Oregon Historical Quarterly/Volume 9/Political Beginnings in Oregon: The Period of the Provisional Government, 1839-1849

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Oregon Historical Quarterly Volume 9  (1908) 
Political Beginnings in Oregon: The Period of the Provisional Government, 1839-1849 by Marie Merriman Bradley

POLITICAL BEGINNINGS IN OREGON/ The Period of the Provisional Government, 1839-1849 By Marie Mebriman Bradley. BIBLIOGRAPHY. Sources— Annals of Congress, Seventeenth Congress. Benton, Abridgment of Debates in Congress, Vol. YII. Brown, J. H., Political History of Oregon, Vol. I. Congressional Globe, 1847-1848. Grover, L., Oregon Archives, 1843-1849. Lang, H. 0., History of the Willamette Valley. Oregon Pamphlets, (V^is. Hist. Soc. Lib.) Oregon Pioneer Association Publications, 1873-1886. Oregon Spectator, 1847. Richardson, Messages of the Presidents, Vol. II. Secondary— Bancroft, H. H., History of Oregon, Vols. I-II. Bancroft, H. H., History of the Northwest Coast. Barrows, W. H., Oregon, The Struggle for Possession. Dye, E. E., McLoughlin and Old Oregon. Garrison, G. P., Westward Extension. Gray, W. H., History of Oregon. Holman, F. V., McLoughlin, The Father of Oregon— in Portland Oregonian, October 8, 1905. Robertson, J. R., in Oregon Historical Society Quarterly, Vol. IV. Lyman, H. S., History of Oregon, Vol. IV. Robertson, J. R., in Oregon Historical Society Quarterly,, Vol. I. Semple, E. C, American History and its Geographic Con- ditions. Schafer, J., History of Oregon. Scott, H. W., Provisional Government— Oregon Historical Society Quarterly, Vol. 11. 1 Thesis submitted for the degree of Master of Arts, University of Wisconsin, 1907. Political Beginnings in Oregon. 43 CHAPTER I. PHYSIOGR^SPHIC INFLUENCES. The scope of this paper might include the rise of three Western States, for, from Oregon as it was in the beginning, Oregon, Washington and Idaho (the Pacific Northwest) have been formed. My discussion, however, will be confined more particularly to that section which comprises the Oregon of to-day. The Oregon of 1817 embraced all lands west of the Rocky Mountains north of the 42d parallel. The northern boundary was still in dispute, the United States claiming 54 deg. 40 min., while Great Britain insisted upon the Columbia River. Oregon, so far as climatic conditions are concerned, might be two different States, separated by the Cascade Mountains. In the eastern, which is by far the larger section, the land is mostly semi-arid. Admirably adapted to wheat growing in some sections, before the irrigation projects are completed, much the larger portion will be used for stock grazing. At the time under discussion, it was a trackless waste, visited only by the Indian tribes, and by an occasional trapper. There it was that the Nez Perces, famous in Western his- tory, led the allied tribes, the Grand Rondes, Klamaths, Uma- tillas, Wascos, etc. These mountain tribes were fierce and warlike; the whole environment tended to make them so. They led an active out-of-door life; their diet was mountain game. Theirs was a finer physique and a higher grade of intelligence than the coast tribes, a squalid, inactive people, subsisting, for the most part, on fish.- The soil of Western Oregon is exceedingly fertile, the climate warm, the atmosphere humid. There Avas the home of the Willamette Indians, whose chief, Multnomah, was ruler over the confederated tribes, which included all the tribes of the Oregon country, from the Rogue Rivers and Klamaths on the south to the Colvilles and Flatheads on the north; from the Blackfeet and Shoshones on the east, to the Quinsoults, the Cowletz, the Tillamooks and the Siletz on the west. Oregon Territory was disputed ground. The claim of the British was "geographically based."[1] The east and west line of the Saskatchewan River had, at a very early date, carried English explorers in Canada to the northern arm of the Columbia among the Selkirk Rockies. Discovery of the mouth of the river, by an international principle, established by the British themselves, gave the great stream to the United States; but the northern source was in the hands of the British.

Expansion moved naturally down stream. Trading posts were already established on the near Canadian waters; wealth, organization and strong political backing gave the British company an effectiveness which that of Astor lacked. By 1834 the Hudson's Bay Company had fortified every strategic point, and when the American emigrants began to come in, it was evident that possession would be contested.

Economic conditions were an important influence in determining the type of colonists to settle in the territory. Per example, about the time of the great immigrations, the New Orleans market was so overstocked that farm produce sold at a very low figure. The farmers of the Mississippi Valley disposed of their farms and, without a regret, joined the westward movement. They wanted a seaboard State and a market for their goods.

In the maritime world Oregon was destined to become an important factor. Fort Vancouver was the market and base of supplies for the fisheries of the North Pacific and for the fur sealers of the Bering Sea. The Orient was a great market for American products and also a great source of supply for America to draw upon, and through Oregon was to be opened the path to the Orient.

In an analysis of the influences affecting the course of civil government in Oregon, a prominent place should be given to that slow, yet powerful, westward movement of population. "It consisted of a people aggressive and assertive of their own wants, and of their ability to get them."[2] Possessing but little knowledge or reverence for the intricacies of international usage, or the restrictions of a conservative legislative body, they were the sovereign power, and if they determined upon having the West, it must finally be had. This was the movement which led thousands of intrepid immigrants to anticipate the government in going to remote regions. Those who remained behind had now a greater interest in that country, and before long, it was to be the impulse from this movement which aroused the national consciousness to the importance of the Oregon question, gave it a place among the problems of the nation, put it upon the platform of a political party as a prominent issue, forced the settlement of the boundary question and finally secured a civil government.



To trace the development of government in any State means to begin with the first settlement in that State, or even farther back, with the government of the people who made that first settlement. In the present paper, however, I shall begin with the first definite steps toward organization, giving only passing mention to the earlier status.

