Open Collections

BC Historical Books

BC Historical Books

BC Historical Books

The quarterly of the Oregon Historical Society. Volume I. March, 1900 - December, 1900 Oregon Historical Society 1900

Item Metadata


JSON: bcbooks-1.0305884.json
JSON-LD: bcbooks-1.0305884-ld.json
RDF/XML (Pretty): bcbooks-1.0305884-rdf.xml
RDF/JSON: bcbooks-1.0305884-rdf.json
Turtle: bcbooks-1.0305884-turtle.txt
N-Triples: bcbooks-1.0305884-rdf-ntriples.txt
Original Record: bcbooks-1.0305884-source.json
Full Text

Full Text

Array THE
MARCH,   1900 - DECEMBER,   1900
Edited by Frederic George Young
H ft
Camp Fire, The, of the Pioneers.   Sam L. Simpson 385^398
Case, William M., Reminiscences of.   H. S. Lyman 269-295
Commonwealth Government, The Genesis of Political Authority and of a,
in Oregon.   J. R. Robertson    3- 59
Cosgrove, Hugh, Reminiscences of.   H. S. Lyman.,,, 253-269
Coues, Dr. Elliott.   F. P. Victor 189-192
Cow Column, A Day with the, in 1843.   Jesse Applegate 371-383
Early Oregon, Glimpses of Life in.   Mrs. W. M. Molson 158-164
Education in the United States, Our Public Land System and its Relation
to.   F. F. Victor 1 132-157
Indian Names.   H. S.Lyman ; 316-326
LaBonte, Louis, Reminiscences of.   H. S. Lyman 169-188
Matthieu, F. X., Reminiscences of.   H. S. Lyman _ 73-104
McLoughlin, John—Statement to Parties in London , 193-206
McLoughlin and Old Oregon.   E. E. Dye.   (Reviewed) a 207-210
Missionary History of the Prciflc Northwest.   H. K. Hines.   (Reviewed)--210-211
Names, Indian.   H. S. Lyman 316-326
Native Race, The Number and Condition of the, in Oregon when first seen    . !jte
by White Men.   John Minto : 296-315
Oregon Emigrants, The—Prairie and Mountain Life of.   New Orleans Picayune, Nov. 21, 1843 398-402
Oregon, Excerpts on.   From the New York Tribune of 1842 __327-337
Oregon Pioneer Settlement, The Process of Selection in.   Thomas Cohdon_ 60- 65
Oregon Question, The.   J. R. Wilson : _.._ 111-131, 213-251
Oregon, The Spanish word " Oregâno " not the Original of.   H. W. Scott—165-168
Oregon Trail, The.   F. G. Young T -339-370
Ox Whip, A Tribute to the.   G. B. Currey :      384
Pilgrims of the Plains.   Joaquin Miller 395-396
Pioneers of the Pacific.   Joaquin Miller       397
Pioneers, The Camp Fires of the.   Sam L. Simpson 385-394
Political Authority, the Genesis of, and of a Commonwealth Government .
in Oregon.   J. R. Robertson 1 "___ 1 "_j-_i__'__:_:_"__ '3*- 59 iv Author's Index.
Public Land System, Our, and its Relation to Education in the United
States.   F. F. Victor l3Z-lù7
Reminiscences of William M. Case.   H. S. Lyman 269-295
Reminiscences of Hugh Cosgrom   H. S. Lynian— 253-269
Reminiscences of. Louis LaBonte.   H. S. Lyman 169-188
Reminiscences of F. X. Matthieu.   H. S. Lyman 73-104
Selection, The Process of, in Oregon Pioneer Settlement.   Thomas Condon. 60- 65
Statement to Parties i» London.   John McLoughlin 193-206
Wyeth, Nathaniel J.   S. A. Drake 66- 70
Wyeth, Nathaniel J., Correspondence of, with John McLoughlin.   S. R.
Thurston and R. C. Winthrop 105-109
Applegate, Jesse—A. Day with the Cow Column in 1843  371
Condon, Thomas—The Process of Selection in Oregon Pioneer Settlement— 60
Curreyx Geo. i?.—-Tribute to the Ox Whip  384
Dye, Eva Emery—" McLoughlin and Old Oregon."   (Reviewed)  207
Sines, H. K.—"Missionary History of the Pacific Northwest."  (Reviewed)- 210
Lyman, H. S.—Reminiscences of F. X. Matthieu  78
Lyman, H. &.—Reminiscences of Louis LaBonte  169
Lyman, If. 8.—Reminiscences of Hugh Cosgrove  253
Lyman, H. 8.—Reminiscences of William M. Case  269
Lyman, H. &—Indian Names  316
McLoughlin, John—Statement to Parties in London  198
McLjoughlin, John—Correspondence with Nathaniel J. Wyeth  105
Miller, Joaquin—Pilgrims of the Plains  395
Miller, Joaquin—Pioneers of the Pacific  397
Minto, John—The Number and Condition of the Native Race in Oregon
when First Seen by White Men  296
Molsm, Mrs. William Marshland—Glimpses of Life in Early Oregon  158
Robertson, James Hood—The Genesis of Political Authority, and of a Commonwealth Government in Oregon ..  1
/pfeott, B W.—Not Marjoram—The Spanish word "Organo" not the original
of Oregon  __f  ]g5
Vtetov. Frances Fuller—Our Public Land System and its Relation to Education m the United States ^_ 132
Victor, Frances Fuller—Dr. Elliott Coues  139
Wilson, Joseph M.—The Oregon Question 111,213
Xoung, Frederic George—The Oregon Trail  339^ Volume L]
MARCH, 1900.
[Number 1.
The Genesis of Political Authority and of a commonwealth Government in Oregon.
[ Printed by the author for private distribution, August, 1899.]
At the present time, when interest is becoming more
generally centered upon the Pacific Coast and the future
which seems to be lying before it during the next century of our national life, any contribution to a knowledge
of its history can hardly be out of place. It is quite
clear that from now on through the future it must more
and more pass out from the sphere of purely local interest and assume a larger place in the current of our national history. Although the southern half of the coast
may be more familiar to the greater number of people,
yet the northern half has a history which is fully as
rich and well repays most careful study. Of the many
interesting phases which have presented themselves,
none has had so great an attraction for the writer as the JAMES   R. ROBERTSON
development of civil institutions. It is interesting to
review the gradual evolution of a locality from primitive conditions of wildness to that perfect form of social
life where individuals act under the privileges and restrictions of a civil government, voluntarily imposed
and perfectly integrated with the larger scheme of national government. It is a stimulating process to try
to make any correct estimate of the various agencies
which have taken part in the complex process of growth,
and to place an accurate valuation upon the services of
leading personalities, the influence of aggregates of less
prominent individuals, and general determining influences which may not at first be seen at all. It is a test
of judgment to put oneself at the different points of
view, so often conflicting, to be fair to all and to be firm
in drawing conclusions where the weight of evidence
seems to lie ; and a knowledge of the slowness of this
process of growth, with the careful thought and heroic
action by which it has come about, creates a respect for
government and prepares for a wiser use of the privileges enjoyed under its beneficent rule. In following
out the theme set before us it is to be remembered that
by Oregon is meant that piece of territory whose boundaries have been gradually shrinking to their present
compass from an area extending from the Spanish possessions at the forty-second degree of latitude to the
Russian possessions at the fifty-fifth degree, and between
the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Ocean.
In many respects this history resembles that of the
other states of our Union. In common with them there
has been a gradual growth from those fragmentary germs
of civic life out of which civil government grows, which
fragmentary forms begin to operate as soon as individuals come together in social relation, often long before
localities are entitled to take their places as parts of a THE GENESIS OF POLITICAL AUTHORITY IN OREGON
nation. As in the case of other states, there was the
acquisition of territory, in this case preceded by a partial
acquisition. Like the other states, it has passed through
the various steps prescribed by congress for the transition from newly acquired territory to perfect statehood ;
but, as other states have passed through this common
process with a great variety of interesting and unique
experiences, so Oregon has had its own history, peculiar
to itself, and in some respects different from that of any
other state. It is the purpose of this paper to set forth
briefly the leading facts, so far as they may be gained
from the sources at present available, and to present
them, so far as possible, in historical perspective, and as
a part of the growth of our national life.
In the examination of a subject connected with local
history it is easy to be carried away by local circumstances, and to fail to grasp those larger features which
connect it with the history of the nation and to some
extent with that of the world. Our truest knowledge
of the subject, however, will come from this broader
approach and a search first for those general conditions which underlay the more detailed history and were
instrumental in determining its drift.
In order that we may see the wider scope of our subject we need only to remember that during the early
centuries of exploration the territory whose civil life we
are to study was at stake in the great struggle between
those countries which were striving for the mastery of
the world, and many a stroke of policy that seemed to
affect these remote regions had its only significance as it
bore upon the conflict of England and Spain. And then,
when the Russian Empire, through the impetus received
from Peter the Great and Catherine II, continued its process of expansion eastward, its outer wave reached the
western shores of America and they became an import- 6
ant factor in the larger stream of world history.. And
finally when the thirteen colonies separated from England, this new and vigorous nation found ah interest in
those regions, and they became an important factor in
the relations of England and the United States.
In the study of the development of civil. government
in Oregon, since the region has had any interest to our
nation, we need first to note those general conditions
which have to a large extent been responsible for the
detailed history. The one which is perhaps most apparent and whose effect has been greatest, is the geographical location of the territory as compared with the
rest of the United States. Separated from the older sections of the country by long stretches of prairie, and by
two large mountain systems, accessible by water only
after a long and tedious journey around Cape Horn, its
position was one of extreme isolation. This peculiar
isolation explains very much that is characteristic of the
early history of our civil government. It explains the
ignorance that prevailed so long in the older sections
regarding the value of the country, and the consequent
apathy against which the champions of the west in congress had so long to contend ; it explains, likewise, that
voluntary and heroic action by which the colonists, stung
by the delays and impelled by their needs and desires for
a democratic type of government, took the initiative and
brought into being a pioneer provisional state to bridge
over the period of delay, and to hold the country in trust
until the slow movings of the national consciousness
should awaken to its interests.
Another and equally important factor in determining
the drift of events was the joint claim and occupancy
of the country with England. The history of civil government under such circumstances must necessarily be
different  from  that of territory fully ^acquired by the THE GENESIS OP POLITICAL AUTHORITY IN OREGON.
national government. It is clear that it must connect,
indissolubly, the question of a government with that of
the boundary, and render any satisfactory solution of the
former impossible until the settlement of the latter.
The framing of any kind of a plan of government that
would really be efficient without giving cause for offense
to the partner to the title of the land must be a problem
of the most difficult nature, as it was found to be. And
the problem was still further complicated by reason of
the fact that the question of boundary belonged to the
executive part of the government, while that of the formation of a civil government belonged to the legislative.
And then, too, by virtue of its being thrown into the
realm of international affairs, the formation of a civil
government was delayed because of its connection with
that complicated balancing of interests which always
characterizes diplomatic procedure, where settlement of
questions is slow and ofttimes accompanied by national
To joint occupancy also must be attributed the throwing
into close relationship of two different and antagonistic
types of life. There was in the first place the difference
of nationality, which, in view of the feelings engendered
in the struggle for independence and the war of 1812,
did not promise cordiality ; there was the difference of
industrial systems which brought into sharpest and most
bitter conflict the ably managed monopoly of the English company and the independent American trader or
trapper with his idea of free competition and equal right
to operation in the region jointly held. And lastly, there
was the difference in regard to the treatment of the native races. The English found it mostly to their interest
to leave things as they were, and to keep the country a
wilderness, suitable for a trapping ground for many
years to come, wmile the Americans aspired to better 8
the life of the savage, and to build up a condition of
civilized life. The difference was all the more marked
because of the entrance of the missionaries and the important part played by these leaders, who exercised an
influence perhaps second only to that of the early religious leaders of New England, and whose energies were
untiring in the interests of good government and a moral
population. That two such diverse types of life could
exist side by side during the twenty-eight years of joint
occupancy without influencing the course of civil government is not to be conceived. That the relation was
harmonious at first is true, but that irritations arose as
time went on was inevitable.
In any analysis of the influences affecting the course
of civil government in Oregon a prominent place should
be given to that slow yet powerful westward movement
of population. It consisted of a people aggressive and assertive of their own desires, patriotic, and upright in the
main, with a consciousness of their own wants and their
ability to get them, and possessing but little knowledge
of, or reverence for, the intricacies of international usage,
or the restrictions of a conservative legislative body.
Being a part of the people, they were the- sovereign
power, and if they determined upon having the west, it
must finally be had. This was a movement which led
thousands of intrepid immigrants to anticipate the government in going to remote regions. Those who remained behind had now a greater interest in the country,
and ere long it was to be the impulse from this movement which aroused the national consciousness to the
importance of the Oregon question, gave it a place among
the problems of the nation, put it upon the platform of a
political party as a prominent issue, and forced a settlement of the boundary, and finally secured a civil government. THE GENESIS OP POLITICAL AUTHORITY IN OREGON.
After all other difficulties were overcome, after the
barrier of distance was removed, after the stormy season
of threatened war over the boundary line had passed
away, civil government in Oregon became inevitably connected with another question which was to affect its
destiny. The deepening bitterness between the north
and the south was drawing everything into the maelstrom
of slavery discussion, and particularly was this true in
the case of every piece of newly acquired territory whose
destiny was inseparably connected with the defeat or
justification of the system of slavery.
With this brief survey of the general conditions which
have operated to determine the course of events, the narrative of the. more important details in the growth of
civil government in Oregon may be better understood.
We find that in the days of the discoverer, explorer, and
fur trader there was no civil government at all, except
such as was exercised by the native races for the regulation of their primitive life. Every one was dependent
upon his own resources for the protection of life and
property. From the time that the first Spanish ship,
under the command of Ferrelo, touched the southern
shore of Oregon, in the middle of the sixteenth century,
until the beginning of the nineteenth, there was as much
freedom from the restraints of social order as any anarchist could wish. There was nothing to check the
conflicts that might arise between the crews of vessels,
from the same or different nations, in their eagerness for
the glories of discovery or the profits of trade with the
Indians. There was nothing to shield from the danger
of massacres from tribes, hostile by nature, or by contact
with the whites. The explorer or trader who penetrated
the interior must trust to his own ability for safety, and
to his judgment in making friends with the Indians.
There was nothing to regulate men in the struggle to
M 10
reap the natural advantages of the region. They had
little interest in the Indians, except as they could, use
them to their profit ; they had small regard for the rights
of others, as they were outside the pale of rights and
laws ; they cared nothing for the conditions that they
made for the future, as it was not to be their home. It
was a period for romantic adventures, to pass away before the quieter but more beneficent regime of social
When, however, the scattered fur trading interests began to centralize by the formation of fur trading companies, some of the functions which belong to a civil
government began to arise. The Pacific Fur Company,
established by John Jacob Astor at the mouth of the
Columbia Hiver in 1811, with its little fort, exercised a
greater authority in the protection of life and property
than had existed before.. It aimed to produce a condition
of things more in harmony with a normal and peaceable
trade. Its English successor, the Northwest Fur Company, established in control of the region after the war
of 1812, was still more powerful. After consolidation
with its rival, the Hudson's Bay Company, its charter
rights were extended, and, although only a trading company, the necessities of its position led it to the exercise
of many of the functions of a civil government. Its control of its large number of employees was complete ; its
power over the native races was absolute ; by judicious
methods and quick retribution for offenses, it succeeded
in rendering the wilderness a safe place for traders, explorers, and missionaries. Moreover, the possibilities
for trouble which arose from the coming of American
trappers and traders led to an additional step in the development of civil government, and one which more
properly falls under that head.
In 1821 the English Parliament passed a bill by the THE GENESIS OF POLITICAL AUTHORITY IN OREGON.      11
terms of which the laws of Canada were extended over
English subjects operating in the country to the south.
Provision was made for justices of the peace, before
whom cases were brought, and, if sufficiently important,
were sent to the courts of Canada.1 In this way, then,
did the English government follow its subjects, and
become the first real civil government exercised in the
country, although it was exercised in the interests of
only part of the inhabitants. England had found away
to look after her subjects without violating the strict
terms of the treaty of joint occupancy.
The office of justice was held by officers of the fur
trading company, whose power and prestige was thus
increased. The history of government for about twenty
years is summed up in the person of one man, Dr. John
McLoughlin. The exercise of authority by that masterful character of early times still lives in the minds of
the oldest pioneers, and has found expression in many
of the records which constitute the sources of Oregon's
history. Although the official agent of the English company, a Scotchman by nationality, a Catholic in religion,
and loyal to all the interests he represented, he was a
man of too large a mold to be anything other than the
instrument of justice and good order for all classes of
people who might come within the bounds where his
jurisdiction was exercised. " From 1823 to 1845 he was
the controlling power in the country, and did more than
any one else to preserve order, peace and good will
among the conflicting and sometimes lawless elements of
the population."2 Autocratic in his methods and strict
in the enforcement of justice, he was yet kindly and
merciful.    His tours   about the country to settle  any
aAct of Parliament in appendix to Greenhow's History of Oregon.
2Matthew P. Deady. 12
difficulties that might have arisen in any of the trading
posts, or agricultural settlements of ex-employees, were
regular features of the early days, and were very effective.3
The inability of the independent fur trader to compete with the English company, and the comparative
advantage that the English subject had in the protection
by nis country's laws, naturally led to a feeling of dissatisfaction on the part of the American trader, and a
belief that under the cover of a business enterprise the
English civil government was gradually settling itself
over the country to the exclusion of the American, whose
interests and rights were equal according to the treaty
of joint occupancy. That John Jacob Astor had not
renewed his enterprise after the restoration of the fort at
Astoria at the close of the war of 1812, was due to the
refusal of the government, during Madison's administration, to guarantee his company the protection of the
United States in case of trouble.4 Had that been done,
company would have been in competition with company,
and the conditions would have been more equal. As it
was, however, the United States' interests were represented and her hold maintained only by such independent traders and trappers as ventured into the country,
and usually failed of maintaining themselves for any
great length of time.
It was such a condition of affairs that came to the
knowledge of the people, and finally reached those channels where it gained entrance into our national policy.
It was a significant circumstance in the history of civil
government in Oregon, that, in the winter of 1820 and
1821, four men were thrown together at a hotel in the
Conversation with Dr. Wm. Geiger, pioneer of 1842.
City of Washington.8 Two of them, Ramsey Crooks of
New York and Russell Farnham of Massachusetts, were
traders who had been connected with the unsuccessful
enterprise of Mr. As tor. The other two were members
of congress, John Floyd of YiTginia and Thomas H.
Benton of Missouri. Mr. Benton had for some time
been interested in the question, and had been pondering
upon a method of procedure. During this period of
acquaintance they talked much together and became
convinced of the advisability of an aggressive campaign
for the protection of American trappers and traders, and
the maintenance of the full American rights in the joint
There were probably no better men to take the leadership in a movement of this kind than Floyd and
Benton. Both were western in their training and in
their sympathies, and both were enthusiastic in any
movement pertaining to a westward extension of the
country. Western men were already beginning to have
weight in the national councils, and were exerting a
distinct influence upon national policy. Although rough
and unskilled in many of the essentials of good government, their influence tended toward a true American life
and a broader idea of American national destiny.
The course upon which they entered, though carefully
considered, was a bold one. The Oregon country was
very far off and few knew very much about it. It seemed
a land so far away that the American people, as a whole,
had nothing to do with it. Perhaps they had heard of
the Oregon river, and it had a place in their imagination
along with the ideal beauty of Bryant's poetic country ;
perhaps they had learned of the part performed by Captain Robert Gray and his ship Columbia in crossing the
6Irvlng's Astoria. 14
bar at the mouth, and revealing to the knowledge of his
country and the world another great river ; perhaps they
knew of Jefferson's romantic interest in the country and
the expedition which he sent under Lewis and Clark ;
they probably knew that fur traders had gone there, and
that an American fur company, at the time of the war of
1812, had been forced to sell out and its place taken by
an English one ; they knew that there was an American
claim, which was felt to be quite strong, and that a
treaty had been made with England providing for a
joint occupancy ; but there was no consciousness that
the question was one of practical importance to the
existing generation, except on the part of the more far-
seeing. The people's representatives in congress were
more conservative than the people themselves, and a
conception of the larger United States had taken possession of but a few.
