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   Chapter 6 KENTUCKY'S STRUGGLE FOR STATEHOOD. 1784-1790.

The Winning of the West, Volume Three The Founding of the Trans-Alleghany Commonwealths, 1784-1790 By Theodore Roosevelt Characters: 44025

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


While the social condition of the communities on the Cumberland and the Tennessee had changed very slowly, in Kentucky the changes had been rapid.

Colonel Fleming's Journal.

Col. William Fleming, one of the heroes of the battle of the Great Kanawha, and a man of note on the border, visited Kentucky on surveying business in the winter of 1779-80. His journal shows the state of the new settlements as seen by an unusually competent observer; for he was an intelligent, well-bred, thinking man. Away from the immediate neighborhood of the few scattered log hamlets, he found the wilderness absolutely virgin. The easiest way to penetrate the forest was to follow the "buffalo paths," which the settlers usually adopted for their own bridle trails, and finally cut out and made into roads. Game swarmed. There were multitudes of swans, geese, and ducks on the river; turkeys and the small furred beasts, such as coons, abounded. Big game was almost as plentiful. Colonel Fleming shot, for the subsistence of himself and his party, many buffalo, bear, and deer, and some elk. His attention was drawn by the great flocks of parroquets, which appeared even in winter, and by the big, boldly colored, ivory-billed woodpeckers-birds which have long drawn back to the most remote swamps of the hot Gulf-coast, fleeing before man precisely as the buffalo and elk have fled.

Like all similar parties he suffered annoyance from the horses straying. He lost much time in hunting up the strayed beasts, and frequently had to pay the settlers for helping find them. There were no luxuries to be had for any money, and even such common necessaries as corn and salt were scarce and dear. Half a peck of salt cost a little less than eight pounds, and a bushel of corn the same. The surveying party, when not in the woods, stayed at the cabins of the more prominent settlers, and had to pay well for board and lodging, and for washing too.

Kentucky during the Revolution.

Fleming was much struck by the misery of the settlers. At the Falls they were sickly, suffering with fever and ague; many of the children were dying. Boonsboro and Harrodsburg were very dirty, the inhabitants were sickly, and the offal and dead beasts lay about, poisoning the air and the water. During the winter no more corn could be procured than was enough to furnish an occasional hoe-cake. The people sickened on a steady diet of buffalo-bull beef, cured in smoke without salt, and prepared for the table by boiling. The buffalo was the stand-by of the settlers; they used his flesh as their common food, and his robe for covering; they made moccasins of his hide and fiddle-strings of his sinews, and combs of his horns. They spun his winter coat into yarn, and out of it they made coarse cloth, like wool. They made a harsh linen from the bark of the rotted nettles. They got sugar from the maples. There were then, Fleming estimated, about three thousand souls in Kentucky. The Indians were everywhere, and all men lived in mortal terror of their lives; no settlement was free from the dread of the savages. [Footnote: Draper MSS., Colonel Wm. Fleming, "MS. Journal in Kentucky," Nov. 12, 1779, to May 27, 1780.]

Immense and Rapid Changes.

Half a dozen years later all this was changed. The settlers had fairly swarmed into the Kentucky country, and the population was so dense that the true frontiersmen, the real pioneers, were already wandering off to Illinois and elsewhere every man of them desiring to live on his own land, by his own labor, and scorning to work for wages. The unexampled growth had wrought many changes; not the least was the way in which it lessened the importance of the first hunter-settlers and hunter-soldiers. The great herds of game had been woefully thinned, and certain species, as the buffalo, practically destroyed. The killing of game was no longer the chief industry, and the flesh and hides of wild beasts were no longer the staples of food and clothing. The settlers already raised crops so large that they were anxious to export the surplus. They no longer clustered together in palisaded hamlets. They had cut out trails and roads in every direction from one to another of the many settlements. The scattered clearings on which they generally lived dotted the forest everywhere, and the towns, each with its straggling array of log cabins, and its occasional frame houses, did not differ materially from those in the remote parts of Pennsylvania and Virginia. The gentry were building handsome houses, and their amusements and occupations were those of the up-country planters of the seaboard.

The Indian Ravages.

