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Chapter 13

This webpage reproduces a chapter of History of the
Lost State of Franklin

Samuel Cole Williams

published by the
Press of the Pioneers,
New York, 1933

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 15
This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

 p99  Chapter XIV

Clear Sailing — 1786

The State of Franklin continued to exercise the powers of sovereignty over her territory for the first half of the year 1786, without a schismatic outbreak of importance among the inhabitants. An event that tended to crystallize the sentiment in favor of the new State was the negotiation of the Treaty of Hopewell, in South Carolina, by commissioners appointed under the authority of the Congress of the Confederation, with the Cherokees, November 18‑28, 1785.​1 This treaty was a departure. For the first time the national government assumed to exercise the power of making treaties with these Indians. For generations the colonies had, by the exercise of that function, governed the relations between the white and the red races. The Treaty of Hopewell included a formal acknowledgment by the Indians of the supremacy of the United States, and there was conceded and confirmed to the Cherokees a considerable extent of territory that was claimed to have been previously ceded by the tribe. The commissioners, as national agents, proceeded upon the principle of disregarding such pacts when the Cherokees raised objection. The Treaty of Dumplin Creek, along with others, went into the discard. The borders of Franklin were severely contracted. The treaty line on the west and south ran from a point on Campbell's​2 line near Cumberland Gap to the mouth of Cloud's Creek on Holston river (three miles west of the present town of Rogersville, in Hawkins county); thence in a northeasterly direction to Chimney Top Mountain (at the present date the corner of Greene, Sullivan and Hawkins); thence to Camp Creek on Nolachucky river (four miles southeast of Greeneville); and thence southerly six miles to the Great Smoky Mountains, in which Camp Creek has its source. The enormity in this appears when it is considered that the site of the town of Greeneville was by  p100 the treaty placed in the domain of the Cherokees, and that in a constitutional convention, held in that town but a few days before the treaty was signed, Greeneville had been made the permanent capital of the State of Franklin.

Thus, by national action, Franklin was denied jurisdiction over a large portion of the counties of Greene and Hawkins, as they now exist; and a much larger domain as those counties stood in 1785.

By another clause of the Treaty of Hopewell, any settler south and west of the line, who refused to remove within six months after ratification, should forfeit the protection of the United States; and — particularly galling to the Franklinites — "the Cherokees may punish him or not as they please."3

A considerable population had settled between the line and the French Broad river; and four or five hundred families had located south of the stream, and one of those residents predicted "there will be double that this year (1786)."4

Situated between mountain ranges on the east and west, Franklin's thrust of population was toward the south along the valleys of the Holston, the Nolachucky, and the Tennessee rivers. Nature had so decreed.

The tide of immigration from Carolina that had mounted forbidding steeps and flowed through the gaps of two mountain ranges, the Blue Ridge and the Alleghany, into these valleys, could not be restrained by mere lines drawn by surveyors across rivers whose southward currents beckoned onward and down the rich valleys. The national authority which thus sought to hold back that tide was too anemic and nerveless to compass its purpose. The government of the confederation was itself in a state of decay and near to dissolution.

 p101  There was indignation on all the frontiers affected by the treaty, in Georgia as well as in Franklin. It was felt that, as North Carolina furnished two (Benjamin Hawkins and Joseph Martin) of the four negotiating commissioners, she had been remiss in allowing such broad concessions to be made to the Indians. Particular resentment was felt by the borderers toward Martin, who, as Carolina's agent to the Cherokees, had not availed of his influence with the tribe to discourage in advance extreme claims and demands. Martin lost in influence in Franklin; and especially in the lower settlements was public sentiment consolidated in favor of the new‑state movement. That solidarity in the lower counties continued to the end. North Carolina had granted and had received compensation for lands in the territory which was now surrendered to the Cherokees. The surrender could only have been consummated by the concurrence of Hawkins and Martin.5

There was not lacking some basis for the view that the people of Franklin had been intentionally punished by this action. The commissioners did induce the Indians to give up their claims to lands within the bounds of Henderson's Transylvania, thus leaving all the settlers in the Cumberland region outside of Indian territory.

Many residents of North Carolina had invested in the lands excluded by the treaty, Governor Caswell among the number. William Blount, the State's agent on the treaty ground, filed a formal protest against the validity of the treaty as violative of the State's sovereign rights; and in April following Governor Caswell, with the concurrence of the Council of State, strongly urged the delegation from the State in Congress to oppose the ratification of the treaty.6

At the next session of the North Carolina Assembly, the senate adopted a joint resolution expressing "utmost horror and indignation." The treaty, it was said, was calculated to deprive citizens of their property; and instead of procuring the blessings of peace "will most likely produce the contrary effect and involve our citizens in the horrors of war, as the savages appear much more hostile since than before."​7 The house of commons did not give its approval to  p102 the resolution, which accordingly failed. The treaty was ratified by Congress April 17, 1786; but by no means did it meet with the acquiescence of the western people, but rather with a resistance that was not passive. On July 12, 1786, Governor Caswell wrote to Sevier that "Congress itself will be persuaded that the result is so repugnant to the rights of the State that they will not consider us by any means bound to abide by that treaty."

