When Will We Get a Copy of the Laws?

We have been compelled to answer the above inquiry by letter, in order to accommodate, in response to letters from all parts of the State; and now being tired of answering a question that should have been satisfactorily settled by other parties long ago, we propose to state here one for all what we know about it.

At the last session of the Legislature, the Code Commissioner was authorized to proceed at once to arrange and index the whole body of the statutes then in force, and furnish same, under the direction of the Secretary of State, to the State Printer. Of the book thus made up, the State Printer was authorized to print three thousand copies. (We believe that is the number, although that is not material.) By the act providing for the printing of this statute, the Secretary was authorized to distribute copies gratis to certain State and county officers, and the remainder of the three thousand copies, the Secretary was authorized to dispose of at the price of six or eight dollars per share (the exact price we do not remember), to the lawyers and others; and thus by the profits on the extra copies thus sold, to reimburse the state as far as possible the expense incurred in printing the statutes. It was never suspected by a single member of the Legislature, that the State Printer would attempt to improve the accident of his official position, by taking advantage of the State, and while printing its copies of the statues, also print from the same forms a very large edition for his own speculative purposes, and as soon as the statutes were out come into the market against the State and offer his copies at less than the Secretary was authorized to sell the copies of the State, and thus defraud the State of the just profits on its printing — and, therefore, no legislation was adopted to prevent the State Printer from pursuing such a course. It will be a matter of surprise and mortification to every member of the Union party, as it was to state officials who discovered the matter, that we are compelled to announce on the best authority that the State Printer did actually print, as far as he has printed the copies for the State, eight hundred copies of the statutes for his own private speculative purposes, with the intention of putting them upon the market at the same time the copies of the State should be offered. Learning this state of facts, the Secretary of State and the Governor promptly called upon the State Printer and informed him peremptorily that he would not be allowed to consummate such an arrangement, and that if they could not prevent him by copyright or otherwise, the Legislature would be convened to do so. By this prompt and decisive course, the State Printer was compelled to enter into an agreement in writing that his eight hundred copies should, as soon as printed, be deposited with J.L. Parrish & Co., of Portland, there to remain until the edition for the State had been disposed of, or for at least two years. And there the matter rests now, but still we have not statutes.

Upon inquiry at the Secretary’s office, we learned that the State Printer has not yet obtained paper enough to finish the book, and that now the printing has been or is about to be suspended for want of paper. It appears the Printer went into the San Francisco market and bought a certain lot of very good paper, such as would make a good book, and that after using that up, the Printer called upon the Secretary to furnish paper, and in order to expedite the matter, the Secretary authorized the State Treasurer, now in San Francisco, to procure enough of the quality paper, designated to finish the job; and after searching the city over, the State Treasurer can only find forty-five reams of the paper desired, which, after bills and memoranda being compared, turns out to be part of the lot before purchased by the State Printer, and therefore really made no addition to the stock of paper. Now what is to be done? Not enough paper to finish the book, and no more in the San Francisco market. The work must be suspended until it can be procured from New York, or manufactured; and ten chances to one if the Printer will not have to take a cheaper and lighter quality of paper to finish the book, and in the end “botch the job”. In the meantime, county officials, justices of the peace, and the lawyers and everybody else interested in the laws, are letting out with complaints worse than the army of Flanders; and now, to make the general discontent worse, we find the following in the editorial column of the Oregonian:

The Criminal Code — A copy of the Code of Criminal Procedure, together with the Justices’ Acts, has been handed up by Mr. A.G. Walling of the “Farmer Job Office.” It is very neatly printed and of convenient form. It is now for sale at the bookstores. Any one from a distance who may desire a copy will receive it by mail on sending one dollar to Mr. Walling, the publisher.

We may as well add, that Mr. Walling is printing the statutes for the State Printer, and that this “Criminal Code” is just printed from the type set for the State, and, of course, so much saved to Mr. W. We believe that this is the second instance in which laws have been thus printed from composition paid for by the State, and sold for private gain; and certainly in plain violation of the rights of the State, if not a violation of the agreement made by the State Printer, detailed above. The State Printer cannot certainly permit or authorize Mr. Walling to do, what he is prevented from doing himself. We may as well state here that this Criminal Code, or any other law published by Mr. Walling, although a true copy beyond doubt, is of no account in any court of justice, unless it is certified to be so by the Secretary of State; for the simple reason that Mr. W. is not the State Printer.

If the above statements are not correct, we desire them corrected by those knowing the facts, as we do not desire to misrepresent any matter. But taking them to be true, we here put in an emphatic disapproval of the whole affair. It is wrong, and we will neither conceal it or wink at it, no matter who is to blame. If any just grounds of complaint exist against any official elected by the Union party, we prefer that the complaint be made by a friend and in a Union paper, and not by a Copperhead enemy. The Union party was organized to uphold and enforce the laws, and to do justice and promote the public good. It will best subserve that end, and preserve its own existence, by requiring a faithful, honest, and impartial discharge of public duties from those it honors with its confidence and support. We shall insist upon enforcing this rule. We know it to be the sentiment of the Union party. It is a good rule, and the people will all sustain the main or party who faithfully adheres to it.

Source: Oregon Statesman, July 24, 1865.

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