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The Southern States of America
Chapter II - Tennessee as a State, 1796 - 1861


Steps to Statehood.

When the legislature of the "Southwest Territory" met in 1794 it began preparations for admission to the Union. Resolutions were passed to the effect that the people be enumerated and their wishes concerning admission be ascertained. Nothing more was done at this regular meeting of the Assembly, because Governor Blount was in doubt as to the proper method of procedure. It was eventually decided that a constitutional convention should be called in case the population included the requisite number for admission. Consequently the governor convened the Assembly in extraordinary session in June, 1795. Immediately an act was passed authorizing the taking of the census, and directing the governor to call a constitutional convention if the inhabitants numbered 60,000.

Constitutional Convention of 1796.

The time in which the census was to be taken was from September 15 to November 15, and the compensation for the work was fixed at a per capita rate. It was found that the number of inhabitants included 65,676 whites, 973 free negroes and 10,613 slaves.

The population of Middle Tennessee was 11,924, and of East Tennessee was 65,338. The number of slaves in Middle Tennessee was much larger in percentage than in East Tennessee. The census having disclosed more than the requisite number of inhabitants, Governor Blount called a constitutional convention to meet on Jan. 11, 1796, at Knoxville. There were eleven counties in the territory and each county was represented in the convention by five members. Gov. William Blount was elected chairman, and the session lasted twenty-seven days. The constitution was drawn by a committee consisting of two members from each county. It was never submitted to a vote of the people. The first General Assembly met at Knoxville on March 28, 1796. John Sevier was elected governor and William Blount and William Cocke United States senators. President Washington sent a copy of the constitution to Congress on April 8. It soon appeared that there was considerable opposition to admission in Congress. This was doubtless due to party strife. The two great parties of the United States at that time were the Federalist and the Anti-Federalist. The people of Tennessee were largely Anti-Federalists. One of the leading arguments against admission was based on the difference of opinion regarding the propriety of organizing the state before application for admission had been made. The opposition was mainly in the Senate. The House of Representatives favored admission by a vote of forty-three to thirty. Finally, on May 31, the Senate accepted the House bill and on June 1 President Washington attached his signature and Tennessee became the sixteenth state of the Union.

John Sevier, First Governor of Tennessee.

John Sevier, the first governor of Tennessee, was of French extraction. He was born in Virginia and came to Tennessee when he was about seventeen years of age. He was to the early settlements of East Tennessee what James Robertson was to the settlements in Middle Tennessee. His popularity was the kind that evinces the most excellent traits of character. His name was a terror to the savage and unfriendly Indians, and a pledge of safety to the community where he lived. He was a man of great personal magnetism and of kindly geniality, and he was remarkably well equipped for the work he performed. His commanding ability as a soldier and statesman makes him one of the most interesting characters in the history of the state. He served as governor for three terms in succession, twice in a period of fourteen years. He held many important positions of public trust and discharged his duties with distinguished credit to himself and his country.

The two United States senators who had been elected before the state was admitted to the Union were for that reason not permitted to take their seats. Therefore it was necessary for the governor to call an extra session of the General Assembly to reelect senators Blount and Cocke and to provide for the election of one congressional representative from the state at large. Andrew Jackson became the candidate for this position and was elected without opposition. At the expiration of Senator Cocke's term Andrew Jackson was elected to succeed him in the United States Senate. The same General Assembly that elected Jackson to the Senate also elected Joseph Anderson to succeed Senator Blount, who had been expelled from the United States Senate on the charge that he had entered into a conspiracy to transfer Florida and Louisiana from Spain to England.

The Constitution of 1796.

The constitution under which Tennessee became a state was not, to any great extent, unlike that of North Carolina framed in 1776. It was thus through North Carolina that English institutions were transmitted to Tennessee. Those institutions have been developed under three constitutions, each of which shows plainly the evolution of the principles of democratic government. Those three constitutions were adopted in 1796, 1834 and 1870, respectively.

