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Westward We Go!

05/07/2010

Engraving of Daniel Boone by Alonzo Chappel, published by Johnson, Fry & Company. (Virginia Historical Society, Accession no. 2010.1.2)

A few weeks ago a visitor asked about the Virginia perspective on Kentucky statehood. After some research we were able to find the answer! In short—Virginia’s leaders were in support of the process. Below is a more complete description of the events that led to the creation of the state of Kentucky.

Until 1776, Kentucky was an unorganized county in the western part of the colony of Virginia. The previous year American pioneer and merchant Richard Henderson founded an independent colony named Transylvania and hired Daniel Boone to lead it. Henderson hoped that by establishing Transylvania he would separate Kentucky County from Virginia, but the new colony lasted barely a year. A provision in the Virginia 1776 Constitution allowed for the possibility of Kentucky County becoming an independent state. By 1784, the residents of Kentucky County began seriously advocating for statehood with or without the Virginia General Assembly’s approval. Residents who had been given land titles as payment for service during the American Revolution advocated for statehood with the General Assembly’s approval. Those who had claimed the land titles from Indian tribes or who were squatters advocated separation without approval. Virginia political leaders understood that Kentucky lay too far away to be effectively governed and were willing to grant statehood if certain conditions were met. Kentucky residents and the U.S. Congress rejected the first series of enabling acts that the Virginia government proposed. Finally, on December 18, 1789, Virginia enacted a statute that served as a prelude to Kentucky statehood, and in 1790, Kentucky delegates accepted Virginia’s terms of separation. Two years later, on February 4, 1791, Congress passed a law admitting Kentucky into the Union effective June 1, 1792.

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