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1796 Tennessee State Convention


It will be noticed that at this date there were only three middle Tennessee counties, the three last named. Their population was 11,924, of which 2,466 were slaves, and twenty-six free negroes.

The convention was organized by the election of William Blount, president; William McLin, secretary, and John Sevier, Jr., reading and engrossing clerk. John Rhea was appointed door-keeper. On motion it was ordered that the next morning's session commence with prayer, and that a sermon be delivered by Reverend Samuel Carrick. After resolving on the second day that $1.50 per day and $1.00 for every thirty miles traveled coming to and returning from the convention, was sufficient for each member's service; , the following individuals-two members from each county-were named as members of a committee to ,draft a constitution

Blount County: Daniel Craig and Joseph Black.
Davidson County: Andrew Jackson and John McNairy.
Greene County: Samuel Frazier and William Rankin.
Hawkins County: Thomas Henderson and William Cocke.
Jefferson County: Joseph Anderson and William Roddye.
Knox County: William Blount and Charles McClung.
Sullivan County: William C. C. Claiborne and John Rhea.
Sumner County: D. Shelby and Daniel Smith.
Sevier County: John Clack and Samuel Wear.
Tennessee County: Thomas Johnson and William Fort.
Washington County: John Tipton and James Stuart.

After completing the labor which had brought it together, the convention adjourned February 6, 1796, the session having lasted twenty-seven days.

The constitution adopted was declared by Thomas Jefferson the .least imperfect and most republican system of government which had been adopted by any of the American states. But he must have arrived .at that conclusion hurriedly. It was unrepublican and unjust. It was framed by landowners-and that meant the land speculators. Consider the monstrous provision that all lands should be taxed equal and uniform in such manner that no one hundred acres should be taxed higher than any other, except town lots, which should not be taxed higher than two hundred acres of land each. (The principle was later adopted (in the Constitution of 1834) of taxing lands as well as other property according to their value.) The bulk of the best lands were in the hands of a few men and located nearest Nashville, Knoxville, Jonesboro and other villages; this system of taxation enabled them to hold the lands. More than that, the general assembly, whose members were nearly all drawn from the leisure class and who had the time to be -candidates and the means to be successful, was given despotic powerit elected all judges, state attorneys and justices of the peace. The wealthy class could readily go to the seat of government and see that magistrates (who composed the county court) acceptable to them and their interests were appointed.

The time has never been when the masses could afford not to keep an eye on their public servants.

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Source: Will T. Hale. A history of Tennessee and Tennesseans: the leaders and representative men in commerce, industry and modern activities, published Chicago: Lewis Pub. Co., 1913.
 

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