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Something interesting has happened on (just about) every day of the year, and Daily TWiP provides the proof. An offshoot of my local events column The Week in Preview (affectionately known as TWiP), Daily TWiP was published April 2008-Aug. 2011 and is still giving readers reasons to celebrate.

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Daily TWiP – Aug. 23, 1784: The short-lived state of Franklin declares its independence from North Carolina

Declaring independence is apparently contagious. Not long after the Revolutionary War officially ended in 1783, part of North Carolina decided it wanted to be independent from the rest of the state. Made up of what was then the westernmost portion of North Carolina, the state of Franklin formally declared its autonomy today (Aug. 23) in 1784.

The land that would become Franklin was given by North Carolina to Congress to help pay off the debts the country had incurred during the Revolutionary War. Before Congress could take possession of the land, North Carolina changed its mind and rescinded the offer out of concern that the land wouldn’t be used for repaying war debts.

The inhabitants of this area were less than pleased with North Carolina’s decision to make a gift of them to the federal government, as they worried that the land they had worked so hard to settle would be given to a foreign country that had aided the United States in the war as payment for military expenses.

Even after North Carolina changed its mind, the citizens in this part of the state still harbored resentment toward their state government, feeling they weren’t being given the support they needed against Native American resistance in an area that was still very much frontier.

The inhabitants decided to form their own state, which would enable them to look out for their own interests. The secessionist state of Frankland (which means “Land of the Free”) was born.

The name was soon changed to Franklin, in what has been viewed as an attempt to gain Benjamin Franklin’s support for their cause. Although Franklin graciously declined to assist, the state’s inhabitants decided to retain the name.

Popular military man John Sevier was elected governor of Franklin and the rest of the state government was quickly installed. Franklin petitioned for statehood on May 16, 1785, but did not receive the two-thirds majority vote required to be admitted to the United States. The wannabe state’s status was further complicated by North Carolina’s insistence that Franklin was still part of North Carolina.

In March of 1788, Franklin finally agreed to submit to North Carolina’s governance. Attacks by Native Americans had increased to such a degree that the inhabitants of Franklin were unable to defend themselves on their own. Since they weren’t officially a state, they couldn’t receive assistance from the national army. As part of North Carolina, however, they could receive protection from the state militia.

A few years later, North Carolina ceded Franklin yet again, this time relinquishing the land to be incorporated into the Southwest Territory, which became Tennessee in 1796. The inhabitants of Franklin appears to have taken this cession more in stride, perhaps due to their recent experience of the difficulties that can arise when you declare independence.

– Teresa Santoski


Originally published. Aug. 23, 2010.

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