Governor William P. Lord's Administration

Governor's Message, 1898

Source: Journal of House of the Legislative Assembly, Special Session, 1898, Governor's Message, Salem, Oregon, W.H. Leeds, State Printer, 1898.

Gentlemen of the Legislative Assembly:

The constitution authorizes the governor, on extraordinary occasions, to convene the legislative assembly by proclamation, and, when assembled, devolves upon him the duty to state to both houses the purposes for which he has convened them. By the virtue of such authority, and in compliance with this requirement, I shall endeavor briefly to state the reasons which have induced me to summon you body in special session.

We are at a critical period in the history of our country. The next few years will mark and advance to retrograde movement in our national destiny. Not since the war of the rebellion has the statesmanship of our country been confronted with questions of such transcendent importance as those which have grown out of out victorious contest with Spain. They are question involving consideration of such various sort and far-reaching effect, that they will require for their rightful solution the best brains and wisest heads of our country. Cuba and Porto Rico in the west, and the Philippine islands in the far east, have been wrested from their Spanish oppressor by our victorious arms, and are now in the possession of the United States, to be dealt with on those enlightened principles of justice and equity which animate the conduct of free governments. Hawaii has gravitated to us, by the law of political affinity, and by annexation has become a permanent part of our territory. All these islands lie within the tropical regions; their climate is mild and their soil fruitful to exuberance, rendering the struggle for existence free form that constant labor and effort exacted by the rigor of the temperate zones. Their people are of an alien race, whose habits and customs, modes of thought and civilization, form of government and institutions, are different from our own, and whose condition of poverty, ignorance, and wretchedness is the result of pitiless taxation and merciless tyranny. As a consequence of these causes, and of blood adulteration, deteriorating the quality of their people, and weakening their mental and moral fiber, these islands, though richly endowed by nature, have been only partially developed, their civilization is stationary or backward, and in some of the Philippines a condition prevails that verges on semi-barbarism.

To meet these complex conditions and undertake their general improvement; to institute regulations aiming to revive trade, improve sanitary conditions, induce social reform, and aid in the educational and political advancement of these people; to win their loyalty by providing a government that people; to win their loyalty by providing a government that shall lighten the burden of taxation, add to the wealth of the country by development of its natural resources and the interchange of trade and commerce, protect rights of property, and secure the blessings of civil and religious liberty, is and Herculean task, demanding for its proper performance our best thought and wisest statesmanship. If we must retain these islands, or any part of them, considerations of this kind must confront us for determination. We are in legal possession of them, and cannot shirk the responsibility of our position. Can we give them back to Spain? Would not such an act be a crime and t urn the glory of our battles into victories of dishonor? All commercial nation now are fighting for trade, and in their race of cupidity and inordinate ambition China is threatened with partition. We need the business of these islands. Exchange of products, natural and artificial, would be mutually beneficial to them and to us. We must find an outlet for eth surplus product of our fields and forests, our factories and workshops; we must share on equal terms with all other nations the opportunity for trade in the Orient, which or possession of the Philippine islands affords us. Their location is said to be the key to the Orient, and now to throw away the opportunity it affords would be worse than a blunder – it would be a calamity. What, then, shall we do with these islands? Shall we retain them as naval stations, or as a permanent part of our territory? And if the latter, what form of government shall be devised for them? Shall it be a protectorate, or a dependency, or what? These are some of the important questions which will confront our national legislature at its next session in December, and demonstrate the need of a full representation in that body. Already, commissioners to agree upon terms of peace have been appointed by the United States and Spain, and have e received their instructions from their respective governments, and the strong probability is that they will close their labors and make their report before the meeting of the United States congress in December.

