Governor George Abernethy's Administration

Legislative Messages, 1845

Source: Oregon State Archives, Oregon Provisional and Territorial Records, 1845, Calendar Nos. 1382, 1383.


Future of Oregon

Messages – Governor

Year 1845

To the Honorable the Legislative Assembly of Oregon


The principal cause of the adjournment of this body, from July last was to place before the people the Original Organic Law, together with the amended Organic Law, that they might decide which should be the foundation for a Code of Laws, to govern us until such time as the United States of America extend their jurisdiction over us. I have now the honor to inform you that the Organic Law as amended by your Honorable Body has been adopted by the Citizens of this Territory, and it therefore devolves in you to revise, alter, and amend the Laws heretofore passed, that they may accord with the Organic Law, and to form such other Laws as in your wisdom may be deemed necessary, for the safety and protection of the people.

The past year have proved that the revenue is insufficient to meet the expenses of the Government, and while I would recommend that strict economy should guide the Legislature in their appropriations I would also recommend [a new] means of increasing the revenue that improved farms be taxed in proportion to the value of the improvements; at present the farmer who depends principally on his stock as a means of subsistence is taxed, while the producer pays nothing into this Treasury. There is no doubt [that] this tax will be paid cheerfully by the farmers if the appropriations are made, for the general welfare of the community, perhaps this may be found sufficient to meet the newfound expenses without increasing the per centage.

The Executive Committee at the opening of the Session last July in their message to your Honorable Body earnestly recommended “that the law regarding two sessions of the Court to be held in each County be so amended as to require only two or at most three sessions during the year in the whole Colony.” You can carefully examine this matter and make such alterations in the Judiciary Department as will facilitate the operation of the Court and economise the expenses.

There will be a great deal of Litigation in this County arising from the facilities of obtaining credit which prevails throughout the Colony. In order to prevent this in some measure I would recommend the passage of a Law which would prevent all debts or notes taken for debts(except where fraud is alleged), contracted after the passage of such Law, from being collected by Judicial process. This would save much time and trouble to the Court. Persons would be more careful in disposing of their property and those who came under obligation to others in my opinion would be more [timely] in their payments, knowing if they did not meet their obligations when they became due they would receive no more favors; allowances would be made for a man who should meet with misfortune, but the man who was able to pay and would not, by the passage of such a Law would soon become known throughout the Colony.

I would recommend that the [#] section of the Militia Law, by which the qualified voters of the several districts elect the Field officers annually, be so amended, as that the Field officers be elected by the Company Officers of the Regiment which he is to command or be attached to; the Senior Officer in the Regiment to procure at the election, and make the returns to the Commander in Chief. Officers to hold their Commissions until their resignations are accepted, unless expelled by a Court Martial for misdemeanor. Also that the 6th Section be so amended that instead of the Militia being ordered out for martial exercise two days in each year, one day only be required, principally for inspection and that the 8th Section be amended so as to make it the duty of every man to appear on the ground armed and equipped, this last amendment is very necessary, surrounded as we are by savage tribes, every man in the Colony should be provided with the means of defense. Should you amend the above Sections it will be necessary to amend the other Sections to make them correspond. Experience has fully proved that two or three days spent in martial exercises every year are insufficient for instruction in military maneuvers. Consequently any time spent more than is requisite for inspection a heavy and unnecessary tax on the Citizens of Oregon. Officer’s units should be increased and as an inducement to officers to [serve] often and be punctual it would be well to limit their term of service to six years after which time they should be exempt from military duty except in case of an invasion.

There is nothing that more surely advances the prosperity of any Country than numerous school houses well filled during the week days and a strict observance of the Sabbath. I would recommend that School districts be formed and the means of education be placed within the reach of every family. The inhabitants residing within the bounds of a School District should be required to meet, select a site for a School House and build one at the expense of the District, the cost to each individual would be but trifling, teachers would now be forced to occupy the School House and dispense the blessings of education to the children around them.

Our late information from the United States leaves the question of the boundary line between the United States and Great Britain state undecided, the question was agitated during the last Congress and we have every reason to believe judging from the Inaugural address of President Polk and the disposition prevailing in the United States with regard to this Country that the jurisdiction of the United States will be speedily extended over us.

Through the mercy and goodness of the Divine Being we are blessed again with a plentiful harvest. Agriculture, the first and most important occupation of man, has abundantly [rewarded] the labors of the husbandman. Health dwells in our land and Peace surrounds us. May we show our gratitude to him who bestows all these mercies by bearing in mind through all our acts that we are dependent on him, and may our prayers continually ascend to him for wisdom to guide us in the important duties to which we are called.

George Abernethy

Oregon City, August 1845


Future of Oregon

Messages – Governor

Year 1845

To the Honorable the Legislative Assembly of Oregon

Fellow Citizens

Allow me to congratulate you on your return to this place again to enter the important duties assigned to your by your Constituents.

By the latest dates we have from the United States we are informed that the affairs of Oregon State remain unsettled no arrangement having as yet been entered into between the United States and Great Britain fixing the boundary lines between the two Governments.

In my last message, I suggested several alterations in the Militia Law and would again call your attention to the subject at present all is peace and quietness, but should any thing occur requiring the aid of the Militia, every thing should be ready for immediate and prompt action.

