Oregon Historical Quarterly/Volume 9/Slavery Question in Oregon
Oregon Historical Society.
[The Quarterly disavows responsibility for the positions taken by contributors to its pages.]
SLAVERY QUESTION IN OREGON.
Recollections and Reflections of a Historical Nature, Having Special Relation to the Slavery Agitation in the Oregon Territory and Including the Political Status up to the Beginning of Secession in 1861.
By T. W. Davenport.
In response to a suggestion by Professor H. S. Lyman, made several years ago, that I would write an account of the slavery agitation, preceding the vote upon the Constitution, I began this article without any design of writing what might properly be called history, for, not possessing a library sufficiently supplied with data, and not living near the sources of such information, I saw the impracticability of giving more than a rather disjointed and rambling sketch of the leading persons and incidents of that decisive, but, to most people, unimportant period. Mr. Lyman judged, from the fact that I was one of the participants in the so-called agitation and very interested in it, that my knowledge would enable me to write instructively upon the subject, and thus preserve some facts fast passing into oblivion. But facts are not of full value without correlation and an exhibit of the motive which produced them. A homicide may be startling, but the chief interest and instruction relating thereto lies in the answer to the question, why and how it came to be? In this respect the Bancroft History of Oregon seems to be quite deficient. The facts are there in abundance, but the philosophical concatenation, without which history is comparatively barren, is still to be supplied. I am aware of the contention, by some, that it is no part of the historian's duty to indulge in philosophical disquisition, but to give the plain unvarnished facts, leaving the reader to construct the theory for himself—a task the average reader seldom attempts to perform. Even a false theory is better than none at all, for it stimulates to inquiry and involves the reader in meshes perhaps disquieting to his state of mind, and from which, if wrong, he needs must extricate himself.
The writer freely admits that there is more about slavery in the following pages than is at present fashionable, but if there is to be a lesson in them, the side-lights of the situation at that time must also be given. And he feels sure that, properly understood, the short, peaceable, and comparatively uneventful period in which the Oregon pioneers were deliberating under aegis of squatter sovereignty furnishes a first-class balance in which to weigh them, and also to estimate the character and influence of their social and political environment. One friend, permitted to scan some of these pages, was inclined to doubt the propriety of "threshing over the old straw" and reviving a subject that is really obsolete; that slavery is dead past resurrection, the rebellion an old "chestnut," the aforetime rebels in their graves, their children happy in the general and equal fraternity, and the race question left for solution by the Southern people, who are most competent to deal with it. He might have added another fact, viz., that Northern magnanimity is so abundant that the whole vocabulary, once applicable, is undergoing amelioration, whereby the contestants in the fierce and bloody conflict are put upon equal terms, ethically, and that, at the rate the forgiving and forgetting spirit is now growing, the time is not far ahead when there will be no admissible causative reason for the great combat but the expediency of a dissolution of the Federal Union. The battles will be studied, as Bonaparte's are, merely in the light of military science. They will have no vivifying soul, and even Lincoln's immortal apostrophe at Gettysburg may not save them.
Of course, there is no propriety in using harsh epithets concerning the causes or combatants, for such are prejudicial to philosophic inquiry, indeed, foreign to the judicial mind fitted for fair investigation, but the late endeavors to whitewash the offensive institution of slavery, or to slur over its poisonous influence upon the Southern people and its corrupting power over American government and politics, is an aberration of intellect which even philanthropy ought not to sanction. As in slavery days, the forgetters are directing their extra-fraternal services against Uncle Tom's Cabin. In the language of Woodrow Wilson, it "is not a truthful picture of slavery." Such good people seem not to have entered into the serene spirit which views the barbarisms practiced down South, not as an indictment of the Southern people, but as a sample of the degradation to which such a denial of human rights could bring a people as good by nature as ourselves.
Can it be possible that any considerable number of the American people are so short-sighted as not to see that chattel slavery was only one phase or outcropping of unrestrained human selfishness and rapacity, and that though the chattels are liberated, the spirit remains? The sphere of its opportunities is restricted, but it is still rampant and fierce, almost untamable, North, South, East and West, in fact everywhere; and the same demand for restraint is upon us, or failing in this, a descent into barbarism, deep and deeper, until aroused to partial emancipation again? The problem was not closed, the tendency or gravitating force was not removed when chattel slavery died. It is a perpetual task and no part of its features should be masked.
It is vain and foolish to mis-estimate either the character of the Southern people, the temptations in which they were placed, or the resulting social and political conditions, for such will have no other effect than to obscure the future and 192 T. W. Davenport. lead US into devious and perplexing ways which must be retraced. Even now, notwithstanding our costly experience, it is quite common to see admissions from high sources in the North, that the constitutional amendment placing the negro upon a legal equality with his white brother, was a mistake, and that be should have been left to the tender mercies and sense of justice of his former master. And this, too, though Southern public opinion, if left to itself, would not permit him to hold up his head and stand erect in the image of his maker, but condemn him to a life but little above mere beasts of burden. Those who would crush out every aspiration of the Afro- American to rise in the scale of being, the Smiths and Varde- mans, are elected to places of trust and power, while the great man, Booker T. Washington, is spit upon by the superior race holding sway in the city which is an eye witness of his success in raising the negro from his low estate. From all this, is it not evident that the race question, like the slavery question, is not a local one, and that the negro, free or slave, cannot be left to the disposition of those who would make him keep his place" and cherish no ambition above the rude'^t toil? Are we so dull of comprehension that we cannot see that the solution of the race question, and all other disturbing questions, lies in the establishment of justice among men; that there is no other solution, that injustice to a part means degradation to the whole, and that nothing less than the com- bined moral strength and intelligence of the whole people constantly exerted, can establish a just and progressive social stated Hence the necessity of seeing the facts of history in their true light, unswayed by weak sentimentality or the arts of sophistry, ever remembering that, "In the corrupted currents of this world, Offence's gilded hand may shove by justice, And oft 'tis seen, the wicked prize itself Buys out the law." Another class of critics is voiced by a learned legal friend, who asked, "Do you think there is a kernel in that chaff?" Slavery Question in Oregon. 193 And continuing, lie said : ' ' I once examined the returns of tlie vote upon tlie Constitution and saw that only about one-third of the voters favored slavery and that nine out of ten voted to exclude free negroes. Now, is it possible that the Oregon pioneers, in any such proportion, were fearful of being over- run by them? Why, I would have come to the conclusion that they were either opium fiends frightened at their own shadows or had softening of the brain. And as for the rest- will it be any more or different from what has occurred mil- lions of times, and is common to every country — every fellow seeking his own petty end in his own petty way, and with little regard to his competitors? Suppose that half of such inci- dents were obliterated, would the remainder contain any dif- ferent lesson ? Isn't there a great surplus of incidents that may be cut out by the historian without changing the color of his discourse? Indeed, what is a battle more or a battle less in the world's history? Are not the human ingredients just the same, whatever the outcome ? And even as to the so- called decisive battles of the w^orld, though they may have changed the boundaries of a state and modified the laws, can any philosopher take up a single thread of life's tangled skein and show that it is different from any other? Let us admit that war is not so cruel as it once was ; that there are some amends for the wholesale slaughter practiced in ancient times, and that captured cities are not given over to rape and pillage by maddened soldiers, but who can show that such amelioration is not the result of improved weapons of warfare, the discovery of natural forces and laws, instead of any softening of human nature? Still, I am not averse to his- torical lessons often repeated, though I am as often re- minded of the fact that history has but little to do in shaping the lives and determining the conduct of men. Now and then an individual of favorable endowment imbibes the sprit of Washington, Socrates, or Christ, and with such help wrestles successfully with his selfishness, but such cases are very rare and their example finds few imitators. The American people are continually involved in the performance of duties of a 194 T. W. Davenport. public or quasi-public nature, with no thought of or reference to historical lessons. The present conditions and proximate precedents are alone in evidence. Our voters go to the polls and decide questions of the here and now, casting a retrospec- tive glance, rarely reaching beyond a life-time; and I have observed that the so-called illiterates have as good reason for their choice as the college graduates. It seems to be, not so much a question of what is right and proper, as it is one of courage and freedom to perform it. But go ahead, and if you can do more than exhibit the virus which paralyzed the Oregon Democracy in their partisan servitude to the slave power, you will not have labored in vain." To a philosopher there is no more interesting and instruc- tive chapter of history than the one giving an account of the renaissance of African slavery in the United States, for prob- ably there is no other instance of such a complete and over- whelming reversal of opinion and consequent government as that exhibited by the American people during the first sixty years of the National Union. In the sluggish industrial pro- gress of ancient times such a rate of change would have been impossible, and, to us moderns, accustomed as we are to wonders, the transition seems astounding. Just to think of a people, organizing a government conceived in the spirit of the Declaration of Independence and dedicated to the establish- ment '^f justice as derived from that broad and all-including principle, passing in less than two generations to the condi- tions just preceding the Civil War ! It is one of the marvels in human affairs. It is not the intention here, however, to give anything more than a sufficient synopsis to understand the Oregon phase of the question, and why we on the Pacific Coast, nearly two thousand miles from the scene of actual conflict, should have felt enough interest to take a vote show- ing to what extent we had become involved in the general demoralization. In the way of denial or amelioration of this great retrogres- sion, some writers lay much stress upon the so-called compro- mises of the Constitution, as though there were anything in that instrument upon which to base the notion that its framers intended the folly of combining* two antagonistic systems in the general government, or that when they declared its pur- pose 'to establish justice, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity," they meant only people of white skins, any more than they meant to confine those great benefits to the descendants of the people then inhabiting the United States.
ANTI-SLAVERY AGITATION IN THE OREGON TERRITORY.
During the years 1855, 1856, 1857, the people of the Oregon Territor,v were somewhat stirred by the pendency of the slavery question, which was supposed to have been settled for all time, so far as its existence here was concerned. It is not too much to say that the Oregon people were taken by surprise; that nothing of the kind ever entered the mind of one of them that even a. suggestion of slavery would be heard as applicable to this Northwest Coast. Then, why any agita- tion ; why any vote ? If humanity is on the up-grade, as optimists delight to believe, why should a professedly civilized people take a vote as to whether they will adopt in their Con- stitution the privilege of perpetual robbery^ That the Oregon people voted down such a proposition is no doubt to their credit, but casting an eye over the country as it was in the fall of the year 1857, and noting the schools, churches, and other evidences of peace and fraternity, is it not a most astounding fact that they were seriously considering such a question? But alas ! such are the contradictions in human nature that it must always be judged, not by comparison of it with what an enlightened human being knows and feels to be right, but in accordance with the controlling habit of the times. Though endowed with reason and conscience and affections that com- pel them to live in a social state, human beings are in the main selfish creatures of habit, and improve, if at all, step by step, and not by a far-reaching inquiry as to what is best for the whole. Neither are they, or their habits or doings, things of chance, but consecutive products, interrelated links of causation which may be traced by careful examination.
Hence it is the purpose of this paper to inquire into the matte^' and determine how and why the Oregon people became involved and how they settled the question for themselves. The kind of involvement we shall speak of was not that arising from the existence of slavery in the Territory, for there was not one negro slave within its far-reaching boundaries or within a thousand miles thereof. The enslavement of Indian captives, taken in war by Indians, was practiced to a very limited extent, but the white people of Oregon never participated in any such traffic. In truth, that kind of slavery was more nominal than real, consisting as it did of women and children who w^ere adopted by the victors and were subjected to little more restraint than their own people.
