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This webpage reproduces a chapter of
History of North Carolina

The Lewis Publishing Company
Chicago and New York, 1919
Volume II by
William K. Boyd

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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Chapter 2
This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

Vol. II
p1
Chapter 1
Political and Social Conditions, 1783‑1787

Finance — Loyalists — The State of Franklin

On April 19, 1783, Governor Alexander Martin formally notified the General Assembly of North Carolina that His Britannic Majesty had recognized the independence of the United States on the preceding November 30th. "Nothing now remains," he added, "but to enjoy the fruits of uninterrupted Constitutional Freedom, the more sweet and precious as the tree was planted by virtue, raised by the Toil, and nurtured by the blood of Heroes."1

Undoubtedly a new era opened, but the readjustment from war to peace was by no means easy. Among the population of 350,000, slave and free, there was neither unity nor amity. The divergence between the planters of English extraction in the tidewater region and the small farmers of the piedmont, mainly Scotch-Irish and Germans, was as distinct as in the days of the Regulation. During the war thousands had been loyal to the British cause, and the conflict in its later stages had been a veritable civil war. Victory on the field of battle was followed by a policy of proscription. The agencies of intellectual and moral progress were prostrate. There had been no printing press in the state since 1778. Many of the academies had closed their doors, and no step had been taken to carry out the mandate of the state constitution regarding education. Religion was at a low ebb; the Church of England p2had collapsed with the opening of the Revolution, and all denominations suffered by the confusion of war and the prevalence of eighteenth century scepticism. Commerce was demoralized, not only by the crippling of foreign shipping, but also by interstate tariffs. In governmental affairs there was confusion and corruption. The local officers were in arrears with the settlement of the tax lists, the state's share of the continental expenditures was unpaid, the currency was so depreciated as to be practically worthless, and the laws enacted since 1776 were diffuse, conflicting, and uncodified. "Neglect of duty," said Governor Martin, "abuses of power, Disobedience of Laws, your monies unaccounted for, and public credit sunk, all call for your authority and correction. These weaken the springs of government and relax their vigor." With such a background political strife became intense and partisan. Military leaders, unwilling to see their influence wane after laying down their arms, entered politics. "Then began," says McRee, "a contest hot enough, between thought and action."2

The process of readjustment began immediately. In the summer of 1783 Robert Keith established a printing press at Newbern and published the North Carolina Gazette; the next year a second press was established at Halifax, and another at Hillsboro in 1786. In place of public schools private academies were chartered, fifteen between 1783 and 1788. For care of the poor the election of wardens in each county was ordered in 1785 and for the same purpose the glebe lands in Granville County were confiscated. The ideal of equality bore fruit in the abolition of entails in 1784. The return of peace brought an increase of land values. Roads were repaired and rivers improved by direction of private acts of the legislature. Restrictions on foreign commerce being removed, there was such a demand for manufactured goods that markets were inflated. Social organization also felt the impulse of new life. In October, 1783, a branch of the p3Society of the Cincinnati was established in Hillsboro. In 1787 the Grand Lodge of the Masonic Order, extinct since 1776, was revived. The churches also rallied to the opportunity before them. In 1784 the Methodist Societies took on the clothes of a denomination in Baltimore and on North Carolina soil were projected its first publishing enterprise and its first preparatory school. The Presbyterians in 1788 organized the Synod of the Carolinas, and by 1790 expansion of the Baptists revived with the formation of new associations.

