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The centennial history of Oregon, 1811-1912 online

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supply them with liquor as long as they have beaver, blankets and horses to pay
for it. If a quantity should be introduced among the Walla Wallas and other
tribes in the upper country who can foretell the consequences — there we have
families exposed, cut off from the protection of the settlements, and perhaps at
the first drunken frolic of the Indians in that region they may be cut off from
the face of the earth. But we need not go so far ; we are exposed in every part
of our frontier, and when difficulties once commence, we cannot tell where they
will cease.

**It has been proved before the house of commons that one-half of the insan-
ity, two-thirds of the pauperism and three-fourths of the crimes of Great Brit-
ain, may be directly traced to the use of alcoholic drink. The testimony of our
most eminent judges in the United States, shows that the same proportion of
crime is attributable to ardent spirits in that country. Statistics might be pro-
duced showing the enormous evil and expense of an indiscriminate use of liquor.
"As to revenue, the small amount received for licenses, instead of being rev-
enue, would be swaUowed up in the expenses attending trials for crimes, etc.,
caused by the crime of these licenses.

**But leaving all other countries out of view, let us consider our own state.
Surrounded by Indians, no military force to aid the executive and other officers
in the discharge of their duties, not a solitary prison in the land in which to
confine offenders against the laws, and consequently no way of enforcing the
penalties of the law. I think these things should call for calm and serious re-
flection, before passing your final vote on this bill. My opinion is, the people
are opposed to legalizing the introduction and sale of liquor in this land. I may
be mistaken, and therefore should be in favor of the old law, or something sim-
ilar should be adopted, of referring the whole matter to the polls at the next
general election. If the people say *no liquor,' continue to prohibit; if they say,,
through the ballot box, * we wish liquor, * then let it come free, the same as dry
goods, or any other article imported or manufactured ; but, until the people say
they want it, I hope you will use your influence to keep it out of the territory.

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**lt is with regret that I return any bill unsigned, but I feel that we both
have duties to perform and when we think duty points out the way, I trust we
may always be found willing to follow it.

** George Abernethy."

treasurer's report

State of the Treasury, December, 1846

Funds in hand

Amount due by George Abernethy, per account $ 81.54

Amount due by John H. Couch 16.92

Amount due by F. W. Pettygrove 11.27

Amount due by H. B. Comp (Fort Vancouver) 16.42

$ 126.15


Amount due H. B. Comp (Oregon City) $ 140.94

Amount collected of estate of Ewing Young 2,815.00

Scrip outstanding at this date, not paid 1,879.64

Receipts since December 1, 1846, to date.

Taxes from John R. Jackson, sheriff Lewis county $ 24.48

Taxes from John R. Jackson, sheriflE Vancouver county 57.73

Taxes from Wm. Holmes, sheriflf Clackamas county 115.00

License paid by R. K. Payne 100.00

License paid by H. N. Winslow 100.00

Absentee tax, paid by John R. Jackson (Vancouver) 10.00

$ 407.31
Taxes from John R. Jackson (error).

The receipts since December 1, 1846, have been paid me wholly in scrip.
Interest paid on scrip, December 9 3.59

$ 403.72

Balance liabilities $4,431.86

John P. Brooks, Deputy Treasurer.
December 9, 1846.


Of the Governor of Oregon Territory, December 7, 1847.

^'To the Honorable the Legislative Assembly of Oregon Territory,

' ' Fellow Citizens : Contrary to the expectation of all who reside in this
territory, you are again convened under the provisional government of Oregon.
After learning that the boundary line question was settled, there was hardly a
doubt resting in the mind of any individual with regard to the extension of the

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jurisdiction of the United States over this territory. We have been sadly dis-
appointed, and hope, which was so fondly cherished, begins to sink into despair
in the hearts of many.