As a practical matter, there was no question of slavery of any kind to annoy the home-builders of Oregon. And, as has been said, the pioneers came with no prospect or desire of establishing slavery upon the Pacific Coast. True, the slave State of Missouri contributed more of them than any other State, and probably it, with Kentucky, Tennessee and Arkansas, gave a majority of the whole. But the emigrants from those slave-holding States belonged to the non-slaveholding class and were not pecuniarily interested in slaves; besides, many of them came to the Territory to rid themselves of the blight that broods over the land where involuntary servitude Slavery Question in Oregon. 197 prevails. For, let it be borne in mind, that there was no time in the legal existence of the Territory when slavery was not under prohibition of law, first by the Provisional Government (Sec. 4, Art. I) and later by act of Congress organizing the territorial government, and continuing in force until the admission of Oregon as a State in the year 1859. Conse- quently, any one may see that our agitation did not grow out of objective conditions existing here, but was imposed upon the Oregonians from the outside. Or possibly it may be nearer the truth to say that it was a case of political seduc- tion, in which the seduced did not possess the virtue of re- sistance. In either case, it did not come from any statute or regulation by the general government, specially applicable to our ppople, but by extra-legal, political influence which came as an incident in the aggrandizement of slavery in the nation. All students of American history are acquainted with the estimation in which slavery was held in revolutionary times; that it was a deplorable fact, to be tolerated by the govern- ment, but to be restricted within its occupied boundaries, with the hope and expectation that under our form of government it would quietly disappear. Vain hope ! tolerating an evil and letting it alone is no way to end it. It soon grew out of the stage of toleration, repudiated the terms of reproach cast upon it, and contested with free institutions for supremacy in the government. There was continual conflict, for the antagonism between free and slave institutions, is irrepressible. This natural antagonism many people did not see, or affected not to see, and blamed the abolitionists with making all the disturbance. But the true state of the case is well set forth by Horace Greeley in his "American Conflict," on page 354, volume I. "Why can't you let slavery alone?" was imperiously or querulously demanded at the North throughout the long strug- gle preceding that bombardment (Fort Sumter), by men who shouk! have seen, but would not, that slavery never let the North alone, nor thought of so doing. "Buy Louisiana for us!" said the slaveholders. "With 198 T. W. Davenport. pleasii re. " " Now Florida ! " " Certainly. ' ' Next, ' ' Violate your treaties with the Creeks and Cherokees ; expel those tribes from the lands they have held from time immemorial, so as to let us expand our plantations!" "So said, so done." "Now for Texas!" "You have it." "Next, a third more of Mexico ! " " Yours it is. " " Now, break the Missouri compact, and let slavery wrestle with free labor for the vast region consecrated by that Compact to Freedom!" "Very good. What next T ' " Buy us Cuba, for one hundred to one hundred and fifty millions!" "We have tried; but Spain refuses to sell." "Then wrest it from her at all hazards!" And all this time, while slavery was using the Union as her catspaw— dragging the Republic into iniquitous wars and enormous ex- penditures, and grasping empire after empire thereby — Northern men (or, more accurately, men of the North) were constantly asking why people living in the Free States could not let slavery alone, mind their own business, and expend their surplus philanthropy on the poor at their own doors, rathe^" than on the happy and contented slaves ! But we must not lay all these aggressions to the Southern people alone, although especially acceptable to their predomi- nant interest, for on all such propositions they had help from the North. Upon all questions affecting the peculiar insti- tution the South was solid while the North was divided. Slavery had no diverse politics. Mr. Dixon, in a speech made before the United States Senate, said : "I have been charged, through one of the leading journals of this city, with having proposed the amendment, which T notified the Senate I in- tended to offer, with a view to embarrass the Democratic party. It was said that I was a Whig from Kentucky, and that the amendment proposed by me should be looked upon with suspicion by the opposite party. Sir, I wish to remark that, upon the question of slavery, I know no whiggery, and I know no democracy. I am a pro-slavery man. I am from a slave-holding State; I represent a slave-holding constitu- ency, and I am here to maintain the rights of that people whenever they are presented before the Senate. ' ' Slavery Question in Oregon. 199 If Northern representatives had been equally faithful to the interests of their constituents, there would have been little or no aggression of slavery. This may not mean that the North- ern p'^ople were especially lacking in the virtue of fidelity, but that no great wrong solidified them. As Governor Sew^ard said, in a speech at Cleveland, Ohio, October 26th, 1848 : "There are two antagonistic elements of society in America, freedom and slavery. Freedom is in harmony with our system of government, and with the spirit of the age, and is therefore passive and quiescent. Slavery is in conflict with that system, with justice, and with humanity, and is therefore organized, defensive, active and perpetually aggressive." This aggres- sive and solid front of slavery, claiming and receiving ex- emption from interference by the passive and quiescent free portion of the Union, gave to the slave-holding interest a vast political advantage, with the result that the national adminis- tration was either neutral or apologetic as to slavery from the organization of the Federal Government until the election o-*^ Lincoln in 1860, a period of seventy-two years. During all this time it was increasing in power and arrogance until the climax was reached in the Dred Scott decision, which declared that the negro had no rights which a white man was bound to respect, and that property in slaves was on a par with otlK?r classes of property and entitled to the protection of law in all the national territories. But such an accumulation of political power, such a tremendous departure from the Declar- ation of Independence, could not have been accomplished without the aid of Northern politicians and the acquiescence of their constituents, for the political potentiality of the free to the slave States was as two to one. Th*^ cause of such subserviency on the part of the powerful North, was no secret; everybody knew it; everybody said it; many ihere were to apologize for or defend it, a few to deplore and denounce it. Mr. Seward, in the speech before quot'^d from, said: "One of these parties, the party of slavery, re- gards disunion as among the means of defense, and not always the last to be employed. The other maintains the union of the States, one and inseparable, now and forever, as the high- est duty of the American people to themselves, to posterity, to mankind," etc. In the free States, the Union sentiment expressed by Mr. Seward amounted to a passion. None but a few of the despised abolitionists were free from it. To pre- serve the Union, the people would make great sacrifices— their peace, their property— and would even go so far as to trench upon their personal liberties by limiting the freedom of speech and the press and becoming slave-catchers upon free soil. In the South, slavery was their bond and their passion, for which the people would sacrifice the Union. Indeed, to the thorough- going slavocracy, the Union was valueless except as the highest trump card in the game of government whose high honors it had so far won. It was this condition that made possible the dominance of slavery in the government for so many years. Not because disunion was continually threat- ened by the Southern people, but because it was known to be their remedy against any form of anti-slavery agitation.
There was, however, a limit to Northern subserviency. The people of the free States could not wholly satisfy their Southern brethren without abandoning their system of gov- ernment. It was not enough that they must be slave-catchers by constitutional duress ; they must do the work with alacrity, as Mr. Webster expressed it. Not only so, they must cease talking against chattel slavery. The pride of Southern gentle- men revolted at the idea of being looked upon as engaged in a nefarious business, and therefore under the moral ban. So anti-slavery agitation must cease at the North as it had at the South.
Mr. Lincoln, who has never been accused of being untruth- ful or extravagant, in answer to the query, what must we do to convmce our Southern brethren that we intend no interfer- ence with slavery where it exists, said in his Cooper Institute speech, in New York City, February 27th, 1860: This and this only : cease to call slavery wrong and join them in calling it right. And this must be done thoroughly— done in acts as well in words. Silence will not be tolerated— we must place Slavery Question in Oregon. 201 ourselves avowedly with tliem. Senator Douglas's new sedi- tion law must be enacted and enforced, suppressing all dec- larations that slavery is wrong, whether made in politics, in presses, in pulpits or in private." This may appear excessive, but it is not, for the reason that suppression is the very essence of slavery; without suppression there is no slavery. There must be suppression of the freedom of the slave and there must be suppression of any right in others to object. Of course this is an impossible task, but the demagogues and doughfaces of the North essayed it by displaying, in season and out of season, the spectre of disunion. Such conjuring became so common that persons known to have anti-slavery sympathies, though silent upon the subject, lost caste in their party and were set aside to make sure of giving no offense to the Southern brethren. By such means the two old parties were driven more and more into the embrace and service of the consolidated slave- holding interests, and through them the federal patronage was distributed to apologists and devotees of the institution. At the beginning chattel slavery was not a national idea or purpose. The authors of the Declaration and the Constitution were not solicitous to preserve it, but to prevent its extension and cut off its supplies from abroad, and would have gone further, but were compelled by the price of the Union to leave it as a local institution to be dealt with by the States wherein it existed. In such a disposition of the perplexing subject, slaveholders and non-slaveholders, the North and the South co-operated, for such was the national purpose and such were national men, as Mr. Lincoln abundantly proved in his Cooper Insti- tute speech from which we have quoted. But under the pro- slavery regime, to be national, a man or party must not antagonize the growing demands of that interest. No others might be given control of the national administration. The AVhig party leaders. Clay, Webster, Seward, Greeley and others of like sympathy, yielded very grudgingly to the trend of events, but being devoted in every fibre to the Union, 202 T. W. Davenport. were continually trying to harmonize freedom and slavery in the government and its own diverse partisan elements, with the result of inclining one way and the other and thus giving offense to both interests. Mr. Greeley wrote in his "Con- flict/' volume I, page 246: "The dissolution of the Whig party, commenced by the imposition of the Southern platform on its national convention of 1852, was consummated by the eager participation of most of its Southern members of Con- gress in the repudiation of the Missouri Compromise by the passage of the Nebraska Bill." In fact, the dissolution com- menced before, for the party had been weighed in the Southern balance and been found wanting. Though its Northern leaders might acquiesce in slavery extension wars, the incipience of which they had opposed, and compromises of territorial parti- tion for the sake of the Union, they were at heart disgusted with such necessities. Mr. Lincoln might say, "We will return to our Southern brethren their fugitive slaves and let them manage their peculiar institution in their own way at home, for so it is written in the bond," but the bitterness of soul produced by such an admission he must ease by the assurance that "we will go no further; we will oppose its extension, and declare our opinion that if slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong." Mr. Webster might oppose the application of the Wilmot Proviso to New Mexico as wholly unnecessary and tending to give needless offense to the Southern people, but he did not neglect to say, ' ' Sir, wherever there is a substantial good to be done, wherever there is a foot of land to be pre- vented from becoming slave territory, I am ready to assert the principle of the exclusion of slavery." A party with such elements could not long continue to serve the Southern ultras, and yet they were not strong enough to fix it as an anti-extension party. The house was divided against itself and could not stand. The Democratic party, on the other hand, was more to their liking and continued longer in the service. Its great leaders were Southern men and slave-holders and, though at the beginning bore witness to the sin and shame of slavery, they were so devoted to the doctrine Slavery Question in Oregon. 203 of "States* riglitvs" and "strict construetiou '* as a barrier to autieipated eneroaohmeuts of the general goverumeut that they opposed any legislation by it to prevent the spreading of slavery. Jefferson, in his own opinion, was outside of the Constitution when he purchased the Louisiana Territory in 1S03, yet seventeen years afterward when slavery had emerged from its let-alone self-condemnatory status and become the chief, if not the only, menace to the peace and prosperitj^ of the American people and truly democratic government, both lie and IMadison were opposed to the ^lissouri restriction then pending in Congress. AYe can hardly suppose that these two great men were insincere in the part they had taken in the formation of the American Republic— one noted as the writer of the Declaration of Independence and the ordinance pro- hibiting slavery in the Northwest Territory by act of Congress, and the other as one of the chief makers of the Constitution, but it is difficult to account for their action in the Missouri struggle without supposing that they, too, were carried away by their Southern sympathy or constrained by the fear of disunion. In any aspect of the case it was a most pernicious example for the great apostle of genuine democracy to set for his party, which thenceforth became the preferred instrument of those whose interests were inimical to any form of dem- ocracy. It is unnecessary to more than mention the successive steps of debasement, the annexation of Texas and war with Mexico, the resistance to the admission of California as a free State, the repeal of the ^Missouri Compromise, the support of the border ruffian government in Kansas— and all made possi- ble by three principal causes : the threat of disunion, the cor- rupting influence of the spoils system of politics, and the se- ductions which great power offers to those ambitious for offi- cial preferment— the last two the most potent and liable to be turned against them at any election. We should do scant jus- tice to the intellectual ability of our Southern fellow citizens, in supposing them ignorant of the spontaneous forces of ad- vancing civilization working to undermine the system of chattel slavery, and that its security lay not in the let-alone 204 T. W. Davenport. asseveration of Northern men, however earnest, but in keep- ing the balance of power in the United States Senate. Indeed, this was an accompanying idea of the renaissance and the chief inspiriting motive of extension. Failing in their efforts to make a slave State, their seduc- tions were exerted to make it a Democratic State, as the case of California, admitted into the Union in 1850, it being one item of a series constituting the compromise of that year, and of which Mr. Greeley wrote as follows: The net product was a corrupt monstrosity in legislation and morals which even the great name of Henry Clay should not shield from lasting opprobrium." He admitted, however, that it was accepted and ratified by a great majority of the people whether in the North or in the South. They were intent on business— then remarkably prosperous— on planting, building, trading, and getting gain— and they hailed with general joy the announcement that all the differences between the diverse sections had been adjusted and settled. The general joy was not contagious among the anti-slavery people, and at no time were their hopes so low as upon the passage of the compromise of 1850, for it seemed to them as though there could be no limit to Northern subserviency to save the Union. Those of a more optimistic turn of mind could find some consolation in the fact that, though slave-catching had been taken under the strong arm of the Federal Government and all legal barriers to the extension of slavery into the newly ac- quired territories had been removed, yet one more free State had b^en added to the Union. This was evidently a gain, count- ing by States, but when critically examined it afforded no sign of an increase in the altruistic fund or of a moral awaken- ing anywhere, or even of a falling away from the political forces of slavery, for while the inhabitants of the Golden State came knocking at the door of the Union for admission with a free-state Constitution, their senators-elect were na- tional men, already interpreted to mean that upon any ques- tion concerning slavery they were as loyal to the institution as any son of the South. The free State of California, no Slavery Question in Oregon. 