TENNESSEE: A GUIDE TO THE STATE
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History and Government
In the Summer of 1540 the Indian villages in the valley of the Tennessee River were ransacked by a strong mounted company of Spaniards from Florida. Before entering Tennessee, they had followed Hernando De Soto through what is now Georgia and the Carolinas, believing that somewhere in the vast reaches of the wilderness there would be treasure cities to plunder. From the Tennessee valley the Spaniards moved westward for almost a year. Many of them - including grim, iron-willed De Soto - had looted with Cortez in Mexico or Pizarro in Peru and, as a matter of course, they massacred the Indians and burned their villages when they failed to find gold. They followed bison trails and Indian trade-paths, wandering south at times into Alabama and Mississippi. In April 1541 the remnants of the party planted the flag of Spain on the bluffs of the Mississippi River and made camp near the present site of Memphis. After raiding Chickasaw villages nearby for food and mussel pearls, they crossed the river to continue searching for the will-o'-the-wisp gold they were never to find.
More than a century passed before there is record of another white man entering the territory. In 1673 a woods ranger named James Needham was commissioned by Abraham Wood, Virginia trader, to scout the possibility of trade with the Overhill Cherokee whose towns lay along the Little Tennessee and Tellico Rivers. Accompanied by Gabriel Arthur, an indentured servant, and several Indians from the Cherokee Lower Towns, Needham twice crossed the mountains into Tennessee. On the second trip he was killed by the Indians.
In the year that Needham and Arthur were in the valley of the Tennessee, Joliet and Marquette with five companions beached their canoes under the Lower Bluffs and were hospitably received in the Chickasaw villages north of the present Memphis. Other white men, French and English, may have found their way into Tennessee, but the next recorded visit was that of La Salle in 1682, when Fort Prudhomme was thrown up near the mouth of the Hatchie River on the First Chickasaw Bluff. A crude arrangement of earthworks and palisades occupied for only a short time, the fort soon fell into ruin.
A deserter from La Salle's expedition, Martin Chartier, who wandered into Middle Tennessee and joined a band of Shawnee in the lower Cumberland Valley, left the valley with the tribe in 1692. Soon afterward a second Frenchman, Charles Charleville, set up a trading post in an old Shawnee stockade at French Lick, half a mile from the bluff upon which the little frontier town of Nashville was to be built nearly a century later.
During the period of conflicting claims that followed, Spain included Tennessee with the Province of Florida on the strength of De Soto's journey. The French based their claim to the entire Mississippi Valley on La Salle's explorations and the activities of traders from Louisiana and Canada. The English claim was derived from the Virginia and Carolina grants which had indefinite limits westward.
After Needham's trips among the Cherokee, the English lost no time in spreading their influence west to the Mississippi. Although French traders continued to visit Tennessee, their importance waned rapidly as more English traders came over the mountains and settled among the Cherokee, usually marrying into the tribe. This persistent penetration by the English robbed the Spanish and French claims of real force.
When Virginia was partitioned in 1663, Tennessee became a western part of Carolina; thirty years later a further division left Tennessee within the jurisdiction of North Carolina. Ideas about the region remained vague well into the middle of the eighteenth century. The Upper Tennessee Valley, which Virginians thought was within their boundaries, was not explored until 1748, when Dr. Thomas Walker, sent out by the Loyal Land Company of Virginia, penetrated the territory to the present Kingsport. Two years later Walker with a party of Long Hunters (probably already familiar with the region) came down the upper Holston Valley, followed well-beaten bison trails westward, and crossed the Clinch River. From this point Walker and his wilderness scouts pushed north into Kentucky through the great mountain pass which he later named Cumberland Gap in honor of the Duke of Cumberland.
When the French and Indian War broke out, the Overhill Cherokee petitioned the colonial governments of Virginia and South Carolina to build and strongly garrison a fort in their country. Virginia acted first Major Andrew Lewis led a party into the Overhill country and built a fort near Chota, the Cherokee capital. The South Carolinians, refusing to cooperate with the Virginians, set about building a fort of their own. The work was pushed to completion in 1757 by British regulars and militia from South Carolina, under the command of Captain Paul Demore. Named Fort Loudoun in honor of the Earl of Loudoun, commander of the British forces in America at the time, this was the first Anglo-American fort garrisoned west of the Alleghenies. The Virginia fort at Chota was never occupied.
No sooner had the garrison taken possession than traders, artisans, blacksmiths, and small farmers began settling in the region protected by the fort. Many of them brought their wives, and "undoubtedly the first child born in the West to parents of the Anglo-Saxon race saw the light of day in the little community." Fort Loudoun remained the westernmost English outpost for three years. Abandoned at the outbreak of the Cherokee War, it was reoccupied by the North Carolinians after the British victory of 1761. Trade with the Cherokee was resumed and white men could again travel unmolested through the Overhill region.
Even during the height of the war a few wilderness scouts had been hunting in Tennessee and Kentucky. The most noted of these was Daniel Boone, whom the Indians both feared and admired. When Richard Henderson of North Carolina, one of the first great American land speculators, became interested in East Tennessee and Kentucky lands, he sent Boone in 1760 to find desirable sites for settlement. A year later another landhunter, Elisha Walden, explored the Clinch and Powell Valleys.