The spring session of the General Assembly of Franklin was held in March. A careful search has not been rewarded by the discovery of any of the acts of that session so signed or certified as to show who were the speakers of the senate and the house of commons.

Steps were taken to adopt a great seal of State. Martin wrote to Governor Caswell (May 11, 1786) "I am told they have a coat of arms of their own," having reference to the State of Franklin.

From the same source we learn that Colonel Charles Robertson was empowered by the Assembly to establish a mint and to coin thirty thousand dollars specie, and that "the Colonel was in such forwardness with his mint that in the course of three weeks, he could furnish their member to Congress with cash of the new coin." If coins were ever struck off at this rude mint, as seems probable, none has survived to become the veritable treasure of some numismatist.

The position of peril to the settlers on the lower fringe of Franklin, produced by the Treaty of Hopewell, compelled the attention of the Assembly. The infant State determined to act for herself. Commissioners were appointed to negotiate a second treaty with the Cherokees — William Cocke, Alexander Outlaw, Samuel Wear, Henry Conway and Thomas Ingles.

In the spring of this year, Haywood says, the Cherokees made open war upon the settlers on the waters of the Holston, in the present county of Knox. Governor Sevier raised a volunteer force and followed in pursuit. He crossed the Unaka mountains, and destroyed  p103 the valley towns of the North Carolina Cherokees on the Hiwassee river.8

In April a party of Cherokees, returning from a raid on the whites with fifteen scalps, sent Sevier a letter saying that they had now taken their satisfaction for their friends who had been murdered and did not wish for war, "but if the white people wanted war, it was what they would get."9

On July 20th, two young men were murdered by the Chickamauga Cherokees. Colonels Cocke and Outlaw, at the head of two hundred and fifty men, marched to Chota Ford, about six miles from the Indian towns, and sent for the headmen to come to a conference. When The Tassel and Hanging Maw came in, they were charged with complicity in the murder. The Tassel denied that accusation. Learning in the conference that the guilty Indians lived in Coyatee (Coytoy) town, at the mouth of the Holston, about twenty miles below Chota, the colonels marched their forces to Coyatee and "luckily killed two of the very Indians that did the murder." They again sent for the chiefs, The Tassel and Hanging Maw, and the warriors from the nearby towns, and renewed the conference begun at Chota Ford. Colonel Outlaw, in a letter to Governor Caswell,​10 after stating these facts, enclosed the treaty there negotiated, and claimed that the Indians "seemed friendly and well satisfied we should settle the country, and say they will sell us the country on the south of the Tennessee, and let us settle around them, if we will keep the Creeks from killing them; or they will leave the country entirely, if we will give them goods for it."

The treaty on its face,​11 however, gives evidence of undue pressure, amounting to duress, or of unfairness on the part of Cocke and Outlaw, backed as they were at the time by an adequate force. No act of the State of Franklin is less creditable to her than this Treaty of Coyatee.

The white settlements at the time had passed the line established by the treaty of Dumplin Creek and it was determined that all the Cherokee lands north of the Little Tennessee river should be  p104 opened to settlement, the treaty of Hopewell to the contrary notwithstanding. Instead of submitting to be removed from that region, the settlers advanced to possess more of it. The following spring, we shall see, an office was opened by the Franklin authorities for the entry of all the lands north of the Little Tennessee.

William Cocke was again chosen by the Assembly to attend on Congress, then in session, and continue his efforts for the recognition of Franklin. It seems that he did not, this year, undertake the long journey to New York to discharge his duties. Benjamin Franklin, who had been absent in Europe in the diplomatic service when the new State was launched, had recently returned to America. To him, Cocke wrote a letter, after the adjournment of the Assembly, outlining what had taken place, and appealing for advice:

State of Franklin, 15 June, 1786.


I make no doubt you have heard that the good people of this country have declared themselves a separate State from North Carolina, and that, as a testimony of the high esteem they have for the many important and faithful services you have rendered to your country, they have called their State after you. I presume you have heard also the reasons on which our separation is founded, some of which are as follows: that North Carolina granted us a separation on certain well-known conditions, expressed in an act of the General Assembly of that State, which conditions, we think, she had no right to break through without our consent, as well as the consent of Congress. We therefore determine strictly to adhere to the conditions expressed in said act, and doubt not but Congress will be uniform in their just demands as well as honorable in complying with their resolve to confirm all the just claims of such persons, as have purchased lands under the laws of North Carolina, for which they have paid the State.

