Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States

Edited by: Lalor, John J.
Display paragraphs in this book containing:
First Pub. Date
New York: Maynard, Merrill, and Co.
Pub. Date
Includes articles by Frédéric Bastiat, Gustave de Molinari, Henry George, J. B. Say, Francis A. Walker, and more.
622 of 1105



KENTUCKY, a state of the American Union, formed from territory originally belonging to Virginia. A land company formed the government of "Transylvania" within its limits, May 23, 1775, but Governor Dunmore refused to recognize it, and the Virginia legislature formed the whole territory into the county of Kentucky, Dec. 6, 1776. In 1784-5 three conventions demanded a separation, to which the Virginia legislature agreed on condition that congress should agree, and that Kentucky should assume a share of Virginia's debt, and recognize Virginia's land warrants. Congress postponed consideration of the matter until the organization of the new federal government; and this, and the neglect to insist on the navigation of the Mississippi (see ANNEXATIONS, I), so angered the people that active but unsuccessful efforts were made to constitute Kentucky an independent republic, in alliance with Spain or with the British in Canada. The final act of the Virginia legislature, consenting to separation, was passed Dec. 18, 1789; congress, by act of Feb. 4, 1791, admitted the state, the admission to take effect June 1, 1792; and a state convention, April 2-19, 1791, formed the first constitution of Kentucky. This last was the tenth popular convention which had been held during the long process of admission.


—BOUNDARIES. The Virginia act of Dec. 6, 1776, had defined the county of Kentucky as "all the country west of the Big Sandy creek to the Mississippi," and this was the limit of the subsequent state. The boundary between Virginia and Kentucky, from the Big Sandy southwestward, along the ridge of the Cumberland mountains, was fixed by joint commissioners in May, 1799, and was ratified by Kentucky Dec. 2, 1799, and by Virginia Jan. 13, 1800. The southern boundary, between Kentucky and Tennessee, was settled by joint commissioners in February, 1820, and ratified by congress May 12, 1820.


—CONSTITUTIONS. The first constitution made suffrage universal on two years residence in the state. The house of representatives was to consist of not more than 100 nor less than 40 members, chosen annually by the people. Every fourth year a number of electors equal to the number of representatives was to be chosen by popular vote, and these were to choose the governor and a senate one-fourth of the house's members, "men of the most wisdom, experience and virtue, above twenty-seven years of age." The legislature was empowered to prohibit the importation of slaves, but not to pass emancipation laws without consent of owners and compensation. The selection of the capital was intrusted to a committee, who chose Frankfort.


—The second constitution was framed by a convention at Frankfort, July 22- Aug. 7, 1799. It was not submitted to the people, and took effect Jan. 1, 1800. Its principal changes were the abolition of the electoral system and the choice of the governor and senate by popular vote, the latter in senatorial districts. An effort, led by Henry Clay, to insert a clause securing the gradual abolition of slavery was defeated.


—The third constitution was framed by a convention at Frankfort, Oct, 7, 1849-June 11, 1850, and ratified by popular vote. Its principal changes were a complete reorganization of the judiciary system; the fixing of the number of senators at 38 and of representatives at 100; the limiting of the state debt to $500,000; and the insertion of a clause declaring the right of property in slaves to be "before and higher than any constitutional sanction."


—GOVERNORS: Isaac Shelby (1792-6); James Garrard (1796-1804); Christopher Greenup (1804-8); Charles Scott (1808-2). Isaac Shelby (1812-16); George Madison (1816-20); John Adair (1820-24); Joseph Desha (1824-8); Thomas Metcalfe (1828-32); John Breathitt (1832-6); Jas. Clark (1836-40); Robert P. Letcher (1840-44); William Owsley (1844-8); John J. Crittenden (1848-51); Lazarus W. Powell (1851-5); Charles S. Morehead (1855-9), Beriah Magoffin (1859-63); Thos. E. Bramlette (1863-7); John L. Helm (1867-71); P. H. Leslie (1871-5); James B. McCreary (1875-9); Luke P. Blackburn (1879-83).


