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to Congress, with a proviso, however, that until Congress accepted the cession the sovereignty should remain in the state, and two years were allowed for the acceptance of the cession. North Carolina had for some time taken no tender interest in the transmontane settlements. With that complaisant superiority which often marks the man who has stayed at home when speaking of those who have had the enterprise to move, some of the men of the old state had declared the pioneers were nothing but the “off-scourings of the earth”? and "fugatives from justice."
The westerners felt themselves abandoned, but were not accustomed to shed tears because left to their own devices. They probably supposed that Congress had practically assured them statehood by passing the Ordinance of 1784, and they proceeded themselves to organize a state. “If we should be so happy,” they said, “as to have a separate government, vast numbers from different quarters, with a little encouragement from the public, would fill up our frontier, which would strengthen us, improve agriculture, perfect manufactures, encourage literature and every thing truly laudable. The seat of government being among ourselves, would evidently tend, not only to keep a circulating medium in gold and silver among us, but draw it from many in
Quoted in a statement of their case by the Franklin general assembly, 1785. See Alden, “The State of Franklin," in Am. Hist. Review, VIII., 277; Pennsylvania Packet, May 21, 1785.
dividuals living in other states, who claim large quantities of lands that would lie in the bounds of the new state."! This simple statement, full of quaint economy and charged with the enthusiasm and idealism of the frontiersmen, brings before us much that was characteristic of the hopeful west. No wonder, with such prospect of monetary and literary improvement, they did not hesitate to establish an independent commonwealth.
Before final action was taken, North Carolina withdrew her act of cession. In spite of this, and though persistence meant rebellion, the western men drew up a constitution modelled after that of the parent state (1785), and, adopting the name of Franklin, sought recognition from the Congress of the Confederation. One of their first acts was to provide for taxes and to show, if not the need of literature and all things laudable, at least the primitive condition of society and the absence of gold and silver, whose presence was so much desired. Taxes were made payable in otter, deer, and beaver skins, in well-cured bacon, in clean tallow, in distilled rye whiskey, in good peach or apple brandy, and in like useful and cheering commodities. North Carolina protested against this separate organization; Congress of course did nothing; and Franklin led a troubled life for about four years, giving up its pretence of independence in 1788.
1 Ramsey, Annals of Tenn., 288, 289.
; Ibid., 297
In Kentucky, then a district of Virginia, there was throughout this time considerable restlessness and discontent. Some of the settlers, with Wilkinson at their head, were engaged in some sort of a mysterious intrigue, disreputable at the best, with the Spanish authorities in New Orleans. Others desired a separation from Virginia and admission into the Union as a state. Nothing definite was accomplished, however, before the end of the period of the Confederation. June 1, 1792, Kentucky entered the Union.
Despite this restlessness of the frontiersmen, and despite the plottings of ambitious schemers like the unspeakable Wilkinson, the story of early western settlements is a story of American achievement. During the Revolutionary era the American people had expanded and laid the foundations for new commonwealths in the valley of the Mississippi, which offered homes for countless thousands; the Congress of the Confederation had at last become possessed of property, and, incorrigibly incompetent in all other directions, succeeded in drawing up a wise and noble plan for colonial expansion. The settlers themselves, who were now pouring over the mountains, were showing remarkable political sagacity. Rough, uncouth, lawless, as many of the adventurers were, the great body of them were home-seekers, bent on improving their fortunes, and they gave evidence withal of a native instinct for government and order. Unlovely as was the
raw frontier in some of its aspects, there was no danger that these enterprising pioneers would found hopeless, forlorn settlements in the wilderness; the history of American achievement in the Mississippi Valley was to be different from the French or Spanish. Only when the importance of this movement is grasped do we see how much the Americans accomplished in the eventful years from 1774 to 1788: they won their independence from Britain, began with astounding courage and zeal the occupation of the “western world,” worked out the principles of territorial organization, and, almost without knowing it themselves, prepared the outlines of a system which assured the facile extension of their power from the Atlantic coast across the continent.
LL through the period of which we have been
speaking, the monetary conditions of the country were in confusion. There were so many different kinds of money in circulation that to calculate the value of any piece was a serious arithmetical problem. There were moidores, doubloons, pistoles, gold johanneses, English and French crowns, English guineas, and Spanish dollars. The standard in transactions with Great Britain was the pound sterling, but the coins most commonly used were the Spanish milled dollars—Captain Flint's “pieces of eight.” In such a state of disorder and depreciation was the currency of the times, and so much did terms differ from state to state, that the dollar was worth six shillings in New England and Virginia, eight shillings in New York and North Carolina, seven shillings sixpence in Pennsylvania, five shillings in Georgia, and thirty-two shillings sixpence in South Carolina."
Sparks, Gouverneur Morris, I., 274; Sparks, Dip. Corresp. of Rev., XII., 91.