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Dr. John McLoughlin
Career and Death of Thurston


Even had the Mission Party, at the next election, been strong enough to have elected Thurston, had he lived, his political career would probably not have continued long. April 9, 1851, at the age of thirty-five years he died at sea off Acapulco, Mexico, while returning to Oregon. Thurston's letter, speeches, and actions against Dr. McLoughlin are the one great blot on his career. Thurston was a man of ability, a fluent speaker, a profuse writer of letters, of untiring energy, but inclined to be vindictive, and was not careful about the truth of his statements concerning a person he opposed or disliked. He made quite a reputation during the short time he was in Congress. He was quite popular in Oregon until his actions against Dr. McLoughlin became known. But for his actions against Dr. McLoughlin his memory would even now be highly regarded in Oregon. The passage of the Donation Land Law was largely due to his efforts. In spite of said section eleven that law gave great satisfaction to many people in Oregon. Up to that time no settler had more than a squatter's right. Man is naturally selfish. Notwithstanding the treatment of Dr. McLoughlin by this law, many settlers were pleased that they could now secure titles to their lands, and to that extent were grateful to Thurston.

Thurston secured appropriations for Oregon aggregating one hundred and ninety thousand dollars. Of this one hundred thousand dollars were for expenses of the Cayuse Indian War. He introduced and worked for many bills favorable to Oregon and busied himself in looking after the interests of Oregon and his constituents. He wrote a great number of letters, which were published in the Oregon Spectator, calling attention to what he was doing in Congress and thus kept his name continuously before the people, for he was a skillful politician. But his alliance with leaders of the Mission Party was a political error.

This address is about Dr. McLoughlin. I have not attempted to give the life of Thurston, nor a history of the Methodist Mission. To speak only of Thurston's actions against Dr. McLoughlin might be taken to mean that Thurston did nothing else while in Congress. In estimating Thurston's actions in Congress, those that are to his credit must be taken into account as well as those which are not. His actions in regard to Dr. McLough-lin's land claim were an unfortunate bid for popularity, which reacted on him and his reputation. Thurston's untrue and unjust statements, his despicable actions, and his false and malicious charges against Dr. McLoughlin are indefensible. Thurston's untimely death probably prevented justice being done to Dr. McLoughlin and his devisees sooner than it was. Thurston was not a strong man physically and it was thought that he had shortened his life in working for Oregon and his constituents. To act justly to the living Dr. McLoughlin, in a certain sense, might be construed as reflecting on the dead Thurston.


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