The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 36, July 1932 - April, 1933

Southwestern Historical Quarterly

From Frontier to Plantation in Tennessee. A Study in Frontier
Democracy. By Thomas Perkins Abernethy. (Chapel
Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1932. Pp.
xiv, 392. Price, $2.50.)
A span of almost one hundred years of the history of Tennes-
see is covered by this interesting book. Professor Abernethy be-
gins his story with the founding of the Watauga settlement in
1768 and carries it to the secession of Tennessee in 1861. The
sub-title is kept before the reader in a very arresting manner to
prove that the democratic program was carried out very slowly
on the Tennessee frontier.
The state of Franklin in December, 1784, in convention as-
sembled, adopted almost in toto the constitution of North Caro-
lina, under which the people of Tennessee had become restive.
Although the first legislature under the new constitution came
to the apparent relief of the setllers by validating land claims
based on grants from North Carolina, yet, who had the land
claims? Certainly not the common man interested in principles
of democracy. The Tennessee constitution of 1796 contained a
clause providing for the taxation of all acreage regardless of
value, a principle which worked against the interests of the small
farmer who, as a rule, owned the less valuable land. This con-
stitution, although it granted popular election of the governor
and abolish the property qualification for those voters who could
meet a residence requirement, provided that most of the county
officials should be chosen by the justices of the peace, themselves
elected by the assembly. After the panic of 1819 Felix Grundy
was for a brief period the champion of a "relief program," un-
der which a state loan office or "bank," coupled with a stay law,
was the offering for democracy. But when William Carroll was
elected governor in 1821 he opposed the stay law and all other
forms of relief. Instead he got a system of education and public
improvements under way. The new constitution of 1834, adopted
while Carroll was still governor, provided for the taxation of land
acccording to value and for the popular election of county offi-
cials. When Andrew Johnson became governor in 1853 another
day dawned for democracy. "Practical reform" was now the
watchword. The new departure was the passage of a bill author-

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 36, July 1932 - April, 1933. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101093/. Accessed September 23, 2014.