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The Southern States of America
Chapter IV - Tennessee since the War, 1865 - 1909


Tennessee occupies a unique position among her sister states. This uniqueness runs all through her history. She drew her life blood from two of the original colonies. Her earliest settlers founded independent governments in the wilderness, and on their own petition North Carolina assumed jurisdiction. Tennessee was the first state formed from Federal territory, and the only state whose citizens were ever reduced from citizens of a state to become citizens of a territory (1790).

Tennessee was unique in having a period of three months during which she performed all the functions of a state before receiving the consent of Congress to her admission.

A unique distinction was the fact that at Watauga the first government west of the Alleghany Mountains was formed on Tennessee soil. Unique again when during the war with Mexico 2,800 troops were called for and 30,000 responded: enough to fight the war alone, unaided by other states. Again, Tennessee was the last state to secede from the Union during the War of Secession; and she was the first to be readmitted to statehood. Not only the time of secession, but the character of the ordinance is different from the other seceding states, and declares for secession as a "revolutionary right," needing no other justification than the natural privilege of free men. Tennessee furnished more troops to the Southern and Northern armies, in proportion to her population, than any other state, the number being 115,000 to the Confederacy, and about 51,000 to the Federal side. Tennessee was the only Southern state that joined the Confederacy, besides Virginia, which had a large Union following; and yet, she was distinct from Virginia in having the Union men remain as citizens of the commonwealth, constituting almost one-third of the citizens of the state, and desperately striving to control the state government. Tennessee is again unique in that she was the only Southern state to manumit her slaves by direct vote of her citizens. She was the only state voluntarily to seek re-admission to the Union before the close of the war. Unique again is the fact that her name was not mentioned in Lincoln's Proclamation of Emancipation. Tennessee was, too, the only Southern state that escaped Congressional "reconstruction." And her manner of being readmitted to the Union was different from that of any other Southern state.

While in these respects Tennessee history differs from that of other Southern states, she is like them in the sufferings endured and the loyalty displayed. And perhaps because of her very uniqueness in other respects, she suffered more, while her loyalty was no less genuine.


The period of reconstruction of Tennessee covers, a longer period than in other Southern states. It goes back to 1862, when after the fall of Fort Donel-son, the state came under Federal control. In March of that year the Federal army under Generals Smith and Buell entered Nashville, and the state government was withdrawn by Governor Harris to Memphis. On Nov. 3, 1862, President Lincoln appointed Andrew Johnson military governor of the state, who proceeded as far as possible to restore order and to establish the authority of the government.

Late in 1864, some "loyal" men, with the approbation of Andrew Johnson, called a convention to assemble in Nashville. Delegates under this call from a number of counties met in Nashville, Jan. 9, 1865. Who elected those delegates no authentic records disclose. As a matter of fact, they were for the most part self appointed. Of course, the "loyal leading men" getting up and issuing the call for the convention had no legal or constitutional warrant in the premises whatsoever.

This is admitted, and the only reasonable excuse offered is, that, as the result of the war, the state and its affairs were in chaos and the people without any civil government at all.

But this convention of its own will adopted what it called amendments to the constitution of 1834 and also a schedule of several sections deemed by it proper in the reorganization of the state government.

With reference to the question under review, it is not necessary to mention the amendments to the constitution, except to say that one abolished slavery, and respecting the schedule it promulgated it need only be said that its ninth section is pertinent. This section is as follows:

"The qualification of voters and the limitation of the elective franchise may be determined by the General Assembly, which shall first assemble under the amended constitution."

Andrew Johnson, then military governor of the state, by a proclamation issued Feb. 25, 1865, declared the amendments and the schedule promulgated by the aforesaid convention ratified by a vote of the people, and a permanent part of the organic law of the state. In the adoption of these amendments Tennessee by her own act abolished slavery from her borders.

Andrew Johnson, who had been military governor since 1862, having now been elected as Vice-President of the United States, an election for governor was called for March 4, 1865.

The Brownlow Administration, 1865-1869.

At this election W. G. Brownlow, of East Tennessee, became governor, and the state entered upon its Reconstruction period proper. And now began four years of misrule more trying upon the brave men and women of Tennessee than the four years of terrible war. It was a condition from which they sought deliverance for years in vain, but from which, after suffering untold ills, they were released by the ambition of one man: William Gannaway Brownlow, who, after serving four years as governor, aspired to a seat in the United States senate.