205 other being possible by a vote of its inhabitants, and repre- sented at the same time by Gwin and Weller, the former a propagandist and the latter a sympathizing confederate ! who shall explain snch an apparent paradox? But it is easily explained in one sentence; as for themselves they demanded freedom, as for others they did not care. As to any harm that might come to slavery or any curtailment of its power at that time, California might as well have been a slave State. Of this they did not care. The prospect of being supplanted in the gold diggings by the owners of slaves they could not for a moment endure. That such a relation as master and slave should have a legal existence upon American soil, did not influence the decision of many who voted to make Cali- fornia free. Although a great part of human actions is of the thought- less or impulsive kind, yet in matters that are premeditated, there is always a good and sufficient reason back of them and consistent with the mental and moral make-up of the actors and their environment, and that is all that is practical in human affairs, whether it be progress or otherwise. The Californians in 1849-50 did not perpetrate that inconsistency of a free-state Constitution carried to Congress by pro-slavery representatives, "just from pure cussedness," but from that preponderance of selfishness which everywhere characterizes the great majority of human beings who, from habit arising out of their own wants and necessities, must think first for themselves and after that for others. From mere selfishness, they could not brook slavery within their own borders, but they wanted to be citizens of a State and sovereign over their own local affairs, and knowing that slavery was dominant in the general government, they must present as few points of antagonism as possible to the powers that be, so that their prayer for admission might be speedily realized. Besides, they wanted appropriations for their harbors and rivers and coast defenses, and none of these were likely to be answered when presented by men opposed to their system. Of course this was pure selfishness, but it was a reasonable and defensi206 T. W. Davenport. ble selfishness to all but a few. Still, with all such sugar- coating and the patriotic zeal of the compromisers, the admis- sion was harrowing and long delayed, and, very likely, if it had r]oi been for the financial inducements contained in the gift to Texas of ten millions of dollars for the little piece of territory incorporated in New Mexico, whereby Texas scrip, mainly held in the South and much of it by Southern Con- gressmen, was raised from a nominal price to par, the Cali- fornia Constitution would have been sent back to the people. Southern men did not like to abandon their dream of work- ing the "placers" with their slaves. And California as a free State was almost unbearable— the very filching away from them of the coveted fruits of the Mexican war. They were more rational than the despondent Freesoilers, for they saw^ that with California free and covering with Oregon the entire Pacific Coast, all north of 36 deg. 30 min. protected by the compromise of 1820, and New Mexico, in the language of Webster, "free by God's ordination," the prospect of main- taining the balance of powder and the control of the national government while the Union lasted and their ambition of empire after its dissolution, was reduced to very narrow limits. In truth, the question of the extension of slavery was settled, for there was no more territory to fight over, if con- ditions then existing were to continue. That this was a true view of the situation has been proved by much that has oc- curred since, and that the Northern electorate saw it, is shown by the presidential election of 1852, in which there was an almost complete collapse of the Freesoil party as compared with the vote of four years before, notwithstanding that co- lossal blunder of Southern statesmen, the Fugitive Slave law. If it had been entitled "an act to fire the Northern heart" it would have fitly expressed its operation. The territorial aspects of the extension question, the only one that ever involved the feelings and interests of any con- siderable portion of the Northern people prior to 1850, could be easily calculated by reference to a sectional map after the settlement of that year. No amount of prejudice or partiality Slavery Question in Oregon. 207 for North or South could blind the eyes to the facts in the case, v'hich were as easily comprehended as that 2 plus 2 make •4, for it was simply an arithmetical computation. Even sup- posing that Daniel Webster was wrong and that God's natural ordinances did not Avork against slavery and that all South of the line of 36 deg. 30 min. north latitude were given to it, yet that portion of territory already dedicated to freedom would overbalance it more than five to one, and no prospect of adding another foot of soil to serve as a bone of contention for th^ rival hosts of freedom and slavery. Both of them saw it. and but for that kidnapping statute and the subsequent infidelity of the repeal of the Missouri Compromise, agitation of th'^' slavery question would have been confined to the non- political moral suasion of the Garrisonians. Mr. Lincoln's soothing vision of the time "when the public mind could rest in the belief that slavery in the United States was in the course of ultimate extinction" would have been realized. For there is not a doubt that slavery, surrounded, overmatched, reduced to a minority in the government and incapable of rewarding its supporters, thus alienating from it that all- too- numerous class of politicians who would serve either God or Mammon for the sake of place and power, there is not a doubt that under such conditions chattel slavery would succumb to the stern competitive grind of civilization. This view of the case was generally held by the more sagacious class of the Southern ultras and urged by them as a reason for secession. Toombs, Wigfall, Jefferson Davis, Breckinridge saw it, and saw also that their Northern allies were agitators for self and when trouble came would shirk consequences. At the presidential election in 1852, the Whig party ex- perienced the worst defeat ever known in the history of the country, of which Mr. Greeley wrote, Never before was there such an overwhelming defeat of a party that had hoped for success." The Whig candidate. General Scott, received only 42 of the 296 electoral votes. Mr. Greeley attributes much of this disparity to the votes given to the Freesoil candidates. Hale and Julien, but their vote was 135,517 less than the vote 208 T. W. Davenport. of that party four years before, while the increase of the Democratic vote rose to 381,312 and that of the Whigs to 25,838, or about one-fifteenth as much. There were good reasons for the change, however, and Mr. Greeley, while not giving them in causative terms, sums up the matter by saying, "whatever else the election might have meant, there was no doubt that the popular verdict was against slavery agitation and in favor of maintaining the com- promise of 1850. ' ' On the face of things, there was no slavery question between the two great parties that year. The terri- torial question had been settled if law or compromise could settle anything. Both parties had solemnly resolved in favor of maintaining the compromise of 1850, and had as em- phatically pledged themselves against any form of agitation, in or out of Congress. And the candidates had also given personal pledges to the same effect. But it was well known that the great Northern Whig leaders, while uniting in the compromise for the sake of peace with the Southern brethren, had not abated a jot or tittle of their anti-slavery sentiments ; besides, Mr. Seward, then the acknowledged leader of the Northern wing of the Whig party, was the promulgator of the irrepressible conflict doctrine and its remedy the abolition of slavery, neither of which many thousands of Whigs took stock m. And for confirmation of their opinion, they pointed back to the time when the two sections of the Union dwelt together in harmony by attending each to its own local affairs, and now that the territorial question was out of the way, they could see no reason why there might not be a repetition of the good old times and a long era of good feeling. Such people could not understand why a freesoiler or abolitionist could not "stop his yawp" and quit helping runaway "nig- gers" as easily as a man could put on or off his coat. To say that such people are dullards and that the class is nu- merous, might be pungent, but it does not bring out the fact that human beings do not see the truth until their eyes are opened and turned towards the light, and that the predomi- nance of generous impulses is effected only after many trials Slavery Question in Oregon. 209 and continuous discipline. At the election in 1852 the "don't- cares" were quite numerous, and for all such, and that other class of Northern people who were willing to accommodate the Southern aggressors in all their demands, no doubt their proper place on election day was with the Democratic party, which was untinctured by any such heresies as conscientious scruples upon the question of slavery. The newly elected President, Franklin Pierce, in his in- augural address, and later in his first message, reiterated his pledge against slavery agitation in the following words, to- wit: "that this repose is to suffer no shock during my official term, if I have power to prevent it, those who placed me here may be assured." It must be remembered that the slave- holding interest, by its agent, the Democratic party, and all pledged against a renewal of agitation, were in undisputed control of the Federal Government in all its departments. And yet, notwithstanding all pledges by party or person, or of compromises, at the first session of Congress in the Pierce ad- ministration, began the work of repealing the Missouri Com- promise, and by the very men and the party who had lulled the country to sleep by false promises. It was in truth a bold stroke, but from the previous success of the aggressors in quieting Northern repugnance, they were sure of ultimate acquiescence in any scheme they might undertake. Upon the plea of a repartition of territory between slavery and free- dom, or that the Constitution carried the institution there be- cause of its being joint property, the repeal could not have made any headway even in that Democratic Congress, but the plea of leaving the question to the people of each ter- ritory, to be settled by themselves, was not only plausible but flattering to the self-sufficient pride of men who had set at defiance mountains and deserts and won the West. Stephen A. Douglas was wise in this, but probably blind to the result of arraying the same selfish motives against an in- stitution which every common-sense man knows is against the general interest, and that only a few can be privileged. He and the Southern representatives, without doubt, believed 210 T. W. Davenport. that Kansas, with the aid of Missourians and the official power and patronage of the general government, would be- come a slave State and a barrier to the extension of freedom southward. But both parties to that opinion were in error, and while the Supreme Court might come to the rescue of the South and legalize slavery in all the territories against the wall of their inhabitants, Mr. Douglas could not abandon his squatter sovereignty doctrine without being abandoned by his Northern constituents and losing his seat in the United State Senate— in a word, becoming a political bankrupt. That w^as a dramatic moment when Mr. Seward, standing in his place in the Senate, after the repeal, uttered his accept- ance and prophecy, in these words: "Come on, gentlemen from the South ; we accept your challenge to contest with you for freedom on the soil of Kansas, and may God give the victory to those w^ho are stronger in numbers as they are in right." If the upholders of the peculiar institution had not been blind they would have recognized in this declaration the hand- writing on the wall, and the doom of slavery, for they had taken the question out of the domain of compromise and diplomacy and referred it to a trial between nineteenth cen- tury civilization and the ancient barbarism, between the unprivileged many and the privileged few. They had made an analogous mistake to that of the abolitionists, who put all their .^aith on moral suasion. They, on the contrary, had been living so long wdthout reference to the ten command- ments and the Golden Eule that they had ceased to regard men as actuated by any other than selfish motives; and, indeed, from their long continued success in ruling the North through its appetite for the loaves and fishes, their blunder may not be wondered at. And they expected to have like success in Kansas by means of the Federal patronage and other con- nivance of the general government. But they miscounted; they left out the Puritan, John Brown, who would make slavery hazardous, yea, impossible, and that he was the natural and normal counterpart of the Yankee who would Slavery Question in Oregon. 211 make freedom profitable. Altruism and egoism were co- partners against slavery, the first time in the history of the American commonwealth. And the issue was at no time doubtful. In view of all the foregoing facts showing the progressive nature of the Southern demands and the success attending them, and also of the after occurrences in the Kansas conflict, involving the Federal administration, the philosophical stu- dent may find difficulty in accounting for the events without reducing the better qualities of human nature to a very low estimate, so low indeed as to be in conflict with the private characters of the principal factors in them. There is scarcely a doubt that Franklin Pierce was sincere in his declared in- tention of opposing a renewal of slavery agitation which he pledged himself to resist with all his power, and yet he signed the congressional enactment repealing the compromise of 1820 without a word of protest so far as is Ipiown, and when his veto w^ould have effectually blocked the measure without a hope of its renew^al. Pierce was a native of New Hampshire, college-bred, experienced in public affairs, honorable in all his dealings, and stood high among his fellow citizens. So there is no plea of ignorance for him. Bfe knew that the repeal of the compromise would be regarded all over the North as a most flagrant breach of good faith and raise popular excitement to an unprecedented degree, if not to produ.ce civil war. Moreover, the officers he appointed to administer the affairs of the territory were in sympathy with the Southern purpose of making Kansas a slave State, though some of them became disgusted at the pro-slavery lawlessness and joined the free-state cause. And later, when James Buchanan became President, the same lawless spirit ruled during his administration, to which he contributed his en- dorsement by recommending to Congress the forcing of the fraudulent Lecompton Constitution upon the people of Kan- sas. And yet Mr. Buchanan was more learned, more experi- enced, stood higher as a private citizen and in public confi- dence than Franklin Pierce. 