The executive department was in advance of the legislative, for James Monroe was President and John Quincy
Adams, Secretary of State—two men who were at the
front in the breadth of their political ideas, as shown by
the Monroe doctrine, originated by Adams, endorsed and
declared by Monroe. In the clause that refused to European powers the right longer to colonize on American
territory, it was the Oregon country that was thus protected against the aggressions of Russia at the same time
that a hint wTas given to England. No executive had
been more courageous in asserting the intention of the
United States to maintain her larger interests, and none
had been more disposed to follow with national protection, so far as conformed with treaty relation, her citizens who were leading in the westward expansion of the
Under such conditions what might the champions of
an aggressive campaign expect to accomplish?    Minds THE GENESIS OP POLITICAL AUTHORITY IN OREGON
were filled with many questions. What was it right to
do, and what was expedient ; could a military post be
established in the country as the President and Secretary
wanted ; could lands be granted to settlers as prospective
emigrants wanted; could settlements be made and a civil
government established as Floyd and Benton wanted?
If it was right to do these things, was it expedient to do
them, with the possibility of jeopardizing other interests
less remote ; was the nation ready to commit itself to
an expansion of territory which might bring about many
changes, and perhaps many dangers?
It was the work of these men, by patient, persistent
and continued effort to arouse a sentiment favorable to
American interests, to gather and disseminate such information as would help to make a public opinion, and
to keep the subject before congress and the people all the
time. Confident themselves in the value of the country
to the United States, and of the right of title to the
country, they were! anxious for a movement looking
toward permanent occupation.
It was a memorable day in the history of civil government in Oregon, when, in December of 1820, Floyd
initiated his policy in the house, by a motion for the
appointment of a committee to inquire into the situation
of the settlements on the Pacific, and the expediency of
occupying the Columbia River.6 It did not attract much
attention at the time, but was referred to a committee,
of which Floyd was chairman. In a carefully prepared
report, containing all the information that could be secured, the plan was pronounced expedient and a bill
proposed to carry it into effect. This bill provided for
the military occupation of the Oregon Territory, the extinguishment of the Indian title to the land, and the
6Annals of Congress and Congressional Debates are authorities used upon
dlsoussions In the legislature. 16
establishment of a civil government. It was nearly two
years, however, before it could be brought to a discussion, on account of the dilatory tactics of the opposition,
or because of its apparent unimportance. After it was
debated it failed of passage by a vote of one hundred to
sixty-one, which was not a bad defeat considering the
character of the bill.
The same process was gone through again, another
committee appointed, and another bill reported, which
was similar to the first one, except in the ' greater inducement to settlers in the granting of lands, and in the
greater stress laid upon the necessity for some plan of
civil government in the territory. This bill, after discussion, was passed by a vote of one hundred and thirteen to fifty-seven, and Floyd had the satisfaction of seeing such a flattering result from his four years of hard
work. He had done all that he could do and now it
must be submitted to the tender mercies of the senate.
Mr. Benton had already introduced a resolution "instructing the committee on military affairs to inquire
into the expediency of making an appropriation to enable the President of the United States to take and retain possession of the Territories of the United States on
the Northwest Coast of America;" and he had made a
strong speech in advocacy of the movement. Although
the resolution was adopted, no report ever came from
the committee. When the bill came from the house,
after several times being laid on the table and taken up
again for discussion, it received a final defeat by a vote
of twenty-five to fourteen.
For three years nothing was done. Then Floyd, with
a tenacity worthy of the cause, proposed another bill.
It resembled the others, but during the process of discussion was stripped of one feature after another until the
only provisions left for government were the establish- THE GENESIS OP POLITICAL AUTHORITY IN OREGON.
ment of military posts, and the right of American citizens
to trial in American courts, and under the laws of the
states into which they might be brought. It will thus
be seen that all previous propositions had gradually been
reduced, by a process of elimination, to a provision exactly similar to the one which the English already had
in operation, except the additional feature of military
posts, and although this was the most moderate bill yet
offered it was defeated by a vote of ninety-nine to seventy-
As Floyd's term of office expired and he was not returned, the first campaign for the extension of American
civil government over Oregon was ended. Both Floyd
and Benton had done nobly. In the face of opposition,
and even ridicule, they had persistently held their course
until they had seen their measure pass one house, and
though defeated, get a respectable vote in the other. In
their work they had valuable assistance. Several strong
supporters appeared in the house and in the senate, particularly among the younger men ; President Monroe by
his messages to congress urged the importance of establishing a military post at the mouth of the Columbia, and
along the route across the country ; John Quincy Adams,
by his assertions in regard to the validity of the American title to the country, and later on by his messages,
strengthened their case ; the War Department, then
under John C. Calhoun, made a report through one of
its most trusted authorities, General Thomas S. Jesup,
who strongly advocated military occupation ; while at
least three associations of citizens from Massachusetts,
Louisiana, and Ohio presented memorials to the house,
asking for grants of land and the protection of the American government. The Massachusetts memorial was the
result of the zealous work of Hall J. Kelley, a school
teacher of Massachusetts, who was an enthusiast upon 18
the settlement of Oregon, and who had been agitating
the question both in his own state and in the City of
Washington for several years before it was taken up in
While great credit is to be given the far-sighted and
courageous advocates of the bill, it is not fair in a historical paper to minimize the efforts of the opposition. To
characterize the opponents as ultra-conservative or self-
interested would not be just to the many weighty arguments which they brought forward, and which, looked
at from the standpoint of their day, were weightier than
they seem now, when conditions have so changed. For
a new nation, with a new national machinery, hardly yet
in smoothly running order, to attempt expansion into
regions separated by natural barriers, and inaccessible
before the application of steam to travel, might well require careful thought.
This first attempt, though it had failed of accomplishing its immediate end, was highly creditable to all who
were engaged in it, and its results were not small. Interest had been awakened, not alone among the members
of congress, but more particularly among the people
throughout the country. Circulars containing all the
information available, were prepared and sent to the constituents of congressmen, and the nation began to be
committed to a policy which it would take time fully to
realize. The people had gained the impression that the
United States' title was perfectly clear to the whole
valley of the Columbia ; that the English were there only
by sufferance until the formal settlement of a boundary
at a more convenient time ; and that the government was
willing that American immigrants should occupy it, and
would protect them as well as it could.
The debates which occurred at various times in connection withjihese early bills are interesting, not alone THE GENESIS OF POLITICAL AUTHORITY IN OREGON.
because they mark the beginning of a large and important national movement, but also because of the light
they throw upon the times, because of the discussion of
important principles which always come to the surface
in large national questions, and the fine examples of
courage and far-sighted aggressiveness on one side, and
cautious conservatism on the other. Almost every point
of view which it would seem possible to conceive of found
expression in some form or other in the course of the debate ; and almost every- motive for or against the policy
was voiced.
In this first debate the question of the claim does not
figure largely, as it was quite generally assumed by all
that the American title was valid, and was so pronounced
by those in whom the people had confidence. There had
been, however, no critical examination of the subject as
yet on either side, but the American government felt so
confident that it did not realize any necessity for haste.
In the first place it was incumbent upon the advocates
of this measure to show the expediency of their proposal.
They had been called visionary and fanciful. That it wa?
only the continuation of a growth that had characterized
all our past history, was well expressed by Floyd in the
words: "At most it is only acting upon precisely the
same principle which has directed the progress of population from the moment the English first landed in Virginia." In the various reports and debates much emphasis was placed upon the material benefit which would
follow. By statistics, the value of the fur trade was exhibited as well as that of the whale fisheries, the returns
from which two industries alone would many times repay
all expenses incurred ; while the possible resources in the
line of agricultural wealth, though scarcely known, were
boldly prophesied.
2 I
m 20
While some regarded the measure as visionary, others
opposed it because it seemed too practical, would draw
capital and labor from the older sections, where they,
were still needed, and would beget a trade with the
Orient which would detract from that of the Atlantic
Coast. No friend of the measure could have painted a
bolder and more prophetic picture than that of the opponent who said : "The trade of the Pacific will naturally be with China, Japan, and the Philippines. They
will not only be invited to this by their local position,
but by the circumstances of their situation. Commerce
is never so profitable as when it is carried on between a
newly settled country, in which land is fresh and easily
obtained, and one in which a dense population has made
manufactures cheap and abundant." Considerable importance was attached to the establishment of a waterway connection by the river systems of the Missouri and
Columbia, between the.east and the west, "when distance and time will be conquered, and the ends of the
earth be brought together." Should this prove feasible,
and statistics were not wanting to demonstrate it, the
United States would have the proud distinction of establishing that waterway for which the nations had been so
many centuries in search.
Attention was called to the value to the nation there
would be in the encouragement of the fisheries, for the
training of seamen, and the advantages of a naval station at the mouth of the Columbia in case of war with
Great Britain. General Jesup suggested that troops stationed there could be used in removing the British from
the territory when the time came to settle the boundary.
Such propositions were not palatable to the English, nor
were they especially calculated to hasten a friendly settlement of such diplomatic proceedings as were necessary at a later time.    They rather served the purpose n
of strengthening whatever purpose the English had of
looking out for their own interests. But they were
clearer and more forcible announcements of the view of
the American people than England could get through
the diplomatic service.
In the history of civil government in Oregon there
are two distinct movements, that of the regularly organized government, and that of the people themselves.
They serve as the complement of each other, and act
and react upon one another in a multitude of ways.
Every time that the question was before congress it
reacted upon the people, and the impetus thus set
in motion again reacted upon a slower moving congress. In the westward expansion of our territory the
movement of people has always preceded that of the
national government. In the case of Oregon, through
remoteness of the territory, and the difficulties arising
from the joint claim and occupancy, the quicker movement of the people was more marked and the corresponding slowness of the government more irritating.
This feeling of restriction is expressed by Floyd in the
words : "All governments, republican as well as royal,
take upon themselves the exclusive privilege of thinking
for the people, of checking the progress of population in
one direction or fixing the boundaries to it in another,
beyond which they are not permitted to pass."
It had often been stated in the debate that a superior
power had set the Rocky Mountains as the western
boundary of the United States, and it is interesting to
know that the following reply came from a representative of Massachusetts : "As we reach the Rocky Mountains, we would be unwise did we not pass the narrow
space which separates the mountains from the ocean, to
secure advantages far greater than the existing advantages of all the country between the Mississippi and the 22
mountains. Sir, our national boundary is the Pacific
Ocean. The swelling tide of our population must and
will roll on until that mighty ocean limits our territorial
empire. Then, with two oceans washing our shores, the
commercial wealth of the world is ours, and imagination
can hardly conceive the greatness, the grandeur, and the
power that await us."7
There were other objections which seemed far more
weighty than those of material inexpediency. The principle of colonization which would be forced upon the
United States was regarded' as a menace. "Should this
principle now be recognized, it may hereafter be quoted
as a precedent for measures which will change the condition and nature of the government, an event to be
intimately associated with its destruction, or at least
with the prostration of that liberty for the protection of
which alone we can wish the government to exist.'
Although it was shown that the probabilities were that
the territory would become an integral part of the United
States, yet the champions of the west were undaunted in
defending colonization if it should come to that. Again
it was the representative from Massachusetts who replied : "Was Great Britain more powerful, wealthy and
happy before she began to colonize than now? Notwithstanding all her exhausting wars, all the drain of her
colonial emigration, she was never more populous, more
wealthy or more powerful than she is at this present day.
Colonization does not impair the strength or diminish
the wealth of nations. Some now within these walls
may in after times cherish delightful recollections of this
day when America, almost shrinking from the shadow
of coming events, first placed her feet upon untrodden
ground, scarcely daring to anticipate the grandeur which
awaited her."7
Equally great was the fear of entanglements with
foreign nations, and particularly war with England because of a violation of the treaty, an objection which,
perhaps, weighed most heavily in defeating the bill.
Nor was this objection ungrounded considering the newness of the nation and the necessity of a period of peace
for knitting together the internal fibres of strength. For
this there was, of course, no demonstration, nor could it
be opposed by proof, and yet there was courage in the
answer: "Arguments founded on what may happen
would go equally to prove the futility of establishing a
navy which may be captured by an adversary. If a
measure is right in itself it is unwise to reject it because
its beneficial effects may be defeated by a war."
As might be expected in those days, every question
must be tested by its effect upon the Union. The desire
to perpetuate the Union, so dearly purchased, has laid
at the foundation of many a policy. For its sake many
things, desirable in themselves, have been given up or
long delayed. That the national government could operate over a territory so vast, and regions so remote, with
barriers separating them geographically from other sections, was questionable in the day before railroads and
telegraphs. Yet, with a confidence inspired by their belief in the right of their position and in the final adjustment of national affairs to this action, the advocates -of
the measure argued that it would rather strengthen than
weaken the Union : "The danger of separation would be
less in a confederacy of twenty or thirty states with
diverse interests than in one of smaller number," because the multiplication of interests would neutralize
divisions which grow strong where the number is small.
Lastly, it was held that there was no need for present
action, that no request had been made by the business
public ;  it was a question to be settled not by the present 24
generation, but by the one to follow, and that no harm,
•either to the American title or interests, could result.
In the senate the discussion was briefer, but covered
essentially the same ground. Benton took the leading
part in favor of the bill, but received help from one of
the senators from Virginia. The opposition cast much
ridicule upon the idea of a senator going to and from
Washington in less than a year, either by land or by
water, around Cape Horn.
It is not possible in the compass of this paper to give
a full account of this interesting debate, but only so much
as will characterize the first movement toward governmental control by the United States. As we retrace the
discussions, in the light of subsequent events, we cannot
refrain from admiration of those who optimistically
trusted that the measure, if right in itself, need-cause no
fear of danger in the future.
After the retirement of Mr. Floyd no leader appeared
to continue the work begun, and consequently the subject dropped out of legislative discussion for about ten
years, with the exception of an occasional resolution and
a brief discussion. The interval of rest, however, was
not such as follows the defeat of a measure, but was,
rather, a period of preparation for another and greater
effort. Many influences were set in motion which
showed that the national consciousness was beginning
to work. It was during this interval that Captain
Bonneville and Capt. Nathaniel J. Wyeth made such
heroic attempts to establish a trade west of the Rocky
Mountains, with experiences equalling anything in romance. In a letter to his brother, Captain Wyeth says :8
"The formation of a trading company on a similar plan
to the Hudson Bay and the Northwest is the ultimate
8The Correspondence and Journals of Capt. Nathaniel J. Wyeth, edited by F.
object of my going to that country." Before starting
he offered his services to the government for the purpose,
of gaining information for them, and without "other
compensation than the respectability attached to all
those who serve their country." Whether his offer was
accepted or not does not appear from the correspondence,
but the entrance into the country of such a man, with
his companions, must mean a great deal in the clearing
up of obscure questions. It was at this time, also, that
Hall J. Kelley, who had been such a persistent and
patriotic advocate of settlement, reached the country.
Disappointed in not being able to secure grants of land
and the protection of the government, he reached Oregon, after many hardships, with a few companions, and
began the nucleus of a little settlement. Equally important was the impulse which missionary activity in the
East had received from a fuller knowledge of this new
and attractive field. Thus the religious motive was
added to the patriotic, and both were added to the zeal
for trade and adventure, in drawing attention to the new
Although the United States Government would give
no guarantee of protection, yet the new arrivals met in
those regions a condition of safety rarely found in so
wild and remote a locality, and, for the time being, at
least, were glad, to avail themselves of the security
offered by the Hudson's Bay Company. Nor is it to be
supposed that the colonists were entirely neglected by
the Government of the United States. Though unable
to grant fully the wishes for a civil government, or even
for military posts, yet every executive took measures to
gain such information as would keep the government
well advised, and enable it to see that the brave forerunners of settlement suffered no personal injury. The
interval of rest fell within the. administrations of Presi- 26
dent Jackson, and his policy seems to have been one
simply of watchfulness and the gaining of knowledge.
To this end William A. Slacum, of the United States
Navy, was appointed as a special agent, to visit Oregon
and examine the conditions. This is important, as
marking the policy the government intended to pursue
while things were in process of transition. If the protection given was not adequate, it at least dispels the
suspicion of utter heartlessness which would attach to a
government which would let its citizens go, in support of
its own interests, into this wilderness, without a single
thought for their safety.
When the question, therefore, next came up for discussion, conditions had considerably changed. Traders had
ventured into the country, missionary stations had been
established, more knowledge of the country had been
gained, a more careful examination of the title had been
made by the conference which met in 1827, and the cause
had enlisted the interest of some of the strongest men
in political life.
In the second campaign *the initiative was tranferred
from the house to the senate, and an able leader was
found in the senator from Missouri, Dr. Lewis F. Linn.
He was the colleague of Benton, and a man commanding
the highest esteem of his associates. The attack began
by a bill of February, 1838, for the occupation of the
Columbia and the establishment of a civil government
similar to previous bills. Meeting with failure, it was
followed, as in the previous campaign, by several others,
and, in spite of the assembling of the conference for
the settlement of the northeastern boundary, in 1842,
the discussions were carried on with a nearness to that
event which seemed dangerous to Mr. Linn's associates.
Shortly after the adjournment of the conference the discussions were renewed.    As in the case of Floyd's bills, THE GENESIS OF POLITICAL AUTHORITY IN OREGON
there was a gradual toning down of the provisions, in
the successive sessions of congress, so that the movement
which started by advocating the establishment of a
territory to be called the Oregon Territory, erection of a
fort on the Columbia, occupation of the country by a
military force, the establishment of a port of entry subject to the revenue laws of the United States, ended by
advocating a line of forts along the route to Oregon, a
post near its mouth, a grant of six hundred and forty
acres of land to every male settler cultivating the land
for five years, appointment of Indian agents to regulate
affairs with the native races, and extension of the jurisdiction of the courts of Iowa over the territory west
of the Rockies. The bill provided an increase of judges,
justices, and constables, to meet the increase of business,
and English subjects charged with criminal offenses
were to be given up to the English courts. This bill
passed the senate by a'vote of twenty-four to twenty-
twenty-two, in February of 1843, but failed of passage
in the house. Thus Linn, like Floyd, was rewarded for
his service by seeing his measure pass the house of
which he was a member, but any further hopes were cut
off by his death before the next session of congress.
The discussions bring out little that had not been said
before. The question of the claims, which had figured
so little in the previous debate, was an all important
theme of discussion at this time. The language used
shows a growing feeling of bitterness toward the English, and anxiety to secure such an arrangement as
would encourage emigration. The large grants of land
were especially for that purpose. It was in the course
of this debate that Mr. Benton used these words: "I
now go for vindicating our rights on the Columbia, and
as the first step toward it, the passing of this bill, and 28
making these grants of land, which will soon place
thirty or forty thousand rifles beyond the Rocky Mountains . ' '9
In the course of the discussion, Linn's policy had received many reinforcements from without. It was about
this time that the naval officer whom President Jackson
had appointed, made a report which showed the need
of action. In the beginning of the new agitation of the
question, the Rev. Jason Lee, head of the Methodist missionary movement in the Willamette Valley, appeared
in Washington. He had performed the long and dangerous journey across the plains, partly in the interests
of his mission and partly in the interests of settlement
and a civil government. Although a Canadian by birth,
he early identified himself with American interests as
best adapted to the successful accomplishment of his
missionary enterprise. Although he had gone into the
country in the interests of the natives, he was soon convinced that their interests would be served not alone by
laboring with them, but by building up a moral and religious community. IJe was the bearer of a petition to
congress from the colonists. It was signed not alone
by those connected with the mission, but by some of the
French and Canadian ex-employees of the Hudson's Bay
Company, who had started an agricultural settlement
on a beautiful tract of land called the French Prairie,
in the Willamette Valley. This document set forth the
history of the mission settlement, the prosperity which
had attended it, the resources of the country for agricultural purposes, the advantage of its position for trade
with China, and urged upon the United States the extension over it of a civil government, both in the interests of the colonists and of the country at large.    It
showed how the nucleus of a settlement was started ;
it dwelt upon the previous dependence upon the Hudson's Bay Company, a relation which could not-be expected to continue long in the changing conditions.
While in the east, Mr. Lee delivered lectures at various points, and exhibited two Indian lads whom he
had brought with him. In reply to inquiries from Hon.
