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The Salem Clique

Oregon's Founding Brothers

Barbara S. Mahoney

6 × 9. 10 B&W photographs. 224 pages.

2017. ISBN 978-0-87071-891-5. Paperback, $22.95.


Available June 2017

During the decade of the 1850s, the Oregon Territory progressed toward statehood in an atmosphere of intense political passion and conflict. Editors of rival newspapers blamed a group of young men whom they named the "Salem Clique" for the bitter party struggles of the time. Led by Asahel Bush, editor of the Oregon Statesman, the Salem Clique was accused of dictatorship, corruption, and the intention of imposing slavery on the Territory. The Clique, critics maintained, even conspired to establish a government separate from the United States, conceivably a "bigamous Mormon republic."

While not in agreement with some of the more extreme contemporary accusations against the Clique, many historians have concluded that its members were vicious and unscrupulous men who were able, because of their command of the Democratic party, to impose their hegemony on the Oregon Territory's inhabitants. Other scholars have seen them as merely another manifestation of the contentious politics of the period.

Although the Salem Clique has been given considerable prominence in nearly every account of Oregon’s Territorial period, there has not been a detailed study of its role until now. What sort of people were these men? What was their impact on the issues, events, and movements of the period? What role did they play in the years after Oregon became a state? Historian Barbara Mahoney sets out to answer these and many other questions in this comprehensive and deeply researched history.

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