STATE OF FRANKLIN CREATED BEFORE TENNESSEE WAS CARVED OUT OF NORTH CAROLINA TERRITORY
By Dallas Bogan
Reprinted with Permission from Dallas Bogan. This article was published in the LaFollette Press.
It seems that the State of Tennessee was formed with some difficulty. We shall now probe into the actual happenings.
North Carolina, in 1784, surrendered to the United States what is now the State of Tennessee which ultimately gave Congress two years in which to settle the issue. Congress suggested this procedure simply because they wanted to sell these western lands in order to pay the war expenses brought about by the Revolutionary War.
Alarm spread throughout the region when they discovered that Congress had made no arrangements for any type of government during this two-year period. No brigadier general had been appointed who could lawfully call out the soldiers in case of an attack by the Indians. Also, no judge had been appointed in case of legal actions.
Area folks had no longing to subsist through two years of lawlessness. North Carolina had no provisions in which to provide them protection. In turn, each military company elected two representatives, each such person forming a County Committee. These committees called a general convention, which met at Jonesboro in August 1784, electing John Sevier president and Landan Carter, secretary. The goal of this newly formed convention was to form a new state and provide for another convention. The constitution drawn was rejected because of certain provisions that the people would not accept. Eventually, the constitution of North Carolina, with some changes, was adopted. The new state was named Franklin in honor of Dr. Benjamin Franklin.
The new electorates were John Sevier, governor, and David Campbell, judge of the superior court. Greenville was named the first capital of the new State of Franklin. The first legislature met at Jonesboro early in 1785 with Landon Carter being elected Speaker of the Senate, and Thomas Talbot being chosen Clerk. William Cage was Speaker of the House, and Thomas Chapman, Clerk.
The new government of Franklin was soon set up only to be dissolved and return to their commitment of the State of North Carolina. Since the United States had not accepted the cession of Tennessee, the Legislature of North Carolina would not agree to the independence of Franklin. Congress ultimately disregarded the whole deal.
During this time, John Sevier had departed on an expedition against the Cherokees; after his return he was arrested for treason. He was eventually rescued by his friends and never tried.
A short time later he was elected a member of the United States Congress from the western district of North Carolina, and was the first Congressman from the Mississippi Valley.
North Carolina, in February 1790, again ceded the territory of Tennessee to the United States Government, and in April 1790, it was accepted. In May 1790, Congress passed a bill for the formation of a new government called "The Territory of the United States South of the Ohio River."
The first governor appointed in the newly formed territory was William Blount, with David Campbell serving as Judge of the Superior Court. John Sevier was made Brigadier General of the Washington District, in what is now East Tennessee, with James Robertson serving as Brigadier General in Middle Tennessee.
Rogersville served as the first capital with the new seat of government soon being relocated to Knoxville.
The legislature of the new territory was made up of a legislative council, elected by the United States Congress. The people, under the law, elected a territorial assembly. Members of the five-man congregation were Griffith Rutherford, president, Stockley Donelson, John Sevier, Parmenas Taylor, and James Winchester. George Roulstone was clerk.
The Territorial Assembly had thirteen members representing the nine different counties. Two new counties, Sevier and Blount were formed during Governor Blount's administration.
It was decided, in 1795, that there were more than sixty thousand people in the territory, which constituted the proper population for the formation of a state. A convention met in Knoxville in January 1796, to frame the first Constitution of the State of Tennessee. Andrew Jackson suggested that the State be called Tennessee. President George Washington, in June 1796, signed the act of Congress stipulating that Tennessee be made the sixteenth state of the Union.
Elected from each of the eleven counties were five members who served to form the Constitutional Convention These members met in Knoxville January 11, 1796. With the adjourning of the convention, Governor Blount issued an order for the election of a governor and members of the legislature of the new state. Election returns were inspected and it was decided that John Sevier be elected Governor. He took the oath of office March 30, 1796, before Judge Joseph Anderson
The first legislature of the State of Tennessee met at Knoxville, the first capital of the State of Tennessee on March 28, 1796.
(Material for this article was taken from the writings of the late Ted Miller of LaFollette. Judge Greg Miller, Campbell County Historian, and nephew of Ted, has compiled all of Ted's articles which can be purchased through the Campbell County Historical Society in LaFollette.)
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