History of Oregon (Bancroft)/Volume 2/Chapter 4
A DELEGATE TO CONGRESS.
During the transition period through which the territory was passing, complaint was made that the judges devoted time to personal enterprises which was demanded for the public service. I am disposed to think that those who criticised the judges of the United States courts caviled because they overlooked the conditions then existing.
The members of the territorial supreme court were Chief Justice Bryant and Associate Justice Pratt. Within a few months, the chief justice's health having become impaired, he left Oregon, returned to Indiana, resigned, and soon after died. Associate Justice Burnett, being in California, and very lucratively employed at the time that he learned of his appointment, declined it; and as their successors, Thomas Nelson and William Strong, were not soon appointed, and came ultimately to their field of duty around Cape Horn, Judge Pratt was left unaided nearly two years in the judicial labors of the territory.
By act of congress, March 3, 1859, it was provided, in the absence of United States courts in California, violations of the revenue laws might be prosecuted before the judges of the supreme court of Oregon. Under this statute, Judge Pratt went to San Francisco, by request of the secretary of the treasury, in 1849, and assisted in the adjustment of several important admiralty cases. Also, about the same time, in his own district, at Portland, Oregon, as district judge of the United States for the territory of Oregon, he held the first court of admiralty jurisdiction within the limits of the region now covered by the states of Oregon and California.
Another evil to the peace and quiet of the community, and to the security of property, arose soon after the advent of the new justices—Strong, in August 1850, and Nelson, in April 1, 1851—from the interference of one district court with the processes of another. Thus it was impossible, for a time, to maintain order in Judge Pratt's district (the second) in two instances, sentences for contempt passed by him being practically nullified by the interference of the judge of the first district.
Among the changes occurring at this time none were more perceptible than the diminishing importance of the Hudson's Bay Company's business in Oregon. Not only the gold mania carried off their servants, but the naturalization act did likewise, and also the prospect of a title to six hundred and forty acres of land. And not only did their servants desert them, but the United States revenue officers and Indian agents pursued them at every turn. When Thornton was at Puget Sound in 1849 he caused the arrest of Captain Morris, of the Harpooner, an English vessel which had transported Hill's artillery company to Nisqually, for giving the customary grog to the Indians and half-breeds hired to discharge the vessel in the absence of white labor. Captain Morris was held to bail in five hundred dollars by Judge Bryant, to appear before him at the next term of court. What the decision would have been can only be conjectured, as in the absence of the judges the case never came to trial. Morris was released on a promise never to return to those waters.
But these annoyances were light compared to those which arose out of the establishment of a port of entry, and the extension of the revenue laws of the United States over the country. In the spring of 1849 arrived Oregon's first United States revenue officer, John Adair, of Kentucky; and in the autumn George Gibbs, deputy-collector. No trouble seems to have arisen for the first few months, though the company was subjected to much inconvenience by having to go from Fort Victoria to Astoria, a distance of over two hundred miles, to enter the goods designed for the American side of the strait, or for Fort Nisqually to which they must travel back three hundred miles.
About the last of December 1849 the British ship Albion, Captain Richard O. Hinderwell, William Brotchie, supercargo, entered the strait of Fuca without being aware of the United States revenue laws on that part of the coast, and proceeded to cut a cargo of spars at New Dungeness, at the same time trading with the natives, for which they were prepared, by permission of the Hudson's Bay Company in London, with certain Indian goods, though not allowed to buy furs. The owners of the Albion, who had a government contract, had instructed the captain and supercargo to take the spars wherever they found the best timber, but if upon the American side of the strait, to pay for them if they could be bought cheap. But during a stay of about four months at Dungeness, as no one had appeared of whom the timber could be purchased, the wood-cutters continued their work uninterruptedly. In the mean time the United States surveying schooner Ewing being in the sound, Lieutenant McArthur informed the officers of the Albion that they had no right to cut timber on American soil. When this came to the ears of deputy-collector Gibbs, Adair being absent in California, he appointed Eben May Dorr a special inspector of customs, with authority to seize the Albion for violation of the revenue laws. United States district attorney Holbrook, and United States marshal Meek, were duly informed.
The marshal, with Inspector Dorr, repaired to Steilacoom, where a requisition was made on Captain Hill for a detachment of men, and Lieutenant Gibson, five soldiers, and several citizens proceeded down the sound to Dungeness, and made a formal seizure of the ship and stores on the 22d of April. The vessel was placed in charge of Charles Kinney, the English sailors willingly obeying him, and navigating the ship to Steilacoom. Arrived here every man, even to the cook, deserted, and the captain and supercargo were ordered ashore where they found succor at the hospitable hands of Tolmie, at Fort Nisqually.
It was not a very magnanimous proceeding on the part of officers of the great American republic, but was about what might have been expected from Indian fighters like Joe Meek raised to new dignities. We smile at the simple savage demanding pay from navigators for wood and water; but here were officers of the United States government seizing and confiscating a British vessel for cutting a few small trees from land lately stolen from the Indians, relinquished by Great Britain as much through a desire for peace as from any other cause, and which the United States government afterward sold for a dollar and a quarter an acre, at which rate the present damage could not possibly have reached the sum of three cents!
Kinney proved a thief, and not only stole the goods intrusted to his care, but allowed others to do so, and was finally placed under bonds for his appearance to answer the charge of embezzlement. The ship and spars were condemned and sold at Steilacoom November 23d, bringing about forty thousand dollars, which was considerably less than she was worth; the money, according to common report, never reaching the treasury. A formal protest was entered by the captain and supercargo immediately on the seizure of the Albion, and the whole correspondence finally came before congress on the matter being brought to the attention of the secretary of state by the British minister at Washington.
In the mean time congress had passed an act September 28, 1850, relating to collection matters on the Pacific coast, and containing a proviso intended to meet such cases as this of the Albion, and by virtue of which the owners and officers of the vessel were indemnified for their losses.
This high-handed proceeding against the Albion, as we may well imagine, produced much bitterness of feeling on the part of the British residents north of the Columbia, and the more so that the vessels of the Hudson's Bay Company were not exempt from these exactions. When the troops were to be removed from Nisqually to Steilacoom on the establishment of that post, Captain Hill employed the Forager, one of the company's vessels, to transport the men and stores, and the settlers also having some shingles and other insignificant freight, which they wished carried down the sound, it was put on board the Forager. For this violation of the United States revenue laws the vessel was seized. But the secretary of the treasury decided that Hill and the artillerymen were not goods in the meaning of the statute, and that therefore the laws had not been violated.
Soon after the seizure of the Albion, the company's schooner Cadboro was seized for carrying goods direct from Victoria to Nisqually, and that notwithstanding the duties were paid, though under protest. The Cadboro was released on Ogden reminding the collector that he had given notice of the desire of the company to continue the importation of goods direct from Victoria, their readiness to pay duties, and also that their business would be broken up at Nisqually and other posts in Oregon if they were compelled to import by the way of the Columbia River.
In January 1850 President Taylor declared Portland and Nisqually ports of delivery; but subsequently the office was removed at the instance of the Oregon delegate from Nisqually to Olympia, when there followed other seizures, namely, of the Mary Dare, and the Beaver, the latter for landing Miss Rose Birnie, sister of James Birnie formerly of Fort George, at Fort Nisqually, without first having landed her at Olympia. The cases were tried before Judge Strong, who very justly released the vessels. Strong was accused of bribery by the collector; but the friends of the judge held a public meeting at Olympia sustaining him. The seizure cost the government twenty thousand dollars, and caused much ill-feeling. This was after the appointment of a collector for Puget Sound in 1851, whose construction of the revenue laws was even more strict than that of other Oregon officials.
Thus we see that the position of the Hudson's Bay Company in Oregon after the passage of the act establishing the territory was ever increasingly precarious and disagreeable. The treaty of 1846 had proven altogether insufficient to protect the assumed rights of the company, and was liable to different interpretations even by the ablest jurists. The company claimed their lands in the nature of a grant, and as actually alienated to the British government. Before the passage of the territorial act, they had taken warning by the well known temper of the American occupants of Oregon toward them, and had offered their rights for sale to the government at one million of dollars; using, as I have previously intimated, the well known democratic editor and politician, George N. Sanders, as their agent in Washington.
As early as January 1848 Sir George Simpson addressed a confidential letter to Sanders, whom he had previously met in Montreal, in which he defined his view of the rights confirmed by the treaty, as the right to "cultivate the soil, to cut down and export the timber, to carry on the fisheries, to trade for furs with the natives, and all other rights we enjoyed at the time of framing the treaty." As to the free navigation of the Columbia, he held that this right like the others was salable and transferable. "Our possessions," he said, "embrace the very best situations in the whole country for offensive and defensive operations, towns and villages." These were all included in the offer of sale, as well as the lands of the Puget Sound Agricultural Company, together with their flocks and herds; the reason urged for making the offer being that the company in England were apprehensive that their possession of the country might lead to "endless disputes, which might be productive of difficulties between the two nations," to avoid which they were willing to make a sacrifice, and to withdraw within the territory north of 49°.
Sanders laid this proposition before Secretary Buchanan in July, and a correspondence ensued between the officers and agents of the Hudson's Bay Company and the ministers of both governments, in the course of which it transpired that the United States government on learning the construction put upon the company's right to transfer the navigation of the Columbia, was dissatisfied with the terms of the treaty and wished to make a new one in which this right was surrendered, but that Great Britain declined to relinquish the right without a consideration. "Her Majesty's government," said Addington, "have no proposal to make, they being quite content to leave things as they are."
