3 Black Exclusion Laws That Greatly Influenced the Makeup of the State of Oregon

0 Posted by - August 14, 2018 - Injustices, LATEST POSTS, SLAVERY

Oregon’s racial makeup has been greatly shaped by three that were put in place during much of the region’s early history. The laws were put in place to discourage free blacks from settling in the state early on, the goal of the state was to remain primarily white. White emigrants who arrived in the present-day Oregon during the 1840s and 1850s generally opposed , but many of them did not want to live along with people. Many of the emigrants were non-slaveholding farmers from Missouri while the others were from bordering states who had struggled to compete against white slave owners. So, the people in Oregon wanted to avoid a similar competitive situation and decided to ban Blacks altogether. However, there were a small number of Blacks who had made it to the region and settled.


The small White population of Oregon voted on July 5, 1843, they wanted to prohibit slavery by incorporating into Oregon’s 1843 Organic laws a provision of the 1787 Northwest Ordinance. The ordinance read as follows: “There shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in the said territory otherwise than in the punishment of crimes whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.” The law was amended, however, on June 26, 1844, by the provisional government’s new legislative council, headed by Missouri immigrant Peter Burnett. As amended, the law prohibited slavery, gave slaveholders a time limit to “remove” their slaves “out of the country,” and freed slaves if their owners refused to remove them.” (Oregon Encyclopedia.org)

The purpose of this was to legalize slavery in the state of Oregon for 3-years. If a slave was freed they could no longer live in the state. The freed black men would be required to leave the state within 2-years and free black women 3-years. If a free Black person refused to leave they would be lashed, this provision was known as the “Peter Burnett’s Lash Law.” There were supporters of the law who felt it was necessary to keep troublesome populations of Blacks out the state and under control. Peter Burnett, later became the first governor of California, and also felt the law was necessary to avoid most of the evils that had afflicted the United States and other countries. However, the law was rescinded later in 1845 for being too harsh of a punishment.

The second exclusion law was enacted by the Territorial Legislature on September 21, 1849. This law specified that “it shall not be lawful for any negro or mulatto to enter into, or reside” in Oregon, with exceptions made for those who were already in the territory. The law targeted seamen who might be tempted to jump ship. The preamble to the law addressed a concern that African Americans might “intermix with Indians, instilling into their minds feelings of hostility toward the white race.” The law was rescinded in 1854.” Under this law 3 Blacks were expelled but received so much support from some whites until they were allowed to remain in the state.

On November 7, 1857, along with a proposal to legalize slavery, delegates to Oregon’s constitutional convention submitted an exclusion clause to voters. Votes disapproved of slavery by a wide margin, ensuring that Oregon would be a free state. Incorporated into the Bill of Rights, the clause prohibited blacks from being in the state, owning property, or making contracts. Oregon thus became the only free state admitted to the Union with an exclusion clause in its constitution. However, the clause was never enforced, even though there were many attempts that were made to enforce it. The Senate killed the last attempt to enforce the law in 1866. All other racist language in the state constitution was removed in 2002. The 1860 census for Oregon shows that out of 52,465 people living in the state only 128 of them were Blacks. So, it is believed there were other measures being used to discourage black settlers from the state as well.


Original Article From http://oregonencyclopedia.org/articles/exclusion_laws/#.VfbkajZREic






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