The Cumberland Post

The Cumberland Post
My Backyard, Six Miles from the Cumberland River

Friday, February 26, 2010

Cantankerous Tennesseeans, the Lost State of Franklin, and Dolly Parton

Besides being known as the Volunteer state (I'll do a post on that later), Tennessee has earned a reputation for independence and/pugnacity since its inception.  From Wikipedia...

The State of Franklin[1] was an autonomous, secessionist United States territory created, not long after the end of the American Revolution, from territory that later was ceded by North Carolina to the federal government. Franklin's territory later became part of the state of Tennessee. Franklin was never officially admitted into the Union of the United States and existed for only four years.

Today the counties comprising the small independent state are in Tennessee, but at the time they were part of North Carolina. The maps below show the location of the state of Franklin and the counties involved.

First North Carolina ceded the land area now known as Tennessee to the federal government to help restore financial solvency after the Revolutionary war. But they soon withdrew this offer because they feared the Continental Congress might sell it to a foreign power to raise funds. Soon thereafter,

On May 16, 1785, a delegation from these counties submitted a petition for statehood to the Continental Congress. Seven states voted to admit the tiny state under the proposed name Frankland. Though a majority, the number of states voting in favor fell short of the two-thirds majority required to admit a territory to statehood under the Articles of Confederation. In an attempt to curry favor for their cause, leaders changed the name to "Franklin" after Benjamin Franklin, and even initiated a correspondence with the patriot to sway him to support them. Franklin politely refused.

This may be the first recorded instance of an elite Easterner's snub of redneck hillbillies. When their attempt to join the union failed, they quickly moved to establish themselves as a separate state or country. The first constitution they drafted "disallowed lawyers, doctors and preachers from election to the legislature." Unfortunately, it didn't pass. You know, I think they might have been on to something there.

But soon another constitution, modeled on North Carolina's was adopted and the state of Franklin was born.  John Sevier was its first and only governor.  The small state only lasted four years, dissolving after financial woes and threats from hostile tribes in the area necessitated a return to the protection of North Carolina which had a strong militia.

As of 1790, the government of the State of Franklin had collapsed entirely and the territory was firmly back under the control of North Carolina. Sevier was elected to the North Carolina legislature to represent the region. Soon thereafter, the state once again ceded the area that would soon become Tennessee to the national government to form the Southwest Territory.

Tennessee became the 16th state admitted to the union on June 1, 1796 and John Sevier became it's first governor.  (The U.S. representative to the House selected by Tennessee's legislature was Andrew Jackson. In a kind of payback to the elite Easterners, he eventually became President in 1828.) The county named in Sevier's honor is located in East Tennessee.

Today Sevier county is the home of the Dollywood theme park, created by another cantankerous Tennesseean, Dolly Parton. Her outrageous image (she once said, "it costs a lot of money to look this cheap!) hides an extemely creative and successful woman. Six hundred of the over three thousand songs she's written are listed with BMI. One of those songs is the title track of an album inspired by the county (Sevier) she grew up in. "My Tennessee Mountain Home."

1 comment:

  1. I had never heard of the State of Franklin. It sure got further than our State of Jefferson (about which I'll do a post one day and link to this.) I definitely approve of a law that "disallowed lawyers, doctors and preachers from election to the legislature." I would have felt quite at home in Franklin.

    And I love Dolly. She's a lot deeper than she looks.