The operation of the revenue laws, however, which had not been anticipated by the British companies or government, considerably modified their tone as to the importance of their right of navigation on the Columbia, and their privileges generally. Instead of being in a position to dictate terms, they were at the mercy of the United States, which could well afford to allow them to navigate Oregon waters so long as they paid duties. Under this pressure, in the spring of 1849, a contract was drawn up conveying the rights of the company under their charter and the treaty, and appertaining to forts Disappointment, George, Vancouver, Umpqua, Walla Walla, Boisé, Okanagan, Colville, Kootenai, Flat Head, Nisqually, Cowlitz, and all other posts belonging to said companies, together with their wild lands, reserving only their shipping, merchandise, provisions, and stores of every description, and their enclosed lands, except such portions of them as the United States government might wish to appropriate for military reserves, which were included in the schedule offered, for the sum of seven hundred thousand dollars. The agreement further offered all their farms and real property not before conveyed, for one hundred and fifty thousand dollars, if purchased within one year by the government; or if the government should not elect to purchase, the companies bound themselves to sell all their farming lands to private citizens of the United States within two years, so that at the end of that time they would have no property rights whatever in the territories of the United States.
Surely it could not be said that the British companies were not as anxious to get out of Oregon as the Americans were to have them. It is more than likely, also, that had it not been for the persistent animosity of certain persons influencing the heads of the government and senators, some arrangement might have been effected; the reason given for rejecting the offer, however, was that no purchase could be made until the exact limits of the company's possessions could be determined. In October 1850, Sir John Henry Pelly addressed a letter to Webster, then secretary of state, on the subject, in which he referred to the seizure of the Albion, and in which he said that the price in the disposal of their property was but a secondary consideration, that they were more concerned to avoid the repetition of occurrences which might endanger the peace of the two governments, and proposed to leave the matter of valuation to be decided by two commissioners, one from each government, who should be at liberty to call an umpire. But at this time the same objections existed in the indefinite limits of the territory claimed which would require to be settled before commissioners could be prepared to decide, and nothing was clone then, nor for twenty years afterward, toward the purchase of Hudson's Bay Company claims, during which time their forts, never of much value except for the purposes of the company, went to decay, and the lands of the Puget Sound Company were covered with American squatters, who, holding that the rights of the company under the treaty of 1846 were not in the nature of an actual grant, but merely possessory so far as the company required the land for use until their charter expired, looked upon their pretensions as unfounded, and treated them as trespassers, at the same time that they were compelled to pay taxes as proprietors.
Gradually the different posts were abandoned. The land at Fort Umpqua was let in 1853 to W. W. Chapman, who purchased the cattle belonging to it, which travellers were in the habit of shooting as game while they belonged to the company. The stockade and buildings were burned in 1851. The land was finally taken as a donation claim. Walla Walla was abandoned in 1855–6, during the Indian war, in obedience to an order from Indian Agent Olney, and was afterward claimed by an American for a town site. Fort Boisé was abandoned in 1856 on account of Indian hostilities, and Fort Hall about the same time on account of the statute against selling of ammunition to Indians, without which the Indian trade was worthless. Okanagan was kept up until 1861 or 1862, when it was left in charge of an Indian chief. Vancouver was abandoned about 1860, the land about it being covered with squatters, English and American. Fort George went out of use before any of the others, Colville holding out longest. At length in 1871, after a tedious and expensive examination of the claims of the Hudson's Bay and Puget Sound companies by a commission appointed for the purpose, an award of seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars was made and accepted, there being nothing left which the United States could confirm to any one except a dozen dilapidated forts. The United States gained nothing by the purchase, unless it were the military reserves at Vancouver, Steilacoom, and Cape Disappointment; for the broad acres of the companies had been donated to squatters who applied for them as United States land. As to the justice of the cause of the American people against the companies, or the companies against the United States, there will be always two opinions, as there have always been two opinions concerning the Oregon boundary question. Sentiment on the American side as enunciated by the Oregon pioneers was as follows: They held that Great Britain had no rights on the west shore of the American continent; in which opinion, if they would include the United States in the same category, I would concur. As I think I have clearly shown in the History of the Northwest Coast, whether on the ground of inherent rights, or rights of discovery or occupation, there was little to choose between the two nations. The people of Oregon further held that the convention of 1818 conferred no title, in which they were correct. They held that the Hudson's Bay Company, under its charter, could acquire no title to land—only to the occupancy of it for a limited time; in which position they were undoubtedly right. They denied that the Puget Sound Company, which derived its existence from the Hudson's Bay Company, could have any title to land, which was evident. They were quick to perceive the intentions of the parent company in laying claim to large bodies of land on the north side of the Columbia, and covering them with settlers and herds. They had no thought that when the boundary was settled these claims would be respected, and felt that not only they but the government had been cheated—the latter through its ignorance of the actual facts in the case. So far I cannot fail to sympathize with their sound sense and patriotism.
But I find also that they forgot to be just, and to realize that British subjects on the north side of the Columbia were disappointed at the settlement of the boundary on the 49th parallel; that they naturally sought indemnity for the distraction it would be to their business to move their property out of the territory, the cost of building new forts, opening new farms, and laying out new roads. But above all they forgot that as good citizens they were bound to respect the engagements entered into by the government whether or not they approved them; and while they were using doubtful means to force the British companies out of Oregon, were guilty of ingratitude both to the corporation and individuals.
The issue on which the first delegate to congress elected in Oregon, Samuel R. Thurston, received his majority, was that of the anti-Hudson's Bay Company sentiment, which was industriously worked up by the missionary element, in the absence of a large number of the voters of the territory, notably of the Canadians, and the young and independent western men. Thurston was besides a democrat, to which party the greater part of the population belonged; but it is the testimony of those who knew best that it was not as a democrat that he was elected. As a member of the legislature at its last session under the provisional government, he displayed some of those traits which made him a powerful and useful champion, or a dreaded and hated foe.
Much has been said about the rude and violent manners of western men in pursuit of an object, but Thurston was not a western man; he was supposed to be something more elevated and refined, more cool and logical, more moral and Christian than the people beyond the Alleghanies; he was born and bred an eastern man, educated at an eastern college, was a good Methodist, and yet in the canvass of 1849 he introduced into Oregon the vituperative and invective style of debate, and mingled with it a species of coarse blackguardism such as no Kentucky ox-driver or Missouri flat-boatman might hope to excel. Were it more effective, he could be simply eloquent and impressive; where the fire-eating style seemed likely to win, he could hurl epithets and denunciations until his adversaries withered before them.
And where so pregnant a theme on which to rouse the feelings of a people unduly jealous, as that of the aggressiveness of a foreign monoply? And what easier than to make promises of accomplishing great things for Oregon? And yet I am bound to say that what this scurrilous and unprincipled demagogue promised, as a rule he performed. He believed that to be the best course, and he was strong enough to pursue it. Had he never done more than he engaged to do, or had he not privately engaged to carry out a scheme of the Methodist missionaries, whose sentiments he mistook for those of the majority, being himself a Methodist, and having been but eighteen months in Oregon when he left it for Washington, his success as a politician would have been assured.
Barnes, in his manuscript entitled Oregon and California, relates that Thurston was prepared to go to California with him when Lane issued his proclamation to elect a delegate to congress. He immediately decided to take his chance among the candidates, with what result we know.
The first we hear of Thurston in his character of delegate is on the 24th of January 1850, when he rose in the house and insisted upon being allowed to make an explanation of his position. When he left Oregon, he said, he bore a memorial from the legislative assembly to congress which he could not produce on account of the loss of his baggage on the Isthmus. But since he had not the memorial, he had drawn up a set of resolutions upon the subjects embraced in the memorial, which he wished to offer and have referred to their appropriate committees, in order that while the house might be engaged in other matters he might attend to his before the committees. He had waited, he said, nearly two months for an opportunity to present his resolutions, and his territory had not yet been reached in the call for resolutions. He would detain the house but a few minutes, if he might be allowed to read what he had drawn up. On leave being granted, he proceeded to present, not an abstract of the memorial, which has been given elsewhere, but a series of questions for the judiciary committee to answer, in reference to the rights of the Hudson's Bay Company, and Puget Sound Agricultural Association. This first utterance of the Oregon delegate, when time was so precious and so short in which to labor for the accomplishment of high designs, gives us the key to his plan, which was first to raise the question of any rights of British subjects to Oregon lands in fee simple under the treaty, and then to exclude them if possible from the privileges of the donation law when it should be framed.
The two months which intervened between Thurston's arrival in Washington and the day when he introduced his resolutions had not been lost. He had studied congressional methods and proved himself an apt scholar. He attempted nothing without first having tried his ground with the committees, and prepared the way, often with great labor, to final success. On the 6th of February, further resolutions were introduced inquiring into the rights of the Hudson's Bay Company to cut and manufacture timber growing on the public lands of Oregon, and particuarly on lands not inclosed or cultivated by them at the time of the ratification of the Oregon treaty; into the right of the Puget Sound Agricultural Company to any more land than they had under inclosure, or in a state of actual cultivation at that time; and into the right of the Hudson's Bay Company, under the second article of the treaty, or of British subjects trading with the company, to introduce through the port of Astoria foreign goods for consumption in the territory free of duty, which resolutions were referred to the judiciary committee. On the same day he introduced a resolution that the committee on public lands should be instructed to inquire into the expediency of reporting a bill for the establishment of a land office in Oregon, and to provide for the survey of a portion of the public lands in that territory, containing such other provisions and restrictions as the committee might deem necessary for the proper management and protection of the public lands.