' ' Our situation is not a pleasant one, on account of the uncertainty of it. We
may be in less than six months under the laws and government of the United
States; and we may, on the other hand, exist in our present state several years.
This uncertainty will, no doubt, embarrass you in your proceedings. If we re-
main as we are for any length of time, ways and means must be devised for rais-
mg a more extensive revenue. The laws should be published in a convenient
form; a fund set apart for treating with Indians, and many other things pro-
vided for that we have thus far dispensed with, but which must be attended to in
order that we may carry out the principles under which we have associated.

*'This being the first session of the present congress, they will have more time
to devote to the formation of a government for this territory than at the last ses-
sion. The probability is that peace between the United States and Mexico will
have been restored, and relieve congress from the care, and anxieties attendant
upon a war, and also relieve the government from the very heavy expense which
must necessarily attend the carrying on of a war. These things lead to the hope
that among the first acts of congress will be the passage of an act to establish a
territorial government in Oregon.

'*This will release us from our present embarrassments and place us under
a permanent form of government. Hoping that this may be the case, I will call
your attention to such subjects as are most pressing in their character, and
which cannot well be dispensed with. The judiciary, has How regulated,
answers every purpose required of it, and proves to be a far better system than the
old one. There is one thing, however, needed very much in connection with it,
and that is a prison. Should an offender be sentenced to imprisonment by the
judge, there is no place in the territory to confine him, and consequently he
escapes the punishment his crimes justly merit. This should not be so, and I
hope you will provide means during your present session for the erection of
a jail.

"In my message of 1845, I recommended that in addition to gold and silver,
wheat should be the only article used in the country as legal tender. The
legislature added treasury drafts and orders on solvent merchants. I would rec-
ommend the repeal of that part of the act which makes treasury drafts and
orders on solvent merchants a lawful tender — receiving treasury drafts, how-
ever, in payment of taxes and debts due the government. Gold and silver are
much more plentiful in the territory now than two years ago, and could be made
the only lawful tender without detriment to the community ; still, I think wheat
had better remain in connection with gold and silver ; it is a staple article, and
can always be disposed of to nierchants and others.

**I would recommend an alteration in the law relating to the recording of
land claims. The organic law requires that claims be recorded in the office of
the territorial recorder. This answered very well while our population was
small and nearly all living in one district, but our population is increasing rap-
idly and spreading over a large extent of country; new counties have been
formed, and probably in a short time others will be set off and lands taken up
still further from the territorial recorder's office than at the present time. In

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view of this, I think it advisable that you propose an amendment to the organic
law, making the clerk of the county court recorder of all land claims located
within his county, and dispense with the office of territorial recorder.

The act entitled *'An act to regulate the manufacture and sale of wine and
distilled spirituous liquors,'' passed at the last session of the legislature, I would
recommend for revision. An act to prevent the introduction, manufacture, and
sale of ardent spirits in Oregon, would be far more preferable to a majority
of the people of this territory. In our early history ardent spirits were unknown
among us ; every effort was made to keep it out of the territory, and, to a great
extent, successfully, until 1846, when, owing to the defects in the law passed
at the session of 1845, some persons violated the statutes, and liquor was made
and sold in the territory; but it was not done openly, nor carried on to any
great extent. The last legislature licensed the manufacture and sale of ardent
spirits. I hope the present legislature will repeal the license law. Would
it not be better to have the law opposed to ardent spirits, than to have the manu-
facture and sale of it legalized by the statute f It is argued by some persons that
you have not the right to put it down, and by others, that it is interfering
with the liberties of the people, and depriving them of their rights. I think
you have the right to prevent its introduction ; no one can dispute your right
to regulate it down to the medical profession. With regard to taking away the
liberties of the people, prohibitory laws are passed by all legislatures. I will
simply give one instance. In a law of Massachusetts, passed March 23, 1833,
it is declared that any person who shall, in violation of the law, sell a lottery
ticket, or knowingly suffer one to be sold, in any building owned or rented by
him, within the commonwealth, he shall forfeit and pay a sum not less than one
hundred, nor more than two thousand dollars; and that if any person, after con-
viction, shall repeat the offense, he shall be sentenced for e^'ery subsequent
offence, to labor in the house of correction, or in the common jail, for a term of
time not less than three months, nor more than twelve months. This was not
considered by the people as taking away their liberties, though it deprives some
of the liberty of ruining themselves, and others from making money out of their
ruin. And is not this statute founded in the true principles of legislation, not
to license evil, but to defend the community from it ? Other states have passed
similar laws. When a crime is committed by any person when under the
influence of liquor, where does the responsibility rest? The individual, when
sober, informs us he did not know what he was doing ; the seller says, I have a
license to sell liquor, and sold it to him according to law. Would it not be for
the interest of the territory to take away this plea from the seller ? The license
^stera throws a bulwark around the dealer in ardent spirits, behind which he
entrenches himself. Remove this bulwark, place the law against him, and
public sentiment will put him down. The temperance cause is an onward one ;
we hear of state after state deciding through the ballot box, that no license to
sell liquor shall be granted within its bounds ; and the supreme court at Wash-
ington, to which several cases had been carried from the circuit courts arising
from the liquor question, decided at the last term of the court that the states
have a right to regulate the trade in, and the licensing of, the sale of ardent

