State of Franklin

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Free Republic of Franklin (Frankland)

August 1784 – December 1788

Flag of Franklin

Flag

Location of Franklin
The State of Franklin and its counties
CapitalProvisional

Jonesborough, August 1784 – December 1785
Permanent
Greeneville, December 1785–88
36°10′N 82°49′W / 36.167°N 82.817°W / 36.167; -82.817Coordinates: 36°10′N 82°49′W / 36.167°N 82.817°W / 36.167; -82.817

GovernmentRepublic / Organized, extralegal territory
"Governor" (President)
 - December 1784 – December 1788President/Governor Col. John Sevier
Speaker of the Senate
 - December 1784 – December 1788Landon Carter
 - Speaker of the House
August 1784 – June 1785
William Cage
 - Speaker of the House
June 1785 – December 1788
Col. Joseph Hardin
LegislatureCongress of Greeneville
 - Upper houseSenate
 - Lower HouseHouse of Representatives
Historical erapost American Revolution
 - North Carolina cedes the Washington District to Federal GovernmentApril 1784
 - Secedes from North Carolina and blocks Federal Government claims; Franklin proclaimedAugust 23 1784
 - Petition for Frankland statehood sent to CongressMay 16, 1785
 - Provisional name changed to "Franklin"December 24, 1785
 - Disbanded; and re-acquired by North CarolinaMarch–September 1788
 - Area is designated part of the Southwest Territory1790
Political subdivisionsCounties
Today part ofTennessee, United States
 
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Free Republic of Franklin (Frankland)

August 1784 – December 1788

Flag of Franklin

Flag

Location of Franklin
The State of Franklin and its counties
CapitalProvisional

Jonesborough, August 1784 – December 1785
Permanent
Greeneville, December 1785–88
36°10′N 82°49′W / 36.167°N 82.817°W / 36.167; -82.817Coordinates: 36°10′N 82°49′W / 36.167°N 82.817°W / 36.167; -82.817

GovernmentRepublic / Organized, extralegal territory
"Governor" (President)
 - December 1784 – December 1788President/Governor Col. John Sevier
Speaker of the Senate
 - December 1784 – December 1788Landon Carter
 - Speaker of the House
August 1784 – June 1785
William Cage
 - Speaker of the House
June 1785 – December 1788
Col. Joseph Hardin
LegislatureCongress of Greeneville
 - Upper houseSenate
 - Lower HouseHouse of Representatives
Historical erapost American Revolution
 - North Carolina cedes the Washington District to Federal GovernmentApril 1784
 - Secedes from North Carolina and blocks Federal Government claims; Franklin proclaimedAugust 23 1784
 - Petition for Frankland statehood sent to CongressMay 16, 1785
 - Provisional name changed to "Franklin"December 24, 1785
 - Disbanded; and re-acquired by North CarolinaMarch–September 1788
 - Area is designated part of the Southwest Territory1790
Political subdivisionsCounties
Today part ofTennessee, United States

The State of Franklin (also the Free Republic of Franklin or the State of Frankland[1]) was an unrecognized, autonomous "territory" located in what is today eastern Tennessee. Franklin was created in 1784 from part of the territory west of the Appalachian Mountains that had been offered by North Carolina as a cession to Congress to help pay off debts related to the American War for Independence. It was founded with the intent of becoming the fourteenth state of the new United States.

Franklin's first capital was Jonesborough. After the summer of 1785, the government of Franklin (which was by then based in Greeneville), ruled as a "parallel government" running alongside (but not harmoniously with) a re-established North Carolina bureaucracy. Franklin was never admitted into the union. The extra-legal state existed for only about four and a half years, ostensibly as a republic, after which North Carolina re-assumed full control of the area.

The creation of Franklin is novel, in that it resulted from both a cession (an offering from North Carolina to Congress) and a secession (seceding from North Carolina, when its offer to Congress was not acted upon, and the original cession was rescinded).

Cession and rescission[edit]

Franklin's support[edit]

Congress was heavily in debt at the close of the American War for Independence. In April 1784, the state of North Carolina voted "to give Congress the 29,000,000 acres (12,000,000 ha)[2] lying between the Allegheny Mountains" (as the entire Appalachian range was then called) "and the Mississippi River" to help offset its war debts.[3] This area was a large part of what had been the Washington District (usually referred to simply as the "Western Counties").[4] The cession had a stipulation that Congress would have to accept responsibility for the area within two years, which, for varying reasons, it was reluctant to do. The cession effectively left the western settlements of North Carolina alone in dealing with the Cherokee of the area, many of whom had not yet made peace with the new nation. These developments were not welcomed by the frontiersmen who had gained a foothold on the western Cumberland River at Fort Nashborough (now Nashville), or the Overmountain Men of the old Watauga Association.[5] Inhabitants of the region feared that the cash-starved Legislature might even be desperate enough to sell the frontier territory to a competing foreign power (such as France or Spain).[3]