Contemporary with these unifying influences were three problems which kept alive old issues, aroused the spirit of partisanship, and checked the development of a sound public policy. First of these was the currency. During the Revolution, as in colonial days, the main source of revenue was fiat money. A new denomination, the state dollar, supplanted the colonial pound and shilling. Between 1775 and 1780 $6,590,000 in paper were authorized. As taxes for redemption were suspended, depreciation set in, amounting to 50 to 1 specie in 1780 and 800 to 1 in 1784. As depreciation increased, a new obligation was invented, certificates or promissory notes, bearing interest either in specie or in paper. The amount issued is unknown, but in one year (1781) $26,250,000 in certificates were offered as bounties to volunteers in the army. For redemption three measures were adopted; the sale of confiscated property, land grants beyond the mountains, and taxation. In 1782 the value of the certificates in specie was 150 to 1 for those issued prior to 1781, and 800 to 1 for those issued after that date, bounty certificates excepted, but the value of the latter was also rated at 800 to 1 in 1784. Besides depreciation there were other evils connected with the certificates, notably counterfeiting and fraud. The crowning revelation came in 1786, when it was discovered that over a score of individuals had secured forged certificates and due bills for military service, signed by military officers, and had presented them to the Commissioners of Army Accounts, whose duty was to settle claims arising from the Revolution. The commissioners were a party to the fraud, for they received a discount for the false certificates and due bills which p4they approved. These were then cashed by the treasurer to the amount of £47,175.17¾ before the governor detected the swindle and forbade further redemption. The legislature of 1786 made an investigation, ordered the arrest of the offenders and their prosecution at the succeeding term of court at Warrenton. A number of indictments were returned, and nine individuals were found guilty. Among those implicated was Memecun Hunt, treasurer of the state; he resigned from office and was succeeded by John Haywood in 1787.

The total amount of certificates issued and the total amount redeemed cannot be ascertained. "It has been alleged," wrote Hugh Williamson, "that our certificate debt bears some resemblance to that many headed monster which defied danger; whenever one of its heads was cut off, two other heads arose to support the loss."3 In 1786 the amount of the certificate debt was estimated at £786,264.6, face value, with an annual interest charge of £47,571.1¾. The next year the amount outstanding was estimated at £1,000,000, with accrued interest of £60,000.

In the light of this experience with paper money, further issues would seem inadvisable. In fact by 1782 paper was so worthless that specie, which had disappeared as inflation set in, returned to circulation and the revival of commerce after the war ended seemed to promise a further diffusion of hard money. But a majority of the people were small farmers, far removed from good markets, among whom money was always scarce. The result was a demand for a new issue of paper to take the place of the Revolutionary currency. So in 1783 £100,000 were emitted, to be redeemed by the sale of confiscated property, with a scale of depreciation to be used in settling debts contracted in the old money. The term "state currency" was applied to this new issue, and the denominations of pound and shilling were adopted to distinguish it from the state dollars of the Revolutionary period. Again depreciation set in; the remedy adopted in 1785 was another issue of £100,000. By 1787 depreciation at home was

p5

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Revolutionary
and Post-Revolutionary Currency

p6at the rate of 13s paper to 8s specie, while outside the state the currency was practically valueless.

The new issues, like the certificates, illustrate the low standard of public morality. Fraud and corruption were soon manifest. Of the issue of 1785, £36,000 were reserved for the purchase of tobacco which was to be sold and the proceeds applied to the state's quota of the continental debt. The commissioners who purchased the tobacco were allowed to offer 50s per hundred, which was higher than the market price. Considerable weight was lost in storing and transferring the leaf. Finding a purchaser was difficult. The delegates in Congress were authorized to act as selling agents, and they succeeded in making a contract with an English firm at $3.50 per hundred (Spanish milled dollars), for about half the authorized purchase. After more than 100,000 pounds had been delivered, the company failed, but credit to the amount due by the company was allowed the state by the continental authorities. A small sale was negotiated by Richard Blackledge with a French firm; he withheld the proceeds on the ground that he had a claim against the state for supplies furnished during the war. However the legislature refused to credit his case and forced a settlement. Altogether £37,577 were spent for tobacco, more than the law allowed, exclusive of commissioners' fees, the cost of storage, transportation. The amount sold was less than the amount purchased. The story of inefficiency spread beyond the state and became one of the public scandals of the time.

The effects of paper money and certificates on business morality were perhaps their worst feature. On account of depreciation transactions were honeycombed with fraud. "Some time ago," wrote Williamson, "a young adventurer in North Carolina married a widow who had three children. She chanced to have three thousand hard dollars in the house, two-thirds of which belonged to the children. The guardians claimed their share of the specie for the children, and the honest step-father is now buying up paper at twelve or thirteen shillings for the dollar; and such money will be a legal payment for the use of the orphans. Is it strange that paper p7depreciates when such men are profited by the depreciation?"4