Increasing numbers of Long Hunters, seeking lands for Henderson and other speculators, came into Tennessee. In 1765 and again in 1770 Henry Scaggs passed through the Cumberland Gap and explored the bluffs where Nashville now stands. In the next four years parties led by James Smith, Kasper Mansker, and Isaac Bledsoe extensively explored this region. One of the parties found Timothe DeMonbreun, an Illinois Frenchman, operating a trading post in a cave on the Cumberland River. When early Nashville grew up almost at his front door, DeMonbreun became one of its leading citizens.
Meanwhile actual settlement of Tennessee began in 1769, when William Bean built his cabin on Boone's Creek near the Watauga River and several families from North Carolina joined him. Bean's settlement and those in Carter's River Valley (1771) and on the Nolichucky River (1772) were known as the Watauga Settlements.
Isolated in a mountain wilderness and almost entirely ignored by North Carolina, the people of the Watauga Settlements soon felt the lack of organized government. In 1772 they formed the Watauga Association and elected five magistrates to make and administer law. The records of the Association are lost and little is known about it. It is certain, however, that the Watauga constitution was the first to be written and adopted by independent white Americans.
The Wataugans had no legal title to the lands they occupied. Until March 17,1775, the region was part of the Cherokee country, but on that date Richard Henderson's newly created Transylvania Land Company purchased an immense tract of nearly 20,000,000 acres from the Indians. Immediately the Transylvania Company resold the Watauga territory to its settlers. Title was taken by Charles Robertson as trustee for the community.
At the outset of the Revolutionary War the Wataugans organized themselves into a military district which they named for George Washington. They requested annexation to North Carolina and in 1777 the petition was granted. Washington District was incorporated as Washington County, including the whole of the present State, and in 1779 Jonesboro was platted as the county seat.
In the same year Colonel Evan Shelby marched from Watauga against the Chickamauga, a hostile branch of the Cherokee, and defeated them near the present Chattanooga. In 1780 news came across the mountains that Major Patrick Ferguson and a British force of about twelve hundred men, most of them loyalists, were raiding westward. The Over-Mountain men of Watauga rallied at Sycamore Shoals under John Sevier and, as they trailed eastward, were reinforced by Shelby's Indian fighters and a force of Virginians led by Colonel William Campbell.
On October 7 they attacked the British entrenchments on King's Mountain. The frontiersmen used the Indian tactics they knew so well, creeping from tree to tree, sniping at the British. Ferguson and about six hundred of his men were killed while the Americans lost only twenty-eight men. This, the only battle in which the Tennessee settlers took part, marked the turn of the tide in the South.
While war was going on in the East, the migration of settlers into Middle Tennessee began. Henderson's Transylvania Company had been denied title to its purchases within Virginia's territory, so Henderson and his associates made plans to exploit other lands believed to lie within North Carolina's western boundaries. The Cumberland River region was picked for the first settlement. Here Nashborough was founded in 1780.
The tiny settlements of Watauga and the Cumberland were in an extremely precarious position. They were not even upon the frontiers of North Carolina, but hundreds of miles in the wilderness beyond the frontiers and open to Indian attack from the east, north, and south. In 1784 they petitioned the Assembly of North Carolina for the "salutary benefits of government." But North Carolina immediately ceded the entire Over Mountain territory to the Federal Government, "for the frontiersmen were always on the verge of war with the Indians and in case of trouble they would require protection." Congress was given two years in which to accept or reject the grant.
News of North Carolina's action aroused great indignation in the settlements. Delegates from Washington, Sullivan, and Greene Counties met at Jonesboro and discussed a working plan for an independent western state to be called Franklin. In the same year (1784) a constitution, patterned after that of North Carolina, was adopted.
Concurrently the North Carolina Assembly had repealed its act of cession, but the Franklanders, as they called themselves, refused to undo their work. A general assembly met at Greeneville in March 1785, and chose officers to act under Governor John Sevier.
For four years there were continual clashes between Franklin officials and those sent over the mountains by North Carolina. When Sevier's term as governor expired, no new election was held, and the State of Franklin collapsed.
Left unprotected again, the territorials organized "The Government South of the Holston and French Broad Rivers." The constitution and laws of North Carolina were adopted, the Franklin officers were continued in power, and various delegations were chosen. This government functioned until 1790, when Congress accepted the second offer of cession and brought into being "The Territory of the United States South of the River Ohio," commonly known as the Southwest Territory. The Territorial government, administered largely by Presidential appointees, with William Blount as Governor, operated for nearly six years. Knoxville was selected as the seat of the government in 1792, a year after the town had been platted.
On July 2, 1791, Blount made the Treaty of the Holston with the Cherokee, who placed themselves under the protection of the United States and agreed to the extension of boundaries for white settlements. In the same year the Knoxville Gazette was temporarily set up at Rogersville and soon afterward moved to Knoxville. Four years later a wagon road was completed across the Cumberland Plateau between Knoxville and Nashville.