The Indians were still a scourge to the settlements [Footnote: State Department MSS., No. 151, p. 259, Report of Secretary of War, July 10, 1787; also, No. 60, p. 277.]; but, though they caused much loss of life, there was not the slightest danger of their imperilling the existence of the settlements as a whole, or even or any considerable town or group of clearings. Kentucky was no longer all a frontier. In the thickly peopled districts life was reasonably safe, though the frontier proper was harried and the remote farms jeopardized and occasionally abandoned, [Footnote: Virginia State Papers, iv., 149, State Department MSS., No. 56, p. 271.] while the river route and the wilderness road were beset by the savages. Where the country was at all well settled, the Indians did not attack in formidable war bands, like those that had assailed the forted villages in the early years of their existence; they skulked through the woods by twos and threes, and pounced only upon the helpless or the unsuspecting.

Nevertheless, if the warfare was not dangerous to the life and growth of the Commonwealth, it was fraught with undreamed-of woe and hardship to individual settlers and their families. On the outlying farms no man could tell when the blow would fall. Thus, in one backwoodsman's written reminiscences, there is a brief mention of a settler named Israel Hart, who, during one May night, in 1787, suffered much from a toothache. In the morning he went to a neighbor's, some miles away through the forest, to have his tooth pulled, and when he returned he found his wife and his five children dead and cut to pieces. [Footnote: Draper MSS., Whitely MS. Narrative.] Incidents of this kind are related in every contemporary account of Kentucky; and though they commonly occurred in the thinly peopled districts, this was not always the case. Teamsters and travellers were killed on the highroads near the towns-even in the neighborhood of the very town where the constitutional convention was sitting.

Shifting of the Frontiersmen.

In all new-settled regions in the United States, so long as there was a frontier at all, the changes in the pioneer population proceeded in a certain definite order, and Kentucky furnished an example of the process. Throughout our history as a nation the frontiersmen have always been mainly native Americans, and those of European birth have been speedily beaten into the usual frontier type by the wild forces against which they waged unending war. As the frontiersmen conquered and transformed the wilderness, so the wilderness in its turn created and preserved the type of man who overcame it. Nowhere else on the continent has so sharply defined and distinctively American a type been produced as on the frontier, and a single generation has always been more than enough for its production. The influence of the wild country upon the man is almost as great as the effect of the man upon the country. The frontiersman destroys the wilderness, and yet its destruction means his own. He passes away before the coming of the very civilization whose advance guard he has been. Nevertheless, much of his blood remains, and his striking characteristics have great weight in shaping the development of the land. The varying peculiarities of the different groups of men who have pushed the frontier westward at different times and places remain stamped with greater or less clearness on the people of the communities that grow up in the frontier's stead. [Footnote: Frederick Jackson Turner: "The Significance of the Frontier in American History." A suggestive pamphlet, published by the State Historical Society of Wisconsin.]

Succession of Types on Frontier.

In Kentucky, as in Tennessee and the western portions of the seaboard States, and as later in the great West, different types of settlers appeared successively on the frontier. The hunter or trapper came first. Sometimes he combined with hunting and trapping the functions of an Indian trader, but ordinarily the American, as distinguished from the French or Spanish frontiersman, treated the Indian trade as something purely secondary to his more regular pursuits. In Kentucky and Tennessee the first comers from the East were not traders at all, and were hunters rather than trappers. Boone was a type of this class, and Boone's descendants went westward generation by generation until they reached the Pacific.

Close behind the mere hunter came the rude hunter-settler. He pastured his stock on the wild range, and lived largely by his skill with the rifle. He worked with simple tools and he did his work roughly. His squalid cabin was destitute of the commonest comforts; the blackened stumps and dead, girdled trees stood thick in his small and badly tilled field. He was adventurous, restless, shiftless, and he felt ill at ease and cramped by the presence of more industrious neighbors. As they pressed in round about him he would sell his claim, gather his cattle and his scanty store of tools and household goods, and again wander forth to seek uncleared land. The Lincolns, the forbears of the great President, were a typical family of this class.

Most of the frontiersmen of these two types moved fitfully westward with the frontier itself, or near it, but in each place where they halted, or where the advance of the frontier was for the moment stayed, some of their people remained to grow up and mix with the rest of the settlers.

The Permanent Settlers.

