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To the Promised Land

A History of Oregon Government and Politics

Tom Marsh

Publication Year: 2012

A comprehensive political history of Oregon, To the Promised Land examines the social and economic changes the state has pioneered over almost two hundred years. Highlighting major political figures, campaigns, and ballot measures, Tom Marsh traces the evolution of Oregon from incorporated territory to a state at the forefront of national environmental and social movements.

To the Promised Land provides the first general history of Oregon’s state government and political leaders. Marsh combines the clear expository style of a professional educator with the expertise of a political insider—a U.S. history teacher, he also served two terms in the Oregon House of Representatives.

Featuring interesting trivia, historical photographs, and biographical sketches of key politicians, this book will be a popular volume for general readers and public libraries as well as for textbook use in secondary and higher education classrooms. 

Published by: Oregon State University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. xi-xvi

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pp. 1-7

Oregon has been shaped by hundreds of forces over the span of its history. No factor, however, has had as much impact on Oregon as this one: most Oregonians live within a two-hour drive of one another in the Willamette Valley. Two-thirds of Oregon’s land area lies east of the Cascade mountain range. Yet only a fraction of the population live there. Today four...

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1. "Who's for a Divide?" The Oregon Country, 1834-49

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pp. 8-18

It took a decade (1834-45) for the American population south of the Columbia River to reach 2,000. Throughout this period, the Methodists (originally led by missionaries Jason and Daniel Lee) dominated valley society. The Methodists prized law and order and as early as 1838 anticipated controversies that might arise between themselves (or between other...

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2. From Territory to State, 1848-59

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pp. 19-47

Oregonians welcomed their new territorial status with mixed emotions. Oregonians knew that, as territorials, they could expect the U.S. government to provide new services*; what tight-fisted Oregonians liked most about these new services and facilities was that Congress would pay for them. Congress would also foot the bill for the salaries of...

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3. Early Statehood and the Civil War Era

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pp. 48-64

1859. It seems like ancient history, doesn’t it? Considering that 32 states were already in the Union when Oregon was admitted on February 14, 1859 and only 17 states entered the Union after, Oregon is a relatively young state. Looking at it another way, the span of time between 1859 and the present is about equivalent to the lives, back to back, of two...

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4. John Mitchell and Other Tales of Corruption, 1868-73

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pp. 65-76

Oregon was six years old when the Civil War ended in 1865, its infant institutions still rough and ill-formed. Traditions were forming, yet change was the rule. It was during these formative years that a sinister force took hold in Oregon. For the next 40 years Oregon’s politicians and government were captive to political corruption. Unprincipled, greedy men...

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5. Money, Corruption, and the Reformers, 1882-1902

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pp. 77-105

What types of money ought the U.S. Treasury to produce? Paper bills, gold coins, and silver coins? Should a gold coin have more gold in it than a silver coin has silver? Should the value of paper money be backed by (that is, be redeemable/ in) gold or, by both gold and silver, or by neither? And just how much paper money should be in circulation? These...

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6. George Chamberlain and the Os West Express, 1903-13

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pp. 106-132

Oregon bubbled with optimism as the 1903 Legislature convened in Salem. The 1902 election had produced a ringing mandate of change. Male voters passed the initiative and referendum amendment, elected a reform governor, and picked Theodore Geer as the people’s choice for U.S. senator. Surely, they thought, legislators shared the public’s enthusiasm...

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7. Oregon During World War One, 1914-20

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pp. 133-144

In 1914, Republicans were elected to all of Oregon’s top political offices; James Withycombe (the first Republican to hold office since 1903) was elected governor by a margin of 27,000 votes and Ben Olcott was elected secretary of state. The legislature remained lopsidedly Republican. The 1910 Census had given Oregon a third U.S. House seat in 1912 and...

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8. The Election of 1922, the Ku Klux Klan, and Governor Walter Pierce, 1921-27

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pp. 145-162

The 1920s was Oregon’s Republican decade. In ten years, Democrats won major offices only twice: Governor Walter Pierce and U.S. Rep. Elton Watkins in the 3rd District in 1922. Republicans won every other major federal and state elected office in the 1920s, keeping firm control of the legislature. Over the decade (with 28% of voters registered...

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9. Two Deaths, 1927-33

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pp. 163-176

The oldest man ever elected governor of Oregon, Isaac Patterson, was 67 years old when he took office on January 10, 1927. A veteran politician, he loved farming and worked several hundred acres in Polk County. Independent and conservative, Ike Patterson was his own man. He was not a reformer. Committed to honest, efficient, and thrifty government...