—POLITICAL HISTORY. Notwithstanding Kentucky's determination to separate from Virginia, the political connection between the two states was very intimate for many years. The first inhabitants were very largely of Virginia origin, and the Virginia influence over their leaders is well illustrated by the coincidence in the passage of the Kentucky and Virginia resolutions of 1798 and 1799. (See KENTUCKY RESOLUTIONS.) The only disturbing element was a small but active "Spanish party," whose leaders, some of them prominent in the state judiciary, were pensioners of the Spanish commandant at New Orleans until the cession of Louisiana. (See ANNEXATIONS, I.) The feeling of the mass of the people, however, was so strongly against Spain and the Spanish party that both Genet and Burr made Kentucky the scene of their most active intrigues. (See GENET, CITIZEN; BURR, AARON.) A federalist party was gradually formed, and in 1795 it succeeded in securing the election by the legislature of Humphrey Marshall to the United States senate. With the exception of this federalist success, the state was under republican (democratic) control during its early years, and in 1801 the tenure of the dominant party was made permanent and secure by the national overthrow of the federal party. The state's electoral votes were cast for Washington and Jefferson in 1792 and for Jefferson and Burr in 1796; and from that time until 1830 the governors, legislatures and congressmen were democratic, though in 1824 the electoral votes of Kentucky were naturally given to Henry Clay.


—The only purely local political contest during this period was upon the relief of delinquent debtors, 1820-26. An act for that purpose was passed by the legislature, and was decided unconstitutional, first by a circuit court and then by the state supreme court. The "relief party" elected their candidate for governor in 1824, and a majority of the legislature, but not the two thirds majority necessary to remove the judges. They therefore proceeded to reorganize the supreme court by act, and two supreme courts were in existence until 1826, when the "anti-relief party" gained control, repealed the act of reorganization, and left the old court in possession.


—Henry Clay exercised a great influence over the politics of Kentucky from the beginning of his public life. In 1828 the state's electoral votes were cast for Jackson against Adams, and most of the state's representatives in congress were "Jackson democrats"; but the new governor was a partisan of Clay. On the appearance of the national whig party, soon after, with Clay as its leader, Kentucky became a whig state, and so remained until the overthrow of the party. The legislatures were whig; the governors were whig until 1831; and a majority of the representatives in congress were of the same party. In 1837-9 there was but one democratic representative out of thirteen; but usually the whig proportion was from one-third to one-half. The United States senators, during the same period, were all whigs; Senator Powell, chosen in 1859, being the first democratic senator chosen by Kentucky since 1828. In 1854 the whig organization, now taking the name of Americans, elected the governor, a majority of the legislature, and six of the ten congressmen. In 1856 the democrats for the first time carried the state in a presidential election, and the state's electoral votes were cast for Buchanan. In 1858 the legislature also became democratic. In 1860 the electoral votes of the state were cast for Bell. (See BORDER STATES, CONSTITUTIONAL UNION PARTY)


—At the outbreak of the rebellion in 1861 the sympathies of the state administration were with the south, and an extra session of the legislature was summoned by the governor. Jan. 18, for the purpose of calling a state convention. This the legislature refused to do, but appointed delegates instead to the "peace convention" at Washington. Another extra session of the legislature was called, April 28. It again refused to call a state convention, refused to grant the governor $3,000,000 to arm the state guard, and ordered that body to take the oath of allegiance to the United States as well as to the state. June 30, representatives were chosen to the extra session of congress, eight being unionists and one secessionist, the total vote being 92,500 for the former and 37,700 for the latter.


