The Operation of the Initiative, Referendum and Recall in Oregon

By James D. Barnett | Go to book overview

CHAPTER I
INTRODUCTION

I
The Adoption of the System of Direct Legislation

THE state constitution of 1859 provided for an obligatory referendum on constitutional amendments proposed by the legislative assembly to the people, and, while prohibiting generally the referring of statutes to the people, it authorized the submission of local and special legislation to the voters of the district affected.1 At the constitutional convention a proposal had been made to allow the legislative assembly to refer any statute to the voters, but this was rejected.2

The agitation for the present system of direct legislation hardly commenced before 1892.3 Beginning with 1892, a campaign for the adoption of the initiative and referendum was carried on with tireless effort, under the remarkable leadership of W. S. U'Ren, aided by the Joint Committee on Direct Legislation, later broadened into the Direct Legislation League (the forerunner of the People's Power League), with the result that after ten years the system was embodied in the constitution.4 Advocated by the granges, the labor unions, and the Populist

____________________
1
Constitution, art. 17, sec. 1; art. 1, sec. 21 ( 1859).
2
Proceedings of the Constitutional Convention, Oregonian, Oct. 3, 1857, p. 1, col. 6. See also G. H. Williams, quoted in Oregonian, May 27, 1902, p. 10, col. 3.
3
For details regarding the adoption of the initiative and referendum see especially L. Pease, Initiative and Referendum -- Oregon's "Big Stick," Pacific Monthly, vol. 17, pp. 563-75 ( 1907); L. Steffens, U'Ren -- The Law-Giver, American Magazine, vol. 65, pp. 527-40 ( 1908); B. J. Hendrick, Initiative and Referendum and How Oregon Got Them, McClure's Magazine, vol. 37, pp. 234-48 ( 1911).
4
Constitution, art. 4, sec. 1 ( 1902).

-3-

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