|Conventional Long Name:||The State of Franklin|
|Event Start:||Independence declared|
|Date Start:||August 23|
|Event End:||Annexed by North Carolina|
|Image Map Caption:||Map showing counties of the State of Franklin.|
|Title Deputy:||Judge of the Superior Court|
The State of Franklin 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.
As the Congress of the Confederation was heavily in debt at the close of the Revolutionary War, the state of North Carolina voted, in April 1784, "to give Congress the 29000000acres lying between the Allegheny Mountains (as the entire Appalachian range was then called) and the Mississippi river." This did not please the Watauga settlers who had gained an earnest foothold on the Cumberland River at Fort Nashborough. They feared Congress might in desperation sell the territory to a foreign power such as France or Spain. A few months later, the Legislature of North Carolina withdrew its gift, and again took charge of its western land because it feared the land would not be used to pay the debts of Congress. These North Carolina lawmakers also "ordered judges to hold court in the western counties, arranged to enroll a brigade of soldiers, and appointed John Sevier to command it."
The spirit of the American Revolution was still very much a part of the frontier world view, and increasing dissatisfaction with the government of North Carolina by citizens in the territory west of the Alleghenies led to calls for the establishment of a separate state. On August 23, 1784, delegates from the North Carolina counties of Washington (that at the time included present day Carter County), Sullivan, Spencer (now Hawkins) and Greene - all counties in present-day Tennessee - convened in the town of Jonesborough and declared the lands independent of North Carolina.
On May 16, 1785, a delegation from these counties submitted a petition for statehood to the United States 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.
Locally, a constitution that disallowed lawyers, doctors and preachers from election to the legislature was rejected by plebiscite. Thereafter, a constitution modeled on that of North Carolina was adopted with few changes, and the state was called Franklin.
A temporary government was assembled at Greeneville. After a swift election, John Sevier became governor and David Campbell judge of the Superior Court. Greeneville was declared the permanent capital. The first legislature met in December 1785; Landon Carter (son of John Carter, an early Carter County settler in present day Elizabethton, Tennessee) was the Speaker of the Senate, and Thomas Talbot its clerk. William Gage was Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Thomas Chapman served as House Clerk.
The legislature made treaties with the Indian tribes in the area, opened courts, incorporated and annexed five new counties (see map above), and fixed taxes and officers' salaries. Barter was the economic system both de facto and de jure, and anything in common use among the people was allowed to be paid to settle debts, including foreign money, corn, tobacco, apple brandy, and skins (Sevier himself was paid in deer hides). Citizens were granted a two-year reprieve on paying taxes, but this lack of currency and economic infrastructure slowed development and created confusion.
The year 1786 was the beginning of the end of the small state. Franklin was placed in a precarious position by not being admitted to the United States. The new "state" never met the Union admission requirements. Because it shunned North Carolina's claims of sovereignty over it, Franklin did not have the benefit of either the national army or the North Carolina militia. North Carolina offered to waive all back taxes if Franklin would reunite with its government. When this offer was not accepted, North Carolina moved in troops under the leadership of Col. John Tipton and established its own government in the region. The two rival administrations competed side by side for several months. Loyalties were divided among local residents. The only "battle" between Sevier's supporters and those of Tipton was fought in 1788 at Col. Tipton's farm which has been preserved as the Tipton-Haynes Historic Site in Johnson City, Tennessee.
Becoming desperate over the Franklin government's inability to function due to economic problems, Sevier sought a loan from the Spanish government, and along with James White attempted to place Franklin under Spanish rule. The North Carolina government was absolutely opposed to any foreign nation gaining a foothold in Franklin and ordered its officials to arrest Sevier. Sevier's supporters freed him from a local jail but Sevier decided to turn himself in February 1788. North Carolina was lenient and the only punishment given Sevier was to require him to swear an oath of allegiance to North Carolina.
In late March 1788, the Cherokee, Chickamauga and Chickasaw nations collectively began to attack white American settlements in Franklin with abandon. These Indian attacks led the short-lived state to settle its differences with North Carolina very quickly, so their militia might aid in driving out the Native American attackers.
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. John Sevier became Tennessee's first governor, and John Tipton signed the Tennessee Constitution as the representative from Washington County.
In the last sessions of the Franklin legislature, John Sevier proposed to commission a Franklin state flag, but it was never designed. The purported "flag of The State of Franklin" that is available on the internet is clearly a hoax, borrowing heavily from the current flag of Tennessee, which was designed at the turn of the 20th century by Leroy Reeves.
A bank based in Johnson City, Tennessee is called "State of Franklin Savings Bank." One of the main thoroughfares in Johnson City, Tennessee is named State of Franklin Road, which runs next to East Tennessee State University.
The historical novel "The Cumberland Rifles" by Noel B. Gerson takes place in the State of Franklin.