Copyright 2000 - 2003 - Janine M. Bork
This page is part of the Union County, OR AGHP
(1853 - 1859.)
Appointments of Territorial Officers by President Pierce - Reconstruction of Judicial Districts - The Election of General Lane to Congress - Arrival of Governor John W. Davis - Session of Legislature, 1853-54 - First Attempt to Call a Constitutional Convention - George L. Curry Succeeds Governor Davis - Session of Legislature, 1854 - Multnomah County Established - Legislative and Congressional Proceedings as to the Admission of Oregon as a State - Ex-Governor Gaines Nominated by Whigs for Delgateship - Election of June, 1855 - General Lane Re-elected - The Constitutional convention Defeated - Re-agitation of Location of Capital - Session of Legislature, 1855-56 - Counties of Curry and Josephine Organized - Organization of the Republican Party in Oregon - General Lane Renominated by Democrats - The Opposition Supports George W. Lawson, Independent Free-Soil Democrat - Election of June, 1857 - General Lane Re-elected - Large Majority for Constitutional Convention - Session of Legislature, 1857 - Election of 1858 - L.F. Grover Elected to Congress - State Organization - General Lane and Delazon Smith Elected United States Senators - Session of Legislature, 1858 - Oregon Admitted as a State, February 14, 1859.
EARLY after the inauguration of President Franklin Pierce, the supplanting of the Whig Federal officials of the territory followed. Judge Pratt was nominated to the Senate as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, which assigned him as presiding Judge of the court of the second judicial district as then constituted. The nomination, however, having been withdrawn before action by the Senate, George H. Williams of Iowa was appointed successor to Chief Justice Nelson. Matthew P. Deady (1) and Cyrus Olney were appointed Associate Justices. Mr. Justice Deady was assigned to the first district, or southern Oregon counties, and Judge Olney to the northern counties, or third judicial district, which had been materially abridged in extent by the counties north of the Columbia river having been detached by operation of the Washington Territory Organic Act. As a consequence of this diminution of the jurisdiction of the third judicial district, and to more approximately equalize judicial labor, the legislature, at its next session, redistricted the territory, placing Marion, Linn, Lane, Polk and Benton counties in the first district, to which Chief Justice Williams was assigned. Clatsop, Washington,
(1) After Judge Deady had entered upon the performance of his judicial functions, a commission was issued to Obadiah B. McFadden, of Pennsylvania, as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Oregon. That gentleman came to the territory in the fall of 1853, and claimed to be judge of the district over which Judge Deady presided. Judge McFadden qualified, and held one term of court in that district. He was then appointed an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Washington Territory. Judge Deady, having in the interval been re-commissioned Associate Justice of Oregon, was reinstated in the district to which he had been originally appointed, or intended so to be. It was alleged that this political or judiciary fiasco arose from the misspelling of the christian name of the distinguished Judge, and that such clerical misprision had rendered void his appointment, confirmation and commission; that, to avoid the evil results of so great an error, a new appointment had become necessary. Judge Deady's appointment had, however, proved entirely satisfactory. Judge McFadden, although among the best of men and a sound and capable jurist, as his long and popular judicial career in Washington Territory abundantly demonstrated, was, under the circumstances, received with coolness and popular disfavor. Whether Judge Deady was "spelled down" intentionally or maliciously, or whether the mistake was inadvertently made, may never be known; but none will challenge the statement that Matthew P. Deady, after his restoration to judicial honors, rapidly rose to the "head of the class."
Yamhill and Clackamas counties were constituted the second district, with Judge Olney presiding judge. The third district included the counties of southern Oregon, the district courts of which were held by Judge Deady.
General Joseph Lane was appointed Governor, and George L. Curry, Secretary (1). Governor Lane reached Oregon City on the 16th day of May, and within a few days resigned to accept the Democratic nomination for delegate to Congress. At the June election, 1853, Judge Alonzo A. Skinner was the Whig nominee for Congress, a candidate eminently qualified for the office, a nominee creditable to the party who made the selection; a man who, had he have been elected, would have reflected honor upon himself and his constituency. Each party had in the field its strongest men; each made its best efforts. The conflict was warm, at times and places bitter, always earnest and exciting. The Democracy, under its popular leader, with its prestige of national supremacy and territorial success, of course triumphed. General Lane received 4,516 votes. Judge Skinner 2,951 votes.
Dr. John W. Davis of Indiana (2), who had been appointed to succeed. General Lane as governor, arrived at Salem December 2, 1853. The annual session of the Legislative Assembly (1853-54) was about to commence. Fresh from the Atlantic side of the continent, a persona stranger, he declined making a formal message, but courteously informed that Assembly that from time to time it would be a pleasant duty to communicate such information as the official records contained. It had been too often the custom for imported officers to act upon the belief that the people who had abandoned the eastern States and had found their way to the western verge of the continent knew but little; that legislatures and the people who selected them needed instructions. This instance was an exception. Here was a statesman of national reputation willing to tarry a little while until he became advised of what might be needed before he should make a mere exhibit of that "little brief authority," which exhibit, when prematurely or needlessly made, might cause "angels to weep." It certainly never added to the popularity of an office-holder.
At that session, little but routine and local legislation was done. The usual memorialization to Congress upon every conceivable subject, in behalf of every locality, was not omitted. A law providing for the organization of militia, and providing for the election of necessary military officers, was passed. The first attempt was made looking to the admission of Oregon as a state. A bill was passed providing for submitting, to the vote of the people, the propriety of holding a convention to frame a state constitution (3).
On August 5, 1854, Governor John W. Davis resigned his commission of governor and started for his home in Indiana. He had proved a satisfactory public officer. To him no objection had been made, save alone that the people had so learned to believe that their officials should be selected from the territory, that they called an appointee from abroad an "imported official;" and to a certain extent such epithet carried with it popular
(1) The remaining offices in the gift of the President were filled during the year 1853, as rapidly as possible, and were as follows: Joel Palmer, Superintendent of Indian affairs; Benjamin F. Harding, United States Attorney; James W. Nesmith, United States Marshal; John Adair, Collector of Customs at Astoria; Addison C. Gibbs, Collector of Customs at Umpqua; General A.L. Lovejoy, Postal Agent; William M. King, Robert W. Dunbar and Peter G. Stewart, were appointed Surveyors respectively of the Ports of Portland, Milwaukee and Pacific City, in the order named.
(2) Upon Governor Lane's resignation, Secretary Curry, acting governor by virtue of his office, assumed the performance of executive duties. In November, Dr. John W. Davis of Indiana, late speaker of the United States House of Representatives, was commissioned governor of Oregon Territory. He arrived at Portland en route to Salem in the last days of November, where the author met him. He was talented, practical, unassuming, a man of good administrative ability, a genial, accessible and social gentleman. Personal politics still reigned in Oregon. The new governor engaged in social amenities without having considered the political status of his associates. Some of us where Whigs. He was cautioned. The author will not forget the manly indignation of Governor Davis at the attempt to control his social relations. His politics, though of the ultra-Democratic school, did not include social alienation and estrangement because of political opinions.