North Carolina's reluctance[edit]

A few months later, fearing the land would not be used for its intended purpose of paying the debts of Congress, and coupled with the loss of economic opportunities, a newly elected North Carolina Legislature rescinded the offer of cession. It re-asserted its claim to the remote western district. The North Carolina lawmakers ordered judges to hold court in the western counties and arranged to enroll a brigade of soldiers for defense, appointing John Sevier to form it.[3]

Secessionist movement[edit]

The State of Franklin (in red) superimposed on a map of modern Tennessee

Increasing dissatisfaction with North Carolina's governance led to the frontiersmen's calls to establish a separate, secure, and independent state. On August 23, 1784, delegates from the North Carolina counties of Washington (which at the time included present day Carter County), Sullivan, Spencer (now Hawkins County) and Greene — all counties in present-day Tennessee — convened in the town of Jonesborough and declared the lands independent of the State of North Carolina. Leaders were duly elected. John Sevier reluctantly became Governor; Landon Carter, Speaker of the Senate; William Cage, first Speaker of the House of Representatives; and David Campbell, Judge of the Superior Court. Thomas Talbot served as Senate clerk, while Thomas Chapman served as clerk of the House. The delegates were called to a constitutional convention held at Jonesborough in December of that year. They drafted a constitution that excluded lawyers, doctors and preachers as candidates for election to the legislature. The constitution was defeated in referendum. Afterward, the area continued to operate under tenets of the North Carolina state constitution.[6]

Attempt at statehood[edit]

On May 16, 1785, a delegation submitted a petition for statehood to Congress. Seven states voted to admit what would have been the 14th federal state under the proposed name of "Frankland". This was less than the two-thirds majority required under the Articles of Confederation. The following month, the Franklin government convened to address their options and to replace the vacancy at Speaker of the House, which had been held by William Cage. They elected Joseph Hardin to the position of Speaker of the House. In an attempt to curry favor for their cause, delegation leaders changed the "official" name of the area to "Franklin" (ostensibly after Benjamin Franklin). Sevier even tried to persuade Franklin to support their cause, but he declined, writing:

...I am sensible of the honor which your Excellency and your council thereby do me. But being in Europe when your State was formed, I am too little acquainted with the circumstances to be able to offer you anything just now that may be of importance, since everything material that regards your welfare will doubtless have occurred to yourselves. ...I will endeavor to inform myself more perfectly of your affairs by inquiry and searching the records of Congress and if anything should occur to me that I think may be useful to you, you shall hear from me thereupon.

—Benjamin Franklin, Letter to Governor John Sevier, 1787[7]

Independent republic[edit]

Replica of the Capitol of the State of Franklin in Greeneville, Tennessee

After the failed statehood attempt (and still at odds with North Carolina over taxation, protection, and other issues), Franklin operated as a de facto independent republic.[4] Up to this point, the government had been assembling at Jonesborough, mere city-blocks from the rival, North Carolina-backed, seat of government. Because of this, Greeneville was declared the new capital. The first legislature met there in December 1785. At Greeneville, the delegates adopted a permanent constitution, known as the "Holston Constitution,"[6] (and heavily modeled on that of North Carolina). John Sevier also proposed to commission a Franklin state flag, but it was never designed.

The new legislature made peace treaties with the Indian tribes in the area (with few exceptions, the most notable being the Chickamauga Cherokee). It opened courts, incorporated and annexed five new counties (see map below), and fixed taxes and officers' salaries.[6] Barter became the economic system de jure, with anything in common use among the people allowed in payment to settle debts, including corn, tobacco, apple brandy, and skins. (Sevier was often paid in deer hides). Federal or foreign money was accepted. All citizens were granted a two-year reprieve on paying taxes, but the lack of hard currency and economic infrastructure slowed development and often created confusion.

Franklin's end[edit]

The year 1786 was the beginning of the end of the small state, with several key residents and supporters of the state withdrawing their support in favor of a newly interested North Carolina.[4] Until then, Franklin did not have the benefit of either the national army or the North Carolina militia. In late 1786, North Carolina offered to waive all back taxes if Franklin would reunite with its government. When this offer was popularly rejected, North Carolina moved in with troops, in 1787, under the leadership of Col. John Tipton (great-uncle of future Senator from Indiana John Tipton) and re-established its own courts, jails and government at Jonesborough. The two rival administrations competed side by side. The meeting of the Franklin legislature in September 1787, was its last.[4] At the end of 1787, loyalties remained divided among residents, and coming to a head on February 29, 1788, when Sevier and a group of his supporters attacked Tipton and his supporters at Tipton's farm in the "Battle of Franklin".[8] Sevier and his men were defeated.

