroad. Of it, Dr. Hamilton noted: “It was adopted by a vote of 74 to 9 and disappears from view, neither the journal nor the press ever mentioning it again. Why it was never presented cannot be ascertained.” Merrimon, who was soon to be Democratic candidate for Governor and later United States Senator and Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court, might have known. (Daniels, page 248)
General Charges of Official Venality and Corruption:
Raleigh, May 2, 1871
“On the 3d day of May, 1870, I found Mr. Horace L. Pike, formerly editor of the Standard in this city, just after supper, sitting at the desk in the banking room. Mr. Heartt, a book keep of the bank, was present. In conversation he remarked that for one hundred dollars he would give me information in writing which would be worth $100,000 to me. I paid no attention….I laughed at it and made some jesting reply. He then took up the paper and threw it in the basket…I think he was under the influence of liquor, being about half drunk. In a few minutes after, Pike left, saying that he was going to Gov. Holden to get some money, as he was going to Washington that night. After he left, from curiosity, I took the pieces of paper he had left and pasted them together…It read as follows: I hereby swear that I am knowing to the fact that W.W. Holden did, in the year 1869, receive $25,000 (twenty five thousand dollars) in North Carolina bonds, for giving his signature to a certain act to be hereinafter named.
(Signed) H.L. Pike. W. Hal. Harrison (Report of 1871-72 Fraud Commission, page 499)
Philip A. Wiley testified as follows:
Raleigh, May 2, 1871
Q. Do you, or do you not, know anything about the signing and issuing of the bonds of the State for the Western North Carolina Railroad, known as special tax bonds, for the year 1869?
A. I know of Gov. Holden’s signing some of the bonds in the room up stairs, spoken of by W.H. Harrison. I don’t remember the exact date, but think in the fall of ’69. I am sure they were bonds of the Western Division of the Western North Carolina Railroad. I have an impression that these bonds were signed in great haste, in order to get them into market at the earliest day, and before other bonds were issued. I know nothing of the moneys paid to any officials of the State, or members of the Legislature, to procure passage of any bill.
P.A. Wiley, Sworn to and subscribed before the commission.
(Report of 1871-72 Fraud Commission, page 500)
Mr. S.T. Carrow appeared, was sworn and testified.
Raleigh, July 25, 1871
“I was in New York in Sept. 1869. I saw at the time in New York, at the St. Nicholas Hotel and other places, Gov. Holden, Treasurer Jenkins…Swepson and Littlefield, and a great many other North Carolinians. These parties seemed to be frequently in consultation about the State bonds, with Gov. Holden and Treasurer Jenkins, and with each other. I went to New York in company with my wife, at the special invitation of Gov. Holden and his wife.
Q. Do you know of any money, bonds, proceeds of bonds, or anything of value being given or offered to any member of the Legislature, or Convention, to influence them in passing, or procuring the passage of, any bill, or ordinance through either of those bodies?
A. I do not, except from rumor. I believed it was done and publicly denounced it. Mr. Swepson complained on one occasion that I was bringing public opinion to bear against him about the use of the bonds.”
S.T. Carrow, Sworn to and subscribed before the Commission. (Report of 1871-72 Fraud Commission, pp. 501-502)
(John Gatling, below, married my great aunt and practiced law with my great, great grandfather Bart Moore whose words and portrait are above. I have a large picture of him and his family in the upstairs hallway at Dixieland. BT)
John Gatling, Esq., appeared, was sworn and testified.
July 26, 1871
“I was a member of the Legislature of 1868-69.
Q. Do you not know that Littlefield was very active in procuring the passage of bills making appropriations to the various railroads during the sessions of 1868-69?
A. I knew that he had a bad reputation. I have seen him in the lobby [of the Legislature] very often, and in close conversation with the members. I think he was very active in procuring the passage of those bills. I know that liquors and cigars were kept in one of the rooms of the Capitol, and was said to belong to General Littlefield.”
John Gatling, Sworn to and subscribed before the Commission (Report of 1871-72 Fraud Commission, page 502-504)
North Carolina During Reconstruction, R. L. Zuber, NC Dept. of Archives & History, 1969
Report of the Commission to Investigate Charges of Fraud and Corruption, Under Act of Assembly, Session 1871-1872, James H. Moore, State Printer and Binder, 1872
Prince of Carpetbaggers, Milton S. Littlefield, Jonathan Daniels, J.B. Lippincott, 1958