Caleb Cushing, who led the debate in the house, and
who had been appointed upon a committee to make inquiries, he wrote a letter containing these significant
phrases. "The country will be settled, and that speedily
from some quarter, and it depends very much upon the
action of congress what that population shall be, and
what shall be the fate of the Indian tribes in that territory. It may be thought that Oregon is of little importance, but rely upon it, there is the germ of a great
state. We are resolved to do what we can to benefit
the country, but we $re constrained to throw ourselves
upon you for protection."
Other petitions were also received from the colonists
which were stronger in their wording, exaggerating some
things, and even making representations which, because
of too hasty conclusions, were misrepresentations of the
facts. They were, however, well adapted to be of service in the struggle for results. Petitions were likewise
received from bodies of prospective emigrants, who asked
for action by the legislature in granting lands and in furnishing the protection of the government. Memorials
from Nathaniel J. Wyeth and Hall J. Kelley also were
presented to the house by Mr. Cushing, and gave information concerning the physical and social conditions
west of the Rockies. In this second campaign the executive support was more conservative than had been
given by Monroe and Adams. It was the recommendation of President Van Buren to congress, that garrisoned 30
forts be established along the route for the protection of
emigrants, for he thought that the gradual settling of
this country would so far prepare the way for an adjustment favorable to American interests, that the possession of the country and the establishment of a civil
government would be effected without danger. The failure, likewise, of the conference of 1842 to conclude the
settlement of the northwestern boundary at the same
time that it fixed that in the northeast, was a great
disappointment to the people, who had been expecting
some action. President Tyler felt it necessary to offer
an explanation in his message to congress in which he
referred to the fear of a protracted discussion, and the
obstructions that might have been put in the way of
settling the northeastern boundary by connecting it with
a discussion of the northwestern.
This debate, like the previous one, was fraught with
significant results, and the gain was substantial. Although it had failed of its immediate purpose, although
it had been defeated in that body of congress in which it
might most naturally look for success, and although the
leader of the cause in the house, Hon. Caleb Cushing,
counseled delay, because of the danger of complications
with England, the effects, nevertheless, became apparent
even before the debate was ended. ' Through the suggestion of Mr. Lee, an immediate step in advance was taken.
It was decided that the government could, without violating the terms or the spirit of the existing treaty, send
some one who should act as an agent of the government
in dealing with the Indians, whose duty it should be to
make treaties with them and establish such relations as
would insure safety during the period of transition. This
officer was to bear only the title of sub-Indian agent, but
it was suggested to the colonists that his usefulness to
them might be increased by entrusting him with such THE GENESIS OF POLITICAL AUTHORITY IN OREGON.
additional authority as they thought fit to grant voluntarily ; that he might, if they so wished, act as a virtual
governor of the colony. It Will readily be seen that this
office, by virtue of its indefiniteness, was one of peculiar
difficulty. The effectiveness of the plan was also considerably diminished by the appointment of a man, Dr.
Elijah White, who had previously been in the country
and incurred some enmities. He was, however, cordially
received, and entered upon his duties with hopefulness.
The growing hostility of the Indians made immediate
and almost continuous exercise of his authority necessary, and many treaties were made pledging the natives
to respect the life and property of Americans. The previous authority of the English company had now to be
shared with the American government, so far at least as
Indian affairs were concerned. Thus a step in advance
had been taken toward the realization of an American
civil government, but it is questionable whether divided
authority in dealing with Indians tended to security of
life and property, especially where there was no means
of enforcing the obligations of treaty agreements. In
the exercise of authority along other lines, less success
was experienced.
Another result was the sending of Lieutenant Charles
Wilkes, Commander of the Pacific squadron, upon a
cruise along the coast, with instructions to make investigations, and General John C. Fremont, to examine the
overland routes. Both of these men were officers in
whom confidence was reposed and whose opinions would
have weight. The government did not recognize the
need of such urgency of action as the people desired.
It seems to have felt that its duty was discharged by
commissioning officers to investigate the condition of
things, by ordering an occasional vessel of war into the
neighborhood, and by sending  a sub-Indian  agent to
m^^m 32
lit f -
S  i
prevent any depredations that the Indians might be disposed to commit. It seems to have felt that the few
colonists already there were in no immediate danger of
suffering injury, if they used good judgment, while the
natural barriers to emigration would render additions
to the population very slow.
Viewed from the standpoint of the colonists, however,
everything was different. The Indian agent, without
military aid, could not render effective service ; Lieutenant Wilkes, because he was on friendly terms with the
officers of the English company, was thought to be too
much under their influence ; session after session of congress was passing away without any action for the establishment of military posts, or the extension of civil government over the territory. It is but natural, under the
circumstances, that the colonists should take the matter
into their own hands, and do what the exigencies of the
situation demanded. The formation of the pioneer provisional government may be regarded, therefore, as an
example of the true American spirit, exhibiting a resourcefulness equal to every emergency.
The origin of institutions is complex, and doubtless
many motives combined to bring this one into existence.
Its purpose as expressed in the organic laws, drawn
up as the constitution of the state, was declared to be :
"Mutual protection, and to secure peace and prosperity
among ourselves."10 This general statement, however,
probably sums up a number of motives not specified.
Most prominent among these were the feeling of nationality, the love of a democratic type of government,
the desire for power to control the character of population that should come in, anxiety to secure permanent
titles to the lands-taken up, equal rights in the pursuit
10Oregon Archives, by Grover, are the authority used on the provisional government. THE GENESIS OF POLITICAL AUTHORITY IN OREGON.
of the fur trade, protection from the Indians, prevention
of lawlessness among a mixed population, facilities for
the conduct of such business as growing numbers made
necessary, and, perhaps, in some cases, personal ambition to exercise authority.
The idea seems to have had its origin among the
missionaries and settlers in and about the Methodist
mission station in the Willamette Valley. Although
the subject had been under consideration before, the
first effective step taken was in February, 1841, at the
funeral of a settler, who died without heirs, and for the
administering of whose estate there was no authority
then in existence. A resolution was passed, expressing
the need of a civil government, and a call was given for
a general meeting to be held at the mission. At this
meeting a committee was appointed, consisting of the
various elements into which the community, though
small, was divided, and was instructed to draw up a
plan of government and report at a specified time. A
judicial officer with probate powers, together with a
sheriff and two constables to meet immediate Wants
were also appointed. Although an attempt had been
made, in the choice of the committee, to secure harmony, yet it never met to fulfill its task. When the general meeting, therefore, assembled at St. Paul's church,
the Catholic mission station, there was nothing to report. The committee was reconstructed and a resolution passed to submit the matter to Dr. McLoughlin and
Lieutenant Wilkes before further action was taken. As
both of thesa men advised delay the matter was dropped
for two years.
The idea, however, was kept alive, and was the subject
of discussion at the meetings of a debating society at
Willamette Falls, now Oregon City. The subject was
again formally suggested at a meeting held at the house 34
ttii ;
of one of the settlers, for the purpose of taking measures
to protect the cattle from wild animals. At the close of
a series of resolutions dealing with wolves, bears and
panthers, was one calling attention to the need of a civil
government, and providing for a general meeting for discussion and decision. The meeting was held as provided
May 2, 1843, at Champooick, between the present sites
of Salem and Oregon City, and was an occasion of great
interest and excitement. Opinion had been shaping
itself on both sides, and the opposing views were fully
The principal cause for anxiety was the body of Hudson Bay ex-employees, who were located in the valley.
Most of them were French or Canadians, Catholics, and
largely under the influence of the English Company.
Although some of them were favorable to a government,
the majority were not, and their views are quaintly summed up in an address prepared for presentation at a
later public meeting. They objected to a provisional
government as too "self-interested and full of degrees,
useless to our power, overloading the colony instead of
improving it." *They proposed in its place a council,
composed of men from all parts of the country "to judge
the difficulties, punish the crimes and make regulations
suitable for the people." They regarded a militia as
useless and "a danger of bad suspicion to the Indians."
The country was considered as "free at present, to all
nations, till government shall have decided ; open to
every individual wishing to settle, without distinction of
origin, and without asking him anything, either to become an English, Spanish or American citizen." There
were also some general reflections to the effect that,
"The more laws there are, the more opportunity for
roguery for those who make a practice of it ;"  and "in THE GENESIS OP POLITICAL AUTHORITY IN OREGON.      35
a new country, the more men employed and paid by the
public, the less remains for industry."
It was known that the vote was to be close. The Canadians had been drilled to vote "no" on every proposition, and their strength was determined in an amusing
way, by moving a question to which they would naturally have voted "yes." When the question of having
a government was put to a vote the result was so close,
that the chairman was in doubt. A division of the house
was called for, and at this critical point, Joseph Meek, a
typical frontier character, strode forward with the words:
"Who's for a divide? all in favor of the report and of an
organization, follow me." When the vote was counted,
it was found to be in favor of a government.
After this decision had been made there was still a
difference of opinion concerning the kind of government
to be established. Some were in favor of complete independence, while others wanted a provisional government
that should last until that of the United States should
be extended over the country. The English interests,
unable longer to prevent some action, now directed their
influence toward securing an independent government,
under the protectorate of England, if possible, and independent of the United States at any rate. The decision
favored a provisional government, and a committee of
nine was appointed to draft a plan to be submitted to
the people at a meeting to be held at Champooick on the
fifth of July, 1843. This committee is of great importance in the history of civil government in Oregon, because of the responsibility which rested upon it, and
because of the excellence of its work. Its members,
were neither learned nor acquainted with the law, but
they possessed good judgment and common sense. Their
meeting place was an old barn belonging to the Methodist mission.
3 36
In the drawing up of their organ of government they
very wisely adopted the ordinance of 1787, making such
changes as the peculiar local conditions rendered necessary. There was, first, a bill of rights, providing for freedom of religious belief and worship, the right of habeas
corpus and trial by a jury of peers, proportionate representation, judicial procedure according to common law, moderate fines and reasonable punishment, encouragement
of morality and knowledge, maintenance of schools, good
faith toward the Indian, and the prohibition of slavery.
There was, also, provision for the necessary organs of
government, a legislative branch, to consist of nine members, elected annually; an executive branch, to consist
of a committee of three ; and a judicial department, to
consist of supreme and associate judges, a probate
judge, and justice of the peace. Provision was made
for subordinate officials, a battalion of soldiers, and
grants of land to settlers. On the appointed day the
meeting convened at Champooick to receive the report.
It came, opportunely, on the day following our national
holiday. Although the general sentiment seems to have
been friendly to the movement, yet there was enough
variety of opinion to lend spice to the occasion. When
the plan drawn up had been reported to the people, its
provisions were readily passed. The principal discussion took place in regard to the executive. It had not
been the purpose to have any executive at all, on account
of the rivalry for the governorship, which unfortunately
existed at a time when united action was desirable. The
committee, upon their own responsibility, had recom-
jnended as a compromise an executive committee of
three. Although it was characterized by the opposition
as a "hydra-headed monster," and a "repetition of the
Roman Triumvirate," it was finally accepted.
After the adoption of the organic laws, and the elec- THE GENESIS OP POLITICAL AUTHORITY IN OREGON,
tion of the- necessary officers, the government went into
operation. It had no provision for taxation, and its expenses had to be met by voluntary subscription. It had
no public buildings, and for a time had to meet at private
houses. It soon became apparent that there were defects
in the plan of government as at first adopted. It was
found to be unfitted for governing a community of any
large number, or for any long period of time. It had
been prepared only for a temporary purpose, and only
for a short time. Its very imperfections, however, were
virtues to those who feared that a more perfect government would lead to independence from the United States,
which was an all-absorbing question among the colonists
and the basis of their party distinctions. As time passed,
however, and the United States took no action toward
extending her government over the colony, it became
apparent that something must be done to make the provisional government stronger and better fit to endure a
longer delay, and to govern- more effectively the larger
numbers which were coming into the country. The first
message of the executive committee, therefore, contained
the following words : "At the time of our organization
it was expected that the United States would have taken
possession of the country before this time, but a year
has rolled around, and there appears little or no pros-
pect of aid from that quarter, consequently we are yet
left to our own resources for protection. In view of the
present state of affairs, we would recommend to your
consideration the adoption of some measures for a more
thorough organization."11
The changes recommended were :   Creation of a single
executive in place of a committee of three ; increase in
the number of representatives in the legislative department ;   change  in  the  judicial  system,   together with
uOregou Archives. 38
I Ht
changes in certain specific subjects more of the nature
of statute than fundamental law. The recommendation
was followed and the changes were made. This first
session of the governmental body, indeed, was prolific in
legislation. Not only did it make these changes, but an
act was passed more exactly defining the jurisdiction of
the government. In the original plan it had been vague,
and was by this act confined to the region south of the
Columbia River. Provision was likewise made for the
raising of revenue sufficient to carry on a more effective
government, and all who refused to pay their taxes were
denied the right of suffrage and the benefits which the
government conferred. This was an effective mode of
winning the support of some who had stood aloof. Acts
were passed prohibiting the manufacture and sale of
intoxicating liquors, and negroes and mulattoes were excluded from the territory upon penalty of whipping. It
was the desire of the members of this first legislature to
call a constitutional convention for making the organ of
government more perfect and putting the changes already
made into permanent shape. It met with opposition,
however, because of the fear that it might drift into an
independent government, toward which there was in
many directions a strong tendency.
The session of 1845 was made up largely of the American party, and these men soon began the work of making
what they refused to call a "constitution," but called a
revised "compact," to be submitted directly to the people. The compact secured most of the changes already
made, drew a distinction between statute and fundamental law, was well worded, and removed the vagueness of previous provisions. This was in accordance
with the sentiment which existed in the colony, and was,
therefore, adopted by vote of the people at a special election, July 26, 1845.    These changes were made possible THE GENESIS OF POLITICAL AUTHORITY IN OREGON
by the greater legal talent which came with the migrations of 1843 and 1844, and were made necessary by the
increase in population and the delays of the national
government. For three years longer the provisional government was in force, exercising all the sovereign functions of government ; and, before superseded, it carried
on a war with the Indians.
Thus came into existence that government which has
been characterized by one who was in a position to know
as, "strong without an army or navy, and rich without
a treasury;" so effective "that property was safe, schools
established and supported, contracts enforced, debts collected, and the majesty of the law vindicated."12 This
is a judgment quite generally endorsed by the oldest of
the pioneers who look back to it with pride and affection.13
The formation of the provisional government met with
no opposition from congress or the President. In fact,
there is nothing to show that it received any formal attention at all. It was, however, whether so recognized
or not, a long step in advance. All that the United
States government could wish to accomplish in securing
an equal foothold in the territory, was brought about
without action on its part and without complications that
might have accompanied an extension of a United States
territorial government over the country, as provided by
the various bills. Every issue which the government
itself could have forced, was forced by the pioneers themselves . A permanent break was made in the old order
of things ; the fur trading regime was forced to give place
to an agricultural civilization. The way was prepared
for a distinctly American government. The final settlement of the Oregon question was made easier than it
^^ Quinn Thornton.   18Conversation yrith A. Hinman, pioneer of 1844. 40
otherwise would have been ; and a splendid demonstration was given of the fact so often seen in the history of
nations, that crises are settled most effectually by the
people of the nation themselves. The English made an
effort to adjust themselves to the new conditions and preserve their old authority. But their autocratic social
machinery, which probably had been best fitted for the
period of the fur trade, was unable to cope with the democratic provisional government in meeting the needs of
an agricultural settlement. It was the passing away of
one type of social order as the conditions themselves
changed, a fact well verified by the cordial support the
new order of things received from many who had opposed
its formation.
The effect of the change upon the Indian people was
more serious. The passing away of the old was fraught
with great significance to them. The entrance of the new
meant the gradual loss of their lands and the changing of
their habits of wilderness existence. It was not long ere
the new government found itself involved in difficulties
growing out of these conditions, with which it was not
able to grapple alone. When the time of greatest need
drew near, however, it was possible to take another step
in the gradual development of civil government, as it
was .necessary for the national government to take some
steps in the protection of its citizens against the Indians.
The events which led. up to, and which made possible
this result, so long struggled for, are as romantic and
stirring as anything that lias ever occurred in our history.
In tracing the influences which were at work to bring
about the further steps in the development of civil government, we need, first, to note the effect produced by
the treaty of 1842, which settled the northeastern boundary. That annoying question, which had been under
dispute so long, had, by virtue of the anxious desire to THE GENESIS OP POLITICAL AUTHORITY IN OREGON
reach a conclusion, done much to retard the settlement
of other questions of difference, particularly that of the
northwestern boundary. But, now that the settlement
had been reached, the way was clear for attention to this
question by itself, and freed from its bearing upon other
issues. Such a condition of affairs is surely a significant one in the development of our subject. Its immediate importance was, of course, connected with the
boundary question ; but the extension of a civil government was waiting upon that, and its fate inseparably
connected with it. In his message of December, 1842,
while explaining the omission of a settlement from the
treaty just concluded, Tyler manifests something of the
freedom gained, in a bolder statement than had appeared
from the executive department for many years : "The
territory of the United States, commonly called the Oregon Territory, lying on the Pacific Ocean, north of the
forty-second degree of latitude, to a portion of which
Great Britain lays claim, begins to attract the attention
of our fellow citizens, and the tide of population, which
has reclaimed what was so lately an unbroken wilderness, in more contiguous regions, is preparing to flow
over those vast districts which stretch from the Rocky
Mountains to the Pacific Ocean. In advance of the ac-
'quirement of individual rights to those lands, sound
policy dictates that every effort should be resorted to by
the two governments to settle their respective claims."
While the colonists were urging on the formation of
the provisional government, and the national policy was
pervaded by the greater freedom shown in Tyler's message, another influence was brought to bear toward the
accomplishment of the result. It was in the spring of
1843 that Dr. Marcus Whitman, head of the Presbyterian
and Congregational mission at Waiilatpu, near the present site of Walla Walla, appeared in Washington.    He 42
Il it
had made the long and dangerous journey in the winter
season, when hardy mountain trappers would scarcely
dare to try it. Almost frozen by the cold, and nearly
lost in the blinding snow storms, he finally reached his
destination. This heroic journey was made partly in
the interests of his mission work, and partly to awaken
such interest in the country that immigrants would
come, and that the government would protect them in
their coming. Although, before this time, he had been
attentive to his work among the Indians, and, by reason
of the location of his mission, had been compelled to exercise caution and reserve, yet he was always an ardent
admirer of American institutions and looked forward to
their final extension over the country. He was a quiet
yet earnest advocate of the provisional government, and
was fully aware of the means by which further results
were to be secured. The gradual settlement of the
country by industrious and moral people, a strict and
friendly observance of the terms of the treaty, a self-
imposed system of government suited to existing needs,
a final settlement of the boundary that would preserve
the territory that rightly belonged to the United States,
and a final incorporation into the nation when possible,
would seem to express his position.
Both among the colonists and in the east the feeling
was prevalent that in settlement rather than in congressional action lay the issue of the Oregon question. Heroic work had been done in congress, and heroic work
was being done by the colonists themselves. There were
indications, also, that the English were awake to the
importance of settlement. Already they had a number
of Canadian and French ex-employees of the company
in the valley of the Willamette ; a body of emigrants
had just come to the country around Puget Sound, and
various  rumors were afloat of settlement on
a larger mm
scale. As the success of the Americans' hopes rested
now on settlement, this was, indeed, a critical moment
for the advocates of provisional government and the
final extension of the institutions of their native land.
It was a time for heroic action, and the journey of Marcus Whitman will always be named as one of the most
significant, as well as romantic events in the history of
civil government in Oregon.
Such an ambassador could not fail of a hearing, and
conferences were held both with the President, John
Tyler, and the Secretary of State, Daniel Webster. Dr.
Whitman emphasized the value of the country, and what
was more significant, the possibility of reaching it by
wagon. Any abandonment, however, of the Oregon
cause beyond a reasonable compromise, seems scarcely
possible to one who has traced the government's relation to the question from the beginning. And even
such a compromise would seem uncalled for, when the
northwestern boundary, question stood by itself freed
from other objects. Some of the friends and associates
of Dr. Whitman, however, are authority for the statement that some such sacrifice was in contemplation and
had practically been made before his appearance in
Washington. If the evidence that comes to light confirms the advocacy of such a policy by Mr. Webster,
it would have been a surprise to every one, and would
have met a storm of opposition when made public, and
could hardly have been ratified, in view of the fact that
popular interest had never been greater, presidential
support never more hopeful, and the records and traditions regarding the boundary line had never considered seriously any settlement below the forty-ninth degree of latitude.
