Governor George L. Woods' Administration

Governor's Message, 1870

Source: Message of Gov. George L. Woods to the Legislative Assembly, Fifth Regular Session, September 1870, Salem, Oregon, W.A. McPherson, State Printer, 1870.


AD, Sept., 1870

Gentlemen of the Senate, And House of Representatives:

Section 11 of Article 5 of the Constitution of the State of Oregon requires that the Governor shall, from time to time, give to the Legislative Assembly such information touching the condition of the State, and recommend such measure as he shall judge to be expedient.

By virtue of authority, I submit, with pride and satisfaction, that peace, health and prosperity prevail in all our borders, and our young State, justly the pride of all its citizens, is rapidly increasing in population, and wealth and enterprise.

A great system of internal improvement is being inaugurated in our midst, which fostered and encouraged, as it should be, will make Oregon, in the not distant future, one of the finest and most prosperous States in the Republic.

A system of laws, liberal, judicious, and wholesome, is indispensable to a free people; hence, to legislate is a grave responsibility. Recognizing this fact, and speaking harmony with the confidence reposed in you by your constituents, as expressed at the polls, you will, I have no doubt, so conduct the affairs of the State as to meet the approval of a generous and appreciative people. In a country like ours, where the will of the people, as expressed by the ballot, is the source of the power which governs, our elections, which are to choose the makers and administrators of the law, are of vast importance to the citizens. And while our political contests stir up the passions and excite the hostility of the people, which, in other countries, would endanger liberty, and justly excite alarm, with us, they only give additional guarantees for the safety of the Republic, and our capacity for self-government.

Every good citizen can but look with pride to the happy acquiescence in the will of the majority as expressed at the polls.

The test of a man's fitness for office, is his ability, when elected thereto, to rise above all partisan and selfish views, and battle for the good of the whole people.

Let such a spirit govern you in you legislation at this session and the blessings of the people will be bestowed upon you.

Where parties are separated by issues which involve the honor, welfare or life of the nation or State, it is right that in times like these, when no great question of a political character is before the people, it bespeaks a poor statesmanship to be delving away, with untiring zeal, at the bones of the dead past, to the reckless disregard of the rapidly expanding interests of the State, which so much need the fostering care of the whole people.

Oregon, just now being aroused from a long slumber, incident to isolation, is starting forth to a new life, and, s such, it needs legislation of a broad and liberal character, that which shall rise above mere partisan views and party interests, and look to the general good?

Of what consequence is it whether this or that party triumph, if, as an unvarying result, the State shall be made to prosper, and increase in wealth, and energy, and enterprise?

Such is our duty at this time, and such, I doubt not, will be your course of action.

Your line of duty is plainly indicated, and I cannot forbear expressing the hope that a spirit of liberality and good will will characterize all your legislation, and, in the end, much good be accomplished.

I do not think that much legislation is necessary at this session, and it is hoped that a careful investigation will lead to a speedy recognition of the actual wants of the State, and that, meeting these, you will be enabled to bring our labors to an early close. Long session of legislative bodies, as a rule, are not productive of good results, but, as all experience proves, are apt to be the nurseries of strifes and contentions, which obscure the light of reason, and produce injury and disgrace. Such, doubtless, was the opinion of the framers of the Constitution of the State, since, in that instrument, the sessions, by implication, at least, if not by express language, are limited to forty days. Any person conversant with the past history of legislation in Oregon, will unite with me inn the opinion that forty days are more than sufficient for the legitimate labors of any session heretofore held. And I think that the interests of the State require that the precedent be now established that, unless extraordinary occasion requires it, no session go beyond the limit intimated by the Constitution.

The daily expenses of the Legislative Assembly are great, and the people whom you serve, together with the voice of history, will applaud that spirit of retrenchment which will expedite business, shorten the session, and thereby lessen the burdens of taxation. I trust, therefore, that you will avail yourselves of this opportunity to render the State an invaluable service, by expeditious, practical labor, and a speedy adjournment.