In these same years, 1787 and 1788, the "Franklinites" expanded westward toward the Cumberland Mountains by forcibly seizing land from the Chickamauga Cherokee, and the actual frontier shifted often back and forth throughout the Chickamauga Wars.

The Watauga settlement had originally been acquired by lease from the Cherokee Nation. The Cherokee claim to sovereignty over much of the area of Franklin, though already de facto occupied by whites, was maintained at the 1785 Treaty of Hopewell, and they did not formally relinquish their claim to this territory until July 1791 at the Treaty of Holston.[9]

Frontier intrigues[edit]

In late March 1788, the Chickamauga, Chickasaw and other tribes collectively began to attack American frontier settlements in Franklin. A desperate Sevier sought a loan from the Spanish government. With help from Dr. James White (who was later found to be a paid agent of Spain's), he attempted to place Franklin under Spanish rule. Opposed to any foreign nation gaining a foothold in Franklin, North Carolina officials arrested Sevier in August 1788. Sevier's supporters quickly freed him from the local jail and retreated to "Lesser Franklin" (the area south of the French Broad River). In February 1789,[10] Sevier, and the last holdouts of the "Lost State," swore oaths of allegiance to North Carolina after turning themselves in.[10] North Carolina sent their militia to aid in driving out the Cherokee and Chickasaw.

Re-instated[edit]

By early 1789, the government of the State of Franklin had collapsed entirely and the territory was firmly back under the control of North Carolina. Soon thereafter, North Carolina once again ceded the area to the federal government to form the Southwest Territory, the pre-cursor to the State of Tennessee. Sevier was elected in 1790 to the US Congress to represent the territory, and became Tennessee's first governor, in 1796. John Tipton signed the Tennessee Constitution as the representative from Washington County.

Notable Franklinites[edit]

Legacy[edit]

Tipton's farm has been preserved as the Tipton-Haynes State Historic Site in Johnson City, Tennessee.

Many businesses in the State of Franklin use that name to keep the legacy alive, such as the "State of Franklin Bank", based in Johnson City, Tennessee. One of the main thoroughfares in Johnson City is named "State of Franklin Road", which runs next to East Tennessee State University. The State of Franklin was mentioned in the History channel documentary series How the States Got Their Shapes as a one of the many "ghost states" of America.

In law school examinations (and occasionally state bar tests), a fictional "State of Franklin" is used as a placeholder name for a generic state, often the one in which the property of Blackacre is located. This way, variations in existing state law do not complicate the theoretical legal issues arising from the property disputes. By convention, Blackacre is located in Acre County, Franklin.

References in popular culture[edit]

Fiction[edit]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Landrum, refers to it as "the proposed republic of Franklin; while Wheeler has it as Frankland." In That's Not in My American History Book, Thomas Ayres maintains that the official title was "Free Republic of Franklin"
  2. ^ About 40 times the size of Rhode Island.
  3. ^ a b c Arthur, John Preston (1914); [sic] "History of Western North Carolina – Chapter VI – The State of Franklin"; John Preston Arthur; 1914; (HTML by Jeffrey C. Weaver); October 1998. Retrieved from New River.
  4. ^ a b c d A civil and political history of the state of Tennessee"; by John Haywood
  5. ^ Caruso, John A (1959). "The Appalachian Frontier: America's First Surge Westward"; Bobbs-Merrill Co., Indianapolis; 1959; Library of Congress Cat. No. 59-7226.
  6. ^ a b c "The Lost State of Franklin", Genealogy, Inc.
  7. ^ State of Franklin History
  8. ^ [1]
  9. ^ Mooney, Myths of the Cherokee p. 64 ff.
  10. ^ a b North Carolina History Project – State of Franklin
  11. ^ Michael Lofaro, "David "Davy" Crockett." The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture, 2002. Retrieved: November 19, 2011.
  12. ^ E. Alvin Gerhardt, Jr., "Samuel Doak." The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture, 2002. Retrieved: June 3, 2008.
  13. ^ Patterson, Prof. Tommie Cochran (1931). Joseph Hardin: A Biographical & Genealogical Study. Dissertation Manuscript. Library of the University of Texas at Austin, Texas; Austin, TX. ISBN unknown; call no. 976.8 H219BP; OCLC #13179015 Check |isbn= value (help). 
  14. ^ Driver, Carl Samuel. John Sevier: Pioneer of the Old Southwest. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1932
  15. ^ Lucile Deaderick, Heart of the Valley: A History of Knoxville, Tennessee (Knoxville, Tenn.: East Tennessee Historical Society, 1976).
  16. ^ AvramDavidson.org

References[edit]

External links[edit]