In the mean time a bill was before the senate for the extinguishment of the Indian title to land west of the Cascade Mountains. This was an important preliminary step to the passage of a donation act. It was chiefly suggested by Mr Thurston, and was passed April 22d without opposition. Having secured this measure, as he believed, he next brought up the topics embraced in the last memorial on which he expected to found his advocacy of a donation law, and embodied them in another series of resolutions, so artfully drawn up as to compel the committee to take that view of the subject most likely to promote the success of the measure. Not that there was reason to fear serious opposition to a law donating a liberal amount of land to Oregon settlers. It had for years been tacitly agreed to by every congress, and could only fail on some technicality. But to get up a sympathetic feeling for such a bill, to secure to Oregon all and more than was asked for through that feeling, and to thereby so deserve the approval of the Oregon people as to be reëlected to congress, was the desire of Thurston's active and ardent mind. And toward this aim he worked with a persistency that was admirable, though some of the means resorted to, to bring it about, and to retain the favor of the party that elected him, were as unsuccessful as they were reprehensible.
From the first day of his labors at Washington this relentless demagogue acted in ceaseless and open hostility to every interest of the Hudson's Bay Company in Oregon, and to every individual in any way connected with it.
Thurston, like Thornton, claimed to have been the author of the donation land law. I have shown in a previous chapter that a bill creating the office of surveyor-general in Oregon, and to grant donation rights to settlers, and for other purposes, was before congress in both houses in January 1848, and that it failed through lack of time, having to await the territorial bill which passed at the last moment. Having been crowded out, and other affairs pressing at the next session, the only trace of it in the proceedings of congress is a resolution by Collamer, of Vermont, on the 25th of January 1849, that it should be made the special order of the house for the first Tuesday of February, when, however, it appears to have been forgotten; and it was not until the 22d of April 1850 that Mr Fitch, chairman of the committee on territories, again reported a bill on this subject. That the bill brought up at this session was but a copy of the previous one is according to usage; but that Thurston had been at work with the committee some peculiar features of the bill show.
There was tact and diplomacy in Thurston's character, which he displayed in his short congressional career. He allowed the land bill to drift along, making only some practical suggestions, until his resolutions had had time to sink into the minds of members of both houses. When the bill was well on its way he proposed amendments, such as to strike out of the fourth section that portion which gave every settler or occupant of the public lands above the age of eighteen a donation of three hundred and twenty acres of land if a single man, and if married, or becoming married within a given time, six hundred and forty acres, one half to himself in his own right, and the other half to his wife in her own right, the surveyor-general to designate the part inuring to each; and to make it read "that there shall be, and hereby is granted to every white male settler, or occupant of the public lands, American half-breeds included, members and servants of the Hudson's Bay and Puget Sound companies excepted," etc.
He proposed further a proviso "that every foreigner making claim to lands by virtue of this act, before he shall receive a title to the same, shall prove to the surveyor-general that he has commenced and completed his naturalization and become an American citizen." The proviso was not objected to, but the previous amendment was declared by Bowlin, of Missouri, unjust to the retired servants of the fur company, who had long lived on and cultivated farms. The debate upon this part of the bill became warm, and Thurston, being pressed, gave utterance to the following infamous lies:
"This company has been warring against our government these forty years. Dr McLoughlin has been their chief fugleman, first to cheat our government out of the whole country, and next to prevent its settlement. He has driven men from claims and from the country to stifle the efforts at settlement. In 1845 he sent an express to Fort Hall, eight hundred miles, to warn the American emigrants that if they attempted to come to Willamette they would all be cut off; they went, and none were cut off… I was instructed by my legislature to ask donations of land to American citizens only. The memorial of the Oregon legislature was reported so as to ask donations to settlers, and the word was stricken out, and citizens inserted. This, sir, I consider fully bears me out in insisting that our public lands shall not be thrown into the hands of foreigners, who will not become citizens, and who sympathize with us with crocodile tears only. … I can refer you to the supreme judge of our territory for proof that this Dr McLoughlin refuses to file his intention to become an American citizen. If a foreigner would bona fide file his intentions I would not object to give him land. There are many Englishmen, members of the Hudson's Bay Company, who would file their intention merely to get the land, and then tell you to whistle. Now, sir, I hope this house, this congress, this country, will not allow that company to stealthily get possession of all the good land in Oregon, and thus keep it out of the hands of those who would become good and worthy citizens."
Having prepared the way by a letter to the house of representatives for introducing into the land bill a section depriving McLoughlin of his Oregon City claim, which he had the audacity to declare was first taken by the Methodist mission, section eleventh of the law as it finally passed, and as it now stands upon, the sixty-eighth page of the General Laws of Oregon, was introduced and passed without opposition. Judge Bryant receiving his bribe for falsehood, by the reservation of Abernethy Island, which was "confirmed to the legal assigns of the Willamette Milling and Trading Company," while the remainder, except lots sold or given away by McLoughlin previous to the 4th of March 1849, should be at the disposal of the legislative assembly of Oregon for the establishment and endowment of a university, to be located not at Oregon City, but at such place in the territory as the legislature might designate. Thus artfully did the servant of the Methodist mission strive for the ruin of McLoughlin and the approbation of his constituents, well knowing that they would not feel so much at liberty to reject a bounty to the cause of education, as a gift of any other kind.
In his endeavor to accomplish so much villany the delegate failed. The senate struck out a clause in the fourth section which required a foreigner to emigrate from the United States, and which he had persuaded the house to adopt by his assertions that without it the British fur company would secure to themselves all the best lands in Oregon. Another clause insisted on by Thurston when he found he could not exclude British subjects entirely, was that a foreigner could not become entitled to any land notwithstanding his intentions were declared, until he had completed his naturalization, which would require two years; and this was allowed to stand, to the annoyance of the Canadian settlers who had been twenty years on their claims. But the great point gained in Thurston's estimation by the Oregon land bill was the taking-away from the former head of the Hudson's Bay Company of his dearly bought claim at the falls of the Willamette, where a large portion of his fortune was invested in improvements. The last proviso of the fourth section forbade any one claiming under the land law to claim under the treaty of 1846. McLoughlin, having declared his intention to become an American citizen was no longer qualified to claim under the treaty, and congress having, on the representations of Thurston, taken from McLoughlin what he claimed under the land law there was left no recourse whatever.
I have said that Thurston claimed the Oregon land bill as his own. It was his own so far as concerned the amendments which damaged the interests of men in the country whom he designated as foreigners, but who really were the first white persons to maintain a settlement in the country, and who as individuals, were in every way entitled to the same privileges as the citizens of the United States, and who had at the first opportunity offered themselves as such. In no other sense was it his bill. There was not an important clause in it which had not been in contemplation for years, or which was not suggested by the frequent memorials of the legislature on the subject. He worked earnestly to have it pass, for on it, he believed, hung his reëlection. So earnestly did he labor for the settlement of this great measure, and for all other measures which he knew to be most desired, that though they knew he was a most selfish and unprincipled politician, the people gave him their gratitude.
A frequent mistake of young, strong, talented, but inexperienced and unprincipled politicians, is that of going too fast and too far. Thurston was an exceedingly clever fellow; the measures which he took upon himself to champion, though in some respects unjust and infamous, were in other respects matters which lay very near the heart of the Oregon settler. But like Jason Lee, Thurston overreached himself. The good that he did was dimmed by a sinister shadow. In September a printed copy of the bill, containing the obnoxious eleventh section, with a copy of his letter to the house of representatives, and other like matter, was received by his confidants, together with an injunction of secrecy until sufficient time should have passed for the bill to become a law. When the vile injustice to John McLoughlin became known, those of Thurston's friends who were not in the conspiracy met the charge with scornful denial. They would not believe it. And when time had passed, and the matter became understood, the feeling was intense. McLoughlin. as he had before been driven by the thrusts of his enemies to do, replied through the Spectator to the numerous falsehoods contained in the letter. He knew that although many of the older settlers understood the merits of the case, all classes were to be appealed to. There were those who had no regard for truth or justice; those who cared more for party than principle; those who had ignorantly believed the charges made against him; and those who, from national, religious, or jealous feelings, were united in a crusade against the man who represented in their eyes everything hateful in the British character and unholy in the Catholic religion, as well as the few who were wilfully conspiring to complete the overthrow of this British Roman Catholic aristocrat.