The growth and power of a nation are known by the growth and power of its mentality. And as in republics the sovereignty is vested alike in each citizen, so, to make the power commensurate with the wants of the government, the dissemination of intelligence should be universal. There is nothing which the interests of this State so much require as a thorough system of common schools. A finished education should be placed within reach of every child within its borders. There is not a good man or woman in the State who does not feel the obligation of this high duty.

The school is the link in our civil system which connects the State with the family. The provisions of any school act should, therefore, be eminently just, and so plain and explicit as to be readily understood by every one. And, recognizing the fact that educated minds in the very life of free government, I cannot urge you too strongly to give such care and attention to this subject as will insure to us, without further delay, the passage of a good and wise Common Schools Law, which will guarantee the incalculable blessings and benefits which alone can arise from such.
In the primal organization of the State, the Governor was made Superintendent of Public Instruction. But the past history of education in Oregon clearly demonstrates that such an arrangement is ineffective and unsatisfactory. To organize and superintend a system commensurate with the wants of the State, is a task, sufficient of itself, to require all the time, attention and thought which the very best executive ability can give. Section 1 of article 8 of the Constitution of the State provides for the election of a Superintendent of public Instruction, and in view of the present disorganized and unsatisfactory condition of our Common Schools, I urge upon you the election of such Superintendent, clothed with such power and burdened with such duties as will insure to us a thorough system of common schools. To insure success you should give to such officer good a compensation, require him to live the capital of the State, and to give his entire attention to the duties of his office.

In this connection, permit me to call you special attention to section 2 of article 8 of the Constitution of this State, which provides, among other things, that all the proceeds of the five hundred thousand acres of land to which this State was entitled by the act of Congress entitled "An act to appropriate the proceeds of the sale of the public lands, and to grant pre-emption rights," approved the 4th of September, 1841, and also the five per cent of the net proceeds of the public lands, to which this State became entitled upon her admission into the Union, shall be set apart as a separate and irreducible school fund, and that the interest of the same, together with all together revenues from the school land mentioned in said section, shall be exclusively applied to the support and maintenance of common schools. Any effort to divert this fund from the uses and purposes contemplated by the Constitution, ought, therefore, to meet with, as I trust it will receive, your unqualified disapproval. You are, for the time being, the custodians of the interests of the people in this behalf, and, in view of the vast importance of the educational interests of the State, permit me to express the hope that you will carefully guard the Common School Fun from improper and unconstitutional uses, and thus confer a benefaction upon the people of the State.

It is gratifying to know that everywhere, in all parts of the State, a deep and active interest is manifested in educational matters. The time for active, energetic and effective work is at hand. Much is to be done. You alone can energize and give life to this much needed work, and I trust that it will receive your careful and undivided attention.

For such information as may be necessary to guide you in your deliberations in matters pertaining thereto, I beg leave to refer you to the Report of the Board of Commissioners for the Management of the School Fund, a copy of which is herewith transmitted.

Next in importance to education is a system of cheap and convenient transportation. Railroads are the very life of a State. And it is with gratification and pride that I communicate to you that a railroad is now in process of construction within the borders of the State, and soon will be completed to its southern boundary, connecting us with California and the East. The importance of this enterprise cannot be over estimated. The history of civilization for the last half century is but a repetition of the triumphs of railroads. No state can prosper without them; and I earnestly hope that you will give such encouragement o these great adjuncts of civilians as will facilitate their construction, and throw around them that protection of law which will insure their successful operation in our midst.

These enterprises, it is safe to conclude, are but the beginning of a great system of railroads, which will soon penetrate every nook and corner of our State. And now, in the beginning, is the proper time for such a system of railroad laws to be passed, as will give stability and protection to such enterprises, and, on the other hand, secure the people from encroachment.

Railroads have long been the great desire, as they have been the great need, of all sections of the State. We could not build them with home capital; we had not enough. The introduction of foreign capital, therefore, became a necessity. A sensible and prudent people, who rightly comprehend the laws of growth and prosperity, will ever encourage and facilitate the introduction into their midst, of capital and productive labor. And whatever may be the prejudices of the hour, I earnestly hope that you will rise above them, and so legislate as to benefit the whole people.

