The New Republic and its Western Waters

        The Haile boys who served under George Washington had interest in a major issue before the new government in Philadelphia: its debts to the veterans from the War for Independence.  How to raise such a vast amount of money? --or whether even to try?  So long as the revered general was Head of State, factionalism remained furtive, and partisanship was despised.   Just as soon as the first president stepped down, however, a division emerged on this question as well as other powers of the president.

There were those who favored the strongest possible executive, as had Washington himself. Washington's successor, John Adams, and especially Washington's favorite, Alexander Hamilton, felt the same way.   Hamilton even argued for a national bank, so the government could pay its bills. Theirs was the so called Federalist view.   It appealed to the commercial class in New England, who had business interests abroad and were inclined toward reconciliation and peace at home.  After the long summer's debate and compromise, their championship of strong government had finally prevailed at the Constitutional Convention.

        Farm families like the Hailes, on the other hand, were still apprehensive of rulers under whatever guise, and jealous of local control.  They had little interest in Europe.  At home, they were
still in mortal combat with the Indians and had not forgotten frequent Indian alliances with the Redcoats.  As the Franklin Petition shows, Tennessee settlers wanted no part in a federal government.  They certainly did not want to hear of Hamilton's national bank.  Their own experience confirmed Thomas Jefferson's objection that the veterans had already sold their claims to speculators for cash money, anyhow, and at a discount. Anti-Federalists looked for leadership to the eloquent author of the Declaration of Independence.  They shared his admiration for the revolutionary new republic in France, and also called themselves Republicans.*
*to the great annoyance of academic historians 200 years later, who coolly renamed Jefferson's party "Democratic-Republicans"--never mind that in Jefferson's day "democratic" was still pejorative.  It is possible that these historians are just confused by radical groups who called themselves "democratic-republican" back about 1794.

        President Adams felt threatened not only by these home grown Republicans, but by the Republic of France, too.  In 1798, his administration won extraordinary powers to shield against French immigrants and French sympathizers, the Alien and Sedition Acts.   Thomas Jefferson and James Madison feared he political pendulum had swung in favor of a strong government.  The Kentucky Resolution and the Virginia Resolution (both in 1799) declared the Alien and Sedition Acts null and void, as beyond the powers of constitutional government.

        These two resolutions were
an early assertion of state rights, and even raised the prospect of a state's withdrawal from the recent Union.  Especially southerners were suspicious of wealth and power concentrated in government.  Nonetheless, Alexander Hamilton's proposal did prevail, the national debt was honored, and John Adams's presided over growing strength in the infant republic.  But it was still at a fork in the road.  Was America now to grow into the powerful nation Washington, Hamilton, and Adams envisaged?  Or would a free citizenry remain beyond the reach of national taxes and federal compulsion?   When Jefferson was elected president in 1800, the pendulum swung back, as frontier families like the Hailes saw things, in their direction

         Federalists, on the other hand, were anxious that Jefferson's election portended
the passage of national leadership away from New England, whose primacy went back to the fabled Puritans on the Mayflower.  How different seemed these cavalier Virginians, who even cultivated good relations with the French.  France's need for money to prosecute their war against England enabled President Jefferson to achieve the Louisiana Purchase Treaty,  perceived by New England as yet further diminution of her influence.  Debates about the vast new territory revived and aggravated the rift between north and south.  Jefferson had long looked upon public lands as a resource for meeting public debt, but he also envisaged them as free from the curse of slavery.

        After Jefferson's two terms, his Virginia protégés succeeded him, first
James Madison and then James Munroe.  Still aligned with France, Munroe finally fell into open conflict with Britain.  This time the national force was opposed by those quondam supporters of it, the merchants in New York and New England.  They still valued  profitable relations with England and with American Indian tribes, of course, and now they were sure Madison's 1807 embargo on Atlantic trade would ruin them.  Connecticut outright nullified the president's embargo as unconstitutional.  This first standoff between north and south came to a crisis in the War of 1812.  Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Vermont met to consider secession and a separate peace with England (the Hartford Convention).  Only Andrew Jackson's unexpected victory at New Orleans resolved the crisis.   By this time, the war had already taken Nicholas's youngest child, fighting Indians and Redcoats in Ohio.