A close analysis of the constitution of 1796 reveals the defects that were most likely to be inserted at that time. It was not to be expected that the pioneers should be thoroughly familiar with the principles of political science. However, there were several able men in the convention that framed the constitution. Among them was Andrew Jackson, who, according to tradition, suggested the name Tennessee. The defects did not become manifest for several years after the adoption of the constitution. This fact indicates that it was fairly well adapted to the existing conditions. It was much more democratic than the constitution of North Carolina, which served as a model. Land ownership was the leading requisite for membership in the legislature, which was a bicameral body. The governor was elected by the people to serve for two years, but he could not serve longer than six years in any period of eight years. The establishment of courts was left to legislative enactment, a provision that produced great confusion and dissatisfaction. The legislature elected judges of the superior and inferior courts and appointed justices of the peace, and these officials were to serve during good behavior. Coroners, sheriffs, trustees and constables were elected by the county court to serve for two years.

That part of the constitution providing for the uniform taxation of land has been severely criticized. Each unit of base, which was 100 acres, was to be taxed the same as every other unit, except in the case of town lots, which could not be taxed more than 200 acres of land. This provision operated very unjustly after towns grew up and the adjoining land increased in value more rapidly than other land. The problem of taxation has always been one of the most serious difficulties with which governments have had to contend, and Tennessee early recognized this fact. Mr. J. W. Caldwell, in his Constitutional History of Tennessee, says that "Tennessee was one of the first states to declare in favor of uniform taxation, but it was not until 1834 that the declaration was made effective."

The controversy concerning the disposal of the public lands was one of the first difficulties with which the new state had to deal. The original treaties with the Indians were not thoroughly specific and North Carolina was still perfecting titles to land in Tennessee. The United States government entered into the controversy by claiming its authority in the matter of disposing of unappropriated lands. This authority was conceded by Tennessee in 1806, when it was also agreed that Tennessee should satisfy the claims of North Carolina out of the lands ceded by the United States. It was further provided by the same compact that Tennessee should appropriate 100,000 acres of land for the use of two colleges, 100,000 acres for the use of academies, of which there was to be one in each county, and 640 acres to every six miles square of ceded territory for the use of schools. The land question in Tennessee, as elsewhere, was one of great confusion, and the appropriations for educational purposes did not yield satisfactory results.

The constitution provided for freedom of conscience in religious belief and for the freedom of the press, but ministers of the Gospel were excluded from membership in the legislature. Any person who denied the existence of God or did not accept the doctrine of future rewards and punishments could not hold any office in the civil department of the state.

Early Religious Bodies.

Religion was not the least of the subjects that engaged the thoughts of the early settlers. The Presbyterians were the first to establish themselves. Dissentions among them soon prepared the way for the Methodists and Baptists. By 1830 the various denominations in the state were Presbyterians, Baptists, Methodists, Cumberland Presbyterians, Lutherans, Christians, Episcopalians and Catholics. The year 1800 witnessed a most remarkable outburst of religious enthusiasm in the Cumberland district. The great revival was inaugurated by James McGready, a Presbyterian minister who came from North Carolina and settled in Kentucky. One of the leading results of this revival was the organization of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. It took its name from the Cumberland Presbytery and differed from the mother church in the belief concerning the doctrine of predestination and in the relinquishment of the educational qualifications of ministers. It is an interesting fact that this Cumberland branch of the Presbyterian denomination has again united with the mother church in the early years of the Twentieth century.

Governors Roane, Sevier and Blount.

When Governor Sevier's first administration reached the constitutional limit he was succeeded by Archibald Roane. It was during Roane's administration that the rivalry between Sevier and Andrew Jackson for leadership in the state began. They were candidates for the position of major-general. The deciding vote was cast by Governor Roane in favor of Jackson. Jackson then lived in West Tennessee, or what afterwards became Middle Tennessee. It was not before 1809 that the population of that section was as large as the population of East Tennessee. At the expiration of Governor Roane's first and only term he was succeeded by Sevier, who again served through the constitutional limit. It was during the next administration, that of Willie Blount, of Middle Tennessee, that Andrew Jackson's political ascendancy began. Blount's election marks the transfer of power from East to Middle Tennessee. In fact this sectional rivalry dates from the time when the Cumberland settlers refused to join the state of Franklin, and again in 1795 voted against state organization. Subsequent events, as will be shown later, emphasized this division.

Tennessee in the War of 1812.

