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Chapter 24

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 26
This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

 p189  Chapter XXV

Close of the Crucial Year — 1787

The federal constitutional convention adjourned September 17th. On the same day, the fall session of the Franklin Assembly opened at Greeneville. Charles Robertson was speaker of the senate, and John Menifee speaker of the house of representatives.

It is probable that news of the action touching the admission of new States, taken at Philadelphia on August 30th, reached Franklin while the Assembly was in session. How ominous it was could not have been unappreciated, especially by Cocke and Judge Campbell, men trained in the law. Ramsey​1 says that the legislature of Franklin manifested a strong tendency to dismemberment. From some of the older counties there were no representatives, while some of the delegates from others exhibited indecision. The legislation was confined for the most part to unimportant amendments of the laws of North Carolina which had been adopted as the basis of the system of jurisprudence of the Commonwealth.

Governor Sevier was pledged to Georgia to carry forward plans for a joint campaign against the Creek Indians, but it was now with difficulty that he procured the passage of assenting and enabling acts. Finally a bill was passed for embodying troops and for their descent by the waters of the Tennessee river, in case of a call from Georgia, but as the result of a compromise with the more conservative element. "The quid pro quo given to the dissentients was the appointment of two delegates to attend the legislature of North Carolina to make such representations of the affairs of Franklin as might be thought proper." Under this final adjustment, Judge Campbell and Landon Carter were named to so serve.

A bid for Judge Campbell's return to his allegiance to North Carolina had been made by Governor Caswell in February, 1787,​2 but he had not then seen fit to accept the tendered commission.

No doubt, Campbell had advised Sevier of the predicament of  p190 Franklin consequent on the action of the constitutional convention; but at the time personal animosities were rampant, particularly between Sevier and Tipton. In a personal encounter, the latter, "thanks to his superior physical strength, did not come off second best." This, in part, accounts for Sevier's persistence in the struggle against odds to establish a State in the West.

Another, and a more cogent reason was, that the settlers in the lower counties, who were almost to the man standing faithfully by him, would be abandoned to the workings of Carolina's policy for their removal from their homes, deemed by that State to be on lands reserved for the Cherokees. The same borderers of the South had been his chief support in the later campaigns against the Indians. They had not deserted him, and they were looking to him for succor. Could he afford to abandon them? Sevier, always loyal to his friends, determined that he would not, and he held to his course.

Sevier now saw more than a ray of sunshine coming out of Georgia, after two long months of waiting. A letter reached him from Governor Mathews saying that at last the Assembly of his State "are now fully persuaded that they never can have a secure and lasting peace with the Creek Indians till they are well chastised and severely feel the effects of the war. They have passed a law for raising three thousand men for that purpose, and have empowered the Executive to call for fifteen hundred men from Franklin. . . . The Bend of Tennessee being allowed for your men, I flatter myself, will give pleasure; and, as the bounty is given for fighting our common enemy, will be, I am persuaded, thought generous and liberal."3

Georgia sent to Franklin, a young officer of great force and capacity, Lieutenant-Colonel George Handley,​4 who was to act as commissioner on the part of Georgia in the preparations for hostilities then going forward.

Former Governor Telfair also wrote to Sevier that Georgia had taken measures that would "prove extremely beneficial to Franklin, inasmuch as to evidence to the Union that one of the members of it has full confidence in the valor and rectitude of the people and government  p191 thereof. It is a crisis by which a young people may rise in estimation, and it will give tone to Franklin."5

Ramsey states that proffers were made to Governor Sevier by the Chickasaw Indians of assistance in the war against the Creeks.

Martial ardor marks the following letter (November 11th), from Elholm, to Major-General Moultrie, from Augusta:

The savages are daily committing new marks of cruelty on the inhabitants of this State (shocking to humanity): the other day they tortured a prisoner as long as they could continue to give pain, and then left the unfortunate victim with a stake drove through his bowels. Every possible preparation to bring the Creeks to justice is made; one‑half of the militia immediately ordered into the field; recruiting officers industriously engaged in raising four regiments, consisting of 750 men each, and, I am informed, with great success. I have engaged (authorized by my fellow citizens for that purpose) to act in concert, with 1,500 Franks, with the movements of Georgia, to be commanded by a general of their own to the west of the mountains. A commissioner is sent to the Spanish government to request of that government not to assist our common enemy with any arms or ammunition.​6

Sevier lost no time in sending a circular to the military forces in Franklin, in which he outlined the objects of the campaign, the bounty offered, etc.​7 This call to arms thrilled the frontiersmen,  p192 particularly the younger men of daring and enterprise. Volunteers were recruited under the direction of Colonel Handley and Major Elholm, and by December 2nd a letter was forwarded, announcing to Georgia readiness for the campaign.

