American Legal History

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JohnOMearaProject_DumbLuck 5 - 05 Jan 2018 - Main.JohnOMeara
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No Suffrage, Little Attention; Nonetheless, Some Prosperity

A wealthy half-Black war veteran and frontiersman named George Washington Bush altered the course of history in the Pacific Northwest. George Bush was among the first Oregon Trail settlers in present-day Washington. Racism persisted north of the Columbia River, yet policies in Washington Territory were more conducive to Black prosperity than contemporaneous laws in Oregon Territory. Between 1844–1870, small Black enclaves established livelihoods in hardscrabble Washington Territory. The Bush family became prominent. In comparison, Oregon Territory enforced two “Black Exclusion” laws, and its constitution codified abject White supremacy.

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Given that Washington Territory’s legislature demonstrated interracial tolerance compared to its southern neighbors, did any Black men vote in Washington?
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Given that Washington Territory’s legislature demonstrated greater interracial tolerance compared to its southern neighbors, did any Black men vote in Washington?
 No.

My research concludes that no Black man appeared on a Washington Territory voter roll until after states ratified the Fifteenth Amendment.

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Nonetheless, by 1870, over two hundred free Blacks and “mulattoes,” mostly single men, acquired land or earned a living in Washington Territory. Before his death in 1863, Bush became prominent for business, charity and civics. His son, William, served in the state’s first legislature in 1889. Bush was instrumental in settling Washington—but he never voted.
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Nonetheless, by 1870, over two hundred free Blacks and “mulattoes,” mostly single men, acquired land or earned a living in Washington Territory. Before his death in 1863, Bush became prominent for business, charity and civics. His son, William, served in the state’s first legislature in 1889, and William introduced a successful civil rights bill in 1890. Bush was instrumental in early Washington's growth—but he never voted.
 

Background: Hostility Toward Blacks in Oregon Country

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Bush Goes West

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George Bush’s African father, born in colonial India, and mother, Irish-American, inherited a fortune in 1787 from an heirless Philadelphian merchant for whom they served. Young Bush was educated, and he fought under Andrew Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans at 21 years old. After the war, Bush fur-trapped in Oregon Country for the Hudson’s Bay Company. Bush is believed to be the first free Black man west of the Rocky Mountains. After trapping, Bush raised cattle in Illinois and Missouri. In 1844, Bush embarked from Missouri with his White wife, Isabella, four mixed-race sons,*2.? and several thousand dollars’ worth of ingot. Bush led a predominantly White party comprising several well-to-do families.
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George Bush’s African father, born in colonial India, and mother, Irish-American, inherited a fortune in 1787 from an heirless Philadelphian merchant in whose manor they served. Young Bush was educated, and he fought under Andrew Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans at 21 years old. After the war, Bush fur-trapped in Oregon Country for the Hudson’s Bay Company. Bush is believed to be the first free Black man west of the Rocky Mountains. After a decade of trapping, Bush raised cattle in Illinois and Missouri. In 1844, Bush embarked from Missouri with his White wife, Isabella, four mixed-race sons,*2.? and several thousand dollars’ worth of ingot. Bush led a predominantly White party comprising several well-to-do families.
 
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Upon Bush’s arrival to the Willamette Valley, White farmers enforced Black Exclusion. The party relocated to the southern tip of Puget Sound. There, Bush established Bush Prairie, a successful farm, and financed a gristmill and a sawmill.
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Upon Bush’s arrival to the Willamette Valley, the present White community enforced Black Exclusion. Bush's party relocated to the southern tip of Puget Sound, at Tumwater (presently Olympia), between the Black and Deschutes Rivers. There, Bush established Bush Prairie, a successful farm, and financed a gristmill and a sawmill that served White settlers and Indians from St!sch!a's village.
 In 1850, Bush owned real property in Lewis County worth $3,000. Among the county’s 558 residents, only seven heads of households had real property worth more. One other Black man, William Phillips, a sailor, lived in Lewis County. A Black man and woman, each a servant to a White Army officer, lived in Clark County. In 1850, nine Black people resided in Oregon Territory north of the Columbia River, of 1,201 total inhabitants.*3.?
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 [INSERT: excerpt of Monticello Convention]
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The Organic Act did not adopt Black Exclusion policies. Indeed, the act does not mention Black people. Under the Organic Act, White and mixed-race White-Indian male residents had exclusive voting eligibility to elect an assembly. Voter eligibility in subsequent elections was to be determined by the assembly.
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The Organic Act did not adopt Black Exclusion policies. Indeed, the act does not mention Black people. Under the Organic Act, White and mixed-race White-Indian male residents had exclusive voting eligibility to elect the first assembly. Voter eligibility in subsequent elections was to be determined by this assembly.
 **Screenshot of Sec. 4**
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The initial election elevated 29 men to the Territorial Assembly. One of the Councilmen, Michael T. Simmons, was in Bush’s 1844 Oregon Trail party. Territorial Governor Isaac Stevens presided. The first assembly session concluded February 27, 1854. Legislators declined to give the few Black men voting rights. Consequently, I found no record that Black people attempted to register to vote between 1854—1870. In comparison, many mixed-race White-Indian men participated in elections.
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The initial election elevated 29 men to the Territorial Assembly. One of the Councilmen, Michael T. Simmons, was in Bush’s 1844 Oregon Trail party. Territorial Governor Isaac I. Stevens presided. The first assembly session concluded February 27, 1854. Legislators declined to give the few Black men voting rights. Consequently, I found no record that Black people attempted to register to vote between 1854—1870. In comparison, many mixed-race White-Indian men participated in elections.
 INSERT: excerpt of 1854 laws, 1

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Revision 4r4 - 04 Dec 2017 - 21:13:48 - JohnOMeara
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