The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 85, July 1981 - April, 1982

Book Reviews

in a shifting fog-sometimes you see it, sometimes you don't. The
shape of community ultimately depends on how you define the term"
(p. 14). Hine's definition is unclear, but scattered comments express
the idea that community was more than cooperation, neighborliness,
fraternalism, or human kindness. It involved shared values and needs,
attachment to a locale, and a willingness to sacrifice self for the greater
good of the group. Usually, but not always, the number of people in-
volved was small.
Hine, who has written about California utopias and about the fron-
tier, examines through secondary sources the spectrum of such com-
munities and finds that most were of short duration. They died be-
cause of economic adversity, incursions of the outside society, mobility
of participants, changes in leadership, and internal dissension. Com-
munity spirit was fragile and subject to paradoxical situations. Reli-
gion, for example, was a strong cohesive force until there arose doc-
trinal differences. Then religion became destructive to community life.
Moreover, the frontier, where land was cheap and available, provided
at the same time a common hardship to bring people together, and an
opportunity for personal profit that drove people apart.
In this competent survey Hine demonstrates in reverse manner the
power of individualism. Community spirit, although perennial, was
delicate and died quickly in the frosts of hardship and dissent. Self-
interest appeared much more durable. Yet, as Hine concludes, knowl-
edge of efforts to gain the spirit of community on the American fron-
tier might be helpful in a world in which cooperation is necessary.
Colorado State University DAVID MCCoMB
Law for the Elephant: Property and Social Behavior on the Overland
Trail. By John R. Reid. (San Marino, Calif.: The Huntington
Library, 1980. Pp. x+437. Foreword, introduction, illustrations,
acknowledgements, copyright acknowledgement, short title list,
index. $18.50.)
The story of the overland trail has long fascinated historians of the
American West. The human saga of the mass movement across the
plains has been told in hundreds of books to suit the tastes of scholars
and those just interested in the drama of this great event. Nor does
there appear to be an end to the stream of volumes on the subject. In
1979 three very important books were published: John D. Unruh, Jr.,
The Plains Across: The Overland Emigrants and the Trans-Mississippi


Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 85, July 1981 - April, 1982. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. Accessed April 29, 2016.

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