If the old‑state partisans on the frontiers looked to Virginia for support in periods of stress, the Franklinites turned southward to Georgia for an ally. As Roosevelt observes, Georgia was a frontier State in spirit, particularly at this period when political sway was passing from her leaders of the seaboard region to those of the North Georgia hill country who had come in from the frontiers of Virginia and the Carolinas. Backwoodsmen felt toward Georgia as they did toward no other member of the old Thirteen.1
Governor Sevier had a warm friend in blunt George Mathews, now elected governor of that State, who, like Sevier, had come out of the Valley of Virginia.
At the time of the surrender of the gubernatorial chair by Edward Telfair to Mathews, the Georgia Assembly took favorable action on a mission of Major Elholm, in the following report:
That the letters from John Sevier, Esq., evince a disposition which ought not to be unreguarded by this State, particularly in the intention of settlers in Nollichuckey, etc., to co‑operate with us during the late alarm with the Indians, provided the necessities of the case required it; they, therefore, recommended to the House that his Honor, the Governor, inform the Honorable John Sevier, Esq., of the sense this State entertains of their friendly intentions to aid in the adjustment of all matters in dispute between us and the hostile tribe of Creek Indians that were opposed to this State.
That in regard to Major Elholm, who has been so particularly recommended, they cannot forbear mentioning him as a person entitled to the thanks and attention of the legislature, and recommend that his Honor, the Governor, draw a warrant on the treasury in favor of Major Elholm for the sum of fifty pounds.2
Other distinguished men of Georgia wrote to express their esteem and good wishes for Sevier and for the new State of Franklin. Col. Walton presented him with a neatly bound volume of the constitutions of the thirteen States, accompanied by a complimentary address. The Society of the Cincinnati of that State elected Sevier an honorary member, at Augusta, February 12th. Ramsey, possessed of the certificate of membership at the time he wrote, gives its recitation of Sevier's record: "that he had a principal merit in the rapid and well conducted volunteer expedition to attack Colonel Ferguson, at King's Mountain, and a great share in the honor of that day, which, as is well known, gave a favorable turn to our gloomy and distressed situation, and that an opportunity never yet appeared but what confirmed him as an ardent friend and a real gentleman."
Major Elholm was able to inspire enthusiasm, if not to win outright support for the State of Franklin, in Georgia. Haywood says that a common toast there was, "Success to the State of Franklin, his Excellency Governor Sevier, and her virtuous citizens."4
Sevier had sent by Major Elholm a letter to his old friend of the trying revolutionary days, Col. Elijah Clarke, who replied (February 11th) in expressions of warm regard that must have been, above almost any other thing, pleasant to Sevier:
Augusta, Feb. 11th, 1787.
Dear Sir: — I received your favour by Major Elholm, who informed me of your health. Assure yourself of my ardent friendship, and that you have the approbation of all our citizens, and their well wishes for your prosperity. We are sensible of what benefit the friendship of yourself and the people of your state will be to Georgia, and we hope you never join North-Carolina more. Open a Land Office as speedily as possible, and it cannot fail but you will prosper as a people; this is the opinion current among us.
I have considered greatly on that part of your letter which alludes to politics in the Western country. It made me serious, and as p179seven states have agreed to give up the navigation, it is my friendly advice that you do watch with every possible attention, for fear that two more states should agree. I only observe to you, that the Southern States will ever be your friends.
It was reported that East and West Florida were ceded by the Spaniards to France, but it is not so. I know that you must have the navigation of the Mississippi. You have spirit and right; it is almost every man's opinion that a rumour will arise in that country. I hope to see the part myself yet. Adieu; Heaven attend you and every friend, with my best respects.
In a second letter, (May 22, 1787), Clarke said:
Should any further appearance of war be apparent, I shall take the earliest opportunity of communicating it to you, with the expectation of acting in confidence and concert with your State in operations taken against the Creeks.