Railroad laws are needed; and, gathering light from the experience of other and older States, where railroads have been extensively operated, I have no doubt you will be able to organize such a system as will answer the purposes and demands of the present, and give sufficient guaranties for the future.

A well-regulated judiciary, more than all things else, gives confidence to the public in the efficiency of organized government. And, in view of that fact, I earnestly recommend that the necessary steps be taken for the organization of a separate Supreme Court, as soon as the conditions stipulated in sec. 10 of art. 7 of the Constitution of the State are complied with.
The time was, in the incipient organization of the State, when a meager population, struggling in the midst of the privations of a frontier life, and having but little necessity for Courts, that the judiciary as now organized was all sufficient and fully adequate to the public wants. But our already large and rapidly increasing population, and consequent increase of legal business, demands, in language which ought to be heard, the speedy organization of a separate Supreme Court, as contemplated by the Constitution. And I hope that, recognizing its necessity, you will give the subject our earnest attention.

In this connection, permit me to suggest an amendment to our Criminal Code. I know full well that prudence and all experience requires that well-established usage, either in civil or criminal law, be not hastily overthrown; but when, in the onward march of civilization, personal rights - always the subject of the greatest solitude - are expanded, the chains which bind them should be snapped asunder, and rules and regulations established which shall be in harmony with the more enlarged ideas of justice and right. Throughout the civilized world, the party defendant to a criminal actions presumed to be innocent until his guild is established; but judging from the rights accorded to parties defendant upon trial, under the law as it now is, it would seem that the rule was reversed, and that the presumption of guilt attached until innocence was proven. I suggest, therefore, in what is conceived to be simple justice to the accused, that in all criminal actions, the defendant should have the right to make the closing argument, and that such right be secured by law.

And I also suggest that in all criminal actions the parties defendant should have the right to testify before the juries by which they are being tried, as to the matters at issue between the State and themselves, as other witnesses, leaving it to the jury to determine the credibility of such testimony.

Closing the mouth of the defendant, when on trial, the issue of which involves character, liberty or life, is a relic of barbarism, which illy comports with the spirit of the age; and I earnestly hope that you will do yourselves and the State the credit to make a n advancing step in this direction and throw around the citizen a shield which shall protect him from the intrigues of falsehood and wrong. As the law now stands, any citizen, however upright and honest he may be with this mouth closed by the force of law, is at the mercy of the corrupt and designing, and liable to fill a felon's cell. No one who is conversant with the history of criminal proceedings, doubts the fact that, oftentimes, men are convicted of crimes which they never committed, and made to suffer the extreme penalty of the law, when they are innocent. Such occurrences shock the sensibilities of all good citizens, and stir up every noble impulse of the human heart, to try to prevent their recurrence. To allow the defendant to testify on his own behalf, under the same restrictions as other citizens, as the law now is in civil actions, would, in my judgment, go far towards mitigating these evils, and make the rights of the citizen more secure. Nor do I know of any good reason why the wife, in criminal actions, should not be permitted testify for or against the husband, without his consent, the same as in civil procedure. The object of courts, of juries, and of witnesses, is to elicit all the facts, and establish justice. And anything, which falls short of and refuses to discover all the avenues of truth, hinders, rather than promotes, the ends for which courts were created. The idea that the wife is not competent to testify in matters which involve the liberty and life of the husband, when, in matters which involve dollars and cents that right is undisputed, is an ungenerous libel upon the honor and integrity of intelligent womanhood, and ought not be tolerated among an enlightened and truth-seeking people. I trust, therefore, that you will remove these, and all the barriers which in the least obstruct the ends of justice, and thereby vindicate Oregon as a friend to liberty, tempered with order, which is the end of all good government.

The purity of the ballot box, and the untrammeled expression of the will of the citizen at our polls, is the strongest safeguard of personal liberty.

