Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States

Edited by: Lalor, John J.
(?-1899)
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First Pub. Date
1881
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New York: Maynard, Merrill, and Co.
Pub. Date
1899
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Includes articles by Frédéric Bastiat, Gustave de Molinari, Henry George, J. B. Say, Francis A. Walker, and more.
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TENNESSEE

III.252.1

TENNESSEE, a state of the American Union. It originally belonged to North Carolina, whose boundaries extended indefinitely westward. In 1768 the country was opened to settlement by the treaty of Fort Stanwix, and a company of hunters, most of whom became settlers, was formed, June 2, 1769. Their settlements were on the Watauga, one of the headwaters of the Tennessee; and the inhabitants, framing a code of laws signed by each person, became a body politic, the Watauga association. Their numbers and their spirit of independence were both increased by immigrants driven from North Carolina by the tyranny of the royal governor, Tryon; and conventions at Jonesborough, Aug. 23 and Dec. 14, 1784, formed a separate state government, variously called Frankland and Franklin, in its official documents. The constitution was ratified by popular vote; a legislature and a governor, John Sevier, were elected; and a civil war between the two state governments seemed imminent. The North Carolina party in Tennessee finally overthrew the Frankland government in May, 1788; and the North Carolina legislature passed an act of oblivion, and admitted Sevier as a senator. In 1790 North Carolina ceded Tennessee to the United States, stipulating that the inhabitants were to have all the benefits of the ordinance of 1787 (see that title), except that slavery was never to be abolished. The cession was accepted by act of April 2, 1790. A governor, William Blount, was appointed, and the territorial legislature met in February, 1794. A convention at Knoxville, Jan. 11 - Feb. 6, 1796, framed the first state constitution, which was not submitted to popular vote. Under it, the state was admitted by act of June 1, 1796.

III.252.2

—BOUNDARIES. The North Carolina act of cession describes Tennessee as the country within the chartered limits of North Carolina, and west of a line following the northeast and southwest line of the Iron, or Bald, Mountains. The northern and southern boundaries of Tennessee are therefore properly westward prolongations of the corresponding boundaries of North Carolina. The northern boundary, between North Carolina and Virginia, was run as far as the Holston in 1749, but from that point it was undefined. Feb. 2, 1820, commissioners from the two states, at Frankfort, agreed that the northern boundary of Tennessee was to vary slightly north from a true west line, from the Cumberland mountains to the Cumberland river, and then return to latitude 36° 30'. The western boundary is the Mississippi, the western boundary of the United States until 1803.

III.252.3

—Knoxville was the capital until 1802. The capital was then changed to Nashville by the legislature, but has never been permanently fixed there by the constitution. The name of the state was given from that of its principal river.

III.252.4

—CONSTITUTIONS. The first constitution, considered by Jefferson "the most republican yet framed in America," gave the right of suffrage to freemen over twenty-one, on six months' residence; provided for a house numbering not more than forty nor less than twenty-two, apportioned to the counties according to population; for a senate, one-third the number of the house, elected by districts; and for a governor—all elected by the people for two years; and for a judiciary, to be appointed and to hold office during good behavior; and indirectly legalized slavery, by providing for the enforcement of "laws and ordinances now in force and use in this territory," until altered or repealed by the legislature.

III.252.5

—A new constitution was framed by a convention at Nashville, May 19 - Aug. 30, 1834, and ratified by popular vote, March 5-6, 1835. The principal changes were a permission to increase the numbers of the house to seventy-five, until the population should reach 1,500,000, and thereafter to ninety-nine; the omission of certain property qualifications for holding office, which had become obsolete; and the extension of the right of suffrage to persons so nearly white as to be competent witnesses against a white man. In 1853 an amendment made the judiciary elective by popular vote, on a different day from state and county elections. In 1865 a convention at Nashville, Jan. 9-26, framed an amendment abolishing slavery, and a schedule, both ratified, Feb. 22, by a popular vote of 21,104 to 40. The schedule declared the ordinance of secession, and the military league of 1861, null and void; repudiated the rebel war debt; and established a severe test oath for voters, containing the following among other provisions: "That I ardently desire the suppression of the present rebellion; and that I sincerely rejoice in the triumph of the armies and navies of the United States, and in the defeat and overthrow of the armies, navies and all armed combinations in the so-called confederate states."