I am very sorry to hear you have not peaceably established yourselves in the State of Franklin, and that the unhappy contention yet prevails between that and the State of North Carolina, and more particularly when they think of reducing you by force. These ideas have not proceeded from any assurance from this State, as it is the received opinion of the sensible part of every rank in Georgia that you will, and ought to be, as independent as the other States in the Union.5
On his return to Franklin, the ebullient Elholm proved that he, too, could write inspiriting letters to his recent hosts.6
p180 The fall session of the Franklin Assembly provided for the forwarding of aid to Georgia of nine hundred men, thought to be sufficient for the purpose; and Sevier informed Mathews that the force awaited the determination of Georgia officials, but that the Creeks had abated their hostilities on the Cumberland.
Major Elholm was sent (June 24th) on a second mission to Georgia, carrying a letter to Governor Mathews from Governor Sevier in which was incorporated an appeal that Georgia intervene to bring about a reconciliation between Franklin and the parent State. Sevier wrote that a reunion on just terms would prove agreeable. Short of this — "the sword cannot intimidate us."7
p181 Sevier realized that the State of Franklin was to fall into a rapid decline unless something could be done to bolster it. He knew the welding influence on all frontiersmen of an Indian campaign, particularly if land were held out as service-bounty. He, therefore, equipped Elholm with a letter addressed to the Georgia Assembly, in which he reviewed the subject of using the territory of Georgia in the Bend of the Tennessee as a place for settlements by the outflow of emigrants from Franklin, and gave assurance that his State would aid in affording them protection from the hostile Indian tribes; that this would be effected in a large measure "by erecting p182some garrisons on the frontiers of this State, which we have lately resolved to do."
Major Elholm in reporting the action of the Franklin Assembly requested that the men coming for service from Franklin should be granted bounty lands in the Bend; and he was called upon by the Georgia Council of State to furnish a project of the military preparations necessary for the campaign, and also for the settlement of the Bend of Tennessee.8
1 Winning of the West, pt. IV, ch. III.
2 Ramsey, 384; Steven's Georgia, 380, et seq.
3 Ramsey, 385. Haywood says that this communication was addressed to Sevier in the character of Governor of the State of Franklin. (Haywood, 172). The Assembly, however, appears to have safeguarded its phrasing.
4 Haywood, 172. William Downs assured Gov. Sevier (May 21st) that "the greatest politicians give it as their opinion that Franklin will support itself without a doubt and, from what I can understand, would give every assistance in their powers." Ramsey, 386.
5 Ramsey, 386. The spirit of independence shown in this letter was, in a later year (1794) to manifest itself in an attempt of Clarke, the war-hardened, imperious and stern, to establish "a separate and independent government on the lands allotted to the Indians for their hunting-grounds without the limits of Georgia, with a legislative body, a constitution and a committee of safety." Steven's Georgia, 33; Alston, Ga. Bar Asso. Rep. (1912), 137‑54. John Clarke, his son, was afterward elected governor of Georgia.
6 Writing, probably from the present Knoxville, under date line: "Tennessee, in the State of Franklin, June 10, 1787," "a gentleman of the State of Franklin to an officer in Georgia" affords no little sidelight on the spirit of almost the entire West:
"I had the pressure of your friendly favor of the 26th. ult., in which I was happy to observe that the State of Georgia bids fair for becoming the first of the confederacy, with the respect to its policy, commercial staples, military strength, and number of officers trained in the late war, whose experience and courage fit them for reaping a harvest of glory in any military enterprise, to which their country may call them.
"By accounts the most authentic from all the Southern Indians, we are assured, beyond all doubt, that an opportunity will shortly be given to those heroes, to acquire fresh laurels in a war which the Creek nation is determined to create.