Upon his return west in 1843, Mr. Whitman wrote to
the Secretary of War an account of his journey, and the 44
emigration that had gone west that year. It was the
first large emigration, numbering about one thousand
people, and had been guided through the mountains
by Mr. Whitman, making the entire journey by wagon.
Accompanying this letter was the draft of a bill providing for the establishment of forts at various points along
the route for the protection of further emigration. This
seems to have been done in accordance with an understanding, reached during his stay at Washington, and
marks the policy of the government until the end was
The succeeding messages of President Tyler are firmer
in their tone and give more space to the subject. In the
message of December, 1843, he said: "After the most
rigid, and, as far as practicable, unbiased examination
of the subject, the United States have always contended
that their rights appertain to the entire region between
forty-two degrees of latitude and fifty-four degrees and
forty minutes. * * * In the meantime it is proper
to remark that many of our citizens are either already
established in the territory, or are on their way thither
for the purpose of forming permanent settlements, while
others are preparing to follow ; and, in view of these
facts, I must repeat the recommendations, contained in
previous messages for the establishment of military posts
at such places along the line of travel as will furnish
security and protection to our hardy adventurers, against
hostile tribes of Indians, inhabiting those regions. Our
laws should also follow them, so modified as the circumstances may seem to require. Under the influence of
our free system of government new republics are destined to spring up, at no distant day, on the shores of
the Pacific, similar to those existing on this side of the
Rocky Mountains, and giving a wider and more extensive
spread to the principles of civil and religious liberty." hi
Still stronger is the language of the message of December, 1844, when the notification of another conference
is accompanied by the words: "The establishment of
military forts along the route at suitable points upon the
extended line of land travel would enable our citizens
to emigrate in comparative safety to the fertile regions
below the Falls of the Columbia, and make the provision
of the existing convention for joint occupation of the territory more available than hitherto, to the latter. * * *
Legislative enactment should also be made which should
spread the aegis over him of our laws, so as to afford
protection to his person and property, when he shall
have reached his distant home. In the latter respect
the British Government has been much more careful of
the interests of such of her people as are" to be found in
that country, than the United States. Whatever may be
the result of the pending negotiations, such measures
are necessary. It will afford me the greatest pleasure
to witness a happy and favorable termination to the
existing negotiations upon terms compatible with the
public honor, and the best efforts of the government
will continue to be directed to this end."14
But other influences were at work to bring about these
changes. Then, as now, the scent of politicians for issues
to place in their platforms for winning votes, were keen.
And here was a question well fitted to their purpose.
The southern wing of the democratic party was anxious
to annex Texas in the interests of slavery, and an annexation of Oregon to satisfy the northern wing was a
shrewd move to gain votes and place James K. Polk
in the presidential chair.15 It was a bold stroke, and
might easily bring on war with  England.    But  now
14Mes^ages of the Presidents, by Richardson, is authority for statements of
1BBlaine's Twenty Years in Congress. Ill
all the fears of entanglement, which had furnished the
theme of many an eloquent discourse were thrown aside,
and the country entered upon an exciting campaign, in
which the rallying cry was "Fifty-four, Forty or Fight."
In spite of angry threats of war on the part of England,
Mr. Polk was elected, and the administration was committed to a settlement of the question.
In his inaugural address, Mr. Polk referred to the subject as follows : "It will become my duty to assert and
maintain by all constitutional means the right of the
United States to that portion of our territory which lies
beyond the Rocky Mountains. Our title is 'clear and
unquestionable,' and already our people are preparing
to perfect that title by occupying it with their wives and
children. But eighty years ago our population was
confined on the west by the ridge of the Alleghanies.
Within that period our people, increasing to many millions, have filled the eastern valley of the Mississippi,
adventurously ascended the Missouri to its head springs,
are already engaged .in establishing the blessing of self-
government in the valley of which the rivers flow to the
Pacific. The world beholds the peaceful triumphs of the
industry of our emigrants. To us belongs the duty of
protecting them wherever they may be upon our soil.
The jurisdiction of our laws and the benefits of our republican institutions should be extended over them in the
distant regions which they have selected for their homes.
The increasing facilities of intercourse will easily bring
the states, of which the formation in that part of our
territory cannot long be delayed, within the sphere of
our federative Union. In the meantime every obligation
imposed by treaty or conventional stipulation should be
sacredly respected." In the message of December, 1845,
he said : "Beyond all question the protection of our laws
and our jurisdiction, civil and criminal, ought to be im- __!■: "-n      =al
mediately extended over our citizens in Oregon. They
have had just cause to complain of our long neglect in
this particular, and have in consequence been compelled,
for their own safety and protection, to establish a pro
visional government for  themselves.
Strong in their
allegiance and ardent in their attachment to the United
States, they have been thus cast upon their own resources. They are anxious that our laws should be
extended over them, and I recommend that this be done
by congress with as little delay as possible to the full
extent to which the British parliament have proceeded
in regard to British subjects in that territory. * * *
The British proposition of compromise, which would
make the Columbia River the line, south of the forty-
ninth degree, with a trifling addition of detached territory north of that river, can never for a moment be
entertained by the United States." Considerable space
in the message was given to this subject, and recommendations were made for Indian agencies, custom houses,
postoffices, and post roads, a surveyor of lands, liberal
grants to settlers, the jurisdiction of the United States
laws, and the required year's notice to England of the
expiration of the treaty of joint occupancy.
With considerable of the jingo spirit in the house, and
with commendable moderation in the senate, a notice
was finally prepared which would accomplish the result
without giving offense. England, realizing that longer
delay might only injure her cause, finally took the initiative and proposed the conference which met in 1846, and
settled the boundary by a compromise at the forty-ninth
degree of latitude.
The settlement of the boundary line was the result
that had been looked for so many years, and it would
seem that nothing longer stood in the way of a realization of  the hopes of  all who favored the extension 48
of the national government as far as the Pacific Ocean,
One after another the obstacles had been falling away,
The knowledge and facilities of travel which enabled
yearly trains of emigrants to cross the plains were eliminating the element of distance. The advance of a sturdy
population carrying westward breadth of views and force
of character was deciding the national policy, and the
settlement of the boundary line removed a multitude of
difficulties which filled the whole period of joint occupancy. Why then should there be longer delay ? Action
was expected by the people, the needs were growing
greater every day.
It is easily explained. The very cause which had
gained for the nation the territory, now operated to retard the passage of a bill which would make it a territory in government. The question in the last phase of
its existence had gained entrance into the party politics
of the country, which at that time were identified with
the question of slavery and its extension into new territory. Though every barrier was removed, though Dr.
Whitman with thirteen others had been murdered by Indians, though an urgent petition was received from the
provisional government pleading for action, though two
special messengers were sent to Washington to hasten
legislation, though the democratic party was pledged to
complete the work begun, though the President sent a
special and urgent message to congress, though the territory in question was wholly outside of the belt where
slavery might reasonably be expected to exist, yet an
obstinate desire to maintain the abstract doctrine, and
prevent any reflections upon the unholy institution of
slavery, was responsible for this delay.
The President in his message of December, 1847, said I
"Besides the want of legal authority for continuing their
provisional government, it is wholly inadequate to pro- THE GENESIS OF POLITICAL AUTHORITY IN OREGON,
tect them in their rights of person and property, or to
secure to them the enjoyment of the privileges of other
citizens to which they are entitled under the Constitution of the United States. They should have the right of
suffrage, be represented in a territorial legislature by a
delegate in congress, and possess all the rights and privileges which citizens of other portions of the United
States have hitherto enjoyed, or may now enjoy."
While the executive department was strongly urging
the question, it was receiving attention likewise in congress. After the death of Senator Linn, new advocates of
the subject came forward, both in the house and in the
senate. Bills and resolutions were before the legislature
continually. Memorials came in from bodies of prospective settlers, from city councils, and even from state
legislatures. The provisional government sent petitions
in behalf of the colonists, which were well worded statements of the situation. Atchison and Hughes, both of
Missouri, introduced bills, in which the boundary line
at fifty-four degrees, forty minutes, was asserted. The
notice of the termination of the treaty of joint occupancy
was given which led to the conference of 1846, and the
settlement of the boundary. After the treaty, various
bills were introduced for the establishment of a territorial
government. For two years obstructions and delays prevented action, and the last session under Polk's administration arrived. There were at this time two bills before
congress, both practically framed by Stephen A. Douglas,
of Illinois. The interest manifested by Mr. Douglas
in this matter again illustrates how much the development of civil government in Oregon is connected with
other questions. He seems to have been largely interested in the creation of new territories out of the possessions west of the Mississippi. In a conversation before
his death he stated to a friend, who has reported it in a ill
Hi if!
IIS 'Kkfl '
treatise, that this interest was caused by a conviction
that there was a settled policy in the east to prevent the
westward growth of the nation by settling the Indian
tribes, as they were gradually being moved upon the
public lands west of the Mississippi. Not only would
this prevent a large part of that valley from being settled
and becoming a part of the nation, but would completely
cut off the line of emigration to Oregon, retarding its
growth, or destroying it altogether.16
An unfortunate amendment touching the question of
slavery was made to Mr. Douglas' bill, and from that
time on the main issue was buried out of sight in the
discussion of the slavery question. The representatives
from the south would not sanction a denial of their right
to take their slaves with them into any of the new territories. Various attempts were made to sidetrack the
question by joining its destiny with that of California
and New Mexico, and various efforts at compromise were
made. As the last day of session came, the anxiety was
intense. The bill was before the senate for decision.
The subject occupied the greater part of the day, and was
continued into the night. Many of the leading men took
part in the discussion. It was the policy of the opposition to delay action until the expiration of congress. Mr.
Benton called attention to the urgent need for immediate
action in somewhat exaggerated language : "A few years
ago we were ready to fight all the world to get possession ; and now we are just as willing to throw her away
as we were then to risk everything for her possession.
She is left without a government, without laws, while at
this moment she is engaged in a war with the Indians.
There are twelve or fifteen thousand persons settled there
who have claims on our protection.    She is three thou-
^Brief Treatise on Constitutional and Party Questions by S. A. Douglas.
sand miles from the metropolitan seat of government.
And yet, although she has set up a provisional government for herself, and that provisional government has
taken on itself the enactment of laws, it is left to the will
of every individual to determine for himself whether, he
will obey those laws or not. She has now reached a
point beyond which she can exist no longer?"17 The
opposition spirit is illustrated in the equally exagerated
remarks of John C. Calhoun: "The separation of the
north and south is now completed. The south has now
a solemn obligation to perform to herself, to the Constitution, to the Union. She is bound to come to a decision
not to permit this to go on any further, but to show that,
dearly as she prizes the Union, there are questions wThich
she regards as of greater importance. She is bound to
fulfill her obligations as she may best understand them.
This is not a question of territorial government, but a
question involving the Union." It is interesting to hear
Mr. Webster's views as summed up in the Congressional
Globe: "His objection to slavery was irrespective of
lines, and points of latitude. He was opposed to it in
every shape, and in every qualification. He was against
any compromise of the question." At the close of the
day a motion to lay the bill on the table was defeated.
The evening was given to discussion, and a motion to
adjourn was lost. As the night passed away, the friends
of the bill reclined in the ante-rooms ready to vote if an
opportunity came, while a few kept guard in the senate
chamber. A motion at midnight to adjourn was lost. A
senator from Mississippi arose for the purpose of killing
time. Until 9 o'clock the following morning, which was
Sunday, he gave a rambling history of the world, beginning with the story of the creation.    Exhausted, either
"Congressional Globe is authority used for remaining discussions in congress.
4 52
in strength, material, or obstinacy, he finally sat down.
Senator Benton, ever on the alert, immediately moved
the passage of the bill. It was carried in a short time,
and taken to the President for his signature so that it
might become a part of his administration. Thus Oregon
became a territory August 14, 1848. It was a very fitting
thing jbhat Senator Benton, who had from the first championed the cause, should have the satisfaction of seeing
it finished.
The provisions of the bill making Oregon a territory
resembled those of other bills of a similar kind in most
particulars. The special messengers, J. Quinn Thornton and Stephen L. Meek, had been able to make suggestions which fitted the bill to the peculiar needs of the
new territory. It was notable in being the first bill to
set aside two townships of land, instead of one, for the
purpose of supporting schools. It recognized the machinery of government already in existence, and endorsed
the provisions of the ordinance of 1787, which had already been adopted, in regard to slavery. The transition from the provisional government to the territorial
was easily made, and Oregon started out on a new era of
existence. The first Governor appointed, Gen. Joseph
Lane, referring later in congress to the experience of
this time said : "When I arrived there, in the winter of
1848, I found the provisional government working beautifully. Peace and plenty blessed the hills and vales,
and harmony and quiet, under the benign influence of
that government, reigned supreme throughout her borders. I thought it was almost a pity to disturb the
existing relations, to put that government down and
another up. Yet they came out to meet me, their first
Governor, under the laws of the United States. They
told me how proud they were to be under the laws of
the United States, and how glad they were to welcome THE GENESIS OP POLITICAL AUTHORITY IN OREGON.      53
me as holding the commission of the general government."
The period of territorial government was one of growth
along all lines. Trouble with the Indians, increase of
population, development of industrial life, and the various needs of a growing community, made many drafts
upon the new government. It was not long before the
largeness of the territory made a division desirable.
The peeple north of the Columbia, separated from those
to the south by geographical boundaries, and possessing
interests of their own, voted to request the formation of
the Washington Territory.. This was granted by congress in 1853.
It was not long before forces began to bring about the
last step in the development of civil government. There
were many things which led to a desire for statehood.
The people, in their provisional government, had become accustomed to the complete management of their
local affairs, without the supervision of any power above
them. While they valued the strength that was derived .
from connection with the United States, there were many
restrictions which troubled them. Then, too, there were
other delays incident to ratification of legislation, which
was vexatious, particularly to a people who had hitherto
enjoyed the quick application of their own laws. The
difference between the local and national policy regarding the Indian problem was another influence at work.
The people, annoyed by troubles with the Indians, which
were breaking out at intervals, were inclined to a policy
that would remove the Indians entirely, while the general government sought to pursue a policy that was more
conservative. Nor was the local pride, which the rapid
progress of California into statehood had aroused, entirely without its effect. A desire was likewise manifested for the advantage that was thought to lie in the Ill
il il
i      ■'■:
larger representation that a state would have in congress, by the addition of two senators. Nor were ambitious politicians wanting to keep alive this belief and
to accept the positions created. There were influences
pulling toward the creation of a state government, with
its senatorial representation, outside of the community
most directly interested. There are always interests to
be found in the general drift of political affairs that seek
re-enforcement through the admission of new states.
So great, however, was the opposition among the people of the territory, that the calling of a constitutional
convention was three times submitted to the people before it was sanctioned. There was opposition from the
southern part of the territory where a plan was in contemplation for union with Northern California in the
formation of a new state ; there was opposition from
the whig party which was growing in power and had a
vigorous organ to represent it in the Oregonian, and
there was a feeling of conservatism which felt that
things were not yet ripe for statehood, expressed later
#so well by Matthew P. Deady, the President of the Convention, in his closing address to that body: "I have
not regretted the delay that has occurred, by the country
refusing to authorize a convention before this time ; but
on the contrary, think it has been for the best. As to
mere numbers and wealth, we have doubtless sufficient
of both to maintain a state government ; but a people
in my opinion, require age and maturity, as well as
wealth and numbers to make them competent to carry
on a government successfully. As in the growth of the
child and the oak so with a people. Thrown together
as we have been, upon this coast, it requires time to
knit together in one harmonious whole our diversified
elements of population."18
^Journal of the Constitutional Convention. THE GENESIS OP POLITICAL AUTHORITY IN OREGON.      00
The Constitutional Convention met in August of 1857,
at Salem, and was in session for four weeks. It consisted of sixty delegates. It was early agreed to leave
the question of slavery to be decided by the people themselves, at the same time that they acted upon the constitution, and thus the greatest danger of obstruction
and delay was removed. The discussions, as reported
in the newspapers of the time, indicate considerable
party spirit, but, for the most part, they were harmonious and marked by fairness and deliberation. Little
difficulty was experienced in framing the main features
of the constitution, providing for the organs of government. A general disposition favorable to economy was
manifested throughout. That it sometimes went to extremes would be indicated by the dry humor of the suggestion that the chief executive of the state be requested
to board around, in the good old schoolmaster fashion.
Many of the most important subjects passed with little
or no discussion, but enough questions to excite differences of opinion arose to occupy the time. One of the
earliest discussions was upon the boundary of the state.
The sentiment was nearly all in favor of a large state,
yet a proposal was made to bound it on the east by the
Cascade Mountains, which were held to be the natural
boundary. This, it was thought, would leave room for
the creation of more states and a larger representation
in the United States Senate from the west. The speeches
in opposition were interesting. One of the delegates in
advocating a large state expressed himself in the following words : "I am in favor of extending the area of this
state as far east as we can go, go to the Missouri, if possible. I would like to take in Utah, if we could do them
any good."19  Another said :   "I like a large state; I was
19Reported in the Oregonian. 1857. 56
born and raised in one—the Empire state. Although
the people of Rhode Island and Delaware may be very
good people, yet I rejoice to know that I was not born
in either. I do not like little states ; they may have
votes in the senate, but they have no political influence.
Mr. Seward, black republican as he is, when he speaks
in the name of the great state of New York, speaks with
an authority and a weight that a Webster could not command speaking from Rhode Island." Another discussion pertained to the introduction of a clause prohibiting
the manufacture and sale of intoxicating liquors, a proposal which was finally rejected. Perhaps the longest
discussion arose upon a clause rendering the stockholders
of a corporation liable for its debts and obligations. It
drifted into a consideration of the subject of corporations
in general. The opinions expressed ranged all the way
from a desire to protect the farmer against "smart gentlemen representing to them glittering schemes" to "that
broader question, whether the resources of the country
shall be developed or not, whether we shall have the
means and facilities for creating a market here, at home,
for our surplus products, and whether the capital that
shall come into the country shall receive such protection
as will cause it to be productive."
In most particulars the constitution resembled, both
in form and substance, those of other states of the Union.
There were some distinguishing features, however. The
question of slavery had been decided in the negative by
vote of the people, and a clause excluding slavery introduced. There was a feeling, quite common throughout
the west, against free negroes, and clauses were introduced to keep them out, by a denial of the right of suffrage, of holding real estate, and the maintenance of any
suit in the courts. A somewhat similar policy was pursued toward the Chinese.    The assembly was given the THE GENESIS OF POLITICAL AUTHORITY IN OREGON
right to restrain and regulate immigration, although the
conditions of suffrage were made easy for the foreigner.
The state was saved the experience of a wildcat medium
of exchange, by denial of the right to charter any institution to issue such money. The state was prohibited from being a stockholder in a corporation, and such
enterprises could only be established under general laws.
The danger of extravagance in the development of the
state was prevented by denying the right to incur an
indebtedness beyond $50,000.
This constitution, upon being submitted to the people,
was adopted by a majority, and application was made
to congress for admission, under its provisions. The
constitution, though conservative in the main, provided
well for existing needs, and for a safe and steady growth.
There was nothing in it to encourage a hasty development or a speculative and harmful condition of industrial life. There is every reason to appreciate the good
judgment of those who framed it and did much to mold
the character of the commonwealth, as conservative, as
sound in its social and industrial policy, and to be depended on for sober and considerate action. Located, as
the State of Oregon is, upon the Pacific Coast, where
much of the history of the next century must be made,
itself the product of an enlarged national life, it must,
of necessity, exercise a greater influence in the national
policies of the future than it has in those of the past.
Some of the provisions of the constitution have, of
course, been made of no effect by the amendments to
the National Constitution. No sufficient cause has yet
arisen to make imperative its own amendment, but the
growth of the state may render necessary some changes
in the near future.