All will agree with me, that the experience of the present year, burdened, as it is, with abuses, under our present system of conducting elections, cries aloud for some such change as will protect the lawful voters from the rapacious incursions of an imported, corrupt and irresponsible rabble, whose highest conceptions of human liberty and free government are measured by their greed for money. I therefore recommend that an effective and stringent Registry Law be passed. Experience has shown that in other States in the Republic, such laws have been highly beneficial; and, I doubt not, if enacted in this state, would give satisfaction, and, to a great extent, remedy the evils of which the people so justly complain. I have long been of the opinion that the viva voce system of voting was a mistake, and ought to be abolished, and the ballot substituted in its stead. Under the Constitution, you have the right to make this change, and I earnestly hope that you may so amend the law.

The Legislative Assembly of 1868 failed to pass the General Appropriation Bill, in consequence of which, the business of the State has been done upon credit, while the moneys of the State has been accumulating in the vaults of the Treasury; hence the large exhibit made by the Treasurer of State in his biennial report.

In this connection, permit me to suggest that, in my judgment, the General Appropriation Bill ought always to be passed as soon in the session as the expenses can be approximated; so that, in any event, partisan strife cannot interfere with its financial operations, or in any way impair its credit.

Because of the large amount of outstanding indebtedness in consequence of there being no appropriation, the bill which ought to have been passed by the Legislative Assembly of 1868, should receive your early attention, and thus relieve the State from its burden, and increase its circulating medium.

On the first day of October 1868, under the direction of the Legislative Assembly, I contracted with Dr. J. C. Hawthorne of Multnomah county, for the keeping, care, and medical treatment of the Insane and Idiotic of the State, for two years, which contract expires on the 1st day of October of the present year. In my biennial message to the Legislative Assembly of 1868, I urged upon that body the necessity for the erection and construction of suitable buildings for an Asylum for the Insane at the State Capital, as required by the Constitution. In accordance with that recommendation, a bill was passed appropriating forty thousand dollars, which bill received my signature, thereby, to all intents and purposes, becoming a law; but afterwards, in answer to a resolution, from the House in which it originated, it was returned, and strangled in committee. Therefore nothing has been done in the premises. And I now renew my recommendation in that behalf; and indulge the hope that this much needed work will be no longer delayed. Humanity and good taste rebel at the idea of hawking these unfortunates about from place to place, subject to the lowest bidder, as they have been for years past. And that, too, when our fundamental law has made ample provisions for their permanent keeping, care, and treatment, at the State Capital. Suitable buildings ought to be begun at once, and made ready for their reception at an early day. In the meantime, however, provisions will have to be made for the keeping of these wards until such time as the State buildings can be completed. I should do Dr. Hawthorne a serious injustice, were I not to say that he has faithfully carried out his contract with the State, and complied with all its requirements in letter and in spirit. Too much cannot be said in his praise.

The medical treatment of the patients, I have reason to believe, ahs been as efficient and thorough as in any other Asylum in the United States; while their food and raiment, and all those surroundings which secure bodily comfort, have been all that any one could desire. I would be difficult to place them in better hands.

They are submitted to your care and guardship, with a full confidence that the interests of the State will be vigilantly guarded, and that all that can be done, will be done to palliate their sufferings, and restore them to reason, and to their friends again.

For further information in reference to the condition and management of the Insane Asylum, you are respectfully referred to the report of the contractor, Dr. J.C. Hawthorne, herewith transmitted.

The Penitentiary has been so conducted for the last year, I trust, as to meet with you unqualified approval.

The police regulations have been so efficient and complete, as to render the escape of convicts almost impossible. But three have escaped, and now remain at large, since the last session of Legislative Assembly; which number, considering the character of the buildings in which they are kept, and manner in which prison-labor has to be performed, in forest, and field, where a watchful vigilance along prevents escape, is remarkably small. Too much credit cannot be given to the Superintendent, Wardens, and officers of the Prison for the faithful manner in which they have discharged the duties of their respective offices. They have done their whole duty. And I should do violence to my own sense of right, were I not to extend to them, through you, my highest commendation.

