|One of the newish historical and interpretive signs at Bush Park|
This week at SCAN, Barbara Mahoney, author of the forthcoming The Salem Clique: Oregon’s Founding Brothers, and probably our greatest current expert on Asahel Bush, will talk about Bush and his political gang.
About the Clique, advance press for her book says,
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"....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.Bush is the most significant influence on Salem, right? Who else has a greater claim to shaping the city and its culture? He's got to be it. Even though we might look to others during the pre-statehood settlement era, Bush's influence lasted through the second half of the 19th century and into the 20th. He scores major points on longevity.
But it's not an unambiguously positive influence, and we should be talking about it more! One of his nicknames was "Ass-a-Hell," after all.*
So this presentation could be an opportunity to learn more and to think more critically about the ways Bush was great for Salem - legacy things like Bush's Pasture Park - and maybe ways he and his legacy weren't so great.
South Central Association of Neighbors meets Wednesday,
* See Mahoney's Oregon Encyclopedia article and her "Asahel Bush, Slavery, and the Statehood Debate," in Oregon Historical Quarterly for more. The Oregonian just published a review of the book, though it's more of an overview and summary than a critical appraisal.