Governor A.C. Gibbs' Administration

Special Message, 1862

Source: Journals. Local Laws Oregon., 1862, Appendix, Special Message, Page 46.

Gentlemen of the Legislative Assembly:

"Article 5, of the Constitution of the State, provides that the Governor "Shall from time to time give to the Legislative Assembly information touching the condition of the State and recommend such measures as he shall judge to be expedient." In compliance with that provision, I respectfully submit the following suggestions:

A transition from a Territorial to a State organization always requires a change of laws adapting to the new state of things. Oregon had been an organized Territory for ten years.

The members of the last Legislature found that the laws were embraced in a number of volumes. And that the bound volume, including the practice act, was "out of print," and could not be purchased at any place. Hence, the Legislature wisely appointed a committee to collect and revise the laws. Owing to the absence of Hon. Amory Holbrook to the Atlantic States, the other members of the committee selected Hon. M. P. Deady to assist them. The temporary absence and sickness of other members of the committee, has caused most of the labor to fall on Judge Deady.

The report is herewith, submitted, and I earnestly recommend its passage without amendments, unless the same are well considered, so as not to destroy the harmony and connection of one part with another.

The report is not as full as might have been desired, but it embodies a complete code of practice in all our courts, and many general provisions. I trust the Legislature will connect with it some other necessary laws and order it printed in permanent form. But it may be well to take into consideration the propriety of publishing the code and such laws as are passed this session in pamphlet form; and of retaining the committee, or appointing a new one, to make further report and perfect this.

When the Statutes are published in a bound volume, it will probably be a number of years before they will be revised and published again, which is an additional reason why they should now be prepared with great care.

The resolution appointing the code committee, made no provision for payment for their labors. I therefore respectfully recommend the passage of an act, requiring the Secretary of the State to audit and draw warrants on the State Treasurer for their labors, at the rate of ---per day, upon the sworn statement of each member of the committee, for the actual time employed.

The Penitentiary has been a subject of considerable Legislation and some experiment. Its location is an unfortunate one, as a part of it is located on Block No.106, in the City of Portland, upon the property of Stephen Coffin. A part of it is situated on Block No.107, which purports to have been conveyed for the purpose of a site for the penitentiary. The balance of the building is situated in the street between said blocks, to which the State has not the shadow of title.

Block No.107 covers a deep gulch, fifty or more feet deep, so that it is impractical to improve it as the immediate wants of the Penitentiary demand.

Upon this point the committee appointed by the last Legislature reported: "All the land in the vicinity of the Penitentiary belonging to the State, is so broken and rough, that the amount required to level and prepare the ground for improvement and occupancy, is equal to the expense of erecting and completing new buildings and improvements in almost any other locality."

If the situation of the land was otherwise, one block—two hundred feet square—is entirely too small for penitentiary purposes. In this State where land is cheap, five acres or more should be selected and secured. By the correspondence herewith submitted, it will be seen that Stephen Coffin, the owner of Block No 106, upon which a part of the Penitentiary is situated, is unwilling to sell the land to the State. A high substantial wall should enclose the Penitentiary, workshops, et al, which cannot be built on the present site, if the Street Commissioner of Portland, or owners of private property, should object to it.

I therefore respectfully recommend, that as early as practicable, the location of the Penitentiary be changed to some accessible point, where title to enough land can be secured, possessing as many natural advantages for such an institution as possible. And, that the present Penitentiary property, or that part of it which would be impracticable to remove, be sold, and the proceeds applied in building a Penitentiary at a proper point. If the Seat of Government was considered permanently located, I should recommend its establishment at such point, together with all other State institutions, that they might be more directly under the supervision of the State officers, and that their workings, and management might be within the view of each member of the Legislature.

In new States, the real, or fancied interests of some town, is too frequently made to influence legislation in locating State institutions.

By the provisions of the Act of June 2, 1859, the Penitentiary was leased to Robert Newell and L.N. English for five years from the fourth day of June, 1859. The above lessees sub-let the same to Luzerne Besser, who now has charge of the institution and convicts.

There are now twenty-five convicts in the Penitentiary, twelve persons have been pardoned by the Governor since the last session of the Legislature, the terms for which five were sentenced expired, and they have been discharged, and twenty-five have escaped.

