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West, on the Holston and Cumberland, as well as on the Ohio, during the troubled years immediately succeeding the Revolution; and they were furthered by the intrigues of the Spaniards. But the antipathy of the backwoodsmen to the Spaniards was too deeprooted for them ever to effect a real combination. Ultimately the good sense and patriotism of the Westerners triumphed; and the American people continued to move forward with unbroken front toward their mighty future.
THE STATE OF FRANKLIN, 1784-1788
'HE separatist spirit was strong throughout the
West. Different causes, such as the unchecked ravages of the Indians, or the refusal of the right to navigate the Mississippi, produced or accentuated different manifestations; but the feeling itself was latent everywhere. Its most striking manifestations occurred not in Kentucky, but in what is now the State of Tennessee; and was aimed not at the United States, but at the parent State of North Carolina.
In Kentucky the old frontiersmen were losing their grip on the governmental machinery of the district. The great flood of immigration tended to swamp the pioneers; and the leading parts in the struggle for Statehood were played by men who had come to the country about the close of the Revolutionary War, and who were often related by ties of kinship to the leaders of the Virginia legislatures and conventions.
On the waters of the upper Tennessee matters were entirely different. Immigration had been slower, and the people who did come in were usually of the type of those who had first built their stockaded hamlets on the banks of the Watauga. The leaders of the early pioneers were still the lead
ers of the community, in legislation as in warfare. Moreover, North Carolina was a much weaker and more turbulent State than Virginia, so that a separatist movement ran less risk of interference. Chains of forest-clad mountains severed the State proper from its Western outposts. Many of the pioneer leaders were from Virginia-backwoodsmen who had drifted south along the trough-like valleys. These of course felt little loyalty to North Carolina. The others, who were North Carolinians by birth, had cast in their lot, for good or for evil, with the frontier communities, and were inclined to side with them in any contest with the parent State.
North Carolina herself was at first quite as anxious to get rid of the frontiersmen as they were to go. Not only was the central authority much weaker than in Virginia, but the people were less proud of their State and less jealously anxious to see it grow in power and influence. The over-mountain settlers had increased in numbers so rapidly that four counties had been erected for them; one, Davidson, taking in the Cumberland district, and the other three, Washington, Sullivan, and Greene, including what is now eastern Tennessee. All these counties sent representatives to the North Carolina legislature, at Hillsborough; but they found that body little disposed to consider the needs of the remote Western colonists.
The State was very poor, and regarded the Western settlements as mere burdensome sources of expense. In the innumerable Indian wars debts were
contracted by the little pioneer communities with the faith that the State would pay them; but the payment was made grudgingly or not at all, and no measures were taken to provide for the protection of the frontier in the future. No provisions were made for the extension of the jurisdiction of the State courts over the western counties, and they became a refuge for outlaws, who could be dealt with only as they were—that is, by the settlers acting on their own initiative, without the sanction of law. In short the settlers were left to themselves, to work out their own salvation as they best might, in peace or war; and as they bore most of the burdens of independence, they began to long for the privileges.
In June, 1784, the State Legislature passed an act ceding to the Continental Congress all the western lands, that is, all of what is now Tennessee. It was provided that the sovereignty of North Carolina over the ceded lands should continue in full effect until the United States accepted the gift; and that the act should lapse and become void unless Congress accepted within two years."
The western members were present and voted in favor of the cession, and immediately afterward they returned to their homes and told the frontier people what had been done. There was a general feeling that some step should be taken forthwith to prevent the whole district from lapsing into anarchy. The frontiersmen did not believe that Con
i Ramsey, 283. He is the best authority for the history of the curious State of Franklin.
gress, hampered as it was and powerless to undertake new responsibilities, could accept the gift until the two years were nearly gone; and meanwhile North Carolina would in all likelihood pay them little heed, so that they would be left a prey to the Indians without and to their own wrongdoers within. It was incumbent on them to organize for their own defence and preservation. The three counties on the upper Tennessee proceeded to take measures accordingly. The Cumberland people, however, took no part in the movement, and showed hardly any interest in it; for they felt as alien to the men of the Holston valley as to those of North Carolina proper, and watched the conflict with a tepid absence of friendship for, or hostility toward, either side. They had long practically managed their own affairs, and though they suffered from the lack of a strong central authority on which to rely, they did not understand their own wants, and were inclined to be hostile to any effort for the betterment of the national government.
The first step taken by the frontiersmen in the direction of setting up a new State was very characteristic, as showing the military structure of the frontier settlements. To guard against Indian inroad and foray, and to punish them by reprisals, all the able-bodied, rifle-bearing males were enrolled in the militia ; and the divisions of this militia were territorial. The soldiers of each company represented one cluster of rough little hamlets or one group of scattered log houses. The company therefore formed