The third class consisted of the men who were thrifty, as well as adventurous, the men who were even more industrious than restless. These were they who entered in to hold the land, and who handed it on as an inheritance to their children and their children's children. Often, of course, these settlers of a higher grade found that for some reason they did not prosper, or heard of better chances still farther in the wilderness, and so moved onwards, like their less thrifty and more uneasy brethren, the men who half-cleared their lands and half-built their cabins. But, as a rule, these better-class settlers were not mere life-long pioneers. They wished to find good land on which to build, and plant, and raise their big families of healthy children, and when they found such land they wished to make thereon their permanent homes. They did not share the impulse which kept their squalid, roving fellows of the backwoods ever headed for the vague beyond. They had no sympathy with the feeling which drove these humbler wilderness-wanderers always onwards, and made them believe, wherever they were, that they would be better off somewhere else, that they would be better off in that somewhere which lay in the unknown and untried. On the contrary, these thriftier settlers meant to keep whatever they had once grasped. They got clear title to their lands. Though they first built cabins, as soon as might be they replaced them with substantial houses and barns. Though they at first girdled and burnt the standing timber, to clear the land, later they tilled it as carefully as any farmer of the seaboard States. They composed the bulk of the population, and formed the backbone and body of the State. The McAfees may be taken as a typical family of this class.

The Gentry.

Yet a fourth class was composed of the men of means, of the well-to-do planters, merchants, and lawyers, of the men whose families already stood high on the Atlantic slope. The Marshalls were such men; and there were many other families of the kind in Kentucky. Among them were an unusually large proportion of the families who came from the fertile limestone region of Botetourt County in Virginia, leaving behind them, in the hands of their kinsmen, their roomy, comfortable houses, which stand to this day. These men soon grew to take the leading places in the new commonwealth. They were of good blood-using the words as they should be used, as meaning blood that has flowed through the veins of generations of self-restraint and courage and hard work, and careful training in mind and in the manly virtues. Their inheritance of sturdy and self-reliant manhood helped them greatly; their blood told in their favor as blood generally does tell when other things are equal. If they prized intellect they prized character more; they were strong in body and mind, stout of heart, and resolute of will. They felt that pride of race which spurs a man to effort, instead of making him feel that he is excused from effort. They realized that the qualities they inherited from their forefathers ought to be further developed by them as their forefathers had originally developed them. They knew that their blood and breeding, though making it probable that they would with proper effort succeed, yet entitled them to no success which they could not fairly earn in open contest with their rivals.

Such were the different classes of settlers who successively came into Kentucky, as into other western lands. There were of course no sharp lines of cleavage between the classes. They merged insensibly into one another, and the same individual might, at different times, stand in two or three. As a rule the individuals composing the first two were crowded out by their successors, and, after doing the roughest of the pioneer work, moved westward with the frontier; but some families were of course continually turning into permanent abodes what were merely temporary halting places of the greater number.

Change in Subjects of Interest.

With the change in population came the corresponding change in intellectual interests and in material pursuits. The axe was the tool, and the rifle the weapon, of the early settlers; their business was to kill the wild beasts, to fight the savages, and to clear the soil; and the enthralling topics of conversation were the game and the Indians, and, as the settlements grew, the land itself. As the farms became thick, and towns throve, and life became more complex, the chances for variety in work and thought increased likewise. The men of law sprang into great prominence, owing in part to the interminable litigation over the land titles. The more serious settlers took about as much interest in matters theological as in matters legal; and the congregations of the different churches were at times deeply stirred by quarrels over questions of church discipline and doctrine. [Footnote: Durrett Collection; see various theological writings, e.g., "A Progress," etc., by Adam Rankin, Pastor at Lexington. Printed "at the Sign of the Buffalo," Jan. 1, 1793.] Most of the books were either text-books of the simpler kinds or else theological.

Except when there was an Indian campaign, politics and the river commerce formed the two chief interests for all Kentuckians, but especially for the well-to-do.

Features of the River Travel.

In spite of all the efforts of the Spanish officials the volume of trade on the Mississippi grew steadily. Six or eight years after the close of the Revolution the vast stretches of brown water, swirling ceaselessly between the melancholy forests, were already furrowed everywhere by the keeled and keelless craft. The hollowed log in which the Indian paddled; the same craft, the pirogue, only a little more carefully made, and on a little larger model, in which the creole trader carried his load of paints and whiskey and beads and bright cloths to trade for the peltries of the savage; the rude little scow in which some backwoods farmer drifted down stream with his cargo, the produce of his own toil; the keel boats which, with square-sails and oars, plied up as well as down the river; the flotilla of huge flat boats, the property of some rich merchant, laden deep with tobacco and flour, and manned by crews who were counted rough and lawless even in the rough and lawless backwoods-all these, and others too, were familiar sights to every traveller who descended the Mississippi from Pittsburgh to New Orleans, [Footnote: John Pope's "Tour," in 1790. Printed at Richmond in 1792.] or who was led by business to journey from Louisville to St. Louis or to Natchez or New Madrid.

