Southwestern Territory: Phase I of Blount’s Drive to Statehood


William Blount

The State of Franklin, a study in political fiction, land speculation and homestead settlement, sort of faded away through 1789 when Governor Caswell was replaced by Governor Johnson, the legislature simply stopped meeting, and the state of North Carolina incrementally reestablished effective governance over its western counties. There was no lowering of the flags that I know of, only the pardon of its former Governor Sevier and his election to the North Carolina legislature.

While the State of Franklin existed William Blount had served mostly in the Articles of Confederation Congress in Philadelphia. He was there in 1787 when it approved the Northwest Ordinance and set up Articles’ governance in states north of the Ohio River. He had previously got mixed up with, on both sides of, the very controversial Hopewell Treaty with the southern Native American tribes. Blount was one of two candidates for President of the Articles Congress, but lost out to Arthur St. Clair. By this time, Blount and his family had become among the South’s most wealthy families, engaged in all sorts of enterprises including finance, logistics, manufacturing and, of course, land speculation.

In 1787, Blount was one of five delegates elected by the state North Carolina to participate in the Constitutional Convention. A reluctant signor of the final Constitution document, he led the effort to secure North Carolina’s ratification of the Constitution, and the subsequent entry of the state into the Early Republic. That effort brought him back to North Carolina and he was elected for two terms in is Senate. The ratification of the Constitution was horribly contested, confused, and terribly unpopular among sizable elements of the Tennessee electorate. North Carolina was the second to last signer (November 21, 1789) and missed the first session of the Congress. In December 1789, Blount ran to be the state’s first senator, but lost.

When North Carolina joined the United States, Blount resuscitated his Plan A. On December 1st, 1789, the North Carolina legislature once again voted–this time for good–to cede its western counties to the Congress. Congress in April 1790 formally accepted the cession, and lands that were to be the future state of Tennessee were transferred to the Federal Government. As stipulated in Plan A, the Federal Government agreed to accept all land ownership claims at the time of cession. So far, so good. The only fly in the ointment was the federal policy that stipulated to be eligible for statehood, a state’s population had to exceed 60,000. When data was available from the first (1790) census Tennessee totaled near 36,000. Congress, therefore, had to structure an administrative unit to manage the affairs associated with the land, and to organize its formal application for statehood when eligible.

So in May 1790, Congress created the Southwest District. The following month the North Carolina legislature unanimously recommended William Blount to President Washington as their preferred governor of the Southwestern Territory–and the Territory’s  Superintendent of Indian Affairs. There were other serious candidates, but in June Washington appointed Blount. In September Blount went to Mount Vernon and met with Washington. Blount reported directly for both the Southwestern Territory and the Superintendent of Indian Affairs to Secretary of War, Henry Knox–the architect of the Washington administration’s Native American strategy.

Everyone has stumbled upon the Northwest Ordinance in their early American history classes. No one, however knows of the “Southwest Ordinance”, and that is the tale we begin in this module.


The Southwest District

As shall be seen, I have divided the Southwestern District’s six year existence into two phases: (1) dealing with Native Americans and developing capacity of future governance and (2) actually setting up the institutions and processes for Tennessee statehood. It was the latter that required approval of a polarized Congress and a lame duck Washington administration ; the first phase was more directly under the administration of Secretary Knox. It is noteworthy that from the start two sub-regional organizations (Watauga-eastern Tennessee and Nashville/Davidson Middle Tennessee) were created within the Southwest District. There were sound, in fact compelling, reasons why he did so.

First, although both regions suffered from severe Native American attacks, Watauga’s (State of Franklin) possessed a two-decade old fabric. It had developed an established elite and political class–John Sevier its most prominent leader–and nearly seventy-five percent of Tennesseans resided there. Sevier, never a Blount protege, but always a Blount business partner had fabricated a working relationship– a tribute I believe to Blount because Sevier held a fierce streak of independence, and a low charismatic following. Middle Tennessee, only ten years in existence had been on the verge of extinction through most of that decade. Still, it was the destination of choice by 1789. Outside of Franklin’s jurisdiction and effectively ignored by North Carolina, Middle Tennessee, however, was on it own. In that vacuum a political organization, dominated by Blount, and operated by loyal friend and business associate, James Robertson, held sway over the widely dispersed and hinterland-isolated population. Geographical isolation (you still could not get there without going through Kentucky and the Wilderness Road) cemented its autonomous, if fragile and rudimentary democracy and leadership.