Trade and credit were demoralized. One of the first duties after the war was to make provision for the settlement of debts. In 1783 the statute of limitations was suspended from all debts contracted between July, 1776, and June, 1784, and suits for collection of debts contracted prior to May, 1783, were forbidden until a year from that date, unless the debtor attempted to leave the state to avoid payment. In rendering decisions the courts were directed to give judgment in specie according to a scale of depreciation, although the bond or contract had been made in Revolutionary currency, and the law making that currency legal tender for the payment of debts was repealed. This statute was so vague in its terms that several questions arose which the courts undertook to settle. First was the extent to which the repeal of the tender law could be applied. Creditors went so far as to claim that payments previously made should be revised to meet the terms of the new scale of depreciation, and that all debts already contracted and unpaid should be settled according to the new standard. Such a principle would have worked untold hardship on the debtors. Hence the courts held that the law of 1783 did not "destroy the effect and operation of the laws upon transactions that had already taken place under them," that the scale of depreciation applied only to obligations assumed and unadjusted since depreciation began in 1777, and that in settling debts contracted during the Revolution payment should be made according to a rate of depreciation for the year in which the debt was contracted. On the other hand debtors tried to take advantage of the law by settling their obligations, payable in specie, in state currency, according to the ratio between the two set forth in the scale of depreciation. But the courts held that the scale of depreciation could be applied only to the year 1783 in which it was enacted, not to previous years, and could not be binding on contracts made in the future, and that in the absence of any prohibition the juries might settle all cases of depreciation p8between specie and paper after 1783. A favorite method of adjusting depreciation was to allow damages for withheld interest equal to the difference between the depreciation fixed in the law and the actual depreciation.5 Thus the sphere of judicial activity was enlarged and the doctrine of implied powers invoked. Much of the opposition to the courts which characterized the period was due to this policy toward depreciation.

Paper money was closely related to political development. There was a strong minority opposed to the inflation of the currency. Among its members were some of the strongest minds of the state. Prominent were James Iredell and Samuel Johnston. They were the leading spirits in a popular meeting at Edenton in August, 1783, which protested against the monetary policy of the legislature. James Hogg, writing to Iredell, described the legislators which carried through the first £100,000 bills of credit as "a set of unprincipled men, who sacrificed everything to their popularity and private views."6 Any policy that would check the issue of paper or would not give the state full credit for obligations discharged thereby, was certain to meet opposition. Herein lay one of the causes of the opposition to the ratification of the Federal Constitution and to the assumption of state debts by Congress.

The cleavage between the conservatives and the radicals disclosed by the currency problem was intensified by the policy toward the loyalists, especially as that policy affected rights of property. According to the Bill of Rights prefixed to the Constitution of 1776, property in the soil was "one of the essential rights of the collective body of the people." Hence the State of North Carolina succeeded the Crown as head of the land system. The Bill of Rights also provided that titles of individuals holding under laws previously enforced should not be affected. Spite of this guarantee the legislature, acting on the British theory that aliens could not hold property within the realm, confiscated the lands of p9those who were absent from the state on July 4, 1776, and did not return and become loyal citizens, as well as the property of those guilty of treason. Later the property of certain corporations and certain individuals were specifically singled out for confiscation. However in all cases the rights of widows and the interests of dependents were protected. To what extent the confiscation laws were enforced during the war is unknown; in 1780 and 1781 they were relaxed and pardon was offered to such loyalists as would join the continental army. With the advent of peace the policy toward loyalists naturally came up for revision. In 1783 pardon was extended to all except those who accepted commissions from the Crown, or were guilty of murder, rape, and arson, or were specifically named in the confiscation laws.

In contrast to the policy of proscription was the Treaty of Peace which provided that creditors should meet with no lawful impediment in the collection of debts, that Congress should recommend to the states the restitution of confiscated property of real British subjects, and that no further confiscation should be made or prosecution entered for participation in the war. Controversy at once began; one faction urged a literal conformance to the treaty, while the other held that the treaty did not refer to laws already made, so placing local interests and prejudice above national obligation. In the legislature of 1784 bills to repeal the confiscation laws so far as they were inconsistent with the treaty were defeated, and commissioners were appointed to collect and sell confiscated property. By 1786 sales amounting to £221,374.1.6 were reported. In 1785 the proscriptive policy gained another victory, for the courts were forbidden to entertain suits for recovery of property the title of which originated in sales under the confiscation laws. In 1787 negroes, horses, and other property of the British army left in North Carolina were also confiscated, and in 1789 individuals who had aided or abetted the British cause were denied the right to hold office.

