In the spring of 1864, the American Civil War has been going on for three years, and the people of North Carolina were tired of the war and the ravages, it brought with it. Many were talking about peace and abandoning the Confederacy to rejoining the Union. William W. Holden, editor of the newspaper, The North Carolina Standard, was among those who believed that the Confederacy was doomed and that an honorable peace now would be better than a forced surrender later.
This spring, 150 years later, we are taking a look at North Carolina’s Peace Movement. Over the next few months, we will add new documents related to the Peace Movement to the digital collections and, on May 12th at 12:00 PM, Chris Meekins will be giving a lecture on The Peace Movement and William W. Holden here in the Archives and History/State Library building.
In 1862, William W. Holden used his newspaper, the North Carolina Standard, to promote the new Conservative Party and to spearhead the election of Zebulon B. Vance; however, by 1863 the two men started to see things differently and by 1864 Holden decided that he would run against Governor Vance.
For our First Wednesday post, we are highlighting a letter written by William W. Holden to C. J. Cowles on March 18, 1864. In this letter, Holden outlined the key factors that had driven him to run against Governor Vance in the upcoming election. “It was not my wish to run for Governor, and I was led to announce my name by two reasons: First, the Knowledge that Gov. Vance was gone from us, and secondly, the urgent appeal of numerous friends. It is my opinion that Gov. Vance has made up his mind deliberately to go with Davis and the Destructives ones since his visit to Richmond last August.” Other topics discussed in this letter are “encouraging reports” in regards to the upcoming election and Jefferson Davis’s suspension of the writ of habeas corpus. In February of 1864, the Confederate Congress gave Confederate President, Jefferson Davis the right to suspend the writ of habeas corpus in specific circumstances, including in cases of inciting insurrection against the government, in part due to the activities of the Peace Movement in North Carolina. In response, Holden ceased publication of his newspaper, “ I felt that if I could not continue to print as a freeman I would not print it at all, and I could not bear the idea of laws [illegible] or changing my tone. Thank god the Governor of Georgia has spoken out like a man, in the spirit worthy of an American manhood and American Liberty. I indulge the hope that the Congress when it meets in May will repeal the [illegible] law, and then I can print again.” The Governor of Georgia that Holden mentioned was Governor Alexander H. Stevens, who at the time was Vice President of the Confederacy.
This letter has been transcribed to the best of our ability and we hope that you take the time to read the letter in its entirety. For more information on the topics covered in this letter I have listed some informative links below.
The Peace Movement –
The Writ of Habeas Corpus and the Confederacy-
Alexander H. Stevens and the writ of habeas corpus-
William W. Holden -
Zebulon B. Vance –