The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 89, July 1985 - April, 1986

Southwestern Historical Quarterly

twenty-five pages. Dealing with hunting, land clearance, burning, and
livestock overgrazing, it presents an absorbing picture of resource ex-
ploitation and gives one a sense of the type, pace, and scope of hu-
manly induced change. But it also sets up an elusive picture of a Texas
before human domination (beautiful, splendid, and pristine), con-
trasted with a Texas after settlement (altered, eroded, and overgrazed).
Human activities come off badly in this portrayal, probably deservedly
so, but one recognizes, too, that the environment is in constant flux and
that it is not always easy distinguishing between natural and human
processes. Weniger's book contributes best by going back to the primary
picture, albeit a static one, in order to let his "explorers" speak for
University of Texas at Austin ROBIN W. DOUGHTY
Secession and the Union in Texas. By Walter L. Buenger. (Austin: The Uni-
versity of Texas Press, 1984. Pp. ix+255. Acknowledgments, pro-
logue, maps, notes, bibliography, index. $17.50.)
"Texans stood on a balance beam between secession and the Union in
186o" (p. 8), writes Walter L. Buenger at the start of this serviceable vol-
ume. They possessed an ambivalence rooted in both history and de-
mography, which worked at cross purposes. On the one hand, Texas
had belonged to the Union for only fifteen years, and more than three-
fourths of its 186o population had arrived after annexation; ties to the
Union were entangled with the stronger cords of allegiance to neigh-
boring southern states. On the other hand, a strong unionism, personi-
fied by Sam Houston, had long predated annexation; and as a member
of the Union the Lone Star State had prospered. Houston, however,
came to recognize by 186o that the slavery issue had unleashed what he
called "the demons of anarchy" (p. 1), which drew even Houston, him-
self among "the sanest individuals" (p. 6), down the path of irrationality
to secession. "The voice of reason was stilled," Buenger explains, "be-
cause reason was irrelevant" (p. 6).
This cogent restatement of the "revisionist" or "repressible conflict"
position concerning the causes of the war informs Buenger's artful nar-
rative, which stresses the absence of truly fundamental differences be-
tween North and South. The election of 1860 seemed to confirm all the
fears so long expressed by the vocal minority, the secessionist core. This
sudden acquisition of credibility brought new support, chiefly from
erstwhile unionists of Upper South, German, or Mexican origin, but


Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 89, July 1985 - April, 1986. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. Accessed May 30, 2016.

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