the Initial Kentucky Policy System: Policy-Making in the Early Republic Wilderness


Today it is hard for us to imagine the basic housekeeping and initial institutionalization, what we call state-building, that is inherent in a political body starting out from scratch.

Current textbooks usually ignore state-building and these critical formative years in state and local policy development have become obscured in the mists of history. This, however, is the period in which the policy-making/political culture “twig is first bent. Ignored, the initial shaping of a state and city’s future course is lost or simply built into the incorporated fabric of any future analysis. It is just too far back in the past to really matter. But for us historical evolution is central to our Chapter One Model and the evolution of American economic development. For me the state-building and institutionalization period is critical for explaining a lot of what comes after.

This is especially true of our first “western states”–western states that will play a major role in the turbulent period that lay ahead–the middle years of the Early Republic when Henry Clay and Andrew Jackson were our dominant national figures. In addition, these two states (and Ohio in a future module) offer us considerable insight into the dynamics of future western states that will “take off” after the War of 1812. They will point out things we should look for, and provide an informal benchmark to which they can be compared.

The Frontier Policy System

For the latter, much of a policy agenda in almost any policy area lay in the future–and the future is measured in decades. Textbooks wax eloquent about political, moral and economic values, theories, and concepts, but trust me economic developers cannot live solely in conceptual theory or moral clouds. Economic development requires functioning institutions with sufficient capacity to make and implement decisions vital to ED-relevant matters and strategies in real-life politics and economies. The first and primary job from out perspective in a brand new initial policy system in a brand new state is necessarily, one would thin, state-building–installing the core institutions and processes relevant to the making of all forms and areas of policy, not just economic development. In 1792 Kentucky, however, even that proved difficult, and the state’s initial policy system did not follow the path , institutionalization and state-building, that would seem most logical and necessary. Why?

I think the best, certainly not the only, explanation is that Kentucky was the first trans-Appalachian state-level policy system, and in 1790’s the realities it confronted were so basic, so fundamental to survival that state-building institutionalization was both not practicable, its preconditions did not exist, and amazingly it was largely unnecessary until a basic economy had developed and politics had achieved a level of coherence, and domestic elites could turn their attention to more long-term matters. The almost “pre” 1790’s policy system I call the Frontier Policy System. So let’s describe “pioneer” or “frontier” 1790’s economic development. Remember, we “ain’t in Philadelphia darling”.

General Arthur St Clair

First and foremost, is the reality, more precisely its perception by citizens, residents and policy-makers, that Native American resistance to Anglo conquest was foremost on the policy agenda. Other than that, the individual, citizen, resident or elite was simply carving out a homestead and his/her place in a non-existent economy resident in an isolated hinterland–literally a month of travel through unsafe and hostile territory from “civilization”. Kentucky was always the borderland, it was not as intensely settled by Native Americans as was Ohio, Indiana Illinois, Tennessee and Georgia. Raids, however, were devastating. But a moderate degree of Anglo site control had been established by the middle 1780’s and parts of Kentucky were able to set down roots and develop its initial local economy. Lexington could think of itself as the “Athens of the West”, and all that, but I doubt Athens was ever as unpopulated as Lexington was in 1790. When a new Indian War erupted again the old desperation recaptured control over the policy agenda.

General St Clair’s devastating 1791 defeat of his invasion of disputed Indian territories in the Battle of the Wabash cost Kentucky many of its citizen-militia soldiers. It also restarted what would be a five year war that consumed the entire first administration of its first Governor, the Indian-fighter Issac Shelby. The principal player in that war was the Washington Administration, and its general, Mad Anthony Wayne; but Kentucky militia constituted a great part of his army–and the Governor was commander of the state militia, and the state taxpayer picked up much of the tab. Shelby didn’t take the field, but the war consumed his attention and that of his fellow Kentuckians. Meaningful economic growth, community development and economic prosperity, would take off only after this horrible problem was resolved. Because Washington and Hamilton were nation-building and establishing key institutions such as the National Bank, did not mean Kentucky was, or could, do the same. There was to be a lag.