Tennessee had now exceeded by more than a fourth the population necessary for the formation of a state, and the constitutional convention, which met in Knoxville on January 11, 1796, petitioned Congress for admission to the Union. Here was drawn up the constitution which Thomas Jefferson called "the least imperfect and most republican" to be adopted by any of the States.
Congress delayed action and the impatient Tennesseans organized their State government before the authority had officially been granted. John Sevier, frontier dandy, soldier, land-speculator, and the most powerful political figure in the region, became the first governor. The legislature, meeting at Knoxville on March 29, 1796, elected as United States Senators William Cocke, an East Tennessee follower of Sevier, and stiff, tory William Blount of Middle Tennessee. To fill the one seat in the House of Representatives another of Sevier's men was elected, a swaggering high-tempered lawyer from Middle Tennessee - young Andrew Jackson.
Three months later, June 1, 1796, Congress admitted Tennessee to the Union, but refused to seat Cocke and Blount because they had been elected prior to the State's admission. The two Senators were reelected at a special session of the legislature, and the three Tennesseans took their seats in Congress on December 5, 1796.
In the following year Blount became involved in one of the gravest scandals of the time. A European war between the new Republic of France and Great Britain was imminent. Blount's sympathies were with Britain. He took part in a scheme to recruit in Tennessee partisan fighters for Britain and planned to send them on raids into Louisiana and Florida. A letter from him on the subject fell into the hands of an enemy and was published in the newspapers. On July 8, 1797, Blount was charged with treason and expelled from the Senate. The date for an impeachment trial was set, but the matter was dropped on a technicality because of Blount's great popularity in the West.
Settlement of Tennessee proceeded rapidly. Home-seekers poured in from the Carolinas, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and even New England. They came with Revolutionary War land-grants, either earned in service or purchased from veterans or speculators. (Often these grants were forgeries.) Many of them came simply as squatters. The old Wilderness Road and Avery's Trace were congested with "movers" during the summer months - great top-heavy Conestoga wagons drawn by oxen, broad-tired farm wagons piled high with household goods, and crude sledges with runners of hickory or oak; befrilled gentlemen astride blooded horses rawboned farmers on hairy plow-nags, peddlers and merchants with their trains of donkeys, immigrants too poor to afford horse or ox plodding through the dust clouds with their meager belongings and children on their backs - all moving west toward the promise of land in Tennessee. Other thousands came by keelboats, poled up the Cumberland and Tennessee from the Ohio.
The newcomers were often misled and swindled by shrewd first settlers who dominated the State, but they kept coming. By the end of the century the wilderness had retreated before them to the Mississippi bottomlands. From the eastern mountains to the western counties of Middle Tennessee towns had sprung up, each with its public square and log courthouse, its church that served as a schoolhouse on weekdays, its gristmill, distillery, smithy, and general store. Roads webbed the forestland, connecting outlying farms and villages with the towns, where, presently, the courthouses and churches were of brick or stone and the log dwellings sheathed with clapboards.
In 1800 the Great Revival swept the State like a wind-driven grass fire and thousands of converts came singing and shouting to the mourners' bench. Although the movement reached its climax and waned within a year, it never died completely, and has remained a force to be reckoned with. The brawling ferment of frontier days began to pass. But the men whose characters the frontier had molded were, in turn, to leave the mark of the frontier upon American policies and life. To them was due half a century of aggressive national expansion. Largely through them there was an abrupt shift in political tone from the benign and essentially English rule-from-above ideal of Washington's time to the easy folksy manner of the backwoods and to a booming devotion to the common people.
Chief among the new politicians was Andrew Jackson, in whom the virtues and vices of the frontiersman were strong. So completely did this spare, sandy-maned figure with hot blue eyes and hair-trigger passions overshadow the State that for more than three decades the history of Tennessee - except for minor side-glances - was, in effect, the biography of Andrew Jackson.
As the protegee of William Blount and Governor Sevier, Jackson succeeded Cocke in the Senate in 1798. Within a year, however, he resigned when Sevier offered him the appointment as judge of the Tennessee Superior Court of Law and Equity. From Blount and Sevier and their manipulations of State affairs Jackson received a full education in political realism, which he was not long in applying. In 1800, through the support of Archibald Roane, who had succeeded Sevier as Governor, Jackson defeated Sevier in an election for the post of Major General of the Tennessee Militia. The resulting feud between Sevier and Jackson was the bitter theme of State politics for several years.
An outstanding feature of this was a legislative investigation of Sevier for complicity in a large-scale land fraud, launched in 1803 by Governor Roane as the trump card in his campaign for reelection against Sevier. Despite Jackson's powerful backing, Roane failed in the inquiry and lost the election. The legislature, though condemning Sevier's part in the frauds, took no action against him.
By the time the War of 1812 broke out, Andrew Jackson's political stature in Tennessee dwarfed that of all rivals. His noted hatred for the British further increased his popularity, and volunteers flocked to the colors to serve under him. When it was rumored that a British force was sailing up the Mississippi to Natchez, Jackson led his militiamen by forced marches to the threatened point. The invasion failed to materialize and the volunteers returned home. During the long hard marches of this campaign the raw militiamen received invaluable training, and Jackson won a passionate devotion from them which was to serve him in politics as well as in war.
