A political history of the Mississippi Territory
Haynes, Robert Vaughn
Doctor of Philosophy
By the terms of the Pinckney Treaty signed with Spain in 1795, the United States acquired its first territory, the region lying between the Tennessee River and the thirty-first parallel and later called the Mississippi Territory. However, Spain immediately sensed that she had needlessly ceded a great deal of territory, and her ministers attempted at least to delay, if not to prevent, the United States from securing possession of the ceded area. After thwarting Spanish efforts to delay the cession, American officials would still face the tremendous task of unraveling a tangled web of conflicting land claims before the territory could attract enough settlers to assure permanent possession. In addition to these rather unique problems, the United States faced the problems of gradually extending the principles of democratic government to the new frontier region, a region where republican principles had not been recognized but where the citizens were very anxious for more local control. The attempts made by the American government to solve this problem, and the reaction of the local inhabitants to its efforts will be the subject of this study. Historians have only recently begun to study territorial governments even though a knowledge of territorial period can furnish valuable insight into the early history of a state. For example, the Mississippi constitution of 1817 can not be understood without a knowledge of the political history of the Mississippi Territory. Indeed, southern attitudes and opinions of the ante-bellum period can be comprehended only by knowing the type of immigrant who first settled the deep South and by studying the struggles of the new settlers to control the raw environment and to create a civilization there. While the keynote of frontier life was newness and change, the newness can, and has been, over-emphasized. Immigrants into the territory had not moved from a vacuum. Instead, they had brought with them their conservative as well as liberal political techniques. A great deal has been written about the general concept of the frontier, but surprisingly little has been done on specific aspects of the southern frontier. Even the followers of Frederick Jackson Turner have ignored the lower Mississippi Valley. On the other hand, enough valuable work has already been written for the historian to test certain theories as they apply to the deep South. These works are evaluated at some length in the Bibliographical Notes, although here we might note the very useful studies of early Mississippi by Dr. William B. Hamilton and Dr. Charles Sydnor and the work on Alabama by Dr. Thomas P. Abernathy; Dr. Arthur P. Whitaker has clearly described the complicated history of the Spanish Southwest.