The fact that the river commerce throve was partly the cause and partly the consequence of the general prosperity of Kentucky. The pioneer days, with their fierce and squalid struggle for bare life, were over. If men were willing to work, and escaped the Indians, they were sure to succeed in earning a comfortable livelihood in a country so rich. "The neighbors are doing well in every sense of the word," wrote one Kentuckian to another, "they get children and raise crops." [Footnote: Draper MSS., Jonathan Clark Papers. O'Fallen to Clark, Isles of Ohio, May 30, 1791.] Like all other successful and masterful people the Kentuckians fought well and bred well, and they showed by their actions their practical knowledge of the truth that no race can ever hold its own unless its members are able and willing to work hard with their hands.

Standard of Living.

The general prosperity meant rude comfort everywhere; and it meant a good deal more than rude comfort for the men of greatest ability. By the time the river commerce had become really considerable, the rich merchants, planters, and lawyers had begun to build two-story houses of brick or stone, like those in which they had lived in Virginia. They were very fond of fishing, shooting, and riding, and were lavishly hospitable. They sought to have their children well taught, not only in letters but in social accomplishments like dancing; and at the proper season they liked to visit the Virginian watering-places, where they met "genteel company" from the older States, and lodged in good taverns in which "a man could have a room and a bed to himself." [Footnote: Letter of a young Virginian, L. Butler, April 13, 1790. Magazine of Amer. Hist., i., 113.]

An agreement entered into about this time between one of the Clarks and a friend shows that Kentuckians were already beginning to appreciate the merits of neat surroundings even for a rather humble town-house. This particular house, together with, the stable and lot, was rented for "one cow" for the first eight months, and two dollars a month after that-certainly not an excessive rate; and it was covenanted that everything should be kept in good repair, and particularly that the grass plots around the house should not be "trod on or tore up." [Footnote: Draper MSS. Wm. Clark Papers. Agreement between Clark and Bagley, April 1, 1790.]

Interest in Politics.

All Kentuckians took a great interest in politics, as is the wont of self-asserting, independent freemen, living under a democratic government. But the gentry and men of means and the lawyers very soon took the lead in political affairs. A larger proportion of these classes came from Virginia than was the case with the rest of the population, and they shared the eagerness and aptitude for political life generally shown by the leading families of Virginia. In many cases they were kin to these families; not, however, as a rule, to the families of the tidewater region, the aristocrats of colonial days, but to the families-so often of Presbyterian Irish stock-who rose to prominence in western Virginia at the time of the Revolution. In Kentucky all were mixed together, no matter from what State they came, the wrench of the break from their home ties having shaken them so that they readily adapted themselves to new conditions, and easily assimilated with one another. As for their differences of race origin, these had ceased to influence their lives even before they came to Kentucky. They were all Americans, in feeling as well as in name, by habit as well as by birth; and the positions they took in the political life of the West was determined partly by the new conditions surrounding them, and partly by the habits bred in them through generations of life on American soil.

Clark's Breakdown.

One man, who would naturally have played a prominent part in Kentucky politics, failed to do so from a variety of causes. This was George Rogers Clark. He was by preference a military rather than a civil leader; he belonged by choice and habit to the class of pioneers and Indian fighters whose influence was waning; his remarkable successes had excited much envy and jealousy, while his subsequent ignominious failure had aroused contempt; and, finally, he was undone by his fondness for strong drink. He drew himself to one side, though he chafed at the need, and in his private letters he spoke with bitterness of the "big little men," the ambitious nobodies, whose jealousy had prompted them to destroy him by ten thousand lies; and, making a virtue of necessity, he plumed himself on the fact that he did not meddle with politics, and sneered at the baseness of his fellow-citizens, whom he styled "a swarm of hungry persons gaping for bread." [Footnote: Draper MSS., G. R. Clark to J. Clark, April 20, 1788, and September 2, 1791.]

