Governor Theodore T. Geer's Administration
Biennial Message, 1903
Source: Oregon Messages and Documents, 1903, Governor's Biennial Message, Salem, Oregon, W.H. Leeds, State Printer, 1902.
BIENNIAL MESSAGE OF GOVERNOR T. T. GEER
TO THE TWENTY-SECOND LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY 1903
Gentlemen of the Legislative Assembly:
As the duly accredited representatives of the people of Oregon you have assembled in biennial session for the purpose of supplying whatever legislation may seem necessary to strengthen and maintain the public welfare. In this connection it is made my constitutional duty to communicate to you such information concerning the needs of the state as experience may have dictated or observation suggested.
If in this matter we may accept the complaints which have come from the people to the different state officers as a measure of their dissatisfaction with existing conditions, my recommendation must necessarily be brief and few, for certainly at no period in the history of the state has there been so little demand for any kind of new legislation, either by the people or the public press, as at this time. Abundant harvests of an increasing variety of crops at good prices have rewarded our farmers and stockmen, whose improved condition has stimulated business of all kinds. The hand of the law has rested lightly on the people, and domestic tranquility has especially characterized our condition during the past two years. Indeed, it is likely that if no legislation were had for the next two years, save that which is necessary to provide for the maintenance of the state government, no material interests would suffer anywhere.
It has long been a generally accepted maxim that the world is governed too much, and surely it may be truthfully said that more people give expression to a complaint that there are too many laws than to the contrary.
It is common for the legislature to assembly finding the condition of the state as good in every respect as it was at the adjournment of its predecessor, yet it will add from one hundred and seventy five to two hundred new laws to the already over-burdened statute books. The last five legislatures have enacted nearly nine hundred laws, those of the session of 1899 making a book nearly as large as one volume of the Cod itself.
I indulge these reflections merely as a caution against undertaking too much legislation. To be sure, changing conditions sometimes call for new legislation or amendments to that which we already have, but the present needs of the state are largely confined to such measures as have been recommended in the past, not only by myself, but by some of my predecessors.
The credit of the state remains unimpaired. Oregon does not owe one dollar and it may be said that no state in the Union is in better condition in every branch of its public service. More than this could not be reasonably asked or hoped for.
The last two years constitute the only period in the history of the state when there has not been a general and sometimes a vehement complaint against the inequalities of assessment and taxation. Two years ago I devoted a large part of my message to the legislature to an elaborate discussion and presentation of this question, as had all my predecessors, concluding in the following recommendation:
“In my judgment you should adopt one of two theories. The best one, if it can be had, will be to devise some system by which the state can assess a certain amount against each county, for state purposes, in proportion to its wealth or population, providing that the first taxes collected shall be paid on the state tax. This would at once and effectually destroy the incentive to undervaluation, would result in a benefit to the state and county, would remove the annoyance and expense of delinquent taxes and dispense with the necessity for a State Board of Equalization. It seems feasible and certainly has more elements of fairness in it than any system yet proposed. I am disposed to specifically recommend this method of raising the state’s revenue as appealing most strongly to my judgment as the best and simplest one yet presented.”
This recommendation was adopted by the legislature and the present law on the subject of assessment was passed. That is has met the expectations of its supporters is evidenced by the fact that at last the question has been eliminated from the list of subjects falling within the scope of public discussion. There seems no disposition anywhere to attack the central feature of this law.
There has, however, in some quarters, been a disposition to criticize the manner of collecting taxes in the matter of penalties against delinquents and rebates for those who pay promptly, but the improved condition of all the counties in the matter of promptly payment to axes protests in strong terms against any change along this line unless carefully guarded and attended by conservatism. Many of the counties have within the past week announced that their delinquent tax lists are the smallest in their histories. Most certainly the public good will be best subserved by retaining the principal features of the present method of collecting taxes.
THE LEWIS AND CLARK FAIR
You will be asked to appropriate the sum of $500,000 in aid of an exposition to be held in the City of Portland in the year 1905, in recognition of the centennial of the exploration of this northwestern country by Lewis and Clarke. Whether you should appropriate the sum asked is, of course, for you to determine. I am convinced that the state should give this enterprise a liberal support and that its benefits will add to its growth and development in a manner that will many times over return to its treasury in the years to come. I shall not attempt any argument along this line, but feel it my duty to warn you against appropriating this sum or even a smaller one unaccompanied by legislation providing for raising additional revenue by some means other than that now provided.