A chill followed this fever. Not until February, 1788, did a reply come, and it announced that the campaign had been abandoned on  p193 account of the fact that Congress had ordered three commissioners, one of them from Georgia, to hold a treaty with the Indians, "and we now only suspend our operations till their determinations are known."

The delay, and the suspension, which proved to be a final one, defeated the hopes of the militia and thwarted the design of their leader.

In certain leaders the rumors of this raising of troops in Franklin took the color of preparations for hostilities against the Spaniards — "to thrash those perfidious Castilians into better conduct toward the subjects of the United States." So reported a correspondent to the Maryland Journal.8

Pursuing a suggestion in one of Governor Caswell's letters, the Franklin leaders circulated a number of petitions to the North Carolina Assembly for a separation, in which were incorporated portions of the recent memorial to Congress and some of Caswell's own arguments in favor of separation:

We hope that having settled west of the Appalachian mountains ought not to deprive us of the natural advantages designed by the bountiful hand of Providence for the convenience and comfort of  p194 all those who have the spirit and sagacity enough to seek after them. When we reflect on our past indefatigable struggles; both with the savages and other enemies during the late war, and the great difficulty we had to obtain and withhold this country from those enemies at the expense of the lives and fortunes of many of our dearest friends and relatives; and the happy conclusion of peace having arrived, North Carolina has derived great advantages from our alertness in taking and securing a country from which she has been able to draw into her treasury immense sums of money, and thereby become able to pay off, if not wholly, yet a great part and sink her national debt. . . . We, therefore, humbly conceive you will liberally think that it will be nothing more than paying a debt in full to us, only to grant, what God, Nature, and our locality entitle us to receive. Trusting that your magnanimity and justice will not consider it a crime in any people to pray their just rights and privileges, we call the world to testify our conduct and exertions in behalf of American Independency; and the same to whether we ask more than free people ought to claim agreeable to republican principles. . . . Congress hath, from time to time, explained their ideas so fully, and with so much dignity and energy that if their arguments and re­quisitions will not produce conviction, we know of nothing that will have a greater influence, especially when we recollect that the system referred to is the result of the collected wisdom of the United States; and, should it not be considered as perfect, must be esteemed the least objectionable.

The text of this petition is carried into the Appendix​9 with the signatures attached thereto. The petition was presented to the senate of North Carolina in December, 1787.10

The names of Andrew Jackson and Archibald Roane appear alongside as signers — evidently of that copy which was circulated in Greene county. The two men, so distinguished in state and nation in after years, appeared for the first time in the region in 1788.​11 The explanation must be that, on so arriving, their and other signatures were procured and sent forward to be attached, thus extending the petition which should stand for use at some later session of the North Carolina Assembly. The name of Joseph McMinn is also affixed. The fact that these ambitious young men, two of whom were to become governors of Tennessee and one president of the United States, joined promptly in the movement  p195 for separation argues cogently that they found favoring sentiment strong.

The Assembly of North Carolina met in November. Governor Sevier named an additional commissioner to attend and make an effort to procure consent to separation, hope of which Governor Caswell had so frequently held out earlier in the year. Francis A. Ramsey, a member of the Council of State, and father of the historian, was selected. He was authorized to propose as an inducement to separation the assumption by the State of Franklin of the Continental debt of North Carolina.

The upper counties of Franklin were represented by delegates: Sullivan county by Col. Joseph Martin (senate) John Scott and George Maxwell; Washington county by Col. John Tipton (senate) James Stuart and John Blair; Greene county by Daniel Kennedy (senate) and Judge David Campbell; Hawkins county by Nathaniel Henderson (senate) and William Marshall. General Kennedy appears to have hesitated and delayed his appearance in the senate until late in the session. He and Martin from the senate, and Judge Campbell and Maxwell from the house of commons, served on a committee appointed "for quieting the tumults and disorders in the western parts of this state." The act of pardon and oblivion of the offenses of the insurgents was extended to all who wished to avail of it.12

Another request came from Congress to this Assembly urging the cession of the western lands.​13 The petition that came from the West for a separation was disregarded.

