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The Spanish Conspiracy on the Trans-Appalachian Borderlands, 1786 - 1789

Kevin T. Barksdale
Journal of Appalachian Studies
Vol. 13, No. 1/2 (Spring/Fall 2007), pp. 96-123
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/41446779
Page Count: 28
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The Spanish Conspiracy on the Trans-Appalachian Borderlands, 1786 - 1789
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Abstract

Between July of 1788 and April of 1789, a small faction of Tennessee Valley leading men entered into secret backcountry negotiations with Spanish colonial officials. The details of the Spanish conspiracy reveal a shadowy plan to unite the trans-Appalachian settlements of the Tennessee Valley (in the former state of Franklin) with Spain's Louisiana Territory.The result would have extended Spain's colonial empire into the Appalachian Mountains and would have undoubtedly initiated a political earthquake across the embryonic American republic. Brokered by Davidson County resident and former North Carolina congressman Dr. James White, the proposed Franklin-Spanish alliance held out the possibility of reviving the recently defeated Franklin statehood movement, expanding the Tennessee Valley's emerging commercial economy, and securing a valuable piece of Tennessee River bottomland (Muscle Shoals). The Spanish Empire also stood poised to capitalize on the military, strategic, economic, and diplomatic benefits of the proposed backcountry accord. Over the course of several months, Dr. White, members of the Sevier Family, and several high-ranking Spanish diplomats plotted the intrigue in clandestine parlays and secret correspondences. The events of America's first trans-Appalachian foreign conspiracy illustrate the transnational interactions occurring across the southern mountain borderlands and the important position the Appalachian backcountry occupied in the territorial, diplomatic, and socioeconomic maturation of the United States (including negotiations over the Mississippi River, border/territorial disputes, constitutional debates, and post-revolutionary foreign and Indian diplomacy). At the end of the eighteenthcentury, the Tennessee Valley stood as a dynamic borderland region where disparate Amerindian (Upper Creek and Overhill Cherokee) and Euroamerican nations struggled for dominion over the southwestern frontier.

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