Logan's Prominence.

Benjamin Logan, who was senior colonel and county lieutenant of the District of Kentucky, stood second to Clark in the estimation of the early settlers, the men who, riding their own horses and carrying their own rifles, had so often followed both commanders on their swift raids against the Indian towns. Logan naturally took the lead in

the first serious movement to make Kentucky an independent state. In its beginnings this movement showed a curious parallelism to what was occurring in Franklin at the same time, though when once fairly under way the difference between the cases became very strongly marked. In each case the prime cause in starting the movement was trouble with the Indians. In each, the first steps were taken by the commanders of the local militia, and the first convention was summoned on the same plan, a member being elected by every militia company. The companies were territorial as well as military units, and the early settlers were all, in practice as well as in theory, embodied in the militia. Thus in both Kentucky and Franklin the movements were begun in the same way by the same class of Indian-fighting pioneers; and the method of organization chosen shows clearly the rough military form which at that period settlement in the wilderness, in the teeth of a hostile savagery, always assumed.

Conference of Militia Officers.

In 1784 fear of a formidable Indian invasion-an unwarranted fear, as the result showed-became general in Kentucky, and in the fall Logan summoned a meeting of the field officers to discuss the danger and to provide against it. When the officers gathered and tried to evolve some plan of operations, they found that they were helpless. They were merely the officers of one of the districts of Virginia; they could take no proper steps of their own motion, and Virginia was too far away and her interests had too little in common with theirs, for the Virginian authorities to prove satisfactory substitutes for their own. [Footnote: Marshall, himself an actor in these events, is the best authority for this portion of Kentucky history; see also Green; and compare Collins, Butler, and Brown] No officials in Kentucky were authorized to order an expedition against the Indians, or to pay the militia who took part in it, or to pay for their provisions and munitions of war. Any expedition of the kind had to be wholly voluntary, and could of course only be undertaken under the strain of a great emergency; as a matter of fact the expeditions of Clark and Logan in 1786 were unauthorized by law, and were carried out by bodies of mere volunteers, who gathered only because they were forced to do so by bitter need. Confronted by such a condition of affairs, the militia officers issued a circular-letter to the people of the district, recommending that on December 24,1784, a convention should be held at Danville further to consider the subject, and that this convention should consist of delegates elected one from each militia company.

First Convention Elected by Militia Companies.

The recommendation was well received by the people of the district; and on the appointed date the convention met at Danville. Col. William Fleming, the old Indian fighter and surveyor, was again visiting Kentucky, and he was chosen President of the convention. After some discussion the members concluded that, while some of the disadvantages under which they labored could be remedied by the action of the Virginia Legislature, the real trouble was deep-rooted, and could only be met by separation from Virginia and the erection of Kentucky into a state. There was, however, much opposition to this plan, and the convention wisely decided to dissolve, after recommending to the people to elect, by counties, members who should meet in convention at Danville in May for the express purpose of deciding on the question of addressing to the Virginia Assembly a request for separation. [Footnote: State Dep. MSS. Madison Papers, Wallace to Madison, Sept. 25, 1785.]

Second Convention Held.

The convention assembled accordingly, Logan being one of the members, while it was presided over by Col. Samuel McDowell, who, like Fleming, was a veteran Indian fighter and hero of the Great Kanawha. Up to this point the phases through which the movement for statehood in Kentucky had passed were almost exactly the same as the phases of the similar movement in Franklin. But the two now entered upon diverging lines of progression. In each case the home government was willing to grant the request for separation, but wished to affix a definite date to their consent, and to make the fulfilment of certain conditions a prerequisite. In each case there were two parties in the district desiring separation, one of them favoring immediate and revolutionary action, while the other, with much greater wisdom and propriety, wished to act through the forms of law and with the consent of the parent State. In Kentucky the latter party triumphed. Moreover, while up to the time of this meeting of the May convention the leaders in the movement had been the old Indian fighters, after this date the lead was taken by men who had come to Kentucky only after the great rush of immigrants began. The new men were not backwoods hunter-warriors, like Clark and Logan, Sevier, Robertson, and Tipton. They were politicians of the Virginia stamp. They founded political clubs, one of which, the Danville club, became prominent, and in them they discussed with fervid eagerness the public questions of the day, the members showing a decided tendency towards the Jeffersonian school of political thought.

