Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Self-Rule in the Wilderness

In 1775, proprietors of the Transylvania Land Company (Trans = across, Sylvan = forest) have delivered enough goods to 'fill a dwelling' to about 12,000 Cherokee warriors for the right to occupy a vast swath of land in what is now known as Kentucky. At-ta-kul-la-Kul-la (Little Carpenter) says to Daniel Boone: “Brother, we have given you a fine land, but I believe you will have much trouble in settling it.” All present know this is not Cherokee land.

In 1775 this area was a No Man's Land to Anglos. King George III had forbidden colonization west of the Appalachian Mountains. Revolutionary Virgina expected these lands to fall within their purview, and profits from western land sales to fall into their colony's treasury.

Pioneers began an experiment in self-governance. Company proprietors sent James Hogg as their emissary to the Continental Congress. He carried a document (memorial) seeking to participate in their activities:
"From the generous plan of liberty adopted by the Congress and that noble love of mankind which appears in all their proceedings, the memorialists please themselves that the united colonies will take the infant Colony of Transylvania into their protection ...”
Due to objections by Virginia and fear that endorsing a project the Crown had prohibited would dash any hope for reconciliation with the King, the memorial was not presented.

Hogg's report back to his employers contained the same flowery language about liberty.
“You would be amazed to see how much in earnest all the speculative gentlemen are about the plan to be adopted by the Transylvanians. They entreat, they pray that we may make it a free government, and beg that no mercenary or ambitious views in the proprietors may prevent it. They even threaten us with their opposition, if we do not act upon liberal principles when we have it so much in our power to render ourselves immortal."
I found Hogg's next line chilling.
"Many of them advised a law against Negroes.SOURCE
To me, anyway, it all seems so incongruous. In their minds these property holders believed held a 'noble love of mankind.' It was not at all dichotomous that their slaves were conceived of as property, human beings not in any way to be considered in discussions of liberty and freedom.

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