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Dr. John McLoughlin
Justice to Dr. McLoughlin's Memory


Although the Donation Land Law went into effect September 27, 1850, and its section eleven provided that the "Oregon City Claim" should be at the disposal of the Territory for the establishment and endowment of an university, nothing was done with this land claim until 1862, three years after Oregon became a state. In October, 1862, the Legislative Assembly of the State of Oregon passed an act, which was approved by the Governor October 17, 1862, conveying and confirming to the legatees under the will of Dr. McLoughlin, who were his son, David, his daughter, Eloisa, and her husband, Daniel Harvey, the McLoughlin or Oregon City land claim, excepting Abernethy Island, upon the condition that said legatees pay to the University Fund of Oregon, the nominal sum of one thousand dollars. This was forthwith paid by Daniel Harvey and wife in gold coin although they might have paid it in greenbacks, which were then at a large discount. As the eleventh section of the Donation Land Law provided that the proceeds of the sale of said Oregon City Claim should be applied to the establishment and endowment of an university, there had to be some consideration paid on its disposal by the State. All this occurred twelve years after the passage of the Donation Land Law and five years after the death of Dr. McLoughlin. During all those twelve years the title of this land claim was in the Territory, or State of Oregon. It stopped the growth of Oregon City. It impoverished Dr. McLoughlin.

As appears by the Senate and House Journals of the Legislative Session of 1862 said act passed the Senate, with two negative votes only, and there were none in the House after the act was amended in the Senate in the form in which the act became a law. The injustice of the Donation Land Law to Dr. McLoughlin had appealed to the people of Oregon in the twelve years which had elapsed since the passage of the latter law. What Dr. McLoughlin had done for Oregon and its pioneers could not be forgotten. Justice to him and his memory was, at last, triumphant. The enactment and approval of this law of October 17, 1862, was an official vindication of Dr. McLoughlin, by the Legislative and Executive Departments of the State of Oregon, of all the false statements about, and all charges against him made by Thurston and others, and of all their misrepresentations of Dr. McLoughlin and of his acts. It was a formal official acknowledgment of the injustice of the Oregon Donation Land Law to Dr. McLoughlin. It was an official recognition of his sterling qualities ; of his humanity; of his great services in assisting the early immigrants; of what he had done for Oregon; and of what was due to him and to his memory as the Father of Oregon. It cleared his character and reputation from every imputation of unfairness, injustice, and chicanery. It was, in effect, an official condemnation of the acts of the conspirators against him.

In 1846 the fame of Dr. John McLoughlin as a great and good man had extended to Rome. That year Gregory XVI, then the Pope, made Dr. McLoughlin a Knight of St. Gregory the Great, of civil grade. The original patent, written in Latin, is now in the possession of a descendant of Dr. McLoughlin. A copy in English is in the possession of the Oregon Historical Society. The Pope sent to Dr. McLoughlin the Insignia of the Order, which was delivered to him by Archbishop Francis N. Blanchet on his return from Europe in August, 1847. It was a high and deserved honor. But without it Dr. John McLoughlin was one of Nature's knights in all qualities which the highest and best of knights should have. He was such a knight, sans peur, sans reproche.

Opinions by Dr. McLaughlin's Contemporaries. In 1887 the people of Portland determined to raise six hundred dollars for a three-quarter life-size portrait of Dr. McLoughlin, to be painted by William Coggswell, the artist, to be owned by the Oregon Pioneer Association. The money was raised by popular subscription. The total amount subscribed was nearly double the sum required. This portrait was formally presented to the Association at its annual meeting, June 15, 1887. Judge M. P. Deady made the presentation address. He was a judge for forty years continuously in Oregon. A part of the time, six years, he was on the Oregon Territorial Supreme Bench, and for thirty-four years he was United States District Judge for Oregon, after Oregon became a State. In his presentation address Judge Deady, speaking of Dr. McLoughlin, said: "The man, whose portrait now hangs before you, came to this country from the Atlantic commissioned as Chief Factor and Governor of the Hudson's Bay Company west of the Rocky mountains. He was clothed with absolute power. . . . He was the ruler of this country, and had the peace and security of the people in his hands. He was distinguished for his justice and fair dealing with the Indians. When the immigration came he was distinguished for kindness and hospitality. He always literally obeyed the scriptural injunction to feed the hungry, visit the sick and clothe the naked. The maintenance of law, order and justice rested on his shoulders and he was equal to the occasion.