Tipton was deprived of his seat as senator, because of illegality in the election; and that he felt the sting was evident from the course he pursued in sending in protests against other proceedings that were intended to lure back the separatists.14

The senate passed on the first reading, by a vote of 23 to 22, an act to repeal the repealing act of 1784, and the house of commons did likewise. This would have brought about a cession and separation. Among the leaders of the senate opposing this action was General Thomas Person. General Kennedy, of Greene county, of course supported it; but Colonel Joseph Martin, of Sullivan county, voted against it. Colonel James Robertson of Davidson county,  p196 stood with the friends of Franklin, though Colonel Anthony Bledsoe of Sumner did not.15

The measure was defeated by being left to sleep on the table — whether of purpose from the outset will never be known. But it is manifest that the politicians from the Atlantic counties were too much for those of the western counties. It was no part of their purpose to lose hold on the tempting field. The representations made to the Assembly by Burton, Blount and Hawkins, the State's delegates to Congress, had no effect. In an address of the three to that body, read by Benjamin Hawkins, it was said: "The States which have ceded western lands complain pointedly and heavily against North Carolina for claiming a part of the lands in possession of Congress without ceding any part of her claim."

A stinging protest against the course pursued at this session was entered by a man who had lived among the Wataugans and was now residing in, and representing one of the eastern counties of North Carolina, William Tatham. Opposing the action looking to perfection of western titles and the favoring of John Armstrong, entrytaker for western lands, by giving him further time for settling his accounts, Tatham filed a written protest in which he denounced the original opening of that land office as an infringement of the constitutional rights of the people; a premeditated plan having been "laid previous to the opening of said office" to the end of monopolizing the lands; and that the State had been much injured by the speculation consequent thereon.

He referred to grants based on entries of lands in the far‑away country of the friendly Chickasaws (now known as West Tennessee) in these words:

"The indulgence granted Colonel Armstrong will be productive of jealousies and discontents between the white people and the Chickasaw Indians, if not wars, aided or assisted by our Catholic neighbors on the Mississippi; because every future warrant from that office or entries made on the same, will be a further indulgence to our speculators to encroach on the Chickasaw Indians who have so gloriously boasted their friendship for the white people; and, instead deserving the ingratitude we have shown in trespassing on their lands and taking their lands away without their consent without cause or provocation, have ever shown us an  p197 example worthy of imitation, and a specimen of magnanimity far above our reach."

Tatham closed by inveighing against the course determined upon as a subordination of the public interest "for the speculation of a junta of individuals."16

He, better than any other member, was able to speak from the vantage-ground of knowledge of both the peoples of the West and the East.

By this Assembly, Judge Campbell was elected a judge of the superior court at Jonesborough for the District of Washington, which office he accepted. His action was bitterly resented by his former associates. Haywood quaintly says that Colonel James White, the father of Knoxville and an unyielding Franklinite, "whose yea was yea, and nay was nay, throughout his whole life, deemed the acceptance of this office by Campbell an unpardonable dereliction of duty. Meeting Campbell on the road, as he returned from Tarborough, he upbraided the latter with a desertion of his friends in very undisguised terms of reprobation."

Campbell's action paralyzed the judicial department of the infant Commonwealth of which he had been the head. The courts were to the people the most visible manifestation of government. The defection was as shard in the souls of Sevier and those closest to him. Judge Campbell's course was not disgraceful, but it was both ungraceful and ungracious.

The year 1787 closed, leaving Governor Sevier distraught if not dismayed. Every card dealt by Fate had been against him and his State.

The Author's Notes:

1 Page 401.

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2 N. C. St. Rec., XX, 617.

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3 November 12th. Ramsey, 395.

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4 Handley became governor of Georgia at the early age of 36 (1788). He came from England in 1777; became a captain, and soon reached the rank of lieutenant-colonel in the Revolutionary War.

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5 Ramsey, 396.

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6 Maryland Journal, of December 11th.

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28th November, 1787.

Major Elholm is just now returned from Georgia with expresses from the governor of that state, requiring an aid of fifteen hundred men from the State of Franklin, to co‑operate with them against the Creek Indians, under the following conditions, to wit:

All that will serve one campaign, till a peace is made, shall receive as follows:

A colonel, one thousand two hundred acres; a lieutenant-colonel, one thousand one hundred; a major, one thousand; a captain, nine hundred; first-lieutenant, eight hundred; second-lieutenant, seven hundred and fifty; non‑commissioned officers, seven hundred; privates, well armed and accoutred, six hundred and forty.

Any general officer, called into the service, to have the following proportions: —

major-general, fifteen hundred acres; a brigadier-general, fourteen hundred acres.