III.252.6

—The present constitution was framed by a convention at Nashville, Jan. 10 - Feb. 22, 1870, and was ratified by a popular vote of 98,128 to 33,872, March 26. It made very few changes, the principal ones being as follows: the legislature was given power to take away the right of suffrage as a penalty for conviction of infamous crimes, and to prohibit the intermarriage of whites and negroes, or persons of mixed blood to the third generation; slavery, and all laws recognizing the right of property in man, were prohibited; the governor was given the veto power; and homesteads, to the value of $1,000, were reserved to heads of families, and exempted from sale under legal process.

III.252.7

—GOVERNORS: John Sevier, 1796-1801; Archibald Roane, 1801-3; John Sevier, 1803-9; Willie Blount, 1809-15; Joseph McMinn, 1815-21; William Carroll, 1821-7; Samuel Houston, 1827-9; William Carroll, 1829-35; Newton Cannon, 1835-9; James K. Polk, 1839-41; James C. Jones, 1841-5; Aaron V. Brown, 1845-7; Neil S. Brown, 1847-9; William Trousdale, 1849-51; Wm. B. Campbell, 1851-3, Andrew Johnson, 1853-7; Isham G. Harris, 1857-62; Andrew Johnson, military. 1862-5; Wm. G. Brownlow, 1865-9; De Witt C. Senter, 1869-71; John C. Brown, 1871-5; James D. Porter, 1875-9, Albert S. Marks, 1879-81; Alvin Hawkins, 1881-3.

III.252.8

—POLITICAL HISTORY. From the beginning of Tennessee's settlement, there has been a marked political division between East Tennessee, the mountainous region, and the more level country west of it. The former was first settled, and the Watauga association, and the strength of the state of Frankland, had their location in it. For a long time the country around Nashville was the only settled district outside of it. The intervening country was a wilderness, and emigrants to Nashville usually went down the Tennessee to the Ohio, and thence up the Cumberland to their destination. In both the districts of the state the dominant principle was that of democracy, strengthened by frontier independence. The admission of the state was therefore resisted by the federalists in congress as long as prudence would justify resistance; and the new state was strongly democratic. All her officers were democrats, and her electoral votes were cast for the regular democratic candidates at every election until the disruption of that party in 1824-5. Personal influence was always the strongest point in state politics. William Robertson, in West Tennessee, and John Sevier and William Blount, in East Tennessee, held a commanding influence in their respective sections. About the time of Blount's impeachment before the United States senate (see IMPEACHMENTS, I.), he was elected to the state senate, and that body unanimously chose him as its presiding officer. While his own impeachment was in progress, he was himself presiding over a state impeachment trial. His return to the United States senate was only prevented by his death, in 1800. Sevier was state governor twelve years, the intermission of two years being necessary on account of his ineligibility for more than three terms in succession, and was then a congressman until his death. Before the last of these leaders had disappeared from the scene, all their influence had been concentrated in one man, Andrew Jackson. Before the war of 1812 his personal character for frankness and fearlessness had brought him many friends, but probably more enemies, in the western part of the state. His military services, and the success of Tennessee troops under his leadership, made him the autocrat of the state. When he was nominated for the presidency by the legislature in 1824, only twenty-five members ventured to vote against him; and only three of these were elected to the next legislature. The popular vote for president in the state, 1824-32, will show his popularity: 1824, Jackson 20,197, Clay 312, Adams 261; 1828, Jackson 44,090, Adams 2,240, 1832, Jackson 28,740, Clay 1,436. Many towns voted unanimously for Jackson. In one, it is said, a stranger, at the end of the election of 1828, found the inhabitants pursuing, with intent to tar and feather them, two of their number who had voted against Jackson, and so disturbed the unanimity of the town.