The second element in our Frontier Policy System is a basic rudimentary hinterland agricultural economy. That economy was never remotely developed that it required sophisticated capitalist financial institutions to function. Towns and settlements were in process of being built from empty land; farms required cleared land with access to water, and were totally isolated in winter and storms. Food was seasonally-produced, and basic materials non-existent locally–until someone started the first grist mill or blacksmith foundry. Trade was a general store-tavern-hotel, and if any one did any lending, it was the general store merchant allowing credit on purchases, i.e.. “keeping a tab”, even rudimentary factoring took some time to develop. Typically, if not raided by Indians an annual crop was personally taken to market, a market likely hundreds of miles and months away. Currency was bartering commodities such as whiskey, or personal labor (wood-cutting). This was an era of sweat equity; you made your own clothes, Domino’s didn’t deliver, and when something broke you fixed it–and it lasted much longer than the history books imply. They usually talk of great events, great people and great ideas, but a frontier economy has little if any discretionary income, no savings worth mentioning. Economic development in this frontier economy was mostly agricultural-related startups and entrepreneurism in the wilderness–and except for books written by authors such as Laura Wilder, it is left unmentioned. This is Kentucky in the 1790’s however, its initial policy system.

Economic development in a frontier economy meant laying the foundations for the future–it required population growth and in Kentucky and Tennessee’s case, access to the Mississippi River to New Orleans to export/import goods. Why the Mississippi River which at that time was in Spanish control in the South and British resistance in the North? Because crossing the Appalachians did not even permit wagon-based transportation; it was what you and your horse could carry. Today’s Appalachian Trail is more improved than the 1790’s Wilderness Road. Using the Mississippi it was easier to get to New Orleans, than it was from Lexington to Richmond, and an export port like Baltimore, Charleston or Philadelphia was a huge and time-consuming expedition. Simple logistics compelled use of the Mississippi. That somehow strangely meant that in 1792 Kentucky future economic development was closely tied to foreign policy and relationships with Spain, Britain and Native Americans–all of which in the 1790’s were happily engaged in the Napoleonic Wars, either allied with France against England or vice-versa. Nothing complicated about that. Foreign policy is a federal function. States, cities and citizens don’t make foreign policy, do they? In Kentucky they did. Dealing with our global competitive hierarchy fell as much to the state level in the trans-Appalachian west, as it did to George Washington and his Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson.

That the Washington administration was trying to fabric its own solution to the Mississippi (the infamous John Jay was negotiating it), was laced with the reality that substantial numbers of northern Federalists were of two minds in (1) whether to negotiate with Spain and France rather than England, and (2) whether access to the Mississippi meant large-scale migration to the west, draining off a coastal and hinterland urban labor force, tax base and political representation to Congress. Was the Federal Government a reliable ally in Kentucky’s quest for Mississippi access? How much should Kentucky citizens rely on a federal administration that seemed closer to the British who were arming Native Americans to raid Kentucky? How much can you rely on the Federal government when by 1796, the nation has already polarized between two political tribes, with drastically opposing views and visions. The Tribe which Kentuckians did not support was in control of Congress and the Presidency? Does that mean economic development requires state officials to consider fabricating their own foreign policy? Let’s ask General, sorry, Governor Shelby.

What Does a Frontier State Policy System Look Like: Shelby’s First Administration 1792-1796 

If ever there was too much detail, too much to know, it must include knowledge of Kentucky’s first two gubernatorial administrations.

So to spare the reader at least some pain, and boredom induced by  its “irrelevancy”, I will cull out what I think is helpful in understanding “the lag”, the course of development in future western states, and the formation of political culture and economic base. This is not the definitive history of this period, in Kentucky or anywhere. State government, rudimentary as it was, dominated the state’s sub-state policy systems and so it is a good place to start. Problems associated with statehood including state-building and continued Site-Conquest, clashed with turbulent politics of the national and international arena were handled by the governor and legislature. Kentucky was blessed in that its first two governors, quite different in personality, background, and policy agendas, were good, competent and honest, but nt great heroes: Issac Shelby and James Garrard. Together these two would govern sixteen of the twenty-four years through 1816. Both were Jeffersonian D-Rs, and both were Tidewater (Shelby born in Maryland and Virginia resident) Virginians. Shelby is thought today as Kentucky’s George Washington whom he bears some traces of similarity. Sibley is George Washington, writ small and D-R.