Brownlow was formerly a clergyman, and earned the sobriquet "Parson Brownlow." He was afterward editor of the Knoxville Whig, and was especially known for his bitter vituperation and vindictive spirit. On account of his unpopularity he was compelled to suspend his paper on Oct. 24, 1861. He was an advocate of slavery, but violently opposed to secession. His value to the Union lay only in his radical, vindictive partisanship; otherwise he was wholly unfit for high office, and conspicuously without ability.

The first object of the administration was to fulfil all the conditions deemed necessary to be readmitted to all the rights of statehood in the Union. These conditions had been partially met, under the suggestion of President Lincoln, by the calling of a convention in January, 1865, which submitted to the people the amendments to the state constitution abolishing slavery, as mentioned above. The legislature assembled in April, 1865, and promptly ratified the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States constitution. All had now been done that the state goveminent could do, and the governor and members of the legislature awaited news from Washington, expecting that Tennessee would now be given her full rights as a reconstructed state. No doubt recognition would have soon followed, but the assassination of Lincoln now occurred, and Congress, having taken matters into its own hands, adopted a less liberal policy toward the seceded states. The delay of Tennessee's readmission was more than a year, during which time the memorable bitter contest took place between Congress and the President, over their relative powers.

The radicals in Tennessee looked upon the assassination of Lincoln as in reality a special providence to them, since by it there was elevated to the presidency of the United States a Tennessean who was in full sympathy with them in their efforts to obtain readmission. They were doomed, however, to be disappointed, as Johnson could do nothing. In fact, it proved a great disaster, as Johnson could not harmonize the warring factions in Congress as well as Lincoln. It was, however, the crowning glory of Johnson's ambition to sign on July 23, 1866, the bill readmitting Tennessee into the Union.

There are some points of difference worthy of note in the readmission of Tennessee, as compared with other Southern states. In September, 1865, General Rosseau, in command at Nashville, wrote to the Tennessee delegation of senators and representatives elect, who were waiting in "Washington, requesting pointedly to know their attitude toward the administration if admitted. Their answer was published throughout all the Northern states, and was that they would support the policy of Johnson and of the Federal government. Many public men at this time expressed themselves as favoring seating Tennessee's representatives at the opening of the session. However, when Congress convened in December, and Mr. Maynard, representative from the First District of Tennessee, undertook to take part in the preliminary proceedings, he was not recognized, and Tennessee had to wait yet longer.

The struggle which Tennessee had made for re-admission into the Union had made her many friends, and it is probable that a majority of both houses were really in favor of such admission without delay. But following the established rule, the question was referred to the Joint Committee on Reconstruction. This committee placed the matter in the hands of a sub-committee consisting of Messrs. Grimes, Grider, and Bingham, who at once proceeded to collect evidence on the subject. The letter of Governor Brown-low to certain members of Congress stating that, "if the admission of congressmen would mean the withdrawal of the army from the state, he was opposed to it," made an unfavorable impression.

However, on March 5, 1866, a joint resolution introduced by Mr. Bingham on behalf of the committee, recommending readmission, passed second reading. The matter rested here, and Congress turned its attention to the Fourteenth Amendment, causing a delay of some months to Tennessee. On July 19, a telegram was received from Governor Brownlow, stating that the state had ratified the Fourteenth Amendment. There was now nothing in the way of a final vote, and on July 20th, the resolution received a vote of 135 to 72 in the House, and on the next day the senate, by a vote of 28 to 4, amended the resolution, expressly stating, that Tennessee could only be restored to the Union "by the consent of the law making power of the United States." The house concurred, and Johnson signed the resolution on July 23,—not, however, without protesting against the position of Congress that a "joint resolution was necessary to restore a state."

This readmission of Tennessee in the manner described was, in effect, the re-creating of a state, and not the restoration to original rights according to the Crittenden resolution passed by Congress in July, 1861.

Brownlow's Militia.

The legislatures which convened during Governor Brownlow's administration were composed in large part of inexperienced and radical members, ready without question to do the bidding of their more partisan leaders. Men formerly prominent in the state's affairs were now disfranchised. Unionism was the chief qualification for exercising the right of suffrage, and the result was that less than one-seventh of the voting population of the state was represented. [Fertig.] No effort was made by Governor Brownlow or the legislatures to deal with the returned Confederates, former masters of the state, otherwise than as a subject class. No kindness was shown. Distrust, prejudice, rancor and bitterness of feeling, were allowed full sway.

