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Chapter 31

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.
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Chapter 33
This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

 p249  Chapter XXXII

The Second Cession and Afterwards

Despite the legislative bar of the "enjoyment of any office of profit or trust" by Sevier in North Carolina, the people of the Greene senatorial district elected him to represent them in the Carolina state senate of 1789. His friends, Thomas Amis and Landon Carter, were returned from the Hawkins and Washington districts, respectively; and only General Joseph Martin, of Sullivan, was chosen from the opposing faction to sit as Sevier's third western colleague in the senate.

Sevier appeared with his credentials when the Assembly met in November, and was "qualified," sworn in and seated weeks before an act could be passed to remove the disqualification. The election of Sevier and two of his followers by the western electors made it clear to the senate that the conciliation of the people across the mountains could best be effected if the disabling clause of the act of 1788 should be disregarded.1

Sevier was also elected as a delegate to the Convention called to reconsider the ratification of the Federal Constitution, and was allowed to take his seat, in spite of the inhibition.

The Assembly and the Convention met at the same time and place. Both bodies had some delegates in common. The assembly was confronted with another call from Congress for a cession of western territory.​2 Only North Carolina and Georgia had failed to make cessions and a pointed appeal was made to the magnanimity and sense of justice of the laggard State. Though North Carolina was out of the Union, to contribute toward the liquidation of the continental debts continued as an unchanged obligation.

Another spur to the making of a cession was the presentation for payment of large claims incurred in the conduct of General Martin's campaign against the Chickamauga Indians, under the State's military authorities. The members from the seaboard counties  p250 winced when they saw the magnitude of these claims. Haywood, who was at the time yet a resident and active in the affairs of North Carolina, afterward wrote of this situation: "The Atlantic members labored to find ways and means, and still more, to avoid making contributions from the counties east of the Alleghanies" to liquidate these claims.

The two bodies, Assembly and Convention, coöperated in trying to solve the serious problems involved in the former refusals, to ratify the Federal Constitution and to cede the western domain. The swing of sentiment was now distinctly away from localism to the federal system. That further severance from the sister States was deemed unwise is shown by a pronounced reversal — the Constitution was ratified by a vote of 195 to 77, whereas in the previous year ratification had failed by a vote of 184 to 83.

Plans were matured for a second cession to the United States of America, though a considerable element in the Assembly favored a proposition advanced in the house of commons: to cede directly to the citizens who resided west of the mountains the territorial or political rights over the western domain, which was to be erected into a separate State, North Carolina to reserve the right to open a land office and dispose of the unappropriated lands for the purpose of satisfying specie certificates issued by the State and redeeming her paper money then in circulation.3

This would have been to affront the national government. It might lead, it was thought, to a serious breach, and to the possible loss of all control of the lands across the Alleghanies. There was deep solicitude that this point be safeguarded; an extensive control of the disposal of these lands must be retained. Land control had been throughout the crux of the cession problem.

An act to cede the Western Country to the United States was passed. John Sevier had the satisfaction of recording his vote in favor of cession even though on onerous terms;​4 and, in the Convention, in favor of ratifying the National Constitution.

The cession act, and the deed executed in pursuance thereof, incorporated as safeguarding conditions, the following:

 p251  1. That the military reservation​5 should inure to the benefit of the officers and soldiers of the continental line of North Carolina, their heirs and assigns; and if that reservation should not be found to contain a sufficient quantity of land fit for cultivation to satisfy the several provisions of law for their benefit, the deficiency might be made good by resorting to other parts of the territory ceded, not already appropriated.​6

2. That entries and grants of lands made agreeable to law prior to the cession should have full force subsequently; and power was reserved to the governor of North Carolina to perfect titles under entries that had not ripened into grants.

3. That entries in John Armstrong's office (under Act 1783) located on land already entered by another should be allowed to be shifted to land on which no entry had been specially located.