(3) The proposition to hold a
convention to frame a state constitution preparatory to admission into
the Union was defeated at the election of 1854 by the following vote: For,
3,210; against 4,079. The real reason of that defeat was alleged to have
been that the southern counties were strongly opposed. While this was a
pet measure with the Democracy, and those counties were Democratic counties,
yet the project had been agitated to create a new territory of Northern
California and Southern Oregon. The admission of Oregon as a state would
of course have put the quietus on such a scheme.
opproborium. Such, and such alone, was the only offensive criticism of Governor Davis or his administration. He had consistently stood aloof from any "clique" within the dominant party; such terms at that time was the popular phrase applied by either wing or faction to those who acted in the other. Though an ardent party man, he had no sympathy with that personal rancor which at that period imbued Oregon politics. Ostensibly, he desired to return to his home, to give attention to his private business affairs. Really, he escaped from a political turmoil most distasteful to his amiable nature. In November, Secretary George L. Curry (1), who had again acted as governor since Governor Davis' departure from the territory, received the appointment of governor. District Attorney Benjamin F. Harding was transferred to the office of secretary; and William H. Farrar succeeded to the district attorneyship.
At the session of the Legislative Assembly which convened in December, 1854, one of the principal measures passed was the establishment of Multnomah county, which had failed to pass the previous session. The subject of calling a convention to frame a state constitution occupied considerable of the session. The act as originally introduced proposed the appointment of a committee to draft a constitution to be submitted to a vote of the people. That scheme, however, met with little favor; and the proposition, after protracted discussion, ultimate in passing a bill submitting to the popular vote, at the next general election, the question of holding a convention to frame a state constitution. Contemporaneously with the action of the territorial legislature, Delegate Lane had introduced in Congress an act enabling the people of the territory west of the Cascade Mountains, and south of the Columbia river, to form a state constitution preparatory to admission as a state to the Union. This act passed the House of Representatives, but failed in the Senate.
Much time was expended at that session in discussing the location of the public buildings. The appropriation for building the capitol had been exhausted; and the building was not nearly completed. The penitentiary appropriation had been nearly expended; and much work remained to be done to render the building of any utility for the purpose designed. As to the university, but little progress had been made beyond the purpose designed. As to the university, but little progress had been made beyond securing a site at Corvallis for the buildings; and but a small sum had been realized from the sale of the university lands. In this condition of affairs, an act was passed on the 13th of January, 1855, providing for the removal of the seat of government to Corvallis, and the university to Jacksonville. A new board of commissioners, to secure the erection of necessary buildings, was named; and the act declared that thereafter every session of the legislature should be held at Corvallis. In the meantime, Congress had appropriated $27,000 to complete the capitol at Salem, and $40,000 for the penitentiary, with the proviso that such buildings were to be completed without further aid from the United States.
L. Curry, a native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was born July 2, 1820.
Having lost his father, he went with an uncle to Boston at the age of eleven
and was bound as an apprentice to the jewelry trade. While yet a youth
he was devoted to literary labor, delivering addresses and reading original
poems before the Mechanics' Apprentice Library of Boston, of which association
he served two terms as president. In 1844, he started west, stopping at
St. Louis. He was employed in the publication office of the Reveille
until 1846, in which year he crossed the plains, arriving at Oregon City
August 30th. He soon assumed the editorship of the Oregon Spectator,
in which capacity he continued for several months. In March, 1848, he commenced
the publication of the Oregon Free Press, the first weekly journal
issued on the Pacific slope. It was printed on a press made in the country.
Its display type was also cut out of Oregon wood. This enterprise subsided
within its first year, greatly attributable to the exodus to the California
mines. Prominently in politics and before the public for several years,
without solicitation on his part, in May, 1853, the office of Secretary
of the Territory was conferred upon him by President Pierce. As acting
governor and future governor during the territorial life of Oregon, he
became so identified with its progress and development that its history
is his biography. After it had become a state, he still continued a prominent
figure in its politics until his death, which occurred July 28, 1878, at
the city of Portland. Ever active and zealous in politics, the favorite
of Oregon's most ultra-partisans, yet he was respected by opponents for
his genial qualities, his consistency of life, his faithfulness to himself
and friends. How truthfully his characteristics are summed up in the tribute
to his memory (Pioneer Proceedings, 1878, page 80): "He was of a singularly
amiable disposition, honorable, and gifted with a versatility of talents
to such a degree, that whatever he undertook was well performed. Though
his public life was wholly within the period when personal rancor poisoned
politics, and but few escaped the venom of malevolent criticism, yet no
one every insinuated a dishonorable act by him. He was in every sense a
self-made man. By hard study and constant reading he had acquired a wealth
of information, and as a well-read student he had few equals. Much of his
leisure was devoted in literary pursuits; and his graceful pen has adorned
the best publications of the state.
In April, 1855, the Democratic territorial convention met at Salem, and renominated General Joseph Lane. On the 18th of the same month, the Whig convention was held at Corvallis, and nominated ex-Governor John P. Gaines. In the Oregon Statesman, its editor, Asahel Bush, thus introduced the nominee and prospectus of the Democracy: "Jo Lane, a Democratic legislator, Democratic prosecutor, Democratic everything." The Whigs with equal defiance adopted a laconic platform: "General Gaines against the world." The canvass was earnest, not to say bitter. Governor Gaines was charged with being the Know-Nothing candidate; and there were elements of population in the territory, who were quite numerous, to whom a candidate so charged would be obnoxious. At all events, the prediction of the Statesman was sufficiently verified. General Lane was re-elected by the handsome majority of 2,235 in a total vote of 10,021. Two whig representatives and two Whig councilmen only were elected to the legislature; and all the prosecutors elected were Democrats. The state constitutional convention scheme was again defeated by the popular vote. In favor of the convention there were 4,420 votes, against 4,835.
In the month of April, 1855, territorial printer Asahel Bush had moved the publication office of the Oregon Statesman to Corvallis. That circumstance, together with the previous removal of the offices of the governor and secretary to Corvallis, had given origin to the derisive term, "The capital on wheels." The First Comptroller of the Treasury Department but shortly afterwards notified the governor and secretary of the territory that the relocation act of the session of 1854-55 was without force or effect until it had received congressional approval; that no expenditures of government money must be made except at Salem; that contracts made for expenditures for the public buildings at that place must not be annulled; and that no member of the Legislative Assembly should be paid mileage or per diem for attending a session convened at any other place than Salem. Governor Curry and Secretary harding returned to Salem with their respective officers. Work was resumed on the public buildings at Salem.