There were others besides McLoughlin who felt themselves injured; those who had purchased lots in Oregon City since the 4th of March 1849. Notice was issued to these property-holders to meet for the purpose of asking congress to confirm their lots to them also. Such a meeting was held on the 19th of September, in Oregon City, Andrew Hood being chairman, and Noyes Smith secretary. The meeting was addressed by Thornton and Pritchett, and a memorial to congress prepared, which set forth that the Oregon City claim was taken and had been held in accordance with the laws of the provisional and territorial governments of Oregon; and that the memorialists considered it as fully entitled to protection as any other claim; no intimation to the contrary ever having been made up to that time. That under this impression, both before and since the 4th of March 1849, large portions of it, in lots and blocks, had been purchased in good faith by many citizens of Oregon, who had erected valuable buildings thereon, in the expectation of having a complete and sufficient title when congress should grant a title to the original occupant. That since the date mentioned, the occupant of the claim had donated for county, educational, charitable, and religious purposes more than two hundred lots, which, if the bill pending should pass, would be lost to the public, as well as a great loss sustained by private individuals who had purchased property in good faith. They therefore prayed that the bill might not pass in its present form, believing that it would work a "severe, inequitable, unnecessary, and irremediable injustice." The memorial was signed by fifty-six persons, and a resolution declaring the selection of the Oregon City claim for reservation uncalled for by any considerable portion of the citizens of the territory, and as invidious and unjust to McLoughlin, was offered by Wait and adopted, followed by another by Thornton declaring that the gratitude of multitudes of people in Oregon was due to John McLoughlin for assistance rendered them. In some preliminary remarks, Thornton referred to the ingratitude shown their benefactor, by certain persons who had not paid their debts to McLoughlin, but who had secretly signed a petition to take away his property. McLoughlin also refers to this petition in his newspaper defence; but if there was such a petition circulated or sent it does not appear in any of the public documents, and must have been carefully suppressed by Thurston himself, and only used in the committee rooms of members of congress.
Not long after the meeting at Oregon City, a public gathering of about two hundred was convened at Salem for the purpose of expressing disapproval of the resolutions passed at the Oregon City meeting, and commendation of the cause of the Oregon delegate.
In November a meeting was held in Linn county at which resolutions were passed endorsing Thurston and denouncing McLoughlin. Nor were there wanting those who upheld the delegate privately, and who wrote approving letters to him, assuring him that he was losing no friends, but gaining them by the score, and that his course with regard to the Oregon City claim would be sustained.
Mr Thurston has been since condemned for his action in the matter of the Oregon City claims. But even while the honest historian must join in reprobating his unscrupulous sacrifice of truth to secure his object, the people then in Oregon should be held as deserving of a share in the censure which has attached to him. His course had been marked out for him by those who stood high in society, and who were leaders of the largest religious body in Oregon. He had been elected by a majority of the people. The people had been pleased and more than pleased with what he had done. When the alternative had been presented to them of condemning or endorsing him for this single action, their first impulse was to sustain the man who had shown himself their faithful servant, even in the wrong, rather than have his usefulness impaired. Almost the only persons to protest against the robbery of McLoughlin were those who were made to suffer with him. All others either remained silent, or wrote encouraging letters to Thurston, and as Washington was far distant from Oregon he was liable to be deceived.
When the memorial and petition of the owners of lots in Oregon City, purchased since the 4th of March 1849, came before congress, there was a stir, because Thurston had given assurances that he was acting in accordance with the will of the people. But the memorialists, with a contemptible selfishness not unusual in mankind, had not asked that McLoughlin's claim might be confirmed to him, but only that their lots might not he sacrificed.
Thurston sought everywhere for support. While in Washington he wrote to Wyeth for testimony against McLoughin, but received from that gentleman only the warmest praise of the chief factor. Suspecting Thurston's sinister design Wyeth even wrote to Winthrop, of Massachusetts, cautioning him against Thurston's misrepresentations. Then Thurston prepared an address to the people of Oregon, covering sixteen closely printed octavo pages, in which he recounts his services and artifices.
With no small cunning he declared that his reason for not asking congress to confirm to the owners lots purchased or obtained of McLoughlin after the 4th of March, 1849, was because he had confidence that the legislative assembly would do so; adding that the bill was purposely so worded in order that McLoughlin would have no opportunity of transferring the property to others who would hold it for him. Thus careful had he been to leave no possible means by which the man who had founded and fostered Oregon City could retain an interest in it. And having openly advocated educating the youth of Oregon with the property wrested from the venerable benefactor of their fathers and mothers, he submitted himself for reëlection, while the victim of missionary and personal malice began the painful and useless struggle to free himself from the toils by which his enemies had surrounded him, and from which he never escaped during the few remaining years of his life.
When the legislative assembly met in the autumn of 1850 it complied with the suggestion of Thurston, so far as to confirm the lots purchased since March 1849 to their owners, by passing an act for that purpose, certain members of the council protesting. This act was of some slight benefit to McLoughlin, as it stopped the demand upon him, by people who had purchased property, to have their money returned. Further than this they refused to go, not having a clear idea of their duty in the matter. They neither accepted the gift nor returned it to its proper owner, and it was not until 1852, after McLoughlin had completed his naturalization, that the legislature passed an act accepting the donation of his property for the purposes of a university. Before it was given back to the heirs of McLoughlin, that political party to which Thurston belonged, and which felt bound to justify his acts, had gone out of power in Oregon. Since that time many persons have, like an army in a wilderness building a monument over a dead comrade by casting each a stone upon his grave, placed their tribute of praise in my hands to be built into the monument of history testifying one after another to the virtues, magnanimity, and wrongs of John McLoughlin.
Meanwhile, and though reproved by the public prints, by the memorial spoken of, and by the act of the legislature in refusing to sanction so patent an iniquity, the Oregon delegate never abated his industry, but toiled on, leaving no stone unturned to secure his reëlection. He would compel the approbation and gratitude of his constituency, to whom he was ever pointing out his achievements in their behalf. The appropriations for Oregon, besides one hundred thousand dollars for the Cayuse war expenses, amounted in all to one hundred and ninety thousand dollars.
Mr Thurston set an example, which his immediate successors were compelled to imitate, of complete conformity to the demands of the people. He aspired to please all Oregon, and he made it necessary for those who came after him to labor for the same end. It was a worthy effort when not carried too far; but no man ever yet succeeded for any length of time in acting upon that policy; though there have been a few who have pleased all by a wise independence of all. In his ardor and inexperience he went too far. He not only published a great deal of matter in the east to draw attention to Oregon, much of which was correct, and some of which was false, but he wrote letters to the people of Oregon through the Spectator, showing forth his services from month to month, and giving them advice which, while good in itself, was akin to impudence on the part of a young man whose acquaintance with the country was of recent date. But this was a part of the man's temperament and character.
Congress passed a bounty land bill, giving one hundred and sixty acres to any officer or private who had served one year in any Indian war since 1790, or eighty acres to those who had served six months. This bill might be made to apply to those who had served in the Cayuse war, and a bill to that effect was introduced by Thurston's successor; but Thurston had already thought of doing something for the old soldiers of 1812 and later, many of whom were settlers in Oregon, by procuring the passage of a bill establishing a pension agency.
He kept himself informed as well as he could of everything passing in Oregon, and expressed his approval whenever he could. He complimented the school superintendent, McBride, on the sentiments uttered in his report. He wrote to William Meek of Milwaukie that he was fighting hard to save his land claim from being reserved for an ordnance depot. He procured, unasked, the prolongation of the legislative session of 1850 from sixty to ninety days, for the purpose of giving the assembly time to perfect a good code, and also secured an appropriation sufficient to meet the expense of the long session. He secured, when the cheap postage bill was passed, the right of the Pacific coast to a rate uniform with the Atlantic states, whereas before the rate had been four times as high; and introduced a bill providing a revenue cutter for the district of Oregon, and for the establishment of a marine hospital at Astoria; presented a memorial from the citizens of that place asking for an appropriation of ten thousand dollars for a custom-house; and a bill to create an additional district, besides application for additional ports of entry on the southern coast of Oregon.
In regard to the appropriation secured of $100,000 for the Cayuse war, instead of $150,000 asked for, Thurston said he had to take that or nothing. No money was to be paid, however, until the evidence should be presented to the secretary of the treasury that the amount claimed had been expended.
This practically finished Mr Thurston's work for the session, and he so wrote to his constituents. The last of the great measures for Oregon, he said, had been consummated; but they had cost him dearly, as his impaired health fearfully admonished him. But he declared before God and his conscience he had done all that he could do for Oregon, and with an eye single to her interests. He rejoiced in his success; and though slander might seek to destroy him, it could not touch the destiny of the territory.
Between the time of the receipt of the first copy of the land bill and the writing of this letter partisan feeling had run high in Oregon, and the newspapers were filled with correspondence on the subject. Much of this newspaper writing would have wounded the delegate deeply, but he was spared from seeing it by the irregularity and insufficiency of the mail transportation, which brought him no Oregon papers for several months.
It soon became evident, notwithstanding the first impulse of the people to stand by their delegate, that a reaction was taking place, and the more generous-minded were ashamed of the position in which the eleventh section of the land bill placed them in the eyes of the world; that with the whole vast territory of Oregon wherein to pick and choose they must needs force an old man of venerable character from his just possessions for the un-American reason that he was a foreigner born, or had formerly been the honored head of a foreign company. It was well understood, too, whence came the direction of this vindictive action, and easily seen that it would operate against the real welfare of the territory.
The more time the people had in which to think over the matter, the more easily were they convinced that there were others who could fill Thurston's place without detriment to the public interests. An informal canvass then began, in which the names of several well known citizens and early settlers were mentioned; but public sentiment took no form before March, when the Star, published at Milwaukie, proclaimed as its candidate Thurston's opponent in the election of 1849, Columbia Lancaster. In the mean time R. R. Thompson had been corresponding with Lane, who was still mining in southern Oregon, and had obtained his consent to run if his friends wished it. The Star then put the name of Lane in place of that of Lancaster; the Spectator, now managed by D. J. Schnebley, and a new democratic paper, the Oregon Statesman, withholding their announcements of candidates until Thurston, at that moment on his way to Oregon, should arrive and satisfy his friends of his eligibility.