Both sub-regions as shall be later discussed possessed on the surface a similar political culture that heavily stressed local leadership, as opposed to leadership by superior levels of government. Both were heavily tilted toward the Democrat-Republican point of view, and were strident anti-Federalists. Blount was a Federalist, and that was noted at the time. As Tennessee started down its path to statehood, the bi-regional reality shaped Blount’s management of the Southwest District, and he structured a parallel set of offices that demanded his active involvement to coordinate. Each sub-region during the period of administration by the Southwest District maintained its own leadership, respected its organic elites, and evolved a distinctive political culture due to the differing flow of ethnic migration that characterized the settlement of each. As to its economic base, Watauga by geography and soil, limited the the development of plantations, and favored yeoman husbandry, and a more diversified economy. Middle Tennessee, more suitable to plantation agriculture, but also well-placed to accommodate north-south flow of people and goods–and better access to rivers, developed as Lexington. There was a Little Sort of population and economic base that over the next decades would further distinguish eastern Tennessee from its Middle central region.

As Governor of the Southwest Territory for nearly six years, Blount was in his golden years of political success. Always a complicated man of several natures, charismatic and agreeable, we have concentrated thus far on his land speculation activities and the obvious overlap with North Carolina state policy-making. There was a”Luke Skywalker” side of him as well which we have not yet given equal play. In that his private interests, already safely filed in the state claims office, were robustly congruent with effective administration and sound Tennessee economic and political development, Blount’s tenure in that office was remarkable, skillful, and successful–viewed from the white Tennessean perspective, of course. He never abandoned his use of government to enhance his landholdings or add to them, but he was consistent in using Southwestern Territory powers to pursue an agenda that responsibly allowed the Territory to grow, and by 1796 had created a viable state-level administrative capacity that led to a new democratic constitution, fair and open elections, and the successful institutionalization of core state and local government structures, and the successful final approval by Congress of its statehood. That was a long sentence, and it was a meaningful tribute to Blount that he accomplished so much, under extraordinary circumstances.

The challenges he faced in these six years were fearsome, and complex as we shall see–but he rose to the occasion.

Blount’s Political Organization Brought Coherence to Tennessee

His organizational structure for the first time since Watauga Association brought coherence and governmental attention to Tennessee. His end result, Tennessee’s first Constitution, introduced and institutionalized a new western democratic, frontier-defined democracy, markedly different than Massachusetts, for example; it was democracy more attuned to Jefferson’s emerging D-R tribe. But underneath Blount’s Southwestern Territory’s coherence and frontier democracy was Blount’s loyal frontier elite, who followed Blount’s Virginia Tidewater Federalist cast of mind. Most of his frontier associates were decidedly Jeffersonian and anti-Federalist, but they circled their support around Blount’s Southwest District administration, and defended Blount from the none–to-aggressive opposition his personality, land deals, and the consequences of political leadership that necessarily created a long-line of opponents. Lacking personal charisma–although often liked and charming–Blount borrowed from his charismatic subordinates. As such there was a strong element of frontier bureaucracy that characterized Blount’s administration, and that administrative bureaucracy could also serve his electoral interests. Blount’s  opportunistic blend of sound competent government and personal self-interest is captured in  Dr. Rohrbough’s description of him as Southwestern Territory Governor:

The new governor … was one of Tennessee’s leading land speculators. Blount intended to protect his holdings, of course, and those of others like him, but he also sought to promote the security and stability of the territory, for such conditions would improve the value of his lands. He had a difficult challenge. …. In the face of federal indifference, Blount rose to that challenge. He traveled all over that territory to listen to its citizens and along the way he created a political machine that controlled appointments and patronage throughout the territory. In the critical area of relations with Indian peoples, he utilized effective personal diplomacy, with gifts and bribes, mixed with John Sevier’s [and James Robertson’s] unofficial military campaigns. Blount … sought statehood as rapidly as possible. [1]

Schooled in factional and fragmented North Carolina politics, Blount took the opposite tack and centralized the powers of the federal Southwestern Territory, placing them under the control of his own network of political and business allies/partners. He established what I liken to a proto-organization machine, decentralized and administered by subordinates loyal to him, who supplemented Blount’s  remote behind-the-scenes “Boss-like” strategies with their own on-the-ground tactical, even charismatic, leadership. All owed their positions, authority, and paycheck from Blount’s federal (and Federalist)Southwestern Territory. In return for their loyalty, competence and constituency–in this sense they were his ward-heelers–Blount would turn a blind eye to their periodic departures from Blount’s superior, Henry Knox Native American policy, and we can’t forget all were his business partners or family.