Some of the acts proposed by Brownlow's first legislature may serve to show their hostile attitude to the Confederates. The soldiers had returned from the army, poor, and in many instances having no other clothes than the uniforms they wore. It was proposed, and the bill passed the House by a vote of 58 to 5, to fine any one wearing the "rebel uniform." A bill was passed by the Senate depriving ministers, who sympathized with the South, of the right to celebrate the marriage ceremony, and requiring them to work the roads, and serve in the militia. Another bill provided that no woman could be licensed to marry, unless she had first taken the "oath of allegiance." These although receiving encouragement, fortunately failed to become laws; but the bills enacted into laws were sufficiently irritating to greatly intensify the bitter feeling in the state.

The legislature of 1866 had enacted a law empowering the sheriff of each county to organize a posse of twenty-five, or more if necessary, loyal men. The alleged excuse for this was the presence in certain parts of the state of guerilla bands; but the real object was to control the elective franchise by intimidation and force. The records of the time are full of accounts of outrages undoubtedly committed by this armed patrol. In 1867 was passed "Brown-low's Militia Law," which organized a state guard, composed largely of negroes and scalawags, whose plain purpose was to continue the permanent disfranchisement of the Confederates.

This band was subject to the orders of the governor to be used at his discretion. When an election was held, the State Guard would be stationed at "rebellious localities to enforce the franchise law." This law took away the right to vote from Confederates, natives of the state, and now ready to submit to the arbitrament of the war, and gave it to "loyal men" and carpet-baggers, who had resided within the state probably not over six months.

These acts and the organization of the Loyal League, a partisan union order among the negroes, and the consequent insolence of this class, lately slaves, now free, and drunk with the ideas of power and liberty pumped into them by irresponsible and designing white men, led to the organization, in self-protection, of the famous Ku Klux Klan.

Ku Klux Klan.

This Order originated at Pulaski, in Tennessee, in the summer of 1866. It was the outgrowth of a local secret society; out of which the young men of the community, recently returned from the war, obtained much amusement on account of grotesque and mysterious initiation ceremonies. The effect upon the superstitious and ignorant negro race was quickly detected, and the wider purpose of the Order was at once developed. The Klan soon spread over the entire South.

The following are the names of the six originators. All are now dead except the two whose addresses are given: John C. Lester; James E. Crowe, Sheffield, Ala.; John Kennedy, Nashville, Tenn.; Calvin Jones; Richard R. Reed; Frank O. McCord.

It is not the purpose of this article to discuss the general effect throughout the South of this Order; our main purpose is with Tennessee and her peculiar history. Attention must be called, however, to the remarkable manner in which the hitherto intolerable conditions of the South were completely met, and overcome by this organization. And it is to be noted that it was done with the least violation of law, either of the Federal or state government. It was probably the most remarkable evidence on record of the resourcefulness of the Anglo-Saxon race, and its ability and determination to dominate. Driven to desperation by conditions that threatened to destroy their civilization, the citizens of the South, through this organization, turned upon their enemies, overwhelmed them, and became again masters of their own soil. It was a drastic measure, and its abuse can but be condemned. But its proper use must be commended by all good men everywhere, for by it was preserved the purest Anglo-Saxon civilization of this nation.

This Order had a prescript, or constitution, which was adopted at the convention secretly held at Nashville in the summer of 1867. A copy of this prescript is in the possession of Hon. R. T. Quarles, archivist for the state of Tennessee, and it is through his courtesy that the photographic reproduction is here given.

This, and all other original copies, were printed at Pulaski on a hand press, and for that reason some imperfections are to be noticed. The title page is as follows: "Revised and Amended Prescript of the Order of the XXX. Damnant quod non intelligunt."

The entire prescript has been reproduced from photographs of the original, and can be found in The American Historical Magazine (Vol. V., No. I., Nashville).

Attention is called to the Latin quotations, which in the original, are found at the top of every page. A few are here given: "Magna est Veritas, et pre-valebit"; "Fiat justitia ruat cwlum"; "Fide non armis"; "Dat Deus his quoque finem"; "Deo ad-juvante, non timendum."

The quotations throughout the entire prescript were well selected by classical scholars, and showed a deep appreciation of the situation confronting the South. Whatever may be said in condemnation of the outrages afterwards committed in the name of this Order, Tennessee is proud of the fact that the beginning's of this Invisible Empire were on her soil, and that the Grand Wizard who ruled over this Mighty Mystic Realm was, as is now well known, the intrepid Gen. N. B. Forrest, of Memphis.

Governor Brownlow was determined to break up this band, and for that purpose declared martial law in several counties, and sent companies of his "militia" to these points in the state to make arrests. Madison county, West Tennessee, was one of the first put under martial law, and, at one time, as many as 800 of "Brownlow's Militia" were stationed there. He employed secret agents and detectives to assist him. None were arrested, for they successfully disguised themselves and eluded detection. The testimony of General Gordon before the investigating committee brings out the fact that not one member of the Order was ever convicted in Tennessee.

