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Page:Oregon Historical Quarterly volume 12.djvu/386

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378
Leslie M. Scott

them, our diplomatists and statesmen did their part in saving Oregon: Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, John Quincy Adams, Henry Clay, Richard Rush, Daniel Webster. And before them were others deserving of honor, American explorers—Captain Gray, Lewis and Clark, the Astors, Wyeth. And the thousands of Whitman's contemporary pioneers, who settled in Oregon up to 1846 played a vital part in the acquisition of Oregon.

The journey of Whitman from his mission, near Walla Walla, to Boston, much of it in the dead of winter, 1842-43, is a fact of history. But much fiction has fastened to the story. Details of the fiction came into existence many years after Whitman's death in 1847. Imagination supplied adornments to the tale one after another. Marshall disproves them all.

The legend tells of two Flathead Indians, who had made their way to St. Louis about 1831, and had been refused the "Book of Heaven" by Governor William Clark, after having been offered unsatisfying forms of Catholic worship. It narrates that Whitman, responding to this Indian call, and spending six years (1836-42) as missionary near these Indians in what is now Eastern Washington, discovered the British and the Hudson's Bay Company, with Catholic aid, taking possession of Oregon. It represents V'/hitman finally determining (1842) to make for Washington, D. C., press upon President Tyler and Secretary of State Webster, who were then treating with Britain concerning the Canadian boundary, the claims of the United States and the value of Oregon, and lead back a large immigration to possess Oregon. The legend pictures Whitman spurred to this feat by a party of British traders holding feast at Walla Walla in the autumn of 1842 and exulting that Britain had won the country. It takes Whitman before President Tyler and Secretary Webster, whom he found ready to trade Oregon for a cod fishery on" Newfoundland. It puts into the mouth of Webster that Oregon was a "worthless area."

It portrays Whitman exacting a promise from the President and his Secretary to delay negotiations with Great Britain