When the question came before congress the bill was
passed without great delay in the senate and submitted il lé
to the house. It became the occasion of discussion, but
was finally passed and received the President's signature
February 14, 1859. The principal objection made to its
passage was the denial of a requisite population. No
census had been taken since 1855, and approximations
had to be made. The delegate from the territory, Joseph
Lane, gave it as his opinion that there were from ninety
thousand to one hundred thousand people, and his authority was finally accepted. An effort was made by
some to join it with the Kansas question, and refuse it
admission because that state, with a larger population,
had been refused. Some opposed it because it prohibited
slavery, and some because it prohibited free negroes ;
some opposed one specific clause of the constitution and
some another, while some opposed it on party grounds
and would not vote for a measure introduced by the
democratic party. The final sentiment, and the one most
generally prevailing, was well expressed by the representative from Massachusetts. ' ' There are provisions in
her constitution which, were I to vote upon them, could
never receive my sanction. But I do not consider myself
as responsible, in the vote which I give for her admission, for each and every item in her constitution. I vote
for her admission on general principles. Her constitution is republican in form, and slavery is excluded from
her territory forever. I regret with sadness that the
people have deemed it expedient to adopt the article
they have relative to free negroes, but I must regard
it as but temporary and inoperative. I find no state
west of New York ready to grant full rights and privileges of citizenship to free blacks ; therefore it would
be inconsistent to reject Oregon for this clause in her
constitution. Oregon, at no remote day must be admitted as a state.    If we delay her admission, no man THE GENESIS OF POLITICAL AUTHORITY IN OREGON.
can foresee what intervening circumstances may occur
to embarass and embitter future proceedings."
As we have followed, one after another, the steps in
the genesis of political authority and of a commonwealth
government in Oregon, we have seen the heroic efforts
made by some who have stood out conspicuous as
leaders ; we have seen the no less heroic efforts of many
whose names have received no mention, but whose part
in the result has been as great ; we have seen the influence of forces which were powerfully working with or
against the efforts to achieve the result. We have seen
a locality well fitted for the home of man pass out from
the condition of a wilderness, through tall the stages
of development, to that high state of civilization where
every individual enjoys the privilege of citizenship in a
great nation, as well as all the liberties of local freedom.
And although we have been engaged upon a theme of
local history, in its unfolding we have beheld at the
same time a gradual enlargement of national life, and
a steady progress toward greater things.
In the days of the early Oregon pioneers the narrative of
Lewis and Clark's explorations to the Pacific Coast had
become little more than a tradition to the frontier people
of the West. The wild stories of mountain trappers,
told by camp fires, and colored by vivid recollections of
real privations among mountain defiles—these formed
the picture in the popular mind along the frontier of
the difficulties to be overcome in a journey across the
Rockies. As long as these reiterated stories took their
measure of endurance from the wanderings of missionaries and mountain trappers, the problem of their influence might be a simple one ; but when the question of
taking women and children over the dreary wastes of
wide deserts and pathless steeps of mountain cliffs was
raised, other considerations were at once added ; for how
could these trusts be transported over bridgeless and
fordless streams? How insured against hunger and
thirst, and how kept out of reach of the danger of attack
by hostile tribes of Indians ?
The object of this brief paper is to outline a conviction
of the writer that the difficulties in the way of a migration to Oregon—as these difficulties were seen by the
people of the frontier states—formed a selecting test of
the kind of people who alone could go to Oregon across
the mountains in those days—a real and practical natural selection of a new people for a new community.
Without entering into the hackneyed question of the
agency of Doctor Whitman in securing Oregon for the
United   States, we  may say Doctor Whitman  was  no SELECTION   IN   PIONEER   SETTLEMENT.
mythical character." He was a real man ; a missionary
of the American Board. In 1842 he found the Indians
around him so dissatisfied, that he called a synodical
meeting of the neighboring missions, and submitted to
them the question "Shall we give up the mission of
Waiilatpu?" The synod decided in the negative. The
doctor then said to his co-laborers, "Then you must vote
me leave of absence, for I must go home to confer with
the board on the situation." In fact Doctor Whitman
seems to have had a mild kind of monomania on the subject of ox teams drawing plain Missouri wagons from Fort
Independence to the Columbia at Wallula. Anyway, his
brethren of that synod all knew that he carried that conviction with him to the states. They knew, too, that he
wanted an opportunity to publish it along the frontiers
to the restless multitude who were asking the question,
"Was it safe to attempt to take a family to Oregon in an
ox wagon?" Doctor Whitman said he knew this could
be done ; said he himself would guide a trainv of wagons
to Wallula, on the Columbia, and reach there before the
fall storms should hinder their progress. '
Let us now turn to the restless people of the frontier
who wanted to go to Oregon, and inquire what their
mental picture of the great barriers of the journey was.
At this time, 1842, these restless people might be found
from Eastern Tennessee to Western Missouri. In their
view the Rocky Mountain barrier was not a single line
of mountains, but a complex system of ranges, like the one
that separated Eastern Virginia and the Carolinas from
the valley of the Ohio, with whose character they were
familiar. They clearly apprehended the difficulties of
such mountain travel, without roads or bridges, without
shops for repairs, or towns for repurchase of supplies run
short. They saw plainly the necessity of starting with
wagons loaded for the whole journey, and of getting 62
M V'î*
through before winter. They knew, too, that having
passed the Rocky Mountain barrier, a vast desert plain
hundreds of miles across extended from the western slope
of the Rockies, only to bring them to another mountain
barrier—the Cascade Range, which, if not higher, was
at least steeper in its approaches. And, inasmuch as this
second barrier would be reached late in the season, oxen
and horses would be so weak and worn by their long
journey as to add fearfully to dangers which they of all
people knew how to appreciate. Let it be remembered,
too, that all this fearful risk was to be borne by women
and children. We have called the routes of travel bridge-
less (and often fordless), look as to how much this implies : Suppose our train to have reached what was at
their route a fordless stream. The ferry was soon prepared by selecting one of the best of their wagon boxes,
caulking its chinks and joints as best they could, and
using this as a boat. A rope fastened to it was passed
over the river, and this extemporized ferry was ready for
its work.
In naming over the principal forms of danger that
went to make up the outlook of the road to Oregon in
the early forties, one must be named—one more dreaded
than all the rest—the continued exposure to Indian attack. For, if after a long toilsome climbing over rocky
declivities a pleasanter part of the way is reached, and
the weary toilers are led to hope for easier travel, just
here, at any turn in the road, the dreadful savage might
suddenly make his appearance. Such was the dark
picture the journey overland to Oregon presented to the
men and women of the frontier, who yet restlessly waited
for their own chance to try it. Now, in spite of all these
dangers of the way, the wagon trains were organized ;
were loaded with their precious burden of life and hope ;
did cross these mountain ranges and the long stretches SELECTION  IN   PIONEER  SETTLEMENT.
of desert between them ; did reach and people Oregon.
There remains the inquiry : What manner of people
were they who dared to do this? For surely it was
the coming of the women and children of these pioneer
wagon trains that won Oregon for the Stars and Stripes.
First of all, then, these pioneers were all frontier
people. In 1842 the only people who cared about the
question of a migration to Oregon were frontier people
of these Western States ; people already familiar with
the modes and the dangers of travel beyond the safeguards of civilization. And this fact gives us our first
test in the classification of our pioneers—they were all
frontier people. This limitation was not intended, was
not the result of any choice or purpose of those concerned. As an applied test it developed itself from the
very nature of the case ; for nobody but frontiersmen
thought of going, or cared to go.
Another important limitation developed itself in well-
defined outlines from the beginning of the movement
and lasted throughout the real pioneer period. It was
the practical exclusion of capital from the forces that
originated its companies, purchased their supplies, or
paid for the help they needed on the journey. No people
knew better than the border Americans the power of
money ; but here again its absence was not planned,
was not desired. Its absence resulted from the nature
of the case ; and the forces that moved those trains of
farm wagons moved without the stimulus of sustaining
capital. The simple fact was that capital saw in the
migration of these pioneers no return of any appreciable
per centum of the funds to be expended. And thus it
came to pass that the wealthy were effectually excluded
from the ranks of our Oregon pioneers.
Frontier life has in it ordinarily less of poverty than
any other condition of society ;   a fact, doubtless due to 64
the continual effort necessary there to keep at all abreast
of the incessant struggle against the savagery of its
surroundings. The long frontier line west of the Mississippi in the early forties was aglow with a restless
people pressing westward, and but recently come there.
The usual causes of extreme poverty had not settled
there ; and so it came that few indeed along this border
line could be classed as dependent poor. And, perhaps,
none too poor to own a team and a good serviceable farm
wagon, with means sufficient to provision it with good
wholesome food and clothing for a journey to Oregon.
But, if such there happened to be, we can easily imagine
the dismay it must have caused to have the name of
such a man proposed as a member of one of these companies. The fact, doubtless, was that the unfitness of
such a proposal prevented its occurrence.
The poor—the dependent poor—were not in the movement to Oregon. These organized wagon companies,
however well meaning, however generous they might
be as individuals, had no place in their organizations
for the dependent poor man. Yet one more of these
causes of unfitness for such a journey as the one we
have been trying to picture, was that of chronic feeble
health. To start on such a difficult and dangerous expedition as this unquestionably was during the proper
pioneer family movement, from 1842 to 1852, would
have seemed to all concerned too much like suicide of
the sick or the chronically feeble.
The expedition to Oregon, as they looked upon it,
called for a power of endurance that might be found
only in the soundest. So by common consent poor
health ruled its possessor from the ranks of the pioneers. One can readily see what must have been the
result of this exclusion upon the health condition of SELECTION   IN   PIONEER   SETTLEMENT.
Oregon during the early period of its history, if not
through more remote chapters of its development.
We have thus forced upon us the conviction that the
pioneer migration across the plains to Oregon consisted
almost wholly of frontier people. That from their organized trains the rich excluded themselves; the dependent
poor were kept aloof, and those subject to chronic sickness or feeble health at once accepted their inevitable
exclusion. Now, with these inelligible groups cancelled,
we may well ask :    Who were left to go to Oregon.
Well, the proposed migration thus shorn of elements
that did not fit the heart of the movement, there remained scattered along the frontier several thousands
of the very material for pioneering. Men in the prime
of life with small families who were themselves accustomed to the management of teams ; were familiar with
the dangers of desert travel and mountain climbing ;
were accustomed to Indian alarms, many of them to Indian fighting ; and all of them accustomed from childhood to the use of the rifle—these were restlessly waiting
the time for movement. Doctor Whitman was informed
of this. And it was to take the message of readiness to
these that he decided on a winter journey. He may have
done other important things. He may have failed to do
some things over zealously ascribed to him. This herald
work he did. He announced to his synod in Oregon that
he regarded this service as the work needing to be done.
He did this work, and the Missouri ox-wagons followed.
For the restless waiters on destiny along the frontier saw
that their time had come.
His Adventures in the far West recalled in association with the family home
near Boston. "In Historic Mansions and Highways Around Boston," by
Samuel Adams Drake, published by Little, Brown & Co., there is a sketch of
the family home of Nathaniel J. Wyeth, the early explorer of Oregon.
" Emerging from Mount Auburn," the author writes, " we take counsel of the
swinging sign pointing to the lane leading to Fresh Pond, which is found to
be the natural source of numerous underground streams, which are found
wherever the earth is penetrated to any depth between it and. Charleston."
The writer continues :
Time out of mind the shores of the pond belonged to
the Wyeths, and one of this family deserves our notice
in passing. Nathaniel J. Wyeth was bred and born near
at hand. Of an enterprising and courageous disposition,
he conceived the idea of organizing a party with which to
cross the continent and engage in trade with the Indian
tribes of Oregon. He enlisted one and twenty adventurous spirits, who made him their leader, and with whom
he set out from Boston on the first of March, 1832, first
encamping his party on one of the harbor islands, in
order to inure them to field life. The organizers provided themselves with a novel means of transportation—
no other than a number of boats, built at the village
smithy, and mounted on wheels. With these boats they
expected to pass the rivers they might encounter, while
at other times they were oo serve as wagons. The idea
was not without ingenuity, but was founded on a false
estimate of the character of the streams, and of the
mountain roads they were sure to meet with.
Wyeth and his followers pursued their route via Baltimore and the railway, which then left them at the base
of the Alleghanies, onward to Pittsburg, at which point
they took steamboat to Saint Louis, arriving there on the
eighteenth of April.    Hitherto they had met with only a OREGON   EXPEDITIONS.
few disagreeable adventures. They were now to face
the real difficulties of their undertaking. They soon
discovered that their complicated wagons were useless,
and they were forced to part with them. The warlike
tribes, whose hunting-grounds they were to traverse,
began to give them uneasiness ; and, to crown their
misfortunes, they now ascertained how ignorantly they
had calculated upon the trade with the savages.
Saint Louis was then the great depot of the Indian
traders, who made their annual expeditions across the
plains, prepared to fight or barter, as the temper of the
Indians might dictate. The old trappers who had made
their abode in the mountain regions met the traders at
a given rendezvous, receiving powder, lead, tobacco, and
a few accessories in exchange for their furs. To one of
these parties Wyeth attached himself, and it was well
that he did so.
Before reaching the Platte, five of Wyeth's men deserted their companions, either from dissatisfaction with
their leader, or because they had just begun to realize
the.hazard of the enterprise. Nat Wyeth, however, was
of that stuff we so expressly name clear grit. There was
no flinching about him, the Pacific was his objective,
and he determined to arrive at his destination even if
he marched alone. William Sublette's party, which
Wyeth had joined, encountered the vicissitudes common
to a trip across the plains in that day ; the only difference being that the New England men now faced these
difficulties for the first time, whereas Sublette's, party
was largely composed of experienced plainsmen. They
followed the course of the Platte, seeing great herds of
buffalo roaming at large, while they experienced the
gnawings of hunger for want of fuel to cook the delicious humps, sirloins and joints, constantly paraded like
5 68
the fruit of Tantalus before their greedy eyes. They
found the streams turbulent and swift ; the Black Hills,
which the iron horse now so easily ascends, were infested
with bears and rattlesnakes. Many of the party fell ill
from the effects of drinking the brackish water of the
Platte, Dr. Jacob Wyeth, brother of the captain and surgeon of the party, being unluckily of this number.
Sublette, a French créole, and one of the pioneers that
have preceded pony-express, telegraph, stagecoach and
locomotive, in their onward march, had no fears of the
rivalry of the New England men, and readily took them
under his protection. Besides, they swelled his numbers by the addition of a score of good rifles, no inconsiderable acquisition when his valuable caravan entered
the country of the treacherous Blackfeet, the thieving
Crows, or warlike Nez Perces. The united bands arrived at Pierre's Hole, the trading rendezvous, in July,
where they embraced the first opportunity for repose
since leaving the white settlements.
At this place there was a further secession from
Wyeth's company, by which he was left with only
eleven men, the remainder preferring to return home
with Sublette. Petty grievances, a somewhat too arrogant demeanor on the part of the leader, and the conviction that the trip would prove a failure, caused these
men to desert their companions when only a few hundred miles distant from the mouth of the Columbia.
Before a final separation occurred, a severe battle took
place between the whites and their Indian allies and the
Blackfeet, by which Sublette lost seven of his own men
killed and thirteen wounded. None of Wyeth's men
were injured in this fight, but a little later one of those
who had separated from him was ambushed and killed
by Blackfeet.
Wyeth now joined Milton Sublette, the brother of OREGON   EXPEDITIONS.
William, under whose guidance he proceeded towards
Salmon River. The Bostons, as the Northwest Coast
Indians formerly styled all white men, arrived at Vancouver on the twenty-ninth of October, having occupied
seven months in a journey which may now be made in
as many days. The expedition was a failure, indeed, so
far as gain was concerned, and Wyeth's men all left him
at the Hudson's Bay Company's Fort. The captain,
nothing daunted, and determined to make use of his
dearly bought experience, returned to the States the ensuing season. His adventures may be followed by the
curious in the pleasant pages of Irving's Captain Bonneville. Arriving at the headwaters of the Missouri, he
built what is known as a bull-boat, made of buffalo skins
stitched together and stretched over a slight frame, in
which, with two or three half-breeds, he consigned himself to the treacherous currents and quicksands of the
Big Horn. Down this stream he floated to its confluence
with the Yellowstone. At Fort Union he exchanged his
leather bark for a dugrout, with which he sailed, floated,
or paddled down the turbid Missouri to Camp (now Fort)
Leavenworth. He returned to Boston, and, having secured the means, again repaired to St. Louis, where he
enlisted a second company of sixty men, with which he
once more sought the old Oregon trail.
This was sixty years ago. Since then the Great American Desert, as it was called, has undergone a magical
transformation. Cities of twenty thousand inhabitants
exist today where Wyeth found only a dreary wilderness ;
from the Big Muddy to the Pacific you are scarcely ever
out of sight of the smoke of the settler's cabin. In looking at the dangers and trials to which Wyeth found him-
self opposed, it must be admitted that he exhibited rare
traits of courage and perseverance, allied with the natural capacity of a leader.    His misfortunes arose through 70
ignorance, and, perhaps to no small extent also, from
that vanity which inclines your full-blooded Yankee to
believe himself capable of everything, because the word
"impossible" is expunged from his vocabulary.
[These notes were intended to be material for the closing pages of the Quarterly,,
but were misplaced by the printer In the make-up.]
By the death of Elliott Coues last Christmas the history of exploration of the region west of the Mississippi
lost a most active and wonderfully proficient worker.
After nearly a lifetime spent in prodigious activity in
scientific lines he turned his energies to collecting, annotating and editing the original records of explorers and
traders of the northwest and southwest. When Doctor
Coues first took up the work of editing the narratives of
explorers he had attained great eminence as a writer in
ornithology. His reputation for thorough scholarship
in the whole field of biology was such that he was
assigned the subjects of general zoology, comparative
anatomy and biology in the preparation of the Century
Dictionary. "His scientific writings number about one
thousand titles."
He had spent some sixteen years either as a surgeon at
different army posts in the west, as far apart as Arizona
and North Dakota, or as naturalist connected with different surveys. Thus he brought a unique preparation
to the crowning work of his life in history. His annotations, elucidating points of geography, zoology, and
ethnology, are copious and minute to a degree that quite
bewilders the average reader. The first fruits of his
labors in the field of history were the four volumes of
his edition of Lewis and Clark in 1893, Zebulon Pike's
Expeditions followed in 1895 ; Henry and Thompson's
Journals in 1897 ; and Fowler's Journal and Larpen-
teur's Narratives—distinct works—have appeared since. OREGON   EXPEDITIONS.
He was engaged on the Diary of Francisco Garces, when
he broke down last September, in Santa Fe, at the age
of fifty-seven. The issue of the New York Times of
March 3, speaks of the recent great increase in value of
all these works. The first two are particularly scarce,
and have commanded treble their original value.
Through Mrs. Frances Fuller Victor it is learned that
he had expressed a warm interest in the work of the
Oregon Historical Society. He would have been pleased
with an honorary membership in the Society. To acknowledge in some fitting way the great service he has
done the history of the Northwest would do the Society
graceful credit.
A two-volume life of Gen. Isaac Ingalls Stevens by
his son, Gen. Hazard Stevens, is announced to appear
in May. The history of the Pacific Northwest during
the eight eventful years from 1853 to 1861, cannot be
understood without a knowledge of the striking personality of General Stevens. As Governor of Washington
Territory, in command of the exploration and survey of
the northern route for the Pacific Railroad, in authority
during the terrible Yakima war, 1855-56, and as author
and executor of the summary proceedings for the settlement of the difficulties arising out of that war, Governor
Stevens had a most conspicuous part in making that
history. Gen. Hazard Stevens has been at work on this
life since 1877, and during the last two years has given
"almost his whole time to it. He says that he found his
father's reports in the Indian Department, and others in
Washington very full and complete, especially those relating to his Indian councils and treaties. "The proceedings at the Walla Walla council," he remarks, "are
especially interesting, particularly the speeches of the
Indian chiefs." He believes that the life will have especial historical value in setting the origin of the Indian 72
war of 1855-56, the policy pursued towards the Indians,
and the prosecution of the Indian war in a correct light.
General Stevens recognizes that the Oregon Historical
Society is the rightful heir to the rich collection of historical material from which this part of this work was
The Oregon Historical Society, as a perusal of the reports of its activities during the first year of its existence
reveals, has entered upon its work under most favorable
auspices. The legislature appreciated the importance of
the functions undertaken, and the expense attending a
successful fulfillment of them. The membership roll
indicates a hearty and strong response to the idea that
Oregon shall be true to her makers. The Society had
at the date of the first annual report of the Secretary
seventy-six life members and two hundred and ninety-
four annual members.
