Oregonian/1901/December 22/She Defends Bancroft

Oregonian, December 22, 1901  (1901) 
She Defends Bancroft by Frances Fuller Victor


Mrs. Victor Says Mr. Himes' Criticism Was Unfair.

PORTLAND, Dec 18. (To the Editor.)—I was reluctant to admit that the brief article over Mr. Himes' name which appeared in yesterday's issue of The Oregonian could be from the pen of one of the chief movers in the attempt to found a real historical society in Oregon. History is not a fairy story, not a romance, not an unfounded tradition, and certainly not falsehood. If it is not truth it is nothing. Men like Professor Bourne, whose business it is, and whose pride it should be, and probably is, to get at the bottom facts of history, are not likely to risk their reputations by making statements on subjects about which there is any question, and especially when there is actual controversy, without fortifying himself with every discoverable proof. Professor Bourne tells us regarding his first article that, becoming interested, as a teacher of history, in the story of Whitman and the controversy concerning it, he put one of his pupils to the task of searching for the truth, with the result that he proved to his own satisfaction, and to that of many others, the falseness of the claim that Whitman "saved Oregon." What the New York Post says has nothing to do with Professor Bourne's work. It is a mere commentary, whether it be right or wrong.

The bringing into his article of Mr. Bancroft's name with the statement that his history is discredited by the Society of California Pioneers "as flagrantly and maliciously untrue" must be construed as a back-handed blow at myself. The California Pioneers are not interested in the history of Oregon or the legend of Whitman's ride. As Californians, they had a quarrel with Mr. Bancroft, the merits of which I never troubled myself to ascertain, though leaning consciously a little to the side of the pioneers. Nothing is more certain than if I had "stood in" with either side I should have gone to the bottom of the matter before taking sides openly. I have criticised Mr. Bancroft's methods in the public press, yet I am willing to defend him from the unjust criticism of others. Especially do I object to hearing it said that his histories are all worthless, because he, very foolishly, as I conceive, has used a portion (a very small portion of the whole great work) to gratify a pique against an author or a business rival. I knew personally every writer in the library of any consequence, and know that they wrote truthfully as far as their authorities furnished them their facts. They had no motive to sacrifice truth, but, on the contrary, every motive to bring it out from obscurity.

As all the Northwest history included in the Oregon Territory was assigned to me, and it is pretty commonly understood that when "Bancroft's History of Oregon" is mentioned it means "Mrs. Victor's History of Oregon," was it quite fair of Mr. Himes to insinuate untruthfulness against the so-called "Bancroft" history, knowing that I was the author of it? I think that many years of painstaking search after truth should meet with recognition, not with opposition. So far as the Whitman legend is concerned, the people of Oregon have known for years that I have not believed it. I have proved to my entire satisfaction that it cannot be true, and I have given my reasons for my opinion. Whenever the party of the other part shows a better argument than mine I am going over to that side, and not till then. I do read their affirmations (they scorn to use arguments), but they apparently do not read my reasons for not seeing the case as they do. They simply quote from each other. They are quite as free to enjoy their belief as I to enjoy mine, but attacks, open or covert, on account of beliefs are not in order. And if Professor Bourne chooses to do me the honor to commend my industry in searching for evidence, he may do so without subjecting me to reproach.