Issac Shelby

Shelby’s First Administration: 1792-6

Shelby served two terms as Governor, the first between 1792-96 (he did not stand for reelection, and was reelected during the War of 1812, 1812-16). Issac Shelby was friend  and comrade in arms with John Sevier. There are Kentucky faux-counterparts to William Blount, several in fact, but none compare, even if taken in their aggregate to Blount’s land speculation core. Compared to Tennessee, Kentucky’s politics and policy-making is much more a “play nicely in the sandbox” (it does have its fractures, of course) than the turbulent, temper-ridden, personalistic, openly opportunistic Tennessee politics. That difference in style and tone appear right from the start. In my opinion, culture plays a great role in style and tone. I think, said and done, Kentucky’s first policy system is personified by its dominant figure, Issac Sibley who arises from a different Tidewater “wing” than Washington.

Shelby, self-educated as was Washington, was attuned to, and linked with intellectual and scientific debate. Although probably not a member, he was associated with the “Danville Club” an elite debating and discussion group that met in a tavern, and he was a member of the American Philosophical Society offshoot, the Society for the Promotion of Useful Knowledge, a strong advocate for manufacturing and innovation. This is not atypical of Tidewater plantation elites. But it was Shelby’s military career, emanating from his co-leadership with Sevier in the Revolutionary War Battle of Kings Mountain, that provided the substance for his formidable electoral appeal and symbol of what Kentucky was all about. Military and Indian-Fighting was his home skill-base. Like Washington, his military record was the great unifier in an age when fighting Native Americans and the British was the first priority of state and local politics.

Shelby, a moderate Jeffersonian Democrat-Republican, accepted the necessity of a more active federal and state government, but counter-balanced this with a stress on individual/civil and states rights. He did not advocate an aggressive role for the national government in economic development. No individualist libertarian, one can see in Shelby a sensitivity to a larger national collective. There is little of Jefferson’s strident intellectualism, romantic touchstones or fundamental distrust of early capitalism, however. There is the Tidewater ambivalence to slavery, distasteful, corrupting, demeaning and  oh so convenient to one’s lifestyle, social standing, economic position and the South’s “peculiar” way of life. Shelby was a friend of Tennessee’s John Sevier, an early land surveyor for the Transylvania Company Richard Henderson, and an investor in several of Blount’s land speculation ventures. He knew and worked with them all–but he is not their pale reflection. Like Washington, he was not a professional politician, nor political activist, but was constantly involved with politics and policy-making even if not to his liking. A plantation owner, farmer and military officer, he did NOT seek the governorship but was everybody’s first pick for the job. Harrison claims he only accepted it when offered because he felt his expertise and experience in fighting Indian wars was timely [1].


Shelby’s first administration completely overlaps and is overshadowed by the Federal, Mad Anthony Wayne’s War with the Shawnee–the War that started with the St. Clair’s catastrophe. Kentucky and her military formed a substantial component of the militia element in Wayne’s army–and the reader remembers the Governor is commander-in-chief of the militia and the state paid its war’s bills and salaries. The Governor could claim a share of the spotlight in Wayne’s 1994-5 victory at Fallen Trees and the Treaty of Greenville. More than 1,600 Kentucky militia fought at Wayne’s Fallen Timber battle [2]. That’s a big, and expensive, number for these times.

In his inaugural address to the legislature, Shelby was short, unpolished and to the point. He read ten points, many of which were obvious and uncontroversial. Shelby, holding a governor’s office which arguably was the nation’s strongest, he was nevertheless determined not to force his will on the legislature. His central goal was to promote “the prosperity of our common  country“–economic development to be sure, but hopelessly vague. Several of his points urged the legislature to build support for the new state and its government by honest and effective legislation. His second and third points called attention to the hopeless land claim situation which probably was the highest priority of most Kentuckians–but offered no solutions. His ninth point urged humane treatment of slaves and his final observation was for the legislature to determine the location of the state capital and commence its construction.

In its first year the legislature remained in session for twenty-three days, produced thirty-seven acts, and essentially set up the formal apparatus of the legislature, departments, and made initial appointments to various positions. The Senate accepted all of Shelby’s nominations, and in return Shelby signed their bills. He vetoed one bill of court administration, which the legislature quickly amended to accommodate his objections. The Revenue Act, necessarily was the most important, and one of its most controversial feature was to require payment of taxes in state currency–tobacco had been the former currency. The principal sources of state revenue were levies on land, slaves and livestock/horses. A heavy sin tax was placed on billiard tables [3].