The Bend of Tennessee is reserved for the troops of Franklin, which is a desirable spot, and will be of great importance to this state. We are to have an additional bounty of fifty acres on every one hundred acres, in lieu of rations, and all other claims against the State of Georgia, which makes our proportion of lands amount to half as much more as what is above allotted. A private man's share, if he finds himself, amounts to nine hundred and sixty acres, and officer's in proportion.

This great and liberal encouragement will, certainly, induce numbers to turn out on the expedition, which will not only be doing something handsome for themselves, but they will have the honour of assisting a very generous and friendly sister state to conquer and chastise an insolent and barbarous savage nation of Indians.

I now request that you will, with the utmost despatch, cause a general muster to be held in your county, and endeavour to get as many volunteers to enter into and engage in the aforesaid service, and under the above conditions, as in your power. You may, also, encourage active persons to turn out and recruit; and both yourself, and those that may recruit, to transmit to me, immediately after the general muster, your numbers of recruited volunteers. If I am spared, I think to take the field once more, and wish we may be able to march about Christmas, if possible, for the sooner we march, the sooner the people can return in time to put in their spring crops.

I congratulate you, and every true friend, on the success of our Commissioner in the State of Georgia, and am happy to inform you that our situation as a state is now secure and on a permanent footing — much occasioned by one of the members of the Union, through her liberal and sisterly affection, having taken us by the hand, and noticing us as a people, of which you will be convinced by the copies, &c., accompanying this. The good people in this country are under high obligations to our trusty and worthy Commissioner, Major Elholm, whose acquaintance and abilities have enabled him to accomplish for us most desirable purposes.

I have not time to transcribe and send, for your's and the people's perusal, a copy, in full, of the Georgia act, respecting Franklin, but hope the outlines, herein inserted, will be satisfactory. I also recommend that the recruiting officers might apply and take a copy for the satisfaction of those who may be inclined to enter into the service.

The State of Georgia has appointed Col. Handley, a respectable character in that state, to attend the State of Franklin in character of Commissioner. I expect him in a few days, and shall be desirous of giving him every information before his return. I recommend the information herein contained, through your patronage, to the people, who, I hope, after seeing the great notice and respect shewn them by the State of Georgia, in her application to us for our assistance, and the high confidence they place in the spirit and bravery of the people here, that they will be animated with the idea, that they are now capable of evincing to the world that, like a young officer who first enters the field, they are kept, from their bravery and merit, to make themselves known and respected among the nations of the world; and, though we have not large cities and sea‑ports, which generally sink into wealth and luxury, by which means the offspring dwindled into effeminacy and dissipation, yet I hope, we shall always remain as happy, free and independent as any other people; If not, sure I am, it will be our own fault, and we ought never to be pitied.

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8 Issue of Nov. 6th, 1787. It may be that it was a part of the plan to challenge and attack the Spaniards should they give aid to the Creeks despite the request made of them not to do so:

"By late advices from the State of Franklin, we learn of their Assembly being convened by a special call from the Governor and Council. The principal business of this meeting was to take into consideration the hostile behavior of his Catholic Majesty's subjects in the Floridas and Louisiana toward the good people of that State in particular, and the Western States in general. It is said that they have it from an undoubted authority that many of their citizens have been deprived of their lives, liberties and properties, within the jurisdiction of the United States, by persons acting under the authority of his Catholic Majesty's government; and that although many remonstrances have been made by them to his Catholic Majesty's governors, and to Congress, to remove those grievances, their just demands have not been attended to. It is added, that their Assembly, as the fathers of the people, thinking it their indispensable duty to put a stop to all further depredations, have passed a law which provides for a body of 1,500 men, to be immediately enlisted as regular troops, for three years, to be embodied in one legion and to be commanded by a general of experience. They are to be joined by 500 men from the Cumberland settlements. That they will be in readiness to march this month, and mean to thrash (by Divine Blessing) those perfidious Castilians into better conduct towards the subjects of the United States; and that they received a supply of arms and ammunition from Charleston before the law was passed."

The chances are, however, that the information was sent to the Journal from Virginia by one who misconceived or exaggerated the situation.

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9 Appendix B.

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10 N. C. St. Rec., XXII, 714.

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11 Jackson was admitted to the bar at Jonesborough, May, 1788, and to the bar at Greeneville, in August, 1788.

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12 Acts, 1787, ch. 27.

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13 N. C. St. Rec., XX, 248, 276.

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14 N. C. St. Rec., XX, 202, 279‑80.

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15 N. C. St. Rec., XX, 241.

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16 N. C. St. Rec., XX, 249. For biographical sketch of Tatham, see Williams, William Tatham, Wataugan.

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