The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 98, July 1994 - April, 1995

Book Reviews

istence. He also devotes considerable attention to Jean Laffite, Bowie's business
partner in the slave trade. These digressions may be appropriate, but in so brief
a volume they serve to highlight the book's greatest shortcoming: it offers very
little information about its subject. Scholars will find the book neither illuminat-
ing nor useful. As for those readers who like their heroes larger than life, even
they may find this portrait of James Bowie hard to swallow.
University of Texas at Arlington SAM W. HAYNES
Indian Population Decline: The Missions of Northwestern New Spain, 1687-1840. By
Robert H. Jackson. (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1994.
Pp. xii+229. Acknowledgments, introduction, appendices, notes, index. IS-
BN o-82631-505-4. $29.95.)
Indian Population Decline is an ethnohistorical study which attempts to analyze
the causes and manifestations of the abnormally high mortality rate among indi-
genes of the Catholic missions of Primeria Alta, Baja California, and Alta Califor-
nia from the late seventeenth century through the early decades of the
nineteenth century. Robert H. Jackson focuses almost entirely on what he refers
to as the demographic collapse of the mission populations, in the main reaffirm-
ing most of Shelburne Cook's conclusions from a half-century ago.
In embracing enthusiastically the capabilities of his favorite computer pro-
gram, Jackson has produced a book which abounds in statistics. It is, however,
this aspect of Indian Population Decline which makes it a publication of question-
able merit. When Jackson ventures outside the realm of charts and graphs, he
shows an almost astounding ignorance of Spanish Catholic history.
Of even more concern are the book's anticlerical and anti-Catholic assertions,
reflecting the author's disdain for the religion that established and ran the very
missions he is researching. For example, Jackson writes in his introduction, "In
spite of the Columbus quincentenary and Hispanophiles and boosters of the
Catholic church railing against 'Serra-bashers' and a nonexistent resurgence of
the 'Black Legend,' one fact remains. Most recent research supports Cook's ear-
ly conclusions" (p. 7).
In a later chapter Jackson claims that "The missionaries and colonial officials
justified the perpetuation of a system that destroyed the Indian populations
brought into the missions because of the needs of colonial policy and the apoca-
lyptic vision of the missionaries. Their ultimate objective was to ensure the Indi-
ans' eternal salvation by their conversion, so there was no moral dilemma as
long as the deaths of thousands of converts contributed toward populating heav-
en" (p. 165).
Any scholar who has studied the narrative of Catholic Spain and the role of
the church in the Spanish colonial empire would be hard-pressed to make sense
of this statement.
Part of the difficulty in reading Jackson's book is that he frequently cites his
own previously published materials to support his views. Since the historian's call
is to search for historical truth from a foundation of unprejudiced research, it is

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 98, July 1994 - April, 1995. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101216/. Accessed April 24, 2014.