The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 27, July 1923 - April, 1924 Page: 79
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Book Reviews and Notices
early forties that California was due to become a possession of
the United States and that all American efforts should be made
to obtain that far country, for the Oregon territory could never
be settled 'by either England or by the Union, and that in attempt-
ing to do so both nations were chasing an ignis fatuus. (See both
Fedix and du Mofras.) The Oregon Trail as far as Fort Hall
served as the wagon track for caravans to the valleys both of the
Columbia and the Sacramento; Bidwell's California party of 1841
preceded the first actual emigration for settlement only to Oregon
by one year. The superior numbers and importance of the emi-
grations to the Willamette by 1846 must not allow them to ap-
pear as the whole story. As an account of the opening of an
American highway to the Oregon country, Dr. Bell's thesis is an
excellent little book; as a contribution to Pacific Coast historiog-
raphy it is inadequate.
In framing a judgment there are two questions to be settled:
Shall the book be judged for what it is, just as the author wrote,
or is it allowable to judge it for what it should be and is not?
I am thinking of the content of Dr. Bell's book. Indubtiably he
has a right to select his own material, and demand that criticism
confine itself to how well he used that. If he has wanted to do
a certain thing and has done it ably what more has criticism to
say? Truly, that way safety lies, but not inspiration.
The author has taken the interesting and well-sustained thesis
that agrarian discontent was the fundamental cause that drove
emigrants on to the Pacific highway, instead of political unrest
or religious zeal. As Dr. Schafer in his excellent and concise
review in the Oregon Historical Quarterly observes, it is a thesis
which is "incapable of evidential solution." The statement of
the thesis reappears at various places in the book like a leitmotif,
first in the preface (p. 9) and again, page 81, note 1, and again
in the conclusion. Not in response to leadership, he says, "but to
forces deep-seated, more persistent and profound than we are apt
to realize." These forces were the conscious desire for new grain
markets and a climate free from the agues and malarias of the
We can agree with Dr. Schafer that one should be grateful for
thus being given a new interpretation of the beginnings of Pacific
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 27, July 1923 - April, 1924, periodical, 1924; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101086/m1/85/: accessed May 28, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.