Governor Brownlow, in July, 1868, convened the legislature in extra session, stating in the call: "Re-bellious elements in the state are secretly assuming and perfecting a military organization known as the Ku Klux Klan, with an eye to overthrow the state government."

There is no telling how much longer these evils would have continued in Tennessee, had it not been for the ambition of Governor Brownlow to succeed Johnson in the Senate, and the legislature of 1869 very promptly elevated him to that lofty position. This change brought to the governor's chair the speaker of the Senate, Hon. D. W. C. Senter, a man with a more liberal policy than his predecessor toward the Confederates of the state. The Order now having accomplished its purpose, and an era of better times appearing, the Grand Wizard, in March, 1869, disbanded the Klan by official proclamation.

Struggle for Control of State.

It is interesting history to trace the legal struggle in which the citizens of Tennessee were engaged from 1865-1870 in their effort to regain control of the state government. This control was finally secured in peaceful manner, under the strictest observance of the forms of existing law and was brought about as follows:

The General Assembly which convened in 1865, soon after the adoption of the constitutional amendments, lost no time in passing laws limiting the elective franchise.

In May 3,1866, this same General Assembly—and we may observe that it remained in session as long as it wanted to—amended the franchise law of 1865, and provided that every white male inhabitant of the state twenty-one years of age and upward, and a citizen of the United States, should be entitled to the privilege of the elective franchise, subject, however, to the following exceptions and disqualifications: (1) Parties who bore arms against the United States for the purpose of aiding the rebellion; (2) Those who voluntarily gave aid, comfort, countenance, counsel, or encouragement, to those hostile to the United States, or who sought or voluntarily accepted any offers, civil or military, or attempted to exercise the functions of any office, civil or military under the Confederate States, or of any insurrectionary state, hostile to the United States, with intent or desire to aid the rebellion or any insurrectionary authority, or who voluntarily supported any pretended government or authority hostile to the United States, "by contributions in money or property, by persuasions, or influence, or in any other way whatever."

This amending act provided that the governor should appoint a commissioner of the registration for each county in the state, whose duty it was to ascertain by proof and register the name of each and every qualified voter, and to issue to each a certificate that he was entitled to the privilege of the elective franchise.

The proof required to be presented to this commissioner of registration was the evidence of two competent witnesses known to the commissioner to have been at all times unconditional Union men, and who testified that they were personally acquainted with the person claiming to be registered, and that he had not been guilty of any acts disqualifying him under the provisions of the act.

In addition the applicant for registration was required to take and subscribe to an oath, that he had never voluntarily borne arms with intent to aid the rebellion, nor with such intent at any time to give aid, comfort, counsel, or encouragement to the rebellion, and that he had never sought, nor accepted, nor exercised the functions of any office under the authority of the Confederate States, or of any insurrectionary state.

This commissioner of registration was authorized to hear proof against, as well as for, the applicant for registration.

The Act provided that no person should be entitled to vote at" any election unless registered under the act, and who had received a certificate of registration.

The previous registration under the Act of 1865 was annulled, and this amendatory Act of 1866 was substituted.

Subsequently, the same General Assembly, on March 8, 1867, (see Acts of 1867, ch. 36) passed another act.

The fourth section of this act empowered the governor to set aside the registration of any county and make known the same by proclamation, when it should be made to appear to his satisfaction that fraud and irregularities had intervened in the registration of the voters of such county.

It is proper to observe here that the same legislature, on Feb. 25, 1867, also changed the law by striking out the word "white" so as to allow the colored brother to vote.

But nothwithstanding the long and strenuous efforts of this continuous General Assembly to perpetuate its power and to protect the state government from invasion by those who in any way had sympathized with what it called the rebellion, quite a number of people received certificates of registration who had become disgusted with the debaucheries and excesses of the party in power.

Governor Brownlow set aside the registration in various counties, and under the act of Feb. 26, 1868, ch. 52, removed a number of commissioners of registration who had not acted in accordance with what he thought was necessary to preserve the state in the hands of the truly loyal.

It may be noticed that the legislature on May 8, 1867, passed an act which, by its third section, declared null and void the registration in Overton county, taken under the previous act.

All these acts made it a crime for any person to vote who was not entitled to do so under the provisions of the act.

