In 1784, the state of North Carolina attempted to cede its claim to western lands to the Articles of Confederation government. Included in this cession was the area of present-day northeastern Tennessee that was home to the Watauga settlements. Before the central government could accept the North Carolinian offer, the state withdrew it.
Settlers in the area had learned about the cession by North Carolina, but not the repeal. The frontiersmen placed little confidence in eastern governments of any kind. The threat from local Indian tribes had always been a concern, but was increasingly so after North Carolina stopped making treaty payments.
Later in 1784, settlers in the area organized a new state and named it honor of Benjamin Franklin. They elected legislators, enacted laws and raised a militia. Taxes were assessed and usually paid in pelts, whiskey and bacon. John Sevier was elected governor and headed the government in Jonesboro.
Officials in North Carolina were not comfortable with the frontiersmen's independent spirit. To address a long-standing complaint, North Carolina dispatched judges to Franklin so that the settlers would not have to cross the mountains in search of justice. In the years 1784 to 1788, an unusual situation existed in which both Franklin and North Carolina attempted to govern the same area. At one point Sevier was arrested on treason charges by North Carolina agents, but he was later released and went on to serve in the state legislature and Congress.
In 1790, North Carolina formally ceded its western claims for a second time. The area was organized as the Southwest Territory; Tennessee was admitted as a state in 1796.
The brief State of Franklin episode illustrates the frustration of many frontier settlements. Eastern governments were remote and often unresponsive to the settlers' needs. For four years the residents of Franklin decided to do for themselves what others had failed to do.