From the April 2003 Idaho Observer:
by Hari Heath
As our former
off to war -- for oil -- for Israel -- for some other as
yet unseen purpose;
As our good fighting men and women are deployed in a
distant desert, at the beginning of a long hot summer,
completely surrounded by all the Arab enemies that decades
of a flawed U.S. foreign policy could muster;
As our U.S. dictatorship unleashes the shocking awe of its
weapons of mass destruction under the guise of preventing
another dictatorship from possessing weapons of mass
destruction -- which he might use on us;
As the collateral damage mounts in this undeclared, immoral
and unconstitutional war of aggression and the fuse is lit
on the Middle Eastern powder keg;
As the filing date approaches for the tax we do not owe,
according to the questions our government refuses to
As an American woman whose husband was stolen for
non-compliance went on a hunger strike to compell the
government to answer one question: what law requires her
husband to file?
As the SARS virus spreads from China to Toronto and
elsewhere, providing the excuse to forcibly quarantine any
citizen who might have the symptoms of this possibly
As the last vestiges of our Constitution and Bill of Rights
are about to be destroyed by Patriot Act II, and the final
wave of the Homeland Gestapo spreads across our land...
...wouldn't it be nice to return to better days -- days
like the tranquil times of America's golden age, when Idaho
was forming into a territory and then a state?
The Idaho State Historical Society published bIdaho: An
Illustrated History in 1976 which gives us a glimpse of
better days when life was simple and uncomplicated. First,
a look into the creation of Idaho Territory:
In 1859, the land that became Idaho formed most of
the eastern part of Washington territory. Except for a few
settlers around The Dalles and Walla Walla, Oregon and
Washington consisted entirely of communities west of the
Cascades. Except for a missionary or two in the Coeur
d'Alene country, and about one mountain man in the upper
Snake valley, Idaho had been given back to the Indians.
Mormons in the Cache valley expanded north across the Utah
boundary into Washington to found Franklin (later to become
Idaho's oldest town), April 14, 1860. Then, after mineral
discoveries at Pierce in 1860, the Idaho gold rush changed
the situation entirely. Shoshone county was created by the
Washington [territorial] legislature, January 9, 1861, in
anticipation of the gold rush. In the Washington
congressional election of July, 1861, the new mining county
cast the largest vote in the territory.
Aware that political control of Washington would
shift from Puget Sound to the farm and mining counties east
of the Cascades, publicity in support of a new territory
for the Idaho mines began to emanate from Olympia, not from
the mining counties. Olympia interest in the project arose
from fears that Washington's territorial capital soon would
be moved to Walla Walla unless the territory was divided.
In 1862, a majority of Washington's population resided in
the mining counties. Except for a brief time when Florence
held top position, Walla Walla had become the largest city
in Washington. Legislative reapportionment soon would
deliver control of the territory to Walla Walla and the
Walla Walla, aspiring to become capital of
Washington, opposed a new territory. Lewiston, located
closer to the mines, hoped for a new territory east of the
Cascades that would include Walla Walla as well as the
mines. Such an arrangement would give Lewiston a central
location and an advantage in the competition to become a
territorial capital. In the Washington territorial
elections of July 14, 1862, the mining counties elected
candidates who supported Walla Walla's preference, and
opposed the Lewiston and Olympia plans to set aside a new
Encouraged by the Idaho gold rush, which expanded
into the Boise basin by the fall of 1862, Walla Walla hoped
to be capital of a new state of Washington. Olympia had to
move quickly, for such a disaster seemed all too likely.
Olympia wanted an eastern Washington boundary that would
retain Walla Walla and the adjacent farming country in
Washington, and put all the mines, but not potential farms,
in a new territorial jurisdiction.
Lewiston's suggestion for a new territorial boundary
collided with Olympia's plan. But in Congress, Olympia won.
Over the opposition of the legislative delegation from the
Idaho mines, which preferred to keep Washington intact,
Washington's congressional delegate managed to overcome
Walla Walla's plan to make Washington a new mining state.
John Mullan, in the national capital reporting on
construction of his military road in eastern Washington and
western Dakota, got the House of Representatives to approve
the Walla Walla plan, February 12, 1863. William H.
Wallace, Washington's Congressional delegate, upheld
Olympia's preference and quietly got the Senate to put the
rest of the Idaho mines in the new territory right at the
end of the session. Over the opposition of the chairmen of
both congressional committees on territories, he got the
boundary amendment approved in the House of Representatives
as well. Another last-minute amendment restored the name
'Idaho' to the new mining territory. President Lincoln
approved the measure on the morning of March 4, 1863, and
Idaho became a territory of the United States shortly
before Congress adjourned.
Wallace, who had little or no hope of getting
reelected to Congress from Washington, had an opportunity
to come out to Idaho as governor. He selected the original
slate of Idaho's territorial officials. His new territory
-- the last of the vast oversize western territories --
exceeded Texas in area. All of later Montana and
practically all of later Wyoming were included.
The Historical Society's book continues, giving us a
further look into the early days of Idaho's territorial
Territorial government began in Idaho four months
after Congress established the new mining commonwealth.
Governor Wallace decided to organize the new territory in
Lewiston, the point in Idaho nearest and most convenient to
his Puget Sound home. He faced some major problems. Because
Idaho was established on the last day of the congressional
session, no money was appropriated for Idaho's government.
