Jackson's Way: Andrew Jackson and the People of the Western Waters

By John Buchanan | Go to book overview
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Chapter 9
“WHEN YOU HAVE READ THIS
LETTER OVER THREE TIMES,
THEN BURN IT”

“YOUR ELECTION IS CERTAIN”

In 1796 Tennessee became a state. This was largely the work of William Blount, who saw great possibilities for himself in Tennessee statehood. It would get him out from under the hostile supervision of the new secretary of war, that self-righteous and venemous New Englander Timothy Pickering. Blount's biographer aptly contrasted the two men: “Blount's faults were chiefly those of character, Pickering's those of personality. The former are perhaps more serious, but the latter more often antagonizing.” Pickering had also become, through his experience in negotiating earlier in the decade with the Iroquois, extremely sympathetic to Indians. He preached constantly for a policy of conciliation and philanthropy, not confrontation. Those thoughts, of course, were met with derision on the frontier. Pickering became secretary on 2 January 1795, and almost immediately unleashed a barrage of criticism against a man he considered a venal swindler. 1

Whereupon Blount immediately counterattacked by mobilizing his lieutenants in the territory to undertake various anti-Pickering measures. But his main move represented a 360-degree turn in policy. Heretofore he had maintained firm control over the Southwest Territory and resisted calls for statehood. Situations change, however, and nimble-footed William Blount joined the clamor for statehood and maneuvered to bring it about. Statehood would release him from the hated oversight of federal officials, for he meant to become Senator William Blount of Tennessee, where he would be in a better position to benefit the Old Southwest and oversee and protect his speculative interests. 2

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