Fees were charged for filings of legal papers–and to pay the bills until the taxes rolled in, the state was allowed to borrow the whopping sum of $2,000. Several acts created and appointed officials to flesh out the rather lean sub-state government the constitution established (surveyor and tax collectors). Four new counties were established in the first session (between 1792 and 1800 thirty counties were created), one town incorporated, two Congressional districts created, federal Bill of Rights amendments approved, and established a commission to oversee the siting of the new capital. From all this, the reader might take away the crispness and easy consensus that were the hallmarks of limited government. The legislature and governor did what was necessary to start up the state–and then went home, or off to war to fight Indians. This “light touch” state government was characteristic of Shelby’s first administration, and as one might expect, it produced no FDR barn-burning bout of legislation and there was no evidence of a Kentucky version of Hamilton.

The most interesting output in the Governor’s Inauguration list was the siting of the state capital. The legislative commission received proposals from a number of boroughs (about eight), and commission members made site visits to each. The process started in August, 1792, and a final report was issued in December. The final decision came down to Boonesborough and Frankfurt, and the key criteria in that decision was the incentive package offered by each borough. Still rather isolated, Boonesborough was out of its league in playing the incentive game with Frankfurt. One of Frankfurt’s early city-builders, Andrew Holmes purchased James Wilkinson’s mansion, and considerable acreage Wilkinson had accumulated. Holmes offered the state free use of the mansion for seven years, and eight prime lots from land owned by the borough, half of the unsold lots available for purchase in the borough, and cash proceeds derived from rents on a warehouse on the Kentucky River. Holmes also supplied at his cost a good deal of the construction materials necessary for public buildings. Eight other citizens offered a “bounty” of $ 3,000 if their site was chosen. Boonesborough countered with 18.500 acres, but only $2,630 in cash. Frankfurt had the preferred location, north of the Kentucky River–which insured that nearby Lexington was not only close to the state capital but likely to benefit from its success. The Commission recommended Frankfurt and three days later on December 5, 1792 the state legislature approved it. The next session of the legislature was to meet in the mansion Holmes had offered in the incentive package. Who said incentives don’t work?[4].

Citizen Edmund-Charles Genet, French Ambassador


Citizen Genet Affair–the Global Competitive Hierarchy At-Work

Involved as he was with the Washington’s Native American war against Northwest Indian tribes, Shelby, quite by accident, wound up having to deal with a good deal of the Federalist foreign policy agenda: in the form of the little-known, less understood, Citizen Genet affair. If any of Washington’s foreign policy involvements has been neglected, smushed and badly summarized in contemporary history, it is, in my opinion, the Citizen Genet affair. Today it is almost regarded as laughable, but then it was critical to  the formation of the early Democrat-Republican Tribe, and its effect in western states such as Kentucky and Tennessee was huge.

Genet, as much a political refugee and political activist as a French ambassador to the United States, came into his 1793 assignment with a personal mission with an accompanying political agenda. Genet was determined to bring the United States into the war against England and Spain as an ally of France. Upon his arrival in Charleston he traveled to the nation’s capital, Philadelphia as a sort of hero, feted by many highly-placed Revolutionary War patriots as the representative of the nation who was their only ally in a war for independence. While New England and many Federalists may have had a more favorable view of England, the South did not as a whole did not–and Britain and Spain’s role in fomenting, leading and supplying Native American resistance made the latter a real time enemy, especially in places like Kentucky and Tennessee. In the wake of St Clair’s defeat and the “brewing” political dissatisfaction engendered by Hamilton’s whiskey tax Kentucky was still seething with carryovers from Wilkinson’s Spanish Conspiracy, even if Wilkinson had left the state by this point. Spain’s Mississippi River, Georgia and Florida intrusive resistance against American expansion would complicate Kentucky’s economic development for the next twenty-five years.

Recognizing the common man and Revolutionary War patriot’s instinctive affinity to France, Genet aggressively advocated and supported the formation of little known “Democratic Societies” (municipal discussion groups composed of local influential elites/activists–often anti-Federal in their inclinations). Scattered across the nation, mostly in cities (a close relationship developed, for example, between NYC’s Democratic Society and Tammany Hall), but also in western areas. These Democratic Societies became nests of D-Rs, and an base for Jefferson’s developing political tribe. Genet’s message and agenda was not by any means bipartisan or politically neutral. Genet wasted no time in stirring up the formidable passion of George Washington, and the two settled down to a nasty relationship. If Hamilton was his most bitter enemy, than it must mean Genet was Jefferson and Madison’s friend.