But when everything was preparing to realize or to give the lie to Thurston's fondest hopes of the future, there suddenly interposed that kindest of our enemies, death, and saved him from humiliation. He expired on board the steamer California, at sea off Acapulco on the 9th of April 1851, at the age of thirty-five years. His health had long been delicate, and he had not spared himself, so that the heat and discomfort of the voyage through the tropics, with the anxiety of mind attending his political career, sapped the low-burning lamp of life, and its flickering flame was extinguished. Yet he died not alone or unattended. He had in his charge a company of young women, teachers whom Governor Slade of Vermont was sending to Oregon, who now became his tender nurses, and when they had closed his eyes forever, treasured up every word that could be of interest to his bereaved wife and friends. Thus while preparing boldly to vindicate his acts and do battle with his adversaries, he was forced to surrender the sword which was too sharp for its scabbard, and not even his mortal remains were permitted to reach Oregon for two years.
The reverence we entertain for one on whom the gods have laid their hands, caused a revulsion of feeling and an outburst of sympathy. Had he lived to make war in his own defence, perhaps McLoughlin would have been sooner righted; but the people, who as a majority blamed him for the disgraceful eleventh section of the land law, could not touch the dead lion with disdainful feet, and his party who honored his talents and felt under obligations for his industry, protected his memory from even the implied censure of undoing his work. And all felt that not he alone, but his secret advisers were likewise responsible.
In view of all the circumstances of Thurston's career, it is certainly to be regretted, first, that he fell under the influence of, or into alliance with, the missionary party; and secondly, that he had adopted as a part of his political creed the maxim that the end sanctifies the means, by which he missed obtaining that high place in the estimation of posterity to which he aspired, and to which he could easily have attained by a more honest use of his abilities. Associated as he is with the donation law, which gave thousands of persons free farms a mile square in Oregon, his name is engraved upon the foundation stones of the state beside those of Floyd, Linn, and Benton, and of Graham N. Fitch, the actual author of the bill before congress in 1850. No other compensation had he; and of that even the severest truth cannot deprive him.
Thurston had accomplished nothing toward securing a fortune in a financial sense, and he left his widow with scanty means of support. The mileage of the Oregon delegate was fixed by the organic act at $2,500. It was afterward raised to about double that amount; and when in 1856–7 on this ground a bill for the relief of his heirs was brought before congress, the secretary of the treasury was authorized to make up the difference in the mileage for that purpose.
- O. C. Pratt was born April 24, 1819, in Ontario County, New York. He entered West Point, in the class of 1837, and took two years of the course. His stand during this time was good, but he did not find technical military training congenial to his tastes, excepting the higher mathematics, and he obtained the consent of his parents to resign his cadetship, in order to complete his study of law, to which he had devoted two years previous to entering the Military Academy. He passed his examination before the supreme court of New York in 1840, and was admitted to the bar. During this year he took an active part in the presidential campaign as an advocate of the election of Martin Van Buren. In 1843 he moved to Galena, Illinois, and established himself as an attorney at law. In 1844 he entered heartily into politics, as a friend of Polk, and attracted attention by his cogent discussion of the issues then uppermost, the annexation of Texas, and tho Oregon question. In 1847 he was a member of the convention to make the first revision of the constitution of Illinois. In the service of the government he crossed the plains to Santa Fé; thence to California. In 1848 he became a member of the supreme court of Oregon, as noted. He was a man of striking and distinguished personnel', fine sensibilities, analytic intelligence, eloquent, learned in the law, and honorable.
- William Strong was born in St Albans, Vermont, in 1817, where he resided in early childhood, afterward removing to Connecticut and New York. He was educated at Yale college, began life as principal of an academy at Ithaca, New York, and followed this occupation while studying law, removing to Cleveland, Ohio, in the mean time. On being appointed to Oregon he took passage with his wife on the United States store-ship Supply in November 1849 for San Francisco, and thence proceeded to the Columbia by the sloop of war Falmouth. Judge Strong resided for a few years on the north side of the Columbia, but finally made Portland his home, where he has long practised law in company with his sons. During my visit to Oregon in 1878 Judge Strong, among others, dictated to my stenographer his varied experiences, and important facts concerning the history of Oregon. The manuscript thus made I entitled Strong's History of Oregon. It contains a long series of events, beginning August 1850, and running down to the time when it was given, and is enlivened by many anecdotes, amusing and curious, of early times, Indian characteristics, political affairs, and court notes.
- Strong, who seems to have had an eye to speculation as well as other officials, had purchased a lot of side-saddles before leaving New York, and other goods at auction, for sale in Oregon. His saddles cost him $7.50 and $13, and he sold them to women whose husbands had been to the gold mines for $50, $60, and $75. A gross of playing cards, purchased for a cent a pack at auction, sold to the soldiers for $1.50 a pack. Brown sugar purchased for 5 c. a pound by the barrel brought ten times that amount; and so on, the goods being sold for him at the fur company's store. Strong's Hist. Or., MS., 27–30.
- Roberts says, in his Recollections, MS., that Douglas left Vancouver just in time to save his peace of mind; and it was perhaps partly with that object, for he was a strict disciplinarian, and could never have bent to the new order of things.
- Roberts' Recollections, MS., 16.
- Gibbs, who came with the rifle regiment, was employed in various positions on the Pacific coast for several years. He became interested in philology and published a Dictionary of the Chinook Jargon, and other matter concerning the native races, as well as the geography and geology of the west coast. In Suckley and Cooper's Natural History it is said that he spent two years in southern Oregon, near the Klamath; that in 1853 he joined McClellan's surveying party, and afterward made explorations with I. I. Stevens in Washington. In 1859 he was still employed as geologist of the north-west boundary survey with Kennerly. He was for a short time collector of customs at Astoria. He went from there to Puget Sound, where he applied himself to the study of the habits, languages, and traditions of the natives, which study enabled him to make some valuable contributions to the Smithsonian Institution. Mr Gibbs died at New Haven, Conn., May 11, 1873. 'He was a man of fine scholarly attainments,' says the Olympia Pacific Tribune, May 17, 1873, 'and ardently devoted to science and polite literature. He was something of a wag withal, and on several occasions, in conjunction with the late Lieut. Derby (John Phœnix) and others, perpetrated "sells" that obtained a world wide publicity. His friends were many, warm, and earnest.'
- See 31st Cong., 2d Sess., S. Doc., 30, 15–16. 'We have met before,' said Brotchie to Meek as the latter presented himself. 'You did meet me at Vancouver several years ago, but I was then nothing but Joe Meek, and you ordered me ashore. Circumstances are changed since then. I am Colonel Joseph L. Meek, United States marshal for Oregon Territory, and you, sir, are only a damned smuggler! Go ashore, sir!' Victor's River of the West, 505.
- Or. Spectator, Dec. 19, 1850.
- This money fell into bad hands and was not accounted for. According to Meek 'the officers of the court' found a private use for it. Victor's River of the West, 506.
- That where any ship or goods may have been subjected to seizure by any officer of the customs in the collection district of Upper California or the district of Oregon prior to the passage of this act, and it shall be made to appear to the satisfaction of the secretary of the treasury that the owner sustained loss by reason of any improper seizure, the said secretary is authorized to extend such relief as he may deem just and proper. 31st Cong., 1st Sess., United States Acts and Res., 128–9.
- 'I fancy I am pretty cool about it now,' says Roberts, 'but then it did rather damp my democracy.' Recollections, MS., 17.
- Letter of N. M. Merideth to S. R. Thurston, in Or. Spectator, May 2., 1850.
- 31th Cong., 2d Sess., Sen. Doc. 30, 7.
- Roberts' Recollections, MS., 16.
- S. P. Moses was the first collector on Puget Sound. Roberts says concerning him that he 'took almost every British ship that came. His conduct was beneath the government, and probably was from beneath, also.' Recollections, MS., 16.
- 31st Cong., 2d Sess., Sen. Doc. 20, 4–5.
- 32d Cong., 1st Sess., H. Ex. Doc. 2, pt. iii. 473–4.
- Roberts, who was a stockholder in the Puget Sound Company, took charge of the Cowlitz farm in 1846. Matters went on very well for two years. Then came the gold excitement and demoralization of the company's servants consequent upon it, and the expectation of a donation land law. He left the farm which he found it impossible to carry on, and took up a land claim as a settler outside its limits, becoming a naturalized citizen of the United States. But pioneer farming was not either agreeable or profitable to him, and was besides interrupted by an Indian war, when he became clerk to the quartermaster general. When the Frazer River mining excitement came on he thought he might possibly make something at the Cowlitz by raising provisions. But when his hay was cut and put up in cocks it was taken away by armed men who had squatted on the land; and when the case came into court the jury decided that they knew nothing about treaties, but did understand the rights of American citizens under the land law. Then followed arson and other troubles with the squatters, who took away his crops year after year. The lawyers to whom he appealed could do nothing for him, and it was only by the interference of other people who became ashamed of seeing a good man persecuted in this manner, that the squatters on the Cowlitz farm, were finally compelled to desist from these acts, and Roberts was left in peace until the Washington delegate, Garfield, secured patents for his clients the squatters, and Roberts was evicted. There certainly should have been some way of preventing outrages of this kind, and the government should have seen to it that its treaties were respected by the people. But the people's representatives, to win favor with their constituents, persistently helped to instigate a feeling of opposition to the claims of the British companies, or to create a doubt of their validity. See Roberts' Recollections, MS., 75.