III.252.9

—The state-rights element, which in various southern states became a part of the whig party (see that title) about 1832-4, was strongly represented in Tennessee. In 1835 it was strong enough to elect Cannon governor, and ten of the thirteen congressmen; and in 1836 the state's electoral votes were cast for Hugh L. White (see his name), the representative of this element. For the next twenty years the general rule of Tennessee politics was that there was a strong democratic majority in Middle Tennessee, from the Cumberland mountains to the Cumberland river, a slight whig majority in West Tennessee, and a strong whig majority in East Tennessee. In 1839 Jas. K. Polk had 54,680 votes for governor, and Cannon 52,114, but in the next two elections Polk was beaten by Gov. Jones by about the same majority. Until 1856 the state's electoral votes were always cast for the whig candidates; and in 1844 Clay received 60,030 votes for president to 59,917 for Polk, a Tennessee candidate. From 1843 until 1853, five of the eleven congressmen were usually whigs; and from 1853 until 1855, six of the ten were of that party. In 1845 the democrats elected A. V. Brown governor; in 1847 he was beaten by Neil S. Brown, whig; in 1849 N. S. Brown was beaten by Trousdale, democrat; and in 1851 Trousdale was beaten by Campbell, whig; all by very small majorities. In state elections, therefore, Tennessee was exceedingly doubtful; but the general majority in the legislature must class it as a whig state.

III.252.10

—On the dissolution of the whig party, its whole strength in Tennessee was turned into the "American" party. (See those names.) In 1855, for governor, Andrew Johnson, democrat, had 67,499 votes to 65,332 for M. P. Gentry, "American"; and the latter party carried the legislature. As secession and war grew more threatening, the feeling and vote in East and West Tennessee against both became stronger. In 1859 seven of the ten congressmen, all from these two sections, were elected by the "Americans"; but the democratic majority in Middle Tennessee was large enough to give Harris 71,539 votes in the state, to 59,867 for Robert Hatton, "American," and elect him.

III.252.11

—Gov. Harris was an active secessionist, and to him is attributable the secession of the state in 1861. At the first appearance of trouble he summoned the legislature to meet Jan. 7. 1861, and consider the state's federal relations. The legislature passed a bill to call a convention, but at the same time submitted the question to popular vote. At the election, Feb. 9, East Tennessee gave 25,611 majority against, Middle Tennessee 1,382 majority against, and West Tennessee 15,118 majority for, a convention, and the convention did not meet. The first attempt at "coercion" (see SECESSION, III.) renewed the excitement. The legislature was summoned to meet again, April 25, but this time a more certain, though absurdly illegal, plan was followed. May 1, in secret session, the legislature authorized the governor to appoint commissioners to conclude a military league with the confederate states, and the league was ratified by both houses, May 7. It purported to agree, that, "until the state becomes a member of the confederacy," her whole force should be under the control of the president of the confederate states, "upon the same basis, principles and footing as if said state were now and during the interval a member of the said confederacy." Having thus invited confederate troops into the state, and authorized the governor to levy 55,000 state troops, the legislature completed the farce by submitting to popular vote, June 8, a declaration of independence and ordinance of secession. It is quite useless to argue about the right of a state legislature to make a treaty, or the power of a people to vote under military domination. It is only remarkable that so large a vote was cast against secession. In East Tennessee the vote was 14,780 for, and 32,923 against; in Middle Tennessee 58,265 for, and 8,198 against; in West Tennessee 29,127 for, and 6,117 against; in the camps, 2,741 for, and none against; total vote, 104,913 for, and 47,238 against, secession. June 24, Gov. Harris, by proclamation, declared the state out of the union. The popular vote on June 8 had also ratified the confederate constitution. In the autumn, Gov. Harris was re-elected by a vote of 69,269 to 40,467 for Wm. H. Polk; but early in 1862 the advance of the federal forces drove him out of the state capital.

III.252.12

—March 5, 1862, the senate confirmed the president's nomination of Andrew Johnson as military governor of Tennessee. He had been a democratic United States senator at the time of the secession; but had treated his state's action with great contempt, and gone on with his official work at Washington. In 1864 he made an unsuccessful attempt to reorganize the state government; and an equally unsuccessful attempt was made to organize East Tennessee into a separate state. In the following year Johnson was successful; the amendment to the state constitution, abolishing slavery, and the 13th and 14th amendments, were ratified; and the state was "restored to her former proper, practical relations to the union," by act of July 24, 1866. Wm. G. Brownlow, a radical republican, was elected governor; the legislatures were republican; and the electoral vote of the state in 1868 was cast for Grant by a popular vote of 56,628 to 26,129 for Seymour.