The passage of but a few years sufficed to raise a grave issue between the mother State and Tennessee as to the operative force of these reservations, leading to an acrimonious debate, and to legislative acts of retaliation that were in a way reminiscent of the Franklin State struggle.7

 p252  Cession thus provided for, the Assembly proceeded to a disposition of the claims of the soldiers who held certificates for service issued by the officers in the Chickamauga campaign. Their payment was imposed on the people of the Washington district (the Tennessee Valley) — made receivable for taxes in that district and no other. In substance, those who fought were directed to pay themselves.8

As if to forestall opposition from the western people to the terms of the cession act respecting lands in the western domain, pains were taken by the Assembly to conciliate them by means of the treatment accorded the most popular man in the West, Sevier. This leader was now formally found "not as highly responsible as many others" who had engaged in the Franklin movement, which at first (it was resolved) "he did oppose in such a manner as actually to prevent elections from being held in the new government [Franklin] in two of the counties; and when at last he joined them it was in obedience to the entreaties of several of the most influential persons in that part of the country."9

Joseph Martin, who had stood for years in the breach in favor of the restoration of North Carolina's sovereignty in the Franklin territory, was now in disfavor with the western inhabitants. Not withstanding his valuable service to the Carolina Commonwealth, he, while a member of the senate, was removed from the office of brigadier-general of western forces without any accusation being lodged against him as such. The senate by a vote of 28 to 7 concurred  p253 in the passage of this remarkable resolution that effected his removal:

"Resolved, That it is the sense of this General Assembly, that John Sevier is the brigadier-general of the district of Washington, and ought to be obeyed as such according to the date of his commission issued in the month of November, 1784; and that the governor issue his proclamation requiring all the good people of that district to pay due regard thereto and govern themselves accordingly."

What must have been the feelings of the aged and true-hearted Evan Shelby when he learned that his loyalty and services and his commission as brigadier-general of the same district had been thus discredited? And what the emotions of Martin, his successor, as he rode his horse through the solitude of the wilderness to his home in the West? Whatever may have been the desert of either, it was not this at the hands of Carolinians.

The Assembly formed a new congressional district out of the transmontane counties; and in the succeeding February John Sevier was elected to serve as its delegate — the first member of the Congress under the Constitution to represent a part of the Mississippi Valley.

Congress accepted the cession and soon established in the region a territorial form of government under the formidable and misfit title "Territory of the United States of America, South of the River Ohio" — frequently for convenience designated as the "Southwest Territory." William Blount was chosen by President Washington to serve as the first governor, in preference to General Martin whose claims and application failed, though supported by Patrick Henry. Sevier, who was the choice of the western people for the governor­ship of the Territory,​10 was appointed as brigadier-general of territorial forces by the President, and he and his friends were in the ascendancy in the new government. Tipton and other opponents of the Franklin leader received honorable though secondary recognition, from either constituencies or the appointing power.

 p254  Finally the people realized their desire for separate statehood, when, on June 1, 1796, Congress admitted the state of Tennessee into the Union — the first member erected out of a territory of the United States.

John Sevier was elected by the people as the first governor almost as of course and without opposition, and served six terms of two years each — an honor never bestowed on any other Tennessean.

The legislature and the judiciary of Tennessee had to solve a number of problems that were the results of the Franklin regime: the status of marriages consummated under Franklin licenses;​11 of judgments rendered by the courts;​12 of administration of estates,​13 etc. The situation dealt with was one without parallel in American jurisprudence, since Franklin was and is the only example of a de facto American State that functioned in every aspect of statal power.

The Author's Notes:

1 N. C. St. Rec., XXI, 584‑5.

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2 Ib., 503.

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3 The bill so providing, passed two readings in the two houses. N. C. St. Rec., XXI, 257, 271, et seq.