The law of 1785 injected into the controversy a new issue, the relation of the legislature to the judiciary. The extension of judicial interpretation, already developing in the matter of the currency, now reached a crisis in the treatment p10of the loyalists. In December, 1785, a decision rendered at Wilmington held that fines could not be remitted until paid into the treasury and so set aside a private act of the legislature. In May, 1786, one Bayard brought suit at Newbern for recovery of property sold to Singleton under the confiscation laws. Abner Nash, defendant's counsel, moved that the suit be dismissed and cited the law of 1785 forbidding the courts to hear cases involving the validity of the confiscation law. Opposing the motion were James Iredell, Samuel Johnston, and William R. Davie, who argued that the clause of the Constitution of the state which guaranteed jury trial took precedence over any act of the legislature. The court refused to dismiss the case, but deferred judgment in the hope that the legislature would repeal the statute. Consequently the session of the legislature which met in November, 1786, saw a test of strength concerning the power of the courts. Charges were preferred against the judges for their decisions in the matter of fines and failure to dismiss the case of Bayard vs. Singleton. Two of the judges, Samuel Spencer and John Williams, attended the hearings, but the third, Samuel Ashe, was absent, declaring the charges malicious and groundless and that in his judicial character he was "righteous and therefore bold." The report of the committee on the conduct of the judges, holding that they were not guilty of misconduct, was adopted. Thus were the guarantees of the Constitution placed above the will of the legislature, and the doctrine of judicial review was approved. The controversy gave rise to considerable pamphlet literature. Iredell's essay defending judicial review was widely quoted in other parts of the country where the principle was under criticism, and the doctrine was maintained by him when he later became a member of the Supreme Court of the United States.

However loyalists were not yet given the protection of the treaty, for the judges had imposed fines on those returning to the state, holding that the privilege of returning as stated in the treaty to be a recommendation, and they also held that pardons did not give the right to sue in the courts. Moreover the decision in Bayard vs. Singleton, rendered in May, 1787, after the legislative inquiry, upheld the confiscation p11laws.7 A more liberal policy was made possible in 1787 when the legislature ratified the Treaty of Peace. Thereafter debts to loyalists were held valid by the courts, but titles arising from the confiscation laws were protected on the ground that the guarantee of individual property rights in the Bill of Rights was intended to extend only to citizens of the state. For years litigation was frequent. The most prominent case was that of William, Earl Coventry, successor by devise to the title of Earl Granville, who brought suit in the Federal District Court of North Carolina in 1801 to secure possession of the Granville District. Failing to secure a favorable verdict, the plaintiff appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States, but no decision was ever rendered.

The problem of the loyalists and the courts was of vast political significance. Like the currency question, it marked the division between the conservatives and the radicals. Wrote Iredell in 1783: "Not only the most wanton injury has been done to individuals, but the national character has been disgraced, as more than one article of the Treaty of Peace has been expressly violated. If such things are much longer suffered, this will not be a country to live in, and in the meantime they must deeply wound the feelings of every man of sensibility and honor."8

No less vital than the problems of the currency and the loyalists was that of the western lands. Beyond the mountains lay a vast area, at present the State of Tennessee. Its colonization began with the Watauga Settlement just prior to the Revolution, and its expansion had continued during the war. From the original Washington County, Sullivan was formed in 1779 and Greene in 1783, while on the distant Cumberland Nashboro was founded in 1780 and the County of Davidson was organized in 1783. At the end of the war the population west of the mountains was approximately 25,000. Between the western settlements, notably those of the Watauga region, and the older section of the state east of the mountains, there was considerable antipathy. Its earliest evidence p12is seen in the Watauga Association; it relaxed during the stress of war, but with the return of peace the tension was renewed and civil war was barely averted. The immediate causes of the strained relations were three; the land policy of North Carolina, the need of Congress for new financial resources, and the ambition of the Watauga people for statehood.