"The emissaries of the Spanish Governor at Pensacola and New Orleans, have long been indefatigable in their exertions of exciting all the savage tribes south of the Ohio and east of the Mississippi, to raise the hatchet against your state in particular, as the only one whose claims of territory, enterprising spirit, and strength they affect to dread. By them, the Creeks are actually supplied with everything for a long, vigorous, determined series of hostilities, and it is more than probable that before this letter may reach you the Creeks may be in the heart of your settlements. This insidious interposition of Spanish jealousy, as well as the usurpations of Spaniards on our rights of territory and navigation, will (and here we [and] in Kentucky hope that it shall) rouse the Georgians to retaliate on the Dons at Natchez and New Orleans. In such event, no doubts can exist but that the hardy warriors of Franklin, Kentucky, and those of all the other settlements on the western waters, will effectually co-operate in such a measure. And were the force of 30,000 men necessary to the project of subduing the Creeks, storming New Orleans, and opening the navigation of the Mississippi, such force could, I am persuaded, be called forth, and with alacrity would turn out from the states and settlements just mentioned. I shall be more diffuse on this topic in my next, and am in the meantime, my dear sir, Yours, etc." Charleston (S. C.) Morning Post, June 29, 1787.
"Franklin, 24th. June, 1787.
"Sir: — The Honourable Major Elholm waits upon your Assembly in character, of Commissioner from this State, with plenary powers.
"The party in opposition to our new republic, although few and inconsiderable, yet, by their contention and disorder, they occasion much uneasiness to peaceable minds. We are friendly citizens of the American Union, and the real desire we have for its welfare, opulence, and splendour, makes us unwilling and exceedingly sorry to think, that any violent measures should be made use of, against the adherents of any of our sister states; especially the one that gave us existence, though now wishing to annihilate us. And what occasions in us excruciating pain is, that perhaps we may be driven to the necessity, unparalleled and unexampled, of defending our rights and liberties against those, who not long since, we have fought, bled and toiled together with, in the common cause of American Independence, or otherwise become the ridicule of a whole world. This I hope, however, God will avert; and that a reunion will take place on honourable, just, and equitable principles, reciprocally so to each party, is our sincere and ardent wish.
"When we remember the bloody engagements in which we have fought together against the common enemy, the friendly, timely and mutual supports afforded between the State of Georgia and the people of this country, it emboldens us to solicit you, sir and through you the different branches of your government, that you will be graciously pleased to afford to the State of Franklin such of your countenance as you may, from your wisdom and uprightness, think, from the nature of our cause, we may deserve, — in promoting the interest of our infant republic, reconciling matters between us and the parent state, in such manner as you, in your magnanimity and justice, may think most expedient, and the nature of our cause may deserve.
"Permit us to inform you that it is not the sword that can intimidate us. The rectitude of our cause, our local situation, together with the spirit and enterprise of our countrymen in such a cause, would inflame us with confidence and hopes of success. But when we reflect and call to mind the great number of internal and external enemies to American Independence, it makes us shudder at the very idea of such an incurable evil, not knowing where the disorder might lead, or what part of the body place the ulcer might at last infect.
"The nature of our cause we presume your Excellency to be sufficiently acquainted with. Only, we beg leave to refer you to the Cession act of North-Carolina, also the constitution of that government, wherein it mentions that there may be a state or states erected in the West whenever the legislature shall give its consent for the same.
"We cannot forbear mentioning, that we regard the parent state with particular affection, and will always feel an interest in whatever may concern her honour and prosperity, as independent of each other.
"For further information, I beg leave to refer you to Honourable Major Elholm."
Ramsey, 390. The Council of the State, at Augusta, resolved that it entered a high sense of the friendly intentions of the people of Franklin. Draper MSS., IX, 45. The Land Board at Washington, Ga., having accounts from the State of Franklin and the settlements on the Cumberland that a number of settlers from these sections were contemplating removal to the Tennessee District, ordered surveying in that District to be proceeded with immediately. Ramsey, 377.
8 Elholm and Sevier continued efforts to establish claims in the Great Bend after statehood, (1798). Cal. King's Mountain Papers, Draper MSS. 219, 221.
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