Kentucky and Tennessee Volunteers

    Joshua Thomas Haile (1767-1813)

 Like his father and grandfather, Nicholas's youngest son had grown up in Baltimore County. The great event of his boyhood had been the War of Independence.  As he saw it, the troubles had begun down among the Carolina settlers.  The dangers and uncertainties there had brought Joshua's parents back home to Baltimore before he was born. 
As an eight-year-old with at least three big brothers in the Continental Army, the boy no doubt gazed up in awe at Patriot soldiers.  A president born in in the same year as he, and into similar circumstances, was Andrew Jackson, who had vivid boyhood memories under the sword of British officers.  Joshua may himself have been tinged with Andrew's profound hatred of all things British, and he probably did feel the same American disdain for the Red Coats. He married the daughter of a captain in the Continental Army, Joshua Stephensen of Baltimore (the name of Moses's fierce general was popular among the restive colonists).  After Independence was won Joshua and Mary joined his family's return to the Watauga Valley.

             The couple no doubt still thought of themselves as Virginians.  The boundaries of that former colony still extended far to the west, the westermost county being Kentucky.  When settlers spoke of moving to Kentucky, that included the western edge of North Carolina as well as Virginia all the way to the Mississippi.   Virginia's Kentucky County became a state in 1792.  Tennessee's statehood dates from 1796.   It was from this region that William Henry Harrison's "Kentucky Volunteers" were enlisted. They made up the major contingent of Harrison's troops combating Tecumseh's Indian Confederation in the Northwest Territory.  These boys suffered serious setbacks during the winter of 1812-13.  Reports came home of terrible Indian atrocities, especially after the Battle of Raisin River in January.  Here is a painting of General Winchester, an Indian sword held to his heart as his troops surrender to the British:

  After this defeat, a call for more volunteers went out.  "Kentuckians" volunteered enthusiastically.  Joshua, not free of his old animosity toward the British and toward the Cherokee, enlisted in Colonel Stewart's Kentucky militia in Knoxville on May 29th of 1813, for a term of five years.  His son Amon, then just twenty, joined up too.  Their troop was immediately dispatched into the Indian infested forests of Ohio, no doubt arriving in time to take part in the sieges of Fort Meigs and Fort Stephenson that summer.  Although ultimately victorious in October at the Battle of the Thames in Canada, the Kentuckians are reported to have suffered 64% of all casualties in the War of 1812.  Joshua was one of the fallen.  The record shows only that he died on September first of the year of his enlistment (1813), in the then Ohio capital of Chillicothe.   That was the location of the most forward militia station where wounded men were returned from the battles.  His son Amon returned home.  It seems likely that  Joshua died with a son at his side, a comfort which also Amon's son was also to have in an enemy prison camp a half century later.

     The British were soon defeated by Joshua's countrymen, now called the Tennessee Volunteers.  Andrew Jackson's victory at New Orleans in December of 1814 came just in time to quash yet another plan to secede from the Union.  The The Hartford Convention (mentioned above) impugned the
constitutionality of the Madison administration, and the governor of Massachusetts had already sent a secret delegation to work out a separate peace with England.  The resolves of the Hartford Convention were discredited by Jackson's overwhelming victory.

        But Joshua had already died for the Union.  Since his short career links the early tidewater family with its later descendants in the Western Waters, now may be an opportune point at which to capture their old colonial frame of mind.   The fierce loyalty which characterized Joshua's agrarian countrymen constantly at watch over family and community is beyond our experience today.  But though we are far removed from the vigilance of a father shielding his household against marauding savages, our world may yet have a heightened appreciation for Joshua's economic incentives.  They may help us appreciate his willingness to leave his family for the far away fight in Ohio. 

        In Joshua's mind, land was still the basis of all wealth.  It enabled him to shelter and feed his family.  Land had to be inherited, obtained by head right, or awarded as bounty for service. The Hailes had as yet no experience with a money economy. They knew neither wages nor monetary expenditures, never had. They understood economics in simple terms of land, hands, livestock, and crops. Land had lured them from Baltimore to Virginia long before the War for Independence.  Land was what drew them back to Watauga as soon as the English withdrew. When the foe returned in 1813, bounty land gave Joshua the chance to provide land ownership for his own children by joining the militia.  Joshua's daughter Bethsheba applied for the deceased soldier's service bounty for herself and in
behalf of her siblings.

Glebe Capital
         In Joshua's world land represented that abstract concept which Adam Smith (1723-1790) and Karl Marx (1818-1883) dubbed "capital," something we conceive in monetary terms.  Money is convenient for us because we use it for wages and living expenses in our industrial economy. The value of  today's various national currencies fluctuates with the relative productivity achieved by men with their machines.  Moderns do not think of their wages as capital, or treat them as such.  Karl Marx famously contrasted wages with capital, and we still make political whoopla over that difference--meaningless to Joshua, because in his day neither wages nor living expenses were incurred by a farm family on the Watauga.

