Oregon Law Review : Vol. 87 No. 3, p.731-782 : Remembering 1857
Mooney, Ralph James
This brief paper will summarize the background, personalities, and debates of that memorable 1857 convention, as well as certain notable features of the constitution its delegates produced. To the extent possible 150 years later, I shall try to recreate the attitudes and atmosphere, the political and legal concerns, and, yes, the excitement the delegates themselves surely experienced. As others have written, the three dominant delegate concerns at the convention were politics, finances, and race.5 Who, and which political party, would emerge from the convention with enhanced prospects? In how many ways could the delegates minimize expenses, both of the convention itself and of the new state? And should Oregonians permit slavery, or free blacks, or even immigrant Chinese, within their borders? Other contentious issues included the new state’s boundaries, whether shareholders should be personally liable for corporate debts, whether to allow the legislature to charter banks, whether to include a bill of rights in the constitution, and, believe it or not, whether to spend $300 for a reporter to record convention proceedings.