Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Sunday, July 4, 2021


 What was intended as the fourteenth state in the Union started out as the vision of two men, Arthur Campbell of Virginia and John Sevier of Tennessee, but their visions were somewhat different.  They both propposed that the Overmountain Towns (an area west of the Appalachians, consisting of part of Virginia, North Carolina, and what would become Tennessee and Kentucky) be organized as a state.  Campbell felt that the new state should also include parts of Georgia and Alabama; Sevier had a much more limited vision, confining it to the eastern section of North Carolina.  Campbell's proposal that part of Virginia be carved out for the new state met with severe opposition from Virginia governor Patrick Henry (who was also a major land speculator) and Henry pushed through a law that basically outlawed the creation of a new state by using Virginia territory.  The proposed state was to have been called Frankland, but with the deathblow that Henry had delivered, The proposed state of Frankland met with opposition from Kentucky settler who wanted a state of tongress'heir own (which they got in 1792).  Sevier renamed the proposed state Franklin and sought the support of Benjamin Frankin.

In 1784 the country remaained heavily in debt from the American Revolution.  North Carolina voted to give it part of the Overmountain area to the federal government to help relieve the debt.   Congress, however, dawdled on accapting the gift and, two year later, North Carolina  rescinded the offer. in part because they feared the government would sell the land to a foreign power such as France or Spain and in part because the loss of the area put the rest of the state in greater danger from Cherokee Indians.

The frontiersmen of the western district of North Carolina were becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the goernment of that state and desired "a separate, secure, and  independent state."  On August 24, 1784, four Carolina counties (all of which are now in Tennessee) voted to met in Jonesborough and declared the land to be independent from North Carolina.  John Sevier (reluctantly) was named governor.  A constitution was drawn up which made doctors, lawyers, and clergymen ineligible for elected office; this was rejected by referendum and the new "state" would continue using the North Carolina state constitution.  In December 1785, the capitol was moved from its tempoary location in Jonesborough to its permanent location in Greeneville.  Also in 1785 a petition was sent to Congress requesting statehood -- this probably had an impact on Congress's refusal to act on North Carolina's "gift."  This was also the time when the name was changed to Franklin and Ben jamin Franklin's support was sought.  (Franklin politely declined to support the incipient state.)

Despite calls for a state flag, none was ever designed.  The fledgling state had some severe disadvantages.  It had no infrastructure, especially an economic one.  It also had no hard currency.  The economy ran on the barter system with corn, tobacco, brandy, and skins in common use; Governor Sevier was paid in deer hide, for example).  Federal and foreign currancies were also accepted.  The state issued a two-year reprieve on taxes.

By 1786, key supporters of Franklin began to backtrack, signling an interest in rejoining North Carolina.  Late in that year, North Carolina offered to waive back taxes if Franklin rejoined the state.  Franklin rejected the offer, and North Carolina sent troops into the infant state and set up its own courts, jails, and government on Jonesborough.  Not having a militia or standing army of its own, Franklin could do little about it.  The two governments now competed side-by-side, only a few blocks from each other.

In February 1788, the sheriff of Washington County, North Carolina, was order by the state court to seize Jon Sevier's property for back taxes.  Included in the "property" seized were two slaves, who were brought and held at the home of Colonel John Tipton, the man who led the North Carolina "invasion" and had set up the rival government.  Sevier the led a hundred men in an attack on Tipton's home.  a day and half later, during a heavy February 29th snowstorm, Colonel George Maxwell and a troop of some one hundred men arrived to support Tipton.  The brief. ten-minute skirmish that followed became known as the Battle of Franklin, rssulting in Sevier's retreat, resulting in some men being captured or wounded, and in the deaths of three men.

One month later, several Indians tribes began attacking the westernmost region of Franklin.  Sevier tried to counter this with a loan from Spain which was refused: he also attempted to cede Frankline to Spanish rule.  This was too much for North Carolina, which sent troops to arrest Sevier in August.  Sevier's followers managed to rescue him from jail, but the threat from the Indians continued.  As the structure of Franklin began  to dissolve, Sevier and others surrendered to North Carolina and pledged their loyalty to the state.  In return, Nlorth Carolina sent troops to deal with the Cherokee, Chickasaw, and Chickamunga tribes.

By early 1789, the state of Franklin was no more and firmly in the hands of North Carolina, which once again offered the land known as the Southwest Territory (the precursor to Tennessee) to the federaal government.  In 1790 Sevier was elected to the United Statess Congress, representing the territory.  In 1796 he bacame Tennessee's first governor.

A small part of what was Franklin, dubbed Lesser Franklin, had attempted to remain independent, but that ended in 1791 when the Cherokee signed the Treaty of Holston which ceded the territory to the federal govenment.

Franklin, the little state that couldn't, did give us Davy Crockett, the King of the Wild Frontier who was born on a mountain top in Franklin state in 1786.

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