In the same year the Creeks, incited by British agents, took the war path and massacred the garrison at Fort Mims, near Mobile. Governor Willie Blount, half-brother of William Blount, called out 3,500 volunteers. Jackson, still suffering from wounds received in a fight with Jesse and Thomas Benton, again mustered the volunteers and struck south into the Indian country. After a quick campaign, the Tennessee militia broke the power of the Creek Confederacy at the Battle of Tohopeka.
Late in 1814, when the war with England was near its close, a strong British fleet blockaded the Gulf Coast. Once more Jackson led the Tennessee volunteers southward, this time to threatened New Orleans. The townsfolk and militia barely had time to build breastworks of cotton bales across the seaward approach to the city before British troops began landing from their transports, anchored at the mouth of the river. In the close formations they had used against the French in Spain, the British attempted to carry the breastworks by assault. The Tennessee riflemen, crouching and firing behind their cotton bales, shattered each wave of attackers before it could come within volleying distance. As in the Battle of King's Mountain, the British losses were heavy, while only a handful of Americans fell.
Jackson emerged from the battle a national hero. He was appointed major-general of the United States Army in the South, and in 1818 conducted a minor war against the Seminoles in Florida. The war resulted in the formal cession of Florida to the United States.
In 1818 the Federal Government purchased from the Chickasaw all their lands east of the Mississippi and Jackson acted with Governor Shelby of Kentucky as a Government agent during the negotiations. Before the country was opened to settlement, he acquired with John Overton and James Winchester a tract of land at the mouth of the Hatchie River. Here the town of Memphis was laid out and lots sold. Subsequently there was some scandal about land-titles, and Jackson - who already had presidential ambitions - sold out to Overton and Winchester.
As early as 1822 Nashville newspapers had been proposing Jackson for the presidency and he was a candidate in 1824, when Adams was elected. During the next four years State politics became inseparable from Jackson's presidential campaign. Running against Adams in 1828, he was elected by an overwhelming majority. Only five per cent of the Tennessee vote went to Adams.
Although Jackson was a landed proprietor, he made himself the spokesman for the average citizen and the foe of the vested interests of the day. During his eight years in the White House, reaction to his policies was unrelenting, The story of his smashing of the Bank of the United States, his championing of Peggy O'Neal, his feud with John C. Calhoun, his lampooned Kitchen Cabinet, and all the storm and clash that surrounded him in Washington are not State but National history. Throughout his presidency, he found time to direct politics in Tennessee, even to minor town and county elections.
In 1829 there was a serious break in the ranks of Jackson's party within the State. William Carroll, who had served with Jackson during the Creek and Louisiana campaigns and had thrice been Governor of Tennessee, entered the race against Governor Sam Houston, also an old comrade of Jackson, who was running for reelection. Both were very popular and both declared themselves in accord with Jackson and his policies. Lacking genuine campaign issues, Carroll and Houston were forced to fall back on invective. However, Jackson let it be known - without a direct statement - that he favored Houston's candidacy, and the result of the election seemed a foregone conclusion.
Suddenly, in March 1829, Houston resigned his post as Governor. Dropping his campaign, he went to Arkansas to join the Cherokee, with whom he had spent much of his youth before they were removed from East Tennessee. His flight was due to trouble with his wife; the details have remained obscure.
Carroll was elected without opposition. He wrote to Martin Van Buren, "I got clear of opposition in a most unaccountable manner. Poor Houston... He rose like a rocket and fell like a - stick! Houston lived with the Cherokee until 1833, when he went to Texas. He became one of the leaders in the Texans' revolt against Mexico and was elected first President of the Republic of Texas.
During the decades that followed Jackson's inauguration, Tennessee became politically and economically the most important State in the Mid-South. Manufacturing and commerce flourished as the State became more thickly settled. The first steamboat made its way up the Cumberland to Nashville in 1819, and a year later the second Bank of the State of Tennessee was established. In 1834 the State constitution was revised by a convention meeting in Nashville. One of the most important changes provided that property be taxed according to the value placed upon it by assessors. Free Negroes were disfranchised, relieved of the poll tax, and exempted from military service. The new constitution was approved by popular vote in March 1835.
By 1830 the Cherokee Indians of East Tennessee had become industrious farmers and slave-owners. The easily mastered Cherokee alphabet, invented by Sequoyah (George Gist), had made them a literate people with their own newspapers and books. Under threat of military action by the Federal Government, they signed away their territories in Georgia and Tennessee in 1835, and within three years had been moved west of the Mississippi. The Cherokee domain became public land and was thrown open to homesteading and purchase.
