By Kathleen Galloway
As fate would have it, I was a month or so into researching the good General Lane for a project of my own, when this insidious, provocative and downright ridiculous article appeared in the Opinion section of the Sunday Oregonian, July 26, 2015, entitled “South Carolina had a Confederate flag; Oregon has Joseph Lane,” by Linell Nevius. Imagine my astonishment! As a card-carrying Confederate descendent, I must respond.
This article is a perfect example of the tactics of the reactionary and anti-democratic forces still prevailing within this Union. It is a combination of half-truths, omissions, insinuations, bald-faced lies, spin and incredible presentism, concocted at about a seventh grade level. I hardly know where to begin.
For the purposes of this article and for the sake of brevity, I am citing one reference. Any quotes which appear are from this book, unless otherwise stated. The title of the book is Joe Lane of Oregon: Machine Politics and the Sectional Crisis, 1849 – 1861, by James E. Hendrickson, Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 1967.
Nevius thinks “it’s time Oregon’s citizens gave some thought to our state history and had a conversation about our own state heritage.” Indeed, it is. Let’s examine Nevius’s very quick review of Oregon’s political history and the political history of Joseph Lane, and add the State of Indiana to our examination.
In 1849, when Gen. Joseph Lane was commissioned by President Polk to become the Governor of Oregon Territory, he was residing in Indiana, with his family, on his farm, where he had lived all of his adult life, slave-less. Lane was born in North Carolina in 1801. When he was three years old, his family (slave-less) emigrated to Kentucky and settled on the banks of the Ohio River at the border with Indiana. ”When he was 14 he left home to clerk in a dry goods store on the Indiana side of the river. By the time he was 21, he was engaged in the flatboating business and had acquired a farm, a wife, and a seat in the state legislature [of Indiana] – even before he was entitled to vote.” (p.2)
Nevius tells us that the General “was popular and known to be brave in combat.” Indeed, he was. While serving with the Second Indiana Volunteers, Joseph Lane distinguished himself during the Mexican War (1846 to ‘48) and was ultimately promoted to the rank of brevet Major General. “More importantly, his experience in the war brought him to national attention and provided him with an invaluable political asset, a favorable military record.” He was wildly popular among the slave-less citizens of Indiana. He was referred to variously as the “Marion of the Mexican war,” the “Cincinnatus of Indiana,” and the “Andrew Jackson of Indiana.” (p.53)
As noted previously, Gen. Lane was commissioned Governor of the Oregon Territory in 1849. After an arduous journey from Indiana, covering over 6000 miles and spanning seven months, he first set foot in Oregon Territory at Astoria in April, 1849, still slave-less. After a brief stop at “the little village of Portland, where the residents, hardly more than 20 souls, received them with warm hospitality and a simple but substantial meal” (p.7) he and the surviving members of his now small party, canoed on to the territorial capitol, Oregon City, where he took the oath of office on March 3, 1849 and settled in to organize the territorial government . (At this time, there were no freeways, no cars, no buses – not even Greyhound, not many roads, no airplanes, not even a transcontinental railway, the struggle over the construction of which was one of those pesky “non-causes” of the War Between The States (WBTS) AKA: The Civil War.)
In January of 1850, a new governor was appointed for The Oregon Territory, one John P. Gaines, an Indiana Whig. “This news created quite a furor among Oregonians, especially those of the Democratic persuasion, who were quick to denounce Whig appropriation of the spoils system. A resolution passed by a mass meeting in Oregon City expressed the prevailing sentiment: We believe that Gov. Lane has faithfully, vigilantly, and honorably discharged all the duties incumbent upon him as Governor and Superintendent of Indian Affairs in and for this Territory. We know that he has endeared himself to this people by his uniform kind, generous and manly bearing as a neighbor, friend, and citizen and we deeply regret his removal.” (p.19) In June, 1850, General Lane resigned as Governor to pursue various private and business activities. (He actually was “a rugged frontier hero” as described by Nevius. The California Gold Rush was in full swing at this time, and Oregon temporarily lost a huge portion of her population to the California gold fields, including ex-Territorial Governor Lane.)