212 T. W. Davenport. And the same fate which befell them involved the Demo- cratic party of the North. Sooner or later the organization went down before the slave-holding wing and adhered to it by the cohesive power of public plunder. We cannot recon- cile the private characters and political actions of the great body of citizens involved in the monstrous recrudescence of chattel slavery in the United States without treating it as a barbarism too ponderous and overwhelming for average hu- manity to resist. And further, we must consider that for over half a century it had been gradually intruding itself into the framework of our government, and through its control had been the dispenser of the immense patronage as rewards for subservience. Also must be included that blind, impul- sive, incalculable force, called party spirit, which Washington considered the chief menace to the perpetuity of republican institutions, and that other motive, the fear of disunion, and n^] become habits of thought and feeling. This disparity between private and public conduct of the same individual has been remarked a great many times and it is not peculiar to the American people. Bismarck ob- served it in Germany, and though he w^as considerably an- noyed by the fact that a good private character was not a sure guide to political conduct, he offered no explanation of the variance. Nearly every one who speaks of it seems to be puzzled, as though we should expect man to be consistent under all circumstances. That, however, is placing too high an estimate on human nature. Only a few are amenable to self-imposed bonds and a law unto themselves, and only trial will reveal them. Looking upon human conduct as a resultant depending upon circumstances, the cynic says, "every man has his price," meaning thereby that every one can be turned out of the path of rectitude by the enticements of power and gain, which is so often true that the tribe of cynics will not perish. But there are many, let us hope, whom money or power cannot buy. Not all who are taken up into the moun- tain and tempted by the Devil fall down and worship him. Slavery Question in Oregon. 213 To the countryman who asked Thoreau why he did not fall in with the procession following the band of music, he replied, that is not the music I hear." And there are others who hear the higher class music, though the majority hear the music of the street and join the noisy, thoughtless procession. It should be remembered, while viewing this question, that in the private walks of life the energies of men are devoted to the production of wealth, which is distributed among the factors producing it, and while the distribution may not be according to the rule of absolute justice, owing to our de- fective social state, still there is the maxim that every one is entitled to what he produces, and, in practice, an approxima- tion to rewarding every one according to his works. So, there may be prizes but no blanks. For inequalities in wages, there ,<^hould be no complaint, when opportunities are equal, for such is the order of nature; that those who sow should reap, and those who would not plow in spring by reason of the cold should beg in harvest and have nothing. ' ' In this primal law of nature which entitles man to the fruits of his industry, and the other, no less primal, which impels him to satisfy his wants with the least exertion, we have the duplex key to progress and prosperity in every de- partment of human endeavor and in society as a whole. It is also in the line of least resistance as respects conformity to ethical principles. There may be competition for preference in the market to be obtained only by superiority in the qual- ity of goods, industrial products, but such is unavoidable, indeed, desirable, for it is the working out in practice of the laws heretofore expressed, the negation of which would de- stroy the incentive to individual exertion and therefore of im- provement. Does not any defensible idea of justice consist in equal freedom and equal access to the bounties of nature, and of course a free market in which chicanery has no permanent standing ? And such relations are automatic in their nature. The fittest survive ; the fraudulent is expelled ; and hence the con- stant converging tendency to square dealing and open, abovc- 4 214 T. W. Davenport. board methods. It is in this school, where the kindly and fraternal virtues are at premium and rascality at discount, that men get their reputation or private character as mor^] beings. Politics, on the other hand, is the reverse of indus- trialism in all essential particulars. In the first place, politics, though productive of great strenuosity, is nor a wealth-producing but a wealth-consuming employment. There is no distribution, for there is nothing to divide. There are prizes to be won, the emoluments of office, and while there ai'e many contestants, only a few can be chosen. And the nature of the contests admits of much diplomacy — in plain terms, secrecy, cunning, tergiversation. And as there is mutual suspicion of the employment of such methods, the tende.icv is from bad to worse. And when the contest is betwaeii political parties, the whole population is segregated into antagonistic groups animated by a partisan spirit which gives but little heed to the general welfare. Political parties are a natural evolution from the differ- ences of opinion among the people, as to the principles and policies which should govern in the conduct of the govern- ment, and as such issues must be determined by majorities in a pop^ilar count, it has been the practice in the United States to put the government into the possession of the candidates of the party winning at the polls— a custom as vicious as un- necessary, except as to those few offices involved hy the policies upon which the contesting parties differ. Thp grear number of merely executive offices, more than nine-tenths of all the offices in the general government, and a gr^atc-r proportion of those in the State governments, are wIidII/ un- affected by the incumbents' political opinions. A collector of customs must obey the law, whatever the duty, or whether he leans to protection or free trade. And the post master performs his legal duty whatever may be the shadi of his politics. Considering the vast patronage and power at issue in a political contest, there is nothing strange that the parties to it, animated by the war cry, "to the victors belong the spoils," Slavery Question in Oregon. 215 soou become to a great extent a compact and mercenary or- ganization. And this result comes, not because all or a ma- jority of partisans are demented or corrupt, but from various other causes. Some have over-confidence in those fillin.;^ places of control; some adhere from mere partisan spirit or prejudice, like the great Dr. Samuel Johnson, Avho was s » much of a Tovy that he would not admit that a Whig coul:i be honest. Some follow the partisan standard because their fathers did; some from inability to part with their political associates; others from memory of the party's past good record and the hope that, though it may sometimes go wrong, it will be nearer right on the average than its opponent. Some fall in from sheer habit or the pride of being rated as reliable and not subject to the stigma of being a vacillator"— "a quitter. ' ' But among all these, and holding them in line, are the shrewd, ambitious, unscrupulous self-seekers, encouraging the weak, chiding the skeptical, holding out prospects to the aspiring, succoring the needy and infusing a blind party spirit into the whole mass. And this conglomeration of patriots and purveyors was the only avenue to government employment, and subservience to it the prime qualification for promotion. At first, a voluntary organization intended to be a service- able adjunct to government, by the performance of necessary functions, such as the public discussion of mooted questions, the dissemination of knowledge pertaining to public affairs, the ascertainment and carrying into execution the will of its members, all this and much more that a political party could and should do in the promotion of the general interests; but through the corrupting influence of the bribery system which is the natural ally of privilege, degenerated into a mere tool of class interests. In a party so constituted and governed there was no en- couragement to independent thought and action with an eye single to the public welfare. Continuous and unbroken servility was sufficient. The individual, unless powerful enough to control, was suppressed, and strange to say that 216 T. W. Davenport. this was the kind of party supposed to be normal to our form of government. There is no better evidence of the predomi- nant selfishness of those in control of the great political parties than the admission by them that political parties are impracticable without official rewards for partisan service. Certainly such parties could not survive a change of that character, and well they could not, for the government dis- sociated from the spoils system would become responsive to the g^^neral interests and the people being emancipated from partisan control and freed from partisan employment would exercise their faculties in the solution of social problems and striving for improvement. I have deemed it proper to dwell at some length on the nature and tendency of political parties as they have existed in the United States, in order to account for the astounding discrepancy between the conduct and character of men as private citizens engaged in productive industry, and their doings as partisans. That while in matters and things non- partisan, as neighbors and fellow citizens, they are com- municative, candid, kindly, reciprocal and regardful of the general interests, yet they seem to think it proper, when en- gaged in works called political, to do whatever is necessary to maintain or promote party supremacy, which in practice means to yield obedience to the controlling powers of the party. And though they may admit that some things done by the party or individuals of the party may be wrong, yet their party is better than its opponent, and in general main- tain the maxim "our party right or wrong." And especially is it -desirable to think of this aspect of life when viewing the attitude of the largest portion of the Oregon people, with ref- erence to the slavery question after its reopening by the repeal of the Missouri Compromise in 1854, and the injection of the squatter sovereignty doctrine into American politics by the over-ambitious "Little Giant," Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois. After a long and extensive acquaintance with the Oregon pioneers, I am constrained to declare them an exceptionally Slavery Question in Oregon. 217 good people, hospitable, social and fraternal to a marked degree, as well as being resolute and public-spirited. That the known perils of the overland journey had a selective ef- fect in bringing to this coast a strong and virile population, I think is evident, and the four to six months' journey amidst extraordinary trials, and the communal life incident thereto, disrobed them of social shams to a great extent and made them all kin. There is another consideration, until now unmentioned, that as a general rule the pioneers were people of moderate means and therefore unaffected by much dis- parity in wealth. During the Provisional Government, which ended in 1849, after the organization of the Territory by Congress, partisan politics were unknown in Oregon. There were some factional jealousies (hardly worth mentioning) on account of the Hudson's Bay Company, the missionaries and the worldlings, but the people got along and seemed to be intent upon doing the b^st they could with their own local affairs. Upon the arrival of General Lane, the first territorial Governor, who assumed control March 3d of that year, the segregation into Whigs and Democrats began to show itself. At the first election of Delegate to Congress, in the fall of 1849, national politics did not figure to any observable extent. There were five candidates, a sort of free-for-all race in which no one had a majority over all. Samuel R. Thurston, who w^as elected, ran on the issue of the missionary settlers against the Hudson's Bay Company. In the absence of the larger portion of the population in the gold mines, the vote was very light. Mr. Thurston received, 470 ; Columbia Lancaster, 321 ; Meek and Griffin, 46; J. W. Nesmith, 106. By the Tribune Almanac of 1850, Nesmith was rated as a Whig, but this was an error, as he and Thurston both were Democrats. Mr. Lancaster was a Whig and his vote, the next highest, might be considered a sample of the Whig strength at that date. There was no mention of negroes, bond or free, at this election. Although the slave power was dominant at Washington, the question of slavery as to Oregon, defended by a double proprohibition, one by the people and another by Congress, was such an apparent impossibility that they did not give it a thought. It was enough that a Democratic Delegate was elected to Congress and that Oregon bid fair to be a Democratic State. Besides, California at that time was adopting a free-state Constitution and hence the focal point of attention for Southern statesmen.
After the news of Thurston's death, which occurred on his way home from Washington, on the 14th of April, 1851, General Lane, who had resigned the office of territorial Governor, became a candidate by nomination for Delegate to Congress, and was elected in June by a large majority over his competitor, Dr. W. H. Willson, the nominee of the Mission party. Lane's majority, as given by Bancroft, was 1832 in a total vote of 2917. There is no record of any canvass by the rival candidates and no mention of political matters.
General Lane was a great favorite with the Oregon people, besides being known as an unwavering Democrat. In examining the course of the slavery issue in Oregon, I cannot properly omit to give an important place to General Lane. Not because he was active as an agitator, for I have no recollection or record of his writing a letter or making a speech pro and con during the pendency of the question. But it was well known that he was of Southern birth and lineage and in sympathy with and a promoter of the slave-holding interest. And in many important respects, General Lane was no ordinary man. Nature had been lavish in her gifts to him. He had an attractive and commanding personality, distinguished alike for an unoffending dignity and a kind and courageous spirit. Judge George H. Williams said he was a born politician: true, for he was a born leader of men. Not, however, as a doctrinaire and a promulgator of principles, but as a man of action, full to overflowing of bonhomie and a stalwart neighborship, as well as a ready and decisive judgment which, if not always sound, had the effect to inspire confidence and give him numerous and enthusiastic followers. His place by nature was at the front and he was adroit enough to take it, whether leading a column in defense of the weak when the war-whoop shook the nerves of the strong, or as the cynosure of a political campaign. What he did was assumed to be right, at least respectable, and his position with the slave-holding party, though he might not say a word or write a line, exerted a most pernicious influence upon that class of people who are not self -directed. In April, 1855, General Lane was nominated again by his party for Delegate to Congress. On the 18th of the same month ex-Governor John P. Gaines was nominated in opposition by a convention of Know-nothings and Whigs held at Corvallis. The Democrats adopted a platform of principles, but the members of the Corvallis convention did not deem it wise to make any declaration further than "John P. Gaines against the world." There were good reasons for such reticence, however, for Knownothingism was on the wane and the Whig party had passe into the shadow of slavery in the nation, and was losing its hold upon all those who had resolved to resist the further encroachments of the slave power. There were, too, many members of the Freesoil, abolition and temperance parties, who could not be rallied under any declaration in opposHion to their principles, but might vote in opposition to the Democracy.
