Lands are described in rich detail from the perspective of the men who would
claim them from nature and the disease-decimated native inhabitants. As a re-
sult, Weddle takes us where we no longer can go: to a Galveston Bay not sur-
rounded by oil refineries and a Mississippi River delta unaltered by levies, ship
channels, and docking facilities.
The French Thorn is strongest dealing with the explorations of Rend Robert
Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, and his immediate successors, both French and
Spanish. Particularly effective is Weddle's description of the clumsy and nearly
disastrous Domingo Terin de los Rios overland expedition to the Caddo country
in 1691. This episode, taken as the prime example of the Spanish method of
missionization and conquest, is contrasted with the French employment of small
groups of traders who followed water courses and were primarily interested in
business opportunities among both Indians and Spanish. His keen sense of ge-
ography allows Weddle to provide the reader with a much better understanding
of the reasons for success and failure in the region.
The French Thorn concludes with a cartographic history essay in two parts. The
first provides an understanding of the charts which played an important role as
source material for the book. The second is a sympathetic treatment of the diffi-
culty of conveying an accurate sense of the Gulf of Mexico through maps. Wed-
dle's writing is a concise and needed reminder of the importance of latitude and
longitude in the European conquest of America.
Historians should not say that a particular work is the last word on a given top-
ic, but The French Thorn comes close regarding exploration during the French
period in Gulf of Mexico history.
Southwest Texas State University JESITS F. DE LA TEJA
Spanish Observers and the American Revolution, 1775-778. By Light Townsend
Cummins. (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1991. Pp.
xv+229. Preface, acknowledgments, glossary, key, sources, index. $32.50.)
The role of Spanish observers in the rebellious British North American
colonies is the focus of this excellent monograph by Light Townsend Cummins
of Austin College. One often hears the expression, "timing is everything." How
true this was for Spain during the American Revolution.
From the battles of Lexington and Concord to its entry into the conflict as an
independent power in 1779, Spain positioned a number of unofficial observers
in North America from Louisiana to the Atlantic Coast. These agents operated
under various guises and subterfuges, and they carried out strategic intelligence
gathering on an almost daily basis. Their information was then funneled to
Spain through its captains general in Cuba.
During the first few years of the American Revolution, Spain followed a policy
of official neutrality, but that position nonetheless tilted slowly toward the Amer-
ican cause. As this occurred, Spain clandestinely provided the United States with
supplies and various forms of assistance.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 97, July 1993 - April, 1994. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117154/. Accessed December 5, 2013.