Oregon Territorial Legislature

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Oregon Territorial Legislature
Oregon Territory
Oregon-Territory-seal.tif
Seal of the Oregon Territory
Type
Type
Houses Lower: House of Representatives
Upper: Council
History
Established 1848
Disbanded 1859
Preceded by Provisional Legislature of Oregon
Succeeded by Oregon Legislative Assembly
Seats 27 (1849)
35 (1858)
Meeting place
Oregon City (18491851)
Salem (18521859)
Corvallis (1855)

Oregon's Territorial Legislature was a bicameral legislative body created by the United States Congress in 1848 as the legislative branch of the government of the Oregon Territory. The upper chamber Council and lower chamber House of Representatives first met in July 1849; they served as the region's legislative body until Oregon became a state in February 1859, when they were replaced by the bicameral Oregon State Legislature.

A bicameral legislature divides the legislators into two separate assemblies, chambers, or houses. Bicameralism is distinguished from unicameralism, in which all members deliberate and vote as a single group, and from some legislatures that have three or more separate assemblies, chambers, or houses. As of 2015, fewer than half the world's national legislatures are bicameral.

United States Congress Legislature of the United States

The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the Federal Government of the United States. The legislature consists of two chambers: the House of Representatives and the Senate.

The Territory of Oregon was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from August 14, 1848, until February 14, 1859, when the southwestern portion of the territory was admitted to the Union as the State of Oregon. Originally claimed by several countries, the region was divided between the UK and US in 1846. When established, the territory encompassed an area that included the current states of Oregon, Washington, and Idaho, as well as parts of Wyoming and Montana. The capital of the territory was first Oregon City, then Salem, followed briefly by Corvallis, then back to Salem, which became the state capital upon Oregon's admission to the Union.

Contents

Ten annual sessions were held, with most starting in December and ending in February. During the sessions the capital of the territory was moved from Oregon City to Salem, then briefly to Corvallis, and back to Salem. Legislation included the creation of new counties, the renaming of old counties, and the authorization to hold the Oregon Constitutional Convention, among other acts. Membership in the Council remained at nine throughout the history of the body, while the House of Representatives membership increased from 17 to as high as 30 due to increases in population.

Oregon City, Oregon City in Oregon, United States

Oregon City is the county seat of Clackamas County, Oregon, United States, located on the Willamette River near the southern limits of the Portland metropolitan area. Established in 1829 by the Hudson's Bay Company, in 1844 it became the first U.S. city west of the Rocky Mountains to be incorporated.

Salem, Oregon State capital city in Oregon, United States

Salem is the capital of the U.S. state of Oregon, and the county seat of Marion County. It is located in the center of the Willamette Valley alongside the Willamette River, which runs north through the city. The river forms the boundary between Marion and Polk counties, and the city neighborhood of West Salem is in Polk County. Salem was founded in 1842, became the capital of the Oregon Territory in 1851, and was incorporated in 1857.

Corvallis, Oregon City in Oregon, United States

Corvallis is a city in central western Oregon, United States. It is the county seat of Benton County and the principal city of the Corvallis, Oregon Metropolitan Statistical Area, which encompasses all of Benton County. As of the 2010 United States Census, the population was 54,462. Its population was estimated by the Portland Research Center to be 55,298 in 2013. Corvallis is the location of Oregon State University, a large Hewlett-Packard research campus, and Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center.

Background

The Provisional Government of Oregon was the region's governing body from 1843 until 1849, at the end of the region's joint settlement by Great Britain and the United States. The Provisional Government's legislative body was the unicameral Provisional Legislature of Oregon.

Provisional Government of Oregon

The Provisional Government of Oregon was a popularly elected settler government created in the Oregon Country, in the Pacific Northwest region of North America. Its formation had been advanced at the Champoeg Meetings since February 17, 1841 and it existed from May 2, 1843 until March 3, 1849, and provided a legal system and a common defense amongst the mostly American pioneers settling an area then inhabited only by the many Indigenous Nations. Much of the region's geography and many of the Natives were not known by people of European descent until several exploratory tours were authorized at the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries. The Organic Laws of Oregon were adopted in 1843 with its preamble stating that settlers only agreed to the laws "until such time as the United States of America extend their jurisdiction over us." According to a message from the government in 1844, the rising settler population was beginning to flourish among the "savages", who were "the chief obstruction to the entrance of civilization" in a land of "ignorance and idolatry."

