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