- The Puget Sound Company paid in one year $7,000 in taxes. They were astute enough, says Roberts, not to refuse, as the records could be used to show the value of their property. Recollections, MS., 91.
- A. C. Gibbs, in U. S. Ev. H. B. C. Claims, 29; W. T. Tolmie, Id., 104; W. W. Chapman, Id., 11.
- J. L. Meek, in U. S. Ev. H. B. C. Claims, 90.
- Thurston received 470 votes; C. Lancaster, 321; Meek and Griffin, 46; J. W. Nesmith, 106. Thurston was a democrat and Nesmith a whig. Tribune Almanac, 1850, 51.
- Mrs E. F. Odell, née McClench, who came to Oregon as Thurston's wife, and who cherishes a high regard for his talents and memory, has furnished to my library a biographical sketch of her first husband. Though strongly tinctured by personal and partisan feeling, it is valuable as a view from her standpoint of the character and services of the ambitious young man who first represented Oregon in congress—how worthily, the record will determine. Mr Thurston was born in Monmouth, Maine, in 1816, and reared in the little town of Peru, subject to many toils and privations common to the Yankee youth of that day. He possessed a thirst for knowledge also common in New England, and became a hard student at the Wesleyan seminary at Readfield, from which he entered Bowdoin college, graduating in the class of 1843. He then entered on the study of law in Brunswick, where he was soon admitted to practice. A natural partisan, he became an ardent democrat, and was not only fearless but aggressive in his leadership of the politicians of the school. Having married Miss Elizabeth F. McClench, of Fayette, he removed with her to Burlington, Iowa, in 1845, where he edited the Burlington Gazette till 1847, when he emigrated to Oregon. From his education as a Methodist, his talents, and readiness to become a partisan, he naturally affiliated with the Mission party. Mrs Odell remarks in her Biography of Thurston, MS., 4, that he was 'not elected as a partisan, though his political views were well understood;' but L. F. Grover, who knew him well in college days and afterward, says that 'he ran on the issue of the missionary settlers against the Hudson's Bay Company.' Public Life in Or., MS., 95.
- 'I have heard an old settler give an account of a discussion in Polk county between Nesmith and Thurston during the canvass for the election of delegate to congress. He said Nesmith had been accustomed to browbeat every man that came about him, and drive him off either by ridicule or fear. In both these capacities Nesmith was a strong man, and they all thought Nesmith had the field. But when Thurston got up they were astonished at his eloquence, and particularly at his bold manner. My informant says that at one stage Nesmith jumped up and began to move toward Thurston; and Thurston pointed his finger straight at him, after putting it on his side, and said: "Don't you take another step, or a button-hole will be seen through you," and Nesmith stopped. But the discussion proved that Thurston was a full match for any man in the practices in which his antagonist was distinguished, and the result was that Thurston carried the election by a large majority.' Grover's Pub. Life, MS., 96–7.
- 'He was a man of such impulsive, harsh traits, that he would often carry college feuds to extremities. I have known him to get so excited in recounting some of his struggles, that he would take a chair and smash it all to pieces over the table, evidently to exhaust the extra amount of vitality.' Id., 94.
- Thurston was in ill-health when he left Oregon. He travelled in a small boat to Astoria, taking six days for the trip; by sailing vessel to San Francisco, and to Panamá by the steamer Carolina, being ill at the last place, yet having to ride across the Isthmus, losing his baggage because he was not able to look after the thieving carriers. His determination and ambition were remarkable. Odell's Biography of Thurston, MS., 56.
- For the resolutions complete, see Cong. Globe, 1849–50, 21, pt. i. 220.
- That Thurston exceeded the instructions of the legislative assembly there is no question. See Or. Archives, MS., 185–6.
- Cong. Globe, 1849–50, 295.
- Id., 295. A correspondent of the New York Tribune remarks on Thurston's resolutions: 'There are squalls ahead for the Hudson's Bay Company.' Or. Spectator, May 2, 1850.
- See Or. Spectator, April 18, 1850; 31st Cong., 1st Sess., U. S. Acts and Res., 26–7; Johnson's Cal. and Or., 332; Cong. Globe, 1849–50, 1076–7; Id., 1610; Or. Spectator, Aug. 8, 1850.
- Cong. Globe, 1849–50, 413; Or. Statesman, May 9, 1851.
- Here is a sample of the ignorance or mendacity of the man, whichever you will. A circular issued by Thurston while in Washington to save letter-writing, says, speaking of the country in which Vancouver is located: 'It was formerly called Clarke county; but at a time when British sway was in its palmy days in Oregon, the county was changed from Clarke to Vancouver, in honor of the celebrated navigator, and no less celebrated slanderer of our government and people. Now that American influence rules in Oregon, it is due to the hardy, wayworn American explorer to realter the name of this county, and grace it again with the name of him whose history is interwoven with that of Oregon. So our legislature thought, and so I have no doubt they spoke and acted at their recent session.' Johnson's Cal. and Or., 267. It was certainly peculiar to hear this intelligent legislator talk of counties in Oregon before the palmy days of British sway, and of British residents naming counties at all. While Thurston was in Washington, the postmaster-general changed the name of the postoffice at Vancouver to Columbia City. Or. Statesman, May 28, 1851.
- Thornton alleges that he presented Thurston before leaving Oregon with a copy of his bill, Or. Hist., MS., 13, and further that 'the donation law we now have, except the 11th section and one or two unimportant amendments, is an exact copy of the bill I prepared.' Or. Pioneer Asso. Trans. 1874, 94. Yet when Thurston lost his luggage on the Isthmus he lost all his papers, and could not have made an 'exact copy' from memory. In another place he says that before leaving Washington he drew up a land bill which he sent to Collamer in Vermont, and would have us believe that this was the identical bill which finally passed. Not knowing further of the bill than what was stated by Thornton himself, I would only remark upon the evidence that Collamer's term expired before 1850, though that might not have prevented him from introducing any suggestions of Thornton's into the bill reported in January 1849. But now comes Thornton of his own accord, and admits he has claimed too much. He did, he says, prepare a territorial and also a land bill, but on 'further reflation, and after consulting others, I deemed it not well to have these new bills offered, it having been suggested that the bills already pending in both houses of congress could be amended by incorporating into them whatever there was in my bills not already provided for in the bills which in virtue of their being already on the calendar would be reached before any bills subsequently introduced.' From a letter dated August 8, 1882, which is intended as an addendum to the Or. Hist., MS., of Thornton.
- This was the principle of the donation law as passed. The surveyor-general usually inquired of the wife her choice, and was gallant enough to give it her; hence it usually happened that the portion having the dwelling and improvements upon it went to the wife.
- The assertion contained in this paragraph that the word 'settler' was altered to 'citizen' in the memorial was also untrue. I have a copy of the memorial signed by the chief cherk of both the house and council, and inscribed, 'Passed July 26, 1849,' in which congress is asked to make a grant of 640 acres of land 'to each actual settler, including widows and orphans.' Or. Archives, MS., 177.
- Bryant was then in Washington to assist in the missionary scheme, of which, as the assignees of Abernethy, both he and Lane were abettors.
- Thurston also knew this to be untrue. William J. Berry, writing in the Spectator, Dec. 26, 1850, says: 'Now, I assert that Mr Thurston knew, previous to the election, that Dr McLoughlin had filed his intentions. I heard him say, in a stump speech at the City Hotel, that he expected his (the doctor's) vote. At the election I happened to be one of the judges. Dr McLoughlin came up to vote; the question was asked by myself, if he had filed his intentions. The clerk of the court, George L. Curry, Esq., who was standing near the window, said that he had. He voted.' Says McLoughlin: 'I declared my intention to become an American citizen on the 30th of May, 1849, as any one may see who will examine the records of the court.' Or. Spectator, Sept. 12, 1850. Waldo, testifies: 'Thurston lied on the doctor. He did it because the doctor would not vote for him. He lied in congress, and got others to write lies from here about him—men who knew nothing about it. They falsified about the old doctor cheating the people, setting the Indians on them, and treating them badly.' Critiques, MS., 15. Says Applegate: 'Thurston asserted among many other falsehoods, that the doctor utterly refused to become an American citizen, and Judge Bryant endorsed the assertion.' Historical Correspondence, MS., 14. Says Grover: 'The old doctor was looking to becoming a leading American citizen until this difficulty occurred in regard to his land. He had taken out naturalization papers. All his life from young manhood had been spent in the north-west; and he was not going to leave the country.' Public Life in Or., MS., 91.
- Cong. Globe, 1849–50, 1079.
