The motives and scheme of the conspirators to deprive Dr.
McLoughlin of his land claim were very simple but effective. They desired to
obtain Abernethy Island, which was a part of Dr. McLoughlin's land claim,
for the assigns of the Oregon Milling Company. They desired to deprive Dr.
McLoughlin of the rest of his land claim to wreak their malice against him,
and at the same time, by statute passed by Congress, to have their actions
against him apparently justified. Theirs was an uneasy conscience. It was,
therefore, necessary to make it appear to Congress that Dr. McLoughlin was
not only not entitled to his land claim nor any part of it, but that he
should not have it under any circumstances; that Dr. McLoughlin was a man
dangerous to Oregon, its people, and their interests, and had unfairly tried
to prevent its settlement by citizens of the United States; that he refused
to become an American citizen; and that he was not really trying to get the
land claim for himself, but for the Hudson's Bay Company, although they knew
his resignation had become effective in 1846. Having so wronged Dr.
McLoughlin, they still did not dare to try to get the whole claim. To keep
Dr. McLoughlin, or his heirs, from ever getting it, they tried to bribe the
people of Oregon by providing that his land claim, less Abernethy Island,
should be used for the establishment of an university, which would be for
the benefit of all the people of Oregon. It was a cunning scheme. Thurston's
reward was to be a re-election as Delegate to Congress. He died before he
could be re-elected.
There was great rejoicing in
Oregon, at first, on the passage of the Donation Land Law. Every settler,
except Dr. McLoughlin, could now have his land claim, for the title to which
he had waited so long. A great university was to be built, without cost to
anyone, except Dr. McLoughlin and his heirs. This was long before the
discussion about using "tainted money." But the reaction against Thurston
soon began. The newspapers printed letters against Thurston's actions in
vilifying Dr. McLoughlin and in taking away his land claim. Thurston's party
papers began to mention or to advocate other available men for Thurston's
position as delegate to Congress.