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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Manifesto by Alexander Martin concerning the secession of inhabitants of western North Carolina and the creation of the state of Franklin
Martin, Alexander, 1740-1807
April 25, 1785
Volume 22, Pages 642-647


By his Excellency Alexander Martin, Esquire, Governor, Captain General and Commander in chief of the said State.

To the Inhabitants of the Counties of Washington, Sullivan and Greene

A Manifesto.

Whereas, I have received Letters from Brigadier General Sevier, under the style and character of Governor, and from Messrs. Landon Carter and William Cage, as speakers of the Senate and Commons of the State of Franklin, informing me that they, with you, the Inhabitants of part of the territory late ceded to congress, had declared themselves independent of the State of North Carolina, and no longer considered themselves under the Sovereignty and jurisdiction of the same; stating their reasons for their separation and revolt, among which it is alleged that the western Country was ceded to Congress without their consent by an Act of the Legislature, and the same was repealed in the like manner.

It is evident from the Journals of that Assembly how far that assertion is supported, which hold up to public view the names of those who voted on the different sides of that important question, where is found a considerable number, if not a majority of the members, some of whom are leaders in the present revolt, then representing the above counties in support of that Act they now deem impolitic, and pretend to reprobate, which in all probability would not have passed but through their influence and assiduity; whose passage

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at length was effected but by a small majority, and by which a cession of the Vacant territory was only made and obtained with a power to the Delegates to complete the same by grants; but that Government should still be supported, and that anarchy prevented, which is now suggested the Western people were ready to fall into. The sovereignty and Jurisdiction of the State were by another Act passed the same Assembly, reserved and asserted over the ceded territory with all the powers and Authorities as full and ample as before, until congress should accept the same. The Last Assembly having learned what uneasiness and discontent the Cession act had occasioned throughout the State, whose inhabitants had not been previously consulted on that measure, in whom by the Constitution the soil and territorial rights of the State are particularly vested, judging the said Act impolitick at this time, more especially as it would, for a small consideration, dismember the State of one-half of her territory, and in the end tear from her a respectable Body of her Citizens, when no one State in the Union had parted with any of her Citizens or given any thing like an equivalent to congress but vacant lands of an equivocal and disputed title and distant Situation; and also considering that the said Act by its Tenor and purport was revocable at any time before the Cession should be completed by the Delegates, repealed it by a great majority. At the same time, the Assembly, to convince the people of the Western Country of their affection and attention to their interest, attempted to render Government as easy as possible to them by removing the only general inconvenience and grievance they might labour under, for want of a regular administration of criminal Justice and a proper and immediate command of the Militia, a new District was erected, an assistant judge and a Brigadier General were appointed.

Another reason for the revolt is assigned that the Assembly in the Cession Act stoped a quantity of goods intended for the Cherokee Indians as a compensation for their claim to the Western lands; and that the Indians had committed hostilities in consequence thereof. The Journals of the Assembly evince the contrary, that the said goods were ordered still to be given to the Indians, but under the regulations of congress, should the cession take place, which occasioned the delay of not immediately sending them forward; of which the Indians were immediately notified; and I am well informed that no hostilities or mischiefs have been committed on this

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account; but, on the other hand, that provocations have been and are daily given, their lands trespassed upon, and even one of their chiefs has been lately murdered with impunity.

On the repeal of the Cession Act, a treaty was ordered to be held with the Indians, and the goods distributed as soon as the season would permit which before this would have been carried into effect, had not the face of affairs been changed.

Under what character but truly disgraceful could the State of North Carolina suffer treaties to be held with the Indians and other business transacted in a country where her authority and Government were rejected and set at nought, her Officers liable to insult, void of assistance and protection.

The particular attention the Legislature have paid to the Interest of the Western citizens, though calculated to conciliate their affection and esteem, has not been satisfactory it seems; but the same has been attributed to interest and lucrative designs; whatever Designs the Legislature entertained in the repeal of the said Act they have made appear, their Wisdom considered that the situation of our Public accounts was somewhat changed since the last Assembly, and that the Interest of the State should immediately be consulted and attended to, that every citizen should reap the advantage of the vacant territory, that the same should be reserved for the payment of the public Debts of the State, under such regulations hereafter to be adopted; Judging it ill timed generosity at this crisis to be too liberal of the means that would so greatly contribute to her honesty and Justice.

But designs of a more dangerous nature and deeper die seem to glare in the Western revolt; the power usurped over the vacant territory, the Union deriving no emolument from the same, not even the proportional part intended the old State by the Cession being reserved; her jurisdiction and sovereignty over that Country, which by the consent of its representatives were still to remain and be exercised, refused and deposed.

Her public revenue in that part of her Government seized by the new authority, and not suffered to be paid to the lawful Treasurer, but appropriated to different purposes intended by the Legislature, are all facts that evince that a restless ambition and a lawless thirst of power have inspired this enterprise, by which the persons concerned therein may be precipitated into measures that may at last bring

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down ruin, not only on themselves, but our Country at large.

