Cover

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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-iv

Contents

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pp. v-vi

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Acknowledgments

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pp. vii-viii

That a focused study of the Salem Clique and its role in the days of the Oregon Territory has never before been attempted reflects the fact that the required research was very extensive. I turned to many sources and found the requisite assistance. Geoff Wexler and Scott Daniels of the Oregon Historical Society Research Library devoted considerable time and energy to the project. I cannot exaggerate their contribution. Others who aided my research include Mary McRobinson, the Willamette University archivist;...

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Introduction

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pp. ix-xii

Writing in 1913, Oregon scholar Walter Carleton Woodward observed: “A complete story of the capricious, arrogant rule in Oregon under the regime of the Salem Clique would form one of the most picturesque chapters in the political history of the West.” The Salem Clique was a group of young men who came to the Oregon Territory late in the 1840s or early 1850s. Their names are familiar to students of Oregon history: Matthew Deady, James Nesmith, Lafayette Grover, Asahel Bush, and others. Some had been recruited by the Territory’s delegate to Congress, Samuel Thurston; others...

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Chapter One

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pp. 1-24

During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the “machine” with its “boss” figured prominently in American political life. Usually urban, the machine promoted the interests of a particular party through an organization that extended down to the neighborhood level. The machine cultivated the local citizenry by providing social services unavailable in a time of limited and inefficient government. It paid particular attention to recent immigrants, assisting them and thus ensuring their loyalty. It demanded kickbacks from local businesses for the favors it was able to bestow....

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Chapter Two

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pp. 25-50

Despite Thurston’s assertion that as long as he was delegate he would not “engage as a partizan but consult solely the best interests of Oregon,” from the beginning of their negotiations he had made Bush’s mission plain. Along with the newspaper, he was charged with the organization of the Democratic Party in the Territory. As to the structure of the Democratic organization, Thurston wrote: “You are on the spot—I am not, hence you can tell better than I, what is, and what should be, but I am of the opinion, that it is best perhaps for the party, to organize in their several counties,...

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Chapter Three

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pp. 51-66

With an eye toward future elections, Lane encouraged Bush’s ongoing endeavor to organize the Democratic Party: “I am glad to witness your efforts to get a democratic organization. Lose no time in urging democrats to organize and unite. All local and sectional issues should be dropped. WITH THE ORGANIZATION AND UNION OF DEMOCRACY ALL WILL BE WELL IN ORGEGON.” As Lane no doubt expected, Bush was quick to print an extract from the letter in the Statesman.1 During the first year that the Statesman was published, the Whigs stagnated while the Democrats...

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Chapter Four

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pp. 67-86

With a Democratic president in office, the fortunes of the Clique advanced. Having some level of influence over federal appointments of whatever rank was a significant factor of its power. Aside from the problematic Deady appointment, Lane’s “old friend Frank” in 1853 also named Benjamin Harding US district attorney, George Curry secretary of the Territory, and James Nesmith US marshal. While the Clique welcomed those appointments, the Pierce presidency raised expectations that Lane was not always able to satisfy. The Clique’s Fred Waymire accused Lane of ignoring his letters...

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Chapter Five

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pp. 87-106

Through the 1850s, while elections and other issues occupied the Clique and the Democratic Party, resentment over the president’s power to appoint the members of the executive and judicial branches of the Territory’s government grew. The conviction that statehood was the only way to address the problem became more and more common. In fact, the statehood aspiration was not new. In 1850, Thurston had expected that statehood would follow from his efforts to organize the Territory’s Democratic Party.1 At a Portland meeting the following year, Democrats passed...

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Chapter Six

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pp. 107-122

In June 1857, the Oregon electorate finally supported statehood by a vote of 7,617 to 1,679 and called for a constitutional convention. They elected sixty delegates of various affiliations: Hard and Soft Democrats, Whigs, KnowNothings, supporters of the temperance movement, and one Republican. The chosen included justices on the territorial Supreme Court, current and former legislators, federally appointed office-holders, and other wellknown personages. Most were farmers or lawyers by profession.1 While the forty-four Democrats handily outnumbered the sixteen opposition...

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Chapter Seven

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pp. 123-138

With the Constitution approved and despite the fact that statehood had not yet been granted, the Territory’s leaders moved on to the next step: electing men to the offices of governor and representative to Congress as well as to what would become the state legislature. The campaigns began immediately, complicated for Democrats by the growing divisions within the party. From Washington, Lane’s concerns about the split and its potential effect on his career had already caused him to send his trusted clerk, young Ethelbert Hibben, to monitor the situation. Previously, Hibben had...

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Chapter Eight

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pp. 139-154

Statehood at last in hand, sparring for office commenced. The endless maneuvers and speculation led Deady, who was selling a horse, to write Nesmith, “Following the order you have established, I will speak of the horse first and the Jackasses afterwards.” As for himself, he was not interested in being a candidate against Smith for the Senate. Deady added in sardonic imitation of Lane’s contrived reluctance about running for office: “However if my friends think ‘the good of the country requires it’ and I can be made useful when the time comes they may use my name.”1...

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Chapter Nine

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pp. 155-166

The Oregon historian and newspaperman Leslie Scott asserted that the influence of Asahel Bush, along with that of James Nesmith, “was more potent than that of any other man in holding Oregon to the Union.” He added that Bush “had remarkable breadth of vision and gift of foresight; was endowed with outstanding courage; used his influence for the obvious advantage of Oregon in national affairs.”1 As a US Senator, Nesmith strongly supported the Union and the federal actions that were essential to its preservation. Through the Civil War, he served on the Senate’s Committee...

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Chapter Ten

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pp. 167-176

Speculation of a resurgence of the Salem Clique arose with the end of the Civil War. In 1865, Joseph Gaston, a Portland businessman and at the time Oregon’s leading promoter of railroad transportation, sent Nesmith a clipping from the Oregonian, which he described as a newspaper “now being run by the ‘forty thieves’ for the benefit of Portland ‘Jews and shit asses.’” Along with other newspapers, including O’Meara’s States Rights Democrat and the Jacksonville Oregon Reporter, the Oregonian reported on a revival of the Clique. Bush, Harding, and Nesmith planned to “debauch” and....

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Epilogue

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pp. 177-178

A detailed study of the Salem Clique suggests that many of those who have written about Oregon in the 1850s may have given too much credence to Thomas Dryer’s editorials in the Portland Oregonian. Using such adjectives as “Jesuitical” and “Inquisitorial,” Dryer repeatedly charged the “Salem Clique,” as he named it, with corruption, fraud, and coercion. At one point, he accused the Clique of planning to establish a “Pacific Republic” independent of the United States. At another, he claimed they were conspiring with Brigham Young to turn the Oregon Territory into a polygamous Mormon...

Notes

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pp. 179-192

Bibliography

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pp. 193-200

Index

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pp. 201-212