It was during Blount's administration that the War of 1812 began. Tennessee supported the war policy and 2,500 of her citizens immediately entered the service of the government under the command of General Jackson. This was the beginning of Jackson's prominence. He led his troops toward New Orleans, was stopped at Natchez, and after an exasperating delay received an order from the secretary of war to dismiss his troops. This he refused to do before he had marched his men home, a distance of 500 miles.

Meanwhile the Indians under the leadership of Tecumseh, the celebrated Shawnee chief, conceived a plan of organizing all the western tribes for the purpose of cooperation in an effort to recover the lands which they formerly owned, and to stop what they considered the encroachments of the whites. Tecumseh visited the Southwest and induced William Weatherford, or Red Eagle, the Creek chief, to join him in this scheme. Weatherford's scheme was to unite with the British against the Americans. He commanded the Creeks at the massacre of Fort Mims in the Alabama country on Aug. 30, 1813, when 500 men, women and children were cruelly and pitilessly murdered. The news of this massacre did not reach Nashville before December 18, and preparations were made immediately to send troops against the Indians. General Jackson was in command. It was in this campaign that he displayed the genius of a great leader. The principal battle was fought on March 27, 1814, at Tohopeka, where the terrible slaughter of the Indians utterly broke their power. In this battle Ensign Sam Houston, afterwards governor of Tennessee and president of the Texas Republic, did valiant and heroic service. This campaign of the Southwest was conducted by Tennesseeans almost entirely unaided. For the successful prosecution of the campaign Governor Blount had raised $370,000 on his own responsibility. Jackson became the hero and the idol of the state. In May of the same year he was offered the position of brigadier-general in the regular army, and soon after that of major-general. He accepted the latter, succeeding Gen. William Henry Harrison.

While these events were taking place the British had devised plans to capture the Louisiana Territory. General Jackson was placed in command of the army in the Southwest. He marched into Florida in the fall of 1814 and captured Pensacola, where the British army had its headquarters. He then captured Mobile and moved on to New Orleans, where on Jan. 8, 1815, he won the celebrated victory over the British under General Packenham. In the meantime peace had been made between Great Britain and the United States. The effect of the War of 1812 upon Tennessee was to emphasize its importance as a part of the Union. It became known as the "volunteer state" by reason of the ready response with which its citizens met the calls for soldiers in this war and in the Mexican War. The Hartford Convention, noted for its attitude toward secession in opposing the War of 1812, had finally destroyed the power of the Federalist party. With the ascendancy of what was then called the Democratic-Republican party Tennessee became more prominent as a state.

Settlement of West Tennessee; Financial Distress.

In 1815 Joseph McMinn was elected governor and was twice reelected, serving until 1821. This was a period of great importance in the history of the state. West Tennessee was opened for settlement in 1819. This section included the territory between the Tennessee and Mississippi rivers, and was purchased from the friendly tribe of Chickasaw Indians in 1818. The early settlers were comparatively free from conflicts with the Indians, and consequently the population increased so rapidly that by 1824 fifteen counties had been organized. The city of Memphis was founded in 1819. During this period David Crockett, the celebrated pioneer hunter and statesman, and the hero of the Alamo, settled in West Tennessee on the Obion River. The population of West Tennessee had grown to 99,000 by 1830. The rapid settlement and development of this section of the state has no parallel in the history of the Southwest. Most of the settlers came from East and Middle Tennessee, but many came also from the West. The story of the great migratory movement towards the Mississippi Valley, of which the settlement of West Tennessee and of all Tennessee was a part, forms one of the most interesting series of chapters in American history.

While Governor McMinn was a man of undoubted honesty and integrity, yet he was lacking in ability to deal with the difficult financial problems which confronted not only Tennessee but also the entire country after the War of 1812. Many of the states were passing "endorsement" and "stay" laws, creating loan offices and banks, and unwisely interfering with the relations between debtor and creditor. Tennessee was not an exception, and its legislation was in keeping with that of the other states. These conditions were the results of the general financial distress. The history of banking in Tennessee from 1807 to 1865 furnishes many examples of a mistaken financial policy. It is a noteworthy fact that the Free Banking Act of 1852 in Tennessee approached the method on which the national banking system of the present time is founded. Indeed, in the entire period of ante-bellum days the principles of banking in Tennessee, as in other western states, were gradually evolved out of the intricate and perplexing financial confusion.

