The State Rights Democrat
Albany, Linn County, Or.
Drawing on the pro-slavery ideology associated with Civil War Democrats,the State Rights Democrat of Albany, Oregon, was one of Linn County’s most vociferous political papers. Its forerunners, the Oregon Democrat [LCCN: sn96088479] and Albany Inquirer [LCCN: sn96088499], were both suppressed for political reasons, the former by General Wright of the U.S. Army’s Department of the Pacific. The State Rights Democrat originated in 1865 with James O’Meara as editor. O’Meara was no stranger to suppression of the press, having been forced out as owner and editor of the Oregon Sentinel [LCCN: sn84022657] by Republican sympathizers in 1861.
A number of owners and editors worked on the Democrat after O’Meara’s departure in 1866. Charles Bellinger, of the Salem Oregon Arena [LCCN: sn00063663] and later the Portland News [LCCN: sn86063742], co-owned the State Rights Democrat for a time, leaving in 1870. Bellinger, like other figures associated with the paper, pursued a career in local politics that would draw him away from publishing. Fred P. Nutting had a hand in the enterprise from 1882 to1912, changing the paper’s name to the Albany Democrat [LCCN: sn96088449] after he joined. The paper would later be consolidated with the Albany Evening Herald [LCCN: sn96088291], eventually becoming the Albany Democrat-Herald [LCCN: sn96088460] in 1925.
The State Rights Democrat featured ads for lawyers, notaries, various stores, and a few breweries among other goods and services. Advertisements appeared next to articles of a partisan nature. One article proclaimed, “We need to commit to the Democracy” in order to correct “abolition rule.” Although the paper was quick to denounce Republicans, it also criticized Democrats. In an attack on previous editor O’Meara, the Democrat drew attention to factionalism within Oregon’s Democratic Party, warning, “He will do anything and everything to create and foster dissensions in the Democratic household.”
The partisan tone of the paper often resulted in disputes with nearby editors from papers such as the Daily American Unionist [LCCN: sn94052331] and the Oregon Statesman [LCCN: sn83025131], the latter being dismissed as an “abolitionist” organ. Charges in such disputes ranged from misinformation to embezzlement and outright fraud, rarely producing calm discourse between the respective editors.
However, the Democrat’s content was not confined to parochial political disagreements. Moving beyond the local stage, the paper ran an article titled, “Grant’s Indian Policy,” which suggested that President Ulysses S. Grant’s Peace Policy and employ of Quaker agents were ineffective in maintaining non-violent control of tribes throughout the country. Writing in reference to violence in Oklahoma at Fort Sill, the paper concluded, “In our own unfortunate Territory, men, women and children have been roasted to death; impaled upon thorny plants and trees, but the Fort Sill affair is one of the most horrid we have ever described.” Another piece recounted a lecture given by Reverend Robert Patterson, who sought to discredit Darwinism by arguing that humans have always been civilized and never could have evolved from “monkeys.” Lighter pieces focused on topics such as the importance of naps, Oregon’s healthful climate, and the need of farmers to combat weeds.
Prepared with reference to:
Turnbull, George S. History of Oregon Newspapers. Portland, Oregon: Binfords & Mort, 1939.
– Written by Daniel Rinn