During this period public attention was focused upon improvement of transportation facilities. An internal improvement act was passed in 1830, setting aside $150,000 for State-wide development of roads and rivers. Cotton, wheat, and the steamboat brought wealth and power to the people of Middle and West Tennessee, and in 1843 the State capital was permanently established at Nashville. However, restless thousands of Tennesseans - many of them younger sons and late-comers - moved into the Ohio country, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, and especially into Texas. The independence of Texas was won largely by transplanted Tennesseans and Kentuckians, and Tennessee furnished a majority of the volunteers who fought in the Mexican War. Andrew Jackson continued to dominate national politics until his death in 1845. His candidate, Martin Van Buren, succeeded him in the White House and one of his followers, James K. Polk, was elected President in 1845.
As early as 1831 the legislature had granted six railroad charters and during a period of twenty years there were numerous abortive attempts to establish railways. But not until 1851, when the Nashville and Chattanooga line began operating, was there effective rail service in Tennessee. Other lines followed and by 1850, when the population had passed the million mark, there were 1,622 miles of rail in use.
Meanwhile the life of the people had lost much of its broad pioneer roughness. In every township the sale of public lands provided funds for free schools and in 1832 twenty-five per cent of the school-age population was enrolled. Although the law specifically demanded that there should be no distinction "between rich and poor" the free schools were, in fact, regarded as "poor schools." Those who could possibly afford it sent their sons and daughters to the many private schools which sprang up throughout the State.
A State library was established in 1853, and Return J. Meigs was appointed State librarian in 1856. Though a superintendent of public instruction had been appointed in 1836, it was not until 1854 that property was taxed for support of the schools. Andrew Johnson, Governor at the time and a strong believer in mass education, forced a reluctant legislature to pass the law. As the century passed the halfway mark, there were more than fifty newspapers and periodicals in the State. Tennessee's progress in agriculture was recognized in 1851 at the Great Exhibition in London and four years later the first Biennial State Fair was held at Nashville.
The dispute over slavery grew bitter during the 1850's. When North Carolina ceded the Over-Mountain territory to the United States, there had been a specific provision "that no regulations made or to be made by Congress shall tend to emancipate slaves." There had, however, always been a fairly strong anti-slavery element in Tennessee, and when the first constitution was adopted in 1796 nearly 2,000 Tennesseans petitioned the convention to abolish slavery after 1854.
As early as 1797 the Knoxville Gazette was urging that an abolition society be organized. The Manumission Society of Tennessee was formed in 1815 at Lost Creek, Jefferson County, by the Reverend Charles Osborn, who later established, in Ohio, the Philanthropist - a journal partly devoted to anti-slavery propaganda. An early member of the Manumission Society was Elihu Embree. Though a slaveholder, Embree founded the Manumission Intelligencer, a weekly which was succeeded by his monthly Emancipator. These were the first periodicals in the United States exclusively devoted to abolition. After Embree's death in 1820, Benjamin Lundy took up the work and began publishing the Genius of Universal Emancipation in Ohio. In 1822 Lundy transferred his paper to Greeneville, Tennessee, and continued his activities there until 1824, when he moved to Baltimore to collaborate with William Lloyd Garrison. Out of these efforts grew many anti-slavery societies. Most of the early pioneer preachers were strong abolitionists, and "as late as 1827, East Tennessee alone contained nearly one-fifth of all anti-slavery societies in the United States and nearly one-sixth of the total membership." Despite this, Tennessee churches joined the pro-slavery ranks when the Methodists, Baptists, and Presbyterians split on the slavery issue.
At the outset of the War between the States there were 7,300 freedmen as compared with 275,719 slaves. The ratio of slaves to white population was then one to twelve in East Tennessee, one to three in Middle Tennessee, and three to five in West Tennessee. By 1856 only one person in East Tennessee owned more than one hundred slaves, but in West Tennessee eighty-six owners had this number or more. People in the central and western parts of the State were divided over the slavery question up to the very threshold of the war. East Tennessee, abolitionist in sympathy, was strongly pro-Union even after Tennessee seceded.
The Wilmot Proviso, introduced in the United States House of Representatives during the Mexican War period, asked that slavery be prohibited in any territory acquired as a result of the hostilities. Never passed by Congress, it became the basis of a major political battle, and the center of dispute at the Southern Convention which met on June 3, 1850, in Nashville. The aim of this group, meeting in nine-day session, was to determine "the best means of securing the constitutional rights of the South, and the preservation of the Union as it is, a blessing to ourselves and our descendants."
Henry Clay had proposed that California be admitted as a free State and that the remainder of the Mexican cession be slave territory. John Bell, a Tennessean, also proposed a plan for compromise. Congress ignored the resolutions of the Southern Convention and passed the Clay Compromise. On November 11, 1850, seventy delegates representing ten States met again in Nashville. Here only the Tennessee delegation fought for acceptance of the Compromise, resolving that it was unjust to the South but would be accepted by the southern people as proof of their "attachment and devotion to the Union." Their resolution was rejected.
