Spanish Explorers Hernando de Soto (in 1540) and Juan Pardo (in 1567) traveled inland from North America's eastern coast and passed through a Native American village named "Tanasqui." A century and a half later, British traders encountered a Cherokee town named Tanasi.
After the Revolutionary War, attempts were made to turn the area into the "State of Franklin" in honor of Ben Franklin. At the State's Constitutional Convention, it is said General Andrew Jackson suggested the Indian name "Tennessee."
In 1796, President George Washington signed Congress' bill accepting Tennessee as the 16th state, which is significant as the Tennessee Constitution acknowledged God: "Article XI, Section III ... All men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences."
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Tennessee's Constitution stated in Article XI, Section IV: "No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under this state. ..."
Yet Tennessee's Constitution also stated in Article VIII, Section II: "No person who denies the being of God, or a future state of rewards and punishments, shall hold any office in the civil department of this state."
Evidently, acknowledging God was not a "religious test."
Tennessee was the birthplace of Congressman Davy Crockett, who died at the Alamo, Texas, Feb. 23-March 6, 1836, fighting Santa Anna.
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Tennessee had a Congressman and governor named Sam Houston, who helped Texas gain its independence at San Jacinto April 21, 1836.
Admiral David Farragut, who fought in the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, and who won the Civil War Battle of Mobile Bay, was born in Tennessee, being the son of a Spanish naval officer who helped in the American Revolution.
Matthew Fontaine Maury, whose grandfather taught young Thomas Jefferson, grew up in Tennessee. He became the famous U.S. Navy oceanographer who mapped ocean currents.
Sequoyah, creator of the Cherokee written language, was born in Tuskegee (Knoxville), Tennessee.
General Andrew Jackson, who fought in the War of 1812, served as military governor of Florida. He was elected a U.S. Congressman and U.S. Senator from Tennessee, as well as a serving as a Tennessee State Supreme Court Judge. Andrew Jackson was the first Democrat president, serving from 1829-1837 as the seventh U.S. president.
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Considered the founder of the Democrat Party, Andrew Jackson was the only president to completely pay off the national debt, stating Dec. 5, 1836: "The experience of other nations admonished us to hasten the extinguishment of the public debt. ... An improvident expenditure of money is the parent of profligacy. ... No people can hope to perpetuate their liberties who long acquiesce in a policy which taxes them for objects not necessary to the legitimate and real wants of their government. ..."
Andrew Jackson continued: "To require the people to pay taxes to the government merely that they may be paid back again. ... Nothing could be gained by it even if each individual who contributed a portion of the tax could receive back promptly the same portion. ..."
Jackson added: "Congress is only authorized to levy taxes 'to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States.' There is no such provision as would authorize Congress to collect together the property of the country, under the name of revenue, for the purpose of dividing it equally or unequally among the States or the people. Indeed, it is not probable that such an idea ever occurred to the states when they adopted the Constitution. ... There would soon be but one taxing power, and that vested in a body of men far removed from the people, in which the farming and mechanic interests would scarcely be represented. ..."
Andrew Jackson ended: "The states would gradually lose their purity as well as their independence; they would not dare to murmur at the proceedings of the general government, lest they should lose their supplies; all would be merged in a practical consolidation, cemented by widespread corruption, which could only be eradicated by one of those bloody revolutions which occasionally overthrow the despotic systems of the Old World."
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President Andrew Jackson wrote to William B. Lewis, Aug. 19, 1841: "The people are the government, administering it by their agents; they are the government, the sovereign power."
President James K. Polk, who had been governor of Tennessee (1839-41), issued General Order No. 27, June 16, 1845: "The president ... with heartfelt sorrow announces ... the death of Andrew Jackson. ... He resigned his spirit to his Heavenly Father. ... Heaven gave him length of days and he filled them with deeds of greatness. ... He believed the liberties of his country imperishable. ... He departed from this life in a full hope of a blessed immortality through the merits and atonement of the Redeemer. Officers of the Army, the Navy, and the Marine Corps will wear crape on the left arm and on their swords, and the colors of the several regiments will be put in mourning for the period of six months."
On June 24, 1861, Tennessee became the last state to join the Confederacy. During the Civil War, more battles were fought in Tennessee than any other state except Virginia. Among them were:
- Capture of Fort Donelson, Feb. 11-16, 1862 – 16,537 casualties
- Capture of Memphis, Jun. 6, 1862 – 181 causalties
- Battle of Shiloh, Apr. 6-7, 1862 – 23,656 casualties
- Battle of Murfreesboro, Dec. 31, 1862-Jan. 1863 – 23,515 casualties
- Chickamauga Campaign & Battle, Sept. 19-20, 1863 – 34,624 casualties, highest number of casualties behind Battle of Gettysburg
- Chattanooga Campaign with Battles of Orchard Knob, Lookout Mountain, Missionary Ridge, Rossville Gap, Ringgold Gap, Oct.-Nov., 1863 – 12,491 casualties
- Battle of Franklin, Nov. 30, 1864 – 9,578 casualties
- Battle of Nashville, Dec. 15-16, 1864 – 9,061 casualties
After the Civil War, Tennessee was the first state readmitted to the Union, July 24, 1866.