Great Britain island in the North Atlantic off the north-west coast of continental Europe

Great Britain is an island in the North Atlantic Ocean off the northwest coast of continental Europe. With an area of 209,331 km2 (80,823 sq mi), it is the largest of the British Isles, the largest European island, and the ninth-largest island in the world. In 2011, Great Britain had a population of about 61 million people, making it the world's third-most populous island after Java in Indonesia and Honshu in Japan. The island of Ireland is situated to the west of Great Britain, and together these islands, along with over 1,000 smaller surrounding islands, form the British Isles archipelago.

Provisional Legislature of Oregon

The Provisional Legislature of Oregon was the single-chamber legislative body of the Provisional Government of Oregon. It served the Oregon Country of the Pacific Northwest of North America from 1843 until early 1849 at a time when no country had sovereignty over the region. This democratically elected legislature became the Oregon Territorial Legislature when the territorial authorities arrived after the creation of the Oregon Territory by the United States in 1848. The body was first termed the Legislative Committee and later renamed the House of Representatives. Over the course of its six-year history the legislature passed laws, including taxation and liquor regulation, and created an army to deal with conflicts with Native Americans.

In 1846 the United States and Great Britain settled the Oregon Question with the Oregon Treaty. The treaty created a boundary between British North America and the United States west of the Rocky Mountains at the 49th parallel. [1] Two years later on August 14, 1848 the Organic Act was signed into law by President James K. Polk creating the Oregon Territory out of the lands south of the 49th parallel, north of the 42nd parallel (northern boundary of California) and west of the Rockies to the Pacific Ocean. [1] The structural framework for the government came from the Northwest Ordinance, passed in 1787, which created the Northwest Territory. [1] The Territorial Legislature then worked within the legal framework of the Organic Laws of Oregon. [2] These laws were the de facto constitution of the Provisional Government. [2] These laws were determined to be valid by Territorial Governor Joseph Lane when he arrived in the territory in 1849 and effectuated the beginning of United States control and government in Oregon Country. [2]

Oregon boundary dispute early 19th century USA-UK boundary dispute

The Oregon boundary dispute or the Oregon Question was a territorial dispute over the political division of the Pacific Northwest of North America between several nations that had competing territorial and commercial aspirations over the region.

Oregon Treaty 1846 treaty between the United Kingdom and the United States

The Oregon Treaty is a treaty between the United Kingdom and the United States that was signed on June 15, 1846, in Washington, D.C. The treaty was signed under the presidency of James K. Polk, the treaty brought an end to the Oregon boundary dispute by settling competing American and British claims to the Oregon Country; the area had been jointly occupied by both Britain and the U.S. since the Treaty of 1818.

British North America Former British imperial territories

The term "British North America" refers to the former territories of the British Empire in North America, not including the Caribbean. The term was first used informally in 1783, but it was uncommon before the Report on the Affairs of British North America (1839), called the Durham Report. These territories today form modern-day Canada and the Pacific Northwest of the United States.

Structure

Legislator Benjamin F. Harding. Benjamin F. Harding - Brady-Handy.jpg
Legislator Benjamin F. Harding.

The legislature had two chambers: the larger, lower House of Representatives, and the upper chamber Council. [3] The Council consisted of nine members, apportioned among the territory's counties. [3] The House had about twice as many members, also apportioned by counties. [3] As the population increased and counties added, the number of legislators in the House was expanded. [3]

A lower house is one of two chambers of a bicameral legislature, the other chamber being the upper house.

An upper house is one of two chambers of a bicameral legislature, the other chamber being the lower house. The house formally designated as the upper house is usually smaller and often has more restricted power than the lower house. Examples of upper houses in countries include the Australian Senate, Brazil's Senado Federal, the Canadian Senate, France's Sénat, Germany's Bundesrat, India's Rajya Sabha, Ireland's Seanad, Malaysia's Dewan Negara, the Netherlands' Eerste Kamer, Pakistan's Senate of Pakistan, Russia's Federation Council, Switzerland's Council of States, United Kingdom's House of Lords and the United States Senate.