By 1813 the Pacific Fur Company, the only American company that ever made any considerable progress towards gaining a foothold in the Oregon country, had passed into the hands of the British. In 1818 the treaty for the joint American and British occupation of the Northwest country was signed, so technically the country was open equally to British subjects and American citizens. In 1820, the two British companies that had been operating in the Northwest consolidated under the name of the Hudson's Bay Fur Company. Thence forward a most conservative policy was followed. The population, both native and white, was kept dependent upon the company's headquarters at Vancouver. Settlement of any kind was discouraged.[3] Men wishing to 46 Marie Merriman Bradley. quit the employ of the company, were transported out of the country before they were given their discharge. A despotic regime was the result. Dr. John McLoughlin played the role of despot, but the despot was humane.^ As chief factor of the Hudson's Bay Company, McLough- lin 's rule was absolute. He virtually held the power of life and death over the Indians and the British subjects could re- main only on sufferance by him. Of course, theoretically, he had no power over the American settlers, but they were so dependent upon the factor at Vancouver that his power over them was almost unlimited. Frederick V. Holman says of him: Nature seems to have used an especial mould for the making of Dr. McLoughlin. Physically he was a superb spec- imen of man; six feet four inches in height, he was beauti- fully, almost perfectly proportioned. Mentally he was en- dowed to match his magnificent physical proportions. He was brave and fearless ; he was true and just ; he was truthful and he scorned to lie. The Indians, as well as his subordi- nates, soon came to know that if he threatened punishment for an offense, it was as certain as the offense occurred."^ McLoughlin was absolute master of himself and of those under him. He allowed none of his subordinates to question or disobey. This was necessary in order to conduct the busi- ness of the company, and preserve peace in the vast Oregon country. He was facile princeps, there was no second, yet with all these dominant qualities, he had the greatest kindness, sympathy and humanity.^ By 1820 ,the problem of extending the American jurisdic- tion over the Northwest territory was discussed, but few thought seriously of it. Webster and many of his contem- poraries ridiculed the idea. The immigrants of the thirties 2 See "McLoughlin Document," found among Dr. McLoughlin' s pri- vate papers after his death. Published in the proceedings of the Oregon Pioneer Association, 1880, pp. 46-55. 3 F. V. Holman, McLoughlin, The Father of Oregon. Address de- livered on McLoughlin Day at the Lewis and Clark Exposition. Published in Oregonian, October 8, 1905. 4 Mrs. E. E. Dye, McLoughlin and Old Oregon, p. 12. Political Beginnings in Oregon. 47 petitioned, but with no result. ^ As early as 1838 the Metho- dist missions furnished a magistrate and constable, who dis- pensed justice according to frontier ideals.^ Their authority, of course, was only over American citizens; they did not understand dealing with Indians, and often conflicted with the company officers. The great missionary reinforcement of 1840 made it evident that some form of government was necessary. Matters were brought to a crisis during the mnter of 1840-41. Ewing Young came from California to the Willamette and died there. He left a property, large for pioneer dnys, but no will, and no known heirs. ^ The question arose, how was the property to be disposed of? A committee on arrangements was chosen at Young's fun- eral, and a mass meeting was held at the Methodist Mission, February 17, 1841.^ The meeting was composed largely of members of the mission. Ministers were chosen for the offices of president and secretary.^^ A resolution was passed to draft a code of laws for the government of the settlement south of the Columbia and to admit to the protection of these laws, all settlers north of the Columbia, not connected with the fur company. 11 5 J. K, Kelly in Proceedings of Oregon Pioneer Association, 1882, pp. 11-12. 6 Bancroft, History of Oregon, Vol. I, p. 292. 7 Lang, H. O., History of Willamette Valley, pp. 233 and 237. 8 Brown, J. H., Political History of Oregon, Vol. I, p. 83. 9 Bancroft, History of Oregon, Vol. I, p. 293. 10 Grover, Oregon Archives, p. 5. 11 From the transfer of Astoria in 1813, down to 1840, the British were superior. There were three classes of Americans: (1) The American trapper who was hostile to the Hudson's Bay Company. (2) The American missionary, attached to the American interests. (3) The American settler, who had come to make a home. In 1842 the whole American population numbered 137, of which 34 were white women, 32 white children, and 71 white men. Lang, H. O., History of the Willamette Valley, p. 232. Grover, Oregon Archives, p. 5. 48 Marie Merriman Bradley. That first day nothing more was done than to nominate candidates for governor, supreme judge, with probate powers, three justices of the peace, three constables, three road com- missioners, an attorney-general, clerk of the court, public recorder, treasurer, and two overseers of the poor.^^ The second day was attended by both French and Ameri- cans, and there was less sectional feeling. The Americans attempted to propitiate and secure the co-operation of the Canadians, for it would be difficult to organize without them. At that meeting, February 18, 1841, a missionary was called to the chair, and two secretaries, one from each side, were appointed.^^ A committee was named to draft a provisional government. Of this committee, one was a Catholic priest, three were Methodist preachers, three were French Cana- dians, and two were American settlers. But one of their number had any knowledge of law or the manner in which legal meetings should be conducted. They decided to defer the election of a governor to a later session, owing to the jealousy of the several missionary aspirants, and the opposition of the settlers to a government by the mis- sionary party.^^ A supreme judge was appointed, with pro- bate powers, and instructed to act according to the laws of New York State until a provisional government should be adopted.^^ After appointing a clerk of the courts, a public recorder, high sheriff and two constables, they adjourned to meet June 7. At the adjourned meeting it was found that nothing had been done, no code had been drafted; jealousy and strife had begun to show itself. British interest versus American; Catholic versus Protestant. The Catholic priest asked to be excused from the commis- sion; an American settler was chosen in his place. ^'^ The 12 Grover, Oregon Archives, p. 5. 13 Ibid, p. 6. 14 Brown, J. H., Political History of Oregon, Vol. I, p. 84. 15 Grover, Oregon Archives, p. 6. 16 Brown, J. H., Political History of Oregon, Vol. I, p. 84. 17 Grover, Oregon Archives, p. 7. Political Beginnings in Oregon. 49 committee was instructed to report the first Thursday in October, and in the meantime to confer with the commander of the U. S. exploring expedition and with Dr. John Mc- Loughlin. Resolutions were adopted to rescind the nomina- tions of previous meetings to instruct the committee on constitution to take into consideration the number and kind of officers necessary to create in accordance with the consti- tution and code; the report of the nominating committee to be referred to the legislative committee.^^ They then ad- journed to the October meeting.^o The withdrawal of the Catholic priest was intended to in- dicate that the Canadians would have no part in the organ- ization of the government, hence the rescinding of the nomi- nations including their names. Many of the citizens were opposed to any nomination so long as things were peaceful, Wilkes, the commander of the American squadron on the Coast, counselled a moral code rather than a civil one. Baffled at every turn, but believing that the United States would soon extend jurisdiction over them, the missionary party consented to drop the political scheme for the present. There was no more agitation that year.