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Governor George Abernethy's Administration

Legislative Message, 1849

Source: Oregon Archives, Journals, Governors' Messages and Public Papers of Oregon, Salem, Asahel Bush, Public Printer, 1853

To the Hon. The Legislative Assembly of Oregon Territory.

Fellow Citizens,--

You are once more assembled in your legislative capacity under the provisional government of Oregon. The proclamation issued for the purpose of convening the legislature at this time, as you are well aware, was for the purpose of transacting the business that should have been done at the regular session, but which was not attended to in consequence of there not being a sufficient number of the members present to form a quorum. At that time there was no certainty of a territorial government having been organized for the territory of Oregon by the congress of the United States.

Since that period we have received information that our territory has been provided for; that the officers necessary to carry on the government have been appointed and are now on their way to this territory, and will no doubt soon be in our midst.

This entirely changes the aspect of affairs, and places us in a far happier position than the one hitherto occupied by us as a people; we will take rank with our sister territories, and I have no doubt will be apparent in the right direction given to her steps.

The most important business that will come before you at this session will be that connected with the late Indian difficulties.

I am happy to inform you that through aid of the territory to go in pursuit of the murderers and their allies, and of those who contributed so liberally to the support of our fellow citizens in the field, the war has been brought to a successful termination.

It is true that the Indians engaged in the massacre were not captured and punished; they were however driven from their homes, their country taken possession of, and they made to understand that the power of the white man is far superior to their own. The Indians have a large scope of country to roam over, all of which they were well acquainted with, know every pass, and by this knowledge could escape the punishment they so justly merited. In view of this the troops were re-called and disbanded early in July last, leaving a small force under the command of Capt. Martin to keep possession of the post at Waulatpu until the middle of September, when the time of which his men had enlisted expired. He however, before leaving, sent a party to bring in the last company of emigrants.

The appearance of so many armed men among the Indians in their own country had a very salutary effect on them; this is seen by their refusing to untied with the Cayuse Indians, by their profession of friendship to the Americans, by the safety with which the immigration passed through the Indian country the past season.

Heretofore robberies have been committed and insults offered to Americans as they would pass along, burdened with their families and goods, and worn down with the fatigues of a long journey, and this was on the increase; each successive immigration suffered more than the preceding one; but this year no molestation was offered, in any way. On the contrary, every assistance was rendered by the Indians in crossing rivers, for a reasonable compensation.

Having learned the power and ability of the Americans, I trust the necessity of calling on our citizens to punish them hereafter will be obviated.

I submit to you the report of the adjutant-general, by which it will be seen that the expense incurred, for the services of privates and non-commissioned officers, in accordance with an act passed 28th Dec., 1847, allowing one dollar and fifty cents per day, amounts to $109,311.50; in addition to this will be the pay of officers, and persons employed in the several departments connected with the army.

This will devolve on you to arrange during you present session; until it is done the total expenses of the war cannot be ascertained. Accompanying the report you will find the report of the commissary, and quarter-master-general department. One thing connected with the war department needs attending to. It is well known that the volunteers endured much fatigue and hardship, and suffered many privations while prosecuting the war, and, as many of them wish to avail themselves of the funds due them to supply their immediate wants, I would recommend that a law be passed authorizing scrip to be issued, redeemable as early as possible for the amount due each individual, and bearing interest until paid.

It has been supposed that the United States government would pay the expenses of this war; and I see no reason to doubt it, as it was entered into for the protection of American citizens. This will induce persons to purchase the scrip, and enable the holders to realize something for their services.

Every effort was made by me, after the breaking out of these difficulties, to get letters to California, asking for assistance from governor Mason. The earliest conveyance by which I could forward letters was the brig Henry, in March. By the return of the Henry, in August, a liberal supply of ordnance, and ordnance stores, was received from California, though not in time for the late campaign; still, should any difficulty occur hereafter, it places in our hands the means of defense.

The proposed amendments to the Organic law will come before you for final action; to amend the oath of office, to make the clerks of the different counties recorders of land claims, &c., and to strike out the word “regulate,” and insert the word “prohibit,” in the clause relating to the sale of ardent spirits. The last amendment came before the people for a direct vote, and I am happy to say that the people of this territory decided through the ballot box, by a majority of the votes given, that the word “prohibit” should be inserted.

This makes the question a very easy one for you to decide upon. I am fully satisfied that if ardent spirits could be kept out of this country, it would tend very much to promote the prosperity and welfare of this territory.

This is destined to be a very wealthy portion of the United States, and, if to this we can add the most temperate, nothing will prevent our rising, and becoming a valuable acquisition to the union. Much power now lies in your hands, and, I sincerely hope, we may commence our new career with a law in our statute books, prohibiting the manufacture and sale of ardent spirits in Oregon territory.

I would call your attention to a law passed at the last session of the legislature, entitled “An act to prevent the introduction of fire-arms among the Indians. As many of the Indians live by hunting and a small quantity of power and lead is actually necessary to provide for their wants, I think the law should be modified, so as to permit the sale of power and lead to friendly Indians.

A communication is about to be opened with the eastern states, through the agency of the steamers, that will tend very much to the advantage of this territory. Every facility we can afford them will help us. Coal, in large quantities, will be required for their use.

This article is, no doubt, abundant in this territory, and, if any way could be devised by which supplies form the different portions of the country could be procured and forwarded to their agents in order that the different qualities might be tested, it would tend to benefit us. If we have coal of the right description, so located that it can easily be placed on the banks of the Columbia river, there is no doubt that the Columbia river will become their principal depot. The dangers that have been thrown around the mouth of our river, will vanish on their first entering, and the dreaded bar will soon be forgotten.

As the probability is that the legislature of Oregon will convene at no distant day, under the new government, when the laws passed will have a more permanent basis to rest upon at the present, I would recommend that, after the indispensable business of the session is attended to, you adjourn.

In closing, permit me to unite with you in an expression of thankfulness to our Creator, for the many mercies bestowed on us during the past season, among which may be enumerated an abundant harvest, and the blessing of health. May we look to him for guidance and direction in the discharge of our several duties.

GEO. ABERNETHY

Oregon City, Feb. 5, 1849.

Oregon Secretary of State • 136 State Capitol • Salem, OR 97310-0722
Phone: (503) 986-1523 • Fax: (503) 986-1616 • oregon.sos@state.or.us

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