Blount appointed his half-brother, Willie (a future Tennessee governor) his personal secretary,  and appointed as key sub-regional leaders names we have already introduced in the land grab act. Blount built a political organization, personally loyal to him, in Davidson County/Middle Tennessee around James Robertson and Donelson families. Robertson was in charge of the military and Indian affairs. In the eastern Watauga counties, (former state of Franklin), John Sevier was in charge as his military and Indian affairs lieutenant. Blount also placed James White, Blount’s land grab surveyor, in charge of eastern Tennessee lands which were undergoing some settlement and which were outside the conventional boundaries associated with Watauga and Franklin. White, as part of the Land Grab–and after– had purchased much land in Watauga’s northern periphery, playing a pioneering Founding Father role. White proved a counter to Sevier, and proved brave and capable of handling the military responsibilities essential to its growth and safety. While White was less central in Blount’s organization, but his ability to provide the leadership in this growing and potentially important geography. provided Blount with needed leverage. How White and Blount worked jointly is demonstrated in their great project: the establishment of a capital for the Southwest District.

White, whose Irish-born father emigrated from there in the 1740’s, had finally settled in Rowan County NC. James White was born there in 1747. A captain in the revolutionary War militia, White was entitled to land as a military veteran, but instead chose to buy land in northern Watauga during the land grab. At that time Abernethy credits White with independent action, but with the behind the scene support of a man with whom he was always a personal friend, William Blount [2]. White settle those acquired lands during the “Franklin” era (1785) and in 1786) founded and built Fort White–a stockade-settlement, at a defensible intersection of two rivers. Defense was vital as the region needed to fend off a constant stream of powerful Indian attacks, that gathered even more momentum during the Southwestern Territory period. Once established in Hawkins County, White evolved his own constituency as a political, and ofttimes military leader. Elected to the  North Carolina State Senate, he became its Speaker; later he was elected to the North Carolina House. Blount, newly appointed as Territorial Governor, elevated White to one of his chief lieutenants, and wasted no time in moving  his Southwest District “capital” from Philadelphia to Washington County TN, immediately adjacent to Fort White in Hawkins County. Blount’s first state capital, however, was never intended to be permanent. He had other ideas where he wanted the permanent capital to be.

His new capital suffered from life-threatening Cherokee raids. In the summer of 1791 Blount organized a successful peace conference with forty-one Cherokee chiefs led by John Watts at Fort White that resulted in the Treaty of Holston. The Treaty was significant in its design and its content–but as a treaty to end the Cherokee War, it was a complete failure (BTW Blount’s personal land interests suffered mightily from the the Treaty of Holston). From our perspective an important consequence of the treaty was that Blount’s hope to establish a permanent state capital at “Emery’s Town (Kingston, a location more suited to connecting eastern and middle Tennessee–an area where he personally owned substantial amounts of land) was rejected by the chiefs. This forced Blount to choose another site, and accordingly he located his permanent state capital at Fort White, whose name in 1792 was later changed to Knoxville. “Surprisingly” named for his boss Henry Knox, Blount shifted his land speculative affections to the Knoxville area. In that same year Blount bought acreage at Fort White with John White as a partner. He also started construction on the state capital building, and his own personal mansion. When Tennessee became a state in 1796, Knoxville was the state’s first capital (until 1817). The reader, however, should appreciate that Knoxville in this time period was quite small. The city was not recorded in the Census until 1850, when it climbed over (barely) 2,000 residents–including slaves.

Actually, the town was for years a village outpost protected by the United States troops at the fort or barracks, near what is now the corner of Gay and Main streets, and by the determination of [its] settlers. In 1793 Knoxville was almost destroyed by perhaps a thousand marauding Creeks ad Cherokees who … suddenly fell upon [the town] …. Only forty men were in the town at that point …this handful of settlers under the command of James White took up position … Two men were left to hold the town fort … [White surprised the vastly superior Indian force and pushed it back]. Fortunately for Knoxville, the Indians chose to retreat rather than risk interception by a strong force under John Sevier [3].