On the 2d of November, 1855, a company was organized at Portland by Charles f. Johnson, an employé of the Alta California Telegraph Company, who introduced telegraphic communication between Portland and Oregon City. The first telegraphic message was transmitted between the two cities upon the 16th of November. The line had been extended southward to Salem in the fall of 1856; but it was never utilized nor kept in repair. Some six or seven years had elapsed before telegraphic communication was completed to California.
The time approached for the session
of the legislature (1855-56). The knowledge had spread as to the implicit
instructions received in September by Secretary Harding from the First
Comptroller as to the status of the relocation of the capital. It
seemed to have put a quietus on any governmental recognition of
Corvallis as the seat of government. Those instructions may be stated thus:
No congressional appropriation must be disbursed for capitol buildings
except at Salem. The legislature must meet at Salem, or the members will
not be paid by the United States for mileage or attendance. Those instructions
asserted the law voidable and inoperative until sanctioned by congressional
approval. A sort of compromise programme met with favor, which was ultimately
acted upon. It was thought that the legislature, to conform to territorial
law, which might be law till congressional disapproval, to make its organization
legal, should meet at the time appointed by law at Corvallis, the place
designated by an act of the legislature, where "every session, general
or special, must be held;" that adjournment to Salem was
necessary, which would carry with it the legalization of legislative proceedings there at, and also secure compensation for members' services. Consonant with such programme, a large quorum of both houses assembled at Corvallis, December 3, 1855. On the 6th, Lafayette Grover introduced the first and only bill passed at Corvallis. Its purpose was to relocate the seat of government at Salem. On the 10th, that bill passed the House, to take effect and be in force on the 12th. Its passage was immediately reported to the Council; but there was no quorum of that body in session. On the next day, the Council proceeded to its consideration. Amendments were offered suggesting a location by the popular vote; and different towns were in turn named for the capital, all of which were severally defeated. The Council then amended the section, fixing, as the time of taking effect, the 15th instead of the 12th, and returned the bill to the House for concurrence. The House promptly concurred; and the Assembly adjourned to meet at Salem, at which city the session was resumed on the 18th. On the night of the 29th, the capital buildings were fired by an incendiary, the buildings destroyed, and the territorial library and furniture consumed.
At that session (1855-56), the accustomed budge of memorials were adopted, among which was one for the removal of General Wood, U.S. Army, from the command of the Department of the Pacific, and another for the removal of Joel Palmer from the office of Superintendent of Indian Affairs. Joint resolutions were passed censuring the Surveyor-General and Postal Agent. The counties of Curry and Josephine were organized. A bill was passed providing for an election to be held in April for delegates to a convention to frame a state constitution, and at the same election to take the sense of the people as to holding such convention. Delegates were elected. They held no convention, as the vote on the propriety of holding the convention was 4,097 in favor, and 4,346 against. An act was also passed providing for the submission to a vote of the people the selection of the seat of government. The legislature adjourned on the 21st of January.
At the general election in June,
in accordance with the provisions of the act of the Assembly, a vote was
taken on the relocation of the seat of government. Eugene City received
2,627 votes; Corvallis received 2,327 votes; Salem 2,101 votes; and Portland
1,154 votes. The act had provided that the returns should be filed in the
office of the secretary of the territory within forty days from the date
of the election, at the expiration of which time that officer should canvass
the vote and declare the result. The counties of Wasco, Tillamook, Jackson
and Josephine failed to forward returns. The secretary thus announced the
official result: Eugene City received 2,319 votes; Salem 2,049 votes; Corvallis
1,998 votes; and Portland 1,154 votes. By the provision of said bill, should
neither place voted for at the June election receive a clear majority,
a special election was to be held on the First Monday in October, at which
election the places to be voted for should be restricted to the two places
which had received the highest number of votes at the general election.
At the October special election, the contest was between Eugene City and
Salem. By that time, the feeling had become one of apparent indifference.
The people had generally settled down to the belief that Congress would
have to approve any territorial enactment removing or relocating a seat
of government to make it operative; and that, until such approval, the
appropriation for the erection of a capitol would be expended at Salem;
and also, that a legislative assembly meeting elsewhere than at Salem would
neither be recognized nor paid. In the counts of Marion, Tillamook, Polk,
Curry and Wasco, elections were not held. In the rest of the territory,
Eugene City received
2,559 votes; Salem 444 votes; and Corvallis 318 votes. Although Eugene City had received a large majority as the place for the seat of government, yet no regard was paid to that popular verdict. Both the Supreme Court and the Legislative Assembly alike ignored the law providing for the vote and the vote itself. Both their annual sessions convened at Salem; and that city continued to be the capital of Oregon.
At that legislature (1856-57), the act passing providing for holding a convention in August, 1857, to form a state constitution, should the popular vote at the general election in June be in favor thereof. The southern counties had abandoned the idea of a new territorial government to be composed of Southern Oregon and Northern California. The people had grown ready for home rule. They were heartily tired of the annoyances incident to the territorial condition. They had learned, in the capital controversy, that Congress, not themselves, controlled the settlement of their purely local affairs. The hope was large that, if they became a state, the increased political influence (a vote in the national House of Representatives, and senatorial representation) would assist in securing the recognition and payment of their Indian war debt, a debt which had accrued because the general government had ignored them, a self-imposed liability which never would have been necessary had Oregon been represented as a state in the Congress of the nation.
The period had also been reached
when the transition of Oregon from territorial tutelage to statehood was
at hand. With that change, state politics must necessarily assume a kindred
character with those tenets of political faith professed by the great national
parties; - those principles which gave name or identity to the political
parties, which, divided, the people of the Union were to become the shibboleths
for party organization within the territory about to be erected into the
future State of Oregon. The Whig party of the nation, since the death of
its founder and most illustrious leader, had fallen into a state of complete
"innocuous desuetude." True, opposition to the Democracy still survived.
It had arrayed itself under various names in various sections of the Union.
The most formidable political organizations which succeeded the national
Whig party were the Republican and American parties. Those two parties
chiefly absorbed the Whig hosts, who had made their last national struggle
in the disastrous defeat of 1852. In 1856, the Whig party as such ahd become
a thing of the past. Under that name, it had ceased to contend for its
time-honored tenets of protection to American industry, liberal appropriations
by the general government for internal improvements, a national bank and
uniform currency, and the distribution among the states of the proceeds
of the sale of public lands. For the time, those issues were lost sight
of and deferred. They gave place to more exciting matters of contention,
- sectional issues arising out of the slavery question; slavery in the
territories; the right of persons to go with their slaves, which the law
had made property in the state of their domicile, into a free territory;
the admission of states, with or without the institution of slavery engrafted
upon their constitutions. In fact, the issue was crystallizing into "Whether
slavery shall be extended beyond its present limits." "Is freedom national,
and slavery sectional?" or vice versa. But comparatively
few favored any interference with the domestic institutions of any state;
but the number was rapidly increasing, especially in the free states, of
those who were unalterably opposed to slavery extension, - to allowing
slavery being carried into any free territory. While in the Southern states
the contention was intensifying that no power existed under the Federal
constitution to control or interfere with the institution,
either in the territories or states, in other words, the claim was that slaves are property, and as such their owners may go with them, and enjoy such property, into any territory of the United States.
