Echoes of Oregon History Learning Guide
Half-Breed Citizenship Bill, 1857
Transcript of original document:
To enable certain Half Breeds to acquire the rights of citizenship within this Territory.Section1. Be it enacted by the Legislative Assembly of the Territory of Oregon. That any person, being the child of a white father and an Indian mother, and therefore disfranchised by existing laws, may be admitted to the privileges of citizenship, by the District Court, upon satisfactory proof that he is a permanent resident and land owner of the county or district, and can speak read and write the English language, and has in all respects the educatio habits and associations of a white person, and would, if he were a white person, be a citizen of the United States or entitled to admission as such, and is a person of good moral character and in all respects worthy to enjoy the said privileges. The District Court shall make a record of such admission and grant to the applicant a certificate thereof which shall entitle him to enjoy, during the pleasure of the Legislative Assembly, all the rights privileges and immunities of a citizen of the United States within this Territory as fully as it is competent for the Territory to grant the same.
Sec. 2. This act shall take affect from the time of its passage.
American immigrants in Oregon Territory disliked people of mixed Indian-white parentage. In 1855, the territorial government passed a law which prevented mixed race men from becoming citizens. This bill is an attempt to gain these rights for the children of white fathers and Indian mothers, subject to the satisfaction of certain requirements. Many white citizens would have been unable to satisfy these requirements, which included proof of literacy and good moral character. This bill did not pass.
Words and Terms
For Further Discussion
1. What is this bill trying to accomplish?
2. Why does the bill specify the child of an Indian mother and a white father, but not the child of an Indian father and a white mother?
3. When this bill says 'any person,' what does it mean?
4. Do you think the requirements for half-breeds to become citizens are reasonable? Why?
5. What are the privileges of citizenship referred to in this bill?