Governmental Reforms Under William Carroll.

The greatest reform governor and the greatest constructive statesman in Tennessee prior to the War of Secession was William Carroll. He is very appropriately called the reform governor. When he was elected governor Tennessee needed the services of such a man, one who was admirably qualified for the work that was imperatively demanded. The defects of the constitution of 1796 had become apparent in the course of time. The state had developed beyond the conditions of frontier civilization. A change in the method of taxing land, and of electing judges of the courts, justices of the peace and other officers was needed. Carroll was a successful business man and he adopted business methods in his administration. He called for a thorough examination of the banks, the resumption of specie payment and the repeal of "stay" and "indorsement" laws, and succeeded in proving to the people the superiority of industry and frugality over legislative enactments as a means of improving their condition. He advocated wise reforms and with consummate tact and ability succeeded in getting his measures adopted. Consequently it is needless to say that Tennessee again entered upon an era of prosperity. Carroll was governor from 1821 to 1827, and again from 1829 to 1835. The break was caused by the constitutional limit of six years.

In the meantime, from 1827 to 1829, Sam Houston was governor. His administration was not characterized by any extraordinary event except his resignation from the governorship in 1829, when he abandoned his campaign against Carroll for governor and left the state. Unfortunate domestic infelicity was the cause of Governor Houston's resignation and voluntary exile. His subsequent career in Texas gave the great prominence that is attached to his name. He was a man of commanding appearance, richly endowed with qualities that invariably attract a large following.

The second administration of Carroll is also characterized by important reforms. Other governors prior to his time had advocated internal improvements, but Carroll succeeded in obtaining larger appropriations for this purpose than had hitherto been made. The common school system of the state was inaugurated in the early part of this administration, but at first the counties contributed very little to the support of the schools. The office of superintendent of public instruction was created in 1835, at the expiration of eight years was abolished, and was again created in 1865. Although the privilege of local taxation was established in 1845 and provision was made whereby an amount was to be contributed by the state to each district equivalent to the amount raised by local taxation, yet the development of the school system was never satisfactory. There was not only a lack of funds, but there was also frequent waste of the funds that were contributed. Unfortunately the people relied upon private schools for the work of education, and the appellation of "poor schools" commonly given to public schools brought the public schools into disfavor.

Through Governor Carroll's urgent recommendations the criminal laws of the state were reformed and more humane methods of dealing with criminals were adopted; it was also through his influence that the state penitentiary and the hospital for the insane were built. It was during this administration that the state issued its first bonds in 1833, which were to be used for the payment of bank stock.

Tennessee's Part in National Affairs.

It has been said that Tennessee almost ruled the Union from 1830 to 1850. Perhaps it would be more nearly correct to say that from 1830 to 1850 Tennessee was one of the most prominent states in the Union. In 1824 Andrew Jackson was candidate for President of the United States, was defeated by John Quincy Adams, but was elected President in 1828 and his administration extended through two terms. It was during his administration that Tennessee became a leader among the states. Jackson had been a leading citizen of the state since the time prior to its admission to the Union. He was Tennessee's first representative in Congress. It was round his commanding personality that the public men gathered. Unyielding and invincible in determination, he was a man of original genius who had made for himself his own position in the world. Brave and chivalrous, straightforward and honest, he inspired his numerous followers with a sincere admiration and an implicit faith. However the advent of the spoils system may be deplored, Jackson must always stand out as one of the greatest leaders of men, and as one of the greatest political figures in America in the first half of the Nineteenth century. Prior to 1850 Tennessee was undoubtedly one of the most active states in the work of developing the democratic tendencies and in breaking away from the rigid conservatism of the older states. Jackson occupies a unique position in the history of the nation and also of the state, but even Jackson did not always dominate in Tennessee. The spirit of independence was one of the most striking features of Tennessee politics at the close of Jackson's administration. Tennessee's part in the national affairs is readily seen in an examination of a list of some prominent representatives during this period. Hugh Lawson White succeeded Jackson in the United States Senate and was candidate for President when Martin Van Buren was elected in 1836. Felix Grundy was attorney-general in President Van Buren's cabinet. John Catron was one of the judges of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1837 to 1865. John Bell was speaker of the House of Representatives in 1834, secretary of war under President Harrison, leader of the Whig party in Tennessee and candidate for President in 1860. James K. Polk succeeded Bell as speaker of the House of Representatives and was President of the United States from 1845 to 1849. Andrew Johnson was first elected to Congress in 1843, and served in that capacity during the ten succeeding years. Cave Johnson was postmaster-general under President Polk, during whose administration the general government undertook the issue of postage stamps. From 1830 to 1860 Tennessee furnished seven ministers to foreign countries, among whom were John H. Eaton, minister to Spain in 1831; William H. Polk, minister to Italy in 1841; Andrew J. Donelson, minister to Germany in 1848, and Neill S. Brown, minister to Russia in 1850. The formation of the national Whig party resulted from the contests between Andrew Jackson and Henry Clay. Tennessee has been called "the mother of Southwestern statesmen" because she furnished a large number of able men who assisted in the making of the southwestern states.