This reference to the status of political parties has been rendered necessary, because Oregon is soon to become a state, her congressional representatives must affiliate with one or the other of the great political parties of the nation, and, as an applicant for admission into the family of states, the character of her institutions, to a very great extent, will be considered in her application. Besides, the representatives of the people have afforded to their constituencies the opportunity to provide for the holding of a convention to frame a constitution for the future state, preparatory to that admission; and the character of her domestic institutions, the doctrines of the fundamental law, are to constitute in great measure the criteria of the republican form of government necessary to be established to entitle her to admission. The day for local and personal politics has therefore passed. Purely local issues must cease to control. The people who are about to become an integral part of the nation, with the privilege and duty to join with their fellow citizens of other states in discussing and settling national affairs, must do political battle in the ranks of a national party. Oregon's representatives in Congress are about to be vested with the right to vote as well as speak. From a mendicant for his territory, the representative is hereafter to participate in and assist to regulate those momentous questions which affect the whole nation, of which his constituency is a part.
Upon the "decline and fall" of the Whig organization in Oregon Territory, contemporaneously with its subsidence in the states of the Union (and it may be remarked that, in its palmiest days, it was not a success, nor was its organization thorough), some strength accrued from the Know-Nothing movement; yet the coalition made no headway against the Democracy. In the southern counties, the movement was initiated looking to the formation of a new party on the anti-slavery idea. A meeting was held at Eden, Jackson county, in May, 1856, to nominate candidates for representatives to the legislature, and for county officers, to be supported at the June election. Although such was the single object in the call, that embryo Republican convention passed resolutions opposing the admission into the American Union of any more slave states. That meeting antedated the holding at Philadelphia, in May, 1856, of the national Republican convention, which nominated John C. Frémont for the Presidency. It was the primary Republican meeting of Oregon. None of those Eden nominees for the legislature were successful, but one Know-Nothing was elected; and an inroad was made in an hitherto impregnable stronghold of the Democracy. The subsequent fall marks the inauguration, in the counties of the Willamette valley, of the necessary steps to affect an organization of the Republican party. The first call was for a county convention at Silverton, Marion county, to "all who were opposed to slavery in free territory." At this meeting emanated a committee of correspondence with all the other counties; and there followed in quick succession county meetings in the several counties of the Willamette valley.
At the territorial Legislative
Assembly (1856-57), which convened on the first Monday of December, but
little important business was transacted. Colonel James K. Kelly was elected
President of the Council, Lafayette Grover Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Much of the time was employed in discussing political questions, on the
qualifications of the voters, the exclusion of free negroes, the conferring
of the elective franchise upon half-breeds, - foreshadowing the proposed
settlement of such questions in the state constitution. The bill passed
to submit tot he vote of the people a proposition.
to hold a convention to frame a state constitution, and at such election to choose delegates to hold such convention, provided a majority had voted in favor of the holding of the proposed constitutional convention.
On the adjournment of the legislature, the contest commenced. Republican clubs were formed in most every county. A state convention, consisting of delegates from the several counties, was called to meet at Albany on the 11th day of February, 1857, for the purpose of completing the organization of the Republican party. That convention named themselves "the Free State Republican Party of Oregon." Their platform harmonized with the national Platform of the Philadelphia convention of 1856. It favored the perpetuity of the Union; resistance to the introduction of slavery into free territory; the prohibition of polygamy; the admission of Oregon as a free state; governmental aid to the immediate construction of a Pacific railroad; the improvement of rivers and harbors; the grant of bounty land to the volunteers of the Indian war of 1855-56; and a united effort by all citizens, irrespective of party, to secure a free state constitution for Oregon.
A free-state club had been formed by and at a meeting at Grand Prairie, January 17, 1857, which had been called for the exclusive purpose of promoting the election of delegates to the proposed constitutional convention, pledged to favor an article to exclude all negroes from the new state.
At the first session of the Thirty-fourth Congress (1855-56), Delegate Lane introduced in the House of Representatives an act to authorize the holding of a convention to frame a constitution preparatory to admission into the Union. The measure was objected to on the ground that the population of Oregon was insufficient to entitle it to a member. At the ensuing session, the bill was again introduced by Delegate Lane, when it passed the House, was sent to the Senate and amended; but the Senate refused to pass the bill.
In the spring of 1857, on the assembling of the Democratic territorial convention, General Lane was renominated for Congress by acclamation. That convention adopted a platform in which they "deny the right of any state to interfere with such domestic institutions of other states as are recognized by the Federal constitution." Regarding the selection of delegates to the proposed constitutional convention, the convention recommended that the personal views of a candidate as to phases of the slavery agitation should not subject him to opposition, for such question should be submitted separately to a direct vote of the people; hence, whatever view such candidate entertained, if the convention adopted it, would still be subject to popular approval or rejection.
In several counties only had
the Republicans sufficiently completed their party organization to justify
their making partisan nominations for delegates to the constitutional convention.
In other counties, the opponents of the Democracy suffered the matter to
go by default. Nor did the new party feel sufficiently self-reliant to
call a territorial convention to nominate a candidate for delegate to Congress.
George W. Lawson, a free-soil Democrat, had announced himself as an independent
candidate for that office. In this condition of things, the Republicans
generally supported Mr. Lawson. This policy was adopted in the hope that
a number of Democrats with anti-slavery proclivities, and otherwise disaffected,
would be alienated form the dominant party. The discussion during the canvass
was earnest and exciting as to the candidates, and as to a probable introduction
of slavery into Oregon. It was equally warm and positive as to the exclusion
of free negroes. General Joseph Lane received 5,662 votes, and George W.
Lawson 3,471 votes. The vote by which the people of Oregon ordered the
be held to frame a state constitution was 7,209 in favor and 1,616 against. Of the delegates chosen to the constitutional convention, composed of sixty members, about one-third were Republicans and Independents, elected upon opposition tickets to regularly nominated Democratic candidates. In the next legislature, the Democrats had a majority of one in the Council and twenty in the House.