Indeed, this would be a matter for your serious consideration without regard to the Lewis and Clark appropriation. Justice requires it. A very few forms of property have long borne practically all the requirements of the state government in the matter of support, and these, in many cases, least able to bear them. The attention of the last legislature was called to the necessity of reform in this direction by the Secretary of State, and in his report to you this year will be found a renewal of his recommendation. The very full discussion and consideration he has given the matter makes it unnecessary for me to more than earnestly call your attention to its importance. Your committees on assessment and taxation should at once prepare a bill looking toward the taxation of corporations and various kinds doing business in the state as a means of largely increasing our revenues from a source hitherto unproductive in that direction.
This should not be done in a radical manner, for practically every corporation is an important factor in building up the industries of the state, and, therefore, contributing to the prosperity of all its people, but it should be required to yield a reasonable return to the state for the privileges conferred and protection guaranteed. I am not disposed to dismiss this question without again impressing on your not only its importance as a just measure, but that unless some provision along that line is made for raising a part of our state revenues, there is a strong probability that the Lewis and Clark appropriation would not successfully stand against a referendum of the question to the people.
The Lewis and Clark appropriation, considering its importance and the undoubted benefit it would be to the entire state for years to come, should be considered without reference to the success or failure of any other measure. It has a merit which should insure its passage independently of other considerations, and it should be enacted into law at the earliest possible moment, in order that the legislatures of other states may takes similar action during their present sessions. The time is ample, if not frittered away by needless complications, a procedure not at all necessary to anticipate.
I have considered the Lewis and Clark appropriation in connection with the demand for an amendment to our laws on taxation, including corporations of all kinds, for the reason that to make the fair appropriation without providing for the other will certainly constrain the people to order a referendum vote on the former, which, even though it should result favorably, would necessitate a postponement of the matter until its final determination would seriously cripple a very worthy enterprise.
I regard an amendment to our laws on taxation providing for raising revenue from corporations as one of the first duties which call for your prompt attention. This should include a tax on inheritances, a just and equitable manner of raising revenue that has been adopted by many states with satisfactory results. Real estate, a form of property that is always in sight, and, therefore easily found by assessors, but which is generally less productive than many other kinds of property, has long been, and is now, the bearer of the greater share of our governmental burdens. With a provision of this nature added to our present laws on assessment and taxation, there would seem to be little need for radical changes for years to come.
THE STATE LANDS
In my message to the last legislature I explained at much length and in detail the working of the different laws providing for the disposition of the state lands. This was done in a manner which made it easily understood by every citizen and makes its repetition unnecessary.
There has scarcely been a session of the legislature for forty years that did not make some change in the state land laws. These changes have made it somewhat difficult, not only for the average citizen to keep pace with the changes, but has, in some ways, created conditions which render their interpretation and enforcement more or less complicated and dependent upon the discretion and judgment of the State Land Board. In all cases the land board has been guided by what seemed the best interests of those purchasing lands and of the funds interested in such sales.
When the state lands of Oregon were first offered for sale no one but an actual settler could become a purchaser. The law of 1864 provided that those already claimed by settlers should be sold for $1.25 an acre, and those which were vacant, and yet to be designated as state lands, should be sold for $2 an acre. In 1868 it had become evident that it was not always possible to give a deed to state lands that would stand the test of subsequent investigation and changing conditions, and the legislature of that year authorized the State Land Board to “audit and adjust claims which may be supported by satisfactory evidence where land has been sold as school or university lands, which had not been nor could not be selected as either, but which had been bought and paid for under a misapprehension of its condition. “ This provision has been reenacted and added to many times since, and is the law at present.
In 1878 the law was again amended requiring the board to sell all state lands, agricultural college lands at $2.50 an acre, and all other kinds at $2 per acre, allowing 320 acres to actual settlers and 160 acres to persons not settlers. It was by this act of 1878 that the policy of selling our lands to those not settlers was first adopted.
The land laws were again amended in 1887 requiring the land boards to sell all state lands, excepting agricultural college lands at $1.25 an acre. This law provided that when an applicant desired to purchase lieu lands he should himself supply the deficiency, or base, and when the selection should be accepted by the register of the proper land office, the state should issue a certificate of sale, or deed, as the case might be. There being no law to the contrary this custom of issuing deeds has been since followed. In all cases where the selection afterward proved invalid, repayment was made, as now, to the purchaser.
