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Page:Oregon Historical Quarterly volume 12.djvu/384

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376
Leslie M. Scott

There is opportunity for best literary skill in the tale of Oregon. World-wide currents affected discovery, exploration, settlement and title of this region. The story turns on the most important episodes of western progress. There is abundant room, too, for exercise of "philosophy of history."

The Marshall history possesses very high excellence. Its vigor betokens the energy and vigilance wherewith Marshall busied himself at the task during twenty-eight years. Its central purpose is to explode the Whitman myth. It succeeds admirably and fully. No reader of Marshall, no unbiased reader, hereafter can believe that myth. Few close investigators ever believed it. Every writer of Oregon history must go henceforth to Marshall, as he must go to Greenhow, else must undertake himself the vast labor of examining first-hand materials. The facts that Marshall cites are full and true. He distorts nothing.

Yet the Marshall work has faults. In demolishing the Whitman myth the author detracts unduly from the heroic character of the Wailatpu missionary, and from his very valuable participation in pioneer immigration and settlement. Marshall's continuous effort to reduce the importance of Whitman in the "saving" of Oregon leaves too little in the book for admiration of Whitman. Then, too, Marshall injects repeated doses of Whitman myth acrimony; he quarrels with authors of the myth after the manner of the half-century dispute over the question; he shows not enough of the even tenor of the true historian.

Also, Marshall asserts, as corollary of his argument, that Oregon would have been saved had the pioneer Whitman never been born, that Oregon would have been won to the United States from Great Britain without the advent of any of the pioneer parties. This broad assertion—that of occupation of Oregon by American pioneers played no part whatever in establishing the United States title—cannot be reconciled with the political spirit of the nation between 1840 and 1846, which drove thousands of American citizens to this region and de-