The people thus significantly having approved the holding of the convention to frame a constitution, the delegates assembled at Salem on the 17th of August, 1857. Matthew P. Deady was elected President, and Chester N. Terry, Secretary. The following named delegates composed the convention: Benton county, John Kelsay, Haman C. Lewis, Henry B. Nichols, William Matzger; Clackamas county, James K. Kelly, Asa Lawrence Lovejoy, William A. Starkweather, Hector Campbell, Nathaniel Robbins; Clatsop county, Cyrus Olney; Columbia county, John W. Watta; Coos county, Perry B. Marple; Curry county, William H. Packwood; Douglas county, Matthew P. Deady, Solomon Fitzhugh, Stephen F. Chadwick, Thomas Whitted; Jackson county, L.J.C. Duncan, John H. Reed, Daniel Newcomb, P.P. Prim; Josephine county, Sidney B. Hendershott, William H. Watkins; Lane county, Enoch Hoult, W.W. Bristow, Jesse Cox, Paul Brattain, A.J. Campbell, Isaac R. Moores; Linn county, Delazon Smith, Luther Elkins, Reuben S. Coyle, John T. Brooks, James Shields, J.H. Brittain; Marion county, George H. Williams, Lafayette Grover, John C. Peebles, Joseph Cox, Nicholas Shrum, Davis Shannon, Richard Miller; Multnomah county, Samuel J. McCormick, William H. Farrar, David Logan; Multnomah and Washington, Thomas J. Dryer; Polk county, Reuben F. Boise, Frederick Waymire, Benjamin F. Burch; Polk and Tillamook, A.D. Babcock; Umpqua county, Jesse Applegate, Levi Scott; Wasco county, C.R. Meigs; Washington county, E.D. Shattuck, John S. White, Levi Anderson; Yamhill county, W. Olds, R.V. Short, Robert C. Kinney, John R. McBride.
On the 17th day of September,
1857, the delegates had completed their labors. They had subscribed the
constitution; and the convention adjourned sine die. Their sessions
had been harmonious. The debates exhibited ability of high order, fairness
and liberality of view. The meager compensation allowed the officers of
the new state, and especially their judges, the extreme limitation of indebtedness
or liability to be incurred by state, county and municipal corporations,
although prompted in the spirit of economy, is open to criticism. Such
policy may well be questioned. In the main, however, the constitution of
Oregon is an admirable fundamental code. The short time in which the labor
was effected was in great measure due to the express understanding reached
during the earliest days of the session, that there should be no prolonged
discussion on negro exclusion or slavery extension, with their kindred
exciting accompaniments; but that those subjects should be embodied in
fairly stated propositions to be submitted to the people with the constitution,
and voted upon separately "for" or "against"; and such "propositions" as
may be approved by a majority should become a part of the constitution.
In consonance with this understanding, Article XVIII of the constitution
having designated the 9th day of November, 1857, as the day for voting
on the constitution, provided for the manner of submitting the propositions,
and regulated the manner of conducting the election, its fourth section
provided: "If this constitution shall be accepted by the electors, and
a majority of all the votes given for and against slavery shall be given
for slavery, then the following section shall be added to the Bill of Rights,
and shall be part of this constitution:
"SECTION __. Persons lawfully held as slaves in any state, territory or district of the United States, under the laws thereof, may be brought into this state; and such slaves and their descendants may be held as slaves within this state, and shall not be emancipated without the consent of their owners.'
"And if a majority of such votes be given against slavery, then the foregoing section shall not, but the following section shall, be added to the Bill of Rights, and shall be a part of this constitution:
"SECTION__. There shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in the state, otherwise than as a punishment for crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.'
"And if a majority of all the votes given for and against free negroes shall be given against free negroes, then the following section shall be added to the Bill of Rights, and shall be a part of this constitution:
"SECTION__. No free negro or mulatto, not residing in this state at the time of the adoption of this constitution, shall come, reside, or be within this state, or hold any real estate, or make any contracts, or maintain any suit therein; and the Legislative Assembly shall provide by penal laws for the removal by public officers of all such negroes and mulattoes, and for their effectual exclusion from the state, and for the punishment of persons who shall bring them into the state, or employ or harbor them.'"
The proposition for slavery was rejected by a vote of 7,727 for a free state; for a slave state, 2,645. This resulted in the incorporation of the anti-slavery proposition, which became Section 34 of the Bill of Rights. The proposition for exclusion of free negroes or mulattoes carried by the vote of 8,640 for, and 1,081 against. That section was incorporated into the constitution as Section 35, Article I, Bill of Rights.
"No Chinaman, not a resident of the state at the adoption of this constitution, shall ever hold any real estate or mining claim, or work any mining claim therein. The Legislative assembly shall provide by law in the most effectual manner for carrying out the above provision." (Article XV, Section 3.)
"Nor shall any negro, Chinaman or mulatto enjoy the right of suffrage." (Article II, Section 6.)
The boundaries of the state were established as follows, to wit: "Beginning one marine league at sea, due west from the point where the forty-second parallel of north latitude intersects the same; thence northerly at the same distance from the line of the coast lying west and opposite the state, including all islands within the jurisdiction of the United States, to a point due west and opposite the middle of the north ship channel of the Columbia river; thence easterly to and up the middle channel of said river, and when it is divided by islands, up the middle of the widest channel thereof, and in like manner up the middle of the main channel of Snake river to the mouth of the Owyhee river; thence due south to the parallel of latitude forty-two degrees north; thence west long said parallel to the place of beginning, including jurisdiction in civil and criminal cases upon the Columbia river and Snake river, concurrently with states and territories of which those rivers form a boundary in common with this state." (Article XVI, Section I.)
Oregon had had an annoying experience
in the controversy over the location of the seat of government. To repress
that agitation, to quiet such disturbing element, a provision was inserted
in the constitution to indicate the manner of locating these at of government,
and assuring its stability after the location had been made.
"The Legislative Assembly shall not have the power to establish a permanent seat of government for this state. But at the first regular session after the adoption of this constitution, the Legislative Assembly shall provide by law for the submission to the electors of this state, at the next general election thereafter, the manner of the selection of a place for a permanent seat of government; and no place shall ever be the seat of government under such law which shall not receive a majority of all the votes cast on the matter of such election. No tax shall be levied, or any money of the state expended, or debt contracted for the erection of a state-house, prior to the year eighteen hundred and sixty-five. The seat of government, when established as provided herein, shall not be removed for the term of twenty years from the time of such establishment, nor in any other manner than as provided in this article: Provided, that all the public institutions of the state, hereafter provided for by the Legislative Assembly, shall be located at the seat of government." (Article XIV.)
On the 19th of October, 1860, an act was passed by the Oregon legislature for the submission to the popular vote at the election in June, 1862, and every general election thereafter until "some one point" shall receive a majority of all the votes cast upon the question of locating the seat of government. At the election in 1862, no place received a majority of the votes. At the election in 1864, Salem received 6,108 votes, Portland 3,864, Eugene 1,588 votes, and all other places 577 votes. Salem received seventy-nine majority of the whole vote cast, and was duly declared "the permanent seat of government."
