Echoes of Oregon History Learning Guide
Petition to Allow Thomas Family to Stay in Oregon, 1854
Transcript of original document:
To the Honorable Legislative Assembly of the Territory of Oregon: The undersigned citizens of the Territory of Oregon, do most respectfully pray for the passage of an Act of the proper character by your Honorable bodies to exempt Morris Thomas a free man of color, and all and singular the members of his family, from the operation of the Act of the Legislative Assembly passed September 26th, 1849, and Entitled "an Act to prevent Negros and Mullattos from coming to or residing in Oregon."
The said Morris Thomas now is and for several years past has been, a resident in the city of Portland in the Territory of Oregon. He is an industrious, peacable, well disposed mulatto man, and we do verily be-lieve the passage of the Act prayed for will be of no detriment to the welfare of the Ter-ritory or the intereests of any citizen (?) and as in duty bounden we will ever pray &C (128 signatures)
American immigrants brought anti-black attitudes with them. These immigrants, mostly from the midwest, disliked both slaves and free blacks. The territorial legislature passed a law which prohibited free blacks from staying in Oregon. This petition requested the legislature to pass an act exempting Morris Thomas and his family, free blacks, from the provisions of the earlier law. Thomas, who lived in Portland, is described as a model citizen. The legislature discovered that the law excluding blacks had accidentally been repealed. Efforts to resurrect it failed.
Words and Terms
For Further Discussion
1. What are the petitioners asking the legislature to do?
2. What does this document tell you about the attitudes of the petitioners toward free blacks?
3. What reasons do the petitioners give for allowing Morris Thomas and his family to stay in Oregon?