The primal mission of the Society is to bring together
in the most complete measure possible the data for the
history of the commonwealth, and to stimulate the widest
and highest use of them. Every member should avail
himself of his first opportunity to visit the rooms of the
Society in the City Hall at Portland. The Directors
believe that he will be assured that there has been commendable zeal in the prosecution of the Society's work.
They are concerned, however, that every member shall
realize that the trust devolving upon the Society is such
that it cannot be adequately or gloriously fulfilled unless *
each is alert in discovering material, and concerned that
it shall reach the collections of the Society. In this line
of our commonwealth's interests everything as to serviceability and value depends upon the concentration of
By H. S. Lyman.
Francis Xavier Matthieu, a pioneer of French Prairie,
near the old town of Champoeg, of the year 1842, and a
participant in the movement for the Oregon provisional
government of May, 1843, was a French-Canadian by
birth. His native town was Terrebonne, twelve miles
from Montreal, and his father and mother were of pure
French descent—the father's family being from Normandy, and the mother's from Brittany ; and both
branches were very early immigrants to Canada. They
belonged to the working class, and the parents of F. X.
were only in the moderate circumstances of the independent farmer. Owing to this circumstance, young
Matthieu was obliged at an early age to begin life on his
own account. He went to Montreal when quite young,
and engaged as a clerk in a mercantile house. There
was, however, still earlier, while he was yet a schoolboy
in his native town, a very powerful formative influence
that moulded all his ideas, and though somewhat blindly
as it first seemed, finally, with wonderful selective
affinity, turned his course westward, and made him almost the deciding factor of free government in Oregon.
The date of his birth, 1818, brought his early life and
schoolboy days into the very critical time of the patriot
movement in Canada. With that disregard of political obligations for which the British government was
formerly noted, such as had caused the rupture with her
greatest American colonies, the royal authority had failed
ta keep the promises made to the Canadian provinces ;
and, now restive under a rule that seemed both tyran- 74
nous and faithless, the leaders of those Canadians were
demanding their covenanted rights as they understood
them. Louis J. Papineau, an orator of the character of
Laurier of the present day, was leading the movement.
He had drawn up the famous memorial, or bill of grievances, to the British crown. Though not a successful
military leader, and, indeed, discountenancing the use of
force, he was a thrilling orator, and had fired the heart
of the French-Canadians with the hope of equal rights ;
and created the determination to acquire these, if not by
agitation, then by revolution.
It happened that in the town of Terrebonne, where the
little F. X. Matthieu was living, there Was a highly educated civil officer, a notary public—the office of notary
then being a profession that required special legal,
and classical education. The name of this notary was
Velade ; and, besides his official duties, he was schoolmaster, receiving a small stipend from the government,
and nominal fees from his pupils. Velade was a student
of government, and a great admirer of the United States.
American liberty and law as developed in this country,
he taught in his school almost to the entire neglect of
the Canadian system. This he not only taught, but actually instituted. Every term his school held an election
after the American plan. Some of the boys also regularly celebrated the Fourth of July, carrying American
flags. This was in connection with some young men
from the United States who had come to Terrebonne, and'
started a nail factory. With this extreme Americanism,
however, the townspeople were not altogether pleased,
and sometimes broke up their demonstrations.
While still a mere boy, Matthieu went to Montreal,
where he was engaged in clerking, and there acquired a
certain impress and manner that distinguishes him even
yet from the farmer.    Being already imbued with ideas w
of free government, it was easy for him to find and join
the Sons of Liberty—a secret organization auxiliary to
the party called "Democrats," who opposed the "Bureaucrats . ' '
The Sons of Liberty, or patriots, carried their movement to the point of armed resistance. They drilled regularly in secret, using sticks for guns ; and at night met
in secluded places to make cartridges and mould bullets.
Mr. Matthieu has preserved to this day his old bullet
mould, used at that time, which he has now presented to
the Oregon Historical Society. He was himself a very
useful member of the Sons of Liberty, since, being a
store clerk, he could procure lead and powder more easily
than some others. One of the services of this company
was to guard the house of Papineau, whose appeals he
heard in public, and whose boldness was bringing on the
threatened crisis.
As is well known, however, the movement collapsed.
Before a blow was struck, many of the Sons of Liberty
were placed under arrest and executed. Mr. Matthieu
recalls the hanging of sixteen patriots in one market
place, tied in pairs, back to back. Though then a youth
of not twenty years old, he was himself in danger of the
,same fate and sought safety at Terrebonne. While here,
almost in hiding, he was approached by a certain Doctor
Frasier, a Scotchman, holding some government position, and who, as it happened, was an uncle of Dr. John
McLoughlin, then Hudson's Bay chief factor at Fort
Vancouver, Oregon Territory. Matthieu was asked why
he did not leave Canada.
"I have no pass," he replied.
"I will give you one," said the old doctor; and immediately provided the necessary paper.
With this passport, Matthieu at once started for the
American border.    He would become a citizen of the 76
United States. At the line, however, where it was necessary to present his pass, the officer looked at him
sharply; "You do not correspond with the description;" he said, "this calls for black eyes, yours are
blue"—this inadvertence probably being due to the fact
that his eyes were of that changeable color that turns
dark under excitement.
"Can't help the description," replied the young refugee, "that is not my fault."
The officer then eyed his red and black diamond
squared plaid, which was the patriot uniform, and
which Matthieu had not thought of as unsafe while he
had his passport. But instead of detaining him, the
officer said, "Well, get along with you ; the sooner the
country is rid of you fellows, the better"—probably
little dreaming that the blue-eyed patriot was to turn
up a few years later in Oregon to confront the British
authority and help that important section of North
America oyer to liberty as defined in the American Constitution .
Coming to Albany, New York, (1838), he soon found
employment as clerk in a store. To him, his patron was
honorable ; but not altogether so to his creditors, as he
left the city suddenly and secretly. Matthieu was entrusted with the care of his family, and was instructed to
bring them to the new scene of operations, being Milwaukee, Wisconsin. This, in course of time, led the young
man to that then far western land (May, 1839). From
Milwaukee he went to St. Louis, being attracted toward
that old French city (August, 1839). There he found
service very soon with the American Fur Company—
then officered almost exclusively by Frenchmen. His
first outing was to Fort Pierre (October, 1839), on the
Missouri River, among the Sioux and Da*kotas— the
Sioux Indians being the finest wild men that he has ever fa
seen, whom he describes as "a great nation, fine, noble
fellows." During this period he encountered many
hardships,* and also much to interest a light-hearted
Gallic youth. He remembers one expedition on which
provisions became reduced, the daily allowance being
two biscuits to the man and two ounces of dried Buffalo
beef to two comrades. This lean fare was eked out, as
they marched, by eating the frosted rosebuds of the Missouri meadows. As an incident of a trader's life among
the Sioux, he recalls with much gusto the solemn feasts
of the chiefs, which it Would have been the height of
impropriety not to attend, and which must be observed
with all punctillio, or spoil all the bargaining. These
were dog feasts, and consisted principally in eating a
plateful of soup of tender dog meat boiled to a paste,
into which red buffalo berries were sprinkled. To leave
any of this delicacy uneaten would be a breach of etiquette too serious to allow ; and the higher the trader
was held in estimation, the more liberal the share placed
upon his plate. Not only to a refined palate was the
dog paste rather objectionable, but it often included
much of the hair of the dog as well as other portions.
The sharp French trader, however, avoided the difficulty. He hired an Indian chief of unquestioned appetite to clean up his plate. Thus the feast had been
eaten ;' and etiquette was fully satisfied.
A limited amount of alcohol was also used by the
traders in connection with driving bargains, and Mr.
Matthieu recalls one instance in which one gallon of the
the article judiciously diluted procured ten buffalo robes,
worth $10 each—besides other trumpery. However, the
better class of the traders seldom indulged the Indians
beyond moderation, or only at long intervals. So great
was their fondness for the stuff that even the smell of
liquor often seemed to set them wild. 78 REMINISCENSES   OP   P. X. MATTHIEU.
After a year's service in the country of the Sioux, the
return to Saint Louis was made, and at that point he outfitted as a free trapper, going out on to the Arkansas to
Bent's Fort (1840). George Bent, the notable trapper-
captain, whom he met there, he describes as "a little bit
of a man, but sharp as lightning." On this jaunt he
also met Kit Carson, who is almost as well known in the
annals of the frontier as Daniel Boone of Kentucky.
Carson he describes as "a terror"—not as a desperado,
however, but as a hunter. He was an unerring shot,
and dropped many a buffalo. He was stocky and nervy
in build, and had something of the Southwestern bluster
of manner, yet not so offensively so as many others.
Mr. Matthieu recalls serious hardships on this expedition, passing one stretch of five days without food. But
such experiences were little thought of, the trapper always relying upon his rifle without fear. In those days
the Indians were very friendly.
Returning eastward the next season, he spent the winter and spring trapping in the Black Hills (1841). However, it seems that this life of a trapper, nomadic and
free, and dependent only upon the unlimited bounty of
nature, and the friendly offices of the generally tractable" Indians, although amusing in many ways to a
light-hearted Frenchman, did not wholly satisfy young
Matthieu. The desire for settled society, and progressive
individual life and home frequently took possession of
him ; and the opportunity to gratify this was apparently
fortuitously afforded at Fort Laramie, early in the summer of 1842.
With his party of trappers he found there the Oregon
immigrants of that season. This was the first regular
immigration to Oregon across the plains, and aside from
the ladies of  the  mission parties  that  had crossed in REMINISCENSES   OF   F. X. MATTHIEU.
1836—38, it was the first appearance of white women in
the Rocky Mountains.
This was the party of Captain Hastings, in which was
Dr. Elijah White, who had first come to Oregon with the
large mission party on the bark Lausanne, in 1839—40 ;
but had returned east, and was now coming to Oregon
again, crossing the plains, holding the appointment to
the position of sub-Indian agent for Oregon, and was
accompanied by a party of over one hundred immigrants.
Doctor White is recalled by Mr. Matthieu as "a sleek
looking gentleman," and "a quick talker."
A well known member of the party was Amos L. Love-
joy, described as very light sandy-complexioned, and
"more quick tempered than any man I ever knew;"
Captain Hastings was of heavy build and swarthy complexion. The pioneer, Medorem Crawford, then in his
young prime, was also in the company. Sydney Moss,
now living as a nonegenarian at Oregon City ; Thomas
Sladden and Robb were also quickly made acquaintances. Among the women of the party Mr. Matthieu
especially recalls an elderly widow, Mrs. Brown, and
her daughter, who were said to have been held, previous
to this time, as captives among the Comanches. There
were a number of families in the train, among them being that of Mr. Smith.
The pilot of the company was Fitzpatrick, the famous
guide of Wyeth's party, whom Matthieu describes as
tall and spare with abundant gray hair ; an Irishman of
good common education, and even gentlemanly bearing ;
perfectly at home anywhere on the boundless prairies, or
within the mountain ranges. Unlike the most of his
race, however, he was very taciturn.
While this company was waiting at Laramie, provisioning, Matthieu .and his comrades quickly decided to go
along with them to Oregon.     They had their rifles and 80
their horses ; what more was required ? The very first
night, however, they discovered that more was needed.
They went supperless, game having failed during the
day ; and they could not but look on with a little envy
and self-commiseration at the various campfires where
the immigrants were despatching fried bacon and mountain biscuit and drinking coffee. Mr. Matthieu says,
however, that the immigrants could not be blamed or
called inhospitable for neglecting to entertain them, as
they knew as yet nothing of the trappers who had joined
their caravan, and every head of a family felt obliged to
guard his little store of provisions, scant at the best.
The incidents of the journey are vividly recalled by
Mr. Matthieu, though now after a lapse of fifty-eight
years. These should be mentioned here, some being
serious and some being laughable, whether recorded
elsewhere or not, as they afford light upon the individuality of this important member of the group of Oregon
pioneers, of the era of the provisional government.
One of the first serious affairs after leaving Laramie
occurred at Independence Rock. This was the incident
of the capture of Hastings and Lovejoy by the Sioux
Indians. At this point, a noted rock, or high ledge,
with a perpendicular front, about the space of a mile
(F. X. M.) from the Sweetwater River, the immigrant
train was delayed in order to bury a man, one of a company of Germans, who, in drawing his gun from a
wagon accidentally caused the discharge of the piece
with the result that he was fatally shot in the groin.
Taking advantage of this delay, Matthieu and his
comrades went buffalo hunting. From the actions of
the buffaloes that were at length discovered, he was suspicious that there were Indians in the neighborhood.
The buffalo herds were constantly in ipotion, as was the REMINISCENCES  OP  P. X. MATTHIEU.
case when the Indians were stalking them. This, however, caused him no uneasiness, and it was not until two
o'clock next morning that he returned to the train.
The journey was resumed about daybreak, but sometime in the forenoon it began to be passed around that
Love joy and Captain Hastings were missing ; and this
caused anxiety. Matthieu suspected Indians and scanned the plains, now ablaze to the distant horizon in the
summer sunshine. At length he caught far in the distance, a distinct glance of light. This was thrown, as
he surmised, from one of the little zinc-framed looking-
glasses that the Indian braves frequently wore attached
around their necks. Waiting for no further sign, he
hastened to the train, telling the immigrants to halt and
get ready, as the Indians would soon be upon them. To
them this was rather mystifying, as the young Frenchman took no trouble to explain how he knew this. But
upon his advice the wagons were halted, and everything
was placed in readiness to receive the Indians, who
might be hostile. In the course of a few hours a great
band of Sioux appeared in sight, developing out of the
prairie, and galloping in wild fashion upon their ponies
—or in large part running on foot. They numbered
about five hundred and were in full war dress and paint.
Lovejoy and Hastings were among them, being held as
captives and looking very much crestfallen. They had
delayed, as it seems, in boyish spirit, to inscribe their
names among others on the face of Independence Rock ;
and having just completed their task, had turned to go
only to find themselves in the embrace of some very
large Indians.
Matthieu, however, who knew personally some of the
chiefs, soon saw that they were good natured, as they
now moved around the train, and were only wishing to
drive a good bargain to let their captives go.    They were Il
■ :
j! ■
a war party and wanted ammunition. When this was
made known, the men of the train exclaimed "What!
shall we give them ammunition to shoot us with?" Matthieu, however, advised giving it. "They have enough
ammunition already," he said, "to shoot us. They do
not wish to fight us, but only desire supplies for fighting
other Indians. ' ' Accordingly, the ammunition was given
them, along with other things, and the captives were released. This, however, was not the last of Indians. The
next day a band, or rather a host, of about five or six
thousand (F. X. M.) of the Blackfoot Sioux, under a great
war chief, appeared. By this immense multitude, the
train was compelled to halt, and to be inspected by band
after band of the curious savages. The Indians being in
such overwhelming force, were very free in their ways.
They were especially curious to look at the women of the
train. Mr. Matthieu relates the following amusing incident : "The family of Mr. Smith was especially annoyed
by the curious braves, who came continually to their
tent, and pulling the flaps apart, gazed in silent admiration upon his wife and daughters, or spoke to one another
in their own language.'" By this behavior Mr. Smith,
who was of a very irascible temper, was so much annoyed
that he came at length to Matthieu, asking him to send
them off, as he could do nothing with them. When
Matthieu arrived and discovered what it was the Indians
wanted-. and the thoroughly irate Mr. Smith desired to
know, the Frenchman said : "You must be very quiet ;
you must make no commotion." Mr. Smith agreed.
"I am almost afraid to tell you," continued Matthieu,
"you will not like it." Mr. Smith insisted. "They
wish to buy one of your daughters to present to their
great chief," said Mr. Matthieu. At this Mr. Smith
sprang to his feet in great excitement, ready to drive the
intruders away by force.    "Softly,  softly," said Mat-
thieu. "You will have the whole band down upon us."
Then to the Indians he explained how their white
brqther regretted his inability to meet their wishes ; but
according to the customs of his people, it was impossible
to sell her. When satisfied entirely with this information, the braves retired. However, the fondness of the
Indians to see and even possess the white women,, was a
real source of danger, with which the immigrant parties
had to reckon. It was not simply an annoyance. It was
apprehended by some that American families could never
cross the plains safely. The Indians, it was said, would
seize their women at all hazards. That they did not do
so, but respected the white man's customs, even when, as
in this case, they were in greatly superior numbers, shows
they had a certain native morality, often not found among
the whites.
This great band of Indians also could hardly be made
to believe that the immigrant train had no liquors, and
begged insistently for the firewater. Fitzpatrick, the
pilot, both with this band and that at Independence
Rock, refused to be made known, not wishing to implicate himself as a leader of white people through their
country ; and remarked that all the prairie was home to
him, and he could drop off anywhere. Matthieu, therefore, having learned the custom of the Sioux, and knowing some of them personally, was able to help the immigrants, and to greatly reduce the liability of trouble. "I
actually believe," he says, "that they might not have
got through without me." These Sioux, being of the
Blackfoot division of the nation, were at this juncture
on a great expedition to cross the Rocky Mountains and
attack the Snake Indians.
At Fort Hall, the exact date of reaching which is not
remembered by Mr. Matthieu, the immigrants delayed, 1»
fi I
I fi
|} i
some for a shorter, others a longer time. The object
was to change from their wagons to pack saddles. Mr.
Matthieu does not recollect that the Hudson's Bay commandant there offered to purchase any wagons, and
thinks this improbable. "The Hudson's Bay Company
had no use for any wagons," he observes.
The commandant, Grant, is well remembered as very
large and fine looking "as big a man as Dr. John McLoughlin"—which is as grand a comparison as could be
made by a McLoughlin admirer. Grant assured the
immigrants that it was impossible for wagons to cross
the Blue Mountains into Oregon. This, Mr. Matthieu
believes, was said because he thought it true, and he
was simply representing what was generally understood
as the fact. Mr. Matthieu remarks, however, "we all
know very well that the Hudson's Bay Company was
not favorable to immigration to Oregon;" and, though
only a young man at the time, he understood that the
British expected to hold the Columbia River as their
boundary line. As to bringing the wagons on to the
Columbia River, he says that this could have been done,
as wood and water and the grass were in most places
abundant, and though in some places the trail was very
difficult, it was not impossible to American teamsters.
He and his comrades remained about eight days at
Fort Hall, and then came on with the Hudson's Bay
express by the horse trail, crossing the Blue Mountains,
and descending upon the valley of the Umatilla, and
then going by Whitman's farm at Waiilatpu to old Fort
Walla Walla. At Waiilatpu he remained fifteen days
waiting for the other immigrants to come in ; as the
trip from Fort Hall to Whitman's was made in small
parties, or even by families, as they were able, the later
ones following the tracks of the earlier.    There was here REMINISCENCES   OP   P. X. MATTHIEU.
no danger of Indians, and the semi-military organization
with which they started was entirely abandoned.
With Doctor Whitman and his place, Mr. Matthieu
was very favorably impressed. The farm was neat and
well cultivated, having a large garden, a field of grain
and a small grist mill. Doctor Whitman himself he describes as "a very nice man," of unbounded hospitality.
"His garden and grist mill he threw open" to their use,
and for what they had need of "he would not take a
cent." In person he recalls Whitman as not very tall,
rather slender in build, and of strongly Yankee style.
His hair was then dark. Though very favorably impressed, however, with Whitman, the Yankee missionary bore, in Matthieu'§ estimation, no comparison with
Doctor McLoughlin, who was his beau ideal of the
natural-born leader of men.
In this connection Mr. Matthieu states that he had the
following incident directly from some employees of the
Hudson's Bay Company at Vancouver, which illustrates
Doctor McLoughlin's disposition toward Whitman. In
1841 the Cayuse Indians formed the intention of killing
Doctor Whitman. But they feared the punishment that
Doctor McLoughlin would visit upon them, if he disapproved the act. They devised the plan, therefore, of
discovering his feeling, as if by accident. A number of
the leaders were sent to Fort Vancouver, and there
stationing themselves by the bank of the river, they
began to talk to one another of destroying Whitman.