The Constitution of 1834.

As a result of Governor Carroll's earnest recommendations and of the urgent demand of the time, the second constitutional convention met at Nashville on May 19, 1834. It remained in session until the latter part of the following August and succeeded in framing a constitution that was admirably adapted to the times. The constitution of 1796 was the product of the general political conditions in the United States, while that of 1834 came from the necessities arising out of an organized state. The contest between aristocracy and democracy that characterized the political history of the United States in the first quarter of the Nineteenth century was settled, so far as Tennessee was concerned, when the constitution of 1834 was adopted. Contrary to the method followed in 1796, the constitution of 1834 was submitted to the people, and on March 5-6, 1835, it was ratified by a majority of 24,975 votes. Only free white men voted in this election. There were about 1,000 free negroes in the state who were opposed to the new constitution, but they were excluded from participation in the election. While the free negro was disfranchised he was not subject to military duty in time of peace, nor to the payment of the free poll tax.

The convention of 1834 was composed of men whose training in public service was comparatively limited. However, the defects of the first constitution were avoided and the new constitution was more democratic. Taxation was more equitably arranged, the judiciary was made independent of the legislature, property qualification for membership in the legislature was removed, and provision was made for the election of judges, sheriffs, justices of the peace and other officers by a vote of the people. This constitution recognized the three grand divisions of the state by providing for the election of one supreme judge from each division. At first the supreme judges were elected by the legislature, but an amendment in 1853 provided for their election by the people.

The jurisprudence of Tennessee was developed under the constitution of 1834. The period from 1834 to 1861 was productive of able and learned jurists, and the judicial opinions were excellent contributions to law literature. The new conditions arising amidst the growth of industry and commerce were adequately and efficiently met by the new adjustments of the judiciary, and the commanding ability of the judges established those adjustments upon a solid and permanent basis.

Party Politics, 1834-39.

About the time when the new constitution went into effect the political divisions in the state began to be based upon questions of national politics. The Democratic-Republican party prevailed absolutely in Tennessee in the period following the War of 1812. With Jackson as national leader this party became known as the Democratic party, and the party of Clay and Adams, the opponents of Jackson, was called the National Republican party. In the presidential campaign Tennessee refused to accept Jackson's choice of a candidate to succeed him, and favored Hugh Lawson White instead of Martin Van Buren for president. In the state election of 1835 those who favored White were called Whigs, and, although Van Buren was elected president, this party gained the ascendancy in the state. The gubernatorial contest' between William Carroll and Newton Cannon was full of intense interest both from a national and a local standpoint. Carroll was an adherent of Jackson and hence of Van Buren, while Cannon was an adherent of White. Cannon was elected and served until 1839, when he was succeeded by James K. Polk.

The contest between White and Van Buren, or rather between White and Jackson in Tennessee, called into political activity more prominent men than any other contest in the history of the state. Among the opponents of Jackson was Col. David Crockett, who wrote a Life of Martin Van Buren, Heir Apparent to the Government and the Appointed Successor of General Andrew Jackson. The success of White's followers in the state established the supremacy of the Whigs in Tennessee, and their controlling influence in the state was felt in every national election from Jackson to Buchanan.

Internal Improvements.