It is important, then, to our state and the nation, that we should have senator present to assist in the discharge of the onerous and responsible duties of the senate. If his election be delayed until the regular session, he will not be likely to reach Washington until near the end of the session if February; but his election now will afford him opportunity not only to ascertain the will of his constituency, but to study the situation and acquaint himself with its environments, so as to be ready to render intelligent and faithful service when the session of congress begins in December, and when the country needs his service and the administration his support.
There is another matter incidentally connected with these considerations which furnishes additional reason for he election of a senator at the present time. I refer to the early construction of Nicaraguan canal. The wonderful voyage of the battleship Oregon has demonstrated the necessity of its construction, to protect our coast from depredation and or commerce from spoliation. Its building ought to be undertaken without further delay; it should be built, owned and operated exclusively by the United States. THE canal should be in name and fact an American canal under American control. No corporation should be allowed to construct it, or supervise its operations. The building, though, of this isthmian waterway, uniting two great oceans, will necessarily affect the interests of all commercial nations, and give rise to many confliction questions of public policy and international relations which our country cannot ignore, and which will require the wisdom of its best statesmen to solve on principles of justice and equity. But build this canal mush be, whatever the responsibility it imposes, to meet the demands of our growing commerce, and to strengthen our coast defenses. THE signs of the times, the future development of our boundless resources, the growth of out industrial interests and commercial enterprises admonish us of the necessity of its early construction, and of the importance of organizing an naval force adequate to protect our commerce and coast from the depredations of hostile nations, and equal to the task of meeting all questions for which our government stands sponsor among the nations of the earth.

These considerations, gentlemen, are suggested as showing in part the necessity of an extra session, to enable you body to select a senator before the meeting of congress in December, and thus afford our state an opportunity to be heard in its deliberations, and to cast its full vote in determining these various important questions, which so largely affect the interest and welfare of our state and the states of the Pacific coast.

The failure of the legislature to organize at its regular session in 1897 left the state without an appropriation of money to meet its current expenses, and in consequence many warrants have been issues for salaries and audited claims, and many vouchers exist for unaudited demands t hat need to be examined, and, if they are found correct, warrants should be drawn for their payment, after which an appropriation should be made of the funds in the state treasure to pay all such outstanding warrants.

The appropriation for such objects ought to receive your attention early in the session, to enable you to give full consideration to its carious items, and prevent the payment of fraudulent or illegal claims. It would greatly augment the labor so the regular session to impose upon it the work of examining the accounts and providing appropriations for their payment, in addition to estimating the revenue to meet expenses for the ensuing two years. An appropriation bill is always exposed to more or less dickering and jobbery, and to have tow such bill pending before the regular session, would afford too great an opportunity for raiding the treasure with swapping jobs, needless appropriations and pillaging contracts. It is better --- far better --- that the regular session shall be relieved of this work, and its time occupied with providing remedial legislation so urgently demanded, and enacting wise laws to advance the interests of the state and the happiness of its people. I am desirous that the affairs of the present administration shall be examined and closed, and not imposed upon the incoming administration. I want the decks of our splendid ship of state cleared and ready for action when my successor shall take her helm, though I trust that, during his tern and under his pilotage, with banners streaming and sails set to catch the factoring gales, she may be wafted over summer seas on a prosperous voyage.

The business of the supreme court has increased so rapidly that the court is now behind more than two years in the hearing of cases. It is imperative that some relief should be afforded the court, so that a prompt hearing and adjudication of causes may be obtained. To afford such relief two remedies have been suggested: One is to enact a law that shall limit appeals to the supreme court, in civil cases, to those involving title to real estate, or matters affecting the public revenue, the construction of the constitution of the state or the United States, or where questions of franchise are raised, or where the amount of the judgment exceeds three hundred dollars; the other is the enact a law authorizing the supreme court to appoint three commissioners, for a term of for years, to assist the court in hearing and deciding cases. The objection raised to the first law is that every citizen should have the right of appeal, no matter how small the sum involved in litigation, and that its denial would affect largely the poor man, whose many demands are usually small. The second law suggested would be efficient to remedy the evil complained of, and is preferred by the supreme court. As the delay in hearing in some cases now practically amounts to a denial of justice, it is desirable, if a law is to be enacted authorizing a commissioners’ court, that it should be enacted at this session, in order that such court may begin the work of relieving the congested condition of the supreme court docket as early as practicable, or at least been its sessions at the first of the ensuing year.