Doctor McLoughlin was passing and they were purposely overheard by him. Instantly confronting the
Oayuses the old Doctor raised, his great cane and cried
out in a terrific voice, "Who says you shall kill Whitman?" and threatened condign punishment if such a
massacre should take place. The Indians scattered and
immediately gave up their evil plan. 86
Before leaving Mr. Matthieu's account of his experiences on the plains, perhaps the following story may be
told as throwing a side light upon the character and
ways of some of the people who crossed. It is in regard
to an Irishman called Pat, who was with the party but
had no outfit and no money, and was little better than
a camp follower. He obtained his day's provisions by
going from camp to camp, or mess to mess, asking for
anything that might be put into his pot, which he then
boiled over the fire making a sort of soup. Once while
he was thus cooking he had' the misfortune to drop his
pipe into the savory mess, which turned it so much
against his stomach that he would not eat it. "Give it
to B.," suggested a bystander, "he will eat anything."
B. was another camp-follower, less-liked than Pat. B.
enjoyed his meal, but afterwards regretted his precipitancy. Pat always endeavored to return the courtesies
of his patrons by doing little favors around the camps,
especially in helping the women about their wood and
fires, and became rather a favorite. Reaching Oregon,
and finally going to California, he prospered and became
a wealthy man.
The trip over the Cascade Mountains was the most
difficult of any part of the journey, and involved the
most suffering. The route was by the old Indian trail
at the base of Mount Hood, on the north side. A snowstorm was encountered here, and by this fourteen of the
horses were stampeded and took the back trail for The
Dalles, where there was an abundance of grass. Matthieu, however, managed to keep himself comfortable
during the storm by kindling an immense fire in the
timber, and retained his horses by tying them. On this
part of the trip he was accompanied by Hugh Burns, a
well-known Irishman, who made himself useful as cook.
At Oregon City, which he reached about the twenty-
' ' I am looking rough
you not better excuse
fifth of September (F. X. M) the first man that he met
was Father Waller, the well-known member of the Methodist Society. By this kindly gentleman, Matthieu was
at once and very pressingly invited home to supper.
" He wanted to hear all about my journey." Matthieu,
however, felt rather delicate about accepting his hospitality. After his hard journey over the last range of
mountains he felt outrageously hungry ; but, for this
very reason, was timid about partaking a "company dinner, " so he began apologizing :
and very dirty," he said, " Had
me ?"
" No, no," said Father Waller, " you must come."
The neat house, the supper table with its snowy cloth
and shining dishes, and the care of the lady, Mrs. Waller, to have a nice repast, greatly impressed the hungry
immigrant. But particularly was his appetite whetted,
if that were possible, by the sight and smell of potatoes
—an article of food he had not seen for months. When
seated at the table he was hardly able to restrain himself ; he was taken not a little aback, however, when,
instead of proceeding to the meal at once, the good missionary began by asking a blessing, which he extended
into quite lengthy devotions. "It was the longest
prayer I ever heard," says Mr. Matthieu.
Learning at Oregon City that there were French Canadians on the prairie fifteen miles up the Willamette, he
proceeded to Champoeg. Arriving there he found that
the settlers in that region numbered nearly three hundred all told. Stopping off at the old landing, he found
near this point, about a mile and a half up the river,
living upon the river bank, Etienne Lucier, and remained with him during the winter. French Prairie is
the borderland between the originally heavily timbered
country of  the lower Willamette and the more  open 88
lands of Marion County and the big prairies of the
upper valley. Matthieu found the country of the French
settlers even more beautifully diversified than at the
present, the practice of the Indians, then but recently
discontinued, of burning the prairies over, having
brought the whole country for miles together to the condition of a park. Stately groves of fir and oak, or belts
of deciduous timber along the water courses, broke the
monotony of the grassy levels, while from almost any
point of view the panorama of distant mountain scenery
was uninterrupted. The Butte, as it was called, which
escarped upon the Willamette just below the landing,
and from which Butteville takes its name, formed a
sightly highland and became a well-known landmark to
-the voyager of the early day. The name Champoeg,
says Mr. Matthieu, is simply a corruption of the French
term, Champment Sable—the camp of the sands.
With this Willamette country, however, Matthieu was
not at first thoroughly pleased. The deep moss that
..gathered on the trees and buildings, and the general
mildness and moisture of the winter weather, suggested
disease, such as fever and ague. He anticipated a hot,
sickly summer—which, however, he afterwards found
was not the characteristic of Oregon.
Life in this region was entirely Arcadian. The Hudson's Bay servants had been encouraged to settle upon
the rich prairie lands and raise wheat. Doctor McLoughlin, a most shrewd business man, foresaw (F. X.
. M.) that the Willamette and Columbia valleys would
ultimately cease to be fur-bearing country, and sought
privileges to the north. His agreements with the Russians of New Archangel, allowing him to trade with the
Indians of Alaska, provided/ also, that he should supply
that post with fifteen thousand bushels of wheat per
year.    To meet this requirement, the old Hudson's Bay REMINISCENCES   OP   P. X. MATTHIEU.
servants who had served out their time, and by their
articles of agreement were to be returned to their native
land, were retained as employees of the company, and
they were provided, also, with an outfit to begin farming.
This consisted of a two-wheeled cart, oxen, plows, a cow,
and necessary household furniture, which was to be paid
for in wheat—the ordinary currency of the country. The
cattle were to be returned ; the increase kept. A double
outfit was allowed to those who would settle north of the
Columbia River. This, as Mr. Matthieu understands,
was for political reasons ; the British wishing to secure
that section by actual settlement and occupation. The
convenience, the beauty, and the fertility of the Willamette Valley, however, outweighed in the minds of the
farmers the greater liberality of the offer on the north,
and most of the Hudson's Bay people came to French
Lucier, Matthieu found, was one of the oldest of the
Oregonians, having preceded him by about thirty years.
He was one of the old trappers that came with Hunt's
party, of the Astor expedition. In person, this now old
man was short and stocky, and of a dark complexion.
He was about sixty, and was living with his second wife.
The first family of three children were then grown. His
second family consisted of two boys, both of whom are
now living on French Prairie, one having a family of
several children. Among the subjects of conversation
with Lucier were the laws and customs of the United
States. The old Hudson's Bay trapper was quite suspicious, and had been told that our government imposed
very heavy duties—such as placing a tax upon windows.
Matthieu, however, was able to tell him that this was
entirely a mistake. The laws of the United States were
just and liberal, and under them all men were equal ;
there was no tyranny.    Lucier, who was a very saving 90
and industrious man, and at the end of his service with
the company had to his credit the respectable sum of
£400, was finally well satisfied with these representations. All the settlers of the Prairie he found to be
hospitable in the extreme ; they were willing to share
with the stranger anything they had. The most of them
had native wives, or at least of mixed blood ; a number
of whom were from Clatsop or Chinook. They were an
industrious people and entirely honest. The incident is
related that by some mistake as to ownership three sacks
of potatoes were once left on the river bank at the portage at Oregon City. There they remained three months,
no one disturbing them. The following story also is
told of McLoughlin and his wheat buyer : It was the
custom of the agent who bought wheat to strike the
measure—the wheat not being very well cleaned requiring to be settled in order to give full weight. Seeing
him give the measure a number of slow, gentle taps,
McLoughlin exclaimed, "Tut, tut," and gave it one
heavy blow ; but to his chagrin, and the vast enjoyment
of the bystanders, the doctor's heavy stroke instead of
settling the grain only shook it up, and he instantly admitted that the buyer's way was the best, and with that
the farmers were all well pleased, because thereby they
sold the best weight—which illustrates not only their simplicity, but their desire to act on the square with the
great chief factor.
Names of French-Canadians on French Prairie when
Mr. Matthieu first went there, and who all, as he remembers, took part in the provisional government meeting—they are collected from his ledger of the business
carried on by him with George Le Roque, at Butteville,
beginning in 1850 : REMINISCENCES   OP   P. X. MATTHIEU.
The following were Frenchmen who came to Oregon
in the spring of 1842, except Matthieu, who came in the
fall. They were at the meeting at Champoeg. This list
has, perhaps, never been published :
During the first months of the year 1843, the question
of organizing an independent or provisional government,
until the United States should extend its authority over
Oregon, was much discussed. Debates were held at Oregon City, and the project was the matter of ordinary
conversations at Salem and Tualatin Plains. The leaders
of the movement, as is well known, saw the necessity of
the whole community participating, and devised a plan
that would interest all. The French Canadians could
not be interested in the general question of a new government ; being quite contented as they were, and having unlimited faith in McLoughlin, with whom they did
all their business, and from whom they obtained all the
counsel and protection they felt needed. REMINISCENCES   OF   F. X. MATTHIEU.
"The idea of organizing a provisional government was
then," says Mr. Matthieu, "to give the United States a
reason for taking possession of Oregon."
The device of the "Wolf Meetings," however, for providing protection against the wild animals, brought them
out and the greater question of forming a government
was gradually from this brought to a focus. With this
preliminary work, however, Matthieu had nothing to do,
and his sentiments were not known to the Americans, or
even to the Canadians, except Lucier. He was not at
the meetings of February and March. He attended the
meeting at Champoeg. This was held, according to his
recollection, in a Hudson's Bay building, just over the
bluff, at the landing ; the embankment of the river here
being high and steep. The meeting, however, was very
informal, being called to order in the house, but the final
vote being taken out of doors.
The details of this important meeting need not be here
entered into, except so far as concerns the recollection of
Mr. Matthieu. The ability of the common people to organize and maintain a sufficient government, in a remote
corner of the world, in the midst of numerous and even
in some cases of powerful and cunning bands of Indians ;
and in opposition to the interests and business policy of
a great corporatioxi—was to be tested. The character
and calibre of the men who constituted the "people" is
a matter of the highest and most lasting interest. What
items Mr. Matthieu recollects of them are worthy of the
most careful preservation. He remembers W. H. Gray
as one of the most active and strenuous of the Americans
at the meeting. "Gray took part," he says. "He wanted
to organize the worst way—he would not give up to any
other notion." G. W. Le Breton, whom he describes as
very popular, both with the French and with the Americans, and who acted as secretary, was not less alert.   He REMINISCENCES  OP  P. X. MATTHIEU.
remembers Le Breton as a young man, short in person,
but very active. "He never stood still a minute." He
recollects Rev. J. S. Griffin of Tualatin Plains as present,
but not as taking a very active part. Robert Shortess,
with his tall, slim figure and strongly Roman profile,
was also among the number. Sydney Smith, from Che-
halem, was there too. Mr. Matthieu recalls of Smith
that he once hired him to assist in filling out a bill of
logs, contracted to be delivered at Oregon City. To
Matthieu's dismay—he was inexperienced as a lumberman—the first cut, which was from a white fir, that he
had rolled into the river, sank out of sight in the water.
Smith used a strong expression implying lack of sense
on the part of the person to whom it was applied, and
then exclaimed—"I will show you." Then he bored a
hole in a log to be rafted and inserted a large cedar plug,
or chunk, which just floated the white fir. Thomas Hubbard was also at the meeting. Others whom he recalls
were Amos Cook and Francis Fletcher of the Yamhill
Fords, near La Fayette ; and George Gay, who was formerly an English sailor, but took leave of his ship at
Monterey, California, and came to Oregon in the well
known party with Doctor Bailey, and became a large
landholder near Dayton, building the first brick house
in the valley, and becoming famous for his hospitality to
travelers. Others were G. W. Ebbert, Wilkins, Doctor
Newell and Joseph L. Meek, of the Tualatin Plains, and
Messrs. Babcock, Hines, Doctor Wilson, Alanson Beers,
and J. L. Parrish of the Methodist Society.
Matthieu understood that there were three parties in
reference to organizing a government. These were the
strongly American for it, led by Gray and others, and
the Canadian settlers who opposed, or at least did not
favor it ; and Dr. McLoughlin and his near friends, who
really favored an independent government and expected 94
to become citizens of it, but who thought the movement
at that time premature. Mr. Matthieu does not recall
that Bishop Blanchet was present at the meeting. A
memorial had been prepared by the Bishop, on the part
of the Canadians, to show that organization was unnecessary and inadvisable. At the critical juncture, however, after there had been some discussion and the
meeting was becoming confused, and, indeed, was in
danger of breaking up without action, he remembers
well how old Joe Meek strode forth, and by the simple
power of voice and example gained control after parliamentary tactics had failed. He cried out, as he would
to a company of militiamen : ' 'All in favor of organization, come to the right." One hundred and two men
were present. Fifty of these quickly went over to the
right, in favor of independence. The other fifty-two, all
Canadians, remained as they were, or withdrew in the
other direction.
Now came out Matthieu 's republican training, which
he had received in his schoolboy days, under Velade,
at Terrebonne. His "mind was made up," he says,
"ever since5 I left Canada. I knew what it was to live
and die a slave under British rule." And he was still
carrying the picture of Papineau, the liberator.
Now that a time for action had come, he was not wanting. He said, therefore, to the Canadians that he was
going with the Americans. He knew what he was doing,
and was fully decided which was the right side.
Old Lucier, the trapper of 1811, followed him, and now
the vote stood fifty-two for, and fifty against organization. Then went up the shout, led by Joe Meek and his
mountain men.
The Canadians, though defeated, were\entirely satisfied with the result, and had not favored the movement
principally because they did not understand it, and, like REMINISCENCES  OP  P. X. MATTHIEU.
Lucier, had obtained incorrect ideas. But when the vote
prevailed, they acquiesced cheerfully, and became among
the best citizens of the little republic—the smallest, probably, since the days of the Pilgrim fathers, who organized
their government in the cabin of the Mayflower.
After organization was effected, and a body of laws
was framed, Matthieu was called upon to take part in
affairs, and was elected justice of the peace for Champoeg
County, an office which he says he filled to "the satisfaction of everybody." He settled disputes by inviting
the complaining parties to sit down with him to a good
dinner, and after an hour's cheer and pleasant chat, he
sent them away well contented with his findings.
He had some trouble with distillers, who sometimes
set up little stills in out of the way places, and made
liquor to intoxicate the Indians. He reoalls one case in
which he and Doctor Wilson, the judge, traced a distiller
out into the woods, back of French Prairie, at DePot's,
and found him over a teakettle, which he Used as his
still, manufacturing what was called "blue ruin"—a
liquor made out of Sandwich Island molasses, and was
an article so destructive as to almost relieve the authorities of the necessity of estopping the manufacture—the
juice being the executioner of its producer.
Of all the characters of the early day, McLoughlin
stands out foremost, and overtops all others, in Mr.
Matthieu's recollection. The old chief factor had some
of the elements of greatness : "He was the finest man I
ever knew," says Mr. Matthieu, "and there will never
be another like him. He did what no other man would
do. " With Doctor McLoughlin, Doctor Whitman, whom
he greatly respected, he says, "bore no comparison."
McLoughlin had the immense physique, the great voice,
and the commanding manner, and also the positive and
decisive mind that carried all before him. 96
Many are the incidents that Mr. Matthieu relates illustrating his qualities. Once, he says, an Indian was
brought to him charged with committing a gross offense.
"Is he guilty?" asked the doctor. "Yes," they replied,
and presented the proof. "Tie him to that cannon," he
replied, pointing to one of the two pieces of artillery
that commanded the entrance to the fort. When this
was done, he said, "Give him fifteen lashes." Soon
after a white man was brought, charged with the same
offense. Doctor McLoughlin made the same inquiries,
and finding him guilty administered the same punishment. This illustrates why his authority was so absolute
among the Indians. His administration exactly filled
their conception of justice.
The services of McLoughlin to the immigrants of the
year '42, and later, until he resigned his position as chief
factor, are fully vouched for by Mr. Matthieu. The
doctor advanced everything needed, and furnished the
use of bateaux to any in distress. The concluding portion of the immigrants' journey, that from The Dalles to
Oregon City, was often virtually provided for by McLoughlin. For all these advances, he was held to the
last penny by his company, and as Mr. Matthieu learned,
he was obliged to render every cent not paid by the immigrants—a sum so large as to very nearly bankrupt the
Upon the return of Mr. Matthieu, in 1858, for a visit
to his home in Canada, he took the pains to visit some
of Doctor McLoughlin's relatives at their place of business in Quebec, whom he found to be men of much the
same magnificent physical mould as the chief factor.
He inquired of them as particularly as he dared as to
Doctor McLoughlin's fortune, venturing to remark that
he supposed he was very rich.    "He was wealthy at one
time," was the reply, "but his company required the
payment of large sums that he advanced on credit, and
that left him with little."
Mr. Matthieu understands that besides his salary of
£2,500 per year, he held two shares in the stock of the
company, the largest allowed to one individual outside
the chartered corporation. His business also included,
besides the fur trade of Oregon, extensive operations in
British Columbia and Alaska, salmon export to the Sandwich Islands, and milling at Oregon City. At one time
he made a proposition to build the canal and locks at the
Willamette Falls, at his own expense ; but was refused
the charter.     (F. X. M.)
Returning to Mr. Matthieu's first years in Oregon :
He remained with Lucier until 1844. For two years
afterwards he lived on French Prairie proper, which is
some six miles back from the river. He was engaged
in labor during .this time, building houses, and making
wagons for the settlers. Life he found carried on here
in simple style, log cabins being the rule, furnished with
big fireplaces, made of sticks, plastered over with the
tough black clay found underneath the prairie sod. Few
had stoves, and the cooking was done mainly over the
coals, or in kettles swung on a crane.
In 1846 he was married, and took a square mile of
land a mile from the river, back of the Butte, upon which
he has lived now for fifty-four years. It is a noble old
place, having both prairie and woodland, and abundant
water, and commands beautiful prospects in every direction. His wife was Rose, a daughter of Louis Osant,
a Hudson's Bay employee and trapper. The earliest
recollections of Mrs. Matthieu are of journeyings on
horseback with the parties of her father or of Michel La
Framboise, one of the most trusted leaders of the Hudson's Bay trappers.    She recalls how, on one of these 98
jaunts when she was a mere tot of three years, and she
had for a comrade a little daughter of La Framboise,
they were delighted as they passed under the expansive
oaks of the Sacramento Valley to hear the dry leaves
rustle under their horses' hoofs. It was a Gypsy life
that the trappers led, and those that made the trip to
California, like La Framboise and Osant, had the pleas-
antest road to travel of all the parties.
The mother of Rose having died, the girl was brought
up in the family of Pierre Belaque, who occupied a house
near Lucier's. A patriarchal family, fourteen in number, were born to these pioneers, ten of whom are now
living :
Mr. Matthieu has lived as a farmer of Oregon, having
been able to provide his family with life's advantages,
and himself performing the duties of the good citizen.
Besides filling the office of Justice of the Peace in the
Provisional Government, he was in 1874 and again in
1878, elected to the Oregon Legislature from Marion
County. In 1849 he made the trip to the California
gold mines, but was so virulently attacked by fever
there as to be compelled to return without making a
fortune. In 1858 he took a trip to Canada, by way of
Panama, and in 1883, went with the pioneer excursion
on the Northern Pacific Railroad. He is now at the age
of eighty-two, in good health, of unimpaired memory,
good hearing, and unchanged voice ; though, having
suffered in early life from snow-blindness in the Rocky ">^
Mountains, has somewhat lost the use of his sight. He
is a member of the Masonic fraternity, of high degree.
He was in the mercantile business for many years, after
1850, at Butteville, with George Le Roque, and in all
business relations and in public affairs has maintained a
reputation for unquestioned honesty.
Mr. Matthieu says : "I have forgot a great deal. Of
the Sioux, where I was, there were the Blackfeet—a large
nation ; then there were the Ogalallahs. Their chief,
when I was there, was called Yellow Hair. His hair
was not yellow, but lighter than some others. He was
a big fellow, and you could hear him grunt like a grizzly.
Then there was a little tribe, the Broken Arrows. They
were the meanest set—they would get liquor, and kill
each other. I do not suppose there were twenty of them
when I left. The Crow nation lived west of Fort Pierre,
about one hundred or two hundred miles, and one division of them was the Gros Ventres. The Pawnees were
the terror of the Sioux ; there were many halfbreeds
among them. The Sioux did not all have horses. The
poorer ones went on foot. But all had buffalo meat.
