Happy New Year History Ping!
Thanks for this, going back to read it now. I have ancestors who show their place of birth as "the State of Franklin". I've read before that heir constitution stated that no lawyers, doctors or preachers (I think that was the 3)could hold legislative office. Not a bad idea.
Wow! I was a history major, but had never heard about this. GREAT piece of information. I'm going to try to find more information about the "State of Franklin." Thanks for posting this!
Thanks! Bump for later read
Fascinating. Thanks for this look back.
Thought this article might be of interest to you.
Correct me if I am wrong...
But wasn't there a bunch of folks who are trying to do the same thing today by moving to New Hampshire and taking over shop in the State government to inact a kind of "Free State" project as well???
I remember seeing that a couple of years ago, and heard they started getting everyone there from all over to implement this deal...
BTW, this original story posted makes for a great read...
Great stuff - thanks.
This love of freedom and independence, above all else, is what is missing from our country today.
During the period of the Constitutional Convention, several frontier areas were demanding statehood: Vermont, "Westsylvania"; the state of "Franklin" in eastern Tennessee; and Kentucky.
I always found the State of Franklin fascinating as it was an expression of popular sovereignty self government spontaneously springing from compact. This was a huge issue during the Civil War and settlement of the West. These were principles to which the Founders supposedly aspired, but when it came down to the rubber meeting the road, the United States opted for a colonial/territorial system instead, very similar to the one by which England had governed them. The various land ordinances governing the organized territories provided for a Governor, three Judges and a Secretary appointed by Congress. A legislative Assembly shall be elected and from that, a Legislative Council nominated and appointed by Congress.
Acceptance of new States was always controlled by whether and how the land was organized into a Territory. This prevented folks from forming critical self governing mass which would require Congress to consider statehood.
Years ago, I did considerable research into how the second class standing of Western public land States came into being and learned a great deal. For instance, James Madison had included provisions for equality in the first draft of the new Constitution: "If admission be consented to, new states shall be admitted on the same terms with the original states." A faction lead by Governor Morris of New York and Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts advocated a plan to limit the number of new states so that they would never outnumber the older states or to admit new states on a less than equal basis. Madison insisted that "the Western States neither would nor ought to submit to a union which degraded them from an equal rank with the other States." (See
2 Madison, "Journal of the Debates in the Convention which Framed the Constitution, 274 - Hunt's ed. 1908.) A compromise resulted in the neutral statement: "New states may be admitted by Congress into this Union."
The following are background notes that I have on the State of Franklin, mostly from Ray Billingtons Westward Expansion, A History of the American Frontier, 1967:
Stephen Holston, a hunter built a cabin in the Tennessee valley in 1746. A few others followed, but were driven back by Indian raids. In 1758, immigration set in. William Bean, a trader settled in the Watauga River Valley, attracting others in 1769-70. James Robertson brought 16 more families in 1771. John Carter established a trading post west of the Holston River in 1769 and was followed by a handful of settlers South of the Holston. Many Marylanders settled at Shelby's Station. Jacob Brown of North Carolina settled on the Nolichucky River. This made four settlements by 1771: Watauga, Carter's Valley, North-of-Holston, and the Nolichucky. Many came during the next two years from Virginia and Regulators settled from North Carolina. By the close of 1772, several hundred families lived in eastern Tennessee.
The surveys of the Lochaber Treaty Line in 1772 disclosed that three of the four settlements were in Cherokee territory. Carter's Valley and Nolichucky were abandoned, their populations gathering at Watauga, where they prepared to defy Indian Superintendent Stuart. As purchase of lands was forbidden, settlers negotiated a long term lease of two large tracts. The "Wataugans" turned to the task of providing for law and order. "They resorted to a practice usual to frontiersmen whose westward advance temporarily carried them beyond the protection of the law; they called a convention of arms-bearing men to draw up a compact."
All signers of the Articles of Association agreed to obey five commissioners who were given both legislative and judicial powers; they were to keep order, enlist a militia, record deeds for land sales, issue marriage licenses, and try offenders. "It was an ordinary squatters agreement stemming from necessity and rooted in Presbyterian religious beliefs which emphasized the original compact between God and man."
In North Carolina, Tidewater planters controlled the legislature and local western government through governor appointed law-making justices of county courts and law-enforcing sheriffs. A poll tax was levied on rich and poor and corrupt tax collectors made things unbearable. They demanded payment in specie and when it was not immediately forthcoming, hurried off to sell the farm for taxes in arrears to a speculator. The farmer could lose everything in court fighting.
In 1768, the frontiersmen formed an extralegal body they called "The Regulation," binding themselves by compact to pay no taxes until they were satisfied the money was legally collected and used. At first they only requested to meet with the proper officials to present their grievances. Then they were labeled insurrectionists by the governor William Tyron and protest turned to rebellion. Rioting about Hillsboro grew until in 1770, the governor issued warrants for arrest of the Regulators and ordered troops to enforce them.
In 1771, Tyron at the head of the provincial army was met by two thousand Regulators. The Battle of Alamance cost each side nine men killed and a number wounded. The Regulators dispersed. Leaders who were not captured or killed fled the colony.
In South Carolina, frontier grievances were high taxes, corrupt officials, under-representation in the legislature, oversized counties, a complete lack of courts in the interior and the assembly's refusal to erect any new counties until the inhabitants agreed to support the Anglican church. In 1767, settlers on the upper Pedee and Congareeb rivers organized groups of vigilantes to protect their property and punish criminals, calling themselves Regulators. They were denounced as traitors and the militia was called out against them. Scattered fighting went on in 1768-9. Then the two forces met in battle on the Saluda River. The troops were withdrawn and the legislature passed a circuit court bill. The Regulators dissolved.
In 1784, North Carolina made a limited cession to the United States. The cession was soon rescinded over difficulties regarding frontier self-determination and the "State of Franklin" and was not retendered until 1789. By that time, North Carolina had almost no land left in Tennessee to dispose of and ceded what amounted to only political jurisdiction. This was accepted by Congress in 1790, when it was organized as the "Territory Southwest of the Ohio River." It became the State of Tennessee in 1796.
In doing genealogy on my hubby's family, I found where one of my husband's ancestors, Jesse A. Bounds, signed a petition or declaration or something -- pertaining to the establishment of the State of Franklin. When the endeavor fell through, Jesse Bounds settled in Knox Co TN, where he died in 1804.