—At first the idea of "neutrality" between the federal and confederate governments was somewhat in vogue in Kentucky, and Governor Magoffin, by proclamation of May 20, 1861, even ordered both the federal and confederate authorities to abstain from any entrance upon the soil of the state. The legislature which met in September, 1861, put an end to this idea. By very large majorities it passed over the governor's veto a resolution demanding the unconditional withdrawal of confederate troops from Kentucky; another to transfer the command of the state troops to Gen. Robert Anderson, of the federal army; and another to request the resignation or expulsion of United States senators Breckinridge and Powell. From this time the position of the state was never ambiguous, and those citizens of the state who went into the confederate armies warred against their state as well as against their national government. Dec. 18, 1861, a mass "sovereignty" convention met at Russellville, and appointed a revolutionary state government which controlled some of the southern counties for a few months, but dissolved before the first advance of the federal armies. Dec. 10, 1861, the confederate states congress had passed an act admitting Kentucky, and the state was represented there by members chosen by the Kentucky regiments in the confederate service. In 1862 Bragg, in his great raid, drove the legislature out of Frankfort and inaugurated Richard Hawes as provisional governor, Oct. 4; but Hawes retired the next day with Bragg's retreating army. During the remainder of the war Kentucky was released from most of the distresses which were felt by the other border states which were the seat of war; but had to endure the minor hardships of guerilla warfare, military interferences with elections, the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus. and abolition of slavery.


—Throughout and since the war the state has been steadily democratic, the opposition proportion of the popular vote being 30 per cent, in 1864, 26 per cent, in 1868, 46 per cent. in 1872, 37 per cent. in 1876, and 39 per cent, in 1880 During the same period the governors, congressmen, and most of the local officials have been democrats. In 1880 the republicans carried one of the ten congressional districts, the ninth, comprising the southeastern portion of the state; in three other districts the republicans secured between 40 and 50 per cent. of the total vote; in the remaining six the republican vote is of hardly any influence. In the legislature of 1830-81 the democrats had 112 of the 137 members of the state legislature.


—The name of the state, originally Kain-tuck-eé, is said to mean "the dark and bloody ground," and to have been given because the territory was the scene of almost constant Indian warfare. The derivation is at least doubtful.


—Among the political leaders of the state have been the following: William T. Barry, democratic representative 1810-11, United States senator 1815-16, and postmaster general under Jackson; James B. Beck, democratic representative 1867-75, and United States senator 1877-83; Joseph C. S. Blackburn, democratic representative 1875-83; Linn Boyd, democratic representative 1835-7 and 1839-55, and speaker of the house 1851-5; John C. Breckinridge (see his name); Benj. H. Bristow (see WHISKY RINGS, ADMINISTRATIONS, XXII.); John Young Brown, democratic representative 1878-7; William O. Butler (see his name); John G. Carlisle, democratic representative 1877-83; Henry Clay, J. J. Crittenden (see those names); Garret Davis, whig representative 1839-47, and United States senator 1861-72, James Guthrie, secretary of the treasury under Pierce, and democratic United States senator 1865-8; Joseph Holt, postmaster general and secretary of war under Buchanan, and judge advocate general under Lincoln; Richard M. Johnson (see his name); Amos Kendall, postmaster general under Jackson and Van Buren (see KITCHEN CABINET); J. Proctor Knott, democratic representative 1867-71 and 1875-83; Robert P. Letcher. representative (Clay republican and whig) 1823-35, governor 1840-44. and minister to Mexico 1849-52; Humphrey Marshall, representative (whig) 1840-52, (American) 1855-9, minister to China 1852-4, and brigadier general in the confederate service; George D. Prentice, editor of the Louisville "Journal" (whig) 1830-70; L. H. Rousseau, major general in the United States army, republican representative 1865-7, James Speed, attorney general under Lincoln and Johnson.


—See 1 Poore's Federal and State Constitutions; Filson's Discovery, Settlement and Present State of Kentucky (1784), Mann Butler's History of Kentucky (to 1813); H. Marshall's History of Kentucky (1824); Collins' History of Kentucky (to 1850: continued to 1877): Cassaday's History of Louisville (to 1852); Arthur and Carpenter's History of Kentucky (1852); Allen's History of Kentucky (1872); 2 Draper's Civil War, 222, 356; Danville Review, March, June, September, 1862, ("Secession in Kentucky").


622 of 1105

Return to top