Both candidates were good speakers and there was a spirited canvass, personal and partisan in the main, but no discussion of the paramount issues then before the country and in which the people of Oregon were vitally interested. The Kansas struggle had begun; the border ruffians had invaded the territory and carried the first election; the squatter sovereignty principle had swept away all barriers to slavery in the territories, thus reviving the question in Oregon, but upon all this or any part of it neither Lane nor Gaines ventured an argument or an opinion. Gaines was more fluent and graceful on the stump, in fact, was almost an orator, and quite gifted in the highly popular art of storytelling, in which his rival was deficient and seldom indulged, a disparity which gave the Whigs a lively hope of victory. 220 T. W. Davenport. But the result at the polls was a sore disappointment. Lane received almost twice as many votes, 3986 to 2149, a result, at this: distance of time, which I must think quite fortunate, as a different outcome would have been a temporary revival of the Whig party spirit and a postponement here of the real issue on which the Whigs refused to take sides as a party. Gaines was a Kentucky Whig Avhose opinions con- cerning slavery I never knew. As he was popular in his native State, likely he was of that indeterminate quality called conservative and discreetly silent upon the subject. As late as the spring of 1857 he was present at a meeting in Salem, publicly advertised to organize under the name Re- publican by the adoption of the Philadelphia platform, but at that time he was still desirous of pouring oil upon the troubled waters and had some resolutions prepared for that purpose. Being informed that the time for compromises had passed, the resolutions were not presented, and rather than precipitate a squabble which would have no better effect than to divide those who in the end would act together, the meeting was adjourned, without action, until the next Saturday, when the organization was effected, the ex-Governor being dis- creetly absent. So far as I have been able to learn, slavery was prohibited in Oregon without his help or hindrance, other lhan his vote. The year 1856 is an epochal date in American political history. Several things happened to make it memorable, and chief among them, perhaps, was the uprising of a majority of the Northern people against the further extension of slavery and a deliberate determination to resist it at all hazards. It was a righteous resolution long delayed and long after forbearance had ceased to be a virtue. The repeal of the Missouri restriction in the spring of 1854 stung thenx into resistance, and as anti-Nebraska Whigs, Democrats and Know-nothings, they elected enough members to control the next Lower House of Congress. Likely at that time they had no well-defined and continuous plan of action, save an im- pulsive purpose to resist a great wrong and if possible undo Slavery Question in Oregon. ' 221 it. But when the time arrived for the meeting of the Thirty- fourth Congress, the current of events had carried the country beyond any thought of repeal. Squatter sovereignty was in the ail" and had come to stay. Many who had risen in wrath against the Nebraska Iniquity" had become reconciled to Senator Douglas's great principle of non-intervention by Congress with the slaver}^ question and permitting the people of the territories to settle it as applied to themselves. It was plausible; it sounded fair, and if only the white people of the territory were to be affected by their decision, it was undoubtedly democratic. It was heralded by the Senator as a measure of peace, but the experiment in Kansas was not reassuring to the admirers of orderly government. It was not a peaceful experiment governed by democratic methods, but an armed invasion from the beginning and aided and abetted by the pro-slavery administration at Washington. Senator Douglas, though declaring that he did not care whether slavery was voted up or voted down, was in favor of fair play for the "bona fide" residents of the territory— The Little Giant" protested in vain; the giant of slavery, like Bunyan's, covered the whole way. Evidently, if the people of Kansas were to have fair play, or indeed the people of any other territory, the pro-slavery Democratic party must be driven from its place of power and the general government put into the hands of those who would administer it to estab- lish justice and promote the general welfare. As the Whig party was, at best, never more than non- committal upon the slavery question, and now, by the with- drawal of its anti-slavery elements and its dissensions con- cerning the Know-nothing delusion, was in the throes of dis- solution, there was no alternative left for anti-slavery men but to organize such a party with this single purpose in view. Accordingly a call was issued for a convention to be held at Pittsburg on Washington's Birthday, at which time a com- mittee was appointed to draft an address to the people of the United States, and another meeting appointed for the 17th of June, to be held in Independence Hall, Philadelphia. At 222 T. W. Davenport. this adjourned convention a platform was adopted and candi- dates nominated for President and Vice-President of the nation. The Democratic national convention met in Cincinnati on the 2d of June, when Senator Douglas's great principle of "squatter sovereignty" was for the first time formally adopted by the party, and James Buchanan, a pliant tool of the slave power, was nominated for President and John C. Breckinridge, a slave-holding propagandist, for Vice-Presi- dent. Evidently, they were not despairing of success in sub- jugating Kansas to slavery with such a ticket as that aiding the ' ' border outlaws, ' ' and there were some grounds for such hopes. Colonel Buford, with his regiment of South Carolinians and Georgians, had arrived upon the border, armed and equipped for invasion; Kansas was again overrun, Lawrence was sacked, some smaller places pillaged, a few murders com- mitted, when Governor Geary called a halt upon such pro- ceedings for fear of jeopardizing the election of the Demo- cratic ticket, which then seemed imminent. He publicly declared that he was carrying James Buchanan upon his shoulders and that the peace must be preserved (until after election.) The Know-nothings met m convention at Philadelphia on the 22d of February, at which Millard Fillmore was nomi- nated for President, and September the 17th, what was left of th« Whig party ratified the nomination at Baltimore. The issue of extension vs. non-extension was thus practically joined by the Republican and Democratic parties, with the opportunity afforded those who cling to reminiscences, of voting the trimmers' ticket, headed by Fillmore, who carried only one small State, Maryland. The canvass of that year was more earnest, searching, and provoking than any pre- ceding one, and on the part of the Republicans, brim full of enthusiasm. Genuine enthusiasm is whole-souled and there- fore involves the moral feelings. And the question before the people was one that took in all of man's attributes and aspirations, industrial, social, political and religious; and as Slavery Question in Oregon. 223 slavery is a menace to all of them and a bar to human progress, it is easy to see how void of material for evoking enthusiasm the covert advocates and apologists of slavery were in that notable and inspiring revival of 1856. They were, from the first, completely on the defensive. Indeed, slavery never had any defense except the fact of its existence and the difficulties in the way of its abolition, and when its supporters left this ground and desired its extension, they placed themselves in destructive antagonism to our form of government. To the allegation of the Republicans that slavery is a relic of barbarism and an outlaw in the domain of morals, no reply could be given by the supporters of Buchanan and Fillmore. Senator Douglas did not defend the institution; the most he could say was that he did not care whether it was voted up or voted down by the people of the territories. What he and the Democrats were contending for was the squatter sover- eignty method of settling the vexing question, and thus avoid- ing a dissolution of the Union. The arguments of both Whigs and Democrats were addressed to the fears and prej- udices of the Northern people, and they laid great stress upon the fnct that the Republican party was a sectional party, as though it were a condition the Republicans desired and for which they should be held accountable, instead of its being the direct and inevitable result of, and the severest indictment of the diabolical institution they were coddling. At this time, and looking backward, does it not seem incredible that a man of education and admitted refinement, a former President of the United States, could make such a denunciation and keep his face? Heated partisans might do it, or people not given to thinking, but that it should be adopted as a war cry, among an intelligent people, is almost past belief. Certainly it was a sectional party and Avhereforel Even accepting the Dred Scott decision, that the negro is not a citizen, not a man, and the Constitution did not rec- ognize him as anything more than a chattel, yet it cannot be even supposed that white men must surrender their rights 224 T. W. Davenport. and liberty in order to protect and extend such an exceptional institution. But this the white man of the South did con- tinually and in increasing degree. To keep the negro safely ignorant, he must be ignorant himself. He must not talk of freedom, though living in a professedly free country. The hopes and aspirations of the human soul for deliverance from degrading conditions here must be eliminated from his pray- ers. At a period of the world's history when the human mind everywhere was engaged in the investigation of the practical problems of society, he isolated himself from the civilization of the nineteenth century. And if he chafed under such degrading restrictions and availed himself of the United States mails to become acquainted with the problems which most concerned him, he was reminded by the blazing contents of rifled mail bags, or the more grating tone of brute force, that the interests of slave-holders were paramount to the Con- stitution and laws of the Federal government. The incidental necessities arising out of the relation of master and slave were above and beyond all statutes and constituted the higher law of the slave code. Wendell Phillips once exclaimed, "Commonwealth of Vir- ginia! what a misnomer; it is a chronic insurrection." And such was the fact all over the South. The courts and legis- latures of those States preserved some outward show of respect to th^^ conscientious opinions of mankind, for they did not by statute and decision formally extinguish the white man's liberty, but they did not constitute the repressive agencies by which society was dominated. The mob was everywhere present and ever supreme. For the trial of those accused of being abolitionists, the higher law applied, and the mob was the court of first and last resort, whose acts, however atroci- ous, the lawful agencies of government never attempted to contravene, much less to punish. At the time of the John Brown raid at Harper's Ferry, there was no ray of hope for any amelioration of social con- ditions in that benighted region. The moral lights of which Henry Clay and Abra,ham Lincoln delighted to speak, had Slavery Question in Oregon. 225 been blown out. The church, though at times admitting the relative duties of master and slave (servant), had no words of condemnation for that system of bondage practiced by its members, which destroyed the holy relations of husband and wife, parent and child, and reduced the bondman to the status of a brute. The colleges and schools were upon the same level. The doctrines of the revolutionary fathers had been ji long time recanted and in their place was essayed the monstrous proposition, freshly canonized by the highest tribunal in the nation, that the negro had no rights which the white man was bound to respect. Our Southern brethren had molded the church, the school, and their State governments to conform to and uphold their pet institution, and signified their Avillingness to destroy the Union when it could be no longer used to promote their peculiar interests. In this respect the South, as a political, economic and social force, was solid. Vice-President Breckinridge could go into the free States and plead the compromises of the Constitution and Southern rights under them, but the Republican who went South to organize a Fremont Club would be considered reckless as to his personal safety. This was well known and consequently no attempt was made to contest the election in the slave States. But one man in the State of Kentucky, Cassius M. Clay, had the audacity to speak against slavery, and he bore the scars of many a bloody conflict. If slavery were to continue, our Southern brethren were not wrong in their means of continuance, for the system was founded in fraud and force and inseparable from them. The symbols of such a civilization were properly the bludgeon, scourgfe, gibbet, bowie knife and revolver. All this was as well under- stood m 1856 as now, but there were enough citizens of the North, actuated by fear or partisan spirit, to continue the Democratic party in power. Anti-slavery men were much pained by the defeat of Fremont, but after-occurrences rec- onciled them to that dispensation of Providence as being for the best. Neither the man nor the time had arrived for the 226 T. W. Davenport. dreaded arbitrament of war, the only possible solution of the question at issue. This retrospect is not indulged as being new to history, but as a side-light to the situation in Oregon at that time, whose people were in far more danger of the introduction of slavery among them than the people of Kansas were at any time. True, they were not harassed by any border ruffian invasion or any flagrant interference of the Washington ad- ministration, but their apathy or rather their slavish subservi- ence to party discipline was truly appalling. There was no election for President in the Territory in 1856 ; no lining up for the war of ballots, and therefore a good time for the people to consult together dispassionately regarding their mutual interests. But upon the great ques- tion which was profoundly agitating the nation, and especi- ally as applicable to themselves, they were (with such excep- tions as will be hereafter mentioned) as silent and uncom- municative as though such matters were light and trifling, or did not at all concern them. It must be kept in mind that more than three-fifths of the Oregon people were partisan Democrats, and as it was known that they were divided in opinion upon the question of slavery in Oregon, although they were united in support of the pro-slavery propaganda at Washington, it was the policy of the party managers not to permit any discussion of the question here, and take no party action whatever. Of course this appeared to be the only rational way to keep the party together. An outside ob- server, given to thinking, and assuming that Democratic peo- ple were sane, would infer at once that the party was held together to subserve some more important purpose than deciding whether Oregon should be a free or slave State, and he would inquire, WhatV No doubt he would be some- what puzzled in his quest for the what." Tariff, internal improvement by the general government, strict construction of the Constitution, national bank, compromises concerning slavery— or anything the party had ever professed— all had disappeared, swallowed up by the one over-shadowing quesSlavery Question in Oregon. 227 tiou, vshall slavery be extended or restricted^ And to this the party in Oregon and nearly all of its individual members, in its application to themselves, and over the great, grand region they inhabited, were non-committal, mum— yea, as silent as the grave. And this partisan program of silence was generally accepted by the rank and file of the party. No conventions were called to consult, as is deemed necessary to promote whatever else is desirable; no public or private dis- cussion of the question so far as is known. They would not take opposition newspapers, attend free-state meetings, or tolerate questioning upon the subject by their free-state neighbors, at least if they were of different political ante- cedents. Those who had the temerity to inquire were, as a rule, answered uncivilly. One prominent and influential Democrat, upon being asked if he intended to vote for a slave State, asked in return, "Do you think I am a damned fool ? ' '* This was reassuring and if all would have answered in the same way, a census would have been practicable. But another one replied, "Why don't you Black Republicans stay at home and attend to your own business?" And this question about voting for a slave State was not put to these silent partisans to hector or tease them, but from a deep anxiety of the questioners as to the future condition of the State in which they had chosen to reside, had encountered great perils to reach, and from which they must emigrate provided slavery should be adopted. And, indeed, there were good 'grounds for their fears, other than the studied reticence of a majority of the people, before spoken of. Some pro- slavery Democrats, confident of the approval and patronage of the Washington administration, would not be silenced and were ^^ctive advocates, by speech and press, of their opinions. And they were far more numerous than those Democrats of free-state proclivities who dared speak out. And of these latter some would say, "I shall vote against slavery, but if it carries I shall get me a 'nigger.' " Add to all these the fact ♦Wesley Shannon. 228 T. W. Davenport. of the p-ront donations of land by the general government, section and half -section claims occupying the valleys of the richest portion of the Territory, and the scarcity and high price of labor, and we may not wonder at their anxiety. They had undoubtedly read in their histories of the frequent attempts of the settlers in Indiana Territory to obtain from Congress a temporary suspension of the anti-slavery ordinance of 1887, so they could obtain laborers to open their timbered farms, but the pioneers of Indiana were restricted in their land holdings as compared with the Oregonians. And it is a highly suggestive circumstance, contrasting strangely with the attitude of the powers at Washington in the year 1856, that John Randolph, a slave-holder of Virginia, wrote the answer denying their request, in part as follows: "In the salutary operation of this sagacious and benevolent restraint, it is believed that the inhabitants of Indiana will, at no very distant day, find ample remuneration for a temporary priva- tion of labor and of emigration. ' ' And one feature of our situation, more disquieting than all others, was the extreme partisanism evinced by the chief organ of the Oregon Democracy, The Oregon Statesman, which, though non-committal in its editorial columns and sparingly permitting communications, pro and con by promi- nent Democrats, yet was engaged so incessantly in a personal, partisan warfare with opposition papers devoted to the free- state cause, thereby subordinating all other questions of a political nature, that its influence must have been to obscure the only issue and befog the voters in its own party. Its editor and owner, Mr. Asahel Bush, an able and educated gentleman from Massachusetts, probably did not as a first choice select that style of journalism, but when it is deter- mined by the party managers to ignore great public questions that are pressing for solution, the so-called "Oregon style" seems to be a necessary diversion. At such times, slang and innuendo, invective and scurrility, are much in demand, and the Oi^egon editors on both sides were deep in the game. The question, "who began it?" was never asked and probably Slavery Question in Oregon. 229 never will be, as it is unanswerable. Though Mr. Bush, by reputation, was a free-state man, and his paper neutral editorially, yet on account of its great circulation and auto- cratic influence, its course during those critical times gave great anxiety to the radical opponents of slavery. In truth The Statesman was intensely feared and hated by them. Pre- sumabh^, many harsh judgments were formed concerning the editor of The Statesman— one of them, that he was following the lead of Senator Douglas and like him did not care whether slavery was voted up or voted down, so that his party sur- vived the agitation. Of this, however, his opponents did not know. Others, more favorably disposed, conjectured that he had secretly polled his party and knew there was no danger from slavery. Of this they were equally ignorant. But certain it was, that he followed the trend and custom of the times, that of putting party before country, and thus revers- ing the rational order and purpose for which parties are formed, viz. : as means to an end, and that end the establish- ment of justice and securing the blessings of libertj) to all the people. Mr. Bush was a young man during those times. Indeed, it was a young generation and did not thoroughly comprehend that mere party spirit is the principal menace to popular institutions, or, as Abraham Lincoln expressed it, a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. They had not heeded the warnings in Washington's farewell address to his countrymen, and were given over, intoxicated by the esprit dii corps, to a control which was antagonistic to every principle of genuine democracy. As an illustration let me cite the case of a Connecticut-born Yankee, a local politi- cian of considerable repute and withal a hater of slavery, who, in a speech made at Salem to a Democratic assembly, used the following language : "The paramount duty of Democrats now is to stick together, for I never expect to see anything good come outside of the Democratic party."* This declaration was loudly cheered and met with no dissenting voice. And ♦Ralph C. Geer. 230 T. W. Davenport. this T>ian was neither a fool nor a moral derelict, but an intel- ligent and, in all matters non-political, a fraternal and highly sympathetic neighbor, whose ancestors were of New England and I'endered efficient service in the upbuilding of the Ameri- can commonwealth. He was as good as his forbears, and his only misfortune, that he was saturated to blindness by the spirit of party which The Oregon Statesman was then aggra- vating. Less than four years later, his party went to pieces on the question of slavery extension, for squatter sovereignty had proved to be a delusion and a snare to the propagandists, and they would have no more of it. Somewhat silenced by this event, he, with about two-fifths of his fellow partisans, stuck to the squatter sovereignty wing and met defeat along with their leader. Senator Douglas. Then came secession and the question of Union or disunion, when he had no alternative but to merge himself with the Republicans or go out with the South. Certainly, this was no dilemma, for every impulse and instinct of his nature had ever been for the whole country, one and indivisible. Thousands of Oregon Democrats were likewise impelled, but while they were ardent to support the administration of Lincoln, they could not bear the humiliation of accepting the name "Republican," to which they had so unfailingly attached the stigma "black," that they were under an automatic necessity of continuing them as one word. In this crisis, the Republicans of Oregon vindicated their title to patriotism by dropping the party name under which they had triumphed at the polls, and inviting their fellow citizens of whatever politics to unite with them under the simple and fitly describing appellation, the Union party. A few Re- publicans resented such surrender as a humiliation, and said, "the Democrats have been wrong and we have been right; let them come under our banner or remain out. ' ' But there was one conclusive, because rational, answer: "The Union is imperiled; all other questions are obsolete, and this is no time to be higgling about party names." The Republican State Central Committee, consisting of H. Slavery Question in Oregon. 231 W. Corbett, E. D. Shattuck and W. C. Johnson, issued a call for a Union State Convention, to be held at Eugene City on the 9th of April, 1862. A majority of the Democratic com- mittee refusing the invitation, the chairman, Samuel H'anna, joined in the call, likewise a majority of the influential Demo- crats of the State. Considering the depths to which partisan- ism had reduced them, this resurrection entitles them to membership in the class that cannot be fooled all the time. Returning from this digression to the year 1856, I wish to remark concerning the frequent attempts made therein to stir up the people to a realizing sense of the importance of the impending question. But the Whigs, though always more independent than the Democrats, with few exceptions, were loath to make any move having the appearance of a with- drawal from the party of Webster and Clay. These two greatest leaders had passed from earth; Seward, Greeley, Sumner and Lincoln had joined the new^ Republican party, but the Whigs of Oregon, Micawber like, were waiting for something to turn up, which would put new life into their glorious old party. They could be depended upon to vote against the Democrats and most of them would speak out in favor of a free State, but beyond this the majority would not move. They were under no such restraint as the Democrats, from ^ny liability of forfeiting their place in the Whig ranks. There was no proslavery Whig administration at Washington to punish them for utterances against slavery. If there had been, their party relations to the slavery question would have been very much altered. According to the theory of squatter sovereignty, a Democrat might vote for or against slavery, when a Territory is emerging to statehood; he could express his individual opinion by ballot at this time, but he could not promulgate it and give the reason for it or try to influence others and maintain his standing as a Democrat. If he did, he w^as thereafter considered a heretic, out of line of pro- motion or patronage, a punishment the dullest Democrat could feel and understand. Ouv Southern brethren were very sensitive as to the moral reputation of their beloved institution, and could bear anything better than to hear it called sinful and morally wrong, and if any Oregon Democrat in good standing was ever guilty of such an offense, during the years when the agitation was rife here, without losing caste, the incident has passed into oblivion and his name is unknown.