By the act of 1895 lieu lands were withdrawn from sale for two years, and the price raised to not less than $2.50 an acre. In 1899 the law was again amended, authorizing the state land board to sell all state lands, excepting lieu lands, at $1.25 an acre, and the piece of agricultural college lands was reduced to $1.25 an acre.
It will thus be seen that while at first the object was to dispose of state lands to actual settlers, this policy was long ago abandoned, and the principal object of the law for years has been to stimulate the sales of all our lands at the prices indicated and to convert them into money for the state school fund. Settlement or occupancy is nowhere required by our present land laws, and as a result of throwing our public domain wide open to purchasers who may never intend coming to the state, the sales have certainly met the expectation of those who have framed them.
It required no gift of prophecy to foresee that when the people of the entire United States were asked to purchase our lands, without any requirement of occupancy or settlement, the spirit of speculation was invited, and in many cases has appeared. The restriction of three hundred and twenty acres to one person would prevent speculation on a large scale, if purchasers could be prevented from afterwards disposing of their lands; but since no such law has ever been enacted in any state, and never will, it is not at all probably that men who desire to secure large tracts of lands will ever experience much difficulty in doing so. Indeed, section 16 of the law of 1899 plainly points out how purchasers who are restricted to three hundred and twenty acres may at once lawfully dispose of their certificates of sale to any purchaser of certificates who may want to acquire state lands in large tracts, and thus circumvent the ostensible intention of the law; but since the first object of the state has been to dispose of its lands, without any reference to settlement, and to convert their value, as indicated by law, into the school fund, no complaint can be legitimately made of the flattering success that has been achieved.
Yet, singularly enough, because the plain intention of the law has been carried out to the letter, and because the lands have been sold according to the policy of the legislature as established from session to session, officials whose duty it is to enforce the lands laws are sometimes accused of “frittering away the public domain”. So far as the State Land Board is aware, not an acre of state lands has been sold that has not brought the price of it into the state treasury. If the state wants to keep its lands, or if it wants to realize a higher price per acre for them, or if it desires to sell to actual settlers only, or if it wants to prohibit any man from owning more than three hundred and twenty acres of land under any circumstances, let the legislature so declare, and there will be no difficulty in finding officers who comply with such requirements; but it is the sheerest of nonsense to invite the citizens of the entire United States to purchase our lands and at the same time to suppose that the State Land Board will sell such lands to actual settlers only.
We can not have our lands and sell them too, neither can we expect to confine the holdings of every man to three hundred and twenty acres of any one kind of land when the same law authorizing the sale points out the way by which one man may lawfully purchase a hundred certificates of sale the next day after the state has issued them to a hundred different men, with only one fifth of the purchase price paid down. The dominating feature of all our land laws is to encourage the hundred men to buy land, but, after they have done so and according to law have sold their claims to the purchaser of certificates, the purchaser at once becomes a “land grabber”, and the state officials are accused of frittering away the public domain.
I suggest gentlemen, that if you desire a change of policy in the disposition of the public lands, and if you will specifically provide for what you want, future state lands boards, will, as the present one has, comply with every requirement of the law.
The total receipts from the cash sale of lands, including payments on certificates, from January 1, 1901, to January 1, 1903, amounted to $502,094.13. During the first twenty-one months of this period the sum of $603,818 was loaned from the irreducible school fund. During the last three months the sum of $201,540, including renewals, has been loaned, making practically $780,000 of new loans during the past two years.
On September 30th last the total amount of the school fund loaned was $2,423,014.87. This amount is held in different sums by 2,200 citizens of Oregon, averaging about $1,200 each. The interest on these notes is paid up to some time in 1901, excepting about 10, and all but 300 are paid to some time in 1902. Never in the history of the state has the school fund in all respects been in such a satisfactory condition, a testimonial not only to the persistence of the State Land Board in collection of delinquent interest, but also to the prosperous condition of our people.
The amount of the school fund principal now in the treasury is $729,435.42. For general recommendations and information relating to the school fund and the state lands you are respectfully referred to the report of the State Treasurer and to that of the State Land Board.
It is especially desire that you appoint a competent committee to investigate in the most thorough manner the records of the Land Department in all its bearings. The work of investigating committees should not be done perfunctorily, but in the most searching and effective manner. The people want no whitewashing examination of their public affairs and neither do the state officers. Make a thorough examination or make none.