One William Staten received, Dec. 10, 1867, from the commissioner of registration of Gibson county, a certificate as a qualified voter. On Feb. 23, 1868, Governor Brownlow issued a proclamation declaring the registration in this county void under the provisions of one of the acts before mentioned. On March 7, 1867, an election was held in Gibson county for sheriff, and Staten voted at said election under the authority of his certificate of registration issued to him Dec. 10, 1867. On March 26, 1868, Staten was indicted by the grand jury of the county for illegal voting. The indictment set forth the act aforesaid which he violated in voting. The lower court quashed the indictment, and the state appealed.

The case was heard by the supreme court for the western division at its April term, 1869, the supreme court being composed of Henry G. Smith, George Andrews, and James O. Shackelford.

These jurists held that, when a certificate entitling a party to vote was issued under any of the acts aforesaid it was in the nature of a vested property right, and that it could not be taken away without due process of law, and hence, that the legislature had no right, without giving the party a hearing, to deprive him of his right to vote under his certificate, and hence, could not confer upon the governor the right to disfranchise him.

Senter, who as speaker of the Senate succeeded to the governorship on the election of Brownlow to the Senate, desired to be elected governor at the regular election. He was distrusted by the radicals, who nominated as their candidate William B. Stokes. The Democrats seized their opportunity, and promised Senter their support, if he would allow them to vote. The decision of the supreme court in the William Staten case referred to above was the turning point in the contest, especially affecting the result in Middle and West Tennessee. In addition to this, Senter instructed the commissioners of registration to issue certificates to Democrats, which was done very generously. Senter was elected by the largest majority ever given a candidate for governor.

The legislature was also overwhelmingly Democratic for the first time since the war. Ante-bellum leaders, with Gen. John C. Brown at the head, were once again in the saddle, and Tennessee began to emerge from the dark clouds of the reconstruction period.

And yet there was another serious fight before the conservatives gained safe control of the state. An effort was made by the radicals and defeated partisans of Brownlow to bring the state again under military rules,—to "un-state" Tennessee, to use a term then in vogue. This occurred in 1870 shortly after the election of Senter, and created much excitement throughout the state.

The legislature that met under Senter had lost no time in repealing all the obnoxious acts of the Brown-low administration, including the act creating the "State Guard," all laws granting aid to internal improvements, etc. We may observe here that the strenuous Brownlow legislature was in a long continuous session, and in addition to its efforts to disfranchise perpetually the intelligent citizens of the state, was also engaged in heroic efforts to increase the bonded indebtedness, and some $20,000,000 was added to the already impoverished state.

The effort of the radicals to reconstruct Tennessee was fostered and in every way encouraged by the holders of the bonds of the state-aided railroads, who saw the prospect of a repudiation of this debt by the Senter legislature. The cry was raised in Congress that Tennessee was about to repudiate the amendments to the state constitution voted upon under Johnson, and was again setting itself in "rebellion '' against the government. Ample encouragement of this idea was received in Congress from such men as Thaddeus Stevens, Oliver P. Morton and Ben Wade.

A committee to investigate the situation was appointed, of which Gen. B. F. Butler was chairman. The Tennessee legislature sent to Washington to interview this committee, speaker D. B. Thomas of the Senate, and speaker W- O'N. Perkins, of the House.

In addition, a mass meeting of citizens of Nashville held on March 19, 1870, appointed a committee composed as follows: ex-Governor Neill S. Brown, Judge John M. Lea, Judge J. C. Guild, and Gen. G. P. Thruston, an ex-Federal officer who had settled in Nashville, and was now lending his valuable aid toward restoring order.

Testimony was given before the committee by speakers Thomas and Perkins, and by Judge Lea and General Thruston. The efforts of these gentlemen were successful, and the threatened return to military rule was averted. However, no legislation was enacted by that legislature on the subject of the railroad debt, and for the time being agitation on that question ceased.

The Constitution of 1870.

The Democrats now in power were determined to get rid of all obnoxious legislation in the best way possible, and to do their utmost to prevent a return of such abuse of power as had been witnessed under Brownlow. There had been no revision of the state constitution since 1834, and it was thought that now was the time to" call a convention for that purpose.

Accordingly, after having submitted the question to the people, this convention assembled in Nashville, Jan. 10, 1870. The importance of the task before them was realized, and the ablest men in the state were sent as delegates. Judge O. H. P. Nicholson, the "Nestor of the Convention," who afterwards became the chief justice of the state, was made chairman of the committee on elections and suffrage, the most delicate work before that body. Hon. John C. Brown, afterwards governor, was elected permanent president.