The foregoing estimate of the temper and attitude of the Oregon Democracy at that time I have sometimes heretofore expressed, and by some of them it was thought to be an extreme view of the situation, but such was my impression at the time, and after a lapse of fifty years, and the heat, and perhaps prejudice, engendered by the contest have passed with them, I am confident that my statement is rather under than in excess of the truth. The Hon. George H. Williams, at that time one of the Supreme Court judges, by appointment of President Pierce, and of course inclined to be lenient in his judgment as to his party and political brethren, in an address read before the Legislative Assembly, February 14th, 1899, on the occasion of its exercises commemorating the fortieth anniversary of the statehood of Oregon, spoke from manuscript, in part as follows:
"Whether Oregon should be a free or slave State, had now become (1857) the paramount issue in our local politics. A paper had been started at Corvallis, called The Messenger, to advocate the establishment of slavery in Oregon. I was a Democrat, but in early life imbibed prejudices against slavery that to some extent diluted my Democracy. Many of the most influential Democrats, with General Lane at their head, were active for slavery, and there was little or nothing said or done among the Democrats on the other side of the question. I prepared and published in The Oregon Statesman an address to the people, filling one page of that paper, in which I enforced, with all the arguments at my command, the inexpediency of establishing slavery in Oregon. I am not aware that any public speech or address was made on that side of the question by any other Democrat in the Territory. Many Democrats in private conversation expressed their opposition to slavery, but they spoke 'with bated breath and whispering humbleness,' for the dominating spirit in the Democratic party was favorable to slavery. I flattered myself, vainly perhaps, that I had a fair chance to be one of the first United States Senators from Oregon, but with this address that chance vanished like the pictures of a morning dream. I was unsound on the slavery question."
The address Judge Williams refers to was called by Whigs and Republicans, his "Free State Letter," and by ardent proslavery Democrats, his "Infamous Letter." Concerning it the silent Democrats were still silent. If the Judge ever received any congratulations from them, he has never said, but he got many curses from the enemy. The "Free State Letter" was an able and timely document, and there is no better evidence of its worth as a convincing argument, at that time and under the circumstances, than the malignity with which its author was assailed by the partisans of slavery. The moral tone of the letter was not up to the standard of anti-slavery men from ethical principles, and such were disappointed. Some of them, however, were sagacious enough to see that such a letter would have been inopportune. There w^as no word in that letter belittling the altruistic and moral qualities of human nature, and, forsooth, those in the minority who were governed by them, stood in no need of the Judge's demonstrations. And, as evidently, the rabid advocates of slavery were incorrigible. The Judge had lived long enough to know that the question would be decided by the unsentimental, common-sense people who would look at it from a practical standpoint and with special reference to their own personal interests. And this class, in varying proportion, constitute the great majority of human beings in every country and at all times. It was this preponderating element which the Judge expected to reach and prompt to a thoughtful examination of the practical phases of slavery in this country of mountains and valleys, sequestered and uninhabited nooks and canyons, affording hiding places at all seasons for fugitives from service and thus reducing the profits of cheap slave labor to a negative quantity. The Oregon country is far less adapted to slave labor than New Mexico, which Webster said was protected from slavery by the laws of God, for the climate here is unsuited to the negro and to the products of his profitable toil, all of which was made so plain in the Judge's letter that the wayfaring man, though a fool, could understand.
After the circulation of this address, any observing person could notice that a change was taking place; any sensitive person could feel it. The people for whom the address was intended were beginning to discover themselves and think aloud. And I assert that what is here written is no afterthought, but the result of inquiry and observation made at the time. The "Free State Letter" was published in the year 1857, July 28th; the question of State organization was carried at the June election; at the same time, delegates to a Constitutional Convention were elected and the convention submitted its work, to be voted on on the 9th of November following.
Passing up the valley through Lane County in October, I fell in company with Campbell Chrisman, whom I had not met since we started across the plains in the spring of 1851. He gave me a pressing invitation to go home with him for a night's visit, but I parried the invitation by pleading haste to reach Roseburg, where I expected to overtake an absconding debtor for whom I had signed to the amount of several hundred dollars. Mr. Chrisman said that his house on the Coast Fork road was not out of my way and a better one to travel. Finding myself out of excuses, I candidly told him my real objections to a night's talk, for knowing him to have been a slave-holder in Missouri and a, very firm, tenacious and unchangeable sort of character, I said, "Mr. Chrisman, there is no use asking me to go with you, for I am a free-state man and not convertible." He instantly replied, "So am I." I was rather taken aback by this disclosure and queried how this came about. He replied, "Easy enough, Judge Williams is right; slavery in this country would cost more than it would come to." After this we talked freely Slavery Question in Oregon. 235 and he informed me that several of his old neighbors from the Platte Purchase (Missouri) had changed their minds and would vote for a free State. He furthermore said that in his opinion Lane County would have gone for slavery six months earlier, but would not in November. At Roseburg, the home of General Lane and Judge M. P. Deady, whose influence, whether authorized or not, was in favor of the institution, I learned from a Reverend Anderson that the tide had turner^, and that he met with surprises eYevy day. In Rogue River Valley I was assured by my cousins that the tide was running out quite rapidly. The noisy slavocrats of Jackson County had been claiming that county for slavery, but many people were exercising their fancy in supposing the consequences that might ensue when runaway niggers should get with the Modoc and Klamath Indians. The picture was not agreeable. The people of Southern Oregon had had enough of Indian warfare. The aforementioned impediments to slavery exten- sion, as well as others, were brought to the front by the Judge, in plain straightforward and forcible language, which no doubt set the people to thinking more connectedly and com- prehensively thaji they otherwise would ; and while the effects of such a lesson in ratiocination may not be estimated with any ^^pp roach to accuracy, I am confident that it was the most timely and the most effective appeal published during the whole of the controversy. When arriving at this point in my dissertation, I sought in the several histories of Oregon for what had been written relative to the Judge's Free State Letter," but could find nothing. Neither the letter nor any descriptive mention of it is to be found in Bancroft's, though it is prolix, even redun- dant in things trivial by comparison. He records that a Republican convention was held at Albany on the 14th of February, just a short time before the said address came out, and really the most important meeting of Republicans, up to that time, as well as a cheering evidence that the anti-slavery cause was growing, but the influence of that gathering was not sufficient to put a candidate in the field in opposition to 236 T. W. Davenport. the Democracy. Republican conventions were in the right direction and therefore rational, but about all they could expect to accomplish was to enlist the waiting, backward Whigs in the movement. As vote-getters by proclamations and addresses, in time to be of service at the election on the Constitution, supposed to be near at hand, they were con- fessedly impotent. The Democracy were still impervious and would continue to be so against any of the devices of the Black Republicans. What was needed at this juncture was just what happened-— an earnest, thoughtful communica- tion Prom one who could not be accused of having any designs on the unity and harmony of the Democratic party. And Judge Williams, being free from entangling complicity with cliques and rings, as well as being the recipient of more general public confidence than any other Democrat, was certainly the right man in the right place. But if the supreme probl<^m at that time was to make Oregon a free State, and surely it was the most momentous crisis in its history, why has the letter been omitted by the historians? One man, in answnr to this query, said: "The Judge's letter was pitched on too low a key to suit the sensitive nerves of Mrs. Victor, who was Bancroft's Oregon historian." Thpre are a good many incidents and conditions that grate upon the nerves of a sensitive historian, but historians must not forget that average human nature, though progressive, is at present pitched on a low key. The great bulk of human motives and human actions are based on that key, and cannot be understood in their causal relations while the key-note is protested. Call altruism the high key and egoism the low key, but either alone is not the key of human nature and never will be. Either alone is abnormal; both combined are essen+ial and interdependent. Our moralists would have had Judge Williams say to his Democratic brethren, "The negro is a brother man and therefore entitled to equal rights with yourselves, and to make a slave of him is a sin and shame." How would that kind of preaching have told at the polls in November? The people of Oregon did not believe in such broad fraternity. A few of them did. Nothwithstanding Slavery Question in Oregon. 237 emancipation and the great advance of altruism since, the peoplv-^ of the United States do not believe it now. Some do. That ^ the best we can say. The moral protest against wrong is ever with us and ever in the minority, until the reflex con- sequences become damaging to self, then reformation begins. The slaughter of the negroes in Georgia seemed to be a tide without an ebb, until the bank clearances of Atlanta showed a decline of millions and other business was prostrated, then began a protest against injustice to the negro. So it ever is; we learn by experience that honesty is the best policy, and that the practice of injustice reacts upon ourselves. And that was all that Judge Williams tried to teach the Oregonians of 1857, and thus save them the expense and turmoil of experience. One of the Salem "clique," speaking recently of the reason for the omission of the Judge's "Free State Letter," or any descriptive mention of it by the writers of Oregon history, said it was because of its being only a campaign document in the interest of his candidacy for the United States Senate. Such an allegation, by an opponent of the Judge, might have answered a temporary purpose at that time, but at this late date H must be considered a humorous sally at the Oregon historians or a thoughtless remark scarcely deserving serious refutation. For it is not supposable that a person having the requisite accomplishments for writing history would leave out an important fact in the trend of events because the motive of it did not come up to his altruistic standard. If all human actions containing an ingredient of selfishness were to be excluded from history, its pages would consist mostly of blanks. True, there are actions free from selfish purpose— oh, how few! But there is no such history, and that society may consider itself far in advance where human actions are mixed half and half. Let us admit, as the Judge has, that he aspired to the United States Senate, and then inquire why his ambition should affect the value of such a document at such a time and in such a crisis. There is no question as to its pertinence, 238 T. W. Davenport. none as to its promoting the moral well-being of society, and none as to the right or propriety of an American citizen cherishing an ambition for political preferment and promot- ing it by laudable means. Indeed, can any one conceive of any better or higher bid for official honors than that a citizen has shown his loyalty to popular institutions by his conduct, by his acts, whether letters, speeches or public- spirited affiliations? If the Judge expected to advance his candidacy by becoming an open and avowed opponent of slavery extension, he was in a most profound state of ignor- ant as to the means of advancement in his party. He cer- tainly knew that party harmony was evssential to official pro- motion, and he also knew that silence on the slavery question and .•acquiescence in the doings of the pro-slavery admi];^istra- tion at Washington were absolutely essential to any sort of promotion in the Democratic party. He knew all this and was not such a child as envious aspirants in his own party affected to believe, viz., that he expected his "Free State Letter" to raise a tidal wave that would carry him triumph- antly to the Senate. Everybody who has seen Judge Williams, or has had any conversation with him, or has heard him speak, is impressed with the conviction that he is far removed from a fanatic or visionary, and when he wrote that "Free State Letter" in the summer of 1857, he was cognizant of the stupid silence of his brother Democrats and knew the reason for it. that it was to avoid dissension fatal to individual aspiration for advancement. The Judge was warned in advance by Mr. Bush, who was favorable to its publication, that it would "fix him," but despite the warning he per- formed a much-needed public service for which posterity will gratefully remember him, when the names of the obsequi- ously silent partisans shall have sunk into oblivion. Evidently the Judge was in error as to one purpose then, and which he essay<^d again in 1860, that was his hope or belief that his party could be weaned from slavery by working on the inside. Reforming political parties organized on the spoils system, by working on the inside, has been attempted several times since, Slavery Question in Oregon. 