Date of Graduation
In 1784, the residents of the upper east Tennessee Valley declared themselves independent from their parent state of North Carolina. The political and economic leadership of the newly formed state of Franklin utilized the ideology, symbolism, and rhetoric of the American Revolution to garner local, regional and national support for the movement. After the state's collapse in 1788, the state of Franklin continued to attract supporters and admirers, who considered the movement to be a noble extension of the revolution. Over the last two hundred years, historians, politicians, abolitionists, and business leaders have recast the legacy and meaning of the state of Franklin. I argue that the state of Franklin and its leadership were less than noble. East Tennessee's land speculators and local economic elite led the effort to create America's fourteenth state in order to protect and expand their landed wealth and political hegemony. During Franklin's brief four-year existence, the state's leadership engaged in dubious Cherokee land negotiations and pursued a policy of total Indian annihilation. Eventually, internal factionalism both within the statehood movement and the communities of the Tennessee Valley and North Carolina's highly effective "divide and conquer" diplomatic strategy led to the dissolution of Franklin. Despite Franklin's demise, its legacy, both real and mythologized, persisted. This dissertation examines specific examples of how individuals and groups have constructed and reshaped the history and meaning of Franklin to serve their specific agendas. These efforts include: Ezekiel Birdseye's "Free State of Frankland" abolitionist effort, Andrew Johnson's use of Franklin during the 1860 secession debate, the historical interpretations of Franklin historians, and finally, Franklin's use in the twentieth century economic development of East Tennessee.
Barksdale, Kevin T., "â€œUpon the shoulders of giantsâ€: Deconstructing the lost state of Franklin, 1784â€“2005." (2005). Graduate Theses, Dissertations, and Problem Reports. 8444.