In 1851, General Lane was elected Delegate to Congress for the Territory of Oregon. He was present in Washington City, D.C. in December, 1851 for the first session of the Thirty-second Congress as the new delegate for the Oregon Territory. He set about having Oregon admitted to the Union, a feat he accomplished (slave-less) in 1859. While serving as the Representative for Oregon, in Washington D.C., he wrote home to Oregonians apprising them of his progress on the Statehood front, and laying out his political positions on the issues of the day: “…he had introduced a joint resolution to approve the proceedings of the legislature at Salem, which he was confident would pass; that he favored organization of the Democratic Party; and that he opposed a national bank, monopolies in general, a high protective tariff, and ‘a grand and magnificent scheme of Internal Improvements by the General Government’; and that he supported the present independent treasury system, liquidating the national debt, economy in government, strict construction of the Constitution, and the careful preservation of the rights of the States as the great bulwark of our liberty.” (p.50) (There are those pesky “non-causes” again.)
Nevius forgot to mention that General Lane was also nominated a Democratic Presidential candidate in 1852 by the “Hoosiers” of Indiana, who still considered him one of their own, slave-less or not. (It wasn’t until 1853 that General Lane finally settled his affairs in Indiana and moved the rest of his large and slave-less family to Oregon.) The State Democratic Convention of Indiana, meeting in February of 1852, endorsed Joseph Lane as the Democratic candidate for President. When the Democratic National Convention met in Baltimore in June 1852 and the dust finally settled, the Convention nominated Franklin Pierce, another general from the Mexican war, “the Young Hickory of the Granite Hills” of New Hampshire (slave-less, and also labeled Pro-slavery.) (p.52)
Oregon became a State in February, 1859, mostly due to the efforts of Representative Lane, since Statehood was what he was elected to accomplish. Joseph Lane and Delazon Smith had already been elected Senators; both were staunch Democrats, slave-less and of course, labeled Pro-slavery by the reactionary opposition, the Republicans. (The Whig Party had disintegrated and most of their number had joined the recently formed Republican Party. (Long story. Really long.)
On the eve of the War of Northern Aggression (AKA: the Civil War.) Sen. Lane was indeed nominated for Vice-President on the Breckinridge ticket. By this time the forces of reaction had done their dirty work through the “reckless and incessant” (Davis) agitation of the manufactured Slavery issue, and fractured the Democratic Party into three factions. (There would have been four, but the “Free Soil” left-wing extremists of the Democratic Party had bolted and joined the right-wing extremist “Abolitionists” with the Whigs in the Republican Party.) In a last ditch attempt to keep the reactionary Republicans, the true minority party, from taking the election and plunging the Union into an un-necessary, vicious and bloody war, the Democratic factions were maneuvering to have Senator Lane appointed President by the US House of Representatives. He was a candidate acceptable to all. For more information on this matter, see “Union for the Sake of the Union”: The Selection of Joseph Lane as Acting President of the United States, 1861, by S. I. Sheppard, Oregon Historical Quarterly, vol. 115, no.4, Oregon Historical Society, 2014.
Now that we have reviewed most of the “quick review,” we are suddenly confronted with the first of the bald-faced lies: “Gen. Lane was also a slaveholder, although slavery in the Oregon territory was made illegal in 1844, long before statehood and was clearly illegal in the state he represented as territorial governor and later as Senator.” Initially, Nevius cites the Oregon Encyclopedia, “a project of the Oregon Historical Society,” as a source of this misinformation, attempting, by insinuation, to cloak this preposterous lie in the authority and respectability of the Oregon Historical Society. I’m sure the Oregon Encyclopedia does not say that Gen. Lane was a slaveholder, holding slaves brazenly and illegally in Oregon Territory. If it does, the compilers should be brought to task about this matter, forthwith.