Worse yet, massive ranges of mountains divided the mining
camps of the western part of Idaho into three widely
separated sections: the Clearwater-Salmon river mines; the
Boise-Owyhee region; and the upper Missouri area that
became Montana less than a year later. The eastern half of
the new territory -- the great plains of later Montana and
Wyoming -- contained a few soldiers at Fort Laramie and a
lot of Indians. No matter what Wallace had done to try and
start a government for such an area, at least half the
population would have been dissatisfied. But with his base
of operations, in the now mostly depopulated original Idaho
mining area, he alienated five-sixths of the people.
Governor Wallace got away from these problems by getting
himself elected delegate to Congress that fall before the
legislature met in Lewiston that winter. He left Idaho in
the hands of territorial secretary W. B. Daniels, who was
regarded in Lewiston as unsuited for the job 'for want of a
sufficiently strong and cultivated intellect.'
After Wallace left, Idaho's experience with
territorial government for the next six years was uniformly
unsatisfactory. Daniels and the legislature could not even
manage to chose a site for a territorial capital. The code
of laws they adopted in February 1864, were soon regarded
as defective and repealed that December.
Caleb Lyon of Lyonsdale, the new governor, proved to
be a colorful, eccentric former congressman who delivered
great orations but fled clandestinely from the territory at
the end of 1864 when the citizens of Lewiston decided to
resist the actions of the governor and the second session
of the legislature. A Lewiston probate judge decided the
legislature was illegal, and there was no supreme court to
hear an appeal.
For more than two months, Idaho had no government at
all. Finally a new territorial secretary and acting
governor arrived from the east after spending eight months
trying to reach Idaho. Turned back by the Plains Indians in
the summer of 1864, he had to start all over and come by
way of Panama, San Francisco, and Portland. He too gained
the displeasure of the citizens of Lewiston by moving
Idaho's government operations to Boise, which had been made
territorial capital, effective December 24, 1864. Then the
new acting governor, while on a tour of the territory,
suddenly expired from the effects of 'a dismal and
melancholy disease,' August 19, 1865, at Rocky Bar -- where
Idaho's government came to an abrupt end.
Idaho's government was revived by H. C. Gilson, 'a
small gambling bar tender' of 'doubtful Moral antecedent'
whom the deceased governor had picked up in San Francisco.
Gilson's main contribution to Idaho's progress was to steal
the entire territorial treasury, which amounted to $41,062.
After absconding to Hong Kong and Paris, he was eventually
caught. But no action could be brought against him because
the grand jury had forgotten to indict him.
Meanwhile, Governor Lyon returned to Boise to try
again; he succeeded in getting into trouble with about
everyone but the Indians. Dismissed from office because he
opposed massacring the Indians, he slipped out of Boise in
the spring of 1866 with all of Idaho's Indian funds (a
total of $46,418.40) which he administered as
superintendent of Indian affairs. Once again, Idaho was
left with no government.
By the time Lyon's successor, Governor D. W. Ballard,
reached Boise, June 14, 1866, the Idaho supreme court
finally managed to organize and decide that the legislature
was legal after all. From then on, Idaho at least had a
government. For some years, though, no one except the
territorial secretary knew what most of the laws were,
because the published volumes were held in San Francisco
awaiting payment of the printing bill. This could not be
paid because Gilson had disappeared with the territorial
Governor Ballard reached Idaho at a time when a
legacy of bitter antagonism divided the nation after the
Civil War. A large influx of Confederate refugees from
Missouri, reinforced by sympathizers from the Pacific
coast, made Idaho a strongly southern territory. From
1864-1880, Idaho's Confederate Democrats dominated the
territorial elections. Naturally, the Republican governors
and other territorial officials appointed by the president
of the United States clashed with the legislature. During
the excitement of the national debate over Radical
Reconstruction of the South during 1866-1867, Governor
Ballard got into such a violent war with his overwhelmingly
Confederate legislature that he called out United States
Army troops at Fort Boise for protection from the
legislature. In its 'satanic' fourth session, Idaho's
legislature got about as ferocious as any good southerner
could have asked. A long continued drive to remove Ballard
as governor grew out of his fight with the legislature.
Ballard's enemies managed to get his pay stopped, but after
more than a year, some Oregon senators got Ballard restored
to the payroll. In the meantime, he had to support himself
with his Boise medical practice. By the end of 1868,
Ballard managed to develop harmonious relations with the
legislature in spite of overwhelming political differences.
Then early in 1869, Idaho's unhappy government financial
disorders were untangled -- and the chaos and excitement of
the early gold rush years gradually came to an end.
Tranquil times? Golden age? The history of human endeavors
rarely exemplify anything that can be called honorable
conduct. Greed, usurpation, fraud, graft, deception and
political shenanigans are the most common punctuation marks
of human history. From the frontier times to modern
mega-government's war on everything for everything, only
the methods and intensity of the political crimes against
humanity have changed.
Why? Most people are as spineless as water. We don't
stand for anything; we gravitate instead to the
lowest common denominator -- greed. Satisfying our selfish
motivations of getting the most for the least personal
effort. This is equally true for the lowly citizen who
keeps his head down to just get by and not make waves
against the hand that feeds him, and those who grasp at the
fist of power. The fist of power -- a beastial government
which is sustained by compelling the citizenry to surrender
the fruits of their labors. There are no innocent civilians
here; you either feed the beast or ride it.
Until humanity learns to walk on higher ground and refuses
to contribute to the evils of either a seemingly benevolent
government (socialism) or the progressively totalitarian
fists of power that ultimately rise from better intentions,
we will be doomed to repeat our current fate. And the
debacles of the next frontier territory will
again evolve into yet another fist of power, leaving in its
path wretchedness and oppression.