Kentucky Conventions

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KENTUCKY CONVENTIONS. In the 1780s the Kentucky frontier, then part of Virginia, became the scene of violent confrontations between white settlers and local Indians. As the white population increased, the ferocity of such conflicts escalated correspondingly. In 1784 a convention of representative delegates met in Danville to petition Virginia for assistance. Between 1784 and 1790 nine conventions were held. A tenth convention met in April 1792 to frame the state constitution.

The conventions reshaped Kentucky's relationship to Virginia and cleared the way for Kentucky's incorporation into the Union as a state in its own right. In particular, they broadened Virginia's laws for frontier defense and passed four enabling acts. These latter acts gave the Kentuckians three privileges: first, they provided specific rules for registry of land; second, they established definite terms of separation; and, third, they secured Kentucky representation in the Congress of the Confederation. In the numerous debates, pioneer statesmen clarified many issues that faced the western people. Navigation and trade rights down the Mississippi River were partially guaranteed, the Spanish conspiracy was defeated, and a reasonably democratic constitution was drafted. Perhaps the most important accomplishment of all was the excellent political training early Kentucky leaders secured as delegates to the conventions.


Channing, Steven A. Kentucky: A Bicentennial History. New York: Norton, 1977.

Horsman, Reginald. The New Republic: The United States of America, 1789–1815. Harlow, U.K.; New York: Longman, 2000.

T. D.Clark/a. g.

See alsoBackcountry and Backwoods ; Frontier Defense ; Tobacco and American Indians ; Trading Companies ; Virginia Indian Company ; Wars with Indian Nations: Early Nineteenth Century (1783–1840) .

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Kentucky Conventions

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