The financial policy of North Carolina during the Revolution was characterized by a reliance, as far as possible, on paper money. This, together with the collapse of the restriction on land grants, imposed by the British government, gave rise to a fever of speculation. County land offices were opened in 1777, and for three years, until paper money was greatly depreciated, land was rapidly entered. Then, in 1780, land grants were offered as inducements to military service, and a military reservation was created south of the Virginia line and east of the Tennessee River, in which each soldier was to have 200 acres, increased to 640 in 1781, and one prime slave. In 1783 all public land, except that reserved to Indians and the military reservation, was made security for the new state currency of that year at the rate of £10 for each 100 acres. Thus the policy of the state was to use vacant land as bounty to soldiers and to redeem paper money.

In the meantime the land problem became involved with continental affairs. A movement among the states to cede their western lands to Congress was proposed by Maryland. North Carolina was not in the vanguard of those responding, for the land policy above outlined seemed to preclude parting with any territory. But in 1780, and again in 1783, Congress recommended the cession of all transmontane lands in the interest of the national debt. In fact national finances were in even worse plight than those of the states. The experiment of meeting expenses by making requisition on the states had proved a failure. North Carolina was notoriously delinquent, making no payment after 1780. By 1784 considerable sentiment had developed in favor of ceding the western lands for the public obligations. Such a policy seemed advantageous for local as well as continental reasons. With the return of peace bounties ceased; moreover there p13was a movement to levy a continental land tax and to apportion requisitions according to population. Evidently the less territory, the less would be North Carolina's portion in meeting future expenditures. In the light of these facts the cession of western land was advisable, especially if the land ceded should pass to the credit of the state's accounts with the Continental Congress. Therefore by an act of cession passed in April, 1784, the transmontane lands were granted to Congress with the following restrictions; that neither the lands nor the inhabitants should in the future be counted in estimating North Carolina's share of the expenses in the Revolution, that the bounties provided for officers and soldiers should be protected, that the territory granted should be considered a common fund for the benefit of the states, that one or more new states should be created out of it, and that if Congress should not accept the cession, the lands should revert to the state. A supplementary statute also provided that until the United States accepted the cession, the sovereignty of North Carolina should remain unimpaired. Evidently self-interest as well as regard for the national welfare prompted the cession of western lands; a reduction of the state's continental obligation in the future, prospective benefits to be shared with the other states, and the protection of military bounties offered. Yet these terms seemed to some too liberal, and a protest was filed, signed by William R. Davie and thirty-six others. Their dissent was based on the beed of liquidating the state debt with the western lands, the fact that North Carolina's quota of the continental debt was really unknown, and that full credit had not been given the state by the continental authorities for all military services rendered.

The act of cession did not reach Philadelphia in time for acceptance, for Congress and the legislature adjourned on the same day, June 3rd. In July Hugh Williamson, member of the North Carolina delegation to Congress, expressed to Governor Martin his disapproval of the cession. The burden of his criticism was sectional injustice in adjusting continental accounts. North Carolina had not been given credit for aid to South Carolina and Virginia and for expeditions p14against the Indians, whereas New Hampshire and Pennsylvania had obtained credit for militia service, and other states were demanding similar credit; Congress had also taken no step to quiet the Southern Indians; Massachusetts had filed claims for part of the territory ceded by Virginia, and Georgia had so far made no cession of territory; Rhode Island had refused to ratify the proposed five per cent duty on imports. He therefore recommended that North Carolina reconsider the act of cession and hold the western lands until these matters could be adjusted. "If we should immediately complete the cession," he said, "we shall give up the power of making advantageous terms and shall lose the argument which shall bring others to adopt federal measures." Yet he realized that an ultimate cession of western land was imperative. "On the other hand, should we sell out what remains of this territory to the western inhabitants whatever inconveniences they may suffer, they will lose the prospect of becoming a separate state; the quota of our State will be doubled, though we shall hardly have the means of paying half of our present quota. In that case we shall give up the means of making terms or the power of adopting better measures if better should present themselves. The situation is critical. Perhaps it is most consistent with prudence to make a pause. Whatever shall finally appear to be for the honor and true interest of the state may be done twelve months hence as well as now. But we may do wrong things which may not be undone."9 The upshot was that at the next session of the legislature, in October, 1784, the act of cession was repealed.