Convention Urges Independence.

The convention, which met at Danville, in May, 1785, decided unanimously that it was desirable to separate, by constitutional methods, from Virginia, and to secure admission as a separate state into the Federal Union. Accordingly, it directed the preparation of a petition to this effect, to be sent to the Virginia Legislature, and prepared an address to the people in favor of the proposed course of action. Then, in a queer spirit of hesitancy, instead of acting on its own responsibility, as it had both the right and power to do, the convention decided that the issuing of the address, and the ratification of its own actions generally, should be submitted to another convention, which was summoned to meet at the same place in August of the same year. The people of the district were as yet by no means a unit in favor of separation, and this made the convention hesitate to take any irrevocable step.

One of the members of this convention was Judge Caleb Wallace, a recent arrival in Kentucky, and a representative of the new school of Kentucky politicians. He was a friend and ally of Brown and Innes. He was also a friend of Madison, and to him he wrote a full account of the reasons which actuated the Kentuckians in the step they had taken. [Footnote: State Department MSS. Madison Papers, Caleb Wallace to Madison, July 12, 1785.] He explained that he and the people of the district generally felt that they did not "enjoy a greater portion of liberty than an American colony might have done a few years ago had she been allowed a representation in the British Parliament." He complained bitterly that some of the taxes were burdensome and unjust, and that the money raised for the expenses of government all went to the east, to Virginia proper, while no corresponding benefits were received; and insisted that the seat of government was too remote for Kentucky ever to get justice from the rest of the State. Therefore, he said, he thought it would be wiser to part in peace rather than remain together in discontented and jealous union. But he frankly admitted that he was by no means sure that the people of the district possessed sufficient wisdom and virtue to fit them for successful self-government, and he anxiously asked Madison's advice as to several provisions which it was thought might be embodied in the constitution of the new state.

The Separatists Urge Immediate Revolution.

In the August convention Wilkinson sat as a member, and he succeeded in committing his colleagues to a more radical course of action than that of the preceding convention. The resolutions they forwarded to the Virginia Legislature, asked the immediate erection of Kentucky into an independent state, and expressed the conviction that the new commonwealth would undoubtedly be admitted into the Union. This, of course, meant that Kentucky would first become a power outside and independent of the Union; and no provision was made for entry into the Union beyond the expression of a hopeful belief that it would be allowed.

Such a course would have been in the highest degree unwise and the Virginians refused to allow it to be followed. Their Legislature, in January, 1786, provided that a new convention should be held in Kentucky in September, 1786, and that, if it declared for independence, the state should come into being after the 1st of September, 1787, provided, however, that Congress, before June 1, 1787, consented to the erection of the new state, and agreed to its admission into the Union. It was also provided that another convention should be held, in the summer of 1787, to draw up a constitution for the new state. [Footnote: Marshall, i., 224]

Virginia Wisely Affixes Conditions to her Consent

Virginia thus, with great propriety, made the acquiescence of Congress a condition precedent for formation of the new State. Wilkinson immediately denounced this condition that Kentucky declare herself an independent State forthwith, no matter what Congress or Virginia might say. All the disorderly, unthinking, and separatist elements followed his lead. Had his policy been adopted the result would probably have been a civil war; and at the least there would have followed a period of anarchy and confusion, and a condition of things similar to that obtaining at this very time in the territory of Franklin. The most enlightened and far-seeing men of the district were alarmed at the outlook; and a vigorous campaign in favor of orderly action was begun, under the lead of men like the Marshalls. These men were themselves uncompromisingly in favor of statehood for Kentucky; but they insisted that it should come in an orderly way, and not by a silly and needless revolution, which could serve no good purpose and was certain to entail much disorder and suffering upon the community. They insisted, furthermore, that there should be no room for doubt in regard to the new state's entering the Union. There were thus two well defined parties, and there were hot contests for seats in the convention. One unforeseen event delayed the organization of that body. When the time that it should have convened arrived, Clark and Logan were making their raids against the Shawnees and the Wabash Indians. So many members-elect were absent in command of their respective militia companies that the convention merely met to adjourn, no quorum to transact business being obtained until January, 1787. The convention then sent to the Virginian Legislature explaining the reason for the delay, and requesting that the terms of the act of separation already passed should be changed to suit the new conditions.

