The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 77, July 1973 - April, 1974

Book Reviews

with the Oregon compromise and the success of American arms and terri-
torial ambitions in the Mexican War, concluding with an appraisal of the
diplomacy of annexation.
Writing with the authority of one who has gained unsurpassed mastery
over his materials and his topic, Pletcher also demonstrates his qualities as
a gentleman by refusing to take pot shots at the vulnerable, for The Diplo-
macy of Annexation is not a work of aggressive revisionism. Yes, the Amer-
ican claim to a Rio Grande boundary was flimsy (even General Taylor
and some of his subordinate officers thought so), but Mexicans unreason-
ably insisted for far too long that their loss of Texas was not final. If Pres-
ident Polk schemed his way into war with Mexico, why then did he fail to
make prior preparations for its prosecution, and was even the impatient
Polk foolhardy enough to seek war with Mexico before settling with Eng-
land the Oregon question? On these and other traditional points of con-
troversy the reader must, if he is so inclined, draw his own moral conclu-
sions. But the sum of these events did constitute an "international question
of first importance," for had the United States not won the Mexican War
"decisively," England and France might have increased their power in the
western hemisphere (p. 5). Though the author applauds the overall results
of expansion in the eighteen forties, he concludes that President Polk paid
"an unnecessarily high price in money, in lives, and in national unity" by
his impatient disregard of conventional diplomacy in pursuit of legitimate
objectives which might otherwise have been achieved peacefully (p. 611).
This imposing work is likely to remain for decades the standard treatment
of its topic.
New Mexico State University GENE BRACK
The Caciques: Oligarchical Politics and the System of Caciquismo in the
Luso-Hispanic World. Edited by Robert Kern with the assistance of
Ronald Dolkart. (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press,
1973. Pp. 202. Notes, glossary, index. $Io.)
Caciquismo, rule by a hierarchy of local and regional bosses, has been a
characteristic feature of Latin American political culture since pre-Con-
quest times, when native societies were typically ruled, not by imperial
despots like the Incas, but by a host of petty chieftains or caciques. Since
then the term cacique, borrowed by the Spaniards from the Arawaks of the
Greater Antilles, has come to stand for a bewildering variety of sub-national
leaders, all of them more or less subordinate to their superiors at the national
level, while each is the virtually absolute master of his own municipal or

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 77, July 1973 - April, 1974. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117148/. Accessed October 22, 2014.