Prior to the War of Secession one of the leading questions in Tennessee was that of internal improvements. The growth of commerce and the increase of population called for increased facilities of transportation. As early as 1794 a lottery was authorized by the territorial legislature as a method of raising funds to build a wagon road. The state of New York called upon Tennessee in 1811 for assistance in an effort to secure the aid of the Federal government to internal improvements undertaken by that state. But Tennessee, like other strict construction states, could not consistently call upon the Federal government for aid to such work. However, governors "Willie Blount, McMinn and Carroll strenuously advocated the development of a system of internal improvements by the state. The first systematic effort was made in 1830 at the suggestion of Governor Carroll. The plan provided for a board of internal improvements consisting of two commissioners from each grand division of the state, with the governor as ex-officio president. An appropriation of $150,000 was made, and in 1831 additional local boards were appointed. But the results of these efforts were not satisfactory.

The constitution of 1834 contained the statement that "A well regulated system of internal improvements * * * ought to be encouraged by the General Assembly." Consequently a new plan was brought forward in 1835-36. This was called the Pennsylvania plan, but perhaps it was better known as the partnership plan. It was devised for the purpose of encouraging the building of railroads and turnpikes. The state was to take one-third of the capital stock of railroad and turnpike corporations after two-thirds of such stock had been subscribed for by private individuals, and was to issue bonds for the payment of such stock. An act of 1837-38 authorized the state to take one-half of such stock, but the total amount of the state subscription was limited to $4,000,000.

Evidently, Tennessee had an experience similar to that of other states engaged in such enterprises at that time. At least Tennessee seemed to realize that the burdensome debts of other states which had resulted from internal improvement enterprises served as a warning. Consequently the increase of the state debt was checked in Tennessee in 1840 by the repeal of all the laws that had provided for state aid to internal improvement companies. The act of 1840 reveals the fact that fraud had been practised and that the state had borne more than its share of the expense incurred by the enterprises. As a result no further assistance was given until 1848, when the state was authorized to indorse the bonds of railroad companies and thereby assume a secondary liability. But this plan also failed to give satisfaction. In all of these acts no adequate provision was made for the protection of the state. In 1852, however, an act was passed which met the conditions more satisfactorily. Under this act railroad companies seeking state aid were first required to get enough bona fide subscriptions for stock to make the main line of the road ready for the iron rails. When this was done and thirty miles at each end of the road were completed, the company was to receive for each mile $8,000 of 6 per cent, state bonds to be used in purchasing rails and equipment. As each twenty miles were completed more bonds were issued. The state was protected by proper provision for first mortgage on the completed part of the road, and on the entire road when it was completed. Provision was also made whereby the road paid the interest on the bonds and also maintained a sinking fund to retire them. Under the act of 1852 and its amendments in 1854 the state issued, prior to the War of Secession, bonds to the amount of $13,739,000. The wise provisions of this act and of its amendments would have resulted in the liquidation of the debt thereby incurred had the War of Secession been averted. These bonds, together with other liabilities, made the state debt $17,594,806 at the beginning of the war. The constitution of 1870 prohibited the use of the state's credit as an aid to internal improvements.

Notwithstanding the financial difficulties arising from the internal improvement projects, the state profited by the construction of turnpikes and railroads during this period. The highways of a state, like the fences on a farm, are a good indication of the enterprise of the citizens. The first corporation charter granted by Tennessee was for the Cumberland Turnpike Company in 1801. In the first half of the Nineteenth century numerous turnpike companies were incorporated, especially after macadam came into use. Even the public school and academy funds were invested in the stock of turnpike companies. The state also undertook the work of improving the facilities for navigation. Governor McMinn contemplated a scheme for building a canal to unite the Tennessee and Mobile rivers, and Governor Cannon advocated a similar scheme to unite the Tennessee and Mississippi rivers. Tennessee was among the first states to encourage railroad construction, and so great was the enthusiasm for railroads that canals and the improvement of rivers almost ceased to be considered. The first railroad charter was granted in 1831 to the Memphis Railroad Company, afterwards known as the Atlantic and Mississippi Railroad Company. The Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad was the first operated in the state. The Hiwassee Railroad Company was granted a charter in 1836. This road became a part of the East Tennessee and Georgia road, which was completed in 1856. The East Tennessee and Virginia road was combined with this to form what was known as the East Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia road now a part of the Southern Railroad system. The great commercial convention met at Memphis in 1845, with John C. Calhoun as chairman. It was a time when internal improvement was the chief topic for discussion. The Mississippi River was looked upon as a "great inland sea." As a result of the convention a scheme was proposed to connect the Mississippi River and the Atlantic Ocean by means of a railroad. Consequently the construction of the Memphis and Charleston road was begun in 1851 and completed in 1857.