Anyway, in August 1793, a Democratic Society formed in Lexington KY. Its key issue was free navigation of the Mississippi. Within months, four other Kentucky towns formed their Democratic Societies [5]. Reflecting their influence in local opinion, barber’s put red and white striped “Liberty Poles” poles in front of their establishments (this is where the barber pole came from). Taking advantage of Kentucky’s turmoil, Genet sent five “scientists-agents” into Kentucky to stir the pot. They were purposed to raise funds and organize an army to invade New Orleans. On their behalf,  Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of State,  sent a letter of introduction to Governor Shelby, as did Kentucky’s Senator Brown.

Shelby was never favorably inclined to Genet’s agenda, but George Rogers Clark was–and he was still around in Kentucky. Clark wrote Genet and probably was the inspiration behind Genet’s Kentucky’s involvement. Clark, the Revolutionary War victor at Kaskaskia and Vincennes–he was called the Conqueror of the Northwest–offered to help raise and lead an army to seize New Orleans. As background, Clark, a Virginian, had been viewed as a founder of Kentucky, technically Clark founded Louisville as his base of supply in his Northwest conquest, and his opinion mattered in 1793 Kentucky. Since the early 1780’s Clark advocated using Spain as leverage to gain better terms for Kentucky’s admission to the Union–and if not available then become independent. Although in personal decline by the early 1790’s (health and alcoholism) Genet accepted Clark’s offer and appointed him “Commander in chief of the French Revolutionary Legion on the Mississippi”. Clark, joined by our constitutional convention friend, George Nicholas and others, made good on his offer and assembled an army and supplies. The investors in this affair were a “who’s who” of Kentucky politics–but not Shelby.

When he was informed of this, Washington had a conniption. He wrote Shelby that his Administration was negotiating with Spain for access to the Mississippi, and Clark’s expedition would obviously destroy any chance for success. He urged Shelby to stop Clark and friends. The letter, however, was inadvertently delayed, and when it arrived Shelby vacillated–hoping to clarify Jefferson’s position on the matter before responding. Since federal troops, Wayne’s army, were withing striking distance of Kentucky, Shelby eventually wrote to Wayne to inform him of his position regarding Clark’s army: that he could not, would not, stop the army from invading Louisiana.

Wayne fast forwarded Shelby’s message to Washington, and Washington ordered Wayne to stop the invasion. Wayne rushed in and put a stop to Clark’s invasion. Washington then demanded France recall Genet as ambassador–which it soon did beginning yet another strange twist in the Genet story . Since there was little doubt Genet would be sent to the guillotine for his American activities, Hamilton, his bitterest opponent, urged Washington to offer Genet sanctuary in America as a humanitarian refugee, which Washington did. Genet, predictably ungrateful, shortly after married the daughter of New York’s governor Clinton, the most powerful northern D-R [6]. Setting up a plantation in East Greenbush on the Hudson, Genet settled down to farming; he died and was buried in East Greenbush New York in 1834.

The 1793-4 Genet affair, complete with Clark’s army and proposed invasion of Spanish Louisiana, enters our history as support for the following: (1) this is the second (Wilkinson’s constitutional convention–Spanish conspiracy, being the first) in Kentucky’s flirtation with Spain; (2) demonstrating the centrality of access to the Mississippi River, a major ED initiative and goal, to Kentucky politics; and economic development; (3) revealing the fragility of the American Union in the West, and (4) exposing the turbulence and partisan polarization rising from the emergence of Jefferson’s very young D-R tribe and its effects in Kentucky. Without Wayne’s warning and his federal troops the Genet affair could easily have taken a much more serious turn.

The flirtation with Spain was far from over; in fact, nearly a decade later a much more serious episode would occur–resulting in the impeachment of the Vice-President of the United States Aaron Burr and the Commander-in-Chief of the American Army, none other than James Wilkinson. It too will play out in Kentucky, and will result in a incredible impeachment trial, presided over by John Marshall (Supreme Court Chief Justice) in which Burr will be acquitted. His lawyer got him off–BTW his lawyer was Henry Clay. That lies ahead, however.

Garrard Administration

James Garrard almost stumbled into the governor’s office in 1796. In a three-way “Kentucky electoral college-style” election, he wound up receiving fewer votes but was declared the winner in the run-off election. Certified as the winner, even though it was unclear that a run-off election violated the state constitution, the election was not without its doubters. Garrard, by background was a wealthy plantation gentry from Virginia who had moved into Kentucky in 1783. He filed a 40,000 acre veterans land claim on the basis of his respected participation in the Revolutionary War. With a solid, if unremarkable military background (he was POW), Garrard began is Kentucky residency. More inclined toward plantation management than business development, Garrard, a former member of the Virginia and Kentucky militia, did not participate in the Indian Wars.

