The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 96, July 1992 - April, 1993

Southwestern Historical Quarterly

with purchased slave Ben Montgomery found an analogue in Jefferson's inti-
macy with inherited bondsman James Pemberton. To be sure, both brothers
were typical slaveholders in their insistence that slaves constituted property
firmly protected under the U.S. Constitution. Nonetheless, Joseph never seems
to have endorsed or believed the positive good defense of slavery trumpeted
by his brother the proslavery politician, an argument based on the assumption
that blacks were permanently inferior to whites and needed their supervision,
in accord with God's plan for creation. In accounting for Joseph's enlightened
ideas about plantation management and race relations, Janet Hermann points
to encounters and discussions he had in the mid-182os (before becoming a full-
time planter) with two English radicals, Frances Wright and Robert Owen. A
supplemental hypothesis presents itself if we recall William C. Davis's psycho-
logical evaluation of Jefferson as insecure and inflexible. Because Joseph, eldest
child and first son of Samuel, appears to have internalized a strong sense of
personal security and self-confidence, perhaps he could be more flexible and
open-minded than was his younger brother.
These two books offer a complementary pair of lucid biographical windows
into the history of the nineteenth-century South. Having spent many years
investigating the masters and slaves of Davis Bend, Janet Hermann retains a
positive and sympathetic view of Joseph Davis, and her critical stance toward
brother Jefferson appears to have softened. William C. Davis, after devoting
many years and books to the story of the Civil War, has carefully weighed Jef-
ferson Davis as Confederate President and commander-in-chief and found
him wanting.
University of Texas at Austin SHEARER DAVIS BOWMAN
Indzans, Settlers & Slaves in a Frontier Exchange Economy: The Lower Mississippi
Valley Before 1783. By Daniel H. Usner, Jr. (Chapel Hill: University of
North Carolina Press, 1992. Pp. xvii + 294. Acknowledgments, illustra-
tions and tables, introduction, conclusion, index. $32.50, cloth; $12.95,
paper.)
In the great Mississippi Valley lived countless Indian nations, diverse in lan-
guage and customs. Added to this cultural mix over time were Frenchmen,
Spaniards, and Englishmen, as well as black slaves from Africa. The various
native groups frequently became pawns and slaves to the invaders; yet from
the interaction evolved a unique colonial society that existed until it was over-
come by the "invasive and overwhelming economic change" (p. 144) that fol-
lowed the 1783 Treaty of Paris.
Daniel Usner, focusing on the French Louisiana colony, offers a stimulating
account of how these various elements confronted and complemented each
other in a symbiotic and sometimes synergistic relationship. Usner tells us
(p. 61) that by the 172os a pattern of close interaction between Indians and
colonists-including to some extent those of eastern Texas-was fixed; that
neighboring native villages provisioned the French settlements and provided
laborers to row the Frenchman's pirogues, carry his burdens, and deliver his

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 96, July 1992 - April, 1993. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101215/. Accessed July 13, 2014.