^i The arrival of White in 1842, with a commission as sub- Indian agent, started afresh the advocates of legislation. The idea of White as a civil head was intolerable. His recogni- tion by the United States Government was a point in his favor, and the missionary party used all their influence to snub his pretentions, and confine his activities to the man- agement of Indian affairs. A debating society was organized at Oregon City to agitate the question of a civil organization. Overtures were again made to the Canadians. They professed a cordial sentiment toward the Americans, but would not join in the movement. Their co-operation was necessary, and some means must be 18 Ibid. 19 Grover, Oregon Archives, p. 7. 20 Bancroft, History of Oregon, Vol. I, p. 344. 21 Lang, History of the Willamette Valley, p. 245. 50 Marie Merriman Bradley. devised to appeal to their interests. The meetings that have gone down in history as the Wolf Meetings, ' '^^ by their name suggest the interest that was appealed to. These meet- ings were called to devise some means of protection against the wolves which preyed upon the stock of all. Little was done at the first meeting, February 2, 1843, but to announce a meeting for March 6, at the home of Joseph Gervais, half way between Salem and Champoeg (or Champoick.) At that meeting there was a full attendance; bounties were fixed,^^ and means of exterminating the wolves discussed, and at the close of the meeting, a committee was appointed "to take into consideration the propriety for taking measures for civil and military protection of this colony. ' '^^ The question was skill- fully agitated among the Americans and French settlers. The hostile attitude of the natives in the interior; the need of ^ military organization, and the benefit to be derived from a land law, were the ruling motives with the Americans, but these did not influence the Canadians.^^ The determining meeting was called at Champoeg for May 2, 1843, and the committee reported in favor of a provisional government. 2 6 Unable because of confusion in the course of proceedings to decide the question, the American cause was in danger of being lost, when Joe Meek, with the instinct of a leader ,strode forward, saying: "Who's for a divide? All in favor of the report, follow me!"^ The day was won; the count stood 52 for, 50 against organization. 22 Lang, History of the Willamette Valley, pp. 251-253. 23 Grover, Oregon Archives, p. 9. 24 Ibid, p. 11. 25 Grover, Oregon Archives, p. 12. An address of the Canadian citizens of Oregon, to the meeting at Champoeg, March 4, 1843. 26 Ibid, p. 14. 27 H. W. Scott, Oregon Hist. Society Quarterly, 1900, Vol. II, p. 103. Joe Meek is one of the picturesque characters in Oregon history. A cousin of President Polk, he came to Oregon as a young man, married an Indian bride, to whom (unlike so many of his countrymen) he was always faithful. He represented the type of sturdy pioneer who won and held the great Pacific Northwest. Political Beginnings in Oregon. 51 CHAPTER III. THE PROVISIONAL GOVERNMENT. After organization was decided upon, there was still some difference of opinion among its champions. Some were for complete independence of both the United States and Great Britain, and a permanent government, others for a provisional government until such a time as the United States should ex- tend her authority over the Oregon country. The final de- cision went for provisional government, and a committee was appointed to draw up a constitution to be submitted to the people at Champoeg, July 5, 1843.^ This committee holds an important place in Oregon history. Unlearned, the most of them, they were honest and sincere, and struggling for the best interest of the commonwealth with which they had cast their lot. The legislative committee held sessions the 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th of May ; the 27th and 28th of June. They deliber ated with "open doors" in an unoccupied barn.^ A commit tee of three prepared rules for business.^ Committees were appointed on ways and means, judiciary, military affairs, land claims, and district divisions.^ July 5, 1843, the people again assembled. The civil officers elected in May were sworn in upon an oath drafted by a special committee.^ The report of the legislative committee was submitted. The preamble read:^ "We, the people of Oregon Territory, for the purpose of mutual protection and to secure peace and prosperity among ourselvas, agree to adopt the following laws until such time as the United States of America extend their jurisdiction over us." The Ordinance of 1787 had been 1 Grover, Oregon Archives, pp. 14, 15. 2 Lang, History of the Willamette Valley, p. 257 (J. Q. Thornton.) 3 Grover, Oregon Archives, p. 17. 4 Ibid. 5 Ibid, p. 24. 6 Grover, Oregon Archives, p. 28. 52 Marie Merriman Bradley. adopted, making such changes as conditions required, and in many cases the laws of Iowa were embodied in the constitu- tion. A Bill of Rights" provided for: 1. Freedom of religious belief and worship. 2. Eight of habeas corpus and trial by jury. 3. Judicial procedure according to common law. 4. Moderate fines and reasonable punishment. 5. Proportionate representation. 6. Encouragement of morality and knowledge. 7. Maintenance of schools. 8. Good faith towards the Indians. 9. Prohibition of slavery. Provisions for the necessary organs of government were made by providing a legislative branch to consist of nine persons elected annually; an executive, to consist of a com- mittee of three; judicial, consisting of a supreme and associ- ate judges, and justice of the peace. Provisions for subordi- nate officers, a battalion of soldiers and grants of land to settlers, etc., were made. The military law provided that there should be one bat- talion of militia in the Territory, divided into three or more companies of mounted riflemen. It provided for the officering and governing of the companies and set forth at length the duties of the officers. The law of land claims was the most important. It re- quired that a claimant should designate the boundaries of his land, and have the same recorded in the office of the terri- torial recorder, in a book kept for that purpose, within twenty days of making his claim, unless he should be already in possession of his land, when he should be allowed a year for recording a description of his land. It required also that improvements be made by building or enclosing ' ' within six months, and that the claimant should 10 Ibid, pp. 29, 30. 11 Oregon Archives, pp. 33, 34. 12 Ibid, p. 35. Political Beginnings in Oregon. 53 reside upon the land within a year after recording. No in- dividual could hold a claim for more than one square mile or six hundred and forty acres in square or oblong form. Article IV forbade holding claims on town sites, or ex- tensive water privileges, and other situations necessary for the transaction of mercantile or manufacturing opera- tions. That article was largely the work of Shortess, who was in sympathy with the Methodist missions. It was aimed also to deprive McLoughlin of his claim at Oregon City.^^ The Mission also held land at Oregon City, but it was pro- tected by the last clause, which provided that, Nothing in these laws shall be so construed as to affect any claim of any mission of a religious character, made previous to this time, of an extent not more than six miles square." The report of the committee having been adopted, the next step was the choice of an executive. Some were in favor of a single executive, others of an executive committee of three. The committee faction won, and the committee was immedi- ately elected. Another problem was the division of the country into dis- tricts for executive purposes. It was finally divided into four districts as follows : 1. Tualiiy, including all territory south of the boundary line of the United States, west of the Willamette, north of Yamhill and east of the Pacific. 2. Yamhill, all west of the Willamette, and line from said river south, lying south of the Yamhill river, to the parallel of 42 deg. north latitude. 3. Clackamas district, to include all territory not included in the other districts. 