"The people of Portland have thought to honor his memory by having his portrait painted and giving it to the Pioneer Association, to be taken to the fair city of Salem and hung in the State Capitol, where you may look at it and show it to your children, and they to their children, and say: 'This is the old doctor, the good doctor, Dr. John McLoughlin.' Thirty years ago he laid down his life at the Wallamet Falls, where he had builded and lived since 1845, somewhat in obscurity, somewhat in sorrow, somewhat in sadness and disappointment. But the political strife and religious bigotry which cast a cloud over his latter days have passed away, and his memory and figure have arisen from the mist and smoke of controversy, and he stands out today in bold relief, as the first man in the history of this country-the Pioneer of Pioneers."

The Oregon Pioneer Association deemed it best to present this portrait to the State of Oregon. This was done February 6, 1889, at a joint session of the Senate and House of the Oregon Legislative Assembly held for the purpose. This portrait now hangs in the Senate chamber of the State Capitol at Salem in the place of honor, immediately back of the chair of the President of the Senate. John Minto, an honored pioneer of 1844, was selected to make the presentation address. In this address Mr. Minto said:" "In this sad summary of such a life as Dr. McLoughlin's, there is a statement that merits our attention, which, if ever proven true -and no man that ever knew Dr. McLoughlin will doubt that he believed it true, namely, that he prevented war between Great Britain and the United States - will show that two of the greatest nations on this earth owe him a debt of gratitude, and that Oregon in particular is doubly bound to him as a public benefactor. . . . It is now twenty-six years since the Legislative Assembly of the State of Oregon, so far as restoration of property to Dr. McLoughlin's family could undo the wrong of Oregon's land bill, gave gladness to the heart of every Oregon pioneer worthy of the name. All of them yet living now know that (good man as they believed him) he was better than they knew. They see him now, after the strife and jealousies of race, national, business, and sectarian interests are allayed, standing in the centre of all these causes of contention - a position in which to please all parties was simply impossible, to maintain which 'only a good man could bear with patience' - and they have adopted this means of conveying their appreciation of this great forbearance and patient endurance, combined with his generous conduct. Looking, then, at this line of action in the light of the merest glimpses of history known to be true by witnesses yet living, can any honest man wonder that the pioneers of Oregon, who have eaten the salt of this man's hospitality - who have been eye witnesses to his brave care for humanity and participators of his generous aid - are unwilling to go to their graves in silence, which would imply base ingratitude - a silence which would be eloquent with falsehood?"

In accepting this portrait, on behalf of the State of Oregon, Gov. Sylvester Pennoyer, also an Oregon pioneer, who served two consecutive terms as Governor of the State of Oregon, said: "This gift is alike creditable to the venerable men of your Association in its bestowment and to the State of Oregon in its acceptance. It does honor to the pioneers of Oregon, because it shows their full appreciation of the high qualities of a true and noble manhood; and the placing of this painting in the honorable position it now occupies in the senate-hall of the state capitol evinces a like appreciation on the part of the representatives and the people of this great State. Dr. McLoughlin was, indeed, a most extraordinary man. Entrusted with a most responsible position under the British flag at a time when there was a bitter contest for governmental supremacy in Oregon, it was the undoubted and honorable wish and prompting of his heart that the flag of his country might continue to wave over Oregon soil, and yet in instances repeated without number, he extended the hand of charity and unstinted aid to the poor immigrants of the contesting people, whose advent here threatened the supremacy of his government over the contested territory. While he was loyal to his country he was, as became his lofty character, more loyal to his conscience; and while never forgetting his full allegiance as a Briton, he never forgot his higher duty as a man. . . . Then let this picture of the grand old man, whose numerous deeds of charity are inseparably interwoven in the early history of our State, ever enjoy the place of honor it now holds; and when our children and our children's children shall visit these venerated halls, let them pause before the portrait of this venerable man and do homage to his memory, who, with his patriotic devotion to his country and his devout service to his God, crowned the full completeness of his high character with an unmeasured love for his fellow men."