The Currency is another subject on which your will be called to act. That a legal tender should be provided for the payment of liabilities besides gold and silver, we are all well aware. The previous metals are very scarce in this country and by most persons not to be had. What shall be the legal tender is an important question for you to decide. If all the articles provided, raised and manufactured in the Country are made legal tenders no person will sell any thing he has to dispose of unless there is a special contract drawn up designating how and in what manner the seller is to receive his pay, this will cause much inconvenience to both parties. Wheat in my opinion should be the only article used in the Country as a legal tender in addition to gold and silver, it is at present the stable article of our country, can be procured by all the settlers in abundance, can be readily disposed of by the merchants and others, and is not a perishable article. The next question is where shall the article or articles made legal tender be delivered? If the debtor is allowed the privilege of delivering wheat at any point on the navigable river, and thereby discharging his debt, it will -throw all the trouble of getting it to market on the receiver. This should not be, the trouble should devolve on the owner who by delivering his produce is relieved from his liability. Oregon City is at present the business place and for the convenience of all parties would in my opinion be the best depot for the bounty. Other articles and other places of deposit can be agreed upon between parties who are transacting business together. Our business is to provide for a man who being in debt to another, is pressed for silver, and informed that nothing else will answer in payment. We must in some way provide to relieve him from this difficulty, but in doing this we should be cautious not leave the door too wide open, for in doing so we may break down all confidence and do more injury than good.

We are visited occasionally by vessels for trade and other purposes, I think it would be well to have an officer appointed to reside at the mouth of the River whose duty it should be on the arrival of any vessels to board her and deliver the Captain a copy of the law relating to the sale of Ardent Spirits; many complaints have come from the residents at the mouth of the River stating that spirituous liquors have been distributed among the Indians from different vessels, causing much excitement among the Indian and in one case leading to a war between two parties of them. It cannot be expected that a stranger on his arrival should be acquainted with the law on this subject, and he may deal out to Indians and other enough to do a great deal of mischief, before he became acquainted with it, unless some steps are taken by your to inform him. The Officer so appointed could inform the proper authorities should the Captain then persist in selling liquor and the necessary steps to enforce the law could then be taken.

There should be a sealer of weights and measures appointed, and no weights or measures used in the Colony excepting such as are stamped by him, by this means a uniformity in our weights and measures would be brought about and one source of complaint removed.

The boundary lines between some of the Districts have not been defined and persons living near the borders of such Districts do not really know in which District they reside, I would call your attention to this subject that you may examine into is and define the boundary lines.

It will be necessary to decide upon and locate the seat of Government the present session, I would recommend that a [Bondsmith] be appointed by your body at an early day, to take this matter into consideration.

A large Emigration has this year crossed the Rocky Mountains, and the individuals who comprised it are now in our midst and make one with us after passing through many scenes of difficulty and privation; there has been more suffering than usual among the Emigrants the present season, perhaps in some measure owing to the largeness of the party, which numbered over two thousand persons, but principally in an attempt made by some of them to shorten the way, they failed in their object and many of them perished in consequence of the difficulties they encountered, encumbered as they were with their families and Cattle in an untried route. Something should be done by us to facilitate the arrival of Emigrants among us; nearly all the difficulties they encounter occur between Walla Walla and the settlements and perhaps I may bring … state nearer and … between the Dalles and this place. If then can be a remedy provided for this it should be done at once and our easy and safe conveyance provided for the Emigrant who may hereafter seek to make this land his home. Two plans have suggested themselves to me, one is to employ one or more of the old settlers who profess to be acquainted with the pass, leading through the mountains from Fort ?, or thereabouts, to the upper settlements in the Willamette to take charge of a party, whose duty it shall be to examine the route, mark it out, and report to a committee appointed by you, all the particulars of the route should be carefully noted down, particularly the distance between [unknown placed] where water can be procured, and the quality of the water, together with the quantity of grass land that my be in the …, whether there are any sandy deserts to cross that would be difficult for Cattle to pass over for want of water and proper food.

The other plan is to complete the road that has been commenced by McDarlow and others south of Mount Hood. Either of these plans will require funds and I would recommend that a committee be appointed by you, whose duty it shall be to inquire into the feasibility of either of the plans and to obtain subscriptions from the settlers of the Colony to carry the … reform upon into operation, the amount required I have no doubt can easily be raised.

I have made the following appointments during the recess of the Legislature. William H. Willson First Judge for the District of Champoeg in place of E. E. Parrish who refused to accept the appointment. Alan Robert Moore Judge for the Tualaty District in place of H. Higgins resigned. There is a vacancy in the Clatsop District occasioned by the refusal of R. [last name] to accept the offer of Judge for that District as there was no Court to be held in that District previous to the meeting of the Legislature. I have left the office to be filled by you. I received a letter from Jesse Applegate resigning his seat in your body as Representative from the Yamhill District-that district will therefore not be fully represented, as the notice was not received in time to [hold] a new election.

I am happy to say that the Emigrants who have come in this year appear well pleased with the regulations we have entered into for our Government and mutual protection, and express themselves as willing to be found on the side of Law and order. We consider them a valuable acquisition to our little Colony, and find that we are already our people.

I cannot close without uniting with you in expression of gratitude to that Being who has so graciously protected our Infant Colony. Preserved from war with the Savages that surround us, and from internal commotions, and enjoying all the blessing that health can bestow, we very truly say that we are a favored people, and I trust that we may continue to merit the Divine favour by acknowledging our dependence on him and endeavoring to keep his Law in view while making Laws for our own Government.

George Abernethy

Oregon City, 2 December, 1845

State Archives • 800 Summer St. NE • Salem, OR 97310

Phone: 503-373-0701 • Fax: 503-378-4118 • reference.archives@state.or.us