The confidence we have in the wisdom and justice of the United States inclines us to leave every matter of dispute to their decision, and I am expressly empowered and commanded to give the United States full assurance, that we shall act in obedience to their determination, provided North Carolina will consent that they shall become the arbiters. I had set out with the intention to wait on Congress to discharge the duties of the trust reposed in me, but I am informed that Congress will adjourn about the last of this month; and I will thank you to be so kind as to favor me with a few lines by the bearer, Mr. Rogers, to inform me when Congress will meet again, and shall be happy to have your sentiments and advice on so important a subject.​12

 p105  Franklin made prompt acknowledgment, expressing appreciation of the honor done him in the naming of the State, and approving the resolution of the leaders of the movement to submit the points in dispute to the decision of Congress:

Philadelphia, 12 August, 1786.


I received yesterday the letter you did me the honor of writing me on the 15th of June past. I had never before been acquainted that the name of your new State had any relation with my name, having understood that it was called Frankland. It is a very great honor, indeed, that its inhabitants have done me; and I should be happy if it were in my power to show how sensible I am of it, by something more essential than my wishes for their prosperity.

Having resided some years past in Europe, and being but lately arrived thence, I have not had the opportunity of being well informed of the points in dispute between you and the State of North Carolina. I can therefore only say, that I think you are perfectly right in resolving to submit them to the discretion of Congress, and to abide by their determination. It is a wise and impartial tribunal, which can have no sinister views to warp its judgment. It is happy for us all that we have now in our own country such a council to apply to, for composing our differences, without being obliged, as formerly, to carry them across the ocean to be decided, at an immense expense, by a council which knew but little about our affairs, would hardly take any pains to understand them, and which often treated our applications with contempt, and rejected them with injurious language. Let us, therefore cherish and respect our own tribunal; for the more generally it is held in high regard, the more able it will be to answer effectually the ends of its institution, the quieting of our contentions, and thereby promoting our common peace and happiness.

I do not hear any talk of an adjournment of Congress concerning which you inquire; and I rather think it likely they may continue to sit out their year, as it is but lately they have been able to make a quorum for business that must therefore probably be in arrear. If you proceed in your intended journey, I shall be glad to see you as you pass through Philadelphia.​13

The Author's Notes:

1 The commissioners were Benjamin Hawkins of North Carolina; Andrew Pickens of South Carolina; Lachlan McIntosh, of Georgia; and Joseph Martin.

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2 Surveyed by General William Campbell in 1777‑78, marking, as it was supposed, the boundary between Virginia and the Cherokees.

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3 U. S. Statutes at Large, VII, 18. There was an exception in favor of the inhabitants in the forks of the French Broad and Holston rivers, whose status was to be fixed by Congress. At Hopewell, Tassel, the beloved man of Chota, said: "If commissioners are not able to do me justice in removing the people from the fork of French Broad and Holston, I am unable to get it for myself. Are Congress, who conquered the King of Great Britain, unable to remove these people? I am satisfied with the promises of the commissioners to remove all the people from our lines except those in the fork, and I will agree to be content that the particular situation of the people settled there, and our claims to the lands should be referred to Congress, and I will abide by their decision." Congress never acted on the point submitted.

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4 Alexander Outlaw to Governor Caswell, October 8, 1786, protesting against the Treaty of Hopewell. N. C. State Records, XVIII, 757.

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5 Am. St. Papers, Indian Affairs, I, 44.

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6 N. C. State Records, XVIII, 591.

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7 N. C. State Records, XXII, 105. The report of the committee embodied an argument based on the assumed validity of the cession act of 1784, and an insistence that Congress must thereunder treat the State's grants of western lands as valid, "whereas the citizens to whom grants were made before the cession act have been left to the mercy of the Indians." Ib., XVIII, 465.

Joseph Martin wrote to Patrick Henry that "North Carolina is about to say in the protest that the Continental commissioners have given up to the Indians lands that North Carolina purchased of said Indians, which is notoriously false. I speak with confidence." Jan. 20, 1787. Henry's Patrick Henry, III, 384. Martin was smarting under the stinging criticism of his work as commissioner and (Feb. 10) represented to Henry that the Cherokees were so disheartened as to be considering a removal. ". . . I incline to think they will cross the Ohio." Cal. Va. St. Papers, IV, 235.

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8 Haywood, 162.

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9 Martin to Governor Caswell, May 11, 1786, N. C. State Records. See also Va. Cal. State Papers, IV, 162, 164, 256.

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10 Ramsey, 343; also Maryland Journal, Aug. 29, and Oct. 6, 1786, for letters from Franklin on the campaign.

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11 Given in full by Ramsey, 344‑5.

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12 Works of Franklin (Sparks ed.), X, 266.

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13 Works of Franklin (Sparks Ed.), X, 268.

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