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10. FDR, Old Iron Pants, and the Politics of Upheaval, 1933-38

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pp. 177-193

The day dawned cold as winter lingered a little longer in March 1933. Great excitement was in the air. A happy throng assembled at the nation’s Capitol to watch Franklin Delano Roosevelt take the presidential oath of office. Millions of Americans listened at home or at work, their ears glued to their radios. Roosevelt did not disappoint. His memorable...

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11. How the War Changed Oregon, 1939-48

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pp. 194-216

Charles Sprague was 50 when he entered the governor’s race in spring 1938 and had never run for political office. He was a moderate Republican with a liberal position on human rights. He campaigned on a plank to “sustain civil liberties and broad racial and religious tolerance.” On the volatile labor issue, Sprague’s stance was middle-of-the-road, but firm. He believed...

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12. Oregon at Mid-Century, 1948-55

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pp. 217-237

The intensity and excitement of the May Primary did not carry over into the fall general election. Even the addition of two splinter parties (the Dixiecrats and the Progressives) in the presidential campaign didn’t arouse much new interest in politics.* A unified Republican Party predicted an easy victory for their presidential candidate, New York Gov. Thomas...

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13. Raging Bulls, 1956-59

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pp. 238-256

On January 28, 1956, Gov. Paul Patterson announced he would seek the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in Oregon’s May primary. Party leaders had been cajoling him to do this for months; finally, the governor relented. GOP leaders were still smarting over the loss of Guy Cordon’s Senate seat to Richard Neuberger in November 1954 and they ached...

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14. When Tom Blew the Whistle, 1960-62

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pp. 257-278

In 1960, President Dwight Eisenhower’s second term was ending and the nation was about to elect a new president. Would Vice President Richard M. Nixon, a Californian, become president? Would Democrats choose a new face after nominating Adlai Stevenson in 1952 and 1956? A handful of Democrats jockeyed for position as seven state primaries got...

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15. The Tom McCall Years, 1965-75

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pp. 279-319

Tom McCall was a journalist and television commentator by profession. A promoter, he appreciated the value of free media attention. He was a man who believed deeply in Oregon and the state’s abundant natural beauty. He used the bully pulpit to champion his ideas and he was always in motion. With a flair for the dramatic, McCall attracted the media...

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16. Bob Straub—Living in Tom's Long Shadow, 1975-78

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pp. 320-339

Robert “Bob” Straub took the oath of office on January 13, 1975, as Oregon’s 31st governor and the first Democrat in 16 years. This marked the end of a Republican era dominated by two of Oregon’s most successful 20th-century politicians: Mark O. Hatfield and Tom Lawson McCall. At age 54, Straub had been a fixture in state government for the previous...

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17. Governor Victor Atiyeh: Saving a Sinking Ship, 1979-86

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pp. 340-363

Oregon’s 60th Legislative Assembly convened in Salem on January 8, 1979. The 90 lawmakers assembled, as usual, in the crowded House chamber. Outgoing Democratic Governor Robert Straub made a short speech before Oregon’s new governor, Republican Victor Atiyeh, was sworn into office. Governor Atiyeh’s opening address focused on the familiar issues...

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18. Neil and Barbara, Vera and John, 1987-94

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pp. 364-394

Democrat Neil Goldschmidt became Oregon’s 33rd governor on January 12, 1987. The 46-year-old Goldschmidt’s close election victory in November generated widespread interest and excitement. In his meteoric political career, Neil Goldschmidt had left his imprint everywhere he’d been. Known by his supporters as “the boy wonder,” or simply as...

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19. Choosing Senators, 1995-96

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pp. 395-420

John Kitzhaber, M.D., age 47, took the oath of office as Oregon’s 35th governor on January 9, 1995. The Kitzhaber-era in Oregon politics had begun in 1978 when the Roseburg emergency-room physician was elected to the Oregon House. After a single term in the House, Kitzhaber won a state Senate seat; he was elected to a second Senate term in...

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20. John Kitzhaber and the Republicans, 1997-99

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pp. 421-450

Oregon’s 69th Legislative Assembly convened at the Capitol on January 13, 1997. The challenges facing them would require prodigious effort. There was uncertainty about how much money would be available for public schools and universities. Would the robust Oregon economy continue to generate higher income tax revenues for the state? What about...

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21. Into the Future, 2000-11

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pp. 451-478

People around the globe had been preparing for months for the new millennium. The 20th century was ending and, with it, the second millennium. A new century and a new thousand-year age was upon us. More than a million New Yorkers crammed into Times Square to welcome the new millennium. In Portland, 25,000 Oregonians squeezed into...


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pp. 479-497


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pp. 499-508

E-ISBN-13: 9780870716584
E-ISBN-10: 0870716581
Print-ISBN-13: 9780870716577
Print-ISBN-10: 0870716573

Publication Year: 2012