I hesitate not to say that the State Prison building now in use is unsafe and worthless, - wholly inadequate to the public want, - a disgrace which ought no longer to be tolerated. In my message to the Legislature of 1868, I urged that suitable buildings be erected and that appropriation be made, therefor. But I regret to say that no steps were taken, whatever, to begin this much needed work. Longer delay will be a public calamity. The continued safe-keeping of the convicts in a building no more secure than a common dwelling, and that in a rapid process of decay, cannot be guarantied. A new building, adequate to our public want, ought to be begun immediately, and pushed to a speedy completion.

Convict labor, now thoroughly systemized, can be used in construction thereof, with a great saving to the State. Bricks of the very best quality are now being manufactured by prison labor, in vast quantities, but the clay adapted to the making of good bricks, found upon the Penitentiary grounds, is limited in quantity, and I doubt whether there is much more at command than will be needed in the construction of the public buildings. The State, by manufacturing its own bricks, and utilizing convict labor, in preparing materials for, and erecting the walls, can largely decrease the expense incident to such a work. And I earnestly recommend that the necessary legislation be had at this session, and that the work be begun without further delay.
For a more extensive review of the condition and management of the Prison, you are respectfully referred to the report of M.P. Berry, Esq., Superintendent of the Penitentiary, a copy of which is herewith transmitted.

I should fail to do my duty were I not to urge upon you the necessity for the immediate beginning and erection of a suitable State House. Twelve years of our existence as a State have come and gone, and no effort has yet been put forth to provide such a building. It is needed badly, and I respectfully recommend that the necessary appropriations be made, and that the work be begun at once.

For information relating to Military Affairs, I beg leave to refer you to the Report of Adjutant General Cyrus A. Reed, a copy of which is herewith submitted.

In my Message to the Legislative Assembly of 1869, I called attention to the necessity for the enacting of a general law, ceding certain rights to the Government of the United States for the purchase of sites for the erection of Light Houses, Forts, Arsenals and Dockyards, within the limits of the State; but the legislation of that session was not sufficient to meet the wants of the General Government.

Public works of vast importance to the State have been held in abeyance, because of the absence of the necessary statutory enactments. More Light Houses are needed on our Coast, for the erection of which appropriations have been made by Congress, and orders issued for the beginning of the work, but nothing can be done until certain rights are ceded by the State, through its Legislature. In this connection, I call your attention to a communication from R.S. Williamson, Maj. U.S. Engineers, &c., herewith transmitted. In view of the importance of the public works referred to, I urge you to give the matter your earnest attention.

In taking my leave of you, officially, permit me to express the hope that a spirit of harmony and good may preside over all your deliberations; that prudence and sound judgment may characterize your legislation; and that, in the end, much good may be done for the State. Do your duty, and the gratitude of an appreciative people will be your reward.