Like Shelby, Garrard was a member of the Promotion of Knowledge & the Useful Arts, but unlike Shelby he was a leader  and preacher in the Baptist Church. His Baptist perspective accepted significant elements of Unitarianism, and that turn called attention to the tumult caused by the arrival of the Second Great Awakening in the South. Garrard was “woke”, developed more activist views, and was forced to leave the Baptist Church as a consequence. His religion became an important influence in his political views, and it led him into positions in sympathy with anti-slavery advocates and more radical land-oriented populists. This would put him at odds with his plantation-owner friends, but conversely significantly widened his electoral appeal.

A “liberal” Baptist preacher, his sermons condemned slavery vigorously and repeatedly. As a delegate in five of the ten constitutional conventions, he displayed consistent opposition to slavery in the statehood conventions, and voted against it in the state constitutional convention–despite the sad reality that he was always a slaveholder, and never, ever, freed his slaves. Anti-slavery was a consistent feature of many Virginia Tidewater elites, ranging from Washington, to Jefferson, to George Mason (leader of the Virginia anti-Federalists). Few, however, emancipated their slaves upon death, and most advocated for a phased elimination of slavery over an extended period of time. Two of Garrard’s grandsons were Union generals during the Civil War–testimony to anti-slavery as a persistent division among Kentucky elites.

Considered a strong governor, the tenor and lack of intensity in using government so apparent in Kentucky political culture mutes his impact on Kentucky history. He secured legislation setting up a strong sub-state judicial system capped by a Court of Appeals, a liberal criminal justice reform, and pressed hard for Kentucky’s establishment of its first education system. Garrard secured passage of state-level business subsidies to encourage manufacturing in Kentucky. In Garrard what we see is a slow-paced institutionalization, leaving economic growth to its own tender mercies. The state’s economy did not suffer, enjoying the benefits and disruption caused by serious population growth from other states, not direct immigration. During Garrard’s eight years, twenty-six counties were created, more than any other Kentucky governor to this day.

Garrard’s principal ED agenda was his successful advocacy of land reforms, favoring squatters, debtors and yeoman over plantation owners and speculators. Garrard may have been partially motivated by his religious inclinations that violated his own class-based allegiances and economic interests, but his ambivalence also reflected the prevailing Tidewater – DR alliance between its propertied, wealthy elite leadership and the hardscrabble, debtor, populist mainstream voter. These two seemingly incompatible D-R wings had fused during the period of the Whisky Rebellion, and continued through the entire of the Adam’s administration. The timing was helpful to Garrard, and this successful “mobilization of the periphery” brought Jefferson to power in 1800. The tension, however, between the two wings was very real during their period of alliance. Jeffersonian propertied elites distanced themselves from violence and insurrection in the aftermath of the Whiskey Rebellion, but encouraging protest within the law blurred the gap between the two wings.

Withdrawing from the foreign policy stridency of the Democratic Societies, Jefferson D-R channeled populist action into electoral change and a, for its time and age, developed a relatively sophisticated political organization that included Kentucky. Land claims and squatters/debtor rights, however, as well as huge differences in the acceptance of limited capitalism and the populist advocacy of an open franchisee and legislative supremacy were only bridged by their mutual hostility to the Federalists, their aggressive and hostile national government, their tilt toward England in their foreign policy, and their intense capitalist institutionalization [7]. Politically, Garrard was an orthodox Jeffersonian D-R on the eve of Jefferson’s transformational and realignment 1800 election.

Garrard served two terms, the first of which was saturated with Jefferson’s D-R Tribe attack on the Adams administration, and the Alien & Sedition Acts, and English-French preferences in foreign policy. Accordingly, Garrard was in agreement with, and a participant in, the Kentucky-Virginia Resolutions, a struggle that waxed on and off from 1797 to 1801. Espousing nullification, strict constitutionalism, and states rights in which the federal government exercised its sovereignty through powers delegated to it by  a “compact among states”, rather than from a vote of sovereign citizenry, the American people . The Resolutions, discussed in the last chapter, impacted political discussion in nearly every state; many states took formal positions against the Resolutions.