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4 The measure passed in the senate by a vote of 30 to 13, and in the house of commons by a vote of 68 to 30, John Rhea, representative from Sullivan county, being the only western delegate to vote in the negative. General Martin, in the senate, did not vote.

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5 About 3,000,000 acres bounded as stated in a previous chapter.

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6 Act of North Carolina, 1784, Ch. 19, Sec. 17, had made a similar provision to cover such deficiency.

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7 At the date of cession the laws of North Carolina required all surveys for grants to be finished and grants procured by the end of 1792. Tennessee claimed that North Carolina had no power to enlarge the limitation, none having been reserved in the cession act. North Carolina was insistent and persistent in the assertion of the power.

Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of State, after a thorough investigation, reported to the President, in 1791, a detailed estimate of the acreage in the West that had been entered or passed to grant under North Carolina's authority. He found the total to be 8,177,598 acres, which naturally was of the best lands. In resistance of the efforts of North Carolina, the legislature of Tennessee penalized in the sum of $5,000 any person subsequently surveying any land in the State "for the purpose of obtaining a title for such lands from North Carolina." Again (in 1811) North Carolina renewed the claim and effort, this time to bring from the Tennessee legislature a prohibitory act, imposing a penalty of $5,000 on any surveyor who should survey North Carolina entries, and on any register of deeds who should record any grants based thereon, and also a fine of $1,000 and disbarment upon any lawyer who should begin a suit upon such a claim. See Acts of Tennessee, 1801, ch. 2; Acts, 1812, Ch. 86; Sanford's Blount College, 83 et seq.; American State Papers, Public Lands, I, 18; Whitney, Land Laws of Tennessee, passim; Memorial of North Carolina to Congress, of 1824; Memorials of Tennessee, of 1817 and 1825; Hoyt, Murphey Papers, II, 320, 328. The United States was magnanimous toward Tennessee and endeavored to make amends for any injustice done, even though the national government should take little of benefit as the result of the cession. Referring to the final cession, it has been said: "In accepting the cession offered by North Carolina, Congress made a bad bargain. In the deed of cession North Carolina stated certain conditions by which Congress had to satisfy a number of claims before it should make any disposition of the ceded lands. It proved afterward that Congress could hardly make any disposition whatever of the acquired lands for the claims were in excess of lands whose Indian title had been extinguished by that State. Being thus covered by reservations, the cession made by North Carolina was only nominal, and no public lands were created out of the ceded territory" — meaning none for disposal by the Federal Government. Sato, History of the Land Question in the United States; Johns Hopkins Hist. Ser., V, 38.

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8 This, though the campaign was quite as much for the protection of Mero district (the Cumberland Valley) as of the district onerated, in which lived the Franklinites.

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9 N. C. St. Rec., XXI, 285.

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10 In convention at Greeneville May 5, 1790: "No other man on the continent, the President of the United States not excepted, can give as general satisfaction to the people . . . Party heat and civil commotions are not yet assuaged, so that a long acquaintance must be essential to govern a people martial in their nature and heretofore in a kind of anarchy." Hardin, chairman, to Samuel Johnston, Hayes Coll. of MSS.

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11 All marriages validated by Tennessee Act, 1803, Ch. 25.

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12 The North Carolina Act of 1786, Ch. 23, had provided that where any judgments in the courts of Franklin respecting property were incompatible with justice, the person aggrieved should have his remedy at common law. The court of last resort in Tennessee construed this to mean that the proceedings of the courts of Franklin were of obligatory force when substantial justice had been attained. The western inhabitants had been under the protection of the State of Franklin during its existence, and a presumption of law arose that such proceedings were compatible with justice, subjecting the claimant to the burden of proving the contrary. Ingraham's Heirs v. Cocke, 1 Overton (1 Tenn. Rep.), 22.

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13 Validated by Act 1801, Ch. 24. An instrument of conveyance admitted to record under Franklin authority was treated as if recorded in Tennessee. Tennessee Act, 1815, Ch. 1.

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