In August 1857, 60 delegates gathered in Salem to draft the Oregon State Constitution. Oregon voters—then, only white males—ratified the Constitution on November 9, 1857. Oregon officially became the 33rd state in 1859.

Image credit: Oregon State Archives

The November 1857 Vote

In addition to voting to endorse the Constitution, Oregon’s white, male electorate voted on two amendments: whether Oregon should be a slave state, and whether to allow the immigration of free Blacks to the state.

Across the state, 75 percent voted against slavery, while 89 percent voted to exclude Blacks. However, vote percentages varied by county, especially on the question of slavery. In Lane County, nearly 40 percent voted in favor of slavery.

Vote Numbers for the Oregon Constitution

No Negro, Chinaman, or Mulatto shall have the right of suffrage.
—Article II, Section No. 6 of the Oregon Constitution, 1857

The first draft of this article stated, “No Negro or Mulatto shall have the right to suffrage.” To exclude all peoples of color, such as Native Americans, Matthew Deady sought to amend it to say, “No persons, other than those of the white race, shall have the right to suffrage.” After some debate, convention delegates voted to adopt the article after adding “Chinaman.”

No free Negro, or Mulatto, not residing in this state at the time of the adoption of this constitution, shall come, reside, or be within this state, or hold any real estate, or make any contracts, or maintain any suit therein; and the Legislative Assembly shall provide by penal laws, for the removal, by public officers, of all such Negroes, and Mulattos, and for their effectual exclusion from the state, and for the punishment of persons who shall bring them into the state, or employ, or harbor them. 
—Oregon Constitution, 1857. The clause was repealed in 1926. 

Image credit: Oregon Historical Society Research Library, OrHi 47403, 320

Matthew Deady

Matthew Deady, pictured here in 1878, was president of the 1857 Constitutional Convention. Deady held pro-slavery views and supported Black exclusion from Oregon.