Virginia Makes Needless Delay.

Virginia had so far acted wisely; but now she in her turn showed unwisdom, for her Legislature passed a new act, providing for another convention, to be held in August, 1787, the separation from Virginia only to be consummated if Congress, prior to July 4, 1788, should agree to the erection of the state and provide for its admission to the Union. When news of this act, with its requirement of needless and tedious delay, reached the Kentucky convention, it adjourned for good, with much chagrin.

Wilkinson and the other separatist leaders took advantage of this very natural chagrin to inflame the minds of the people against both Virginia and Congress. It was at this time that the Westerners became deeply stirred by exaggerated reports of the willingness of Congress to yield the right to navigate the Mississippi; and the separatist chiefs fanned their discontent by painting the danger as real and imminent, although they must speedily have learned that it had already ceased to exist. Moreover, there was much friction between the Federal and Virginian authorities and the Kentucky militia officers in reference to the Indian raids. The Kentuckians showed a disposition to include all Indians, good and bad alike, in the category of foes. On the other hand the home authorities were inclined to forbid the Kentuckians to make the offensive return-forays which could alone render successful their defensive war-fare against the savages. All these causes combined to produce much irritation, and the separatists began to talk rebellion. One of their leaders, Innes, in a letter to the Governor of Virginia, threatened that Kentucky would revolt not only from the parent State but from the Union, if heed were not paid to her wishes and needs. (Footnote: Green, 83.)

The Kentuckians Grumble but Acquiesce.

However, at this time Wilkinson started on his first trading voyage to New Orleans, and the district was freed from his very undesirable presence. He was the main-spring of the movement in favor of lawless separation; for the furtive, restless, unscrupulous man had a talent for intrigue which rendered him dangerous at a crisis of such a kind. In his absence the feeling cooled. The convention met in September, 1787, and acted with order and propriety, passing an act which provided for statehood upon the terms and conditions laid down by Virginia. The act went through by a nearly unanimous vote, only two members dissenting, while three or four refused to vote either way. Both Virginia and the Continental Congress were notified of the action taken.

The only adverse comment that could be made on the proceedings was that in the address to Congress there was expressed a doubt, which was almost equivalent to a threat, as to what the district would do if it was not given full life as a state. But this fear as to the possible consequences was real, and many persons who did not wish for even a constitutional separation, nevertheless favored it because they dreaded lest the turbulent and disorderly elements might break out in open violence if they saw themselves chained indefinitely to those whose interests were, as they believed, hostile to theirs. The lawless and shiftless folk, and the extreme separatists, as a whole, wished for complete and absolute independence of both State and Nation, because it would enable them to escape paying their share of the Federal and State debts, would permit them to confiscate the lands of those whom they called "nonresident monopolizers," and would allow of their treating with the Indians according to their own desires. The honest, hardworking, forehanded, and farsighted people thought that the best way to defeat these mischievous agitators was to take the matter into their own hands, and provide for Kentucky's being put on an exact level with the older States. [Footnote: State Dep. MSS. Madison Papers, Wallace to Madison, Nov. 12, 1787.]

Renewal of the Disunion Agitation.

With Wilkinson's return to Kentucky, after his successful trading trip to New Orleans, the disunion agitation once more took formidable form. The news of his success excited the cupidity of every mercantile adventurer, and the whole district became inflamed with desire to reap the benefits of the rich river-trade; and naturally the people formed the most exaggerated estimate of what these benefits would be. Chafing at the way the restrictions imposed by the Spanish officials hampered their commerce, the people were readily led by Wilkinson and his associates to consider the Federal authorities as somehow to blame because these restrictions were not removed.

The Indian Ravages.

The discontent was much increased by the growing fury of the Indian ravages. There had been a lull in the murderous woodland warfare during the years immediately succeeding the close of the Revolution, but the storm had again gathered. The hostility of the savages had grown steadily. By the summer of 1787 the Kentucky frontier was suffering much. The growth of the district was not stopped, nor were there any attempts made against it by large war bands; and in the thickly settled regions life went on as usual. But the outlying neighborhoods were badly punished, and the county lieutenants were clamorous in their appeals for aid to the Governor of Virginia. They wrote that so many settlers had been killed on the frontier that the others had either left their clearings and fled to the interior for safety, or else had gathered in the log forts, and so were unable to raise crops for the support of their families. Militia guards and small companies of picked scouts were kept continually patrolling the exposed regions near the Ohio, but the forays grew fiercer, and the harm done was great. [Footnote: State Dept. MSS., No. 71, vol. ii., pp. 561, 563.] In their anger the Kentuckians denounced the Federal Government for not aiding them, the men who were loudest in their denunciations being the very men who were most strenuously bent on refusing to adopt the new Constitution, which alone could give the National Government the power to act effectually in the interest of the people.