4. Champoeg (or Champoick), bounded on the north by a supposed line drawn from the mouth of the Anchiyoke River, 13 In an address delivered at the Lewis and Clark Exposition on McLoughlin Day, Mr. Frederick V. Holman deals at length with the mean intrigues of the Mission party to deprive McLoughlin of his land. Pub- lished in the Portland Morning Oregonian, October 8, 15, 22, 1905. 14 Grover, Oregon Archives, p. 26. 54 Marie Merriman Bradley. running due east to the Rocky Mountains ; west by the Wil- lamette and a supposed line running due south from said river, to the parallel of 42 deg. north latitude ; south by the boundary line of the United States and California, and on the east by the summit of the Rocky Mountains. The chief object of the Methodist Missions, in their desire to establish a government, v^as to have some legal method of holding the lands they had selected against the incoming emi- grants. There was a political significance, too. By adopting the Ordinance of 1787 as a basis, it was intended to settle the slavery question west of the Rockies as it had been settled in the Old Northwest, and by extending the jurisdiction over the whole of Oregon up to "such time as the United States should take possession," the right of Great Britain to any part of the country was ignored, a step in advance of the position publicly taken by the United States Government. The provisional constitution made no provision for taxa^ tion. Expenses were met by voluntary subscriptions.^^ The government had no public buildings; meetings were held at private houses. Its defects were soon apparent. It was evi- dent that the government was not adequate to the needs of so large a community, or for any length of time. However, its imperfections were looked upon as a safeguard by those who feared independence from the United States. The question of separation became the all-absorbing one, and became the basis of party lines in the territory. The immigration of 1843 had brought in a people of prominent character, some of them inclined to be roughly arrogant. They were interested in the provisional government; if the laws pleased them, well and good ; if not, they would change them. They were irritated by Jason Lee's assertion that the Mission would govern the colony. In those early, generous- hearted frontiersmen was an inherent dislike for the close- fisted Yankee. The pioneers were not hampered by religious 15 Grover, Oregon Archives, p. 27. 16 Lang, History of the Willamette Valley, p. 261, also pp. 275-277. Political Beginnings in Oregon. 55 scruples, yet they were men of stronger mentality and greater stability than the missionaries. Sometimes, it is true, they lacked the refinement, always lacking the polish and ease of the East, they were more congenial to the Hudson's Bay men than were the missionaries. Of the immigration of 1843, some affiliated with the Hud- son's Bay men, some with the missions. Of the earlier settlers, about one-half had approved the formation of the Provisional Government on the basis of international law. These were anxious to confer with the newcomers and they were not adverse to drawing party lines. The United States took no action; something must be done without delay to strengthen the Provisional Government. The Mission opposed any step, because a union between the two nationalities would take the control out of their hands. To others, it was not loyal to act independently of the United States. The words of the first message of the executive, December 16, 1844, sum up the situation thusr^*^ At the time of our organization it was expected that the United States would have taken possession of this country before this time, but a year has rolled around and there appears little or no prospect of aid from that quarter, consequently we are left to our own resources for protection. In view of the present state of affairs, we would recommend to your consideration the adop- tion of some measures for a more thorough organization." The following changes were recommended : First, the creation of a single executive in the place of three. Second, an in- crease in the number of representatives in the legislative de- partment. Third, a change in the judicial system. Fourth, a change in the statutes. The recommendations were followed and the changes made. An act was passed defining the jurisdiction of the government. This act confined it to the region south of the Columbia. Provision was made for raising revenue. All who refused to pay the taxes were denied the right of suffrage. The man- 17 Grover, Oregon Archives, pp. 56-59. 56 Marie Merriman Bradley. ufacture of all intoxicating liquor was prohibited, and all negroes and mulattoes were ordered to be expelled. The code made no provision for the method of conducting elections, except by adopting the laws of Iowa for that pur- pose. These laws were unfamiliar to most, as there was but one copy in the territory. Two-thirds of the voters of 1844 were of the late immigration and had had neither time nor opportunity to be informed regarding the requirements, or their duties as officers of the election. The legislature of 1844 has been censured for undoing so much of the work of the previous year.^^ Yet while three- fourths of the legislative body were newcomers, two-thirds of the executive committee who recommended the change were old colonists. The man most influential in making the change was one Burnett, an ex-District Attorney of Missouri. The constitution was so constructed that it was impossible to separate the fundamental from the statutory part of the code ; or to understand where the constitution left off and the statutes began. It was necessary to make some distinction before further legislation could take place. As the organic law stood, it was all constitution or all statute. No mode of amendment was provided for. If the organic law was the constitution, it would be revolutionary to amend it. Unless it could be considered statutory, and amended or appealed from, there was nothing for the legis- lative committee to do. Therefore, it was decided to con- sider it statutory, remodel, where they could improve upon, without altering the spirit or intent of that portion under- stood to be fundamental. In the formation of the organic law, the reason for vesting the executive in a triumvirate was to prevent a division which would defeat the organization. Now there was no danger of that. An act was passed, vesting the gubernatorial power in ^ I !;• ^'Jl 18 For discussion of the adoption of the Iowa laws into the Oregon code, see F. L. Herriot, Oregon Historical Society Quarterly, 1904, Vol. V, p. 140, etc. 19 Bancroft, History of Oregon, Vol. II, p. 431. Political Beginnings in Oregon. 57 a vsingle person, to be elected at the next annual election, to hold office for two years, with a salary of $300 per annum. By the organic law, the judicial power was vested in a supreme court consisting of a judge and two justices of the peace. The judiciary act of 1844 vested the judicial power in circuit courts and justices of the peace, provided for the election of one judge with probate powers, whose duty it should be to hold two terms of court annually, in each county, at such times and places as the law should direct. The land law of 1843 was repealed and another passed in its place, by which the conditions were narrowed so that only free men over eighteen years of age, w^ho would be entitled to vote, if of lawful age, and widows, could lawfully claim 640 acres. The recording of claims was dispensed with be- cause of the long journey it involved. Occupancy meant actual residence by the owner or agent. A second act was passed which authorized the taking of 600 acres of prairie and 40 acres of timber land, not contigu- ous. Partnership claims were allowed for double the amount to be held for one year, the improvement to be on either half. The object of this legislation was to prevent the missions from holding thirty-six sections, and thus repeating the monopoly of the California Catholic missions. On the whole the meas- ure was popular; the missions were placed on the same foot- ing as other claimants, and the issue between some of the mis- sionaries and McLoughlin regarding Oregon City property was ignored. The division of counties made by the committee of 1843 was vague as to the northern boundary. In 1844 the Columbia River was made the definite northern boundary of Oregon. There was much discussion as to the meaning of the act. Did the United States give up the claim to the territory north? or were the servants of the Hudson's Bay Company prohibited from a share in the government? A definitive clause was added which made Oregon Territory That land between 42 deg. and 54 deg. 40 min." Thus our position was made very clear. 