The incorporation of banks by the state was thus stringently prohibited: "The Legislative Assembly shall not have the power to establish or incorporate any bank or banking company, or moneyed institution whatever; nor shall any bank, company or institution exist in the state with the privilege of making, issuing or putting into circulation any bill, check, certificate, promissory note, or other paper, or the paper of any bank, company or person, to circulate as money." (Article XI, Section I.) "Nor shall the state subscribe to or be interested in the stock of any company, association or corporation." (Id., Section 6.) "Nor shall the Legislative Assembly loan the credit of the state, nor in any manner create any debts or liabilities, which shall, singly or in the aggregate with previous debts or liabilities, exceed the sum of fifty thousand dollars, except in case of war, or to repel invasion or suppress insurrection; and every contract of indebtedness entered into or assumed by or on behalf of the state, when all its liabilities and debts amount to said sum, shall be void and of no effect." (Id., Section 7.) "Neither shall the state assume the debts of any county, town or other corporation whatever, unless such debts shall have been created to repel invasion, suppress insurrection, or defend the state in war." (Id., Section 8.) "No county, town or other municipal corporation, by vote of its citizens or otherwise, shall become a stockholder in any joint-stock company, corporation or association." (Id., Section 9.) "Neither shall a county create any debts or liabilities which shall, singly or in the aggregate, exceed the sum of five thousand dollars, except to suppress insurrection or repel invasion; but the debts of any county, at the time this constitution takes effect, shall be disregarded in estimating the sum to which such county is limited." (Id., Section 10).
By the following human provision,
the property rights of married women were adequately protected: "The property
and pecuniary rights of every married woman at the time of marriage, or
afterwards acquired by gift, devise or inheritance, shall not be subject
to the debts or contracts of the husband; and laws shall be passed providing
for the registration of the wife's separate property." (Article XV, Section
"The governor and secretary of the state shall receive an annual salary of fifteen hundred dollars. The judges of the supreme court shall each receive an annual salary of two thousand dollars. They shall not receive any fees or perquisites whatever for the performance of any duties connected with their respective offices." (Article XIII.)
"The judicial power of the state shall be vested in a supreme court, circuit courts and county courts, which shall be courts of record, having general jurisdiction, limited and regulated by law. Justices of the peace may also be invested with limited judicial powers; and municipal courts may be created to administer the regulations of incorporated towns and cities. The supreme court shall consist of four justices, to be chosen in districts by the electors thereof, who shall be citizens of the United States, and who shall have resided in the state at least three years next preceding their election, and after their election to reside in their respective districts. The number of justices and districts may be increased, but shall not exceed five, until the white population of the state shall amount to one hundred thousand, and shall never exceed seven. The supreme court shall have jurisdiction only to revise the final decisions of the circuit courts; and every cause shall be tried, and every decision shall be made, by those judges only, or a majority of them, who did not try the cause or make the decision in the circuit court. There shall be one term, at the seat of government, annually." (Id. Article VII.)
An elaborate article (Article VIII) was exclusively devoted to the subjects of education and the school lands. It provided, among other things: "The proceeds of all the lands which have been, or hereafter may be, granted to this state for educational purposes (excepting the lands heretofore granted to aid in the establishment of an university); all the moneys and clear proceeds of all property which may accrue to the state by escheat or forfeiture; all moneys which may be paid as exemption from military duty; the proceeds of all gifts, devises and bequests made by any person to the state for common-school purposes; the proceeds of all property granted to the state when the purposes of such grant shall not be stated; all the proceeds of the five hundred thousand acres of land to which this state is entitled by the provisions of an act of Congress, entitled, 'An act to appropriate the proceeds of the sales of public lands, and to grant pre-emption rights,' approved the 4th of September, 1841, and also the five per centum of the net proceeds to the Union (if Congress shall consent to such appropriation of the two grants last mentioned) - shall be set apart as a separate and irreducible fund, to be called the common-school fund, the interest of which, together with all other revenues derived from the school land mentioned in this section, shall be exclusively applied to the support and maintenance of common schools in each school district, and the purchase of suitable libraries and apparatus therefor. The governor, secretary of state and state treasurer shall constitute a board of commissioners for the sale of school and university lands, and for the investment of the funds arising therefrom; and their powers and duties shall be such as may be prescribed by law: Provided, that no part of the university funds, or of the interest arising therefrom, shall be expended until the period of ten years from the adoption of this constitution, unless the same shall be otherwise disposed of, by the consent of Congress, for common-school purposes."
In the first section of the eighteenth article, "the second Monday in November, in the year 1857," was fixed as the day "for taking the vote of the electors of the state for the acceptance or rejection of the constitution." On the day appointed, 10,390 votes were cast, of which 7,195 were for its adoption, 3,195 against (1).
official proclamation of Governor Curry, dated December 14, 1857. Deady's
"General Laws of Oregon," 1843-64, page 129.
The constitution having thus been ratified by the people, an election was to be held in accordance with its provisions, on the first Monday in June, 1858, for a member of the United States House of Representatives, for members of the first state legislature, and for county officers under the new state constitution. that state legislature was to assemble on the first Monday of July, 1858, to elect two United States Senators, and to enact such necessary legislation as was required to perfect the state organization.
To avoid the confusion that might result from two sets of officers, two governments, or from an inter regnum occasioned by an inadvertent superseding of the proper territorial officers before state officers were authorized to act, it had been fully provided and understood that, until Congress had passed the bill admitting Oregon as a state, that the territorial organization should continue in unimpaired vigor, as though no efforts had been made to change the condition of things. For which reason, at the election (1858), the usual territorial, district and county officers would also be elected.
The legislature elected in June, 1857, met December 17th, and organized by selecting Hugh D. O'Bryant as President of the Council, and Ira F.M. Butler Speaker of the House of Representatives. Governor Curry delivered a message, mainly devoted to chronicling the growth of the territory, and referring to the change which was about to take place, congratulating the Assembly upon the hopeful condition of Oregon affairs. But little legislation was done beyond electing territorial officers; and, after a short session, the last territorial Legislative Assembly adjourned on the 5th day of January, 1858.
At the election in June, 1858, three different state tickets had been nominated. The Democrats, so-called, or the Oregon Democrats, had nominated Lafayette Grover for Congress and John Whiteaker for governor; the national Democrats, supported Colonel James K. Kelly for Congress and E.M. Barnum for governor; and the Republicans presented a ticket with the names of John R. McBride for Congress and John Denny for governor. Full nominations were made on all the tickets, including the offices of secretary of state, treasurer and public printer. Besides those state tickets, the people of Oregon voted for the usual territorial officials. In the election for state officers, the Republicans abandoned their ticket and supported the national Democratic candidates. Kelly received a very strong vote; but the regular Democratic ticket achieved its accustomed success. L.F. Grover received 5,859 votes, James K. Kelly 4,190 votes. On the vote for governor, Whiteaker received 5,738, Barnum 4,214. Matthew P. Deady, Riley E. Stratton, Reuben P. Boise and Aaron E. Wait were elected Justices of the Supreme Court.