Ante bellum politics in Tennessee was a strange hodgepodge. Andrew Johnson, a Democrat, was a strong Unionist and William G. Brownlow, the whip-tongued Whig, was as violently pro-slavery and anti-abolitionist as he was pro-Union. The State's political alignment was well demonstrated in the presidential election of 1860. The northern wing of the Democratic party had nominated Stephen A. Douglas and the southern wing, John C. Breckinridge. John Bell was the candidate of the conciliatory and hastily formed Constitutional Union Party. Abraham Lincoln was the nominee of the Republican Party, then seeking to prevent the extension of slavery. When Tennessee's votes were counted the result was: Bell, 69,274; Breckinridge, 64,709; Douglas, 11,350; Lincoln, 0.
The conviction was widely held in the South that Lincoln's election would menace the rights of the southern slave-owners. Following his inaugural address, the three cotton States still in the Union withdrew and joined the Confederate States of America. In Tennessee, where both Union and abolitionist sentiment was fairly strong, there was much hesitation about taking the final step. Governor Isham G. Harris called a special session of the General Assembly, which voted to submit the matter to a referendum at a special election on February 9. Brownlow and the other anti-secessionists staged a brief but vigorous campaign, and the result of the election was strongly pro-Union.
However, a wave of pro-slavery sentiment followed the tours of impassioned orators such as General Felix Zollicoffer. A few weeks later, after the actual outbreak of hostilities at Fort Sumter, Governor Harris called another extra session of the General Assembly to meet April 25 in Nashville. Stating that Lincoln had "wantonly inaugurated an internecine war" upon the people of the South, he urged immediate action. The assembly adopted a formal declaration of independence, and directed the Governor to form a military league with the Southern Confederacy. After waiting to ratify the Governor's action, the assembly called a popular referendum on June 8 to decide on affiliation with the Confederacy. By more than a two-thirds majority the people approved secession. Owing to the energetic efforts of Brownlow, Andrew Johnson, and the other unbending pro-Union men, East Tennessee showed a decided majority (18,000) in favor of the Union.
On June 24 Governor Harris issued a proclamation dissolving all connection with the Federal Union. Military headquarters for the three State divisions were established at Union City, Nashville, and Knoxville. President Davis appointed Leonidas Polk to command in Tennessee and, in September, Albert Sidney Johnston, placed in command of the Western Department, arranged a line of defense to keep Federal troops out of Tennessee.
General Grant broke the Confederate line on February 16, 1862. He captured Fort Donelson on the Cumberland River and declared martial law. On March 3 President Lincoln appointed Andrew Johnson as Military Governor of the State, with the rank of Brigadier-General.
Important among the engagements, estimated at from 300 to 700, fought in Tennessee, were the battles of Shiloh, April 6-7, 1862; Murfreesboro (Stone's River), December 31, 1862 - January 2, 1863; Chickamauga, September 19-20, 1863; Chattanooga, Lookout Mountain, and Missionary Ridge, November 23-25, 1863; Franklin, November 30, 1864; and Nashville, December 15-16, 1864. Some of the bloodiest battles of the war were fought on Tennessee soil, some with most far-reaching results. The death of the Confederate general, Johnston, on the opening day at Shiloh, "was a tremendous catastrophe" and is believed to have "prevented the utter rout or capture of Grant's army on the night of the 6th"; but with the dawn of the 7th the chance was gone, and at noon the Confederates were in full retreat. The struggle at Murfreesboro was terrific, costing each side about one-third of its strength, but left the Union forces in comparatively quiet possession for many months. Chickamauga, where "the pale river of death ran blood," saw a Confederate victory, with great possibilities, turned into a bloody checkmate by the stand made by the Union general, George H. Thomas, later known as the "Rock of Chickamauga." The Chattanooga campaign secured to the Union the entire Mississippi Valley. A year later, at Franklin, the Confederates assaulted "with the valor of desperation," losing several generals and 6,000 men, but failed in their objective, and a fortnight later the Battle of Nashville, a Union victory, resulted in the retreat of the Confederates from Tennessee and contributed to the ultimate defeat of the Southern cause.
Tennessee, occupied by Union forces, was not included in the Emancipation Proclamation of 1853. Slaves in the State were set free February 25, 1865, by an amendment to the State Constitution. Three days after the emancipation amendment was passed by the legislature, Andrew Johnson resigned as Military Governor to become Vice President of the United States. The inauguration of William G. ("Parson") Brownlow as Governor on April 6, 1865, began the period of reconstruction with the radical party dominant.
On March 3, 1865, Congress established the Freedmen's Bureau which had largely grown out of General Grant's appointment of John Eaton, in 1862, as supervisor of Negro affairs in Tennessee. Eaton, later State and United States Commissioner of Education, was made Assistant Commissioner of the Bureau. Within seven months 75 schools were established in Tennessee with 14,768 pupils and 264 teachers. The most noted of the Negro schools founded in the Reconstruction period is Fisk University opened on January 9, 1866, through joint effort of the American Missionary Association, the Western Freedmen's Aid Commission, and the Freedmen's Bureau. Normal schools for teachers were provided, along with the free grade schools.