Sessions

Though the Oregon Territory was created in August 1848, the territorial government did not arrive and assume power until Joseph Lane arrived on March 2, 1849. [3] The first session of the Legislature convened on July 16, 1849 in Oregon City. [3] Thereafter, regular sessions were held during the winter months of December, January, and February, with special sessions in May 1850 and July 1852. [3]

In a legislature, a special session is a period when the body convenes outside of the normal legislative session. This most frequently occurs in order to complete unfinished tasks for the year, such as outlining the government's budget for the next fiscal year, biennium, or other period. Special sessions may also be called during an economic downturn in order to cut the budget. In other cases, a special session may be convened to address special topics, or emergencies such as war or natural disaster.

1849

The first session met from July 16 to September 29 in Oregon City at the Methodist Church. [4] [5] During this session two of the original districts were renamed with Tuality (or Tualatin) County becoming Washington County and Champoeg County becoming Marion County. [5] Also during the 1849 session Vancouver County on the north side of the Columbia River was renamed Clarke County with the "e" later dropped. [5] Additionally, the legislators continued the policy of the Provisional Government and passed a law in September excluding blacks from settling in the Oregon Territory, but allowed those already in the region to remain. [6] The law was later repealed in 1854, but a new version was added in 1857 when Oregon ratified its constitution in preparation for statehood. [6] Asa Lovejoy served as the speaker of the House, and Samuel Parker as the President of the Council. [5]

1850

Ralph Wilcox, Speaker of the House for the 1850-51 legislative session. Ralph Wilcox - Oregon.png
Ralph Wilcox, Speaker of the House for the 1850-51 legislative session.

From December 2, 1850 to February 8, 1851, the second session of the legislature gathered in Oregon City. [7] W. W. Buck served as the President of the Council, Ralph Wilcox as the Speaker of the House. [7]

The 1850-51 session was not a harmonious one, being divided over the controversial matter of location of the Oregon state capital. [8] Legislators were split between the competing claims of Oregon City and Salem, with the majority of legislators backing the latter locale and a minority opining in favor of keeping the center of government at Oregon City. [8] An omnibus location bill awarding Salem the state capital, Portland the territorial penitentiary, and Corvallis the territorial university ultimately passed the legislature by votes of 10-8 in the House and 6-3 in the Council. [9] This matter, which left Oregon City entirely out of the equation, was acutely partisan, with Whigs favoring the historic capital and Democrats endorsing a move to Salem. [10]

During the 1850-51 session the Legislature created three new counties for the Oregon Territory. [10] The first of these, Pacific County, encompassed coastal areas north of the Columbia River, located primarily in today's Washington state. [11] This new county, with Pacific City as the county seat, was created out of the southwest corner of Lewis County. [12] Also established were Lane County, including that portion of the Willamette Valley south of Benton County and Linn County, as well as Umpqua County, comprising the area south of the Calapooya Mountains and headwaters of the Willamette River. [13]

1851

The 1851-52 session of the Oregon Territorial Legislature met from December 1, 1851 to January 21, 1852, at the Oregon Institute in Salem. [14] Samuel Parker served as the President of the Council with William M. King as the Speaker of the House. [14]

The matter of the location of the capital of Oregon remained hotly contested, with the majority assembling in Salem while a rump group consisting of one member of the Council and four members of the House refusing to participate there but instead attempting to establish itself as the legitimate Oregon Territorial Legislature in a session held at the Territorial Library in Oregon City. [15] This rival rump assembly continued to meet in Oregon City for two weeks, replete with the spectacle of Columbia Lancaster making and seconding his own motions in the "Council" himself. [16]

The claims of this minority faction were backed by a 2-1 decision of the Oregon Supreme Court, which supported the view of Governor John P. Gaines that the move from Oregon City to Salem was unconstitutional by virtue of its omnibus nature — which was held to be contrary to the provisions of the act of Congress which organized the territory. [17] This led to a split of the court, with Justice O. C. Pratt leaving Oregon City for Salem. [18] A situation of dual power thus briefly existed, with the (Democratic) majority of the Territorial Legislature and a minority of the Supreme Court sitting in Salem and a (Whig) majority of the Supreme Court and minority of the Legislature sitting in Oregon City. [19]

In the eyes of a majority of Oregonians political legitimacy lay with the elected majority of Legislators in Salem rather than the appointed majority of Supreme Court justices in Oregon City, however, and following a complicated set of maneuvers including redistricting of legal districts and passage of a memorial to the United States Congress for decision, the majority of the Legislature conducted its regular business in Salem as scheduled. [20] A bill was passed calling for convocation of a constitutional convention in the event that Congress refused the appeal of the Legislature for direct election rather than appointment of the Territorial Governor and judges. [21]

On January 12, 1852, the body created Jackson County in the southwest section of the territory. [3] They also carved a swath of Umpqua County to form a new Douglas County, named in honor of Senator Stephen A. Douglas, a Democratic Party stalwart. [3]

1852

In 1852 the Legislature met from December 6, 1852 until February 3, 1853 in Oregon City. [3] [22] On December 22, the two chambers passed an act to dissolve the marriage between David S. Maynard and Lydia A. Maynard, which would later become an issue that worked its way to the United States Supreme Court in the case of Maynard v. Hill . [23] Matthew Deady served as the President of the Council with Benjamin F. Harding as the Speaker of the House for the session. [22]

1853

On March 2, 1853, Washington Territory was created out of the northern and eastern portions of Oregon Territory, eliminating those counties from the Oregon Legislature. [24] The 1853 Legislature met in Salem from December 5, 1853 to February 2, 1854. [3] [25] The legislature created Coos County in southwestern Oregon on the Oregon Coast on December 22, 1853, and Columbia County was created out of the northern portion of Washington County by an act of the body on January 16, 1854. [26] Ralph Wilcox served as the President of the Council with C. Z. Bishop as the Speaker of the House. [25]

1854

The 5th Oregon Territorial Legislature convened in Salem on December 4, 1854 and held its proceedings until February 1, 1855. [3] [27] On January 11, 1855, the legislature created Wasco County which at the time encompassed all of Eastern Oregon. [3] Multnomah County was created during this session on December 22, 1854, with eastern Washington County being combined with the northern section of Clackamas County. [3] A bill was submitted during the session to submit to voters the question of holding a convention to draft a constitution in an effort to attain statehood, but the bill was defeated. [3] James K. Kelly served as the President of the Council with L. F. Cartee as the Speaker of the House. [27]

1855

The 6th Territorial Legislature began in Corvallis in the ongoing dispute over which city would become the capital. Late in December the body moved back to Salem where the capitol building was nearing completion, but the building burned down on December 29, 1855. [3] The session began on December 3 and ended on January 31, 1856. [28] On December 18, 1855, the legislature separated the southern part of Coos County, creating Curry County, and then on January 22, 1856, created Josephine County out of the western portion of Jackson County. [3] The legislature tried again to settle the question of holding a constitutional convention, and again it was defeated. [3] During this session A. P. Dennison served as the Council president, with the Speaker of the House being Delazon Smith. [28]

1856

Beginning on December 1, 1856, the legislature met in Salem, using rented space, remaining in session until January 29, 1857. [3] [29] The legislature again addressed the question of holding a constitutional convention, and during this session it passed with the citizens then voted in favor of the resolution on June 1, 1857, with a convention to be held later in the year. [3] During the session James Kerr Kelly served as the Council president, with the Speaker of the House position held by La Fayette Grover. [29]

1857

On December 7, 1857, the legislature began their session in Salem, lasting through February 5, 1858. [30] During the session Hugh D. O'Bryant served as president of the Council chamber, with the Speaker of the House position held by Ira F. M. Butler. [30]

1858

On August 17, 1857, the Oregon Constitutional Convention convened in Salem with the task of creating a constitution in order for Oregon to become a state. [3] The Convention accomplished this task and submitted the final document to the voters of the territory for approval on November 9, 1857, when it was approved and then sent to the United States Senate for approval. [3] Once approved by the Federal government, Oregon would become a state. However, communications between the East Coast and West Coast were still slow, and those elected as state officials had to wait for word of Oregon's admission to the Union before they could formally begin their service. [31] The state legislators meet twice before admission, from July 6 to July 9, and September 13 & 14. [31] They met and adjourned once there was no word on Oregon's statehood. [31] The Territorial Legislature then met starting on December 6, 1858 for their final session. [31] Previously in Oregon's government, the authority to dissolve a marriage was vested in the legislature, and during this final session the legislators granted 31 divorces before the authority shifted to the courts upon statehood. [3] This session lasted until January 22, 1859, during which Charles Drain served as Council President and N. H. Gates was Speaker of the House. [32]

