The American Revolution came to an end with the Treaty of Paris of September 3, 1783. Thirteen former colonies were now independent states, an experiment in self-government encompassing a relative sliver along the eastern shore of a nation one day destined to measure some 2,680 miles across and 1,582 miles from north, to south.
By no means was it foreordained that the United States, would have a Pacific coastline.
In the 18th century, factions developed between established coastal cities and farms and the western pioneers eking out a living, along the frontier. Many so-called eastern “elites” considered these to be outside of the fledgling nation and, for them, that was alright. Frontier communities had a choice between forming jurisdictions within existing states, creating new states or going off on their own to build entirely new countries.
Most of us are well aware that Texas was once such an independent Republic. Many know the same of the Republic of West Florida, the Original Lone Star Republic. (Sorry, Texas). But who knew the modern US contains no fewer than Ten formerly independent states: The Republic of Vermont (1777-1791), Kingdom of Hawaii (1795-1898), Republic of West Florida (1810), Republic of Texas (1836-1846), Republic of Rio Grande (1840), Provisional Government of Oregon (1843-1849), Republic of California (1846), State of Deseret (1849-1850), Republic of Sonora (1853-1854) and the Republic of Baja California (1853-1854).
The war had yet to be formally ended when the state of North Carolina ceded the four western counties between the Alleghenies, and the Mississippi River. Representatives from Washington, Sullivan, Spencer (modern-day Hawkins) and Greene counties declared independence from North Carolina on August 23, 1784.
Congress had yet to act on the matter and North Carolina rescinded its cession nearly a year later and began to organize an administration, within the counties. That the federal government was considering selling the region to France or Spain at this time to settle war debt had nothing to do with any of it, I’m sure.
The following May, the counties petitioned for statehood. They called it “Frankland” at first but that was changed to Franklin, to gain the support of Benjamin Franklin and his allies.
The Republic won over a majority of the congress but never did achieve the 2/3rds required to make statehood, a reality.
The Free Republic of Franklin went on for four years despite them all with it’s own Indian treaties, its own constitution and its own system of barter, taking the place of currency.
North Carolina ran a parallel government the whole time, within the state of Franklin. This did little to strengthen an already weak economy when Governor John Sevier petitioned the Spanish, for foreign aid. Horrified at the idea of a Spanish client state at its border North Carolina, arrested the Governor.
Cherokee, Chickamauga and Chickasaw war bands piled on attacking settlements, within the borders of Franklin. It was all over by 1788 as Franklin rejoined North Carolina to gain the protection, of the state militia.
Today, the formerly Free Republic of Franklin makes up the easternmost 12 counties of Tennessee admitted as the 16th state on June 1, 1796.
Of the ten independent Republics listed above plus four others who tried and failed, Franklin remains unique in that the state resulted from both a cession, and secession.
Tennessee went on to earn the nickname “The Volunteer State” during the War of 1812 and cement the label during the Mexican-American war when the secretary of War requested 2,800 volunteers and got, 30,000. Tennessee was the last of the southern states to secede from the union and the first to rejoin, having provided more Confederate soldiers of any state save Virginia and more units of soldiers for the Union army, than any of the Confederate states.
Fun Fact: William Strickland, the engineer and architect who built the Tennessee State Capitol in Nashville, died in 1854 before the building’s completion. At Strickland’s request he was entombed within the walls of the structure and remains there, still.
George Washington, the only politically Independent President in our nation’s history warned against factions dividing Americans into “distinct peoples”. He had seen how parties had driven England to civil war with the Jacobite uprising, of 1745-’46. He well understood the murderous tendencies unleashed by the politics, of the French Revolution. He detested the endless sniping of factions within his own government and the “infamous scribblers” of the newspapers, of his day.
Washington warned us all against political parties in his farewell address, parties already well formed and tearing, at the nation’s fabric:
“…They serve to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put, in the place of the delegated will of the nation the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community; and, according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, to make the public administration the mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction…”George Washington, farewell address
I wonder what the Father of the Country would say about our politics, today.