There was present one member of the constitutional convention of 1834 in the person of Mr. Boiling Gordon, of Hickman county, who was made temporary president. This convention altogether consisted of some of Tennessee's most distinguished men, and even now it is considered an especial honor to be referred to as having been "a member of the constitutional convention of 1870." Under the leadership of wise men, the work of the convention was quickly done, adjournment being reached on February 23, one month and thirteen days after assembling. The chief action of the convention was the re-enactment of the constitution of 1834 with the elimination of the word "white" and the addition of a poll-tax qualification.

By thus applying the elective franchise to "every male person of the age of twenty-one," (the constitution of 1834 provided that only "free white men" could vote), Tennessee embodied in its constitution the substance of the Fifteenth Amendment nearly two months before this was ratified and proclaimed by the government.

There was a fight over giving the suffrage to negroes by constitutional provision. Four members, on February 22, filed a protest, stating: "We hold that this convention has no right to force negro suffrage upon the people of Tennessee." A separate popular vote was urged on this provision. But arguments in favor of negro suffrage were forcefully presented by the wise leaders and the policy prevailed. Thus we have presented to us the sight of men of Southern blood, and only recently from the field of battle, calmly and resolutely facing the inevitable, and arguing that the right of suffrage be given by constitutional provision to former slaves.

In order to prevent the appointment of county offices of election by the governor, a power which had been so grossly abused by Brownlow, the convention provided (Act XL, Sec. 17), "No county office created by the legislature, shall be filled otherwise than by the people or the county court." The constitution was submitted to the people and ratified on March 26, 1870, by a vote of 98,128 for, to 33,872 against.

Tennessee has had three constitutions, the first one ratified in 1796, called by Thomas Jefferson the "most democratic constitution of any state"; the second in 1834, and the third in 1870. The changes in the constitution of 1870 from that of 1834 are, however, so slight, outside of the right of suffrage, that the present constitution may be viewed more as an amended instrument of 1834 than as a new constitution of 1870. Undoubtedly the leaders of the state acted wisely at that time of unsettled conditions in tampering as little as possible with the state constitutional law; but it is a fact recognized for some years in the state that this constitution in some provisions is cumbersome under present, and decidedly altered conditions. Hon. Joshua W. Caldwell, who has written a most valuable book on the Constitutional History of Tennessee, presents very cogent reasons why a new constitution, or important amendments, are needed, and adds (p. 339), "but for the aid thus given by the Supreme Court, the state would be intolerably hampered by the present constitution.''

Judge Nicholson himself said when the present constitution was ratified, that a new constitution would be needed within ten years.

The people of the state are very slow to take hold of this matter, however. In 1897 the time seemed to many to be ripe for a constitutional convention, but the proposition was overwhelmingly defeated.

Again in 1904, amendments along certain lines were defeated. However, as Mr. Caldwell says (p. 353):
"Conditions demand, and ere long will compel a revision.''

The State Debt.

At the close of the days of reconstruction, Tennessee, like her sister states, was confronted with an enormous public debt which had been piled up during the chaotic period just following the war. In Tennessee the settlement of her debt was a question agitating her public men for fourteen years. Tennessee's state debt in 1870 consisted of three distinct divisions: (1) the state debt proper; (2) the "state-aid" debt; (3) the Brownlow debt. These classes are explained in the following paragraphs.

Previous to the War of Secession, in her effort to extend aid to worthy improvements within her borders, Tennessee's outstanding bonds amounted to $16,643,000. A small proportion of these bonds ($3,844,000) constituted what became known as the "state debt proper," while the remaining bonds ($12,799,000) were issued under the policy mentioned above of extending state aid to internal improvements, mainly railroads, and for which liens were held on the roads. This indebtedness was increased by the Brownlow administration just after the war by an added debt of $20,363,406, making a total debt now on the state of $37,006,406. At one time the total debt, with accumulated interest, amounted to $42,000,000, and this at a time when the state was impoverished, and the roads on which she held liens for practically all the debt were destroyed. The state did enforce liens against twelve roads, to which bonds amounting to $20,502,000 had been issued. The roads sold for only $6,698,000 making a net loss of $13,804,000 to the state.

Speculators, through a subsidized press and concerted action, attacked the validity of the post bellum series of bonds, and thus ran the price down to a minimum. After purchasing the bonds at a few cents on the dollar, as was done in many instances, they were presented to the state at their full value to discharge liens against other roads.

The state debt question now became a burning political issue, and gave rise to three distinct parties; (1) Those who wished to pay the "state debt proper" only; (2)those who desired to pay the entire debt in full—called the "Sky Blues," and (3) a class between these two, that favored paying in full the state debt proper, but effecting an equitable compromise of the remainder.

