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opinion; which condescension will very much oblige, Sir, your most obedient servant,
FROM JOHN SEVIER TO B. FRANKLIN.
Concerning the New State of Franklin.
State of Franklin, Mount Pleasant, 9 April, 1787.
Permit me to introduce to your Excellency the subject of our new disputed government. In the year 1784, in the month of June, the legislature of North Carolina ceded to Congress all their claim to the lands west of the Appalachian Mountains, on conditions I make no doubt you are acquainted with, as the act was shortly after laid before Congress. The inhabitants of this country, well knowing that the Congress of the United States would accept the cession, and having no idea that North Carolina would attempt repealing the act, formed themselves into a separate and independent State by the name of Franklin.
In November following, North Carolina repealed this act of cession. In May, 1785, Congress took the several acts under their consideration, and entered into resolves respecting the same, the purport of which, I presume, you are acquainted with. The government of Franklin was carried on unmolested by North Carolina, until November, 1785, when that legislature passed an act, allowing the people in some of our counties to hold elections under certain regulations unknown to any former law; whereby a few, from disaffection and disappointment, might have it in their power to elect persons, who were to be considered the legal delegation of the people. This was done and countenanced; and at their last session, in November, 1786, they have undertaken to reassume their jurisdiction and sovereignty over the State of Franklin, notwithstanding the whole of their adherents do not exceed two or three hundred against a majority of at least seven thousand effective militia. They have, contrary to the interest of the people in two of the counties, to wit, Washington and Sullivan, by their acts removed the former places of holding courts to certain places convenient to the disaffected, as we conceive, in order that they might have a pretext to prevaricate upon.
* See the answer to this letter, Vol. VI. p. 571.
I have thus given your Excellency the outlines of our past and present situation, and beg leave to inform you, that, from your known patriotic and benevolent disposition, as also your great experience and wisdom, I am, by and with the advice of our Council of State, induced to make this application, that, should you, from this simple statement of the several occurrences, think our cause so laudable, as to give us your approbation, you would be pleased to condescend to write on the subject. And any advice, instruction, or encouragement, you may think we shall deserve, will be acknowledged in the most grateful manner.
We have been informed, that your Excellency some time since did us the honor to write to us on the subject of our State; if so, unfortunately for us, the letters have miscarried, and are not come to hand. Many safe conveyances might be had. A letter may be sent by the bearer, Captain John Woods, if he should return by the way of Franklin; or, if it were directed to the care of the Governor of Georgia, it would come safe; and perhaps by a number of people who travel to this country. I have the honor to be, Sir, &c.
TO M. LE VEILLARD.
Philadelphia, 15 April, 1787. - I am entirely of your opinion, that our independence is not quite complete, till we have discharged our public debt. This State is not behindhand in its proportion; and those, which are in arrear, are actually employed in contriving means to discharge their respective balances; but they are not all equally diligent in the business, nor equally successful. The whole will, however, be paid, I am persuaded, in a few years.
The English have not yet delivered up the posts on our frontier, agreeably to treaty. The pretence is, that our merchants here have not paid their debts. I was a little provoked when I first heard this, and I wrote some remarks upon it, which I send you.* They have been written near a year, but I have not yet published them, being unwilling to encourage any of our people, who may be able to pay, in their neglect of that duty. The paper is therefore only for your amusement, and that of our excellent friend the Duke de la Rochefoucauld.
As to my malady, concerning which you so kindly inquire, I have never had the least doubt of its being the stone; and I am sensible that it has increased ; but on the whole it does not give me more pain than when at Passy. People who live long, who will drink of the cup of life to the very bottom, must expect to meet with some of the usual dregs; and when I reflect on the number of terrible maladies human nature is subject to, I think myself favored in having to my share only the stone and gout.
You were right in conjecturing, that I wrote the re
* See The Relort Courteous, Vol. II. p. 498.
marks on the “ Thoughts concerning Executive Justice.”* I have no copy of those remarks at hand, and forget how the saying was introduced, that it is better a thousand guilty persons should escape, than one innocent suffer. Your criticisms thereon appear to be just, and I imagine you may have misapprehended my intention in mentioning it. I always thought, with you, that the prejudice in Europe, which supposes a family dishonored by the punishment of one of its members, was very absurd; it being on the contrary my opinion, that a rogue hanged out of a family does it more honor than ten that live in it. —
TO THE DUKE DE LA ROCHEFOUCAULD. Reply to his Congratulations. — United States. - Constitutions of the States. — Introduces Thomas Paine.
Philadelphia, 15 April, 1787. I have been happy in receiving three very kind letters from my greatly respected and esteemed friend, since my being in America. They are dated November 30th, 1785, February 8th, 1786, and January 14th, 1787. In mine of this date to M. le Veillard, I have made the best apology I could for my being so bad a correspondent. I will not trouble you with a repetition of it, as I know you often see him. I will only confess my fault, and trust to your candor and goodness for my pardon.
Your friendly congratulations on my arrival and reception here were very obliging. The latter was, as you have heard, extremely flattering. The two parties
in the Assembly and Council, the constitutionists and anti-constitutionists, joined in requesting my service as counsellor, and afterwards in electing me as President. Of seventy-four members in Council and Assembly, who voted by ballot, there was in my first election but one negative, besides my own; and in the second, after a year's service, only my own. And I experience, from all the principal people in the government, every attention and assistance that can be desired towards making the task as little burdensome to me as possible. So I am going on very comfortably hitherto with my second year, and I do not at present see any likelihood of a change; but future events are always uncertain, being governed by Providence or subject to chances; and popular favor is very precarious, being sometimes lost as well as gained by good actions; so I do not depend on a continuance of my present happiness, and therefore shall not be surprised, if, before my time of service expires, something should happen to diminish it.
These States in general enjoy peace and plenty. There have been some disorders in the Massachusetts and Rhode Island governments; those in the former are quelled for the present; those of the latter, being contentions for and against paper money, will probably continue some time. Maryland too is divided on the same subject, the Assembly being for it, and the Senate against it. Each is now employed in endeavouring to gain the people to its party against the next elections, and it is probable the Assembly may prevail. Paper money in moderate quantities has been found beneficial; when more than the occasions of commerce require, it depreciated and was mischievous; and the populace are apt to demand more than is necessary, In this State we have some, and it is useful, and I do not hear any clamor for more.