Civics 101: Tennessee, from territory to state

J. H. Osborne • Aug 12, 2019 at 2:27 PM

Last week we looked at development of Tennessee’s Constitution. This week we look earlier in the state’s history, with information from the Tennessee Secretary of State’s website:

• The territory of Tennessee originally consisted of six counties — Washington, Sullivan, Greene, Davidson, Sumner, and Tennessee (later Montgomery and Robertson) — under the jurisdiction of North Carolina from 1777 to 1788.

• In 1784, dissatisfied East Tennesseans formed the breakaway state of Franklin, or “Frankland,” under the direction of John Sevier, the newly named governor. As North Carolina officials discovered the territory’s attempted independence, they slowly reasserted their authority over the area. Infighting among rival local factions, along with North Carolina’s resistance, caused the state of Franklin to cease by 1788.

• A year later, North Carolina ratified the U.S. Constitution and ceded its Tennessee lands to the federal government.

• The area then became the “Territory of the United States, South of the River Ohio,” more commonly known as the “Southwest Territory.”

• The United States created three districts in the area: two for East Tennessee and the Metro District on the Cumberland. Each district had courts, militia and office holders. William Blount governed the territory following his appointment by George Washington.

• In 1795, Blount called for a constitutional convention in Knoxville to begin the process of joining the union. The delegates converted the territory to a state with an organized government and constitution before applying to Congress for admission to the union. The delegates selected John Sevier as governor, William Blount and William Cocke as senators and Andrew Jackson as representative. Tennessee was the first federal territory to apply for statehood to Congress. After a close vote on June 1, 1796, Tennessee became the 16th state of the union.

Source: Tennessee Secretary of State