The Civil War in North Carolina

Reminiscences and Memoirs of North Carolina and Eminent North Carolinians

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of calling a convention to the people, and the Legislature deciding against him, he addressed a circular letter to his constituents advising them to vote against the convention as the surest way to defeat secession. His advice was heeded, not only by his own constituents, but by the people of the State. Subsequently, however, a convention was called and the ordinance of secession passed. Mr. Worth declined to be a candidate for this convention. With the other prominent Union men of the South, after secession was accomplished, he gave his adhesion to the de facto government, and acted in good faith towards it.

        In 1862-63, he was elected to the lower House of the Legislature, and at the session of 1862 was elected Public Treasurer of the State, over Hon. D. W. Courts, the popular incumbent of that office. He was re-elected without opposition, in 1864, and held the position until the State government was overthrown by the Federal forces in 1865.

        In the same year he was appointed to the same position under the provisional government organized by President Johnson; but resigned, in a short time, and became a candidate for Governor against Provisional Governor Holden.

        Mr. Worth was elected by a large majority, and entered upon the discharge of Executive duties on the discontinuance of the Provisional government, which took place December 28th, 1865.

        He was re-elected Governor in 1866, by an increased majority, defeating, in turn, his old competitor for Congress, Gen. Alfred Dockery. He continued in the Executive office until July, 1868, when the then government was superseded by that organized under the Reconstruction Acts of Congress--surrendering the position, under a protest, denying the constitutionality of these acts of Congress, and the legality of his removal.

        The following eloquent and able protest of Governor Worth is preserved to show the high handed course of the "powers that be," at this time and the supremacy of the military over the civil government:

State of North Carolina,
Executive Department.
RALEIGH, July 1st, 1868.

Gov. W. W. Holden,
Raleigh, N. C.

        SIR; Yesterday morning I was verbally notified by Chief Justice Pearson, that, in obedience to a telegram from Gen. Canby, he would, to-day, at 10 A. M., administer to you the oath required preliminary to your entering upon the discharge of the duties of Civil Governor of the State; and that, thereupon, you would demand possession of my office.

        I intimated to the Judge my opinion that such proceeding was premature, even under the reconstruction legislation of Congress, and that I should probably decline to surrender the office to you.

        At sundown, yesterday evening, I received from Col Williams, Commandant of this military post, an extract from the General Order, No. 120, of General Canby, as follows:

        "Headquarters 2nd Military District.

        CHARLESTON, S. C., June 30th, 1868.

        General Order, No. 120.


        "To facilitate the organization of the new State governments, the following appointments are made: To be Governor of North: Carolina, W. W. Holden, elect, vice Jonathan Worth removed; to be Lieutenant Governor of North Carolina, Tod R. Caldwell, Lieutenant Governor elect, to fill an original vacancy--to take effect July 1st, 1868, on the meeting of the General Assembly of North Carolina".

        I do not recognize the validity of the late election under which you, and those co-operating with you, claim to be invested with the civil government of the State. You have no evidence of your election, save a certificate of a Major-General of the United States Army.

        I regard all of you as, in effect, appointees of the military power of the United States, and not as "deriving your powers from the consent of those you claim to govern." Knowing, however, that you are backed by military force here, which I could not resist if I would, I do not deem it necessary to offer a futile opposition, but vacate the office, without the ceremony of actual eviction, offering no further opposition than this my protest.

        I would submit to actual expulsion, in order to bring before the Supreme Court of the United States the question as to the constitutionality of the legislation under which you claim to be the rightful Governor of the State, if the past action of that tribunal furnished any hope of a speedy trial. I surrender the office to you under what I consider military duress, without stopping, as the occasion would well justify, to comment upon the singular coincidence, that the present State Government is surrendered as without legality, to him, whose own official sanction, but three years ago, declared it valid

I am, very respectfully,

Governor of North Carolina.

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