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Page:Oregon Historical Quarterly volume 12.djvu/262

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254 W. C. WOODWARD the spirit of the West of the self-governing frontiersmen, was too strong. Years before the doctrine of popular sov- ereignty was enunciated, the Oregon pioneers had established the first American government upon the Pacific Coast solely upon the principles of absolute popular sovereignty. It was the cardinal doctrine in their political creed in fact it was their common creed, before the new country became involved in national politics. When the Democratic party espoused it as a political issue, the Oregon Democrats pushed their favorite doctrine to the extreme, as will be shown. The opposition were thus placed on the defensive, and at first were prompted by the binding force of party loyalty to oppose it, but only in its rela- tion to the slavery question. In all other particulars they were in favor of the people of the Territories managing their own affairs without interference from Washington. The distinc- tion was hard to maintain. Hence, when the pro-slavery Demo- crats abandoned the ground of squatter sovereignty for that of direct intervention in behalf of slavery, it gave the Oregon Republicans, especially the more conservative ones, the oppor- tunity to espouse the doctrine, in its entirety. There was thus very little difference between them and the Douglas Democrats. It is interesting to note that at a time when allegiance to party doctrines was almost a matter of religion, that inherent desire of the Western pioneers to govern themselves was strong enough to override party barriers on the one question of popular sover- eignty. On the other hand, the fact that many Western Demo- crats saw fit to forsake the popular doctrine suggests how in- fatuated was their devotion to the cause of the slave power. The typical Western attitude on the question was expressed by Bush in 1857 in an editorial on squatter sovereignty, 1 in which he declared that the principle should be extended to give people in the Territories power over all legislation to the same extent as enjoyed by citizens of the states. "We are just as capable here in Oregon to elect our officers, make our laws unrestricted and in all things govern ourselves, as we were, scattered over the thirty-one states. And we are presuming iStatesman, March 17, 1857.