THE STATE LAND AGENT
Your attention is called to the excellent work accomplished for the state by the State Land Agent. Under the law of 1899 his principal duty has been to look after the farms acquired by the state through the foreclosure of mortgages given to the common school fund. On January 1, 1899, the state had acquired forty-eight farms by this manner which had cost it $82,945. It has been his duty to find purchasers for these farms as fast as possible, at the best obtainable prices, to find renters where sales were not to be had and to look after the collection of the rents.
These farms are situated in nearly every county of the state and their successful management necessarily requires incessant labor. On the first of January, 1901, there were 126 farms on hand and 38 have been acquire since, making a total of 154. Of these 91 have been sold, leaving 73 yet owned by the state. The cost to the state of these 81 farms was $140,023, and they were sold for $179,154, an excess in favor of the state of $39,131. Partial sales have been made amounting to $6,557, and the rents collected and forfeited payments, $11,297, making a total in receipts of $197,009.
During the two previous years ninety-two farms which had cost the state $165,935 were sold for $188,880, a net gain to the state of $22,945. In the four years 173 farms, which cost the state $305,958, have been sold for $368,034, a net gain to the state of $62,076.
This is a most excellent showing and considering that business of this character, involving the foreclosure of mortgages usually results in a loss, this gain of $62,000 to the school fund indicates an efficiency and degree of industry on the part of the State Land Agent that is very gratifying.
Incidental to this duty of the State Land Agent is that of making selection of indemnity lands. For this work the office of State Land Agent was created in 1895, and at the end of four years Hon. T.W. Davenport, who had discharged its duties during that term, advised it abolition, for the reason that he had so nearly exhausted all the available base that a continuance of his office was unnecessary. In his last message to the legislature, Governor Lord, referring to the report of the State Land Agent, said:
“His report is full of valuable suggestions relating to the disposition fob our public lands, not the least amount which is his recommendation that the act creating his office and its duties, having accomplished the object for which it was enacted, be abolished. There being, therefore, no further need for the continuance of the act, I concur in his suggestion and recommend its repeal.”
For the purpose indicated the suggestion of Governor Lord should have been followed. There has not been a sufficient amount of indemnity selections to make to have justified the continuance of a land selecting agent, yet, paradoxical as it may seem, the smaller the area of base to be obtained the more difficult it becomes to be certain of its validity. When there was a vast reserve from which to choose, or other similar sources, base whose validity could not be questioned was abundant and no trouble need be encountered.
But in many sections of the state there were and are small fractional tracts of lands along the state boundary lines, or adjacent to the banks of lakes and rivers or the ocean, which, if the situation is favorable, can be used for basis for selections, but whether they are valid or would be accepted by the General Land Office can not be determined without making the selection and sending it forward for a decision.
But in many sections of the state there were and are small fractional tracts of lands along the state boundary lines, or adjacent to eh banks of lakes and rivers or the ocean, which, if the situation is favorable, can be used for basis for selections, but whether they are valid or would be accepted by the General Land Office can not be determined without making the selection and sending it forward for a decision.
By a careful and continuous searching of the records attorneys for intending purchasers have discovered fractional tracts here and there and have insisted that selections be made upon them. If from his experience with the department the agent would suggest the probably rejection of a given tract and his preference to not make the selection, he would often subject himself to the charge of desiring to favor some other applicant, but if, on the other hand, he should comply with the request and make the selection and it should be rejected, those are not found wanting who easily connect the rejection of an attempted selection with an attempted fraud.
Practically all the base left over at the end of Governor Lord’s administration was, as he indicated, fractional, and the validity of such tracts could only be determined by trying them out in the General Land Office. Considering the changed conditions indicated, the percentage of approvals attending recent selections, has been satisfactory. Rejection and duplications have been common from the beginning of our land history, and latterly, especially, all purchasers have been fully informed of the doubtful character of the base supplied, if any doubt existed. The difficulties attending making selections under present conditions are not generally understood, and no officer can be possibly foresee what the determination of the department at Washington will be in any given case.
In the early history of Oregon the different county school superintendents made the selections for indemnity lands and sold the lands as well. With the records imperfectly kept, and thus scattered all over the state, and with the inexcusable carelessness of some of the first clerks of the school land board, a great many of the earlier land transactions have no record at all in our land department. It is thus not always possible to avoid duplications of land transactions, as the complete records in many cases are to be found only in the department records in Washington.