President Andrew Johnson, who had served as Tennessee's governor (1853-57; 1862-65), issued a Proclamation of Amnesty and Pardon to Confederates, Sept. 7, 1867, which included acknowledgement of God in the oath to be restored to U.S. citizenship:
I, Andrew Johnson, President of the United States, do hereby ... declare that the full pardon ... shall henceforth be ... extended to all persons who, directly or indirectly, participated in the late rebellion, with the restoration of all privileges, immunities, and rights of property, except as to property with regard to slaves. ...
Every person who shall seek to avail himself of this proclamation shall take and subscribe the following oath ... "I, ____ , do solemnly swear (or affirm), in the presence of Almighty God, that I will henceforth faithfully support, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Union of the States thereunder, and that I will in like manner abide by and faithfully support all laws and proclamations which have been made during the late rebellion with reference to the emancipation of slaves. So help me God."
On March 9, 1956, the Tennessee Supreme Court issued the decision in Carden v. Bland: "The reading of a verse in the Bible without comment, the same verse not to be repeated more often than once every thirty days, the singing of some inspiring song, and repeating the Lord's Prayer, is NOT a violation of the constitutional mandate which guarantees to all men 'a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences.' We find it more or less difficult to conceive that these simple ceremonies amount to 'establishment of a religion.' ... Bible reading in the public schools is NOT in violation of one's constitutional rights. ... The Bible is not a sectarian or denominational book. ..."
The Tennessee Supreme Court continued: "Great stress is laid upon the need of maintaining the doctrine of 'Separation of Church and State.' ... But it should not be tortured into a meaning that was never intended by the Founders of this Republic, with the result that the public school system of the several states is to be made a Godless institution as a matter of law. ... The Court cites Thomas Jefferson as being the author of the 'Separation of Church and State.' ... Jefferson had favored religious instruction at the University of Virginia, of which he was the founder, and which was supported by the State. ... One can hardly respect a system of education that would leave the student wholly ignorant of the currents of religious thought that move the world. ..."
The Tennessee Supreme Court ended its 1956 Carden v. Bland's decision: "In Conclusion we think that the highest duty of those who are charged with the responsibility of training the young people of this State in the public schools is in teaching both by precept and example that in the conflicts of life they should not forget God."
In 1975, the Tennessee Supreme Court asserted in the case of Swann v. Pack, 527 S.W. 2d 99, 101 (Sup. Ct. Tn. 1975): "The scales are always weighted in favor of free exercise of religion."
In 1979, the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Tennessee, stated in the case of Wiley v. Franklin, 468 F.Supp. 133, 149-150 (E.D. Tenn. 1979): "The Bible is replete with writings relevant to such secular subjects and interests as history, both ancient and modern, literature, poetry, music, art, government, social customs and practices, values, behavioral sciences, and, more generally speaking that broad range of subjects, values, interests, and activities encompassed within the generalized phrase 'Western Civilization.' To ignore the role of the Bible in the vast area of secular subjects such as herein above referred to is to ignore a keystone in the building of an arch, at least in so far as Western history, values and culture are concerned."
On June 21, 1993, Tennessee Governor Ned McWherter signed a proclamation:
Whereas, The Constitution of the State of Tennessee states that 'All men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own conscience' ... and
Whereas ... truly great men and women of America, giants in the structuring of American history, were Christian statesmen of calibre and integrity who did not hesitate to express their faith;
Now, therefore, I, Ned McWherter, as Governor of the State of Tennessee do hereby proclaim August 29 through September 4, 1993, as "Christian Heritage Week" in Tennessee and urge all citizens to join me in this worthy observance.
In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Great Seal of the State of Tennessee to be affixed at Nashville on this 21st Day of June, 1993.
On Nov. 15, 1995, Tennessee Governor Don Sundquist issued the Proclamation:
Whereas, Thanksgiving week is an appropriate time to center attention on thanks to Almighty God for the 'Blessings of Liberty', to ask His help in reinsuring 'domestic Tranquility', and to recognize our national need to reaffirm our 'reliance on the protection of divine Providence' in keeping America a free and independent Nation,
Now, therefore, I, Don Sundquist, Governor of the State of Tennessee, do hereby proclaim November 19 through November 25, 1995, as America's Christian Heritage Week in Tennessee, and do urge all Tennesseans to acknowledge, appreciate, and celebrate, each in their own way, America's Christian heritage.
In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the official seal of the State of Tennessee to be affixed at Nashville on this 15th day of November, 1995.
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