58 Marie Merriman Bradley. A disturbance at Oregon City, for which a free negro was to blame, offered a ^ood chance of ridding Oregon of the negro for all time. Many of the settlers were from slave States; too poor to be plantation owners, they saw the evils of poverty and of slavery, and could not look with complais- ance upon free negroes, and they were determined to leave a free heritage for their children. Article IV of the organic law prohibited slavery or involuntary servitude, except as punishment for crime whereof the party should have been duly convicted. The legislature, besides settling the matter of slavery in Oregon, wished to rid the country for all time of every free negro and mulatto within the territory and prevent the coming of more. Money was scarce in the infant territory, and some medium of exchange was needed. Wheat was made legal tender for taxes and judgments and all debts when there was no special contract to the contrary. Stations were designated where wheat might be delivered in payment for public debts.^^ April 8, 1845, the convention met at Champoeg for the election of Supreme Judge, Governor, etc. The code of 1844 had driven the Canadians to unite with the Americans in government organization, because, otherwise they could not protect their lands. The two principal parties here became evident, the American and the Independent, the latter includ- ing the Canadians who desired a constitution. The chief issue of the American party was that the "Organic law of 1843 was the law of the country until the people had voted upon the amendment of 1844." "Because," they contended, "the people had not yet resigned the law-making power." This opposition tended to strengthen the Independents who favored a new code. 21 Fort George in Clatsop County ; Cowlitz Farm or Fort Vancouver in Vancouver County ; at the company's warehouses at Linnton ; store of F. W. Petty grove in Portland; Tualatin (now W^ashington County) ; Mc- Loughlin Mills, or Island Milling Company in Clackamas County ; ware- houses of the Milling Company or of the Hudson's Bay Company in Champoeg County ; some place to be designated by the collector in Yamhill County. Political Beginnings in Oregon. 59 The leading spirit of the legislature of 1845 was Jesse Applegate, an extremely conservative man; his object was to make as few changes as possible in the original organic laws. After several meetings, the legislature decided that it was without power to act until the people had approved of their proceedings. Accordingly they adjourned until an election could be held, and the people informed. Manuscript copies^^ of the original laws of July 5, 1843, of the amended laws, and a schedule declaring the Legislature and Governor elected in June to be the officers to carry the amended organic laws into effect, were sent to each polling place, to be read three times to the voters. If the people adopted the last two, the Legislature could proceed to formulate a code suited to the wants of the colony. According to Gray, many voted against the compact because the Legislature was allowed to regulate the introduction, man- ufacture and sale of intoxicating liquors. Others because the servants of the Hudson's Bay Company were not admitted to equal privileges with themselves. Notwithstanding the oppo- sition, in the special election of July 26, 1845, a majority voted in favor of the organic law as amended. By this action, the Methodist Mission and the Hudson's Bay Company ceased to be political powers, either to be feared or courted. The first law passed by the authorized legislature was one to prevent duelling.^^ Early in the session a bill was passed adopting the statutes of lowa,^^ so far as they were applica- ble to the circumstances of the country. The reasons for adopting the Iowa laws are evident. In the first place, there was but one copy of the Iowa code in Oregon, and so far as we have been able to find out, there was no other copy of any kind of a code within reach of the legislators, and ignorant of modes of legal procedure as they were, it was necessary that they have some guide. Moreover, Iowa was a new State, and the one nearest to Oregon. Like Oregon, she had passed 22 Grover, Oregon Archives, p. 88. 23 Grover, Oregon Archives, p. 90. 24 Grover, Oregon Archives, pp. 100-102. 60 Marie Merriman Bradley. her minority under the Ordinance of 1787, under similar conditions. Her laws ,were less conservative and more pro- gressive than those of the older States. Having adopted a code and set a committee to work adapt- ing it to the country's needs, the next step was to restore the jurisdiction of the Provisional Government, north of the Columbia. This was done by setting off the district of Van-, couver, which embraced all that part of Oregon northwest of the Columbia River. McLoughlin joined with the Americans "for protection and interest. James Douglas^^ was elected district judge for three years. Several other Hudson's Bay men were elected to office. Thus came into existence that government, characterized by J. Quinn Thornton as "Strong without an army or navy, rich without a treasury, "^'^ so effective that property was safe. The formation of the Provisional Government met no op- position from Congress or the President, and received no formal recognition from them. A long step was taken and all was gained that could have been gained by the United States and without the complications that might have arisen, had the various necessary bills been proposed in the national Congress. A permanent break was made with the old order of things. The fur-trading regime was forced to give place to an agri- cultural civilization; the way was prepared for an American Government, and the final settlement of the Oregon question was made easier. The English company tried to adjust itself to the new conditions and preserve its old authority, but their aristocratic social machinery was unable to cope with the democratic Provisional Government, in meeting the needs of an agricultural settlement. The effect of the change upon 25 Grover, Oregon Archives, p. 119. 26 Descendant of James Douglas, Earl of Angus, the Black Douglas of Scottish history. 27 Quoted by J. R. Robertson in Oregon Historical Society Quartely, Vol. I, p. 40. Political Beginnings in Oregon. 61 the Indians was more serious. The establishment of agri- cultural settlements meant loss of lands and the changing of habits of a wilderness existence. It became necessary for the National Government to take some steps to protect the set- tlers from the Indians. CHAPTER IV. OREGON, 1845-1849. The Hudson's Bay Company censured McLoughlin severely for his friendship to the American mission, and his interest in the .American movement. So in the autumn of 1845, feeling himself spied upon by the British Government,^ and having large property interests south of the Columbia, and being weary of the responsibility that with increasing years became unceasingly burdensome, he tendered his resignation as chief factor of the company, and took up his residence at Oregon City the following spring, with the intention of becoming an American citizen, when the boundary question should be set- tled or his resignation accepted. The next spring came the news of Polk's election on the "54-40 or fight" platform. The threatened war with Eng- land caused McLoughlin much perplexity. He could not change his allegiance in time of war without forfeiting his estates in Canada, and, perhaps, his life, as a traitor. Neither could he, in event of war, have held his dearly bought claim in Oregon City. His resignation was promptly accepted, how- ever, and Jesse Applegate advised him to take the oath of al- legiance at once. He would have done so, but Burnett claimed that he had no authority to administer the oath. To Burnett's timidity, Applegate attributes much of McLoughlin 's subse- quent trouble. In 1845,2 for the first time there was a prospect of having the laws printed, a company having been formed, which owned a printing press and materials, at Oregon City, to which ap- 1 McLoughlin Document. Oregon Pioneer Association Report, 1S80, p. 54. 