If the reader doubts, however, that even in so small a town living in such desperate environment, that we can find evidence of frontier economic development, it can be observed the new town newspaper, the Gazette, in 1792,  prepared a promotional-collateral pamphlet intended to attract settlers. In it the town was touted as “situated on a beautiful eminence“,”as the most eligible spot in the possession of the United States for a REPOSITORY (sic) of goods for supplying the Cherokees, Chickasaws, and Choctows (sic), and perhaps the Creeks too”, “Land Transportation of goods from Philadelphia, Richmond and Baltimore:  … was nearly as cheap as that from Philadelphia to Fort Pitt [Pittsburgh], and river transportation from Knoxville into the heart of the Indian nations was “shorter and safer than from Fort Pitt[4]. I suspect there is a lot of truth in this exemplary initiative in people-attraction and commercial development if one is trading scalps, weapons and liquor. There is no doubt that being 500 hundred miles from anywhere, with such “easy” transportation access is an important attraction strategy. I also admire the creative application of the cluster strategy–Indian trading for guns and liquor in the middle of the Cherokee-American War made a great deal of sense.

Oh well, economic development has matured and evolved over the last 230 years; we no longer indulge in such, I’m sure.

In any case, Knoxville’s most serious handicap for any growth strategy was its geographic isolation, which it shared with all of Watauga and eastern Tennessee. Its principal access was the Virginia Valley Road, but its river access was challenged, and the mountains remained a substantial barrier to the modes of pre-1820 transportation. “But that same isolation made Knoxville the cultural, commercial, and social capital of east Tennessee. Most of the time until 1817 the city was also the political capital of the state … the most important place in the state, and this prominence helped it to eclipse the older [Watauga] towns of Jonesboro and Rogersville[5]. Its rise to becoming a major city, however, occurred after 1850 and the Civil War.

Blount, Knox, Pickering: Indian-Fighting as a Partisan Wedge-Issue

Viewed from the western county’s perspective, the absolutely critical issue Blount faced was mitigating the zero-sum conflict between the Native American tribes and European white settlement.

It is important for us to take a paragraph or two, (all right, maybe three), (ok four) to describe the post-Revolutionary War phase of the Cherokee-American War. The Cherokee-American War greatly influenced the course of these state’s history–and is found in their histories, but not those of the other forty-five states. It is absolutely necessary the reader appreciate its importance in the evolution of Tennessee (the first American Southwest), and better understanding of the evolution of economic development in that state.

In 1790 Native Americans still controlled (about) 80% of Blount’s Southwestern Territory. Tennessee’s eastern counties, and the Middle Tennessee counties lying within the basin of the Great Appalachian Valley, were ground zero of what today is known as the Cherokee-American War. Essential to Blount’s statehood and land speculation game plans was to secure effective white European site control that would encourage migration. The federal requirement for statehood was 60,000 residents, and the the establishment of regional governance sufficient to develop an agricultural economic base supported by commercial urban export/import centers made site control, if not settlement-conquest imperative. None of this was likely to occur until and unless the Cherokee War was ended. His problem was, however, that his boss, War Secretary Knox (and President Washington) had their own ideas as to how to conduct Native-American relations.


Dragging Canoe

The War actually began, semi-officially at least, in 1776 and was an important factor in the Revolutionary War. It lasted until 1795, but for our purposes we have concentrated only on the period after the Revolutionary War –1783 to 1795. As such it overlapped the Articles of Confederation and the two Washington administrations. The war itself was episodic, chronic, consisting of formal campaigns, raids, confederation of tribes in a combined strategy, and a never-ending series of battles, ambushes, massacres, heroic tales, burning of Indian Towns–and treaties. Cherokee and southern tribe leaders in this period were Dragging Canoe, the greatest, Alexander McGillivray (half-Muscogee), Nancy Ward, Dragging Canoe’s chief rival, and John Watts his successor.

The war constantly overlapped today’s state boundaries, but its core geography was the entire Great Appalachian Valley, from western Virginia through Georgia. As such the area we describe as Watauga, i.e the entire of eastern Tennessee which included Knoxville and the entire State of Franklin were ground zero. Middle Tennessee, otherwise known as the Cumberland region (Nashville) or James Robertson’s Mero District, was also very hard hit as well, with fewer raids, but very bitter fighting made more intense by the isolated vulnerability of its residents. Georgia, the Houston Region along the Tennessee was also wracked. Kentucky, on the edges of the (southern) Cherokee War, was more involved with the Ohio-based Northwest Territory War–as was the Clinch Valley in western Virginia. Kentuckians in the latter war, suffered mightily from the St. Clair massacre, or Battle of the Wabash in 1791–a regular/militia defeat whose loss of (white) lives exceeded by multiples that suffered by George Custer at the Little Bighorn.




