Joseph Lane is one of the most regrettable characters of Cascadian history. During the debates on how slavery should be treated in Oregon during that state’s founding days, Lane was on the hard pro-slavery side. There were a few hard anti-slavery sorts to balance him out. But, most of the state had a pox on both their houses sort of sentiment. They neither liked slaves nor the sort of economics that slavery represented.
On that day, Jo. Lane, made a traitorous speech in favor of secession, in which he was personally abusive of Senator Johnson of Tennessee. Mr. Johnson replied. The galleries were crowded to excess. Mr. Johnson opened up by a dissertation on personalities—withering and caustic to his assailant. Johnson turned and looking him in the eye, said, “no gentleman would insult me, and no other person can, and without making any boast of personal courage, I say here that this eye never looked upon the man that this heart feared.” The galleries burst into applause, which was promptly suppressed with an intimation from the Chairman, Mr. Polk, that a repetition would be followed by an order to clear the gentlemen’s gallery.
But, even if Lane did not join the rebel cause, didn’t migrate to the south, he kept the fight going on his return to Oregon.
He campaigned for Democratic candidates, he campaigned for his son who was running for Congress. Lane was criticized loudly by Republican newspapers, but he stood firm publicly to his convictions:
Once again in 1866 the aging politician campaigned for the Democratic ticket. Personal abuse from the press and threat of punishment had not dampened his adore for the southern cause, which he championed when he could. During the campaign he declared that if Jefferson Davis were elected to Congress by the people of Mississippi, that body would have no choice but to admit him.
Being ignored and made fun of by the political establishment, carving out a hole for yourself as a loud political crank, is not the same as retiring quietly from public life.
At one point, he even talked about how Lincoln had offered him a generalship in the Union Army. And, that if he’d taken that position (instead of coming back to Oregon), he would have beaten General Grant to the top of Army of the Potomac, and then there would’ve been no President Grant.
I’m most intrigued by Lane’s run for State Senate in 1880. Only one year before his death, an apparently with the furor of secession finally dying down, Lane ran one last time for office. I found some old newspaper stories about his continued involvement in Democratic politics. How he was elected chair of the party convention that year. But, no story of a race or election involving him. I wonder if its really true, and if so, why he ran.