239 but nith no avail. In the number of The Oregon Statesman containing the Judge's letter (July 28th, 1857), Mr. Bush re- marked editorially as follows, to-wit: We publish a long letter from Judge Williams, on the slavery question, this week, but have room only to call attention to it. It is written in a spirit of inquiry and moderation, and if his facts and arguments do not convince the reader's judgment, the spirit and manner of this letter must command his approval." And still the inquiry. Why was this able and adroit letter omitted by the historians? Simply because— in the slang of the day— they did not "catch on." They did not maturely consider the causal relation of things. One of the very few exceptions in the rank and file of the Democratic paity I may mention was a lowland Scotchman from Newcastle upon Tyne, settled upon a section claim, some two or thi-ee miles south of Salem. Born to toil, he early began lucrative employment as a breaker-boy in the mines, later ^ mule driver underground, and, keeping pace with his physical powers, he rose to the work of a full-pay miner. To avoid strikes and lockouts he, in company with his father's family, emigrated to America in the year 1840, and finding the s-i-rike prevalent in Pennsylvania, worked his way west- ward and across the plains to the Oregon Territory in the year 1844. Like nearly all foreigners coming to this country, he joined the Democracy, under the mistaken notion that the party stood for real democracy. Up to the time when slavery became a question here and the party discipline of suppres- sion began, this adopted citizen experienced no interference with his opinions as to the duties of citizenship, of which by this time, as Mark Twain said of his own morals, he had accumulated a full stock. As a result of the closed season the pi^rty harness did not fit him even a little bit. Although his book education had not exceeded the three R's, he was an omnivorous reader and an incessant self -disciplinarian, and taking this along with his inheritance of the three B's— brain and brawn and Burns— he made an unreliable party slave. Indeed, what can be hoped for in such obedience from a man 240 T. W. Davenport. who enlivens his daily toil by "crooning o'er some old Scotch sonnet," believes that "a man is a man for a' that and a' that, ' ' whose chief delight is in working on the social environ- ment and who is satisfied with an equitable share of the usufruct? Well, John Minto, though at that time not a public character, as he afterwards became, did not speak his mind with "bated breath and whispering humbleness." Returning to the year 1856, I notice that a "Free State" meeting was held at Lebanon, Linn County, which I attended, and though the numbers were few, the exercises were high- class 9nd encouraging to those who have faith in the ultimate triumph of truth. John Connor, J. B. Condon and Hugh N. George were the principal speakers, and Mr. George delivered a prepared speech of an hour's length, which showed him to be capable of much excellence as a public speaker. This was the begmning of my acquaintance with those good men, and of more intimate and confidential relations with Mr. Connor (usually called Squire Connor), which continued until his demise half a century later. He was a man of positive and reliable character, of strong convictions, great firmness of purpose, sagacious and so much above wavering in moral and social conduct that he had a sort of unobtrusive contempt for.' the policy men who are ever trying to follow the line of least resist nee. He was bold to declare and defend his opinions, and even this early was impatient to nail the Republican flag to the mast and sail under no false colors. To a later meeting, held at Albany in the fall, he gave the cue in a trenchant fifteen-minute speech in which he said: "We unfurl our banner to the breeze inscribed, free speech, free labor, a free press, p. free state, and Fremont." Of course such a magnetic declaration could not be other than the voice of the conven- tion. Tf all the W^higs who later joined the Republican ranks had been of Mr. Connor 's ardent spirit, the party would have had an earlier and more strenuous nativity. Mr. Condon and Hugh N. George I seldom met, but I knew of them as unswerv- ing in their support of correct principles, and the latter I considered the ablest man in the county, and second to but Slavery Question in Oregon. 241 few in the State. He was not, as a speaker, as forcible as Delazon Smith, but in breadth of intellectual grasp and as an acute thinker he was much superior. One humorously cjmical citizen who was well acquainted with Mr. Smith's oratorical efforts, remarked that "Delusion" was a big gun on the stump but that, like big metal guns, he required to be load^^d to do effective work. He had observed that when Smith got from under the control of the "Salem clique" hi? speeches lacked pith and marrow. This was a rather severe animadversion, but others had observed a change without attributing a cause. There was, however, a probable reason, and it might have been this which I shall put in words. As a consequence of the break between Senator Douglas and the Buchanan administration, about the Lecompton Con- stitution, a silent cleavage was soon perceptible in the Oregon Democracy, General Lane and his friends (among them Delazon) taking the side of the administration, and the "Salem clique" et al. ranging with Douglas. It was in the main a rearrangement of the partisan units with reference to the new assumption of the extensionists, that slave property is protected in the territories by the Constitution, without consulting the squatter sovereigns. The two wings here con- tinued to act together for a short time, but in their private conferences were quite distinct. Delazon 's associates in the pro-slavery wing were a non-progressive sort of folk whose intellectual atmosphere was unfavorable to thought-laden oratory. Hence his decline. I here notice an unsuccessful attempt to organize the Re- publican party in Marion County, in the fall of the same year. The v^riter spent several days in a house-to-house visitation in the eastern part of the county, inviting those supposed to be favorable to the movement to attend at the Hunt school house on the 11th of October, which about thirty promised to do. On the day appointed six persons appeared— Paul Cran- dall, Orange Jacobs, Uice Dunbar, E. N. Cooke, Dr. Benjamin Davenport and T. W. Davenport, all of them whilom Whigs, but wise enough to see that a non-committal party has no 242 T. W. Davenport. excuse for existence. A very interesting conference ensued ; a committee was appointed to stir up the apathetic Whigs and invite them to attend the next meeting, but nothing fur- ther came of it. The secretary left out of his report, printed in The Oregon Argus, the name of Dr. Benjamin Davenport and omitted to state the place of meeting, which was credited to Silverton, seven miles distant, and it was so included by the Bancroft historian. The time was not ripe; but there was one consolation, the people sooner or later comprehend and move. There were three more at our meeting than attended Abraham Lincoln 's first meeting. He made the only speech on that occasion, and it was short and to the point. He said: "I knew that Hern- don would be here and I knew that I would be here, but the third person present is more than I expected. Now let us go out and talk to the people." It was sometime, however, and after much talking, that the people heeded the call and were able to, leave the old pro-slavery and non-committal parties. So it always is. Nothing short of an earthquake or some- thing similar can sunder the ties of an average partisan. The proposition to form a State government, submitted to the people by the Legislature of 1853, was defeated at the next June election by a vote of 869 ; submitted again in 1854, it was defeated in 1855 by a vote of 413 ; submitted again in 1855, it was defeated in 1856 by a vote of 249. It was sub- mitted again in 1856 and judging from the decline in the opposition to it, that it would carry at the next election, the Legislature provided that at the June election of 1857 dele- gates should be elected to the Constitutional Convention which should assemble at Salem on the second Monday of August next thereafter, in case the Constitution carried. The Terri- tory at that time had a population of about 45,000, not nearly enough to entitle it to one member of Congress, according to the ruling ratio, but the number of Democratic aspirants to office and the need of three more Democrats in Congress who would side with the South on all questions affecting the in- stitution, were of the necessities which knew no law. Slavery Question in Oregon. 243 Really the people were worn out by the incessant impor- tunities of the self-seeking politicians, and obtained an ease- ment by giving 5593 majority in favor of a State government. In the election of delegates to the Constitutional Convention, there was successful opposition to the Democrats in four counties, but not enough to speak of. The ratio stood about five to one. General Lane was again successful over his op- ponent, George W. Lawson, an independent Democrat of free-state proclivities, who was defeated by the usual majority. Mr. Lawson was a fluent and entertaining speaker and prob- ably polled the full strength of the opposition. He discussed a great number of topics, while the real issue was not brought to the front. In after years he affiliated with the Republi- cans, but in the main disappeared from politics in the practice of his profession, the law. There was one remarkable feature of the slavery agitation in Oregon preceding the vote upon the Constitution, and that was the lack of agitation. As one of the surviving Democrats remarked recently, There was not much agitation." Cer- tainly there was not, such as Wendell Phillips and Sam Lewis produced east of the Rocky Mountains. All parties assembled at their meetings; opposing ingredients are necessary to con- stitute an agitation. No such opportunity occurred here for reasons already stated. The number of Whigs who were willing to be known as Republicans was very small, and the papers in opposition to the Democracy, The Oregonimi and The Argus, had a very limited circulation, twelve or fifteen hundred each, taken mostly by the same persons, and therefore did not reach one-eighth of the people. And furthermore, of necessity their function w^as not so much agitation as segrega- tion. With them, as with The Statesman, the w^arfare in great part, w^as personal and partisan, a condition which may seem deplorable, but such was human nature in the nineteenth century and may be as much so in the twentieth. The Chinese are not entirely wrong when they thunder w^ith gongs to inspirit and increase their own numbers and distract their foes, and Americans acknowledge it when they 244 T. W. Davenport. try to drown the still, small voice of reason and conscience with the blare of brass bands and the hubbub of political parade. Noise and numbers everywhere have their uses in attracting the rabble, and the rabble vote in the United States. At the ballot box they count for as much as self- governing people, and, indeed, there is no visible line of demarcation between them. More than the rabble get into the bandwagon. They are of the people, and even in this country we are still quoting with more or less approval, ^'vox populi vox Dei/' which, properly translated, means that in republic the majority must rule. Human beings claim to be rational — many of them are, and their numbers are increas- ing, but too many from sheer indolence are carried along by the crowd, too many follow the successful bully and black- guard, too many are herded, like cattle, by a master, though his impaling horns are no more formidable than irony, sarcasm and invective. It was so in Oregon at the time of which we write, though it is less true now, and very likely if the Demo- cratic organ had been in the hands of a weak man the party would have suffered disintegration. But its editor was far from being a weak person. His talent for control was of a high order, as suited to his party and the time. A ready and trenchant writer, with an active and vigorous temperament, a taste and capacity for minute inquiry, a thorough knowledge of the inclinations and idiosyncrasies of his political brethrea, possessed of a vinegary sort of wit, and a humor bitter or sweet according to destination, he was the most influential and feared of any man in the Territory. He was a past- master in the art of politics then, which compared with the boss politics of the last ten years was mild and beneficent. He was also credited (whether truly or not no one may say) with being the head of the Salem clique," which though much reviled in those days has passed unscathed by time, and no allegation was ever made that the " clique was composed of any other than honest and honorable men, either as private citizens or partisans. Only the name Salem clique" was against them. But this must be remembered, they all went Slavery Question in Oregon. 245 into the Uuiou party and gave Lincoln's administration cordial support. ^Vhen the call for the Union convention was being made, some Republicans objected to going in witli the Salem clique," and one of the clique, B. F. Harding, proposed that the "call should be to all citizens regardless of previous political affiliations, excepting the Salem clique," an idea so preposterous that the objectors did the principal laughing. Such qualities as the Statesman editor possessed, made his office at once a harbor of refuge, the headquarters of of- fense, an arsenal of assault against the quips and anathemas of its foes, and by such employment rendered its party unconscious of the actinic rays of civilization which every- where else were dispelling the gloom of the still surviving barbarism. In this aspect was it not a criminal conspiracy against light and knowledge, as truly so as any partisan pur- pose for merely personal ends? Of course I recognize this to be an after-view, from a standpoint elevated by years of costly experiences and social accumulations of an ethical and economic character, and therefore not a proper estimate of individual character at that time, but partisanism, though declining, is still in the ascendant and is as great a menace to progress in truly democratic government as ever. In the editor of The Oregon Argus, William L. Adams, the States- man editor found a foeman worthy of his steel. He is de- scribed by George H. Himes in his history of the press of Oregon as a forcible political writer and speaker," also as "a master of cutting invective; fearless and audacious to the fullest degree; had the pugnacity of a bulldog, never happier than when lampooning his opponents, and his efforts were un- tiring." No doubt these were the qualities called into active exercise by the kind of politics which ruled in Oregon during Mr. Adams' career as editor of The Argus, but a larger view should be taken of him. Before coming to Oregon he had been a teacher and preacher in the Campbellite denomination and held his principal function and duty in life to be that of a reformer, a worker for the dissemination of truth, and was therefore a legitimate agitator for the promotion of temperance, anti-slavery, and whatever else would advance the fraternal spirit among men. And although this was his predominating characteristic, he was not fitted to carry forward the work against unscrupulous opposition, by mild and seductive appeals, under a non-resistant flag, and the arrogant, rollicksome, uninquiring, pro-slavery Democracy, then dominant here, brought all of Adams' faculties into full play. And however much the so-called "Oregon style" may be denounced as a passing phase of rude pioneer journalism, there is no question in my mind as to Mr. Adams' place, and that he was the chief informer, energizer, and rally center of the distinctively anti-slavery forces of that day and generation.