III.252.13

—The first legislature, in 1865, passed an act to regulate the elective franchise, restricting it to 1, persons "publicly known to have entertained unconditional union sentiments from the outbreak of the rebellion to the present time"; 2, those who had since come of age; 3, persons of proved loyalty from other states; 4, federal soldiers; 5, loyal men who had been forced into the confederate armies; and 6, persons known to the election judges to "have been true friends to the government of the United States." It disfranchised ex-rebels of higher rank for fifteen years, and others for five years, and imposed on all voters the test oath before referred to. In the following year the test oath was made still more voluminous and stringent; it now contained 366 words. In February, 1867, disfranchisement was made a penalty for insurrectionary movements within the state, and negroes were allowed to vote. This latter step was proper under the constitution of 1834 (then in force), which gave the right of suffrage to every "freeman," without using the word "white." Disorder in the western and middle sections of the state now became very general. (See INSURRECTION, II.; KU-KLUX KLAN.) Laws were passed authorizing the governor to arm state guards (mostly drawn from East Tennessee), and to appoint commissioners of registration; and the governor interpreted the latter law as giving to these commissioners the appointment of election judges. Feb. 20, 1869, the governor proclaimed martial law in nine counties of Middle and West Tennessee.

III.252.14

—In the summer of 1869 the dominant party split, and Gov. Brownlow retired to the United States senate. Of the two candidates for the succession, Senter declared in favor of the removal of most of the disfranchisement laws, and received the democratic vote, Wm. B. Stokes, the radical candidate, received 55,036 votes, Senter 120,333; and both branches of the legislature were democratic. The revision of the constitution in 1870 followed; and until 1880 the democratic majority was very large, except in 1872. In that year Andrew Johnson ran as an independent candidate for congressman at large; Horace Maynard, the republican candidate, was elected over his two democratic opponents; and the democratic vote in the presidential election was 94,391 to 83,655 republican. One district in East Tennessee has steadily chosen a republican congressman; and in 1873-5, seven of the ten congressmen were republicans, owing to the democratic division of 1872. In 1881-3 there are three republican congressmen, two from the East Tennessee districts, and one from the Memphis district.

III.252.15

—Since 1874 the debt has been the paramount feature in state politics. Most of it was contracted before the rebellion, to aid state railroads under internal improvement laws of 1851-2. The total amount in 1870 was $41,863,406.69, with $20,701,825.76 nominal assets, most of it in railroad bonds paying no interest. The war had reduced the taxable property of the state nearly one-half; it was very difficult to collect any taxes; and one of the first steps of the new democratic government in 1870 was to reduce taxation over one-half. Thereafter, payments of interest went by default, until in 1879 the net state debt was $20,221,300 principal, and $4,052,717 lapsed interest. In 1876 an arrangement to fund the whole debt at sixty cents on the dollar and 6 per cent. interest, commonly called "the 60-6 plan," was nearly agreed upon between the state and the bondholders. Since that time various plans of settlement have been proposed, named similarly from their percentage of total debt and of interest, and ranging from "50-4" to "100-3"; and a small number of voters have even favored total repudiation of the railroad debt. In 1880 the legislature passed a "50-4" bill for most of the debt, but it was submitted to a popular election, and rejected on a very light vote. In 1880 the whole election turned on the debt question. The republican convention nominated Alvin Hawkins for governor, and declared that all the debt should be paid; that any proposition from the bondholders for its decrease should be thankfully accepted, and that the democrats were responsible for the failure of the 60-6 plan in 1876. The greenback convention nominated R. M. Edwards, and repudiated all but $2,025,000 of the debt. The "state-credit" democratic convention favored prompt payment on the best terms that creditors would accept, and nominated John W. Wright; but a part of the delegates seceded, nominated S. F. Wilson, and called for repudiation of the debt. The result of the election gave the state her first republican governor since Senter, by the following vote: Hawkins, 102,969; Wright, 79,191; Wilson, 57,424; and Edwards, 3,641. The legislature chosen had fifteen democrats and ten republicans in the senate, and thirty-seven republicans, thirty-six democrats, and one greenbacker in the house; but the nominal representatives of both parties were so divided by the various plans that any agreement seemed impossible. In April, 1881, the legislature at last passed a "100-3" act, proposed by the creditors, making the coupons receivable for taxes; but in February following the state supreme court decided the law unconstitutional, on account of its coupon feature.