The act of congress, approved July 19, 1897, entitled “An act making appropriation to supply deficiencies,” etc., contains a provision to the effect that he invitation of the republic of France to take part in an exposition of works of art and the products of manufacture and agriculture of all nations, to be held in Paris, commencing the 15th day of April and closing the 5th day of November, 1900, is accepted, and that “The governors of the several states and territories be, and are hereby requested to invite the people of their respective states and territories to make a proper representation of the productions of our industry, and the natural resources of the country, and to take such further measures as may be necessary, in order to secure to their respective states and territories the advantages to be derived from this beneficent undertaking.” IN conformity with this provision, and with especial reference to the latter portion of it, the secretary of state of the United States, the Hon. John Sherman, in a letter to me as governor of the state, dated September 27, 1987, urges the propriety, as well as the necessity, of taking steps immediately to secure representations of the natural and industrial resources of our state, “to the end that an exhibit on behalf of the government of the United States, befitting its material and industrial importance, may be assured.” Owing to the limited time now available for selecting and arranging the exhibits of our state, it is proper that this subject should be brought to you attention, for the reason that it is absolutely necessary, if our state is to participate in this great international exposition, that a law be enacted at once, providing for the appointment of commissioners, and appropriating sufficient funds to make a proper representation of the products of our industries and the natural resources of our state.

Under an act passed by the eighteenth legislative assembly, a contract was made with J. Loewenberg, of the Northwestern stove foundry, in July, 1895, for convict labor, and the board of mangers of the state foundry leased him the plant and sold him the manufactured stock on time. His obligations to the state were not met; but in view of bad business conditions, and the desirability of keeping the convicts employed, great leniency has been shown him. First, he was allowed an extension of time, and later, in the spring of 1898, a second accommodation was arranged for him, under which the Loewenberg & Going Company indorsed the notes of the Northwestern stove foundry; but notwithstanding theses accommodations, Loewenberg has not kept his promises, nor met his obligations to the state. THE sums due the state, with interest, aggregate a large amount. In view of these facts, I have deemed the mater of his default of such importance as to be a proper subject for you immediate consideration.

I have purposely refrained from recommending any new legislation, except the organization of commissioners’ court which the exigencies of the public service require without delay. IN this case I have done so because I know there are few evils which affect the people of the state so seriously and injuriously as delay in the administration of justice. The bill of rights of our state, and of every free state, recognizes the evils resulting from such delay and the necessity of their prompt removal, whatever may be the source from which they spring, by declaring that “justice shall be administered openly and without purchase, completely and without delay.” I do not which, however, to be understood as being averse to new legislation, or as doubting you authority to enact it, whether general or special.

Owing to a senatorial contest, which only ended with the election of a senator in the espying hours of its session, the legislative assembly of 1895 failed to enact much remedial legislation demanded by the people in the platforms of their different parties, and needed to correct existing evils, and the legislative assembly of 1897 failing to organize, there has bee but little opportunity for legislation, and practically not of importance has been enacted, though the public interests have greatly suffered in consequence thereof since the legislative session of 1893. Much legislation, especially of a remedial character, which properly belonged to those sessions, and still in needed for the protection of the public interests, must be considered by your body at its next regular session, in addition to its own legislative belongings, thereby greatly increasing your labors and responsibilities. It is always desirable that legislation affecting large classes of society in person or property should be examined with deliberation, and discussed with fullness, before enactment into law. In this way whatever defects lurk within the terms of a statute are likely to be discovered and eliminated, and whatever amendments are necessary for its improvement or efficiency may be suggested and added. The vicious habit sometimes indulged buy legislative bodies, of hurrying important measures through their different readings, and especially appropriation bills containing obnoxious clauses, without investigation or discussion, is subversive of the time-honored custom of open deviate, and inimical to the public good. Bills for assessment and taxation, for registration of voters, to preserve inviolate the ballot box, for the abolition of useless boards and commissions, for reorganization of the circuit courts by equalizing their judicial labors, for he revision of court costs, and especially criminal costs, for the revision of court costs, and especially criminal costs, which are grievous burden on the counties, and for the appropriation of public moneys, and the like, require time for their proper examination, and should receive the fullest discussion before passage by either house.

To afford you time and opportunity for the full consideration of al such important matters, the regular session ought to be relieved of those more urgent matters of public interest, which need prompt legislative attention, by an extra session. In view of these conditions, not to call and extra session but to leave to the regular session the election of senator, with its exciting and often obstructive incidents, and two appropriation bills, with their opportunities for trades and hold-up of important measures, would imperil, and probably prevent, the enactment of much needed legislation, and prove disastrous to the highest good of the state. For these reason I have conceived it my duty to call and extra session, believing that you would meet its responsibilities with patriotic zeal and intelligent service.

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