In the meantime discontent with the government of North Carolina was brooding beyond the mountains. It was claimed that the state had not paid the Indians for land they had vacated, thus endangering peace; that courts were not regularly held or the law properly enforced; and that the system of taxation was unjust, for it made no discrimination between the value of lands on the frontier and those near the centers of trade. There was also a social cleavage, a feeling of superiority p15toward the frontier on the part of the older counties. One of the members of the legislature in discussing the act of cession remarked that the "Inhabitants of the western country are the offscourings of the earth, fugitives from justice, and we will be rid of them at any rate." Consequently the news of the cession was received with joy, especially among the people of the Watauga region. Independence from North Carolina seemed assured and statehood naturally in order. A committee consisting of two from each of the captains' districts proposed a convention to meet at Jonesboro. Elections were held in all the transmontane counties except Davidson, and the convention met on August 23, 1784. The presiding officer was John Sevier, and Landon Carter was p16secretary. It was decided to petition Congress to accept the North Carolina cession, and by a vote of 28 to 15 to perfect a state organization. A second convention was called to frame a constitution. When it met in November, the North Carolina legislature had repealed the act of cession, and to conciliate the westerners had created for them a new judicial district, called the District of Washington, and also a brigadier-generalship of militia for that region. To the latter office John Sevier was appointed. Thus the opposition to statehood, apparent in the first convention, became stronger in the second, which consequently broke up in disorder. In the elections for a third convention Sevier himself opposed the movement for independence. However, the convention met on December 14, 1784, and proceeded to form a constitution. Even among the advocates of statehood there was division. One faction, led by Rev. Samuel Hunter, proposed a constitution which had certain divergencies from that of North Carolina. Among these were universal suffrage, educational and moral qualifications for office holders, popular election of governor and county officers, limitation on imprisonment for debt, exclusion of ministers, lawyers, and doctors from office, and a single house of legislature. The other faction, led by Sevier, favored a close adherence to the constitution of North Carolina, and the name Franklin instead of Frankland for the new state; it proved to have a small majority. Drafts of each constitution were submitted to the people for approval, and a fourth convention, which met in November, 1785, adopted the more conservative document and also the name Franklin. In the meantime elections for the legislature were held in March, 1785. That body, when it convened, elected Sevier governor, appointed county officers, created new counties, incorporated Martin Academy, and fixed salaries in commodities.


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John Sevier

These activities amounted to defiance of North Carolina, for not only had the sovereignty of the state been specified to last until Congress should accept the cession, but the act of cession itself had been repealed. The future of Franklin depended therefore on the question of the attitude of Congress, p17the co-operation of other frontier communities, and the policy of the North Carolina authorities.

One of the first acts of the Franklin legislature was to appoint William Cocke delegate to the Continental Congress to lay before that body the affairs of the nascent state. As the act of cession had been repealed, Congress could do nothing but advise North Carolina to reconsider its action. Later Cocke appealed to Benjamin Franklin; his advice was not to continue in the policy of separation. However hope of federal action revived at the time of the Federal Convention. The argument then advanced was that, as the act of cession gave Congress twelve months to consider or reject the offer, the repeal was illegal, and the way was open for federal intervention. A direct bid for such action was probably made by reserving the proceeds from Indian land sales for the payment of Franklin's quota of the federal debt; but the matter was not formally presented for the consideration of the convention.

The Franklin authorities also sought the co-operation of neighboring frontier communities. Chief of these was Washington County, Virginia. There grievances existed against the Virginia government. Col. Arthur Campbell, justice of the peace and county lieutenant, declared the people would take up arms rather than submit to further unjust taxation. Two petitions were sent to Richmond, asking for the erection of a new state whose boundaries might include Franklin. But the Virginia legislature had no sympathy for such a plan, and in 1785 declared that any attempt to form an independent government within the limits of the state would be considered high treason. The Franklinites, strange to say, also sought the co-operation of the Cherokee Indians. It was thrice reported in 1785 that negotiations were pending, looking to the incorporation of the Cherokees with the State of Franklin. The Indian negotiations were not fruitful, for land treaties were not agreed to by all the Cherokee chiefs. In the desire for expansion an expedition was sent to Muscle Shoals to make occupation under titles from Georgia. The hostility of the Creeks was thus aroused, and negotiations were opened with Georgia for an Indian war. However, Congress p18intervened, appointing three commissioners, one from South Carolina, one from Georgia, and one from North Carolina, to pacify the redmen, so checking the possibility of expansion by the State of Franklin. Interest was also manifested in the greatest of all western problems, the navigation of the Mississippi. According to a report, two delegates were sent to a convention of western settlers in the Kentucky district to consider the Mississippi question. Another report declared that a legion of 150 men was authorized to march against the Spanish. Evidently, if the colonists of the Mississippi valley should take such matters in their own hands, a new confederacy might result; by co-operation, Franklin might secure membership in it; but that prospect did not mature.

