The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 94, July 1990 - April, 1991 Page: 638
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
anticipated what secessionist Southerners would say in 186o-1861 as
they called for independence from the United States: that is, that the
ruling authorities posed a threat to slavery and were engaged in a ty-
rannical conspiracy to deprive the separatists of liberty by, ironically,
reducing them to the status of slaves. Although only 27 percent of the
state's families in 186o owned slaves (a percentage comparable to Vir-
ginia's), "political life in antebellum Texas existed entirely within a
proslavery consensus" (p. 213), in large part because "most nonslave-
holders apparently recognized that owning slaves was a measure of fi-
nancial success and wanted to hold bondsmen themselves" (p. 69). On
the eve of the Civil War, when slaves composed over 30 percent of the
Texas population, the twenty-seven counties of the Blackland Prairie
and Grand Prairie regions (extending south from the Red River into
central Texas) offered further opportunities for the spread of cotton
farming and slave labor. