February 14, 1859…Statehood (but we didn’t know it yet)

Oregon was officially admitted as a State on February 14, 1859, upon President Buchanan’s  signature on legislation passed by both Houses.


This headline would not appear in the Oregon newspapers until mid-March, 1859.


But if you were living in Oregon City you didn’t know you were now living in a State until mid-March, when the newspapers finally arrived from the East.

And once the news did arrive…both the Argus and the Weekly Oregonian, whose editors were staunch Republicans,  printed the news on the second page under small headlines.


The Oregon Argus, February 12, 1859

Arrival of the Mail.

The steamship Northern reached Portland last Saturday, and left Monday evening. She brings dates from the East to Jan. 12.

The news is of no great importance. Congress has done nothing for us yet, and the probability is that it will do but little this session. President-making seems to occupy all the attention of the sectionalists, who have a majority in Congress. The Oregon and Washington war debt will not be paid, and we shall not be likely to get in to the Union this session.

Full details of the news will be found elsewhere in this week’s paper.

A Little over Plumb

We find in the Peoria (Ill) Democratic Union a long letter signed ‘Delazon Smith’ upon the ‘condition and resources of Oregon.’ The letter is written in that bombastic, ‘highfalutin’ (as the New York Herald has it) style so peculiar to Delusion. WE give a few samples of his old disposition to delude people:

“Oregon, it is believed, has, from eighty to one hundred thousand white inhabitants. From 5,000 to 10,000, it is reported have been added to the population this fall from the Frazer River mines.”

People here generally believe that Oregon has about 42,000 white inhabitants all told, and that the Frazer River excitement hasn’t added five hundred settlers to our population. If Delazon can make Congress believe we have a ‘hundred thousand inhabitants,’ of course the State will be admitted, as the principal objection to its admission lies in the supposition that it has less than 93,420…

Delusion further says…

“The most common or ordinary labor readily commands from $1.50 to $3.00 per day, and from $25 to $40 per month, and found. Mechanics receive from $.400 to $10.00 per day. Servant girls readily obtain from $2.00 to $5.00 per week.”

Those mechanics here who have been hunting jobs that will pay “$10 a day and found,” will please write to Delazon to know where they can be found.

“There are no poor people in Oregon. Our poorest inhabitants are worth from three to ten thousand dollars. The society is good – equal to the best in any of the elder states of the Union; but little vice, dissipation, licentiousness or crime – but much industry, integrity, morality and virtue. Churches, colleges, academics, high schools, and common schools (as so many moral light-houses upon the Pacific coast, under the shadow of which a standing army of moral, intelligent and energetic young men and women are being reared,) exist in every part of the new state.”

Great country this! – all rich, nearly all industrious, moral, intelligent, and virtuous. Our ‘poorest inhabitants’ (not excepting the ten thousand new comers brought here by the gold excitement) are all worth from three to ten thousand dollars each. Some of the ‘poor whites’ who supported Delazon would, if we should tell them they were worth from three to ten thousand, roll up their eyes and ask, ‘Whar, oh whar is our property?’ – but as Delazon tells them this, they will believe it, of course, and never think to the contrary till the assessor comes round to take an invoice of their effects.

We clip a little of his highfalutin on politics:

“The politics of Oregon, as you are already well advised, is overwhelmingly democratic. Our people are pre-eminently conservative, constitution-abiding and union-loving. They stand, and will continue to stand, by the reserved rights of the states. The spirit of fanatacism, disunion, and negro-equality, thank God, has not yet seized our people, and I do not think it will, at least during the present generation.”

That is intended to be a strong feeler after the support of the fire-eaters at Washington. Of course, Delusion doesn’t allude to the Republican party when he says that the spirit of fanatacism and negro equality will not seize our people during the present generation – for Delusion said to J. R. McBride, Esq., during the canvass last spring, ‘If I was a young man like you, I would as soon risk my chances of success on your side in politics in Oregon during the next ten years as any other.’