- In Thurston's letter to the house of representatives he appealed to them to pass the land bill without delay, on the ground that Oregon was becoming depopulated through the neglect of congress to keep its engagement. The people of the States had, he declared, lost all confidence in their previous belief that a donation law would be passed; and the people in the territory were ceasing to improve, were going to California, and when they were fortunate enough to make any money, were returning to the Atlantic States. 'Our population,' he said, 'is dwindling away, and our anxieties and fears can easily be perceived.' Of the high water of 1849–50, which carried away property and damaged mills to the amount of about $300,000, he said: 'The owners who have means dare not rebuild because they have no title. Each man is collecting his means in anticipation that he may leave the country.' And this, although he had told Johnson, California and Oregon, which see, page 252, exactly the contrary. See Or. Spectator, Sept. 12th, and compare with the following: There were 38 mills in Oregon at the taking of the census of 1850, and a fair proportion of them ground wheat. They were scattered through all the counties from the sound to the head of the Willamette Valley. Or. Statesman, April 25, 1851; and with this: 'The census of 1849 showed a population of over 9,000, about 2,000 being absent in the mines. The census of 1850 showed over 13,000, without counting the large immigration of that year or the few settlers in the most southern part of Oregon. Or. Statesman, April 10th and 25, 1851.
- Cong. Globe, 1849–50, 1853.
- Says Applegate: 'It must have excited a kind of fiendish merriment in the hearts of Bryant and Thurston; for notwithstanding their assertions to the contrary, both well knew that the doctor by renouncing his allegiance to Great Britain had forfeited all claims as a British subject.' Historical Correspondence, MS., 15.
- Grover, Public Life in Oregon, MS., 98–9, calls the land bill 'Thurston's work, based upon Linn's bill;' but Grover simply took Thurston's word for it, he being then a young man, whom Thurston persuaded into going to Oregon. Johnson's Cal. and Or., which is, as to the Oregon part, merely a reprint of Thurston's papers, calls it Thurston's bill. Hines, Or. and Institutions, does the same; but any one conversant with the congressional and legislative history of Oregon knows better.
- 'Keep this still,' writes the arch schemer, 'till next mail, when I shall send them generally. The debate on the California bill closes next Tuesday, when I hope to get passed my land bill; keep dark 'til next mail. Thurston. June 9, 1850.' Or. Spectator, Sept. 12, 1850.
- Wilson Blain, who was at that time editor of the Spectator, as Robert Moore was proprietor, found himself unable to credit the rumor. 'We venture the assertion,' he says, 'that the story was started by some malicious or mischief-making person for the purpose of preventing the improvement of Clackamas rapids.' Or. Spectator, Aug. 22, 1850.
- 'He says that I have realized, up to the 4th of March 1849, $200,000 from sale of lots; this is also wholly untrue. I have given away lots to the Methodists, Catholics, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, and Baptists. I have given eight lots to a Roman Catholic nunnery, and eight lots to the Clackamas Female Protestant seminary, incorporated by the Oregon legislature. The trustees are all Protestants, though it is well known I am a Roman Catholic. In short, in one way and another I have donated to the county, to schools, to churches, and private individuals, more than three hundred town lots, and I never realized in cash $20,000 from all the original sales I ever made… I was a chief factor in the Hudson's Bay Company service, and by the rules of the company enjoy a retired interest, as a matter of right. Capt. McNeil, a native-born citizen of the United States of America, holds the same rank that I held in the Hudson's Bay Company's service. He never was required to become a British subject; he will be entitled, by the laws of the company, to the same retired interest, no matter to what country he may owe allegiance.' After declaring that he had taken out naturalization papers, and that Thurston was aware of it, and had asked him for his vote and influence, but that he had voted against him, he says: 'But he proceeds to refer to Judge Bryant for the truth of his statement, in which he affirms that I assigned to Judge Bryant as a reason why I still refused to declare my intention to become an American citizen, that I could not do it without prejudicing my standing in England. I am astonished how the supreme judge could have made such a statement, as he had a letter from me pointing out that I had declared my intention of becoming an American citizen. The cause which led to my writing this letter is that the island, called Abernethy's Island by Mr Thurston, and which he proposes to donate to Mr Abernethy, his heirs and assigns, is the same island which Mr Hathaway and others jumped in 1841, and formed themselves into a joint stock company, and erected a saw and grist-mill on it, as already stated. From a desire to preserve the peace of the country, I deferred bringing the case to a trial 'til the government extended its jurisdiction over the country; but when it had done so, a few days after the arrival of Judge Bryant, and before the courts were organized, Judge Bryant bought the island of George Abernethy, Esq., who had bought the stock of the other associates, and as the island was in Judge Bryant's district, and as there were only two judges in the territory, I thought I could not at the time bring the case to a satisfactory decision. I therefore deferred bringing the case to a time when the bench would be full…. Can the people of Oregon City believe that Mr Thurston did not know, some months before he left this, that Mr Abernethy had sold his rights, whatever they were, to Judge Bryant, and therefore proposing to congress to donate this island to Mr Abernethy, his heirs and assigns, was in fact, proposing to donate it to Judge Bryant, his heirs and assigns. Or. Spectator, Sept. 12, 1850.
- The names of the signers were: Andrew Hood, Noyes Smith, Forbes Barclay, A. A. Skinner, James D. Holman, W. C. Holman, J. Quinn Thornton, Walter Pomeroy, A. E. Wait, Joseph C. Lewis, James M. Moore, Robert Moore, R. R. Thompson, George H. Atkinson, M. Crawford, Wm. Hood, Thomas Lowe, Wm. B. Campbell, John Fleming, G. Hanan, Robert Canfield, Alex. Brisser, Samuel Welch, Gustavus A. Cone, Albert Gaines, W. H. Tucker, Arch. McKinlay, Richard McMahon, David Burnsides, Hezekiah Johnson, P. H. Hatch, J. L. Morrison, Joseph Parrott, Ezra Fisher, Geo. T. Allen, L. D. C. Latourette, D. D. Tompkins, Wm. Barlow, Amory Holbrook, Matthew Richardson, John McClosky, Wm. Holmes, H. Burns, Wm. Chapman, Wm. K. Kilborn, J. R. Ralston, B. B. Rogers, Chas. Friedenberg, Abraham Wolfe, Samuel Vance, J. B. Backenstos, John J. Chandler. S. W. Moss, James Winston Jr., Septimus Huelot, Milton Elliott. Or. Spectator, Sept. 26, 1850.
- Considering the fact that Thornton had been in the first instance the unsuccessful agent of the leading missionaries in an effort to take away the claim of McLoughlin, it might be difficult to understand how he could appear in the role of the doctor's defender. But ever since the failure of that secret mission there had been a coolness between Abernethy and his private delegate, who, now that he had been superseded by a bolder and more fortunate though no less unscrupulous man, had publicly espoused the cause of the victim of all this plotting, who still, it was supposed, had means enough left to pay for the legal advice he was likely to need, if ever he was extricated from the anomalous position into which he would be thrown by the passage of the Oregon land bill. His affectation of proper sentiment imposed upon McLoughlin, who gave him employment for a considerable time. As late as 1870. however, this doughty defender of the just, on the appearance in print of Mrs Victor's River of the West, in which the author gives a brief statement of the Oregon City claim case, having occasion at that time to court the patronage of the Methodist church, made a violent attack through its organ, the Pacific Christian Advocate, upon the author of that book for taking the same view of the case which is announced in the resolution published under his own name in the Spectator of September 26, 1850. But not having ever been able to regain in the church a standing which could be made profitable, and finding that history would vindicate the right, he has made a request in his autobiography that the fact of his having been McLoughlin's attorney should be mentioned, 'in justice to the doctor!' It will be left for posterity to judge whether Thornton or McLoughlin was honored by the association.
- William Shaw, a member of the committee framing these resolutions, says, in his Pioneer Life, MS., 14–15: 'I came here, to Oregon City, and spent what money I had for flour, coffee, and one thing and another; and I went back to the Hudson's Bay Company and bought 1,000 pounds of flour from Douglass. I was to pay him for it after I came into the Valley. He trusted me for it, although he had never seen me before. I took it up to the Dalles and distributed it among the emigrants.' W. C. Rector has, in later years, declared that McLoughlin was the father of Oregon. McLoughlin little understood the manner in which public sentiment is manufactured for party or even for individual purposes, when he exclaimed indignantly: 'No man could be found to assert' that he had done the things alleged.
- Odell's Biog. of Thurston, MS., 26.
- Thornton wrote several articles in vindication of McLoughlin's rights; but he was employed by the doctor as an attorney. A. E. Wait also denounced Thurston's course; but he also was at one time employed by the doctor. Wait said: 'I believed him (Thurston) to be strangely wanting in discretion; morally and politically corrupt; towering in ambition, and unscrupulous of the means by which to obtain it; fickle and suspicious in friendship; implacable and revengeful in hatred, vulgar in speech, and prone to falsehood.' Or. Spectator, March 20, 1851.
- Address to the Electors, 12.
- McLoughlin died September 3, 1857, aged 73 years. He was buried in the enclosure of the Catholic church at Oregon City; and on his tombstone, a plain slab, is engraved the legend: 'The Pioneer and Friend of Oregon; also The Founder of this City.' He laid his case before congress in a memorial, with all the evidence, but in vain. Lane, who was then in that body as a delegate from Oregon, and who was personally interested in defeating the memorial, succeeded in doing so by assertions as unfounded as those of Thurston. This blunt old soldier, the pride of the people, the brave killer of Indians, turned demagogue could deceive and cheat with the best of them. See Cong. Globe, 1853–4, 1080–82, and Letter of Dr McLoughlin, in Portland Oregonian, July 22, 1854. Toward the close of his life McLoughlin yielded to the tortures of disease and ingratitude, and betrayed, as he had never done before, the unhappiness his enemies had brought upon him. Shortly before his death he said to Grover, then a young man: 'I shall live but a little while longer; and this is the reason that I sent for you. I am an old man and just dying, and you are a young man and will live many years in this country. As for me, I might better have been shot'—and he brought it out harshly—'like a bull; I might better have been shot forty years ago!' After a silence, for I did not say anything, he concluded, 'than to have lived here, and tried to build up a family and an estate in this government. I became a citizen of the United States in good faith. I planted all I had here, and the government has confiscated my property. Now what I want to ask of you is, that you will give your influence, after I am dead, to have this property go to my children. I have earned it, as other settlers have earned theirs, and it ought to be mine and my heirs'.' 'I told him,' said Grover, 'I would favor his request, and I always did favor it; and the legislature finally surrendered the property to his heirs.' Pub. Life, MS., 88–90.