        But l and is necessarily capital, and has no other economic function.  It may incidentally supply some income, but "spending money" provided by a "money crop" is lagniappe--something extra, clearly distinguishable from the land itself. The agrarian mind cannot view its capital in our industrial, democratic way.  Farmland cannot be confused with income and outgo. Granted, land can provide a living in return for its owner's diligence and frugality, by the grace of God and with a little rainfall. But first of all the land must be conserved, then improved by hard labor. In addition to the social standing and sustenance land provides, the soil may sometimes yield up an increase. A few years down the line, the landsman may even accrue a surplus. In that case, he can acquire more land. Joshua's incentive to go to war needs to be understood from that ancient point of view held by his fathers before him.  That is what cost him his life.

Baily noted how Virginians felt they were their own men.  As he explained the egalitarianism he saw on the frontier, New World abundance permitted to each his own piece of land, and each might thrive on its increase.  Here was a population who looked to no employer for a livelihood, who had no use for authority at any level save, as we can see  from the Watauga Petition, to deal with felons and deadbeats.  Virginians were fulfilling an ancient ideal of the virtuous, selfless, yet independent Cincinnatus--which they had in fact realized in George Washigton.  The same heroic vision inspired Thomas Jefferson's Land Ordinance of 1784.  It envisaged the great American wilderness as an extension of the tiny Continental Confederacy.  The boundless American terriory could both obviate the staggering costs of Independence and--far more important--it provided ground to replicate republican governments to tolerate neither slavery nor involuntary servitude as they raised up a whole nation of aristrocratic Cincinnati. Jefferson's was the same vision that finally led individual states to cede their vast western territories to the now federal government.

        The four successive Nicholas's had watched the world change round about them. In their first century the colonists had opened the physical landscape westward, then to the south. During the second century, they had finally acquired independent control. Their countrymen had taken on a distinctive Virginia character, marrying into homogeneous communities and developing a backwoods, 
Protestant culture. They maintained their distinctive character while so much about them changed. All these families, the Haile / Travers / Merryman/ Garrett / Stone / Long / Mead / Talbot /Acre / Stephenson, Litton, Brown, Gipson bloodline, had one trait in common:  all had elected to leave their community to cut a home out of the wilderness.
    They were not and had never been good solid folk who stayed home. Nor did they resemble their staid Puritan contemporaries in Massachusetts. Their seed constituted a westward rolling phalanx which seems to have contained, like the dandylion, its own restless search for newground. Already Nicholas of Baltimore, son of an "adventurer," had left his father's new home in Virginia for Maryland. The next Nicholas followed Quaker Friends along the mountain range from Pennsylvania into Virginia. His son, Nicholas of Watauga, shuttled between Bedford, Rowan County (at that time the northwestern region of North Carolina), back to Baltimore County in Maryland, then finally home again to the Watauga valley. Their tobacco growing culture remained fairly profitable but problematic and opportunistic. The loss of the family's youngest boy, Joshua, to an indeterminate war in remote Ohio brought hardship, but no radical change in the next generation's outlook.

    The old glebe economics still prevailed on the minds of Presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, as it did in the South and on the frontier. Joshua's children continued their frugal farm ways in Tennessee. To such people, spending money is akin to frivolity, and taxes are the germ of tyranny. Nevertheless, commerce and industry were booming all around them.  Prosperous business people did know the value of money.  Industry recognized the benefits a strong nation might provide and cherished a government able to bring force of arms to bear. The division between the frontiersmen and the businessmen became most apparent right here when it came to raising revenue. Government's major funding source was tariffs on imports. This kind of tax had side effects which worked ill for the farmer, good for the manufacturer. The economic divide between farming and manufacturing grew into a regional divide. A new, modern capitalism in the northeast quickly marginalized that old capitalism based on soil.

Independence and Servitude
            For settlers in the Carolinas, the quarrels with England related to the intense frontier drive for new lands. When the Royal Colony of North Carolina had been demarcated from Virginia in the late 1720s, the king encouraged settlers from both sides of the Atlantic.  But his own treaties with the Indians barred settlers from encroaching on the Indian lands.  Thus the king came to stand in the way of America's enterprising hunters, traders, surveyors and farmers. The correspondence of William Mead and Matthew Talbot with John Blair (excerpted above) offers a good example.  Blair assures the Indians that if Mead is shown to be in the wrong, he will certainly be punished.  If, on the other hand, the Indians had in fact looted and killed, then Colonel Washington would not support their "folly." One can understand how Mead and his friends might have chafed at such unequal treatment.