2 Grover, Oregon Archives, p. 141. 62 Marie Merriman Bradley. plication was made for proposals to print the laws. The com- pany was known as .the Oregon Printing Association,^ One article of their constitution declared that the press should never be used by any party for the purpose of propagating sectarian doctrine, or for the discussion of exclusive party politics. The reason for this was that there were men in the association who wished to control the Methodist influence. The Methodist Mission being largely represented in the asso- ciation.^ The first editor of this paper was William G. T 'Vault, an uncompromising democrat of the Jeffersonian school. T 'Vault was a marked character in early Oregon history. In 1858 he was elected representative of the first general legislature. In 1855 he, in company with Taylor and Blakely, established the Umpqua Gazette of Scottsburg, the first paper south of Salem. The recommendation of Governor Abernethy that proposals be received for the location of the seat of government created but little interest.^ Two proposals were received. Neither met with entire approval. Petitions signed by sixty settlers of Champoeg County to defer action marked the beginning of Salem's long struggle for the capitol. The matter was practically postponed by the passage of an act ordering that future sessions of the Legislature meet at Oregon City until further directed by law. Two other topics of general interest occupied the legislature of 1846, namely^ the liquor law and the districting of the Territory. Burnett's liquor law of 1844 was found to be 3 For Printing Press Compact see G. H. Himes, in Oregon Historical Society Quarterly, Vol. Ill, p. 337. 4 Gray says the originators of the printing association were the same that started the Multnomah Circulating Library, the Wolf Association, and the Provisional Government. The pioneers of 1843 founded the Library. Gray claims to have originated the Wolf Association, while Jason Lee was the first projector of the Provisional Government. The truth is. Governor Abernethy was largely interested in the printing association, and in spite of the protest contained in the eighth article, the press was controlled by the missionary influence. Shares of the stock sold at $10.00 each. The first paper was the Oregon Spectator, appearing for the first time Febru- ary 5, 1846. Its motto was "Westward the star of Empire takes its way." 5 Grover, Oregon Archives, p. 168. Political Beginnings in Oregon. 63 inadequate to prevent ilie use of intoxicating drinks.^ It became an offense to give away "ardent spirits" as well as to sell or barter, and a fine of fifty dollars was imposed for each violation of the law. It was made the duty of every officer or private citizen who knew of the distillation of any kind of spirituous liquors, to seize the distilling apparatus and de- liver it to the nearest county judge or justice of the peace. Not more than one-half a pint could be sold by any practicing physician for medical purposes. The following legislature (1847) amended the law whereby liquor could be sold under certain restrictions. This action was inspired chiefly by opposition to the Hudson 's Bay Com^ pany. The settlers felt that so long as the fur company kept liquors at Vancouver, the Americans should not be deprived of the benefits of the traffic. Every British subject in the house voted against the bill and Governor Abernethy vetoed it, but it passed over his veto and Oregon has not had complete prohibition since 1846. By 1847 the population had increased enough to warrant the adding of two new counties: Lewis County, comprising all Oregon Territory north of the Columbia and west of the Cowlitz, up to 54 deg. 40 min. ; and Polk County, south of Yamhill, including all territory between the "Willamette and the Pacific. Neither county was allowed a sheriff of its own ; Vancouver did duty for Lewis, and Yamhill for Polk. Abernethy was nominally the head of the American party as it had been when there was a iHudson's Bay party. No such association as the latter now existed, because the British inhabitants were politically fused with the American, and most of them were only awaiting an opportunity to become natur- alized citizens of the United States. But the real American party was now that party which had been, in the first days of the Provisional G-overnment, opposed both to foreign cor- porations and Methodist missions; from this time on, for several years, the only parties were the American and the Missionary. The Governor belonged to the latter. 6 Grover, Oregon Archives, pp. 158-208. 64 Marie Merriman Bradley. The settlers of that struggling western territory longed to see the American flag floating over them, longed for the time when they should feel secure in person and in property, under the protection of that flag. After the election of James K. Polk, and after the final settlement of the boundary question, they hoped that they would have to wait only long enough for the accomplishment of the legal forms, until they would be a part of the Union, but they were doomed to bitter dis- appointment. The summer rolled around and September came, more than a year after the settlement of the boundary question, before any information was received of the doings of the national legislature, in the matter of establishing a Territory in Oregon, and then it was only to inflict further disappointment. The president had, indee/J, strongly recommended the establish- ment of a territorial government in Oregon, and a bill had been reported by Douglas of Illinois, in December, which passed the House the 16th of January, "but there Southern jealousy of free soil nipped it."'^ Frequent memorials were sent to Congress by the settlers, complaining of neglect, setting forth their inability to deal with the Indians and with criminals.^ Governor Abernethy, upon his own responsibility sent J. Quinn Thornton to Wash- ington to plead the cause of the territory, an action which aroused much opposition in the American party, for it was felt that Thornton represented the interests of the missions more than those of the territory, and his conduct in Wash- ington shows that such was the case. Not to Thornton, but to Joe Meek is due the credit for final recognition. "Affairs in Oregon reached a crisis at precisely the same time as in the sister Territory of Texas. This in itself 7 Oregon Spectator, September 8, 1847. "The stubborn opposition of the South was not due to lack of sym- pathy, but to a sense of danger to their sacred institutions, from extending the principle of the Ordinance of 1787 to territory acquired since its adoption." — Mason of Virginia in the Congressional Globe, 1847-48, p. 913. 8 Brown, Political History of Oregon, Vol. I, p. 141, also p. 250. 9 Lyman, History of Oregon, Vol. II, p. 65. Political Beginnings in Oregon. 