Middle Tennessee, 1775-1825

Progress and Popular Democracy on the Southwestern Frontier

  • Author(s): Ray, Kristofer
  • Series:
  • Imprint: Univ Tennessee Press
  • Publication Date: 2007-11-30
  • Status: Active
  • Available in Hardcover - Cloth: Price $41.00 | Buy Now

“In tracing the evolution of political culture in early Tennessee, Kris Ray provides a sweeping study of the multifaceted ways in which early Americans understood leadership and democratic participation. Readers will find Middle Tennessee, 1775–1825 an engaging contribution to our understanding of how, in the crucible of the Early American Republic, democracy did not have to take the form of competing political parties to be vibrant and challenging.” —Craig Thompson Friend, author of Along the Maysville Road: The Early American Republic in the Trans-Appalachian West

“Ray’s work is an excellent reflection of current historical scholarship, the first systematic attempt to place Middle Tennessee within the same framework developed in other recent books on Trans-Appalachian states.” —John R. Finger, author of Tennessee Frontiers: Three Regions in Transition

During its early years, the frontier region of Middle Tennessee developed from thinly settled outposts to a premier destination for thousands of land-hungry immigrants. The resulting population explosion led to a shift in political power from a small group of surveyors and speculators to the farmers, merchants, and entrepreneurs attracted by a burgeoning, globally-connected agricultural economy.

Kristofer Ray chronicles the rise of Middle Tennessee’s political system as it transformed from one dominated by land interests to an increasingly vibrant democracy in which the “common man” had more of a voice.  He also explores the fact that, as the economy grew, a sharp debate emerged between the mercantile class and ordinary farmers as to the best way to sustain regional progress.

This book explores the issues, values, and visions around which the politics of early Middle Tennessee were based. It convincingly shows how the region’s emerging political culture established a foundation for the rise of popular democracy, which, as Ray reveals, meant that Tennesseans not only expressed themselves through voting, but also through the social realms of town hall meetings, parades, and even effigy burnings.

This book explores both the promises and limitations of political cultural development in early Middle Tennessee.  It provides the context out of which Andrew Jackson would emerge as a national political force.  It will appeal to those interested in southern studies, American history or political science.

Kristofer Ray is assistant professor of history at Ashland University in Ashland, Ohio. His articles have appeared in Ohio Valley History and the Tennessee Historical Quarterly.