The Oregon Argus, February 19, 1859

The last mail brought a communication from Jo Lane, published in the Washington Union, stating that the population of Oregon is at least 90,000.

Such a statement could only have emanated from a jackass or a knave. Jo may take whichever horn of the dilemma will in his own opinion be most complimentary to himself.

We only regret that the disgrace which follows the blunders of such men makes up a portion of the reputation of their constituents.

OREGON – Census returns from Oregon, which are regarded as authentic, have been received at Washington, and they claim only about 40,000 population, with 9,000 voters. This is the Territory which Mr. Buchanan recommends should be made into a State, as an exception to the general principle of requiring the requisite population for one Representative. Kansas has already thrown about 5,000 more votes than Oregon can, and her population is nearly double that of Oregon. She has formed one constitution to suit herself, and been admitted under it by one House of Congress, as was the case with Oregon; and she was again admitted by both Houses under another constitution, with the mere reservation of a right – so said the Administration leaders – to reject a certain land ordinance, upon which actual admission was contingent. More and better reasons, therefore, can be urged in favor of admitting Kansas than can be found in the service of Oregon. But the latter is Democratic, and the former is not; Oregon may help elect a Democratic President in the House of Representatives, and Kansas may defeat that project; Oregon will serve to piece out the Democratic domination in the U. S. Senate, and Kansas may defeat that project; Oregon will serve to piece out the Democratic domination in the U. S. Senate, and Kansas will hasten its overthrow – and herein are the real reasons of the President’s one-sided recommendation. We doubt, however, if it prevails (reprinted bythe Argus from the Boston Journal)


The Oregon Argus, February 26, 1859

Arrival of the Eastern Mail. (News from January)


The Republicans held a caucus on the 7th to consider their course relative to the bill for admission of Oregon. It resulted in a general understanding that they would oppose it while the English bill of prohibition stands in reference to Kansas. Thayer, of Massachusetts, expressed a disposition to vote for the admission of slave States. At least twelve or fourteen Republicans in the House, however, will sustain the bill, and oppose all efforts to trample its passage.

In the House, on the 12th, Mr. Stephens asked leave to report the Oregon bill. Objection was made, and the bill must therefore await its regular time.


The Oregon Argus, March 12, 1859


The steamer Northerner reached Portland Tuesday morning last, bringing news from the Atlantic States to Feb. 12.

OREGON NOT A STATE – The Oregon bill was before Congress Feb. 10 and 11, but had not yet come to a final vote. Dispatches from Washington say:

“The bill is strongly opposed by some members on the ground that a precedent has been established in the case of Kansas, that no State shall be admitted which has not a sufficient number of inhabitants to entitle them to a representative in Congress under the general law.”

The National Era favors our immediate admission, while a goodly number of Republicans it is said will vote for it, notwithstanding the mean precedent adopted by the Democrats regarding Kansas. If the bill ever comes to a direct vote this session, it will no doubt pass. Owing to the shortness of time and the great press of business there is a good chance for it to fail.




The Oregon Argus Editor & Publisher,  Dr. William Lysander Adams from Pioneer Oregon Gospel Preachers

The Oregon Argus, March 19, 1859, page 2…


THANKS – We are under obligations to Dr. Steele, agent of Wells, Fargo & Co. and to Mr. Hoyt, of the Express, for late papers by the Brother Jonathan.




The steamer Brother Jonathan reached Portland Tuesday morning last, bringing news of the arrival of the overland mail at San Francisco on the night of the 9th of March, with two days later news from the East. The latest dates are from St. Louis to the 14th of February.

The most important news brought is that of the admission of Oregon as a State into the Union, the bill for which passed the House of Representatives Feb. 12. We give below a synopsis of the…

Debate on the Admission of Oregon.