I have already spoken of the Rev. H. K. Hines, D.D., a Methodist minister who came to Oregon in 1853, and of his memorable address delivered at Pendleton, December 10, 1897. In this address Dr. Hines said that "Dr. McLoughlin should escape the traduction of sectarian rancor and bigotry, . . was perhaps an impossibility. He certainly did not. Of course all could see at the outset, and none more clearly than the missionaries themselves, that the attitude he assumed towards the American missions and missionaries, must needs decide the success of their work, and even the very inauguration of it. . . . Dr. McLoughlin was a Christian, professedly, and it does not lie in me to say that he was not really and truly. At this time, and long before, and for years afterwards, he was a member of the Church of England. That subsequently, in 1841, I think, he became a devout member of the Roman Catholic church, does not, to my mind, take from or add to the estimate I make of him as a devout believer in that form of religion called Christianity." And speaking of Dr. McLoughlin's treatment of the missionaries of all denominations, Dr. Hines said: "All these missionaries came while Dr. McLoughlin was not connected with any of the churches they represented. His treatment of them was on a broader and higher plane than that of the sectary. It was that of the humanitarian and the Christian, and it continued thus even after he must have seen that, at least, the missions of Mr. Lee and Dr. Whitman were, in the order of events, gathering about themselves the elements of an American civilization that indicated what the future of Oregon would be - what it has long since become." And referring to the early immigrants and Dr. McLoughlin's treatment of them, Dr. Hines said: "What would Dr. McLoughlin do? Would he shut the gates of his fortress? Would he lock the doors of his granaries? Would he deny asylum to the weary, footsore, famishing immigrants? What would he do? We can answer by rehearsing what he did. He forgot, in large measure, that those who lay at his door, sick, weary, poor, and almost ready to die, were not his friends. He fed them and pointed them out the ways in which they could take living root in the soil of that very Oregon which was the covet of England, and had so long been the possession of his own Company, albeit they who came were American citizens, and each brought an American flag in his heart if not in his hand.

"To me it seems evident that Dr. McLoughlin clearly saw the inevitable outcome of the struggle between dilatory and procrastinating diplomacy and the steady tramp of the growing army of ox teams that slowly swung down the slopes of the mountains, and, in his humanity, which was wider than his national prejudices, and stronger to control him than his love of gain, gave the final cast of his own act to humanity and peace, rather than to gain and war. I cannot here trace the individual acts that demonstrate this general conclusion, as my aim has been rather to indicate the results and show the conclusions of history than to relate its incidents and chronicle its dates.

"A few years pass on. The great Company, erst and long the rulers of Oregon, disown the acts and reprove the conduct of this man of men. Rising to an even higher altitude of resplendent manhood, with a magnificent scorn he casts down his lofty office, with its salary of $12,000 a year, at the feet of these knights of the counting-house and ledger, cuts all the bonds that bind him to their service, comes back from the palaces of London to the green woods and soft plains of Oregon, takes his place as an American citizen under the stars and stripes, and thus wins the place of imperishable honor and fame as the true 'Father of Oregon.' There his ablest contemporaries place him. There the great State within whose bounds he died and whose foundations he laid, by the voice of her legislature and her chief executive has crowned him. There history, whose verdict I record tonight, and with which my own heart agrees, enshrines him as the greatest of our really great pioneer era."

I have given these opinions because they are those of men who personally knew Dr. McLoughlin. And years after his death, after careful consideration and reflection, they have properly estimated him and, thus remembering, have spoken truly and justly.


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