Thursday, April 18, 2013

Borders of Idaho Territory Reported in the West (Finally)

Over a month after Congress created Idaho Territory, and 150 years ago (April 18, 1863) today, the Oregonian, in Portland, finally published a general description of the new entity. Somewhat awkwardly worded, the item said, “The boundaries of the new Territory include all that portion of Washington lying east of Oregon, and all lying east and north of the entire boundary of Oregon. This includes Lewiston, Florence, Oro Fino, Elk City and Boise river.”

The newspaper didn’t bother to describe the eastern boundary of the new Territory. The Organic Act defined that as “the twenty-seventh degree of longitude west of Washington [D.C].” That border, the line between today’s Montana and the Dakotas, ran south all the way to the northern border of Colorado Territory. As described in my blog of March 4th, the resulting "geographic monstrosity" was substantially larger than Texas.
Idaho Territory.
U. S. General Land Office maps combined.
The Oregonian next summarized the structure of the Territorial government: “The bill provides for the usual officers, and a Legislative Assembly consisting of a Council and House of Representatives. The Council will consist of seven members, to serve for two years, and the House of thirteen members, elected annually. Previous to the first election, the Governor is required to have a census of the inhabitants taken, and the representation in the Legislature is to be apportioned as equally as possible.”

The “usual officers” included a governor, judges, an attorney general, and so on … all of whom would be appointed by the President. That difference would lead to future heated disputes between those officials – mostly outsiders – and the locally-elected legislature.

References: [Hawley]
“The Territory of Idaho,” Oregonian, Portland (April 18, 1863).

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