The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 105, July 2001 - April, 2002

Book Reviews

Leonard devotes a chapter to Texas annexation and does a creditable job of
summarizing the political intrigues and diplomatic maneuvering that marked this
controversy. Not ignoring the Mexican perspective, he emphasizes how the Texas
Revolution grew out of Mexico's struggle with its own problems of independence,
especially the conflict between centralists and federalists over distribution of pow-
er within the Republic's government. The treatment of slavery as an underlying
motive for Texas annexation is careful and judicious. Calhoun and other south-
ern rights men wanted to push the expansion of slavery, but Leonard avoids the
trap of taking too seriously John Quincy Adams's assertion of a conspiracy within
the American government and the Jackson administration in particular to spread
slavery into Texas and the Southwest. The primary weakness of his analysis con-
cerns the failure to deal with Robert Walker's safety valve thesis which argued that
the annexation of Texas was not a proslavery measure but rather a strategy for dif-
fusing slavery out of the Upper South and for eventually ending slavery within the
United States. The implausibility of the Walker thesis has led many historians to
stigmatize it as mere propaganda. By ignoring it, however, historians have failed
to appreciate the role Walker's argument played in bringing Democrats together
in support of annexation and the election of Polk.
Overall, Leonard's study represents a highly readable and useful summary of
one of the most successful and significant presidencies in American history. His
fair-minded and judicious analysis gives a lot of credit to Polk's political savvy and
administrative expertise while still pointing out how domestic circumstances in
both Mexico and Great Britain contributed to his success. A worthwhile chronol-
ogy which integrates Polk's life and political career with major foreign policy de-
velopments and a fine bibliographical essay make this book ideal for classroom
use.
Texas A&M University Charles E. Brooks
Kit Carson and the Indians. By Tom Dunlay. (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press,
2000. Pp. xx+525. Illustrations, preface, acknowledgments, conclusion,
notes, index. ISBN o-8032-1715-3. $45.00, cloth.)
Prompted by the interpretive shift that took Kit Carson from triumphant hero
to genocidal racist in a generation beginning in 1970, Tom Dunlay attempts to
cut through the smoke and mirrors to discover the real Christopher Carson's re-
lationship (s) with real Indians in real places at real times. Dunlay acknowledges
two major impediments to his task: Carson was practically illiterate, so all primary
source materials, even autobiographical, have undergone a potential shading by
the amanuensis of the day, and Carson's stature as legend in his own time filtered
and distorted even contemporary accounts.
There is a brief discussion of Carson's childhood in backcountry Missouri,
where as a child he experienced Indian-white conflict on a very personal and lo-
cal level, and where he may have been inculcated with a backcountry sense of hon-
or, affront, and revenge as perfectly acceptable standards of behavior. The
longer-term effects of either remain conjectural since Carson referred to neither

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 105, July 2001 - April, 2002. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101222/. Accessed October 1, 2014.