Those that had horses would surprise a herd, and drive
them to the Bad Lands, and force many of them over a
precipice or into a crevice. Buffalo, when they are
stampeded, do not stop at anything, but go over a bluff
or into a river. When a crevice is filled full of their
bodies the main herd passes on as over a bridge ; then
the poorer Indians came and helped themselves to the
"West  of  the  Rocky  Mountains  the  Indians  were 100
entirely different. It was a new creation. The Snakes,
Piutes and Bannocks seemed very much alike—a poor
set. The Cayuses were the most powerful, and the
meanest. They were strapping big fellows, and rich. I
was told by Hudson's Bay men that they frequently had
three or four packs of beaver skins to a tent. That was
money. Each pack weighed ninety or one hundred
pounds, and the skins were worth $4 or $5 a pound.
Some of them had five hundred horses apiece—part
work horses; part riding or running horses. When I
was among the Snakes I bought a white horse for a
buffalo skin and a shirt. But in Grande Ronde I was
stopped by a Cayuse chief, who said that the horse was
his. I told him I bought it. He said it had been stolen.
There was a man traveling with me ; his name was Russell. Russell said I had better pay the Cayuse something. So I put down a buffalo robe, a shirt and a
handkerchief, and said : 'You can take whichever you
please—these or the horse.' He took the things, and I
took the horse.
"The Cayuses often came into the Willamette Valley
to trade horses for cattle. They had some race horses
that they would not sell for $500. They were not a
large tribe, not able to muster over two hundred or three
hundred fighting men at the farthest. They were well
armed with guns, but even with bows and arrows could
shoot a man through the heart at fifty yards. They
were proud and cruel, and showed it in their faces. The
Nez Perces had much better faces than the Cayuses.
The Sioux did business on honor. If any of their tribe
was mean or dissipated he was regarded as a clown ; he
was not respected. REMINISCENCES   OP  P. X. MATTHIEU.
Among the Sioux, where I was, all captives were regarded as slaves ; so I was told by a chief. I saw but
one slave—a woman.    Men were not often taken alive.
This question did not make much stir on French
Prairie. The idea was this : Indians were much cheaper
and better labor than negroes. For a blanket that cost
$3 you could hire an Indian a month—or perhaps two
months ; and many of the Indians were good workers.
They could handle an axe like a white man ; and on the
river they were the best boatmen. They would paddle
all day in a canoe, or on a bateau, and want only a
little meat and a salmon skin.
Some Southern people who brought their negroes with
them wanted to keep them as slaves ; but the people of
Oregon opposed this and made the law that no negro
should come to Oregon.    It was never enforced.
"All were in favor of this. It was no trouble. The
Catholic missionaries as well as the Methodists favored
it. The Hudson's Bay Company had liquors stored, but
never kept them for public sale. The distiller on French
Prairie did not hold out long. Some of the Canadians
went to his place to drink, or trade for it ; but there was
no money in the country, and they could only trade with
little articles and there was no profit. A man at Milwaukee Bluff held out about two years, but gave it up—
there was no money, and trade did not amount to anything in an illegal business. 102
"There was no coin. If it was brought to the country
it was not received at Vancouver. Furs, at a fixed valuation, were the first currency.    Wheat was next.
"Wheat had to be delivered at the Hudson's Bay
Warehouse at Champoeg. For this a receipt was given
by the H. B. clerk. The receipt passed current as
money, and was worth its face in goods at Vanoouver."
To illustrate the modus of doing business, Mr. Matthieu
tells the following incident : "I was barefoot and nearly
naked, and wanted some clothes. I took an order of
Lucier's, and went down to Fort Vancouver; but, as I
had just come across the country, and was not long from
Canada, I was met by so many Frenchmen at the fort,
who wanted to hear all about my journey, and Canada,
which some of them had not seen for twenty years, that
I did not get my order in at once. When at last I presented it, the clerk said that I would have to see Douglas, as Lucier's account was all drawn ; so many others
had been bringing his paper."
"Douglas told me to go to McLoughlin. Each had an
office in the building. When McLoughlin looked at my
order he said he was sorry, but the account was drawn.
I said, 'It will come rather hard on me. I am barefoot,
and almost naked, and I supposed Lucier's credit was
good anyhow.' Then the doctor began to ask me where
I was from.    I told him 'Terrebonne, in Canada.'
" 'I am from near that part,' he said. Then he asked
me about the place and people, and of old Doctor Frasier ;
and kept me about an hour talking. At last he said,
'You look honest; goto the office and get this filled.'
And gave me an order for about $18 worth of goods.
"At the office there was a little entrance, about eight
feet square, and a little window into the store, where the
goods were passed out. The clerk there was Doctor McLoughlin's son, whom I had seen in Montreal. He knew
me, and at once opened the door inside and asked me in.
'Take all you need,' he said, 'and never mind the old
"But I took only the amount of the order. But all the
clothes were made for big fellows—a great deal too big
for me.. So I took cloth, and got it made up the best I
"Gold dust was like dirt. Many believed it would
never have any value. I have seen the Hudson's Bay
store at Oregon City take in a four-quart pan of dust in
one day. They allowed $16 an ounce ; but much of it
was the fine Yuba and American River dust, worth $22
to $22.50 an ounce in London.
"But it was not the men who went to the mines, so
much as those that stayed on their farms and raised produce, that got the dust.
"I remember when I was in San Francisco in '49, I
went into a French restaurant. I was sick, and only
called for tea and toast and an egg. For the tea and
toast I paid $1.25, and for the egg $2. The egg had
come around the Horn, packed in salt, and was a chunk
of salt.    I could not eat it.
"But prices for Oregon stuff did not hold out many
years. Great shipments were made from the East.
Habits of living among the farmers were not much
changed. We always had enough to live on, both before
and after the mines broke out."
Mr. Matthieu was well acquainted with Governor
Abernethy, the first Governor of the Provisional Government, succeeding the executive committee. He describes
Abernethy as "a fine looking man, of medium size ;  easy 104
in manner and ways, and very light complexion.'" He
feuilt the first brick store in Oregon City, with mud for
mortar. In the great flood of '62 it collapsed. He kept
a large stock of goods, trading by three vessels with San
Francisco. He was in partnership with Clark, and for
a time with Robb, who invested his gold mine profits in
the store.
The mason who built the store was McAdam, who
also built the brick Catholic church at Saint Paul.
Mr. Matthieu was also acquainted with Joseph Lane,
the first Territorial Governor. He describes the old general as "a very nice man;" quick in his movements,
military in manner and bearing ; not tall, and "dry and
thin," and all nerves.
The flat at Oregon City was still, when he first saw it,
thickly covered with tall timber. Waller's house stood
near the present site of the woolen mills. The Hudson's
Bay store was on the edge of the lowest bluff, oyer the
water, about where the warehouse now stands.
Portland was nowhere—a dense forest and a tangled
shore ; but there was a grassy place among the trees
near the mouth of the big gulch at the south part of
town, where the boating parties up the river sometimes
stopped to lunch or camp.
Etienne Lucier's old place was on the bluff, on the
east side, and Johnson's place on the hill at the south
end, wTest side.
Salem was just starting, the people at the old mission
moving up to start the institute, etc.
I have examined the above manuscript of Mr. Lyman's, and find it
correct. Nobody can contradict that; it could not be written more
[In this department of the Quarterly there will appear
material of the nature of primary sources for the history
of the Pacific Northwest. The more extended documents^ however, and collections having a unity will be
reserved for the series, "Sources of the History of Oregon."]
Correspondence of John McLoughlin, Nathaniel J. Wyeth,
S. R. Thurston, and R. C. Winthrop, pertaining to claim of
Doctor McLoughlin at the Falls of the Willamette—the site of
Oregon City.
The following correspondence was published in the
Milwaukie Star, April 10, 1850. The files of this paper
are exceedingly scarce. The original copiés of the letters were probably destroyed. A knowledge of their contents is essential to an understanding of very important,
though not creditable, transactions in Oregon's history.
These letters also are an addition to the Wyeth material
that the society has been making accessible to students
of American hisory.
Chicopee, Mass., Nov. 16, 1850.
Capt. JSfath. J. Wyeth :
My Dear Sir—You will excuse me, I am sure, when I assure you
I am from Oregon, and her delegate to the Congress of the United
States, for addressing you for a purpose of interest to the country
which I belong.
I desire you to give me as correct a description as you can at this
late period, of the manner in which you and your party, and your enterprise in Oregon, were treated by the Hudson's Bay Company, and
particularly by Doc. John McLaughlin, then its Chief Factor. This
Dr. McLaughlin has, since you left the country, rendered his name
odious among the people of Oregon, by his endeavors to prevent the
settlement of the country, and to cripple its growth. 106
Now that he wants a few favors of our Government, he pretends
that he has been the long tried friend of Americans and American
enterprise west of the mountains. Your early reply will be highly
appreciated, both for its information, and your relation to my country.
I am, sir, yours very truly,
Cambridge, Nov. 21, 1850.
Son. SamH R. Thurston :
Dear Sir—Your favor of the 16th inst., was received on the 19th.
The first time-1 visited the Columbia, in the autumn of 1832,1 reached
Vancouver with a disorganized party of ten persons, the remnant of
twenty-four who left the States. "Wholly worn out and disheartened,
we were received cordially, and liberally supplied, and there the party
broke up. I returned to the States in the Spring of 1833 with one
man. One of the party, Mr. John Ball, remained and planted wheat
on the Willamette a little above Camp du Sable, having been supplied
with seed and implements from Vancouver, then under the charge of
John McLaughlin, Esq., and this gentleman I believe to have been the
first American who planted wheat in Oregon. I returned to the country in the autumn of 1834, with a large party and more means, having
on the way built Fort Hall, and ihere met a brig which I sent round
the Horn. In the winter and spring of 1835, I planted wheat on the
Willamette and on Wappatoo Island.
The suffering and distressed of the early American visitors and
settlers on the Columbia were always treated by Hudson's Bay Company's agents, and particularly so by John McLaughlin, Esq., with
consideration and kindness, more particularly the Methodist Missionaries, whom I brought out in the autumn of 1834. He supplied them
with the means of transportation, seeds, implements of agriculture
and building, cattle and food for a long time.
I sincerely regret that the gentleman, as you state, has become
odious to his neighbors in his old age.
I am your ob't serv't,
Cambridge, Nov. 28, 1850.
Hon. Bobert C.  Winihrop:
Dear Sir—I have received a letter from Sam'l R, Thurston, Esq.,
of which the following is a portion:
" I desire you to give me as correct a description as you can at this
late period, of the manner in which you and your party, and your
enterprise in Oregon, were treated by the Hudson's Bay Company
west of the Rocky mountains, and particularly by Dr. John McLaughlin, then its Chief Factor. This Dr. McLaughlin has since you
left the country, rendered his name odious among the people of Oregon, by his endeavors to prevent the settlement of the country and
cripple its growth. Now that he wants a few favors of our Government, he pretends that he has been the long-tried friend of Americans
and American enterprise west of the mountains. ' '
' I have written Mr. Thurston, in reply to the above extract, that
myself and parties were kindly recieved, and were treated well in all
respects by J. McLaughlin, Esq., and the officers of the Hudson's Bay
Co.; but from the tenor of his letter, I have no confidence that my
testimony will be presented before any committee to whom may be
referred any subjects touching the interests of said John McLaughlin,
The very honorable treatment received by me from Mr. McLaughlin during the years inclusive from 1832 to 1836, during which time
there were no other Americans on the Lower Columbia, except myself
and parties, calls on me to state the facts.
The purpose of this letter is to ask the favor of you to inform me
what matter is pending, in which Mr. McLaughlin's interests are involved, and before whom, and if you will present a memorial from me
on the matters stated in Mr. Thurston's letter as above.
Respectfully and truly your ob't servant,
Washington, Dec. 28, 1850.
Dear Sir—I took the earliest opportunity to enquire of Mr. Thurston what there was pending before Congress or the, Executive, in
which Mr. McLaughlin's character or interest were concerned.    He
would tell me nothing, nor am I aware of anything.
Respectfully your ob't serv't,
To N. J. Wyeth, Esq. 108
John McLaughlin, Esq.:
Dear Sir—On the 19th of December, 1850, I received a letter from
Sam'l R. Thurston, delegate from Oregon, of which see copy No. 1,
and by same mail an Oregon newspaper containing a communication
over your signature, the letter [latter], I think, addressed in your
From the tenor of Mr. Thurston's letter, I presumed he wanted my
testimony for some purpose not friendly to yourself. I answered his
letter as per copy No. 2, but doubting if my testimony, except it suited
his views, would be presented, and being ignorant of his intentions, I
wrote the Hon. R. C. Winthrop, late Speaker of the House of Representatives, and at present a member of the Senate of the United
States, as per copy, (No. 3) and received from him a reply as per copy
(No. 4).
Should you wish such services as I can render in this part of the
United States, I shall be pleased to give them in return for the many
good things you did years since, and if my testimony as regards your
efficient and friendly actions towards me and the other earliest Americans who settled in Oregon, will be of use in placing you before the
Oregon people in the dignified position of a benefactor, it will be
■ cheerfully rendered.
I am, with much respect, yours truly,
Mr. Thurston writes to Mr. Wyeth, "That Dr. McLaughlin has,
since you left the country, rendered his name odious to the people of
Oregon." (That I have rendered my name odious to the people of
Oregon, is what I do not know.) And "By his endeavors to prevent
the settlement of the country, and to cripple its growth." I say I
never endeavored to prevent the settlement of the country, or to cripple its growth, but the reverse. If the whole country had been my
own private property, I could not have exerted myself more strenuously than I did to introduce civilization, and promote its settlement.
j 'Now that he wants a few favors of our Government, he pretends that
he has been the long tried friend of Americans and American enterprise west of the mountains. ' ' Mr. Wyeth states how I acted towards
him and his companions, the first Americans that I saw on this side of
the mountains. Those that came since, know if Mr. Thurston represents my conduct correctly or not. As to my wanting a few favors,
I am not aware that I asked for any favors. I was invited by the
promises held out in Linn's bill, to become an American citizen of
this territory. I accepted the invitation and fulfilled the obligations
in good faith, and after doing more, as I believe will be admitted, to
settle the country and relieve the immigrants in their distresses, than
any other man in it, part of my claim, which had been jumped, Mr.
Thurston, the delegate from this territory, persuades Congress to donate Judge Bryant, and the remainder is reserved. I make no comment—the act speaks for itself, but merely observe, if I had no claim
to Abernethy Island, why did Mr. Thurston get Congress to interfere,
and what Had Judge Bryant done for the territory to entitle him to
the favor of our delegate. Mr. Thurston is exerting the influence of
his official situation to get Congress to depart from its usual course,
and to interfere on a point in dispute, and donate that island to Abernethy, his heirs and assigns, alias Judge Bryant, his heirs and assigns.
Yours respectfully,
JUNE,   1900.
[ Number
Oeegon Histoeical Society.
Ascending the Columbia River to the junction of its
two main branches, and each of these branches in turn
to its source, a point is reached to the north well toward
the fifty-fifth degree of latitude, and another point to the
south not far from the forty-first degree. Lines drawn
through these two points directly west to the Pacific
Ocean would divide the Pacific Coast of North America
approximately into three great historic divisions. Previous to the year 1792, the coast north of the fifty-fifth
degree had been explored and in some sort settled by
Russia, and the sovereignty of Russia over it recognized ;
the part south of the forty-first degree had been explored,
and settled by Spain, and the sovereignty of it had been
conceded to Spain ; the middle part of the coast having
been explored by both Spain and Britain, but settled by
neither, the sovereignty of this was yet in abeyance. If
the lines supposed to be drawn from the utmost north
and south sources of the Columbia to the Pacific now 112
Joseph R. Wilson.
llr IP
il! ff
be extended eastward to the crest of the Rocky Mountains, the territory included between these two lines, the
vPacific Ocean and the crest-line of the Rocky Mountains,
will embrace the states of Oregon, Washington, Idaho,
with a considerable part of the states of California, Wyoming, and Montana, together with the greater part of
British Columbia. It is the settlement of the question
of sovereignty over the region thus roughly defined that
is the subject of this paper.
During almost the whole period when its sovereignty
was in question this region was commonly known in this
country and in Europe as Oregon, the Oregon Country,
or the Oregon Territory, and the question of its sovereignty as the Oregon Question. The country took its
name from a legendary name of the river that defines it,
a name given the river even before it had been seen by
any white man. For many years previous to 1792 the
existence of such a river in this region had been conjectured by explorers along the coast from signs they had
m observed in an indentation in the coast line, and by explorers in the interior from reports of such a river that
reached them through native tribes supposed to dwell
near its sources. It is to Jonathan Carver, a native of
Connecticut, that we owe, as it is still thought, the name
Oregon. In his journal of travels in the regions of the
Upper Mississippi he speaks of four great rivers, flowing in as many directions, which took their rise, as he
had heard from native tribes, somewhere in the mountains to the west. One of these was, as Carver writes
in his journal, "the river Oregon, or the River of the
West, which falls into the Pacific Ocean." Already, in
Carver's day, and before the time of his travels, maps
had appeared with a river marked in the region of what
is now the Columbia, which bore the name, among
others, of the River of the West, or the Great River of The Oregon Question.
the West. Whether Carver thought of this river as the
river of his tradition cannot now be known, but it is
certain that the name which he heard or invented came
before long to be attached to this river for a time at least,
and for all time to the region defined by the river.
At the beginning of the year 1792, the United States
had no claim to the region of the Oregon, but by an
event of this year they were destined to become one of
the chief parties to the question of its sovereignty. This
year Capt. Robert Gray, of Boston, was for the second
time on the coast, trading and exploring, uncler sanction
of congress. At some time during his previous voyage,
or in the earlier part of his second voyage, while sailing
close in shore, Gray had discovered in a bay or indentation of the coast in latitude 46° 10' what seemed to him
to be the mouth of a large river. Under this impression,
he had remained in the neighborhood nine days, making
repeated attempts to cross the bar and effect an entrance.
But every attempt had been without avail, on account
of the violence of the breakers which reached across the
opening ; he had been obliged to relinquish the attempt
and sail away, unable at this time to verify his discovery.
Captain Gray had spent the winter of 17*91-92 in Clyo-
quot Sound, on the west coast of Vancouver Island, with
his ship Columbia.    Resuming his voyage in the spring,
and sailing southward, on the morning of April ^§, in **■ '
latitude 47° 37', he fell in with Captain Vancouver, at L^ji4^^mjjt
anchor off Destruction Island.  In answer to Vancouver's +*<*•*-'—*■»**•*
inquiries as to what discoveries he had made, Gray re-    **T****!"'''**y*
ported to him his discovery in latitude 46   10 of what *. t*- '
he took to be the mouth of a large river. This Vancouver recognized as the Deception Bay of Captain
Meares, which he had himself passed and examined on
the morning of Friday, April 27, scarcely twenty-four
hours before.    Of his observations in this bay Vancouver 114
Joseph R. Wilson.
«HI j:  '
ft* H ''
ml lI I .
j   ni;, '
had at this time made this record: "The sea now changed
from its natural to river-colored water ; the probable
consequence of some streams falling into the bay, or into
the ocean to the north of it through the low land. Not
considering this opening worthy of more attention, I continued our pursuits to the northwest, being desirous to
embrace the advantages of the now favorable breeze and
pleasant weather, so favorable to our examination of the
coast." Vancouver's estimate as here given of the importance of this opening is confirmed by an -entry in his
journal Monday, April 30, two days after meeting with
Gray. After parting from Vancouver, who continued
his course to the north, Gray sailed on along shore southward, stopping here and there to examine the coast or
trade with the natives, but evidently keeping in mind the
bay which he had taken to be the mouth of a river. In
the log-book of the Columbia, for May 11, theçe is this
entry : "At 4 A. M., saw the entrance of our desired port
bearing east-south-east, distance six leagues ; in steering
sails, and hauled our wind in shore. At 8 A. M., being
a little to windward of the entrance to the harbor, bore
away, and run in east-north-east, between the breakers * * * When we were over the bar we found this
to be a large river of fresh water, up which we steered."
Captain Gray remained in this river for nine days,
during which time he explored it to a distance of thirty
miles from the mouth. After filling the ship's casks
with fresh water from the river, on May 120 he sailed out
over the bar, having first given to the river his ship's
name, the Columbia, which name the river has since
From the mouth of the Columbia Gray sailed northward, and a few days later, having suffered some injury
to his ship, put into Nootka Bay for repairs. Here he
found Quadra, the  Spanish commandant, to whom he
.1.   : The Oregon Question.
communicated his discovery, and gave a chart of the
mouth of the riv