On 10th February, Mr. Stephens of Georgia, from the Committee on Territories, reported back, without amendment, the Senate bill for the admission of Oregon into the Union. He said there can be no question that there is sufficient population in Oregon to admit her to the Union. Under the existing law and compact, there must be at least 60,000, and in his opinion there were about 100,000 according to the ratio of increase…

It will be seen by the foregoing (votes listed by names) that fifteen Republicans voted for the bill, and twenty Democrats voted against it. If these Republicans has voted against the bill, the vote, instead of 114 for and 103 against, would have stood 99 for and 118 against. So it seems that with all the assurances of Lane, Smith, and Grover that the vote of Oregon would be a sectional one in 1860, this Congress, which has a majority of twenty-one Blacks (anti-slavery Democrats), was not able to admit Oregon without Republican votes. When the scales were poised and the admission beam was up, fifteen Republicans jumped in, and Oregon slid into the Union. If there is any credit due to Congress for admitting the State, a very large share is due to the Republicans – if any infamy, let it be divided between the two parties. The Southern Americans polled a strong vote against our admission.

(For the full debate as published see the newspaper at Historic Oregon Newspapers.)



Thomas Jefferson Dryer, editor & publisher of the Weekly Oregonian, 1850-1861

History isn’t always pretty – but it is history. Here is how our neighbors to the north received the news from The Weekly Oregonian editor T. J. Dryer on March 19, 1859…



By the arrival of the Brother Jonathan we received the news, via Overland Mail, that the Senate bill for the admission of Oregon passed the House by eleven majority on the 12th of February.

From the yeas and nays it appears there were 25 members absent when the final vote was taken. The vote was very nearly a strict party one; the Democrats voting for, and the Republicans against the admission, without some amendments were made to the bill. It will be seen that several amendments we offered, all of which were ruled out of order by the Speaker or laid on the table by a strict party vote.

You will see, also, that Gen. Lane again stated unconditionally, that he “had no doubt the white population of Oregon was over 93,000.” The census taken made it about 45,000. The votes by the ratio usually adopted, even less than that.

(Dryer goes on by accusing Lane, Smith and Grover of forgoing repayment of the “War Debt” that had been being pursued through Congress – microfilmed copy of page makes several paragraphs unreadable.)

This bill is justly due the people of Oregon and Washington Territories, for services and (unreadable) furnished and money advanced to protect the homes, families and (unreadable) of our citizens from the tomahawk and scalping knife of a merciless Indian foe.

This the price paid by the leadership of the Oregon Democracy, viz. Lane, Smith, and Grover, for the admission of Oregon into the Union. But this is not all; if it were, well might the people rejoice that they had passed the Rubicon and arrived safely at harbor where rest, security, or peace might reasonably be expected. No State, except Oregon, has ever been admitted into the Union without some provision being made, or at least, an evidence of the power and ability to support and sustain itself.

In this case, the parent Government having neglected its offspring entirely, and required the youngest of the family to protect itself – to go out even to war against a common enemy, and fight its own battles, until it became exhausted, faint, and famished – then when it returns, they reluctantly open the door to its admission, but refuse to clothe or feed it, or to aid and assist in placing it in a position to protect itself. Oregon is admitted, but the was debt is not paid, and our agents tell us that it will not be at the present time. We have no capitol, no public building, no library, no revenue, and no provision for the support of a State Government. Our people are already overburdened with taxation. A long dreary winter of unusual inclemency has destroyed a large amount of their stock; no appropriations for the Indian Department have been made, and no money provided to pay the people what the present Government justly owe them upon contracts made by their officers. But they have admitted us as a sovereign State into the Union and we have now the glorious satisfaction to know that OREGON IS A STATE, and that she is represented in the United States Congress by Jo. Lane, Delazon Smith and L. F. Gover, who have, in advance, bartered away the character, rights, honor, and interests of the people to secure to themselves $10,000 per year each, and henceforth enable them to rule and govern Democratic Oregon as may best suit their purposes and interests.


Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find the issues of the Statesman from this time period anywhere online. Editor & publisher Asahel Bush, a staunch Democrat and Adams’ & Dryer’s favorite target of ridicule, was certainly much happier about our admission, having been one of the leading advocates for statehood. 

Happy Birthday, Oregon!



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