Under all grants of lands from the general government to the state, those of a mineral character are expressly withheld and never become the property of the state. If the state sells such lands in good faith they can afterward be taken from the purchaser upon proof which they may be satisfactory to the general government that they were known to be of mineral character at the time of survey. For this reason and upon the basis of the recommendation of Governor Lord, regarding the further selection of indemnity lands, the state has, by declining to employ special agents under pay, encouraged private individuals who were so disposed, to adjudicate, at their own expense, such vacant school sections as might be mineral, while they are yet vacant, in order to determine the state’s right to them, while such adjudication will not interfere with the rights of purchasers. This is a good policy, not only for subsequent purchasers but for the state as well, since every acre of these mineral school sections is practically worthless, but as base for indemnity selections is worth $2.50 an acre, at least.
The temporary establishment of large reserves in the northeastern part of the state created an unexpected demand for school sections in that region, that had been for sale without any buyers for many years past, notwithstanding the unusual demand for land. Suddenly, however, these hitherto worthless sections were bought up, many of them in one day, and before the State Land Board had any information of the contemplated creation of the reserve. This supports the conclusion that the purchasers of these lands had some information of the intended withdrawal, and bought them with a view of using them for base in the selection of valuable indemnity lands. Some of these sections were already so far in process of adjudication as to have been approved by the local United States land officers but the fact had not been reported to the State Land Board. The result is, that these purchasers of hitherto unsalable lands for purposes of speculation will, if the reserve shall be finally established, be entitled to the selection of valuable indemnity lands in their place, but, if not made, it is not likely any further payments will be made, and the state will have gained the sum of twenty-five cents per acre already paid.
Not a single complaint has been made to the board by any one claiming to be a settler on any of the lands upon which adjudication is being made.
Your attention is called to the necessity for an increased appropriation for guard service at the penitentiary. This has been requested repeatedly of former legislatures by the prison authorities but without success. No provision has ever been made for but one night watchman within the grounds at the prison, which has furnished little more than no protection at all. The prison stockade is so constructed with outside buttresses every twenty feet that nine men out of ten, as they might be selected at random, could easily scale it without any assistance whatever. There being no guards on the wall at night and only one inside, any ex-convict so disposed (and they are al informed as to the situation on the inside,) could, without trouble, scale the wall and deposit firearms or other weapons for mischief with a minimum of danger of discovery. It was this manifest deficiency in protection that made the escape of Tracy and Merrill possible. This danger was pointed out to the last legislature, but as to evil result had followed, it was suggested that no change was necessary.
After the break last June occurred, with the deplorable consequences that followed, the superintendent employed two extra guards on the night force. This extra force is still maintained, as it is an actual necessity; I urge that you make provision for its permanent maintenance.
Under the able management of Superintendent Lee the penitentiary has been an d is a model penal institution, and with the exception of the unfortunate escapes of last June, and which under existing conditions could not have been avoided, the results have been satisfactory in every particular. In the interest of efficiency resulting from experience, a large percentage of the employees serving under the preceding administration have been retained. Good discipline has been enforced without the use of the dungeons at all and excessive or unnecessary punishment has in no case been resorted to. Accompanying this document you will find a record of the pardons and commutations issued during the last two years, with the reasons therefore.
OREGON NATIONAL GUARD
Resulting directly from the constant attention to duty on the part of Adjutant General and his assistants, the national guard has reached and is maintaining a high degree of efficiency. A well organized national guard is a necessary complement of every state government, as a guarantee for the protection of life and property in cases of riot or invasion. An increased appropriation for this purpose was made two years ago, and it has been used with a view only to the better equipment of our citizen soldiers.
For the purpose of presenting certain claims of the state against the United States Government growing out of the Spanish war, I directed Adjutant General Gantenbein to proceed to Washington and represent the state in person. This was done at small cost to the state. The first claim was for articles furnished the Second Oregon Regiment, and amounted to $40,258, but the War Department thought the claim unreasonable, and suggested a settlement by the payment of $17,000. By the personal attendance and explanation by the Adjutant General the sum of $32,881 was secured, or nearly $16,000 more than was at first offered.
In January, 1902, the Adjutant General was again directed to proceed to Washington City and present the claim of the Second Oregon Regiment Volunteers who were members of the Oregon National Guard at the time they were mustered into the United States service, at the rate of $1.50 per day from the day of rendezvous to the muster into the volunteer army. The amount thus secured, with other claims, was $21, 779. Of this sum the amount of $17,106 was due to the volunteers who were accepted under the President’s first call for troops, and the act of Congress authorizing it expressly provides that it shall not be covered into the state treasury, but shall be delivered to the Governor as trustee for the men. Payment was begun on February 25, 1902, and 832 first-call volunteers were paid upon properly verified vouchers to and including December 31, 1902. the addresses of 169 have not yet been found.
