The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 85, July 1981 - April, 1982 Page: 372
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
perience of Alexander von Humboldt. A leading scientist and natural
philosopher of his day, Humboldt was given access to all of the records
available in Mexico City while he was compiling his general map of
New Spain in 1803. The resulting map can indeed be termed a "mag-
nificent cartographic achievement," but it nevertheless displays a sadly
deficient rendering of the Texas area. Humboldt admitted that, due
to the lack of information in the capital, he was forced to rely on data
furnished him by the American general James Wilkinson for his de-
piction of the Texas interior.2
Wilkinson's knowledge stemmed from American interest in the
area generated by the recent Louisiana Purchase. The boundaries of
the territory acquired in that transaction were unclear, and many
Americans, including President Thomas Jefferson, were of the opin-
ion that they might include Texas. Spain and the United States, there-
fore, entered into a protracted series of negotiations aimed at defining
their common border. As a part of this process the viceroy commis-
sioned a noted cleric and scholar, Jos6 Antonio Pichardo, to prepare a
report that could serve as the basis for the Spanish claim. Pichardo
relied on all the information in the archives in Mexico, as well as on
special reports from the field, one of which was furnished by Father
Jose Maria de Jesis Puelles, a Franciscan then stationed at Nacog-
doches. Puelles's map, dated 1807, portrayed the rivers of Texas ac-
curately for the first time, and in particular correctly showed the
magnitude and position of the Brazos. Pichardo added Puelles's con-
tribution to the other information at his disposal, compiling a single
document that stands as the official statement of the knowledge of the
region on the eve of Anglo-American colonization. Like the earlier
effort of Humboldt, and based in large part on the same sources,
Pichardo's map marks a genuine advance, but nevertheless reveals
more ignorance than knowledge. And like most of the Spanish maps
of the region, Pichardo's map was never published.3
2Wheat, Mapping the Transmississippi West, I, 132 (quotation); Alexander de Hum-
boldt, Political Essay on the Kingdom of New Spain, trans. John Black (4 vols.; London,
1811), I, lxxx; Thomas W. Streeter, Bibliography of Texas, 1795-1845 . . . (5 vols.; Cam-
bridge, Mass., 1955-196o), Pt. III, Vol. 1, number 1,o42, pp. 18, 19. General James Wilkin-
son's lengthy military and political career in the United States is not only laced through-
out with charges of intrigue and peculation, but also repeatedly coupled to Texas
through his associations with Philip Nolan, Aaron Burr, and James Long, husband of
his niece, Jane Wilkinson Long. The literature concerning him is vast, but a good place
to begin, as always, is with Dumas Malone (ed)., Dictionary of American Biography (xo
vols.; New York, 1936), X, 222-226.
3[Jos6 Maria Puelles], "Mapa de la provincia de Texas" (Archives, University of Texas
Library, Austin); James P. Bryan and Walter K. Hanak, Texas in Maps (Austin, 1961), 9,
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 85, July 1981 - April, 1982, periodical, 1981/1982; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101208/m1/430/: accessed August 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.