In the next paragraph, Nevius again throws caution to the wind and confronts us with another bald-faced lie: “Although the 13th Amendment abolished slavery throughout the United States in 1865, Joseph Lane remained on his farm in Roseburg and continued to keep at least one slave until 1878 in unrestricted, open defiance of both state and federal law.” Nevius cites Wikipedia as the source. A really great source! Everybody knows that if it’s in Wikipedia, it must be true; since any ole’ body who wants to can contribute any ole’ thing they want, to Wikipedia. The particular source for this particular lie is presented as “a Wikipedia statement and citation from the book ‘Great and Minor moments in Oregon History’ by Dick Pintarich of Portland Community College.” I am assuming that Wikipedia and Nevius are accurately citing Pintarich. If not, my sincerest apology to Pintarich. (I, too, am “of” PCC (long retired) “of” PSU , “of” UMass, etc.) Once again Nevius cites the Oregon Historical Society and other authoritative sources, insinuating that they are the sources of these outrageous lies.
Perhaps this mythical slave that the general kept in open defiance is one Peter Waldo. After the death of his beloved wife, Polly, “Joseph Lane remained on his farm for another eight years, living as a hermit, his only companion a Negro lad, Peter Waldo, who had been committed to his care by the Court of Josephine County in 1864.” Now I know that you Yankee transcendental types don’t think that dates are important, but I must point out that the WBTS (AKA: The Civil War) was raging in 1864. I doubt that the Confederacy had the time, the means or the inclination, to influence the Court of Josephine County. Or that the good citizens of Oregon were so stupid, corrupt and spineless that they would allow this to occur.
Nevius laments that “We can’t fix everything wrong with history…” How does one “fix” history? What’s wrong with it, anyway? I thought history was what it was; or is what it was. Of course, one can lie, obfuscate, insinuate, spin and try to whip up hysteria behind childish presentism, but that fixes nothing. Besides, I thought you Yankees won that war. Aren’t you happy about that? Or does it need “fixing?”
Nevius believes “the Confederate battle flag was removed from state-sponsored prominence in the South because that flag is no longer considered an inclusive symbol of Southern heritage…) By whom? By the Yankees and their minions? They never did think it was an inclusive symbol of anything but racial hatred. In an endless and continuing effort to “Divide and Rule” the propaganda apparatus of the Military Industrial Complex has been heaping horrific racist abuse on that glorious flag and the people of the Occupied Confederacy (Willis) for at least a hundred and fifty years. During the current Terror Campaign against all things Confederate, Confederate flags and symbols have been burned and trashed, Confederate graves and monuments desecrated, Confederate citizens and supporters terrorized and abused in their own homes, regardless of where they happen to live. At least one African-American Confederate citizen from Mississippi, Anthony Hervey, was killed, in July, by crazed “young black men.”
Many misguided and mentally fragile individuals either support or despise the Rebel Flag because they believe it is a symbol of intolerance, racism and white supremacy. They believe this because of the “reckless and incessant” and totally nefarious propaganda emanating, for the past 150 years, from the Yankee media, anchored in the Yankee public school system. (“Federal Funds”) If you win the war you write the textbooks; and you also control everything else produced by the largest, most sophisticated and all-encompassing media in the world. Who, then, is responsible for the murders at the South Carolina church and the related death of Anthony Hervey? I would say the above-mentioned Hate-mongers and purveyors of lies, who “unblushingly” fly the Yankee Flag.
Nevius seems to think there are no more Confederate flags in South Carolina, because the current scalawag government of South Carolina removed the Battle Flag from the grounds of the State Capitol. Personally, I would bet there are still plenty of Confederate flags stashed all over South Carolina. That’s why it’s called the Rebel Flag.
