After Slavery: Educator Resources

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11. Dr. Pride Jones Agrees to Help Stop the Ku Klux Klan

The following educational document corresponds with Unit Five: Conservatives Respond to Emancipation in the After Slavery exhibition. Note the "Questions to Consider" section included at the end of each document.

One response to the political changes brought about by the Reconstruction Acts and the 1868 constitutions was organized violence in the form of the Ku Klux Klan. While the Klan was a multifaceted phenomenon, it was often used by Democrats to cripple the Republican party, especially at the local level. This function, and the Klan's use as a method to enforce labor discipline among freedpeople, worked to the advantage of conservatives. Some continued to support the Klan and used its support to gain and hold political office even while the Republicans still held a majority at the state level, especially in South Carolina. Other conservatives who were strongly opposed to black suffrage came to oppose the excesses of the Klan, whether from a genuine moral repugnance at the levels of violence used, or out of concern that the Klan was yet another powerful political instrument that was slipping out of their control. Violence might utimately be a poor tactic for accomplishing their aims. In North Carolina, the worst Klan violence occurred in a group of Piedmont counties roughly contained in a triangle bounded by Oxford, Fayetteville, and Greensboro, peaking in the spring of 1870. Governor W. W. Holden eventually declared martial law and sent in Republican militia units from the western part of the state. Before that occured, however, Holden hoped that prominent conservative citizens such as Dr. Pride Jones of Hillsborough could convince their neighbors to end the violence.

Dr. Pride Jones Agrees to Help Stop the Ku Klux Klan

HILLSBOROUGH, N. C., March 4, 1870.

SIR: On the 3d instant I had a long conversation with Mr. John W. Norwood in reference to an interview that he has recently had with your excellency. He urged me to accept of a commission from you, for the purpose of attempting to disband the secret organization in this county, known as the 'Ku-Klux,' and restoring the laws to their supremacy. This is a consummation heartily to be desired by all good citizens; and, though more averse than ever to any position in the service of the public, I feel constrained by a sense of duty to give my best exertions, however feeble they may be, in aiding the restoration of peace and order, and, should you deem me qualified for the position, I will accept it.

I feel certain that in this county I can further your views, and believe that if my commission is extended to Alamance I can exercise a considerable influence there also. But if, as is rumored here to-day, your excellency has, in obedience to the dictates of your duty, ordered troops to that county, you must pardon me for saying that I look with apprehension to the result, and my candid opinion is that the 'Ku-Klux' cannot be put down by force, without a dreadful amount of bloodshed and crime, and that the wise course adopted by you in Chatham would be much more effectual here also. If troops have gone there, of course they cannot be recalled at once; but I consider it of vital importance, should you consider it expedient to extend my commission to that county, for you to give me some authority in the premises, and. enable me to say that, upon such and such things being done, you will recall the troops.

I would further suggest that your instructions upon the subject of oblivion and pardon of the past be explicit and clear, or my labors may be unavailing.
It may be proper to add that I am not a member of the 'Ku-Klux,' or any other secret political organization whatever.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
His Excellency W. W. HOLDEN, Raleigh.

HILLSBOROUGH, March 5, 1870.
SIR: The undersigned citizens of Orange County respectfully recommend Dr. Pride Jones, of Hillsborough, as a suitable person to receive a captain's commission for Orange County. We believe his appointment would give entire satisfaction to our citizens, and would go far toward establishing on a firm basis good order throughout the county. 
Very respectfully,

His Excellency. W. W. HOLDEN, Governor of North Carolina.

Executive Department, Raleigh, March 7, 1870.
SIR: Please find inclosed a captain's commission in the Forty-fifth regiment Orange Militia. You will observe by the papers that I have been constrained to declare the county of Alamance in a state of insurrection. I have done this with reluctance and regret. The civil law is silent and powerless in that county. Many of the people of the county feel that they are entirely insecure in their persons and property, and their only hope is in such protection as the military can afford them. Federal troops, commanded by discreet officers, will be employed. The innocent and the law-abiding will be in no danger; but it is indispensable to bring the guilty to punishment. I concur with you that the Klan of Ku-Klux is very formidable and war-like, but I fear it will grow with indulgence, and that if vigorous measures be postponed, it will ultimately occasion much strife and bloodshed. I am most anxious to preserve Orange, Chatham, and other counties surrounding Alamance from the infection of insurrection in the latter county. Captain Ramsey is doing a good work in Chatham. The civil officers of the county of Orange are the friends of law and order, and are performing their duty like patriots. I wish you, sir, to take command in Orange. I believe you can thus perform efficient and valuable service for your State.

If you should accept this position, I should rely in a great degree upon your firmness, moderation, and discretion, and therefore, at present, give no special instructions as to the manner in which you will discharge your duty. Your pay, while on duty, will be that of a captain of the regular Army of the United States. I would be glad to hear from you at an early day.

Very respectfully,
W. W. HOLDEN, Governor.

Source: Testimony taken by the Joint Select Committee appointed to inquire into the condition of affairs in the late insurrectionary states, North Carolina (Washington: GPO, 1872), pp. 5-6.


Questions to Consider

  1. Why did Jones expect the use of troops to result in bloodshed?

  2. What might Jones's reasons have been for accepting the commission?

  3. What would be the difference in federal troops versus state militia in putting down the Ku Klux Klan?

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