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THE STATE OF FRANKLIN: CLERGY, CONTROVERSY AND CONSTITUTIONS By Richard Alan Humphrey Between the years 1784 and 1788 there existed a state in the Southern Appalachian Mountains in what is now known as Upper East Tennessee. Some called it Frankland but officially it became Franklin in 1785 in honor of Benjamin Franklin, the illustrious member of the Continental Congress, from Philadelphia. The settlers of the area hoped for their own independence from North Carolina. It must be remembered that the State of Franklin was a forerunner of the State of Tennessee. Tennessee, in fact, did not receive statehood until 1796. These earlier settlers were dissatisfied with North Carolina because North Carolina did not have sufficient wealth to support armed forces against Indians and outlaws and thus protect their western frontier in the Appalachian mountains. North Carolina claimed lands as far west as the Mississippi River. 35 From its beginnings in the summer of 1784, the state of Franklin was to suffer tumultuous shocks until its collapse in 1788. Continual controversy among Presbyterian clergy who were deeply involved in the constitutional conventions, split the people into two factions. Scotch-Irish Presbyterians were able to fill the political needs present in this frontier area for five reasons: first, they considerably outnumbered the Methodists and Baptists; second, they had most of the educated clergy; third, they had 23 well established churches while the Baptists had 10 small churches and the Methodists, while having a circuit rider, had no churches; fourth, they established 2 academies for educating the citizens of the new state; and finally, they were the only religious group which took an active interest in the political establishment of the state of Franklin. 1 The first constitutional convention was held on August 23, 1784 when it was seriously considered by the delegates whether they should seek permission from Congress to form a separate state. The second convention met at the Presbyterian Church in Jonesboro, on December 14, 1784. After all the delegates were seated, the Reverend Samuel Houston addressed the convention on the importance of meeting not only for their own welfare, but for their posterity for ages to come. Then Rev. Houston led the convention in prayer. This convention established a temporary constitution modeled after North Carolina's, to be seriously studied for six months and then after that period to be voted upon at another constitutional convention before another year passed. It was on November 14, 1785 that the constitutional convention for the ratification of a state constitution was held in the Greeneville Presbyterian Church. The Presbyterian minister, William Graham, President of Liberty Hall College of Lexington , Virginia, was the chief architect of "the Provisional Constitution of Frankland." This provisional constitution was presented to the convention by one of Graham's former students, Samuel Houston, pastor of the Providence Presbyterian Church. Both Graham and Houston were shocked and very upset by another Presbyterian minister, The Reverend Hezekiah Balch. Balch attacked the Provisional Constitution on the grounds that it did not safeguard the state from undue religious influence. Accordingly Balch was instrumental in moving the Convention to defeat the Provisional Constitution. After a quick reading of the North Carolina Constitution of 1776, the Convention ratified it. This Constitution was ratified over the protest of the Graham-Houston Committee. This committee was further rebuffed when they tried to reintroduce what they considered to be important parts of their proposed constitution to the convention. They were conceded only the right to enter into the records their dissent. Thus nineteen men signed a dissenters report.2 Even with the adjournment of the constitutional convention the controversy continued between the Graham-Houston faction and the faction lead by Balch. Graham and Houston defended the Provisional Constitution of The State of Frankland. Balch and his followers attacked the Provisional Constitution and defended the Constitution of Franklin. This controversy led to a bitter pamphlet war. The Franklin 36 Commonwealth Society published a pamphlet in support of Graham and Houston entitled "Principles of Republican Government by a Citizen of Frankland." Houston was probably the author of this pamphlet. Then William Graham wrote his own defense of the Provisional Constitution entitled "An Essay On Government." Hezekiah Balch attacked the...

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