III.252.16

—In addition to John Bell, Thos. H. Benton, Samuel Houston, Andrew Jackson, Andrew Johnson, James K. Polk, and Hugh L. White (see those names), the following have been prominent in state politics. John D. C. Atkins, confederate congressman 1861-5, democratic congressman 1873-83; William Blount, territorial governor 1790-96, and democratic United States senator 1796-7; Aaron V. Brown, democratic congressman 1839-45 governor 1845-7, and postmaster general under Buchanan; R. R. Butler, republican congressman 1868-75; George W. Campbell, democratic congressman 1803-9, United States senator 1811-14 and 1815-18, secretary of the treasury under Madison, and minister to Russia 1818-21; Wm. B. Campbell, whig congressman 1837-43, governor 1851-3, and republican congressman in 1867; Wm. C. C. Claiborne, democratic congressman 1797-1801, governor of Mississippi and Louisiana territories, and of the state of Louisiana; John Cocke, major general under Jackson in 1813-15, and democratic congressman 1819-27; Henry Cooper, democratic United States senator 1871-7; David Crockett, an eccentric whig congressman 1827-31 and 1833-5, killed in battle at Bexar, Texas, in 1836; John H. Eaton, democratic United States senator 1818-29, secretary of war under Jackson (see KITCHEN CABINET), governor of Florida territory 1834-6, and minister to Spain 1836-40; Emerson Etheridge, whig and "American" congressman 1853-7 and 1859-61, clerk of the house of representatives 1861-3, and thereafter one of the state republican leaders; Meredith P. Gentry, whig congressman 1839-43 and 1845-53, and confederate congressman 1861-5; Felix Grundy, democratic congressman 1811-14, United States senator 1820-38, and attorney general under Van Buren, 1838-40; Isham G. Harris, democratic congressman 1849-53, governor 1857-62, and United States senator 1877-89; John F. House, Bell elector in 1860, and democratic congressman 1875-83; Howell E. Jackson, democratic United States senator 1881-7; Cave Johnson, democratic congressman 1829-37 and 1839-45, and postmaster general under Polk 1845-9; James C. Jones, governor 1841-5, and whig United States senator 1851-7; David McK. Key, democratic United States senator 1875-7, and postmaster general 1877-80; Horace Maynard, "American" and republican congressman 1857-63 and 1866-75, state attorney general 1863-5, minister to Turkey 1875-80, and postmaster general 1880-81; A. O. P. Nicholson, democratic United States senator 1841-3 and 1859-61 (see POPULAR SOVEREIGNTY); Bailie Peyton, whig congressman 1833-7; John Rhea, democratic congressmen 1803-15 and 1817-23; John Sevier, governor of Frankland 1784-8, governor of Tennessee 1776-1801 and 1803-9, and congressman 1811-15; Frederick P. Stanton, democratic congressman 1845-55, and governor of Kansas as a territory 1858-61; Wm. B. Stokes, whig congressman 1859-61, major general of United States volunteers, and republican congressman 1866-71; Albert G. Watkins, whig congressman 1849-53, and democratic congressman 1855-9; W. C. Whitthorne, democratic congressman 1871-83; and Felix K. Zollicoffer, state comptroller 1845-9, whig and "American" congressman 1853-9, brigadier general in the confederate army, killed at Mill Spring in 1862.

III.252.17

—There is no good history of modern Tennessee. See authorities under NORTH CAROLINA, JACKSON, ANDREW, and JOHNSON, ANDREW; 6 Bancroft's United States, 377 (Watauga association); 3 Hildreth's United States, 539 (Frankland); 2 Poore's Federal and State Constitutions; 2 Hough's American Constitutions; Haywood's History of Tennessee (to 1796); Ramsey's Annals of Tennessee (to 1800); Putnam's Life of James Robertson, and History of Middle Tennessee; Smith's Historical View of East Tennessee (1842); Carpenter's History of Tennessee (1854); A. V. Brown's Speeches; McLeod's Rebellion in Tennessee (1862); McPherson's Political History of the Rebellion, and History of the Reconstruction; Tribune Almanac, 1838-82; Committee Reports to the Tennessee Legislature, 1875-82.

ALEXANDER JOHNSTON.

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