Our organic law says that the legislature shall have the power to regulate the

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introduction, manufacture, or sale, of ardent spirits. In the United States,
80me of the states prohibit the granting of licenses. The supreme court says
the states have the right to regulate the licensing of the sale of ardent spirits,
and, under the right to regulate, the states prohibit and the court upholds them
in it.

The question, shall the license system be continued, or shall the introduction,
manufacture, and sale of ardent spirits, be prohibited! is in your hands; and,
I hope, in deciding upon it, you will take the happiness and future prosperity
of the territory into your consideration. You are well aware of our situation,
with regard to the Indian population, and have seen the effect liquor has upon
them. You may have heard them say, if the ** Boston people would not furnish
us liquor, we would not become such fools!'' I leave the question with you,
sincerely hoping that, should we come under the jurisdiction of the United
States, the coming year, we may be found with a law on our statute books
prohibiting the sale of ardent spirits in* this territory.

**Our relations with the Indians become every year more embarrassing.
They see the white man occupying their land, rapidly filling up the country,
and they put in a claim for pay. They have been told that a chief would come
out from the United States and treat with them for their lands; they have been
told this so often that they begin to doubt the truth of it ; at all events, they say
he will not come till we are all dead, and then what good will blankets do usf
We want something now. This leads to trouble between the settler and the In-
dians about him. Some plan should be devised by which a fund can be raised
and presents made to the Indians of sufficient value to keep them quiet until an
agent arrives from the United States. A number of robberies have been com-
mitted by the Indians in the upper country upon the emigrants, as they were
passing through their territory. This should not be allowed to pass. An ap-
propriation should be made by you suflScient to enable the superintendent of
Indian affairs to take a small party in the spring, and demand restitution of the
property or its equivalent in horses. Without an appropriation a suflScient party
could not be induced to go up there, as the trip is an expensive one.

'*The emigration the past season has been much larger than any preceding
one, amounting to between four and five thousand souls. They have all arrived
in the settlements, unless a few families should still be at the Dalles and Cas-
cades, and scattered themselves over the territory. The most of them are farm-
ers and mechanics; they will add much to the future welfare and prosperity oi

** During the past year we have been visited by a number of vessels, some of
them drawing more water than the vessels which have usually visited us. I am
happy to say they received full cargoes on board and crossed the bar in safety.
The provisions of the pilot law have been carried out, and its good effects are al-
ready visible. The able pilot at the mouth of the river has made himself thor-
oughly acquainted with the channels and currents, thus diminishing the dangeri
formerly attending vessels coming into the river. The time is not far distant
when our river will be entered with more ease and facility than many of the
ports in the United States on the Atlantic coast, and captains will wonder why
the entrance was so much dreaded, forgetting that they are reaping the benefits
of experience.

