Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States

Edited by: Lalor, John J.
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New York: Maynard, Merrill, and Co.
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Includes articles by Frédéric Bastiat, Gustave de Molinari, Henry George, J. B. Say, Francis A. Walker, and more.
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OREGON, a state of the American Union. It was claimed to have been rightfully a part of the Louisiana purchase, as its western boundary was defined in 1819 by the Florida treaty (see ANNEXATIONS, I., II.), and it was evidently under this claim that Lewis and Clarke first explored it in 1804-6, by direction of President Jefferson. The conflicting claims are elsewhere given. (See NORTHWEST BOUNDARY.) The people of Oregon, without waiting for action by congress, formed a provisional government in 1843. After several failures to pass an act for the organization of the territory (see WILMOT PROVISO), an act for that purpose became law, Aug. 14, 1848. It covered all the territory of the United States west of the Rocky mountains and north of latitude 42° north (see WASHINGTON TERRITORY), and prohibited slavery by putting in force the provisions of the ordinance of 1787. No enabling act was passed by congress, but a state convention at Salem, Aug. 17—Sept. 18, 1857, under authority of the territorial legislature, adopted a state constitution. Under this the state was admitted Feb. 14, 1859.


—BOUNDARIES. The boundaries fixed by the act of admission were as follows: on the north, the Columbia river and latitude 46° north; on the east, the Snake river from latitude 46° north to its junction with the Owyhee, and thence directly south to latitude 42° on the south, latitude 42°; and on the west the Pacific ocean. These differed from those claimed by the state constitution in only one respect: the latter took as a northern boundary the Columbia and Snake rivers, thus including the territory between latitude 46° and the Snake river, which congress preferred to assign to Washington territory.


—CONSTITUTION. The first constitution is still in force. It restricted suffrage to whites, on six months residence and one year's declaration of intention to become a citizen; authorized the legislature to prohibit the immigration of persons not qualified to become citizens of the United States; provided for a legislature of two houses, the senate to consist of sixteen members, chosen by districts for four years, and the house of representatives of thirty-four members, chosen by districts for two years; forbade the passage of special or local laws in a number of specified cases; gave the governor a term of four years, and made him eligible not more than eight in twelve years; provided that he should be chosen by popular vote, or, in default of a popular majority, by a joint vote of the legislature; forbade the legislature to charter any bank, to subscribe to the stock of any company, or to charter any corporation otherwise than by general law; and ordered the state capital to be fixed by popular vote. Two other questions were submitted to popular vote, with the following result: by a vote of 7,727 to 2,645, slavery was prohibited in the state; and by a vote of 8,640 to 1,081, free negroes or mulattoes not then resident in the state were forbidden to "come, reside or be within this state, or hold any real estate, or make any contract, or maintain any suit therein," and the legislature was authorized to pass laws for their removal and exclusion, and for the punishment of persons who should employ or harbor them. The constitution has not since been amended in any particular. In 1882 the legislature changed the time of inauguration of state officers from September to January, so that the new governor holds from September, 1882, to Jan. 1, 1887.


—GOVERNORS. John Whittaker, 1859-62; Addison C. Gibbs, 1862-6; Geo. L. Woods, 1866-70; Lafayette S. Grover, 1870-78; Wm. W. Thayer, 1878-82; Zenas F. Moody, 1882-7.


—POLITICAL HISTORY. The long interval between Oregon's adoption of a constitution and its admission as a state was due mainly to the "anti-negro clause" of the constitution, which made republicans in congress very unwilling to vote for a ratification of the instrument. The clause was due to the existence of three parties in the state, one in favor of slavery a second opposed to it, and a third opposed to negro immigration. The last two united to prohibit both slavery and negro immigration; but the first was sufficiently strong to compel the convention to submit to the people the question of "slavery or no slavery." After the ratification was complete, and the state admitted, the first and third factions united against the second, and made Oregon a democratic state. The democratic party of the state had so strong a pro-slavery element in it that one of the Oregon senators, Lane, was the Breckinridge candidate for the vice-presidency in 1860. In that year the republicans obtained the electoral vote of the state by a plurality, the popular vote being as follows: Lincoln, 5,270: Breckinridge, 5,006, Douglas, 3,951; Bell, 183. From that time until 1868 the state was republican in state, congressional and presidential elections. In 1868 the democrats, by about 1,000 majority, obtained the electoral vote of the state for Seymour, and elected the congressman and a majority of both houses of the legislature. Since that time the parties have alternately been successful in the state's biennial elections. In 1870, 1874 and 1878 the democrats carried the state, electing the governor, congressman, and a majority of the legislature, in 1872, 1876 and 1880, the "presidential years," the republicans secured the electoral vote of the state, the congressman, and a majority of the legislature. (See OREGON, under ELECTORAL COMMISSION.) In 1883 the legislature is republican by the following majority: senate, sixteen to fourteen; house, thirty-nine to twenty-one.


—The most prominent political leaders of the state have been the following Lafayette Grover, democratic congressman in 1859, governor 1870-77, and United States senator 1877-83; Joseph Lane (see his name); John H. Mitchell, republican United States senator 1873-79; and George H. Williams, republican United States senator 1865-71, and attorney general under Grant, 1872-5.


—See NORTHWEST BOUNDARY, and authorities under it; Grover's Oregon Archives, 1849-53; Dunn's History of Oregon (1844); Tucker's History of Oregon (1844); Greenhow's History of Oregon (1845); Gray's History of Oregon (1849): 2 Poore's Federal and State Constitutions; Tribune Almanac, 1859-83; Hines' Oregon and its Institutions (1868); Dufur's Statistics of Oregon (1869).


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