Party Politics, 1839-44.

Contemporaneous with the movement for internal improvements, the political activity of the state, especially in relation to national affairs, became more intense. The first joint debate engaged in throughout the state by candidates for governor was conducted by James K. Polk and Newton Cannon in 1839. The discussion was directed mainly to national issues. Polk was a Democrat, Cannon a Whig. Of the two Polk was the more brilliant and forceful stump speaker. At the time of his nomination for governor he was speaker of the national House of Representatives. Polk was elected and served one term. It was a time of great political excitement throughout the entire country, and Tennessee gave little heed, in the campaign, to state affairs. Indeed, from this time until 1860 the state issues were superseded by national issues in the gubernatorial discussions. The parties were about evenly divided in the state and the contests for the governorship attracted attention throughout the country. The newspapers of the state began to participate in the political contests when William Carroll first entered the race for governor, and by the time of the presidential election in 1840 they had become important political factors. The "Whigs carried the state for Harrison and Tyler in 1840, and Governor Polk was succeeded by the Whig candidate, James C. Jones, in 1841. Polk was superior to Jones in serious debate, but Jones was a master in the art of story-telling and ridicule. Jones served two terms, and during the first of those terms the legislature was so evenly divided between the Whigs and Democrats that it failed to elect United States senators. About this time the state debt became a question of political importance. In 1843 Nashville was made the permanent capital. During Jones' administration the Tennessee School for the Blind and the Tennessee Deaf and Dumb School were established.

Tennessee's prominence in the national political contests was again emphasized by the election of President James K. Polk in 1844. The Whigs of the state being in the majority, Polk failed to carry Tennessee, the first and only time a successful candidate for President has failed to carry his own state. But Tennessee heartily favored Polk's Mexican War policy. Among the distinguished Tennesseeans who served in that war were William B. Bate, William B. Campbell, B. F. Cheatham, W. T. Haskell, Gideon J. Pillow and William Trousdale. Of these, Trousdale, Campbell and Bate afterwards became governors of the state. For services in the Mexican War the governor called for 2,800 volunteers, and 30,000 immediately offered their services.

Slavery and Secession.

The annexation of Texas was the leading issue in the presidential campaign in 1844. Associated with it was the great question of slavery. Henry Clay, the presidential candidate who carried Tennessee, 1860 Tennessee was loyal to the Union, but the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 made slavery the leading question of the nation, and the tendency in Tennessee was toward the defense of slavery. In 1856 Tennessee gave her vote in favor of a Democrat, James Buchanan, for President.

During Johnson's administration, to encourage the growth of agriculture and the mechanic arts, the legislature appropriated $30,000, in 1853, to establish agricultural and mechanical fairs. In the course of time this led to the establishment of the bureau of agriculture, statistics and mines. Prior to the War of Secession Tennessee was one of the leading states of the South in the growth of industry and commerce; in 1840 she was the foremost state in the Union in the production of Indian corn, and among the leading states in the production of tobacco and wheat. The coal and marble industries began to develop about 1840. In transportation facilities the state was not surpassed by any other Southern state at the outbreak of the war. In the making of the nation Tennessee occupied a prominent position, especially in the propagation of democratic tendencies brought about by the development of the states west of the Alleghany Mountains. Always conservative, she faced secession reluctantly, and hoped, even until the firing of the first gun of the war, that a reconciliation of the sections might be effected.

Bibliography.óCaldwell: Constitutional History of Tennessee; Garrett and Goodpasture: History of Tennessee; Haywood: Political History of Tennessee; Phelan: History of Tennessee; Putnam: History of Middle Tennessee; Ramsey: Annals of Tennessee; Roosevelt: Winning of the West; American Historical Magazine; American Historical Review.

James Dickason Hoskins,
Professor of History and Economics, University of Tennessee.


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