Monday, August 23, 2010

August 23, 1784 – Franklin Secedes from North Carolina, but not Union

In April of 1784, the western 29 million acres of North Carolina were ceded to the Federal Government of the new United States of America to aid in its debt relief. Within months, they reneged on their gift, but the settlers there did not want to return to the citizenry of North Carolina. Instead, they voted to secede and formed their own territory, then called Frankland.

After secession had been voted upon, a man stood to ask, “What about the Indians?” The settlers agreed that they could make their own treaties with local tribes, but the question remained of what would come if the Indians refused to cooperate... or even went on the warpath. A special notice was sent to the federal government to request military aid in time of need. Congress, still heavily indebted from the Revolutionary War, decided to establish Fort Franklin there with veterans receiving their land grants nearby with extra acreage in exchange for continued service.

In 1786, Frankland petitioned for statehood, but could not accumulate the two-thirds votes from existing states required by the Articles of Confederation. Propaganda teams began to roll out ideas, and the territory decided to rename itself Franklin after the famous patriot. Benjamin Franklin was approached for endorsement, but he declined. Meanwhile, North Carolina moved troops into Franklin and reestablished its local government, though only some settlers agreed to participate.

Despite their failed petition for statehood, the people of Franklin persevered and remained in contact with the federal government. When the Constitutional Convention was held in Philadelphia, Thomas Talbot went to join them. After being physically removed from Independence Hall, he met with General Washington personally and asked for permission to attend. As president over the convention, Washington had the power to grant this, which he did, citing that he was impressed with Talbot's patriotic spirit. While allowed to speak, Talbot was not granted voting rights in appeasement to the delegates from North Carolina.

After the Constitution was approved, Franklin tried again for statehood, but Congress was busy with other items on its agenda, and North Carolina routinely blocked any proposals. In 1788, Franklin was in dire straights economically as well as peacefully as altercations with North Carolinian militia as well as local tribes began. In 1789, just as Washington was voted into office, a beleaguered Talbot met him in New York to plead for assistance. Washington did not know what his powers were as the first president, but he vowed to help. Congress was still organizing itself, and so Washington accepted Talbot's offer to visit Franklin.

Upon Washington's arrival in the summer of 1789, Franklin was on the brink of collapse. Cherokee, Chocktaw, and Chickamaunga attacks had increased, and the few federal troops at Fort Franklin were under siege. The North Carolinian militia stood by, helping only those who claimed North Carolinian citizenship. Washington rallied the soldiers with the words, “By God, men, these are Americans!” The Indians were militarily pacified, and Washington ordered the soldiers back to North Carolina. The actions of the Commander-in-Chief caused much uproar, but formed the basis of the Militia Act of 1791.

With Franklin widely in the American press, Governor Sevier used the fame to invite new settlers. The economic situation improved, and in 1792, Franklin was admitted as the sixteenth state, just a few months after Kentucky. With its legacy of ties with the federal government, Franklin was the southernmost state not to secede in the Civil War (1861-64). The federal works projects in the Franklin Valley Authority helped modernize the state and provide work for the unemployed in the Great Depression.

In reality, Frankland kept up a spirit of self-sufficiency and never depended on the federal government. When its bid for statehood fell through in 1786, Frankland seceded from the Union and acted as its own national state. As its economy sank, Governor John Sevier began to seek a loan from the Spanish government, causing North Carolina to call for his arrest. In 1790, plagued by a failing government and Indian uprising, Frankland was reabsorbed into North Carolina, but served as the basis for the later state of Tennessee.

Fort Franklin was established in Pennsylvania in 1787.

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