In Order therefore to reclaim such Citizens, who by specious pretences, and the Acts of designing Men, have been seduced from their Allegiance; to restrain others from following their example who are wavering, and to confirm the attachment and affection of those who adhere to the old Government, and whose fidelity hath not yet been shaken, I have thought proper to issue this manifesto hereby warning all persons concerned in the said revolt that they return to their duty and allegiance, and forbear paying any obedience to any self-created power and authority unknown to the Constitution of the State, and not sanctified by the Legislature. That they and you consider the consequences that may attend such a dangerous and unwarrantable procedure; that far less causes have deluged States and Kingdoms with blood, which at length have terminated their existence, either by subjecting them a prey to foreign conquerers or erecting in their room a despotism that has bidden defiance to time to shake off the lowest state of misery human nature under such a Government can be reduced to. That they reflect there is a national pride in all Kingdoms and State that inspires every Subject and citizen with all degree of importance, the grand cement and support of every Government, which must not be insulted; that the honor of this State has been particularly wounded by seizing that by violence, which in time would no doubt have been obtained by consent, when the terms of separation could have been explained and stipulated to the mutual satisfaction of the Mother and new State. That congress, by the Confederation, cannot countenance such a separation wherein the State of North Carolina hath not given her full consent; and if an implied or conditional one hath been given, the same hath been rescinded by a full Legislature, of the reason of so doing they considered themselves the only competent Judges.

That by such rash and irregular conduct, a precedent is formed for every District and even every County of the State to claim the right of separation and Independency for any supposed grievance of the Inhabitants, as caprice, pride and ambition shall dictate at pleasure; thereby exhibiting to the World a melancholy instance of a feeble or pusillanimous Government, that is unable or dares not restrain the lawless designs (or punish the Offences) of its Citizens; which will give ample cause of exultation to our late enemies, and raise their hopes that they may hereafter gain by the division among

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ourselves, that dominion their tyranny and arms have lost and could not maintain.

That you tarnish not the laurels you have so Gloriously won at King’s Mountain, and elsewhere in supporting the freedom and Independence of the United States, and of this in particular, to be whose Citizens were then your boast, in being concerned in a black and traitrous revolt from that Government in whose defence you have so copiously bled, and which by solemn Oath you are still bound to support. Let not Vermont be held up as an example on this Occasion. Vermont, we are informed, had her claims for a separate Government at the first existence of the American War, and as such, with the other States, altho’ not in the Union, hath exerted her powers against the late common enemy.

That you be not insulted or lead away with the pageantry of a mock Government, without the essentials, the shadow without the substance, which always dazzles weak minds, and which will in its present form and manner of existence not only subject you to the ridicule and contempt of the World in general, but rouze the indignation of the other States in the Union at your obtruding yourselves as a power among them without their consent. Consider what a number of men of different abilities will be wanting to fill the civil list of the State of Franklin and the expence necessary to support them suitable to their various degrees of dignity; when the district of Washington with its present Officers might answer all the purposes of a happy Government, until the period arrive when a separation might take place to mutual advantage and satisfaction, on an honorable footing. The Legislature will shortly meet, before whom the transactions of your leaders will be laid. Let your representatives come forward and present every grievance in a Constitutional manner that they may be redressed, and let your terms of separation be proposed with decency; your proportion of the public debts ascertained, the vacant territory appropriated, to the mutual benefit of both parties in such manner and proportion, as may be just and reasonable. Let your proposals be consistant with the honor of the State to acceed to, which by your Allegiance as good Citizens you cannot violate, and I make no doubt her generosity in time will meet your wishes.

But, on the contrary, should you be hurried on by blind ambition to pursue your present unjustifiable measures, which may open

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afresh the wounds of this late bleeding Country, and plunge it again into all the miseries of a Civil Warr, which God avert, let the fatal consequences be charged on the authors. It is only time which can reveal the event. I know with reluctance the State will be driven to arms; it will be the last alternative to embrue her hands in the blood of her Citizens; but if no other ways and means are found to save her honor, and reclaim her headstrong refractory Citizens but this last sad expedient, her resources are not Yet so exhausted, or her spirits damped but she may take satisfaction for this great injury received, regain her Government over the revolted territory, or render it not worth possessing. But all these effects may be prevented at this time by removing the causes; by those who have revolted to return to their duty, and those who have stood firm still to continue to support the Government of this State until the consent of the Legislature be fully and constitutionally had for a separate Sovereignty and jurisdiction. All which, by virtue of the powers and authorities which Your representatives and others of the State at large have invested me with in General Assembly, I hereby Will, Command and require, as you will be liable to answer all the pains and Penalties that may ensue on the Contrary.

Given under by Hand and the Great seal of the State, which I have caused to be hereunto affixed at Hillsborough, the twenty-fifth Day of April, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty-five, and ninth year of the Independence of the said State.

By His Excellency’s Command.

Endorsement: Manifesto.