In 1867 the legislature enacted a law providing separate schools for Negroes at State expense. However, the Bureau was soon disrupted by an influx of crusading ministers, teachers, and politicians working at cross-purposes. Agitators inflamed the Negroes to arrogance and acts of violence, which caused the whites to organize extra-legal terroristic groups for the suppression of their former slaves. Chief among these was the Ku Klux Klan, organized in 1868 by Confederate soldiers at Pulaski, in Giles County. The Klansmen surrounded their "Invisible Empire" with crude ceremonies designed to awe the superstitious Negroes. Torchlight parades, sinister warnings, floggings, and lynchings quickly cowed the former slaves and drove out of the State the carpetbaggers and scalawags who had exploited them. Declaring that its purpose had been accomplished, General Nathan Bedford Forrest, the Grand Cyclops, disbanded the Ku Klux Klan in March 1869.
President Andrew Johnson issued a proclamation on June 13,1865, declaring the insurrection of Tennessee at an end, since the State had announced itself in harmony with the Presidential policy and the Thirteenth Amendment. But an element in Congress refused to support the President, in the hope of strengthening the Republican Party in the South and in the belief that the Negro needed protection from the southern whites. It was not until March 23, 1866, after considerable debate, that the State was finally readmitted to the Union.
Conditions improved gradually throughout the State, especially after Brownlow, who had been elected United States Senator for the term beginning March 4, 1869, resigned the governorship. Governor DeWitt C. Senter, who took oath on February 25, 1869, pardoned many Confederate soldiers still in prison, brought the military occupation of Middle and West Tennessee to an end, and called a convention (1870) for the amendment of the Constitution.
Among the difficulties faced by the State in the decade following 1870 was a series of plagues and epidemics. The worst of these, yellow fever, came in 1878, taking thousands of lives, principally in Memphis. With more than 5,000 fatalities, 25,000 persons in crazed flight, and 5,000 more sheltered in concentration camps, Memphis was in such sorry straits that the city charter was revoked until 1891. Colonel J. M. Keating, who stayed at his post as editor of the Appeal throughout the epidemic, directed relief work for what he described as "the horror of the century, the most soul-harrowing episode in the history of the English-speaking people in America."
The State debt, totaling $35,000,000 after the Brownlow administration, was cut approximately in half by 1872.
In 1886 two brothers Robert L. (Bob) Taylor, Democrat, and Alfred A. (Alf) Taylor, Republican, campaigned across the State in a hotly debated but good-humored race for the governorship, called the "War of the Roses." Bob won the election and served two successive terms and a third term six years later, but Alf had to wait until 1921 before he became Governor.
The years between Governor Bob Taylor's second and third terms were especially eventful. The Coal Creek Strike, Tennessee's first major labor disturbance, occurred in 1891-92. Use of convict labor by the mine operators precipitated a series of strikes affecting mines throughout the State and causing numerous casualties. The convict-lease system was abolished and other grievances of the miners adjusted (see The Working Man). On May 12, 1892, the three-mile cantilever bridge over the Mississippi at Memphis, a project recommended since 1857, was opened with elaborate ceremony. With even greater fanfare the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park was dedicated September 18-20, 1895. It commemorated the valor of both armies in the War between the States.
During Governor Bob's third term, Tennessee celebrated its hundred years of statehood with an exposition in Nashville held from May to December 1897. A year later the State sent four regiments to the War with Spain. One of these, the First Tennessee, saw service against Aguinaldo in the Philippine Islands.
Conflict over liquor had been growing since the Reconstruction period. The act of 1877, prohibiting the sale of liquor near institutions of learning, was broadened ten years later, but State-wide prohibition, by amendment to the constitution, was defeated. Gradually, following the act of 1899 which granted local option to towns of less than 2,000, the law was extended to cover communities up to 5,000, and in 1907 all cities and towns in the State were included. By 1908 only Memphis, Nashville, Chattanooga, and Lafollette remained legally wet.
State-wide prohibition became the issue in the Democratic primary of 1908 with Governor Patterson, who opposed the movement and favored local option, receiving the nomination over Edward W. Carmack. While Patterson was winning reelection at the polls, Carmack continued his battle for prohibition in the Nashville Tennessean, of which he had become editor. His bitter editorials brought about a dispute with Colonel Duncan Cooper, a friend of the Governor. In an encounter with Cooper and his son Robin, Carmack was killed. Cooper was tried for murder and convicted, but was immediately pardoned by Governor Patterson, and the case against Robin was nolle prossed. Patterson's standing was so weakened by his pardon of Cooper that a State-wide prohibition law was enacted in January 1909 over his veto.
Tennessee became a dry State July 1, 1909, but the fight left a shattered Democratic Party. In 1910 Ben W. Hooper became the first Republican Governor since 1880, and for four years led a vigorous battle to secure enforcement of the prohibition law, despite connivance of State and municipal officials with the liquor interests. During Hooper's second term, Republican and independent members of the legislature mustered the quorum necessary for legislation and defeated repeal.
When the United States entered the World War Tennessee lived up to its name, the "Volunteer State", won in the Mexican War. Almost 100,000 men enlisted. Represented in 43 divisions, Tennesseans were most numerous in the 27th and the 30th (Old Hickory). The Old Hickory Division, which included the 59th and 60th Infantry Brigades, participated in breaking the Hindenburg line, and was given ten citations by the English and American High Command. Sergeant Alvin C. York of Pall Mall, Fentress County, was called by General Pershing the outstanding hero of the A. E. F.
