Gov. Oswald West

Gov. Oswald West

I recently stumbled on the following whimsical 1915 editorial from the New York Times about Oregon’s approach to public affairs, while researching Fern Hobbs, one of Oregon’s more colorful historic figures. It gave me a smile, so I thought I’d share. -Pete

Happy, Happy Oregon

The law-ridden East looks westward to Oregon with growing admiration. Oregon has a Governor through whose untamed soul blow the salt breezes of the Pacific. He believes in short cuts. Law is long and time is fleeting. He conserves the time and repeats Asa Bird Gardiner’s maxim about the law.

He is the Governor who put a town under martial law because liquor was sold in it, and put his private secretary, a doubtless warlike young lady named Miss Fern Hobbs, in command of his warriors when they marched on the town. Now he has announced that he will pardon a criminal who swindled an old couple out of $3,000 on condition that he return the money. Gov. West says it will be better to let the old people have the money than to keep the swindler in prison. It cannot be denied that there is a certain attractiveness about this idea: but it strikes the ear of the humdrum East, accustomed to slavish conformity with the law, as just a bit unconventional.

Now, however, Gov. West has given his finest example of the short cut. He has an estimable cousin, Miss Kathryn Clark and is convinced that she would make a first-class State Senator, and that the quality of Oregon’s legislation would be much improved if she got into the Legislature. Unfortunately she has never been elected to it. That would be a serious obstacle to some Governors, but is a straw in the path of Gov. West. He appoints a Senator to a newly created District Attorneyship, and then appoints Miss Clark Senator to succeed him.

The Oregon Constitution, it is true, provides that vacancies in the Legislature must be filled by special election, and the law is that a Senator cannot be appointed to an office created by the Legislature of which he was a member. But these little objections are trifles to a Governor so full of resource, so adept in short cuts, so skillful in circumventing the circumlocution office, as Gov. West. We, in the moldy, moth-eaten East, admire Oregon for choosing such a free-spirited chief. We do not exactly envy her the possession of him, for we are hidebound and set in our ways and would not feel comfortable with him: but we can say to her honestly and with no reservations that we are glad she has got him.