The 1785 Articles-negotiated Treaty of Hopewell was the cornerstone of the early federal approach to southern Indian relations. The Hopewell w approach was continued by George Washington and his Secretary of War, Henry Knox.

At that treaty the thirty-seven Cherokee chiefs agreed to recognized the sovereignty of the Articles United States over their lands, abandon blood revenge, and to accept federal supervision of Indian-white trade. In return the tribes got legal claim to specifically defined areas (reservations) for which white in-migration was precluded. Several particularly contentious areas (French Broad Rivers area north of Knoxville–the District capital) were left outside the treaty framework. Later agreements with the Choctaws and Chickasaws brought them into the Hopewell axis. Creeks never signed. In effect, as asserted earlier a two-nations within one nation approach was its underlying structure. Implementation, however, inevitably required reasonable and relatively precise boundaries between the reservation and white land

The Hopewell Treaty suffered from two fatal flaws: (1) it was obsolete the day it was signed–the borderlands of Native American-negotiated lands had already been violated and the sustained inflow, never too abate despite the terrors of the war, only made white incursion into Indian reserved lands inevitable even if immoral and illegal. Land speculation, assembly, and subdivision was relentless and it united white homesteaders with the land speculative elite who dominated Blount’s incipient political organization. The land claims agreed to at Hopewell were adequate in some geographies, but certainly not east Tennessee. Particularly troublesome was the boundaries did not reconcile with the realities of land sales in the 1783 Land Grab–or the speculative adventure in Muscle Shoals. To add to the woe Sevier and the State of Franklin formally repudiated the Hopewell agreement; and

(2) several tribes simply never bought into the treaty concept–seeing resisting white land invasion as zero-sum, win or lose clash of civilizations. If the white invasion of Indian land was relentless, so to was almost instinctive resistance by tribal leaders such as Dragging Canoe and the unpredictable, if pragmatic, mixed-blood John Watts. The early death of another great and pragmatic mixed-blood Creek chieftain Alexander McGillivray (1793) fatally frustrated post-1790 Southwest District peace negotiations. The entry of the Creeks into the fray made matters much worse. By the time Blount arrived on the scene, only the Chickasaws were willing to give peace a try [5a) .

These two dynamics combined by 1790 (when the Southwestern District commenced) to produce an essentially zero-sum clash of cultures which sadly seemed resolvable only by victor of one over the other. The far away Federalist-Hopewell approach to Indian relations that Washington and Knox set in motion a wedge between Blount’s on-the-ground white and speculator nexus and the far-flung Philadelphia eastern coastal approach. The rank-in-file of Blount’s political organization never bought into the Knox-Hopewell approach, and their conformity to it was half-hearted, and sustained only through the active intervention of Blount himself. Blount himself became a dog in the fight with the federals as the former. heavily investing in land made every effort to securely establish Knoxville as a urban settlement and the state capital. It is this initiative that led to the Knoxville Gazette pushing the incredible people and investment attraction program cited earlier. Blount also created two new Knoxville-related counties, which in a hope to bring on Knox’s support he named one Hamilton and the other Knox.

Blount now agreed with his constituents that only offensive operations by the militia or regular troops could end the Indian problem [as defined by the white settlers], but no one in Philadelphia, neither Knox, nor Washington, nor Congress would authorize such aggressive and costly measures (p. 139) … In vain, Henry Knox warned the United States would not support a war ‘brought on by the frontiers by the wanton blood thirsty disposition of our own people‘. and thought it unfair for the United States to punish “banditti Indians [when] guilty whites escape with impunity” (p. 143) [5b]

Blount “threaded the needle” by faithfully pursuing Knox’s program and heeding Knox’s “advice” that he restrict his land speculation. Southwest Territory deliberations with the Cherokee after the 1791 Treaty was Knox at his Indian-best. The Treaty of Holston had codified Knox’s approach as it applied to the Southwestern Territory. Secretary of War, Henry Knox preferred direct negotiation (in Philadelphia) and was sympathetic to Cherokee complains that white settlers were intent on conquest. Unchecked white settler invasions into Indian lands exposed the greed of pure land speculation, and Knox demanded strict adherence to the terms of any agreement–by whites. Knox, in effect, was setting up a sort of Israel-like two state solution; one state was called a reservation, and the other Tennessee.