The total amount collected was $54,660, $32,881 as the result of the Adjutant General’s first trip to Washington, and $21,779.94 as the result of the second.
THE DIRECT NOMINATING LAW
For many years there has been a general demand for reformation in the manner of making nominations for public offices. The discussion of the question has taken a wide range, but the sentiment in its favor is practically unanimous. The instances where a country or state convention trample under foot the demands of the people have been to numerous and flagrant to require any argument in support of their proof. The convention system is a superfluous agency for doing that which the people may themselves as well do directly.
The people of the entire state, of every party, meet before the opening of every campaign in what are called primary meetings. This is done to select men to represent them in county conventions for the purpose of choosing their candidates for county offices and other men to represent them in the different state conventions. While assembled in their primary meetings the people had as well express themselves directly as to their preference for county and state candidates as to choose representatives to do the same thing, or, as is often the case, to not do it.
The direct primary nominating system has every argument in its favor. When the people are assembled in their primary meetings they can select their candidates instead of their representatives to choose candidates for them. The system will require two elections, one to choose candidates and the other to choose officers, and under it the opportunity for designing men to manipulate conventions and thwart the public demand will be entirely removed. Under our present system for decades past instances have been frequent where the popular will has been turned into the grasping vortex of unrelenting bossism, to be recognized or heard of again nevermore. If you adjourn without giving the people the relief they demand, and have been long demanding in this direction, you will have failed to perform your duty in a most important matter.
ELECTION OF UNITED STATES SENATOR
In obedience to a general demand from the people and the press of the state, the last legislature passed a law providing for a direct vote on candidates for United States senator. After a careful revision during its passage this law was enacted by a vote that was practically unanimous and in exact accord with its provisions the popular vote was held last June. Its passage was advocated on the ground that the people should be heard on this question and because for twenty years scarcely a session of the legislature has been held in Oregon without a prolonged contest that has unnecessarily retarded need legislation. To avoid this needless turmoil the present law was passed. In many states of the Union the result of this first attempt at the popular vote for United States senators is watched with much interest, and its prompt observance and ratification will not only encourage its adoption in other states, but will prove the sincerity of our protestations in favor of popular elections of senators, and render impossible repetition of former experiences in Oregon, to prevent which, this law was formulated, supported, and adopted.
THE OREGON HISTORIAL SOCIETY
During the last two years the Oregon Historical Society has accomplished a vast amount of good in the collection of valuable data in connection with the early settlement of the state. For the future historian of Oregon the facts thus collected with be invaluable. The pioneers, who, so wisely and patriotically laid the foundations for our present government are fast passing away, and since the early history of the state was not systematically preserved, it is of great importance that as perfect a record as possible be obtained from them while yet among us, by those specially delegated for that work. The last of our great home builders will soon have passed on to that undiscovered country, and for this reason I am prompted to earnestly urge upon you the necessity of an appropriation amply sufficient for the successful prosecution of the work now under way by the State Historical Society.
THE STATE FAIR
By the special direction of the legislature four years ago I appointed an entirely new board of directors for the state fair, which at the time was apparently upon the verge of final dissolution. Under the excellent business management of the board thus selected the state fair has become a magnificent success in every feature, and is so regarded everywhere. The display of stock, especially, for the past two year, has admittedly surpassed any exhibit in that line every held west of the Rocky Mountains. With these results to speak for themselves in aiding and stimulating the agricultural development and resources of the state the former prejudice existing against the fair has changed into a feeling of popular approval, and I bespeak for the management a liberal support from the state treasury. It will be money well expended.
For many years there has been a growing dissatisfaction among the people as to the fee system which is applied to the payment of certain public salaries. During the past year the question was given a degree of prominence which secured for it a place in every party platform demanding its abolition. It is not a partisan question at all, and since it was one of the few question upon which all parties pledged affirmative action by their representatives in the legislature, it may be well taken for granted that you will not let the session pass with the promise unfulfilled. I wish to especially impress upon the members of the dominant party the necessity for prompt and decisive action on this question. It may be assumed that no objection to the proposition will be urged, as all the new officers were elected upon this pledge. Where the people have directly expressed themselves on any question at the ballot box a disregard of the mandate can only be attended by disastrous results.
