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Tennessee Becomes a State

In 1793 the number of free white male inhabitants of the South West Territory being found to exceed five thousand, Governor Blount, in accordance with the provisions of the ordinance of 1787, authorized the election of delegates to a territorial assembly which met at Knoxville on the fourth Monday of February 1794 for the purpose of choosing ten persons from whom five were to be selected by Congress as a legislative council. A committee was also appointed to draw up an address to Congress petitioning for a declaration of war against the Creeks and Cherokees In this temperately worded and well

 The first legislative council commissioned by the President of the United States consisted of Griffith Rutherford, John Sevier, James Winchester, Stockley Donaldson and Parmenas Taylor: these with the governor and the members of the house of delegates constituted the general assembly for the South West Territory.

Governor Blount however thought fit to summon them to meet again at Knoxville on the 29th of June, 1795. The session only lasted thirteen days but during this period a provision made for calling a convention of delegates from the people to adopt a constitution for the new State in the event of its being ascertained that the population of the territory exceeded sixty thousand. The census returns made in the autumn of the same year showing sixty seven thousand free white inhabitants and ten thousand slaves, a convention was held at Knoxville on the 11th of January 1796 and a constitution was adopted for the State of Tennessee.

The territorial government being thus abrogated, fresh writs of election were issued, which resulted in the choice of General John Sevier as governor of the new state. The delegates of the state legislature who had been voted for at the same time assembled at Knoxville on the 28th of March and presently elected ex Governor Blount and William Cocke senators of the United States. To the reception of the latter, however, Congress raised objections. It was argued that the authority for taking the census and for establishing the new state ought to have emanated from Congress. The report of the committee in favour of admitting the new state finally passed the house. The senate was less compliant. The new state was, however, after considerable opposition, admitted into the Union;but when the senators elect presented their credentials and claimed their seats, it was decided that their election was invalid, because "their credentials were of a date prior to the act admitting the state into the Union."

It was not long before this objection was removed. The legislature of Tennessee in obedience to a summons from Governor Sevier met at Knoxville toward the close of July, and very early the following month re-elected their senators to Congress, taking occasion, at the same time to correct certain errors in the enactments of the previous session by providing for the election of a single member to Congress instead of two and for the choice of three presidential electors instead of four. When these amendments had been made Andrew Jackson, a young lawyer of Davidson county, who had already distinguished himself by his firmness in the discharge of his professional duties, and his courage in defending the frontiers from the predatory incursions of the savages, was chosen to represent the State of Tennessee in the Congress of the United States.

Tennessee leaders had a long struggle toward statehood. It had been more than ten years since the failed attempt to admit the state of Franklin. In 1796, Tennessee's leaders converted the territory into a new state, with organized government and constitution, before applying to Congress for admission. Since the Southwest Territory was the first Federal territory to present itself for admission to the Union, there was some uncertainty about how to proceed, and Congress was divided on the issue.

On June 1, 1796, Congress approved the admission of Tennessee as the sixteenth state of the Union.

Sources: The History of Tennessee, from Its Earliest Settlement to the Present Time

 By William Henry Carpenter and other sources.