Tchaikovsky Sounds Funny: Book Review: "Legislative Perspectives"

Is this where I put in key words such as sex, lesbians, vampires, Christopher Lloyd and others things to which this blog do not pertain, but by putting them here, I may get hits from all the Christoper Lloyd lesbian vampire fans (and you know who you are)? This is the primarily humorous and occasionally rambling writings of Leon Tchaikovsky, humor writer. Enjoy.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Book Review: "Legislative Perspectives"

Tchaikovsky Sounds Funny

Oregon created its first legislative body to make laws in 1843. There were nine legislators paid $1.25 per day. In 1844, this body decided to create the state’s first taxes. These taxes were voluntary. The Sheriff would request payment and then would refuse to provide police protection to those who didn’t pay. This system remained in place until 1849 when Oregon decided to establish a territorial legislature.

The incredible history of the Oregon legislature unfolds in this book "Legislative Perspectives". Oregon politics were fought bitterly and strongly. Newspapers took partisan stances, with a pro-Democratic newspaper declaring that a pro-Whig newspaper was "a complete tissue of gross profanity, obscenity, falsehood, and meanness" that hardly ever was correct "even by mistake."

Readers learn about the bitter debates concerning racial minorities. While there were only about 125 African Americans and mulattoes in Oregon in 1857, there was much arguing over their legal status. While Oregonians defeated slavery by 7,725 to 2,645, these same voters decided citizenship should not be given to Blacks and mulattoes by 7,195 to 3, 125.

Oregon further required a poll tax for Chinese, Blacks, and mulattoes of $5, which could be paid with employment on public roads at a rate of 50 cents a day. Chinese further were required to pay a tax (for being Chinese) of $2 a month, if working in a mine, or $50 a month if working elsewhere.

Women, or at least one woman, in Oregon may have been among the first females voting in this country. A one eyed stage coach driver named Charlie Parkhurst may have been among the first women to vote. Only, no one else knew Charlie was a woman until Charlie died and the undertaker made the discovery.

In 1870, Oregon failed to vote approval of the 15th Amendment that states the right to vote could not be denied due to race. Oregon finally did vote approval: in 1959.

Pennsylvania played a role in Oregon political history. John Hipple, a resident of Butler, Pa., responded to being sued for bastardy by fleeing to Oregon with $4,000 of his business partner’s money, changed his name to John Mitchell, became a Republican politician, and persuaded the Oregon legislature to elect him U.S. Senator. (Senators then were elected by state legislatures.) The embarrassment of having love letters he sent to his wife’s sister published hurt but did not bring his defeat in his Senate campaign. Yet, it is written he provided so much money to legislators to secure his election that he spent the rest of his life in poverty. As Senator, he was indicted for fraud and died shortly afterwards and is buried in an unmarked grave.

19th century political power rested in Oregon with business leaders representing railroads, utilities, and banks. Legislation was passed as cost of $4,000 per Republican legislator and $3,000 per Democratic legislator. One legislator wrote "as a Democrat, I always resented this unjust discrimination and when once I asked a political kale purveyor how they justified the discrimination he said as a rule, the Republicans occupied a much higher social scale."

Still, legislative action was not a given. One entire legislative session ended without a single bill passed or a U.S. Senator elected.

There may have been corrupt politics in Oregon, yet they may not have had the worst governance. In 1880, historian Walter Pierce wrote "Oregon is one of the most corrupt and inefficient governments to be found north of Mexico and west of Pennsylvania."

The 20th century Oregon legislature did find some progress. In 1921, Oregon became the first state to elect a female Assistant House Chief Clerk when it chose Rosina Miller. The first husband and wife legislative team hailed from Oregon when Democrats Richard Neuberger was elected to the State Senate in 1948 and Maurine Neuberger was elected to the State House in 1950. Richard later became the first Democratic U.S. Senator from Oregon in four decades and his widow succeeded him in his Senate seat.

Some more recent Oregon legislative tales will amuse readers, such as time an Oregon legislator dropped a bottle of liquid taken from a railroad effluent line and let the smell fill the chambers. In another instance, a sleeping legislator had his shoe laces tied to his desk and then was called upon by the Speaker to arise from his desk.

People wishing to learn about life in Oregon’s legislature will enjoy this book. It is good to see some people capturing these pieces of history. If we can’t learn from the past, we can at least enjoy it, as readers will from this book.


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