48 History of Wake Forest College
in turmoil, continued for several years. Several things contributed to
this. Many who were bold of heart at first began to despair when they
saw themselves robbed of their political rights by "oathbound ballot
boxes, keeping them away from the polls" (the Howard Law), while
Legislatures made up of former slaves and other ignorant men under
the control of adventurers from other States were recklessly
extravagant in bringing the State into a debt which constituted a first
lien on their plantations and homes. This constitution of political
affairs also caused much real alarm lest the purpose was to attack the
very structure of the society of the State and break down all racial
distinctions between whites and Negroes. One result of this alarm was
the rise of the Ku Klux Klan, which indeed did reassure the whites
that they were still the dominant race, but which added to rather than
diminished the disturbed state of the people, since it entailed the
repressive measures of the federal government, and the ill-advised
violence of Governor W. W. Holden, known as the Kirk-Holden War.
The incubus of terror and despondency was not finally removed until
the impeachment and conviction of Governor Holden in 1870. Having
asserted their mastery those who had been under the ban politically
seemed to realize that the constitution of 1868, although made by
"carpet-baggers and scalawags," had not only secured the readmission
of North Carolina into the Union on equal terms with other States, but
had put the control of the State as a prize for those who could carry
the elections. Their fears had proved liars and they again took
courage.
At times, however, the little college community was reminded that
readjustment and reconstruction were still in progress. One night in
December, 1871, there was a sharp rap at the door of the Euzelian
Society, in which a debate was in progress. When the door was
opened there stood a United States marshal with a band, "six
cowardly wretches who had been mustered into Kirk's service." The
marshal called for David S. Ramseur, a boy of eighteen years who
had matriculated at the College that term and had joined the Society
on October 13. Much commotion followed, but
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