James McGowan, pardoned on petition, Sept. 12, 1868.
John Short, pardoned on petition, Sept. 17, 1868.
James Durkee, pardoned on petition, Sept. 17, 1868.
Frank Dalton, pardoned on petition, ____ ____ 1868.
Robert Sutherland, pardoned on petition, Dec. 8, 1868.
Thomas Martin, pardoned on petition, Feb. 16, 1869.
William Marshall, pardoned on petition, March 8, 1869.
Morris Gleason, pardoned on petition, March 8, 1869.
D.J. Woodward, pardoned on petition, Aug. 13, 1869.
John Southwell, pardoned on petition, Aug. 19, 1869.
Indian Tommy, pardoned on statement of Dr. H. Carpenter, that he is disabled so as to endanger the health of the other convicts, Aug. 23, 1869.
Indian John, pardoned on statement of Dr. H. Carpenter, Attending Physician, that he is diseased so s to endanger the health of the other convicts. Aug. 23, 1869.
James W. Savage, pardoned on petition, Sept. 10, 1869.
Marie Collins, pardoned on petition, Sept. 21, 1869.
John Fitzhugh, pardoned on petition, Sept. 2, 1869.
Joseph Bertrand, pardoned on petition, Oct. 13, 1869.
John Nunley, pardoned on petition, Oct. 19, 1869.
Ezra Ecleston, pardoned on petition, Nov. 23, 1869.
Joseph Howard, pardoned on petition, Dec. 18, 1869.
Cornelius Crogan, pardoned on petition, Jan. 25, 1870.
James Ross, pardoned on petition, Jan. 25 1870.
Herman Judell, pardoned on petition, Feb. 5, 1870.
Henry C. Vaughn, pardoned on petition, Feb. 22, 1870.
John O. Cornet, pardoned on petition, Feb. 22, 1870.
Jas. Connelly, pardoned on petition, Aug. 1, 1870.
Michael H. Lewis, pardoned for meritorious services, Aug. 9, 1970.
Joseph Simpson, pardoned on petition, Aug. 9, 1870.
William Roe, pardoned on petition, Aug. 9, 1870.
James Jackson, pardoned on petition, by Secretary May, Acting Governor, Sept. 6, 1870.


Portland, Oregon,

Sept. 7, 1870

SIR: - I have the honor to inform you that I am directed by the Honorable Secretary of the Treasury, through the Light House Board, and the Honorable Secretary of War, through the Chief of Engineers of the United States Army, to request that the two enclosed drafts of Acts, the one entitled "An Act to provide for the relinquishment to the United States, in certain cases, to title in lands for sites of Light Houses, and other purposes, on the Coasts and Waters of the State;" and the other, "An Act giving the consent of the Legislature of the State of Oregon to the purchase by the United States of land within this State, for Light House, Military or Naval purposes," may be submitted, through you, and with your favorable recommendation, to the Senate and Assembly of this State, with the hope that they may become laws of the State.
The drafts of the Acts submitted to you are intended to show your Excellency what is the nature of the Acts which it is desirable should become laws of the State; but any other phraseology may be adopted, provided the objects desired are arrived at. They are similar to laws, which have been in force in California for many years, and are so drafted as to refer only to LightHouse, Military and Naval purposes.

The necessity for the passage of the first-mentioned Act is apparent. Without its passage, an individual owning a piece of land can positively refuse to sell it, no matter how much the public service may require that it should become the property of the United State; or, if not positively refusing, the owner may place such an exorbitant price upon it, that the United States would decline to purchase, rather than set so mischievous a precedent as to pay an exorbitant price for land of comparatively little value.

The necessity of passage of the other Act above mentioned is also apparent. The Government of the United States may secure a title, by purchase or otherwise, to a piece of land intended to be used as a site for a LightHouse or Fort. The 17th clause of the 8th section of the 1st article of the Constitution of the United States give exclusive legislation "over all places purchased, by the consent of the Legislature of the State in which the same shall be, for the erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, Dockyards and other needful buildings." It is therefore necessary that the consent of the State must be obtained before a LightHouse or Fort can be built on land purchased by the United States. To ask for and obtain the passage of a special Act whenever a Light House is to be built, particularly when the Legislature meets but once in two years, would be difficult, and often detrimental to the public service.

There is but one LightHouse on the coast of Oregon; and it will not be long before several will be required.

The whole difficulty would be obviated by the passage of an Act, a draft of which is respectfully submitted to your Excellency.

If, in their wisdom, the Legislature of Oregon should deem it advisable not to make such general laws as I have indicated, then I am directed to request that special laws be passed by the Legislature of Oregon, ceding jurisdiction over forty three and three-tenths (43:3-10) acres of land purchased by the United States at Cape Blanco for Light House purposes, 20 acres of land at Cape Foulweather, which has been reserved by the President of the United States for Light House purposes, and such lands as the United States may purchase at Yaquina Bay, where $20,000 have been appropriated for two range lights.

I have the honor to be,
Very Respectfully,
Your Obedient Servant,
Maj. U.S. Engineers,
L.H. Engineer.

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