The controversy over the settlement of the debt was the occasion of a Republican gubernatorial victory in 1880, the only executive of that political party in the state since the days of Brownlow and Senter to the present. At this time the Democrats split into two factions, the State Credit faction and the Low Tax Democrats. John V. Wright was nominated on a platform to settle the whole debt on a basis of fifty cents on the dollar with 4 per cent, added. Judge S. F. Wilson was nominated as an independent Democrat, and favored settling in full the state debt proper, and equitably adjusting the balance, since it was tainted with illegality. Hon. Alvin Hawkins, Republican, was elected.

Again in 1882 the battle raged about this question, and again the Democratic party was split. The regular Democracy nominated Gen. Wm. B. Bate, while the "Sky Blues" nominated Hon. J. H. Fussell. Governor Hawkins was a candidate to succeed himself.

General Bate was overwhelmingly elected, and under his administration the debt was settled, and thereafter removed from the arena of politics. The settlement was, the payment in full of the "state debt proper," including accrued interest, except during the war. This debt was admitted by all as valid, and included bonds issued before the war for the following purposes: State capitol, $493,000; Hermitage bonds, $35,000; agricultural bonds, $18,000; Union Bank, $125,000; Bank of Tennessee, $214,000; turnpike bonds, $741,000; Hiwassee R. R. bonds, $280,000; East Tennessee and Georgia R. R. bonds, $144,000; Memphis & La Grange R. R. bonds, $68,000; total, $2,118,000.

It was provided that the remaining indebtedness should be funded into 30-year 3 per cent, bonds for one-half the principal and accrued interest. The bonds held by schools and charitable institutions were exempted from this settlement, and refunded at full value.

At the time of the settlement of the state debt, question, the debt, with interest, amounted to nearly $30,000,000. By the settlement under Governor Bate, the debt was reduced to about $16,500,000.

In 1899 the legislature passed the Sinking Fund Act, and since that time the debt has been retired at the rate of some half million dollars a year. At the present time (1908) the state debt is as follows: 4 1/2% per cent, redemption bonds, $1,000,000; 4 1/2 per cent, penitentiary bonds, $600,000; 3 per cent, settlement bonds, $9,994,300; 5 per cent, certificates of indebtedness held by charitable and educational institutions, $14,000; 6 per cent, certificates of indebtedness held by charitable and educational institutions, $656,000; total regular interest-bearing debt (1908), $12,214,300.

With her immense resources and an accumulating sinking fund, the credit of the state is "gilt edged," and the state debt will, within a few years, be entirely wiped out.


There is no more accurate test of the progress of a people than the development of the school system, and the support given to educational matters.

Tennessee has been called the "University State of the South" from the number of institutions of higher learning found in her midst. She now has a superb system of schools, public and private, and is preparing for yet greater progress in this direction in the near future. With such institutions as Vanderbilt University, Nashville, founded in 1875; University of Tennessee, Knoxville; University of the South, Sewanee; Cumberland University, Lebanon; Southwestern Presbyterian University, Clarksville; Union University, Jackson; Carson and Newman College, Jefferson City; Grant University, Athens; Washington College, Salem; University of Nashville, and Peabody College for Teachers, Nashville; and many others, both for young men and young women, the need of Tennessee's students are well cared for. Nashville is already the greatest educational centre of the South, and annually thousands of young men and women gather there from all parts of the United States.

Among the institutions for negroes, established by religious denominations since the war, may be mentioned: Fisk University, Roger Williams University (recently burned), Central Tennessee College, and Knoxville College. Fisk University (Nashville) is the highest grade collegiate institution for negroes in the world (Merriam).

The present public school law was enacted in 1873, and although at first considered an experiment, has proven eminently successful. The permanent school fund amounts to the sum of $2,512,500, bearing 6 per cent, interest. In addition a state tax of fifteen cents on the $100 is levied, and where this amount is found insufficient to maintain the schools in any county for five months, the county courts are authorized to levy additional taxes to the same amount as the state. A direct appropriation of fifty cents per pupil—to be increased Jan. 1, 1909, to seventy-five cents per pupil is also made. Under this special appropriation, the state during 1908, paid for her schools the sum of $425,000.

In addition an appropriation was made by the legislature of 1907 of $100,000 to the State University; and of $250,000 to the Peabody College for Teachers,—this latter appropriation, however, contingent upon the location at Nashville of the Pea-body Educational Fund of $1,000,000 by the trustees of the Peabody Board.

The number of pupils in the public schools of Tennessee in 1870 was 89,000; in 1907-8, 773,380. The average number of school days has increased from 77 in 1870, to 117 in 1906-7.