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'*The cause of education demands your attention. School districts should
be formed in the several counties, and school houses built. Teachers would be
employed by the people, I have no doubt, and thus pave the way for more ad-
vanced institutions.

*'In closing, allow me to unite with you in expressions of gratitude to that
Being who has preserved us during the past year and granted us the blessings of
health, peace and prosperity. May we continue to merit His mercies by ac-
knowledging our dependence on Him and keeping His law before us.

**Geo. Aberxethy.
** Oregon City, December 7, 1847/'

On December 17, 1847, Joseph L. Meek was appointed messenger to carry
the news of the Whitman massacre to Washington City, and lay it before con-
gress, and resigned his seat in the legislature and made that remarkable trip by
horseback across the continent in the middle of the winter of 1847-8.

The following extract from the letter of Hugh Burns, commissioner of the
currency, to the legislature, dated Oregon City, February 8, 1849, will show the
troubles of that officer in financing the treasury of Oregon, in fighting the In-
dians at that date.

**0n the 28th of March last, or near that time, the commissary general told
me that when he was at The Dalles, it became necessarj^ for him to take wagons
and oxen, the property of Phelaster and Philemon Lee, to the amount of $250.00.
I consented to give bonds to that amount and did so, but in a few days I was
called upon by different persons for bonds for a very large amount. I refused
to execute bonds to them until I could see the other two commissioners, and when
we met together it was thought best not to give any more bonds for any prop-
erty, as we knew nothing about it ; so, for these reasons we refused to give bonds
for any more of the property taken at The Dalles by the commissary general.

** There is another matter I wish to explain; it is this: When I commenced to
collect funds, I was not able to obtain any money except orders on the stores in
Oregon City ; in consequence of this, it was impossible for the commissary general
to obtain articles for the use of the army.

**He told me he could get axes and spades, and these articles were very much
wanted to make roads for wagons to pass up the Columbia river. Philip Foster
had subscribed $50.00 to be paid on the stores, and John B. Price, $25.00, to be
paid also on the stores. These gentlemen told me if I would give them twenty-
five per cent, premium, they would let me have cash, and I told them I would do
so. Mr. Foster gave me $37.50, and I gave him a bond for $50.00. Mr. Price
gave me $18.75, and I gave him a bond for $25.00. This I did for the best. But
should your honorable body think otherwise, I am ready to pay to this govern-
ment out of my own funds, the amount of premium that I found at that time
necessary to allow. I bring this to your particular notice, because it was noticed
at the time by one of the presses of Oregon City. Whatever your decision on this
point may be, I alone am responsible, as my associates know nothing of the mat-
ter. The commissary general or his agent, A. J. Hembree, Esq., obtained a loan
of $196.50, or thereabouts, from Thomas Justins, for which they agreed to get
him a bond for $216.33. I first refused to give the bond for that amount, but
the commissary general being very much in want of cash, and upon considera-

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Seal of the
Territory of Oregon

Seal of the

Provisional Government

called the

"Salmon Seal"


The Beaver Money, Gold — Minted
at Oregon City in 1849

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tion, sooner than the money should be returned, I executed the bond to Thomas
Justins for $216.35. All bonds issued by us bear interest at the rate of 10 per
cent, per annum, and all signed by the governor and countersigned by the secre-
tary of this territory. All the books and papers belonging are hereby trans-
mitted for your examination.

** Owing to the resignation of Gen. A. L. Love joy as one of the commissioners,
and the absence of Dr. W. H. Willson, this document will appear with but one

** (Signed) Hugh Burns, Commissioner.
** Oregon City, February 8, 1849.''

On February 10, 1849, some enterprising real estate agent applied to the
legislature for a ** charter'' to enable him to get into the real estate business in
the great northwest **on the ground floor." The legislature turned him down
in the following resolution :

''Resolved, That it is not in the power of this house to grant a charter to any
individual or company for treating for wild lands in this territory, or for holding
treaties with the Indian tribes for the purchasing of lands."