As provided by the constitution,
the recently elected state legislature met on the 5th of July, for the
purpose of electing two United States Senators. Luther Elkins was elected
President of the Senate, and William G. T'Vault Speaker of the House of
Representatives. That legislature was composed of thirty-eight Democrats
and eleven Republicans. Joseph Lane and Delazon Smith were elected United
States Senators. On the 8th day of July, John Whiteaker was inaugurated
first governor of the State of Oregon. But little legislative business
was transacted. A tax law was passed providing for the levy of a two-mill
tax to defray the current expenses of the state organization. Acts were
also passed regulating the practice of the circuit courts, and fixing the
terms. In accordance, however, with the arrangements of making all legislation
under the new constitution dependent upon congressional admission of the
new state, the time fixed for these laws going into effect was the date
of the admission of the State of Oregon by Act of Congress.
Section 10, of Article XIV, relating to the legislative department, had provided for the first regular biennial session of the Legislative Assembly to meet on the second Monday of September, 1858. As the state had not at that date been admitted, a quorum failed to attend; and it immediately adjourned, without any attempt to make even a temporary organization. On the 6th of December, the territorial legislature met, electing Charles Drain President of the Council, and N.H. Gates Speaker of the House of Representatives. Governor Curry's message was a lengthy essay on the power of Congress over the territories, and upon the admission of states into the Union. The legislature confined itself to electing territorial officers, granting franchises, amending previously enacted laws, and in passing the usual stock of memorials to Congress. On the 22d day of January, 1859, the last Legislative Assembly of the territory of Oregon adjourned sine die.
The constitution of the future state, together with a copy of the proclamation of Governor Curry containing the official vote, approving not only the instrument itself, but also the separate propositions which had been engrafted on the constitution, as Sections 34 and 35 of the Bill of Rights, had been forwarded to Congress. The two Senators-elect (Messrs. Joseph Lane and Delazon Smith) were both in Washington City claiming seats in the United States Senate. Lafayette Grover was also there in person, urging his admission as a member of the United States House of Representatives for the State of Oregon. On the 1st day of February, 1858, the Senate referred the Oregon constitution to the Committee on Territories.
On April 5, 1858, Stephen A. Douglas, Chairman of the Committee on Territories, reported to the Senate a bill for the admission of Oregon into the Union. On the 18th of May, it passed the Senate by a vote of thirty-five to seventeen. Twelve Republicans, among whom were Nathan H. Seward, Simon Cameron, Zachariah Chandler, Jacob Collomen and James Hartan voted for the bill. Among the Republican opposition were Senators Benjamin F. Wade, William P. Fessender, John P. Hale, Hannibal Hamlin and Lyman Trumbull. John J. Crittenden, John Bell and John P. Kennedy, of the American party, voted against the bill. The then Anti-Lecompton Senators voted for the bill. A party analysis of the vote shows twelve Republicans, three Anti-Lecompton Democrats, one American and nineteen Democrats voting for the passage of the bill, - six Republicans, three Americans and eight Democrats voting against admission.
The bill was reported to the House for concurrence. The Democrats as a party were interested to secure prompt passage of the bill. A Presidential election was approaching; and at that time it seemed to be an assumed fact that three electoral votes would be given by Oregon for the Democratic nominee, and those votes might be a desideratum. Kansas, admitted under the free-state constitution for like political reasons, was desired by the Republicans, and correspondingly opposed by the Democrats.
In 1856, in the discussion which
had followed the introduction of the first act to enable the people of
Oregon to hold a convention to frame a state constitution, Delegate Lane
had stated it as his belief, that Oregon could at that time poll a vote
of from 15,000 to 20,000. Again, on the 1st of January, 1857, in the debate
on a bill for the same object, Alexander H. Stephens of Georgia, Chairman
of the Committee on Territories of the House, stated on the floor that
Oregon possessed a population of 90,000. In debates on the admission of
Kansas, statements as to the population had subsequently proved to have
been exaggerated; and thus it was that the opponents to the admission of
Oregon received these estimates of population with allowance, and even
challenged them. In
1858, a census had been taken by the Oregon territorial authorities, which showed a population of 42,677 (1). While the Oregon constitution was still in the hands of the Senate Committee on Territories, Delegate Lane actively and zealously participated in the debate in the House of Representatives on the proposed admission of Kansas under the so-called pro-slavery Lecompton constitution. The feeling between the two political parties was wrought to a high pitch. Nor was that all; there was an amiable and respectable minority of the Democratic members who were styled Anti-Lecompton Democrats, who included in the Senate such leaders as Douglas and Shields of Illinois, and Stuart of Michigan. At such inopportune time, with such infelicitous surroundings, not vote, an agent of a practically disfranchised constituency, his presence tolerated to ask favors, but be disarmed of the ballot:
"That weapon that comes down as still
As snowflakes fall upon the sod;
But executes a freeman's will
As lightning does the will of God."
At such a time, when by the peculiar condition of parties and political contingencies, the attempt was being made to shut out his constituency from real representation in the counsels of the nation, he needlessly, not to say most unwisely, antagonized the anti-slavery element in Congress, the Republican and Anti-Lecompton Democratic vote therein, by the avowal of sentiments which it is not denied he had the fullest right to entertain; but at the critical junction, when sympathy was needed from all quarters, the policy of his then utterance of them must be gravely questioned. Oregon had the right to claim that he should be exclusively for Oregon's admission, untrammeled by the Kansas-Lecompton imbroglio, or any extraneous issue. Duty to his constituency would seem to have dictated conciliation rather than offensive partisanship with a particular party. He said:
"I repeat, sir, that the constitution is before us. The people have had a chance to vote upon the question of slavery, and nine-tenths of those who have voted have voted in favor of slavery. I have no doubt that a majority of the whole people of the territory, at the time the question was submitted, were not in favor of slavery. but their opposition to slavery did not go to the extent of recording their vote against it. What I mean to say is this, that, in ascertaining the will of the people, you are to look to the votes given for or against, not to the vote withheld, whether they be withheld on account of indifference to the result, or from factious motives. And when gentlemen say they are ready to vote for the admission of a slave state, if they are satisfied that the people of the state are in favor of slavery, and yet propose to vote against this constitution, I say, that, with the constitution before us recognizing slavery, they are estopped in that argument. They cannot go behind that constitution. It is here legally; it is here legitimately; it is here properly. If there have been irregularities, bloodshed and disorder in the territory, you know how it has been caused. You know it has been caused by the instrumentality of men armed with Sharpe's rifles sent out by the emigrant aid societies for the purpose of defeating the ends of justice, and thwarting the will of the people. the fault rests with defeating the ends of justice, and thwarting the will of the people. The fault rests with them; and let the consequence rest upon the guilty. Do not permit the territory and the country to suffer. It is in behalf of the country that I speak. I appeal to this House to
(1) By the
United States census of 1860, the population of Oregon was returned at
stand by the constitution, and to allow the majority of the people to regulate their own institutions. Bring Kansas into the Union. Raise her to the dignity of a state. Place the sovereignty in the hands of her people; and they will regulate their own affairs as they please, and peace will be restored to the country. Let us not do injustice to our friends of the South, now and for all time. I am sure my friend from Iowa (Mr. Curtis) would not desire to do injustice. I have a very high personal regard for the gentleman. I know him to be a man of good heart, and strong mind, although he is wrong in politics. He has only to take one step further, and come over to the Democratic party. I say to that gentleman, that the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States upon this question of slavery commends itself to my judgment; that slavery nominally exists in the territories subject to the control of the people when they come to form a state government; that Congress has no power over the subject. It is not in the book. No such powers were conferred upon congress by the constitution. Our forefathers had the good sense to confer, in plain and unmistakable terms, all powers necessary for the good of the whole country; and they took care to provide that the powers not conferred upon Congress should be reserved to the states respectively, or to the people."