Ratification of the Federal Constitution.

While the spirit of unrest and discontent was high, the question of ratifying or rejecting this new Federal Constitution came up for decision. The Wilkinson party, and all the men who believed in a weak central government, or who wished the Federal tie dissolved outright, were, of course, violently opposed to ratification. Many weak or short-sighted men, and the doctrinaires and theorists-most of the members of the Danville political club, for instance-announced that they wished to ratify the Constitution, but only after it had been amended. As such prior amendment was impossible, this amounted merely to playing into the hands of the separatists; and the men who followed it were responsible for the by no means creditable fact that most of the Kentucky members in the Virginia convention voted against ratification. Three of them, however, had the patriotism and foresight to vote in favor of the Constitution.

Further Delay.

Another irritating delay in the march toward statehood now occurred. In June, 1788, the Continental Congress declared that it was expedient to erect Kentucky into a state. [Footnote: State Dep. MSS., No. 20, vol. i., p. 341 etc.] But immediately afterwards news came that the Constitution had been ratified by the necessary nine States, and that the new government was, therefore, practically in being. This meant the dissolution of the old Confederation, so that there was no longer any object in admitting Kentucky to membership, and Congress thereupon very wisely refused to act further in the matter. Unfortunately Brown, who was the Kentucky delegate in Congress, was one of the separatist leaders. He wrote home an account of the matter, in which he painted the refusal as due to the jealousy felt by the East for the West. As a matter of fact the delegates from all the States, except Virginia, had concurred in the action taken. Brown suppressed this fact, and used language carefully calculated to render the Kentuckians hostile to the Union.

Naturally all this gave an impetus to the separatist movement. The district held two conventions, in July and again in November, during the year 1788; and in both of them the separatist leaders made determined efforts to have Kentucky forthwith erect herself into an independent state. In uttering their opinions and desires they used vague language as to what they would do when once separated from Virginia. It is certain that they bore in mind at the time at least the possibility of separating outright from the Union and entering into a close alliance with Spain. The moderate men, headed by those who were devoted to the national idea, strenuously opposed this plan; they triumphed and Kentucky merely sent a request to Virginia for an act of separation in accordance with the recommendations of Congress. [Footnote: See Marshall and Green for this year.]

The Kentucke Gazette.

It was in connection with these conventions that there appeared the first newspaper ever printed in this new west; the west which lay no longer among the Alleghanies, but beyond them. It was a small weekly sheet called the Kentucke Gazette, and the first number appeared in August, 1787. The editor and publisher was one John Bradford, who brought his printing press down the river on a flat-boat; and some of the type were cut out of dogwood. In politics the paper sided with the separatists and clamored for revolutionary action by Kentucky. [Footnote: Durrett Collection, Kentucke Gazette, September 20, 1788.]

Failure of the Separatist Movement.

The purpose of the extreme separatist was, unquestionably, to keep Kentucky out of the Union and turn her into a little independent nation,-a nation without a present or a future, an English-speaking Uraguay or Ecuador. The back of this separatist movement was broken by the action of the fall convention of 1788, which settled definitely that Kentucky should become a state of the Union. All that remained was to decide on the precise terms of the separation from Virginia. There was at first a hitch over these, the Virginia Legislature making terms to which the district convention of 1789 would not consent; but Virginia then yielded the points in dispute, and the Kentucky convention of 1790 provided for the admission of the state to the Union in 1792, and for holding a constitutional convention to decide upon the form of government, just before the admission. [Footnote: Marshall, i., 342 etc.]

Thus Kentucky was saved from the career of ignoble dishonor to which she would have been doomed by the success of the disunion faction. She was saved from the day of small things. Her interests became those of a nation which was bound to succeed greatly or to fail greatly. Her fate was linked for weal or for woe with the fate of the mighty Republic.

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