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The Making of the 50 States: Tennessee

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Part 2: The Rest of the Story

Tennessee territory was nominally under control of the North Carolina colony. Many Tennessee settlers found the North Carolina governance lacking; and in 1784, a large number of people living in the eastern part of the territory declared their own land, the State of Franklin, seizing control of a part of the territory west of the Appalachian Mountains that North Carolina had offered to Congress as a way of paying off war debts. Franklin had eight counties; a capital, Jonesborough; and a legislature and governor. The U.S. Government never recognized Franklin as a state, and North Carolina reasserted control in 1789, just in time to ratify the Constitution and, in the process, cede the entirety of the Tennessee territory to the U.S. Government.

Congress promptly called the area the Southwest Territory and divided it into three districts. The newly elected President, George Washington, appointed as territorial governor William Blount, a North Carolina politician who owned a large amount of land in Tennessee.

Blount, citing a 1795 territorial census that recorded a population sufficient for statehood, issued a call for a constitutional convention. Delegates met in Knoxville and crafted a state constitution and bill of rights. They named as governor John Sevier, who had been governor of the breakaway Franklin.

Elected to represent Tennessee in Congress were Blount and William Cocke, a lawyer and former member of the Virginia House of Burgesses, as Senators and future President Andrew Jackson as a Congressman. The prospective state applied to Congress, which approved the statehood bid on June 1, 1796. 

First page > In the Beginning > Page 1, 2

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