It is the normal custom of the Lessee to work most of the convicts outside of the Penitentiary within the City limits, in mills, brick yards, and at grading streets, digging ditches, sewers, &c. While this system has been a pecuniary benefit to the State, it has not answered the ends for which the institution was established. Those who need punishment most—the most desperate—are the first to escape.

Again, the working of convicts around the City, brings them in competition with, and degrades the free honest laborers of Portland. It is true, that if convicts work, as they ought to, they will come in competition with labor somewhere, but that competition should at least, be equal all over the State and not borne by a single class of laborers in one town. If workshops are built within walls, and convicts kept at some mechanical business, their competition will be generally with the Atlantic States, with an advantage of freights, commissions and interest of money, for what they manufacture, in favor of this State.

I, therefore, respectfully recommend that the system of working convicts away from prison or prison grounds, be prohibited.

As the present lease expires some three months before the next session of the Legislature, some provision ought to be made at all events, directing the management of the institution thereafter.
If five acres of ground was selected at some proper place for making brick, temporary log buildings could be built as secure as the present Penitentiary, and thereafter the convicts could make brick and build a substantial Penitentiary, workshops and a wall to enclose the same. Thereafter the convicts might be employed in making brick for other State buildings now needed, or they could then profitably be employed in manufacturing.

Herewith, I submit the report of L. Besser, Sub-Lessee of the Penitentiary.

Owing, in part, to the anxieties and disappointments of those who come to this country to become quickly rich, and their habits of life, there is a very large number of insane persons in this State in proportion to its population.

This unfortunate class of our citizens is entitled to our sympathies and care. It is the duty of the State to make permanent provisions for their care and medical treatment, and also for the deaf and blind, as soon as the wealth and condition of the country will permit. At an early day, while lands are cheap, good locations should be selected, upon which asylums can be built by convict labor or otherwise, as the wisdom of the Legislature may direct. Until this can be done, some temporary arrangements at State or county expense can doubtless be made with Drs. Hawthorne and Loryea for taking care of the insane. In view of an enlightened and humane policy, worthy of their high standing in the medical profession, they have at considerable expense, erected in East Portland, a private Asylum, which is alike creditable to themselves and the State. Every convenience for the safety, care and comfort of patients, which the new state of the country permits, appears to be there provided.

The last Congress has manifested a disposition to promote industrial pursuits, and elevate the standard of labor in the nation. I respectfully call your attention to the law establishing "The United States Department of Agriculture," and, also, Agricultural Colleges. The general designs of the former are, to acquire and diffuse, among the people of the United States, useful information on subjects connected with agriculture, in the most general and comprehensive sense of the word, and to procure, propagate and distribute among the people new and valuable seeds and plants.

For several years, efforts have been made to obtain from Congress donations of public lands, the avails of which should be applied for the endowment of an agricultural College in each State of the Union. At the last session of Congress, these efforts were successful. An Act was passed, granting to every State an amount of public land, to be apportioned to each State in quantity equal to thirty thousand acres for each Senator and Representative in Congress, to which the States are respectively entitled, by the apportionment of 1860; provided that no mineral lands shall be selected, or purchased, under the provisions of the Act. When the State selects its lands, they will be under the control of the State, and be managed at its expense until the sale. All money’s realized, under the law for lands, are required to be invested in stocks of the United States, or of the state, which yield five per cent, or more, interest per annum, and the money so invested, must remain a permanent fund, the interest of which shall be inviolably appropriated by each state, which claims the benefit of the Act, for the endowment, support and maintenance of at least one college, where the leading object shall be, without excluding other scientific and classical studies and including military science, to teach such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and the mechanic arts, in such manner as the Legislatures of the States may respectfully prescribe, in order to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and profession of life.

The proposition of the Government, if accepted and properly carried out, will doubtless be of calculable benefit to Oregon. States to be entitled to the lands must accept the proposition within two years from the approval of the Act by the President. That time will expire before the next regular session of the Legislature in Oregon, hence the necessity for immediate action.