65 would warrant the presumption that the growth of each was due chiefly to national causes. Each was the child of a national movement, and a national aspiration rising from the needs of the people of the United States, and neither Oregon or Texas would have reached a settlement according to na- tional requirements separately. In Congress they were championed by Calhoun, represent- ing the politician who is sometimes wiser than the statesman. He made no pretenses, but to represent the will of the people. He therefore demanded that all of Oregon to 54 deg. 40 min. be allowed to the United States, and negotiated a treaty with Texas for the admission of the Lone Star State as a member of the Union. That his heart was not with Oregon soon be- came apparent but the claim was made only so he could press the annexation of Texas. The question of slavery was now fast absorbing all interest, and obscuring even the greater question of national life. It was apparent to Calhoun that the South and West must be united. It was also apparent that Texas must be admitted as a slave territory. It was apparent that on this de- mand, northern territory as a counterpoise must be admitted. Oregon to its full extent was, therefore, freely demanded. Against such a combination there could be no effective oppo- sition. Such was the situation at the close of the Provisional Gov- ernment in Oregon. It was ready for admission, but the promises so loudly made, and so faithfully kept with Texas, were not so well remembered with Oregon. The politicians who had seen the necessity of electing Mr. Polk on the plat- form of Oregon and Texas, 54 deg. 40 min. or fight" were, now that Texas was secure, ready to forget Oregon. The boundary was settled but no territorial government was pro- vided. 10 Brown, Political History of Oregon, Vol. I, p. 61. 11 Brown, Political History of Oregon, Vol. I, p. 438. 66 Marie Merriman Bradley. CHAPTER V. THE OREGON QUESTION IN CONGRESS. At the time the real contest which was to decide the final ownership of the Northwest territory was being fought, our national legislature knew little and thought less about the Oregon Country,^ and when they did think of it, they did not consider the possibility of its adding three stars to the flag. There were few Americans west of the Rocky Mountains and the soil was generally believed to be sterile and unfit for agricultural pursuits. In 1820 the Oregon question appeared in Congress through a motion by Floyd of Virginia, to investigate the advisability of establishing a military post at the mouth of the Columbia River. The bill aroused little interest, and no action was taken in regard to it, but such discussion as it did call forth shows no doubt as to the validity of our claims. The oppo- sition was based upon the ground of diversity of interest of the two sections, there was no reference whatever to the con- vention of 1818. A second bill providing for the occupation of the Columbia was introduced in 1822. In support of the bill Floyd made a very able speech, pointing out the benefits to be gained by connecting the Columbia with the Mississippi and Missouri, which would open a mine of wealth to the shipping interests. He also developed the possibilities of opening the trade with the Orient, by means of the Oregon Country. January 23^ 1823, this bill wias defeated in the House by a vote of 180 to 68. The discussion caused by the bill, however, served to arouse the interest of the people in the Oregon Country, and to educate them to a realization of at least a part of the value of the Northwest Coast. Another bill, for establishing a military post at the mouth of the Columbia, was reported in January, 1824. In the report Floyd quoted General Jesup's estimate of the cost of 1 Brown, Political History of Oregon, Vol. I, p. 61. Political Beginnings in Oregon. 67 establishing the post. General Jesup favored the measure from a military point of view, as enabling us to secure the entire territory at the end of the period of joint occupation and also as a protection to trade at the present time. Mr. Trimble, who supported Floyd, concluded his argument by saying, ' ' Our rights will cease at the end of ten years ; instead of our people having the exclusive right, we shall be excluded entirely, when, if we take possession, as we ought to do, the rights of the British will cease in 1828. This measure was recommended by Monroe in his last mes- sage in 1824.^ It finally passed the House, but was lost in the Senate, not, however, without a tremendous effort on the part of Benton of Missouri to secure its passage. In the beginning of his speech he made four assertions which he attempted to prove,^ to-wit: 1. Our claim to sovereignty is disputed by Great Britain. 2. England is now the party in possession. 3. England resists possession by the United States. 4. The party in possession in 1828 will have the possession under the law of nations, until the question of sovereignty be settled by war or by negotiations. He argued that some action was necessary to prevent the territory from falling into the hands of another nation.^ He thought that the tranquillity of the public mind was due, not so much to indifference, as to the fact that they supposed their title to be undisputed. By estimates based upon the Missis- sippi trade, he made clear the immense gains that were possi- ble, for the natural advantages were all on the American side. While it took three years to make the circuit from the British headquarters, it could be done for the United States 2 Annals of Congress. 17th Congress, 2nd Session, p. 812. 3 Richardson, Messages of Presidents, Vol. II, p. 250. 4 Seventeenth Congress (1823), 2nd Session, Annals, p. 246. 5 "The Republic, partly throug'h its own remissness, partly from con- cessions of our ministers, but chiefly from the bold pretensions of England, is in imminent danger of losing all its territory beyond the Rocky Moun- tains." — Benton, Debates in Congress, Vol. VII, p. 363. 68 Marie Merriman Bradley. between May and September.^ Moreover, he considered Ore- gon worth holding for the sake of the Columbia fisheries and timber.'^ Tracey of New York was one of the bitterest opponents of the bill. He declared that, rather than being a Garden of Eden, this Oregon country was an inhospitable wilderness, or an inaccessible coast; the climate was bleak, and the cheering sunbeams were hardly ever seen; that because of the humid- ity, it was impossible to raise the valuable products of the Atlantic Coast.^ He objected further to the establishment of military posts, For," he said, "we now enjoy all the ad- vantages we have the right either to expect or demand. ' ' He considered that a small garrison would only provoke a cruel and expensive Indian war. Military posts, he held, were for the purpose of protecting the frontier, but not for attracting of population to an exposed situation. ' ' The God of Nature, ' ' he said, "has interposed obstacles to this connection which neither enterprise nor science of this or any other age can overcome. Nature has fixed a limit for our nation, she has kindly interposed as our western barrier, mountains almost inaccessible, whose base she has skirted with unreclaimable deserts of sand. This barrier our people can never pass. If it ever does, it becomes the people of a new world, whose feelings and whose interests are not with us, but with our antipodes."^ Furthermore, he thought it impossible that the two sections of the country could ever be brought under the jurisdiction of the same government; and it is a significant fact that very few statesmen of the time considered it possible to bring the trans-Rocky territory to a footing equal to the Eastern States. Most of the men who advocated American occupancy, thought that the country should be held as a colony, and that in the case of independence, it was better to 6 Seventeenth Congress, 1st Session, Vol I, p. 308 (Benton's Speech.) 7 At that time Columbia River timber was being shipped to Chili and Peru. 8 Seventeenth Congress, 1st Session, Annals, Vol. II, p. 592. 9 Seventeenth Congress, 1st Session, Annals, Vol. I, p. 598. Political Beginnings in Oregon. 