Thus the Franklinites had to meet their most pressing problem, the attitude of the State of North Carolina, alone. A clause in the Constitution of 1776 looked forward to the establishment of two or more states west of the mountains. This constitutional provision, the necessity of ultimate cession as outlined by Williamson, the distance of Franklin from the older sections of the state, together with the general confusion of the times, led to a policy of conciliation as well as of firmness. Alexander Martin, governor during the development until April, 1785, sent a special messenger to inform Sevier of the repeal of the act of cession. The legislature of Franklin replied: "We are induced to think that North Carolina will not blame us for endeavoring to promote our own interest and happiness, while we do not attempt to abridge hers, and appeal to the impartial world to determine whether we have deserted North Carolina or North Carolina deserted us."10 Martin then issued a proclamation calling on the people to return to their allegiance, declaring that their grievances were removed by the court law and the militia district, and that resistance might lead to civil war. More conciliatory was Governor Caswell, who assumed office in April, 1785. Writing to Sevier, he declared he had not seen Martin's proclamation, indicated that the payment to the Indians p19was ready to be delivered, and suggested that he himself might soon visit the west. He also sent commissions for North Carolina officers, and soon there were two sets of officials, those exercising authority under North Carolina and those under Franklin. The legislature of North Carolina in January, 1787, was also conciliatory, offering pardon and oblivion to all who would return to allegiance and remitting taxes from the end of 1784 to that time. Sevier also became moderate. In October, 1786, he declared that Franklin did not desire any terms but such as were consistent with the honor and interest of both parties, and in March, 1787, he made an agreement with Evan Shelby, his successor as brigadier of militia, for cooperation in criminal matters and the suspension of all civil suits except wills and deeds, and that the people should pay taxes to either North Carolina or the State of Franklin.

However the Franklin legislature was more radical; it imposed fine and imprisonment on any who accepted commissions from North Carolina, opened a land office, and offered bounties to all who would enlist in the militia and resist the administration of the mother state. Where the legislature led, Sevier followed. In strong contrast to his conservative attitude, he now wrote Governor Caswell: "We shall continue to act independent and would rather suffer death, in all its various and frightful shapes, than to conform to anything that is disgraceful." Bitterness and retaliation developed. As Sevier had originally opposed separation and then drifted with the movement, John Tipton, after the repeal of the act of cession, returned to his allegiance to North Carolina. These two now became the leaders of rival factions in Franklin. In August, 1787, Tipton with fifty men attempted to seize the Franklin court records in Washington County, but found himself opposed by 200 Franklinites. From time to time conflicts of minor importance occurred. Shelby asked Governor Caswell for 1,000 troops in 1787. Again the governor was conciliatory. In an address he appealed to the sober judgment of the people, pointed out the imminent danger of an Indian war, such a war having actually broken out in Davidson County in 1786, and held out hopes of some action by the North Carolina legislature. In fact at the succeeding p20session of the legislature representatives from the original Watauga counties appeared and were given seats, while the Franklin legislature also sent delegates to present claims for separation. The legislature extended the act of oblivion, and by March, 1788, the State of Franklin collapsed, for Sevier's term then expired and no session of the Franklin legislature met to elect a successor. Sevier himself was chosen a member of the North Carolina legislature in 1789, and took his seat after a special act pardoning him had been adopted.


The Author's Notes:

1 State Records, XIX.243.

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2 Life and Correspondence of James Iredell II.81.

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3 Letters of Sylvius VI.

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4 Letters of Sylvius II.

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5 Anonymous, 1 Haywood, 138; Burton vs. Bullock, Conference Reports, 372; Winslow vs. Bloom, 1 Haywood, 217.

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6 McRee, Iredell II.46.

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7 I N. C. Repts., 5.

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8 McRee, II.51.

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9 State Records, XVII.94.

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10 S. R., XXII.637.


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Page updated: 4 Dec 11