But Knox also had his problems. He lacked federal resources, money, and necessarily was willing to do what he could to avoid war, and settle peaceably whatever conflict occurred. To iron out the Blount-wrinkles in the Treaty of Holston Knox met personally with the Cherokee leaders in Philadelphia, and added in January 1792 an addendum that enhanced Cherokee capacity to protect their interests, including designating their own interpreter and other assigned personnel critical to the implementation of the treaty. Knox also required termination of any attempt by the Thompson Company in Muscle Shoals (GA) to take over that area–directly opposite to Blount’s unsuccessful attempt to convince the chiefs to accommodate Muscle Shoals white development. The Treaty of Holston, as amended,, however, just didn’t work out. Warfare soon erupted, yet again, with both sides violating the Treaty. Knox refused (he had no money) to send in federal troops and things (from the white perspective) went to hell in a handbasket fast.

Conveniently during the Southwestern District period, there were two related but separate wars, waged for the most part by different tribes, sometimes in confederation or alliance, but mostly on their own: the Northwest and the Southwestern Territory wars. Textbooks and popular literature have always dwelled on the war in the Northwest Territory–Mad Anthony Wayne’s campaign against the Shawnee and allied tribes, ignoring almost completely a war equal in its intensity, duration, and impact that occurred in the South (Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, Georgia and even South Carolina). This too was a major bone of contention between Knox and Blount. Money was available for the northern war, but every dime was contested in the southern.

With In 1793, Wayne’s forthcoming northern campaign acquiring the available federal troops, and Kentucky militia, Knox responded to Blount’s request for assistance primarily in eastern Tennessee and the Knoxville area, with a rhetorical demand that Tennessee militia defend their Middle Tennessee territory more aggressively, and sending Middle Tennessee six small howitzers and two hundred muskets. In response to the non-authorization of the eastern Tennessee campaign, Blount semi-secretly authorized Sevier to lead an army to quell the uprising and set up forts and military encampments in contested Knoxville-area lands. Knox responded by refusing to pay the $29,000 in pay and expenses associated with that campaign. The sums remained unpaid for years to come. This is the campaign earlier described in our discussion of the founding of Knoxville; it was Sevier’s column that saved Knoxville and diverted the should-have-been victorious Indian coalition from sacking the city.

The Cherokee War was coming to its climax, and that campaign came within an inch of putting at least a temporary stop to white intrusion on the contested Indian lands. The battleground shifted to Middle Tennessee and hard-pressed James Robertson with his six howitzers and two hundred muskets, decided the only way to avoid eastern Tennessee’s fate was to strike first and hard. A second unauthorized attack was launched, this time deep into the heart of the Chickamauga tribe territory–destroying the sizable Indian towns of Nickajack and Running Water. The defeat of its Indian allies quickly forced Spain, who had been supplying the Indian campaigns, to pull back and leave the Indians on their own. In short order, Wayne won a resounding victory at Fallen Timbers in the northern war–and the Indian high water mark was not only checked but shattered. In November 1794 Blount signed a second treaty of Tellico Blockhouse with key Native American tribes, the treaty defused and (sort of) ended the Cherokee War. By the feud with Philadelphia intensified. Knox was gone and replaced by Pickering–and Pickering was brooking no more from the upstart Southwest District:

Pickering … lacked confidence in the Governor, doubted his honesty,, and seized every opportunity to attack [Blount]. Pickering even instructed .. the war departments agent in Knoxville to report any irregularities on Blount’s part. Like Knox Pickering complained about Blount’s lack of attention to Indian grievances, especially regarding white land encroachments. Pickering’s indifference to the needs of the Southwest Territory perhaps reflected his privately-stated belief that frontier settlers were ‘the least worthy subjects of the United States[5c)

Deplorable or not, Blount responded with the Treaty of Holston terms (1) asserted United States sovereignty in foreign policy (a check on Spanish interventions) and commerce in return for recognizing tribal lands as sort of a “state within a state” and the Cherokee “looked to the American government” as the protector or their rights.(2)  The federal government would assume responsibility to manage their foreign policy and most critically the U.S. pledged to curtail settler incursions and violence against Native Americans and their lands. (3) Boundaries were established for each “nation” and Cherokee land cessions to existing and new European settlements were required as was land for a new road from Fort White to Nashville. (4) Incentives were included that facilitated–encouraged–Cherokee to settle down, establish agricultural homesteads, and cease inter-tribal coalitions. Here was Henry Knox’s policy as negotiated by William Blount personally.