Nevius wonders “do we really want to commemorate over 4700 square miles in the state of Oregon to recognize Joseph Lane?” My brain is getting tired, so I’ll come all the way down to a seventh grade level to answer this, just in case I have failed so far to make my point:
OMG! There’s a whole county lurking near Portland, honoring that notorious SLAVEHOLDER, George Washington! OMG! There are schools and streets and that huge shopping mall honoring that SLAVEHOLDER! OMG! OMG! There’s an entire State, looming over Oregon (XXXXX square miles) named for that notorious SLAVEHOLDER, George Washington! That’s practically our own back-porch! OMG! He’s on the dollar bill! OMG! OMG! OMG! Who’s going to tell Denzel that he has to change his name before he’s labeled Pro-slavery and profiled all over again! Not me! OMG! OMG! OMG! There’s a whole street in Portland named for another notorious SLAVEHOLDER, Thomas Jefferson, and a whole school too! OMG! OMG! We have to fix history! How can we fix history?! OMG! I know! We can burn the books! I heard there were 65,000 books about the Civil War (AKA: the WBTS.) That’s a lot of books. OMG! If we burn the books, we can say anything we want about anything and nobody can catch us! OMG! Maybe if we burn them right, we can reduce our dependency on foreign oil! OMG! OMG! What about all the movies, and TV programs, and the songs on tapes and CDs! Can we burn them too? Would that be safe, all that toxic smoke? OMG! I know! We could just throw them into the oceans somewhere, so they can hook up with that island of plastic in the Pacific or hang-out forever in the Sargasso Sea until they turn into purple slime-ooze. OMG! OMG! Who’s going to tell Matlock?! No more re-runs. Too many Rebel Flags in the courtrooms! OMG! He’s deceased. Never mind, no problem…
On a more serious note, semi-reliable sources have it that in 1860, the population of the entire United States was about 31 million; 22 million in the northern States, with I don’t know how many European immigrants, and 9 million in the southern States, with about 3.5 million slaves. When the war was temporarily over in 1865, there were over 1 million casualties. One fifth of the young men on both sides were killed or wounded. We are expected to believe that this was the only war in human history that had no economic causes; that it was fought for the grandest of moral principles – to free the “abused” slaves of the Southern States; that all the devastation and horror was necessary and “irrepressible”; that the corrupt, decadent, evil and really stupid citizens of the Confederacy were fighting “for slavery” just because they were corrupt, decadent, evil and really stupid. We are furthermore expected to believe that the ancestors of our current African-American citizens were too stupid, corrupted and spineless to resist any such abuse, because they were really stupid, corrupted and spineless. ( Roots.) We are also expected to believe that if the military pursuit of this high moral principle accidentally destroyed the entire economic structure and social fabric of the Confederate States, well, that was just a happy accident. Collateral damage and all that.
I could go on and on, exposing the omissions, insinuations, bald-faced lies, spin and presentism in the article in question. I could nit-pick every word and nuance, driving myself and everybody else stark-raving mad. So, just one more, and then I’ll stop.
Yes, we have many other “fascinating people… to remember and to teach our children about.” Not only does Oregon have Joseph Lane, we also have Gov. John Whiteaker (Gov. in 1861) and Col. Isaac Williams Smith, who gave us the Bull Run Water-shed and the best drinking water on the planet (Willis,) for example. There are many more, all labeled “Pro-slavery” because they were Democrats.
Since most of the early “pioneer” settlers were staunch Democrats, from North and South, Democrats dominated State political life right up to the eve of the war, and regained political power right after the end. (Another really long story.) Oregonians and the citizens of Washington Territory provided sanctuary (from Reconstruction) for the fleeing survivors of the War of Northern Aggression (AKA: the Civil War) for many years. (Spencer.) There are thousands of Confederate descendents wandering all over Oregon and Washington. Most are unaware of their condition. (OMG! We need ethnic cleansing right now, before it’s too late!) In conclusion, I do have to thank Nevius, Pintarich, et al. for giving me this opportunity to set at least a small part of the record straight. It’s good for Out-reach.
(Kathleen Galloway lives underground in NW Portland.)