On February 14, 1849, the legislature amended the oath of office of the pro-
visional government from the form set out on a preceding page to the following :

**I do solemnly swear that I will support the constitution of the United
States and the organic laws of the provisional government of Oregon, and faith-
fully demean myself in office, so help me God." Thus after recognizing the citi-
zenship of the British subjects in the government for six years, they shut the
doors to any further courtesies in that direction. It is probable that that action
was taken through the influence of Samuel R. Thurston.

The last acts of the legislature and of officials of the provisional government
are dated February 16, 1849. On that day the legislature divorced John P.
Brooks from his wife, Mary Ann ; passed an act for the relief of Jason "Wheeler ;
an act providing for weighing, assaying, melting and stamping gold coin;
against which last act Representative W. J. Martin filed a protest ** because the
act was a violation of the constitution of the United States," and made this ter-
ritory, a shaving machine by only allowing $16.50 for an ounce of gold dust.

The legislature then adjourned sine die, and passed into history as the first
and only state forming and successfully carrying on a provisional government
on the American continent. And having during its existence of six years, two
months and twenty-eight days, established courts, administered justice, pun-
ished crime, coined money, raised military forces and made war on the Indians,
granted titles to land and made laws which all obeyed, provided for common
schools, education, religion and the public welfare, and all other things that any
American state could do.

That the Americans long and earnestly sought to have the Canadians unite
with them in organizing a provisional government is proved by the statements
of John McLoughlin. In a statement prepared by McLoughlin, evidently to
make clear his record, but not published in his lifetime, a copy of which was
published by Mrs. F. F. Victor in the Quarterly of the Oregon Historical Society,
June, 1900, Dr. McLoughlin says:

"In the spring of 1842 the Americans invited the Canadians to unite with

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th^m and organize a temporary government, but the Canadians, apprehensive it
might interfere with their allegiance, declined, and the project, which origi-
nated with the (Methodist) mission, failed. • • • In 1843 the Americans
again proposed to the Canadians to join and form a temporary government, but
the Canadians declined for the same reason as before."

But after thus twice refusing to join with the Americans and after the or-
ganization had been completed and declared that joining the provisional govern-
ment would not require any person to abjure their allegiance to any other gov-
ernment or king. Dr. McLoughlin gave his support to the provisional govern-
ment and asked favors and franchises of it.

The record now given of this pioneer legislature seems sufficient to show the
character of the men and measures of the pioneer provisional government of
Oregon, every session of which was held within the territory this history is to

Especial attention is called to the fact that this ** Independent" govern-
ment, called **The Provisional Government," was organized by the plain, com-
mon people of the western states in a wilderness two thousand miles distant from
an American state or British colony. So far as is known, not a single man tak-
ing part in the movement had ever had any experience in legislative or state con-
cerns before. While it is possible that there were fifty or more men in the Wil-
lamette valley who did not participate in the primary organization, yet as the
record stands there were practically as many men opposed to the organization
as favored it. There were quite a number of Americans about Oregon City (then
called **The Falls") who did not take interest in the matter or were afraid to
incur the displeasure of the fur company, and did not attend the Champoeg

The real pioneers were the men and women who came here before 1846. They
did not know from any act of the United States whether this would be American
or British territory. But thej^ came to make it American. Those who came after
1846 took no chances. It was then decided to be United States territory. They
came to reap where others had sown. They wanted security before they would
move. The real pioneers put up all the security and ran all the risks of the in-
vestment. The rooms of the Oregon Historical Society furnish mute but incon-
testable evidence of the plain and simple lives of our pioneers. The ancient

Online LibraryJoseph GastonThe centennial history of Oregon, 1811-1912 → online text (page 30 of 95)