Arguably, the reason why the Treaty of Tellico “took” and Holston didn’t was (1) in the year before the former treaty (and a month after), Native American tribes suffered from a string of costly defeats in both the Southwestern and Northwestern Territories; (2) the Spanish in deep trouble in the European Napoleonic wars lost interest in North America–eventually transferring it to France, and (3) the futility of further struggle (on both sides) made compromise possible. petered out over the following months.

Blockhouse was hugely more successful and memorable–although it was nothing more than the 1791 Holston Treaty almost word for word. The peace persisted, depending on whether one hailed from the Cherokee Upper or Lower Towns, into the eve of the War of 1812. Spanish meddling in Indian affairs, however, did not stop and throughout the entire period-until the 1803 Louisiana Purchase–European-Native American collusion was a constant irritant, potential threat, and tempting opportunity to pursue independent statehood or just to make a profit for oneself. A major reason why Holston is remembered today is that the Tellico treaty accepted the terms negotiated at Holston, in return for which Blount did not require any new land cessions from the Tribes.

The Treaty of Holston terms (1) asserted United States sovereignty in foreign policy (a check on Spanish interventions) and commerce in return for recognizing tribal lands as sort of a “state within a state” and the Cherokee “looked to the American government” as the protector or their rights.(2)  The federal government would assume responsibility to manage their foreign policy and most critically the U.S. pledged to curtail settler incursions and violence against Native Americans and their lands. (3) Boundaries were established for each “nation” and Cherokee land cessions to existing and new European settlements were required as was land for a new road from Fort White to Nashville. (4) Incentives were included that facilitated–encouraged–Cherokee to settle down, establish agricultural homesteads, and cease inter-tribal coalitions. Here was Henry Knox’s policy as negotiated by William Blount personally.

In 1795, the Federal Government supplemented the Treaty with the “Factory Act” which developed a series of “trading posts” through which the federal government could guide Native American “entrepreneurism”, and established an effective federal monopoly over that trade with non-Native Americans–a signature initiative of the Washington administration’s Native American strategy. The federal monopoly in George Washington’s view set up a an economic ‘firewall”, a buffer that inhibited white trader exploitation of Native American (startup] entrepreneurism. The law was reauthorized periodically, and by 1822, when it terminated, twenty-eight trading posts had been developed–with reasonable success. Intended to be break-even in costs without profit, the trading posts in these years was a functional federal non profit EDO [6].

In 1795, the Federal Government supplemented the Treaty with the “Factory Act” which developed a series of “trading posts” through which the federal government could guide Native American “entrepreneurism”, and established an effective federal monopoly over that trade with non-Native Americans. Tellico signature initiative of the Washington administration’s Native American strategy. The federal monopoly in George Washington’s view set up a an economic ‘firewall”, a buffer that inhibited white trader exploitation of Native American (startup] entrepreneurism. The law was reauthorized periodically, and by 1822, when it terminated, twenty-eight trading posts had been developed–with reasonable success. Intended to be break-even in costs without profit, the trading posts in these years was a functional federal non profit EDO [6].


[1] Malcolm Rohrbough, Trans-Appalachian Frontier (3rd Ed) (Indiana University Press, 2008, p. 74

[2] Thomas Perkins Abernethy, From Frontier to Plantation in Tennessee (University of Alabama Press, 1932, 1967), p. 53

[3] William J. MacArthur, Jr., Knoxville’s History (East Tennessee Historical Society, 1978), p. 11

[4] William J. MacArthur, Jr., Knoxville’s History, pp. 12-13

[5] William J. MacArthur, Jr., Knoxville’s History, p. 13

[5a] John Finger, Tennessee Frontiers: Three Regions in Transition (Indiana University Press, 2001), p. 138

[5b] John Finger, Tennessee Frontiers: Three Regions in Transition

[5c} John Finger, Tennessee Frontiers: Three Regions in Transition. p. 147

[6] Robert J. Miller, the Encyclopedia of United States Indian Policy and Law, Congressional Quarterly Press, SAGE Publications), Mar 8, 2009