Aftermath

Oregon was then admitted to the Union on February 14, 1859, and the elected state officials and legislators took over governing the now state. The first session of the Oregon Legislative Assembly began on May 16, 1859, in a special session that lasted until June 4. [33] Oregon's first regular session of the biennial legislature occurred from September 10 through October 19, 1860. [34]

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References

  1. 1 2 3 Oregon Blue Book: Oregon History: The "Oregon Question" and Provisional Government
  2. 1 2 3 End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center: Stealing the Capital
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 Corning, Howard M. Dictionary of Oregon History. Binfords & Mort Publishing, 1956.
  4. "1840-1990 Keepsake Edition". Statesman Journal. October 26, 1990. p. 8.
  5. 1 2 3 4 Oregon Legislative Assembly (1st Territorial) 1849 Regular Session
  6. 1 2 End of the Oregon Trail: Slavery in the Oregon Country
  7. 1 2 Oregon Legislative Assembly (2nd Territorial) 1850 Regular Session
  8. 1 2 Hubert Howe Bancroft, The Works of Hubert Howe Bancroft: Volume XXX: History of Oregon: Volume II, 1848-1888. San Francisco, CA: The History Company, 1888; pg. 145.
  9. Bancroft, History of Oregon, Volume II, pg. 146.
  10. 1 2 Bancroft, History of Oregon, Volume II, pg. 147.
  11. HistoryLink: Oregon Territorial Legislature forms Pacific County on February 4, 1851.
  12. In March 1853, Pacific County became part of Washington Territory when that territory was created out of the Oregon Territory. See: HistoryLink, "Oregon Territorial Legislature forms Pacific County on February 4, 1851.
  13. Bancroft, History of Oregon, Volume II, pp. 150-151.
  14. 1 2 Oregon Legislative Assembly (3rd Territorial) 1851 Regular Session
  15. Bancroft, History of Oregon, Volume II, pg. 161.
  16. Lancaster, a Democrat, seems to have supported the minority faction in Oregon City based upon his understanding of the law, recognizing the authority of the Supreme Court to set aside the Legislative decision on constitutional grounds. See also: Bancroft, History of Oregon, Volume II, pg. 161.
  17. Bancroft, History of Oregon, Volume II, pp. 161-162.
  18. Judge R.P. Boise, quoted in "The State Bar Association: Adjourned Sine Die Last Night After Most Interesting Meeting," Weekly Oregon Statesman [Salem], Nov. 21, 1902, pp. 6, 8. See also: Bancroft, History of Oregon, Volume II, pp. 161-162.
  19. Bancroft, History of Oregon, Volume II, pg. 162.
  20. Bancroft, History of Oregon, Volume II, pp. 163-165.
  21. Bancroft, History of Oregon, Volume II, pg. 165.
  22. 1 2 Oregon Legislative Assembly (4th Territorial) 1852 Regular Session
  23. Maynard v. Hill. 125 U.S. 190 (1888).
  24. Columbia Magazine: The Creation of Washington Territory
  25. 1 2 Oregon Legislative Assembly (5th Territorial) 1853 Regular Session
  26. About Columbia County. Columbia County Courthouse, Accessed September 11, 2007.
  27. 1 2 Oregon Legislative Assembly (6th Territorial) 1854 Regular Session
  28. 1 2 Oregon Legislative Assembly (7th Territorial) 1855 Regular Session
  29. 1 2 Oregon Legislative Assembly (8th Territorial) 1856 Regular Session
  30. 1 2 Oregon Legislative Assembly (9th Territorial) 1857 Regular Session
  31. 1 2 3 4 Oregon Legislative Assembly (1st Pre-Admission) 1858 Regular Session
  32. Oregon Legislative Assembly (10th Territorial) 1858 Regular Session
  33. Oregon Legislative Assembly 1859 Special Session
  34. Oregon Legislative Assembly (1st) 1860 Regular Session