THE SALMON HATCHERIES
The salmon hatching industry has shown a marked stimulus during the past four years, as indicated by the increase of young fry turned out from the state hatcheries. In 1899 the total output from our state hatcheries was 3,000,000; in 1900, 3,600,00; in 1901, 15,000,000, and in 1902, 26,000,000. The fish commission has left nothing undone in the way of establishing hatcheries where there seemed a probability of success, and not only does the gratifying increase noted by the figures given establish without doubt the feasibility of artificial hatcheries, but the great increase of salmon in the Columbia River and its tributaries demonstrates the practical and permanent value they will be to the state. The salmon industry has become one of the great sources o four permanent wealth and furnishes employment to thousands of our worthy citizens.
Your especial attention is called to the report of the Master Fish Warden for a detailed statement of the business transacted in his department during the part two years.
BOARD OF PILOT COMMISSIONERS
By reference to the report of the Board of Pilot Commissioners it will be seen that the condition of the bar at the mouth of the Columbia offers a greater obstacle to shipping than for many years past. This is a serious matter, an not only affects the material interests and development of Eastern Oregon, but is a matter of concern to every section of the state. No question is of greater importance to the state’s interests at large than the maintenance of a deep channel at the bar of the Columbia River and an open river to the head of navigation. I desire to urge upon you the importance of memorializing congress on this subject, asking for speedy and effective action looking toward the accomplishment of these ends.
NORTHWESTERN STOVE FOUNDRY
Under the reorganized contract with the Lowenberg & Going Co. the payments for convict labor continue to be promptly made each month when due. From the beginning of operations under the new contract, entered into four years ago, all the obligations of this company have been paid without trouble or delay. It has, for the last two years, employed all the convicts that could be spared from the regular prison work, and has frequently made application for more. The receipts for convict labor have amounted approximately to $24,000 during the past two years, or an average of $1,000 per month. In addition to this the state received the sum of $2,000 per annum for the rent of foundry paint.
As a measure for prevention, rather than for cure, I recommend the enactment of a law prohibiting the employment of children, within certain ages, in factories or similar places of labor. I am not aware that this is at present done in Oregon, but it is a species of injustice and indiscretion permitted in many other states, and it will be well to prevent its introduction here before it becomes a custom. Children are the incipient men and women who, in time, will be called upon to discharge the responsible functions of adult American citizens, and their proper preparation, in schools and otherwise, is a matter for general public concern.
THE TEXT-BOOK COMMISSION
The legislature of 1899 passed a law providing for the appointment of a State Board of Text-Book Commissioners whose duty it should be to adopt a new series of text-books for the six years beginning with their selection. Under the provisions of this law I was required to appoint these commissioners some time during the month of January, 1901. In accordance with this requirement I have to report that I selected five representative citizens of the state, who faithfully performed the great trust committed to their care, and in such a satisfactory manner that no word of complaint of any kind has ever been heard. It is seldom that a more responsible or more difficult duty is delegated to five men, and both the people and the commissioners are to be congratulated upon the successful and satisfactory manner in which the object of the law has been attained.
PROTECTION AGAINST FOREST FIRES
The devastating forest fires which destroyed so many lives and so much property during the past autumn in Oregon suggests the necessity of amending our present law on the subject of starting fires during certain months of the year. Without suggesting any special provision I desire to call your attention to the subject as one that should not be overlooked. Thousands of acres of valuable timber were swept out of existence within a week, an utter extinction of wealth that had been hundred of years in reaching its perfected stage. Strict penalties should be provided for starting fires under any circumstances during certain months of the year. We are inviting investors from all over the United States to buy our timber lands, and we owe this guarantee to them as well as to our own citizen s. While fire, when under control, is an invaluable servant, it is a most unrelenting master.
THE STATE INSTITUTIONS
The system of government provided by our constitution embraces a form which, for economy, is not equaled by any other state in the Union. Oregon has fewer officers than any other state, and therefore, they perform more duties than are required of similar officers elsewhere. The four principal state officers, consisting of the Governor, the Secretary of State, the Stat Treasurer, and the Superintendent of Public Instruction, control and direct all our public institutions, as well as the vast business connected with our state lands, the irreducible school fund, our enormous fishing industry, and other interests not now necessary to mention. It may be well imagined that this entails a vast amount of work and constant attention to duty on the part of four men only. It is with a feeling of pride, shared by my colleagues in the state government, that I call your attention to the excellent condition of all these institutions, and the greater interests involved in some of the other departments mentioned.