- Waymire and Miller protested, saying that it was not in accordance with the object of the donation, and was robbing the university; that the assembly were only agents in trust, and had no right to dispose of the property without a consideration. Or. Spectator, Feb. 13, 1851.
- 'My father paid back thousands of dollars,' says Mrs Harvey. Life of McLoughlin, MS., 38.
- The legislature of 1852 accepted the donation. In 1853–4 a resolution was offered by Orlando Humason thanking McLoughlin for his generous conduct toward the early settlers; but as it was not in very good taste wrongfully to keep a man's property while thanking him for previous favors, the resolution was indefinitely postponed. In 1855–6 a memorial was drawn up by the legislature asking that certain school lands in Oregon City should be restored to John McLoughlin, and two townships of land in lieu thereof should be granted to the university. Salem, Or. Statesman, Jan 29th and Feb. 5, 1856. Nothing was done, however, for the relief of McLoughlin or his heirs until 1862, when the legislature conveyed to the latter for the sum of $1,000 the Oregon City claim; but the long suspension of the title had driven money seeking investment away from the place and materially lessened its value.
- McKinlay, his friend of many years, comparing him with Douglas, remarks that McLoughlin's name will go down from generation to generation when Sir James Douglas' will be forgotten, as the maker of Oregon, and one of the best of men. Campion's Forts and Fort Life, MS., 2. Finlayson says identically the same in Vane. Isl. and N. W. Coast, MS., 28–30. There are similar observations in Minto's Early Days, MS., and in Waldo's Critiques, MS.; Brown's Willamette Valley, MS.; Parrish's Or. Anecdotes, MS.; Joseph Watt, in Palmer's Wagon Trains, MS.; Rev. Geo. H. Atkinson, in Oregon Colonist, 5; M. P. Deady, in Or. Pioneer Assoc., Trans., 1875, 18; W. H. Rees, Id., 1879, 31; Grover's Public Life in Or., MS., 86–92; Ford's Roadmakers, MS.; Crawford's Missionaries, MS.; Moss' Pioneer Times, MS.; Burnett's Recollections, MS., i. 91–4, 273–4, 298, 301–3; Mrs E. M. Wilson, in Oregon Sketches, MS., 19–21; Blanchet's Cath. Ch. in Or., 71; Chadwick's Pub. Records, MS., 4–5; H. H. Spalding, in 27th Cong., 2d Sess., 830, 57; Ebbert's Trapper's Life, MS., 36–7; Pettygrove's Oregon, MS., 1–2, 5–6; Lovejoy's Portland, MS., 37; Anderson's Hist. N. W. Coast., MS., 15–16; Applegate's Views of Hist., MS., 12, 15–16; Id., in Saxon's Or. Ter., 131–41; C. Lancaster, in Cong. Globe, 1853–4, 1080, and others already quoted.
- Or. Spectator, Dec. 19 and 26, 1850.
- W. W. Buck, who was a member of the council, repudiated the idea that Oregon was indebted to Thurston for the donation law, which Linn and Benton had labored for long before, and asserted that he had found congress ready and willing to bestow the long promised bounty. And as to the appropriations obtained, they were no more than other territories east of the mountains had received.
- The several amounts were, $20,000 for public buildings; $20,000 for a penitentiary; $53,140 for lighthouses at Cape Disappointment, Cape Flattery, and New Dungeness, and for buoys at the mouth of the Columbia River; $25,000 for the purposes of the Indian bill; $24,000 pay for legislature, clerks hire, office rents, etc; $15,000 additional Indian fund; $10,000 deficiency fund to make up the intended appropriation of 1848, which had merely paid the expenses of the messengers, Thornton and Meek; $10,000 for the pay of the superintendent of Indian affairs, his clerks, office rent, etc.; $10,500, salaries for the governor, secretary, and judges; $1,500 for taking the census; $1,500 contingent fund; and a copy of the exploring expedition for the territorial library. 31st Cong., 1st Sess., U. S. Acts and Res., 13, 27, 28, 31, 72, 111, 159–60, 192, 198; Or. Spectator, Aug. 8th and 22d, and Oct. 24, 1850.
- Or. Spectator, from Sept. 26th to Oct. 17, 1850.
- Cong. Globe, 1849–50, 564. Theophilus Magruder was appointed pension agent. Or. Spectator, July 25, 1850.
- Id., Oct. 10, 1850; 31st Cong., 1st Sess., U. S. Acts and Res., 31.
- A memorial was received from the Oregon legislature after the passage of the bill dated Dec. 3, 1850, giving the report of A. E. Wait, commissioner, stating that he had investigated and allowed 340 claims, amounting in all to $87,230.53; and giving it as his opinion that the entire indebtedness would amount to about $150,000. 31st Cong., 2d Sess., Sen. Misc. Doc. 29, 3–11.
- Or. Spectator, April 3, 1851. The appropriations made at the second session of the 31st Congress for Oregon were for the expenses of the territory $36,000; for running base and meridian lines, $9,000; for surveying in Oregon, $51,840; for a custom-house, $10,000; for a light-house and fog-signal at Umpqua River, $15,000; for fog-signals at the light-houses to be erected at Disappointment, Flattery, and New Dungeness, $3,000.
- Writing Jan. 8th, he says: 'September is the latest date of a paper I have seen. I am uninformed as yet what the cause is, only from what I experienced once before, that the steamer left San Francisco before the arrival of, or without taking the Oregon mail.' Or. Spectator, April 10, 1850.
- 'There are many very worthy and meritorious citizens who migrated to this country at an early day to choose from. I would mention the names of some of the number, leaving the door open, however, to suggestions from others, namely, Jesse Applegate, J. W. Nesmith, Joel Palmer, Daniel Waldo, Rev. Wm Roberts, the venerable Robert Moore, James M. Moore, Gen. Joseph Lane and Gen. Lovejoy, and many others who have recently arrived in the country. Cor. of the Or. Spectator, March 27, 1851.
- Or. Spectator, March 6, 1851; Lane's Autobiography, Ms., 57.
- Five young women were sent out by the national board of education, at the request of Abernethy and others, under contract to teach two years, or refund the money for their passage. They were all soon married, as a matter of course—Miss Wands to Governor Gaines; Miss Smith to Mr Beers; Miss Gray to Mr McLeach; Miss Lincoln to Judge Skinner; and Miss Millar to Judge Wilson. Or. Sketches, MS., 15; Grover's Pub. Life in Or., MS., 100; Or. Spectator, March 13, 1851.
- Mrs E. M. Wilson, daughter of Rev. James P. Millar of Albany, New York, who soon followed his daughter to Oregon, gives some notes of Thurston's last days. 'He was positive enough,' she says, 'to make a vivid impression on my memory. Strikingly good-looking, direct in his speech, with a supreme will, used to overcoming obstacles… "Just wait 'til I get there," he would say, "I will show those fellows!"' Or. Sketches, MS., 16.
- The legislature in 1853 voted to remove his dust from foreign soil, and it was deposited in the cemetery at Salem; and in 1856 a monument was erected over it by the same authority. It is a plain shaft of Italian marble, 12 feet high. On its eastern face is inscribed: 'Thurston: erected by the People of Oregon,' and a fac-simile of the seal of the territory; on the north side, name, age, and death; on the south: 'Here rests Oregon's first delegate; a man of genius and learning; a lawyer and statesman, his Christian virtues equalled by his wide philanthropy, his public acts are his best eulogium.' Salem Or. Statesman, May 20, 1856; Odell's Biog. of Thurston, MS., 37; S. F. D. Alta, April 25, 1851.
- Thurston made his first high mark in congress by his speech on the admission of California. See Cong. Globe, 1849–50, app. 345. His remarks on the appropriations for Indian affairs were so instructive and interesting that his amendments were unanimously agreed to. A great many members shook him heartily by the hand after he had closed; and he was assured that if he had asked for $50,000 after such a speech he would have received it. Or. Spectator, Aug. 22, 1850. With that tendency to see something peculiar in a man who has identified himself with the west, the N. Y. Sun of March 26, 1850, remarked: 'Coming from the extreme west'—he was not two years from Maine—'where, it is taken for granted, the people are in a more primitive condition than elsewhere under this government, and looking, as Mr Thurston does, like a fair specimen of the frontier man, little was expected of him in an oratorical way. But he has proved to be one of the most effective speakers in the hall, which has created no little surprise.' A Massachusetts paper also commented in a similar strain: 'Mr Thurston is a young man, an eloquent and effective debater, and a bold and active man, such as are found only in the west.'
- Cong. Globe, 1850–51, app. xxxviii.
- Or. Spectator, April 14, 1857; Grover's Pub. Life, MS., 101.