Ostensibly, those who made opposition to the admission of Oregon urged the fact that her population was insufficient to entitle her to a representative in Congress, at that date as fixed by the apportionment (93,000). While it is true that such objection should be dismissed as frivolous, there being nothing whatever in the constitution of the United States, prescribing any number of population necessary as a condition precedent to admission, the only requirement being that the applying state should have a republican form of government. (Article IV, Sections three and four, United States constitution.) It being a question addressing itself to the sound discretion of Congress, perhaps that body would be justified in insisting upon the guarantee, on the part of the territory applying, of ability to maintain a state organization. In this case, that was amply conceded. As there was no legitimate constitutional inhibition, there was no justification for denying to Oregon so long a representation in Congress, - no warrant for the enslavement of a territory, nor the disfranchisement of its citizens.
Another reason for opposition
to Oregon's admission had for its origin a deep-seated feeling of prejudice
against the territory, a condemnation of the territorial authorities of
Oregon and Washington, and their volunteers in the Indian war of 1855-56,
when, ignored and neglected by the general government, in their own defense
they justly and necessarily chastised the perfidious murderers of our race,
and the nations and tribes that abetted them and joined in a war of extermination
of the settlements. That war had resulted in a large debt, which the people
of Oregon believed should be assumed and paid by the general government.
The probability of such debt being successfully urged would be enhanced
by conferring upon Oregon congressional representation, with the influence
contingent thereupon. The Oregon people and authorities stood charged before
the nation as conspirators to rob the national treasury by inciting an
Indian war, and conducting raids against Indians in the Indian country.
That war was foully and falsely charged to have been instigated and waged
for rapine and plunder. That population deficit, that cruel suspicion that
our people were barbarians and but semi-civilized, were alleged as excuses
by many for delaying the recognition of Oregon's just demand. Again, there
were conscientious Republicans who could not approve those prohibiting
provisions excluding, merely on account of race, free negroes from the
state. To them it
seemed that sanctioning the admission of a state, with such provisions in its fundamental code, was establishing a government anti-republican in form, and in defiance of the duty imposed upon Congress by Section four of Article IV of the Federal constitution. All these circumstances contributed to cause the delay in the admission of the state. But Schuyler Colfax explains the true animus of the larger portion of those who were arrayed in opposition to Oregon's admission: "The President in his message demanded that the offensive restriction against Kansas should be maintained, prohibiting her admission till she had 93,000 inhabitants, because she rejected a slave constitution, while Oregon, with her Lecompton delegation, should be admitted forthwith. And the chief of your delegation, General Lane, was one of the men who had used all his personal influence in favor of that political iniquity, the Lecompton constitution, and its equally worthy successor, the English bill. He, of course, refused now to say whether he would vote in the United States Senate, if admitted there, to repeal the English prohibition which he had so earnestly labored to impose on Kansas; and its political friends in the house refused also to assent to its repeal in any manner or form whatever. This, of course, impelled many Republicans to insist that Oregon, with her Lecompton delegation, should wait for admission till Kansas, with her Republican delegation, was ready to come in with her. With a less obnoxious delegation from Oregon, the votes of many Republicans would have been different. As it turned out, however, the very men for whose interests General Lane had labored so earnestly - I mean the ultra-Southern leaders - refused to vote for the Admission Bill, although they had the whole delegation-elect of their own kidney. And it would have been defeated but for the votes of fifteen of us Republicans who thought it better to disenthrall Oregon from presidential sovereignty, and from the sphere of Dred Scott decisions; and even in spite of your obnoxious delegation, to admit the new state into the Union, rather than remand it to the condition of a slave-holding territory, as our Supreme Court declares all our territories to be. Hence, if there is any question raised about which party admitted Oregon, you can truthfully say that she would not have been admitted but for Republican aid and support, - Republicans, too, who voted for it, not through the influence of General Land & Co., but in spite of the disfavor with which they regarded them."
And such was the condition when the bill was taken up in the House. The Republicans and Anti-Lecompton Democrats in Committee of the Whole attached numerous amendments to the Senate Bill; but, when the bill came to the House, it was stripped of those amendments, put upon its passage, and there were enough Republicans who were unwilling to punish the people of Oregon for acts of omission or commission by the Democratic party to pass the bill as it came from the Senate. The first vote was taken February 12, 1859. On the 14th the President approved the bill; and upon the same day Joseph Lane and Delazon Smith presented their credentials and were sworn in as Senators in Congress from the State of Oregon. On drawing lots for the respective terms, Mr. Smith drew for the term which expired March 3, 1859; and General Lane drew the term which expired March 3, 1861. Lafayette Grover on the next day appeared in the United States House of Representatives, and took the oath of office as a member thereof, from the State of Oregon.
The Admission Bill, however,
imposed upon the people of Oregon the necessity of formally accepting certain
propositions, preliminary to the final and complete admission into the
Union: "I. Sections sixteen and thirty-six of the public lands in every
township shall be granted to said state for use of schools; 2. Seventy-two
sections shall be set apart
and reserved for use and support of a state university, to be applied in such manner as the legislature shall prescribe for that purpose, but for no other purpose; 3. Ten sections of land shall be granted, in legal subdivisions, for the purpose of completing the public buildings; 4. Salt springs, not to exceed twelve in number, with six sections of land adjoining, to be disposed of as legislature shall direct; 5. Five per centum of the net proceeds of the sales of the public lands, within the state, for the purpose of making roads and internal improvements, under direction of the legislature. The above propositions are conditioned upon the people of the State of Oregon providing, by irrevocable ordinance, that the state shall never interfere with primary disposal of the soil, nor with any regulations that Congress may deem necessary to secure bona-fide purchasers thereof; and in no case shall non-resident proprietors be taxed higher than residents; 6. And that the State of Oregon shall never tax the lands nor property of the United States within the state."
By a formal provision (section five) of the bill admitting Oregon as a state, the residue of Oregon territory was incorporated into and made a part of the territory of Washington.
On the 3d day of June, 1859, the legislature of the State of Oregon passed an act entitled, "An act relative to certain propositions made by Congress of the United States to the people of the State of Oregon," which formally accepted all the propositions of the said Admission Bill; and then Oregon became incorporated into the American Union as one of the states thereof, "on an equal footing with the other states."