Tennessee has a less percentage of illiterates than any other seceding state except Texas and Arkansas —in 1900 the per cent, being 14.1 for whites, and 41.6 for negroes. In 1907 the per cent. of illiterates, both races, was only 29.4. This is a gratifying situation compared with conditions thirty years ago when the increase in white illiterates for the decade from 1860-1870 was 50 per cent. The situation in 1870 was,in fact, alarming, when the commissioners would often, to relieve themselves of any responsibility, employ a few peripatetic teachers, wholly unfit oftentimes for the duties devolving on them, and suffer them to teach until the funds were exhausted, when school would be suspended until the following year, only to be taken up again in the same way for a month or two.

The white population of the state has increased during the past three decades about 50 per cent.; but the school enrollment to-day is, for whites alone, nearly 400,000, an increase of some 600 per cent.

Great impetus has been given to the cause of public education in Tennessee, especially within the past five or six years by an extensive propaganda on this subject. The people are alive to the great value of efficient schools, and are preparing for yet greater things.

General Growth and Resources.

Tennessee's advance has been great since the days of the sixties. In 1860 the census valuation of all property (excluding negroes) was $393,693,767. It is to be noted that this valuation was before the devastation of the war. The war reduced the value of farm products alone $114,414,354 (see Handbook of Tennessee, p. 19). The census report in 1900 gave a valuation of $887,956,143, and 1908 the value was in excess of one billion dollars. In 1900 there were more people owning their own homes in Tennessee than in any other Southern state, except Texas. There were more manufactories than in any other Southern state except Texas and Virginia; the value of her agricultural products stands sixteenth in the Union, and exceeds all the seceding states, except Texas. In the value of her manufacturing products she ranks twenty-fifth in the Union, and leads all the Southern states, except Louisiana, Texas and Virginia. More than 3,900 miles of railroads bring her in touch with the world, and afford an outlet for her vast products.

Every variety of soil to be found in the United States may be found in the state. Every crop grown in the Union, except the tropical fruits, may be profitably and successfully grown. Her mineral resources have hardly been touched, and include, among others: iron, coal, marble, copper, zinc, lead, limestone, sandstone, and phosphates. The first shipment of phosphate was made in 1894, when 19,188 tons, valued at $67,158, were shipped; in 1906, the shipment was 499,815 tons, and was valued at $1,852,840. This phosphate is found in middle Tennessee, mainly about Mt. Pleasant and Columbia. In 1906 Tennessee furnished 12.71 per cent. of the world's supply of phosphate.

In addition to her minerals, there are great forests covering thousands of square miles in the iron and other regions of the state. These forests contain many species of fine trees, especially hardwoods.

Tennessee has a number of large cities. The four largest are: Memphis, with a population of about 150,000; Nashville comes next with a population of about 125,000; Chattanooga and Knoxville each have about 50,000.

The population of the state in 1900 was 2,020,616, and in 1908 it was estimated safely at two and one-quarter millions. In 1860 the population was 1,109,-801. In the forty-seven years since the beginning of the war Tennessee has doubled her population.


Tennessee is one of the fairest jewels in the diadem of the Nation. Eight states touch her borders, and the mighty Mississippi sweeps by her western side, while other rivers of navigable size penetrate her fertile valleys. She is endowed with a balmy, salubrious climate, remarkable scenery, and a lavish abundance of fruits, minerals and timber. Her statesmen and patriots have not only honored her but the Nation, and their Anglo-Saxon principles are kept pure and intact, with a glorious history.

Bibliography.—The following books and pamphlets have been consulted in the preparation of this paper: Caldwell: Constitutional History of Tennessee; DeBow's Review (1868); Edmunds: Facts About the South; Dickinson, J. M.: Reply to Speech of Senator Baxter on Tennessee (1903); Fertig: The Secession and Reconstruction of Tennessee; Fleming: The Prescript of the Ku Klux Klan; Folk, Reau E.; Tennessee's Bonded Indebtedness (1908); Garrett and Goodpasture: History of Tennessee; Lester and Wilson: The Ku Klux Klan; Marshall: Life of General William B. Bate; Merriam: Education in Tennessee; Miller's Manual of Tennessee; Paine, Thos.H.: Handbook of Tennessee (1903); Phelan: History of Tennessee; The American Historical Magazine; Prescript of Order of XXX (Original copy printed at Pulaski, Tenn.); Acts and Journals of Tennessee Legislature; Tennessee School Reports, especially 1906, and Statistical Report, 1907.

Carey A. Folk,
Assistant Treasurer of the State of Tennessee; formerly President of Boscobel College, Nashville.

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