69 have an independent state of American origin as a neighbor than a British colony. Thus the matter dragged on. Each session the question of boundar}^ settlement and occupation of the Columbia, after some discussion was laid on the table, never to be taken up. By 1826, as the time of the joint occupation drew to a close, the authorities were awakened to the value of the territory they were allowing to slip from their hands. They recognized the truth of Rush's statement that the Oregon Country was of more value to the United States than to any other nation. In 1824 a new commission was appointed to settle the bound- ary dispute. Rush represented the United States; Stratford Canning and William Huskeson, England. Rush made very definite claims for his government, of the ownership of the Northwest Coast, west of the Stony Mountains, and between the 42nd and 51st parallels. The British rejected this settle- ment and proposed as a compromise the 49th parallel to the Columbia, thence down the Columbia to the Pacific, which, of course, was promptly rejected by the Americans. By the end of 1824, the House of Representatives had passed a bill for the occupation of the mouth of the Columbia, by a military force. A speedy settlement of the question was desirable to both parties. England was becoming alarmed at the action of Congress, for settlements were detrimental to fur trade ; moreover, if America attempted to take possession before the expiration of the treaty, England must withdraw in a manner repugnant to English pride, or use force in de- fending a ' ' country not worth fighting for. ' ' The only alter- native of a costly quarrel was a settlement by acknowledgment of boundary or a continuation of the Joint Occupation Treaty of 1818. In 1826 Canning was ready to reopen negotiations. Galla- tin, now associated with Rush, was sent his instructions, to offer an extension of the 49th parallel to the Pacific, and if the line was crossed by any navigable stream, the English 10 Wm. Barrows, Oregon; The Struggle for Possession, pp. 192-195, also 199. Bancroft History of the Northwest Coast, p. 351. 70 Marie Merriman Bradley. should have the right to navigate them to the ocean. The old grounds of our clainks were gone over, the chief points being, (1) our claims by right of discovery, (2) the settlement of Astoria, (3) the Louisiana Purchase (contiguous territory), (4) the Spanish treaty of 1819. The British claimed that the whole question had been settled by the Nootka Sound Conven- vention, no agreement could be reached, so a compromise was arranged by continuing indefinitely the treaty of 1818, sub- ject at any time to abrogation by either party on twelve months' notice. Then for some fourteen years the Oregon question was but slightly agitated. England, beginning to realize that delay hurt her cause, proposed a conference which was held in 1846. This conference settled the northern boundary on the 49th parallel to the ocean. The President's message of 1847 recommended that the Oregon territory should have the privilege granted under the constitution, that it should be given a legal government and a territorial representation. There was a fierce struggle over the bill, the opposition tried to kill it by postponing it until the end of the session, but Benton, always Oregon's best friend^^ in the Senate, finally brought it to a vote. The people of Oregon had twice before that time voted down the slavery question. They declared that slavery should not exist in Oregon, so in drawing up the bill the anti-slavery clause had been taken from the Ordinance of 1787, to fully represent the wishes of the people. The slavery interests made overtures to the Oregon supporters to consent that the bill should remain silent on the subject, and promised unanimous support in case that was done, but the supporters of the bill, knowing the wishes of the people of Oregon and determined to win the fight on the line they had started, refused and the anti-slavery clause remained a part of the Oregon bill.^^ 11 Letter from Benton to People of Oregon, copied in Brown's Political History of Oregon, Vol. I, p. 811. , 12 Brown, Political History of Oregon, Vol. I, p. 355. I Political Beginnings in Oregon. 71 The only amendments agreed to were, a proviso in the first section confirming to each Mission in Oregon 640 acres of land; second, amendments on commerce concerning the estab- lishment of a collection district, ports of entry and delivery, and extending the revenue laws of the United States over Oregon, also allowing appropriations for the erection of light- houses at the mouth of the Columbia River and at Admiralty Inlet; the third, a section preventing the obstruction of the rivers by dams, which would prevent the free passage of salmon. The bill was attacked in the Senate by Davis and Foote of Mississippi, Butler and Calhoun of South Carolina, Mason of Virginia and others of equal note, and was warmly supported by Houston of Texas, Benton of Missouri, as well as Douglas, Webster, Corwin, Dix, and Collmer. It was a bone of conten- tion for several weeks. Calhoun employed a morning session until adjournment with one of his most commanding efforts. The Senate and the large audience were held by the force of his reasoning, and when he closed, silence reigned for some time and was broken only by a motion to adjourn. The bill passed the Senate by a close vote, and went to the House, where the storm of opposition broke out afresh. But it passed there also, in course of time, and came back to the Senate with some unimportant amendments, towards the close of the session. Then its opponents rallied again, and under- took to kill it by delay, using every possible expedient known to parliamentary warfare to insure its defeat, and on this ground the battle was fought over again. * ' Tom Corwin sup-^ ported the bill in one of his most telling efforts, and Tom was not particularly tender towards the slavery interests even in his best moods. It was after hearing this speech that Father Ritchie, as they passed out of the Senate chamber, said to Thornton, A few more speeches like that would dissolve the Union. 13 From an account of the session by J. Q. Thornton, printed in Brown's Political History of Oregon, Vol. I, p. 306. 14 Brown, Political History of Oregon, Vol. I, p. 306. J. Q. Thornton was the representative appointed by Governor Abernethy to represent the Territory in Washington. Meek was elected by a vote of the legislature. 72 Marie Merriman Bradley. Congress was to adjourn Monday, August 14, 1848. It was Saturday, the 12th, and the Oregon bill was under discussion when Butler of South Carolina moved to go into executive session. The friends of the bill had resolved to vote down every motion to adjourn until the bill should pass. Saturday night at ten o'clock Foote arose and announced his intention to keep the floor until Monday noon, the final hour of ad- journment. He commenced with a scriptural history and con- tinued until two hours after sunrise Sunday morning, only giving way to motions for adjournment. The friends of the bill were in the adjoining room, with a page on guard who gave notice of each motion to adjourn, when they filed in and voted it down. Sunday morning the opposition had tired themselves out and gave up the game. Foote was silenced by his friends. The bill passed, though by only a small vote, August 14, 1848, in precisely the same form that it passed the House. The long and trying ordeal was over and Oregon was a territory of the United States on her own terms. The rule disallowing bills to be presented for signature on the last day of the ssession was suspended, and this bill was signed August 14. The President returned it to the House with a message in which he reviewed the question of free and slave territory at some length, deploring the agitation arising from it, and predicting that it would, if not checked, dis- member the Union. Polk, of course, was anxious to have the question, which had been so vital an issue in his campaign, settled before his term of office expired, so lost no time in organizing the new territory and appointing the officials. The newly appointed Grovernor, Lane, accompanied by Meek —now holding a commission as marshal— set out at once for the scene of their labors, and arrived in Oregon City March 2, 1849, just two days before the expiration of Polk's term. The next day Lane issued his proclamation and the transition from a provisional to a territorial government was made. 15 The bill was similar to other territorial bills, one noticeable feature in that it was the first bill to set aside two sections of land in each town- ship in place of one for school purposes.


  1. Semple, American History and Its Geographic Conditions, p. 205.
  2. Robertson, J. H,, Oregon Historical Society Quarterly, 1900, Vol. I, p. 8.
  3. Lang, H. D., History of the Willamette Valley, p. 230.