Only men of character and integrity have been chosen for the discharge of the duties required of subordinate officers, and the exceedingly small number of complaints made against the management of any of the public interests attests the excellent character of their administration. It will be utterly impossible for a greater degree of economy to be enforced in any of the institutions. The wages paid to employees are in every instance extremely low, and in many cases are almost distressingly so. The cost of maintenance can not be well reduced at the present prices for supplies, which are purchased from the lowest bidders. I speak for my colleagues as well as for myself in stating that at all times, when discussing ways and means for the management of all our public interests, our dominating purpose has been to discover that which would best subserve the general welfare. Not in a single instance has there been any departure from this view of our public duty. The success that has attended our efforts is evidenced by the unusual scarcity of criticism of present conditions either by the press or the people.
THE SOLDIERS’ HOME
There is, perhaps, no soldiers’ home in the United States that is better managed than the Oregon home, at Roseburg, a fact that is a strong argument against the trustee system of management. Prior to the abolition of that system, four years ago, there was constant turmoil and trouble between the members of that board, the officers, and even the inmates of the home. This disappeared at once with the placing of the management of the affairs of the home under the control of the Governor, and the utmost harmony has since existed. It is the only home in the Untied States not managed by a board of trustees, numbering variously from three to twenty-one members.
The present system is an advantage over the trustee system because it is ten times as difficult for ten men to agree on a given proposition as it is for one man.
The soldiers’ home is absolutely without fire protection of any kind, and is the only state institution so situated. This should not be allowed to continue, for it is not only indefensible as to negligence, but is flagrantly inhumane. The water supply is so scant as to be absolutely useless in a case of fire. There is no reservoir and no water supply of any kind, excepting that which is nearly closed by corrosion. The ordinary demand for water during the morning hours of each day consumes all the water which the present pipe will carry.
Considering that all the members of the home are old and many of them decrepit and sleep in the third story of the building, it should only require this statement of the situation there to guarantee an appropriation sufficiently large to provide against the possible loss of life and property through its unnecessary and unjustifiable continuance.
INSURANCE ON PUBLIC BUILDINGS
This leads to the consideration of the question of insurance on public buildings. It is my judgment, concurred in by other members of the different boards, that the state should carry no insurance on its public buildings. During the past forty years I believe there has been no fire in any public building, save the recent fire at the reform school. This fact shows that the chances for loss of property from fire are too small to justify incurring the expense of insurance. The most valuable of our state buildings, the capitol, is not insured for a dollar and never has been.
I bring this matter to your attention as an important question and one upon which you should take definite action.
There should be a law instructing the different boards to insure the state buildings in an amount definitely specified, or, you should declare that, since the state’s resources are stronger than those of any insurance company, it is the policy of the state to carry its own insurance.
The failure to take definite action in this matter may well be taken as an indication that the various boards are not expected to maintain insurance on the state’s property.
Gentlemen of the Legislative Assembly, I am about to lay down the great trust confided to my keeping four years ago by the people of Oregon. They have been four years of constant attention to the details of the multifarious duties devolved upon the chief executive under our constitution and the laws. Being subject to the limitations of human imperfections, I have doubtless made some mistakes, but at this moment I am conscious of having at all times been guided by an undeviating desire to enhance the welfare of my beloved native state, and the splendid condition of our financial and other interests at this time bespeaks the degree of success that has been achieved.
I cannot close without congratulating my colleagues in the state government upon their re-election, and this congratulation should and does extend to the people. Associated with these public officials in the closet of business relations each day for four years, I have found them at all times courteous, careful, industrious, and honest. No shadow has come across the pathway of our official duties to mar our pleasant relations and no disagreements upon matters of public business have arisen in any case. Daily consultations attended always by unrestrained confidence, have been held and advice has been sought and given on all matters pertaining to our respective positions and duties.
I make no attempt to conceal the sadness with which I now sever my official connections with them. I do so with the expressed hope that the term of office just opening to them may be attended with the same degree of success in the performance of their official duties as that which characterized the one just closing, and that my successor in the executive office may meet with an experience as pleasant as mine has been.
It is with a grateful heart that I think the people of Oregon for the generous and unfailing support they have at all times given me when the opportunity has been presented to them, and I return to private life dominated by the all-pervading hope that the future of this great commonwealth may be commensurate with that position among her sister states which, under the providence of God, her resources and her people have said should be hers.