Finally, the politics leading to, during, and after the Second Constitutional Convention, consumed much of 1797 and 1798. In this convention tensions between gentry and partisans were hashed out–again resulting in a compromise which on the main removed the First Constitution’s indirect electoral franchise, creating a popularly elected Senate and Governor. The Gentry, however, preserved and even strengthened slavery and property prerogatives. We will mention Garrard’s second, post 1800 administration in a later chapter.




[1] Lowell H. Harrison, Kentucky’s Road to Statehood (the University Press of Kentucky, 1992), p. 137

[2] Thomas Clark, a History of Kentucky (Jesse Stuart Foundation, 1992), p. 101

[3]  Lowell H. Harrison, Kentucky’s Road to Statehood, p. 144

[4]  Lowell H. Harrison, Kentucky’s Road to Statehood, pp. 147-8

[5] Thomas Clark, a History of Kentucky, p. 103

[6] Thomas Clark, a History of Kentucky, pp.103-5

[7] Ronald R. Formisano, For the People: American Populist Movements from the Revolution to the 1850’s (University of North Carolina Press) 2008), pp. 60-3


OPTIONAL: Importance of the Initial Kentucky Policy System to Chapter One Model

The reader might also keep in mind that I have constructed a “Chapter One Model” which conceptualizes the drivers and dynamics of policy-change and policy-making over time using American economic development as the prism. The Chapter One Model takes a while to fully develop. Through all of the eighteenth and nineteenth century that Model plays a critical role, but the model itself is “developing”. The mature Model is most telling and helpful in the twentieth and our contemporary era. Central to the mature Chapter One Model is my notion (not just mine alone, of course) of the fearsome Big City Industrial Hegemony. That Hegemony does much to explain and understand Regional distinctions in policy-making–and political culture’s impact on policy-making.

Political culture in my Chapter One Model exerts its influence in many ways but in economic development’s case, principally through political and economic structures as opposed to specific policy attitudes measured by polls and the like. Structures explain how long-forgotten value systems haunt us to the present day and impact, unseen, the making of private and public policy. They also help us transition from the inevitable de-ethnicization, secularization urbanization of a community’s political culture. In this module, too dynamics, the lag in policy-making development, and the delay in initial state-building institutionalization are crucial background factors that allow for the rise of the Big City Industrial Hegemony. Who’da thunk Kentucky (and Virginia in the background) and Tennessee, would help explain why Big City Hegemony expanded unchecked until it accumulated such mass and momentum that it could not be easily or effectively challenged.

Much detail, the simple necessity of patronage and appointments to fill new offices created by the new, often vague, state constitution, the setting up of legislative procedures and the working out relationships with the governor–not to mention the reality the legislature was entrusted by the constitution to establish the Third Branch, the Judiciary. Oh, BTW where is the state capital to be located? How do we build the state capitol and other public buildings like the Governor’s House and Court without money? In 1792, polarization between Federalists and and a non-existent Democrat-Republican Party was of course minimal–and not to be forgotten, the primary spot on nearly everyone’s policy agenda was dealing with attacks from Native American tribes. Foremost in most citizen’s minds was the militia, much less the legislature and governor. With the most rudimentary local government in place, a colossal number of local and personal issues drifted to the state level, mostly land claims–and for some weird reason stray animals, legislation on which was one of the very earliest produced in the Legislature’s first session. Realistically, amid such a clutter a coherent and sustained economic development agenda simply isn’t going to happen. All of this left a huge legacy in the politics, economics and policy-making afterward.

In effect what I have just described is an important factor in explaining the early years of our Early Republic: there was an inherent lag effect between older established states and their more developed urban centers and economies, and those of new states in the western interior. Pennsylvania and southern New England/Massachusetts  laid the foundations for a manufacturing industrial economic base, and South/North Carolina and southern Georgia was home base for the rise of the Cotton Belt–the South’s economic paradigm for its economic base. They enjoyed an unchallenged head start because of the “lag effect” that mired new western states as they started from scratch and had to weather the tempestuous period associated with formation of stable political and economic institutions vital to future growth and ED–state-building, banks in particular, are very disruptive during these years. The different reaction to state-building by northern and southern states is a major reason why the latter would be unable to diversify their initial economic bases, and compete with the North. Yes, geography, slavery and plantation commodity export were also important, no one says state-building institutionalization explains it all–but all of these factors/dynamics trace their dominance through the indirect impact of political culture.