The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 91, July 1987 - April, 1988

Southwestern Historical Quarterly

May begins his task by recounting the story of Quitman's journey
from a religious upbringing in rural New York to a secure position
among the planter elite of the antebellum South. Since his early youth,
May explains, Quitman was driven by a craving for "prestige and mate-
rial success" (p. 7). Even his interest in politics was the consequence of
personal ambition, rather than ideological commitment. For Quitman,
self-fulfillment could only be achieved through the attainment of pub-
lic esteem. Within just a few years of his arrival in Mississippi, Quitman
became a leader in the state legislature and a spokesman for the states'
rights cause.
It was to protect his hard-won wealth and respectability, May tells us,
that Quitman rose to the defense of the South and its institution of slav-
ery. By championing nullification, Quitman believed he could most
effectively guard against the increasing abolitionist threat to his status
and at the same time shield his interests from the feared danger of a
growing Mississippi black majority.
Quitman gained greatest recognition for his triumphs on the battle-
field. Possessing a "more acute instinct for war than for politics" (p. 147),
he was always ready to defend slavery's southern border. In 1836 he
rushed to the Southwest to protect the Texas Republic, and a decade
later he became a hero in the Mexican War, leading the American charge
on Monterrey and commanding the first troops to enter Mexico City.
May argues that in the 1850s Quitman's belief in the "centrality of
westward migration patterns to the stability of southern society" (p. 229)
drove him to advocate secession. As governor of Mississippi, congress-
man, and state leader, Quitman fought vigorously against the Compro-
mise of 1850 and for an independent South. He opposed squatter sov-
ereignty in Kansas, supported filibustering in Latin America, urged the
reopening of the African slave trade, and remained dedicated until his
death in 1858 to the promotion of southern interests. Quitman, con-
cludes May, did "more than any other public man to familiarize Missis-
sippi voters with states' rights constitutional theories and the secession
option" (p. 351).
The University of Texas at Arlington STEPHEN E. MAIZLISH
Texas Country: The Changing Rural Scene. Edited by Glen E. Lich and
Dona B. Reeves-Marquardt. Foreword by Joe B. Frantz. Afterword
by John McDermott. (College Station, Tex.: Texas A&M University
Press, 1986. Pp. xv+264. Foreword, preface, acknowledgments,
photographs, notes, afterword, index. $18.95.)
In 1977 a Southwest Symposium Series was inaugurated. Texas Coun-
try represents the second volume of papers from these occasional meet-

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 91, July 1987 - April, 1988. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101211/. Accessed October 21, 2014.