Constitutional Development in Alabama, 1798-1901: A Study in Politics, the Negro, and Sectionalism

By Malcolm Cook McMillan | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER II
THE ALABAMA TERRITORY

A growing animosity between the eastern and western parts of the large Mississippi Territory stemmed from the early numerical superiority of the Mississippi Valley and the difficulties of transportation and communication between east and west. The Tombigbee settlements were in such a hopeless minority that they could not use regular channels (the territorial delegate or resolutions of the territorial legislature) to get their problems before Congress. They resorted to petition, begging Congress as early as 1803 to grant them separation from the Mississippi River settlements. Their plea, signed by over a hundred persons, set forth the problems of the eastern settlers in the following words:

From the late and rapid migration to this District from the State of Georgia and other parts of the United States, the number of our inhabitants is estimated at more than three thousand, all of whom now reside within the District of Washington and are subject to the Laws of the Mississippi Territory, which are enacted at the distance of nearly three hundred miles from us, all of which distance is a howling wilderness with its usual inhabitants of Savages and beasts of prey.--That part of the Territory on the Mississippi and the settlements on the Mobille [sic.] Tombecbee and Alabama rivers are composed of people different in their manners and customs, different in their interests, and nature appears never to have designed the two countries to be under the same Government. . . .1

In May, 1809, nearly three hundred inhabitants of the territory to the east of the Pearl River petitioned Congress to divide the Mississippi Territory. They asserted that they paid taxes for the benefit of the territorial government but received none of the benefits of that government; they contended further that they were "mere cyphers in the Territorial Government:--that the remoteness of their situation and the total dissimilarity of their channels of Trade, give the people of the Mobile and its adjacent waters, no common interest with those of the Mississippi." They charged that the wilderness of two hundred to three hundred miles between the settlements east and west of the Pearl River "deprives us of everything but a merely nominal representation in Congress,--renders it exceedingly inconvenient to the representatives of the people East of the Pearl River to attend the Territorial Assembly, cuts

____________________
1
Petition to Congress by Inhabitants of Washington District, November 25, 1803, Territorial Papers, V, 290-292.

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