The rich and extensive gold mines recently discovered in the eastern part of the State, have attracted a large population in the vicinity of John Days, Burnt and Powder Rivers. In prospecting for gold, farming lands have been found on the tributaries of those rivers, of greater extent than had been supposed before to exist in those regions. I am informed that considerable portions of said lands have already been taken and occupied by actual settlers.

This state of facts, with every reason to believe that there will be other discoveries, and more extensive settlements before the Legislature meets again, seems to require that there should be organized two or more counties. In the fourth judicial district (including Wasco county) there is already more court business than can be disposed of by one judge; and I consider it impractical and unjust to require the judges of the other districts to perform more labor than they now do, particularly with the small salary which they now receive. I, therefore, respectfully recommend that if new counties are organized, a new judicial district be created, including such counties and Wasco County.

During the last session of the Legislature a number of petitions were presented for charters for bridge and road companies; under the Constitution of the State, no special privileges can be granted. Companies must be organized under general laws.

In some portions of the State roads are easily made, and in others good roads can never be made except by private enterprise, without inflicting heavy burdens on the few persons living in the vicinity of them. The same may be substantially said of bridges.

There is no injustice in requiring those who travel over good bridges and roads, to pay their share of the expenses of making them, in proportion to the amount of their travel.
At present there is no law for the organization of turnpike or bridge companies, nor for engaging in other business as corporate companies. A general incorporation law should be passed at this session of the Legislature, under which incorporate companies may be formed to carry on any lawful business. It is believed that under such an Act, much of the money in the State which now being loaned at ruinous rates of interest, would be invested in manufacturing establishments, bridge and road companies, required for a development of the resources of the State.

By the constitution, the Governor of the State is made ex-officio Superintendent of Public Instruction.

There is no law requiring the county superintendents to report to the Governor the number of scholars or the condition of the school funds, in there respective counties.

The county Superintendents are the only persons authorized to grant certificates to teachers, and there is no person to whom teachers can appeal in case the Superintendents abuse their power in refusing certificates. I have known instances where great injustice has been done to teachers, and some person ought to be empowered to grant State certificates, to prevent such abuses and to accommodate such teachers as are really qualified to teach a common school in any part of the State.

Finance Caruthers, late of Portland, died - it is supposed, without heirs, leaving real estate to the value of some forty thousand dollars. If so, his property escheats to the State, and I therefore respectfully recommend, that a law be passed providing for the selection of an Attorney General of the State, whose duty it shall be to represent the State in all such cases. Or, that a suitable person be appointed in this case to preserve the rights of the State in the premises.

The late Governor of this State in his message of September 25th, 1860, very properly said: "There is no State or Territory belonging to the American Union, in which a well trained militia is more likely to be needed than in Oregon.

It is notorious that we are surrounded on all sides by a treacherous and warlike race of Indians, some of whom, have been in a state of open hostility during the past summer, and it is as well known, that in the event of the United States becoming involved in a war with any of the great powers of the civilized world, Oregon would be among the first to suffer from a descent upon her shores of a well disciplined soldiery."

I see no reason to change that recommendation, in fact, there is more danger of internal commotions, foreign war and trouble with our Indians in the eastern part of our State now, than then.

I cannot, therefore, too strongly urge upon you the importance of an immediate organization of an efficient military system for our state.

The purity of the ballot box is indispensable to the safety of a republican government.
A person that has no sympathy with our Government ought not to vote. As the law now is, when the vote of a person is challenged, before he can vote, he must swear that "he is twenty-one years of age; that he is a citizen of the United States, and he has resided six months in the State and fifteen days in the county, next preceding the election; and that he has not voted at this election."

I respectfully recommend, that the law be amended so as to also require persons whose votes are challenged, to take an oath to support the Constitution of the United States and of the State of Oregon, before they shall be allowed to vote at any election.

And that no person be allowed to vote at any election authorized by law, who has not paid all taxes assessed and due against him at the time he offers to vote. The unanimity and energy which has marked your labors thus far, leads me to believe that under Divine aid, you will have a useful session. And if by your wisdom and vigilance, and that of the State officers, that peace and prosperity which now surround us, shall be continued; a grateful constituency will remember you, while all will have abundant reason to be grateful to Almighty God.

Executive Office
Salem, Oregon, Sept.15,1862


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