Before the days of impersonal journalism, the name of a newspaper and its editors were convertible terms. The New York Tribune meant Greeley; the New York Herald, Bennett; The Times, Raymond; The Oregon Statesman, Bush; and while W. L. Adams stood for as much in his limited sphere as either of the foregoing, it would be hardly fair to credit him with all The Argus accomplished in Oregon. He had for his foreman in the printing office an anti-slavery Kentuckian who, in point of acquirements adapted to the newspaper business, very luckily, was his superior. So, in fact the Argus was double-headed. Having noticed in several numbers of the paper very able articles outside of the editorial columns and without signature, I inquired of Mr. Adams as to their author. In response, he asked: "Have you never met the foreman of the office, Mr. D. W. Craig? If you haven't, better lose no more time but get acquainted, for he is a walking encyclopedia." He further stated that the articles I admired were composed by Dr. Craig as they were set up at the case, a feat which he did not believe could be equaled on the Pacific Coast. And thus my acquaintance with Mr. Craig began, and has continued with increasing confidence ever since. One incident occurred at this first meeting which is worthy of notice. In speaking of the prospect of emancipation in his native State, which he thought probable, I expressed the opinion that the Southern people were not virtuous enough to emancipate their slaves, voluntarily and that nothing short of adversity would compel them. This was an estimate of his people which he resented with observable warmth of manner, but in temperate language, showing a provincial spirit quite new to me. Still, I was at fault, in not then comprehending that the beneficiaries of privilege, whether North or South, East or West, never let go except upon compulsion. After fifty-two years of experience, we smile when recollecting our youthful ignorance, but we have advanced and are still advancing, in the only possible way for human beings, by groping. For further information concerning the educational antecedents of Mr. Craig's Oregon career, see Mr. Himes' Press History, before mentioned.
One of the most conspicuous figures in Oregon during the time between 1850 and 1860, was T. J. Dryer, editor of The Oregonian newspaper. He was a fluent, effervescent and popular speaker and writer; in politics a Whig with a lineage reaching back to the Revolutionary War, and with never a doubt that anything the Whig party proposed was right and needed no vindication, and that everything the Democrats favored was wrong and deserved nothing but denunciation. Hence, as the Democratic party was the preferred instrument for advancing the slave-holding interest, Mr. Dryer, from the habit of opposition as well as from principle, naturally fell into the ranks of the free-state men of Oregon, who proclaimed themselves as such. One writer whose article upon that subject was published in the Oregon Historical Quarterly, makes Mr. Dryer the chief influence and factor of resistance to the adoption of the institution in this State, but from what I saw of The Oregonian in those days, and a recollection of my impressions formed at the time, I am quite sure that Mr. Dryer's services in that connection are much overrated by his biographical friend. The Oregonian was a distinctively Whig journal with incidental anti-slavery proclivities, and remained so for two years after the birth of the Republican party, its editor, Mr. Dryer, appearing for the 248 T. W. Davenport. first time in a Republican convention in the year 1858. Certainly, I have not the least shadow of prejudice towards him, but I know how distinctively anti-slavery men felt and thought at the time, and that he was not regarded by them as the consistent, unwavering champion of their cause. To reassure myself as to the correctness of my opinion I took a retrospective glance to the Republican State convention of 1858, when it was required that all persons who had received votes on the informal ballot for Representative in Congress should state whether they could stand upon the platform previously adopted. Mr. Dryer remarked that the gentlemen who required such a test of him had not been readers of The Oregonian. Surely they had, but unconsciously their opinions derived therefrom were not of the stamp which come from paramount devotion to a great and pressing principle. No such test was supposed to be intended for W. L. Adams, John R. McBride, W. Carey Johnson, W. D. Hare and some others in attendance, for the paramount issue as to them was in the front and undoubted. Likely Mr. Dryer's convivial habits had much to do in pro- ducing certain moods unfavorable to consistency of purpose or principle, and the editor of The Statesman never wasted ink in refuting The Oregonian's editorials; there was suffi- cient satisfaction in referring to them as cogitations of Toddy Jep, a name the initials of which he could not disown and the meaning of which he would not discuss. I think, however, that he was not habitually of that disposition, but once or twice is enough to establish a reputation in hot partisan times. And while upon this topic, it may be serviceable to notice how an epithet or name which by apt and descriptive allusion causes a laugh or sneer, may divert men from the contemplation of a problem and thereby hinder or produce profound political results. Human beings seem to have an instinctive knowledge of such craft, and resort to it oftener than is profitable. This was especially noticeable in the "Oregon style" of journalism. The Statesman editor uni- formly referred to the editor of The Oregon Argus as "Parson Slavery Question in Oregon. 249 Billy of the Airgoose," which contained a hint of Mr. Adams' peculiar religious notions and reform ideas concerning tem- perance, etc. While this caused a chuckle among stationary moss-backs, it meant no serious obstacle to the propagation of Mr. Adams' views as to what society ought to be. He, on the other hand, was too earnest to be humorous and when he attempted the role it was little short of abuse. The States- man gave much space to advertising the medicine of a certain Dr. Czapky of California, who recommended it as a restorer of lost manhood, and Adams dubbed The Statesman " Czapky 's organ," and went so far as to intimate that its editor took pay in medicine. Such a kind of humor would be called sav- agery in a staid Christian community. It might cause a grin on the face of a ghoul. Mr. Bush could counter any sort of a blow, and The Statesman contained a paragraph in one number announcing a law suit in Oregon City, concerning the owership of a horse, in which Editor Adams w^s inter- ested, and that he and a co-conspirator were seen pulling white hairs from the horse's forehead, to deface the mark of identi- fication. No published denial or reply was ever seen in The Argus, though watched for by those persons who took an interest in the newspaper warfare, and in a week or so The Statesman contained a correction which released Mr. Adams, and as no names were ever given as to the two hair extractors, it was plain that the incident had been manufactured from the raw material. Knowing Adams to be a man of un- doubted pluck as well as a high sense of honor and personal consequence, I knew that he would not let a charge like that pass unnoticed, so, happening to The Argus office soon after- wards, I pumped him as to the horse incident. Without a smile or reply, he took from his private drawer a copy of a letter he had written to Mr. Bush, threatening him with condign punishment if he did not retract that libel, which in fact it was. No doubt Mr. Bush had many a hearty, side-aching laugh when he fancied Adams squirming under the law of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. The so-called "Oregon 250 T. W. Davenport. style" is sometimes referred to as though it was a phase of personal controversy indicative of border ruffianism, and that could never occur again for want of a fretful border of civilization to produce it. But this shows how apt we are to accept a false judgment put up in portable shape, like cart- ridges that can be used at a moment's notice and saves the trouble of re-examination. But I am bold to declare that the ' ' Oregon style ' ' was as much superior to the personal gratings which may be seen in almost any number of the present day New York Tribune, as the wit of an Irishman is to the raw slang of an English butcher. What samples I have given of the "Oregon style" contain prima facie evidence that the pioneer editors of Oregon were men of imagination and could put wings to their scorpions. There was one item in The Statesman, penned no doubt by the editor, for which he will never be forgiven, neither in this world nor the world to come. Dr. James McBride, an early pioneer and a most estimable citizen, as well as a very useful member of society, being both a preacher and a practicing physician, was appointed by President Lincoln to some diplo- matic post in the Sandwich Islands. Soon after the appoint- ment, there was a published inquiry as to the whereabouts of the Doctor, to which The Statesman responded that the last seen of him, he was straddle of his cayuse, riding down along the coast and looking for "the ford." That the editor who perpetrated this heartless assault upon even a Black Repub- lican, is still living after a lapse of nearly half a century, goes to prove that he carries the mark of Cain. Human society anywhere is not on a dead level. Like the surface of the earth upon which it dwells, there are heights and depths, gentle savannahs and repulsive jungles; and as in the landscape the heights soonest catch and rivet our at- tention, and serve as monuments from which to fix its boundaries, so, in recording an epoch or phase of human de- velopment, we get our attention fixed upon prominent char- acters or those in the van of the movement, and thereby come to consider them its motive or propelling force, when in fact Slavery Question in Oregon. 251 and generally, they are only the indices of a selective and energizing spirit pervading the whole. The anti-slavery cru- sade east of the Rocky Mountains was quite analogous to the foregoing, and the prominences were more noticeable than any within the purview of our history. We had no Wendell Phillips to enchain the ear with his inspiring music of freedom and justice; no Sam. Lew^is to dispel with his calm presence the fogs of prejudice, revive the dormant conscience, bring the altruistic faculties to the front and expand the sphere of fraternity to include the slave ; no Lincoln or Seward to point the practical truth that slavery of a part degrades the whole ; uo Henry Ward Beecher to electrify Christians with a pas- sion for practical Christianity. Still, there were men here who, if not so highly endowed, were as courageous and de- voted and acted as wisely according to their peculiar condi- tions as their brethren of the East. It is probable, or at least possible, that a great orator could have attracted an audi- ence of silent Democrats and Micawber Whigs, and thus have broken the spell of suppression that ruled here for three years, but certain it is that our anti-slavery men were not so competent. And so the agitation was limited almost entirelj' to private proselyting and personal influence, which, though often spoken of as inconsiderable, are more effective and permanent than a majority of orations. Jesse Applegate. a man of scholarly tastes and habits, and by common consent called "the Sage of Yoncalla," was not gifted for public speech and left such exhibition to others less diffident or more fluent of tongue, but his influence was more potent than that of the orators. Daniel Waldo was another fire-side orator, full to overflowing of trenchant wisdom, and who, by the strength of ideas and the spell of conviction, sw^ayed a large circle of acquaintances. Every locality had such men; quiet, foresighted, persistent char- acters whose "daily walk and conversation was an educa- tion and an inspiration to those who lingered behind in the path of progress. The influence of such people does not depend principally upon the public advocacy of their opinions; they 252 T. W. Davenport. are not intentional demagogues of any degree, but along with and enlivening their avocations is an emanation of mind and feeling which molds and modifies public opinion and con- tinually makes for righteousness. When viewed with ref- erence to the influence they exert upon society, such persons are prominences in the social landscape, but we Americans have become so accustomed to rating men by their success in partisan politics, speech-making and egotism, that we overlook this important part of the commonwealth. If the question were put to the school children, as to the principal men of a county or State, they would look in the official directory to see who had been elected to fill the public offices, when everybody knows that, in the main, the offices have been filled by machine methods and from among those who, from one selfish reason or another, aspire to office. If this state- ment is doubted by the reader let him ponder the assertion, often heard, that the reason why politics and government have become so corrupt is because the best men will not take office ; which is the same as saying that they will not contest with the self-seekers in the political arena. There are times, however, when public affairs get so insufferably corrupt that the people take a spasm of virtue or common sense, jump the partisan game and elect men who are faithful public servants. But so far in our political history such spasms have not been durable. So, the reader may be informed that men who are mentioned herein as influential factors of civilization, are rated independently of the official standard. William Greenwood, of Hbwell Prairie, was a man about whom people delighted to gather, not because he was an edu- cator of the class of Waldo and Applegate, but from a peculiar and pleasing dignity of manner and a large hospitality that made his household an agreeable place of sojourn. Abler men than he met at his board to discuss public questions, while he, an illiterate Virginia gentleman, answered vagarias with smiles, and whose corn-field sagacity generally pointed the right way. I recollect of meeting a goodly number of Republicans at his house for the purpose of considering Slavery Question in Oregon. 253 whether the party had not fulfilled its mission and should be terminated, before it had reached the extreme danger point and become like the Democratic party before the war, a constant and increasing menace to the liberties of the people. I do not recollect all who were in attendance, but they were members of the old guard; men w^ho cared nothing for party except as ancillary to the public interests, and who dreaded the miasma of mere party spirit. Major Magone was there, as he always was when discussion was the order of the day, and the opinion was prevalent that the party was getting off the Lincoln track, and that something must be done to arrest it. We could see very plainly what was producing the political degeneration— the spoils of office beckoning greedy human nature on to places of profit and power— but how to eliminate or mollify the spoils system of polities we had no comprehension, and as to the possibility of elevating the standard of civic righteousness, we had no faith. Stop the victorious Republican party ! ! What an idea ! ! We might as well have talked of arresting Niagara in its plunge. And the evils of partisanism were then only incipient, and the people were not cognizant of them. They had not been punished enough to awaken them. The meeting so far as related to practical matters, was ridiculous enough, and our host likened the proposal to stop the office-seekers, to driving hogs away from the trough while it contained swill.
- The following letter bearing on this fact was received by the writer:
Salem, Oregon, June 4th, 1906.
R. P. Boise.
- See the reprint of it in the paper next following this article.