In 1919 Tennessee passed a law protecting factory workers from industrial hazards and in the following year earned her latest nickname, "the Liberator," when the State's vote for women's suffrage became the decisive one in adding the Nineteenth Amendment to the Federal Constitution.
Governor Austin Peay, who served in 1923-27, abolished about fifty bureaus and departments, putting all activities of the State under eight major departments which, with few alterations, have functioned ever since. He was also responsible for the State's greatest period of highway construction and was instrumental in establishing the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
In 1926, when the Tennessee Republican Committee met, charges of political patronage brought State politics to national notice. The political stew boiled over again during the administration of Henry Horton, who succeeded Austin Peay as Governor in 1927. Horton was reelected for two more terms. During his last term a bank scandal, involving a number of prominent Tennesseans, rocked the State from end to end. With State funds to the amount of $6,000,000 in closed banks, the impeachment of Governor Horton was suggested; but after months of public hearings, the investigating committee voted against impeachment.
A bitter political struggle in1932 resulted in the defeat of Lewis S. Pope by Hill McAlister. During the same year coal miners went on strike at Wilder, and the National Guard was called out to stop killings and property damage.
McAlister reduced the State's annual expenditures, and appointed a commission to make an exhaustive study of educational conditions. Federal and State relief measures and the building program of the Tennessee Valley Authority reduced unemployment during the years following 1933. The TVA, established in 1933, is one of the most important chapters in the history of Tennessee. An area small enough to be placed under unified control, yet transcending State boundaries, the Tennessee Valley has become the proving ground for one of the most comprehensive social experiments in America. Knoxville as headquarters, with Norris Dam twenty miles north, is at present the center of the TVA's activities (see Tennessee Valley Authority). A unified, long-range program is rapidly transforming the great valley of the Tennessee River - which flood waters and wasteful farming were turning into a desert - into a land of plenty where industry, agriculture, and human values may take their place in a balanced economy.
In 1936 the convict-lease law was repealed, and the Workman's Compensation Law was passed at a special session of the legislature. Early in the following year Mississippi floods caused large property damage in West Tennessee. Labor troubles continued, with the largest strike at the aluminum plant at Alcoa.
State politics again came into national prominence in 1937. Governor Gordon Browning, who succeeded McAlister, called a special session of the legislature and forced through his Unit Bill for proportional suffrage among counties. He met with bitter opposition within the Democratic Party, and the Unit Bill was made a political issue during the Democratic primaries in 1938. In that year the Tennessee Supreme Court invalidated the Unit Bill. Browning was defeated for reelection by Prentice Cooper in one of the bitterest elections ever held in the State.
The original Constitution of Tennessee, 1796, gave suffrage to every free man, allowed free Negroes the right to vote, permitted freedom of speech and of the press, and guaranteed the right of trial by jury. Future legislators were forbidden to permit any "tendency to lessen the rights and privileges" of the people, or to require a religious test as qualification for public office. This last provision was retained in both the later constitutions.
The revision of 1834 promoted education and, like the earlier constitution, recognized slavery. The new version was regarded as adequate until 1870. A new constitution, drawn up in that year, granted the Governor the power of veto, provided for a supreme court, chancery, and circuit courts, and "such inferior tribunals as the legislature may deem advisable." Intended to serve for only a few years, the constitution has been in force ever since. Except for the clauses recognizing the abolition of slavery, forbidding future laws for "the right of property in man," setting up a judiciary, forbidding State participation in public investments, and giving suffrage to Negroes, the present constitution is substantially the same as the one it superseded.
Laws in Tennessee are made by the General Assembly, consisting of a Senate and a House of Representatives which convene every two years. There are thirty-three Senators and ninety-nine Representatives, all elected for two-year terms. To become a law a bill must be read on three different days and passed each time in the house where it is sponsored, with the same procedure repeated in the other house; it must then go to the Governor for final approval.
The appellate court, reorganized in 1925, operates in each of the three divisions of the State and has final authority in civil cases. Lesser judicial agencies designed to meet the needs of a growing population, rural and urban, have been established from time to time.
Recommendations of the Tennessee Planning Commission resulted in the Reorganization Bill (1936) which centralized executive control in the office of the Governor. This administrative rearrangement provided more efficient means for carrying out programs of social security, conservation, public works, health, education, and financial management. The newest of nine departments directly under the Governor is the department of conservation. The nine commissioners administer 81 divisions and boards. There are also 27 special commissions, principally involving the professions, appointed by the Governor. For the ten-year period ending June 30 1936, there was a total disbursement of nearly $500,000,000, with 47.56 per cent of the tax dollar going to highways and highway bridges, 18.58 per cent to education, 7.48 per cent to penal and charitable institutions, and 26.38 per cent to all other activities.
There are 34 counties in the eastern, 40 in the middle, and 21 in the western division of the State. In these 95 counties all the functions of State and city government are duplicated in administrative detail.
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TENNESSEE: A GUIDE TO THE STATE