    In the spring of 1776, Nicholas's son-in-law Matthew Talbot was a signatory to the Watauga Petition. Another signatory was Nicholas's nephew John Haile (George's son, Crowe, p. 38). Both men fought against the Loyalists
in 1780 at The Battle of Kings Mountain, which marked the decisive phase in the American War for Independence. Although Haile and Talbot called themselves Patriots, they loved not a government.  They had fought to wrest their homeland from a government. North Carolina refused to ratify the Constitution; Nicholas's own son and grandson signed the Franklin petition in 1787, proclaiming a separate republic west of the Appalachians, independent of the United States.

    The illiteracy which the younger Shadrack Haile demonstrated on this occasion was only one of the consequences of wilderness living. Another was their hand-to-mouth economy. A family's possessions lay exclusively in land and the labor to till it. Clans tried to stick together. There were lots of double cousins. Children made an indispensable asset. The mother loved to name a son Shadrack, because that name promised at least two more boys to come. She routinely produced a child every two years, so that a brood of twelve to fifteen is not unusual.  If a father died and left minor children, they would be welcomed by other land owners as indentured servants.  That was the fortune of at least one of Nicholas's grandchildren, Joshua's son.

        Allegiance to the soil went back to feudal concepts, which Nicholas Haile had brought unrevised over to the Corotoman in the mid 1600s. Nicholas understood "his" land as enfeofed, that is to say, as granted by his liege lord King Charles II in return for loyalty and services. Nicholas, in turn, was lord to his own servants, to whom he granted their living in the king's colony. At home in England they would have been called villeins, or serfs:  free, but no less bound to the land than was their lord himself. Nicholas and the servants he transported brought these traditional attachments with them, including the indenture, also an ancient English institution.  Indenture was a written contract which took its name from the distinctive wavy cut along the top of the document. Indentures had long been customary in England between master and apprentice, spelling out their mutual obligations for a specified term. Scholars estimate that the vast majority of all immigrants to the early colonies came as indentured servants.  Nicholas and his progeny relied on this institution to raise their tobacco.

    Indenture bound the worker, in return for passage to Virginia, to a number of years' service to his master or guardian, usually four to seven, but subject to extension for infractions. The master was in turn bound to provide sustenance, shelter, training, Christian education, and, at the end of the term, a new suit of clothes and other assistance. Nicholas obtained his initial land grants in return for transporting his indentured servants.  He subsequently had to make more than one transatlantic voyage. The tedious and faithful labor required by tobacco growing was by no means plentiful in Virginia; Nicholas's progeny continued the same practice. There is record, for example, of one William Obrel, a convict indentured to Nicholas's grandson George in Baltimore County, for Obrel ran away in March of 1770 (Crowe, p. 18). Indentured servants could also be purchased in America. When this same George was about to move to Watauga, he

paid the passage of eight Irish bondsmen, off the block, Baltimore, and took them with him and his family to his new home. They all worked out their time, married and made good citizens. He also took with him several negro slaves. (quoted from personal papers of the Gresham family in Jonesborough, TN by Crowe, p. 31).

An application for a Revolutionary War pension by one Peter Finn, who claims to have served at Valley Forge, tells how his "former guardian Nicholas Haile" had hired him to go along to "Kentucky." After arriving on the Watauga, Finn again volunteered for military service, and was among the Patriots at Kings Mountain. 
So we see that the Haile family was still acting as "guardians" of indentured servants on their move from Virginia to Tennessee, when our last Nicholas (of Bedford) was a man in his fifties.

            When the first Nicholas had been bringing indentured servants to the Corotoman in the previous century
, Britain was already introducing Negro slavery into her Caribbean sugar plantations.  Opening the dense back country of South Carolina in the 1720s, Britain again used extensive slave labor.  Such raw hands from Africa were ill suited to the cultivation of tobacco, though, and remained for the time being impractical in Nicholas's Virginia. Nonetheless, his son Nicholas of Baltimore does mention "three old negroes" in his will of 1729.  In the next century, Nicholas of Watauga mentions only one Negro in his will, whom he sets free.  But this testator, now in his eighties, had already deeded most of his land to his sons, as may have been the case with servants as well.   I do have to reproduce below a document showing that one of  his grandsons was involved in slave negotiations as late as the 1840s.  At that point I will discuss how a new commodity, cotton, contributed to a slave economy, and I speculate on the broader implications for our family.  Slavery is a practice so sensationally condemned that historians tend to develop its moral grievousness more fully than they detail its social and economic emergence. It may be that these latter contexts can be made more understandable in the light of individual experiences, as in these six generations from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries in Maryland, Virginia, and Tennessee.

                             NEXT >

 Contents                                                                                                                      Home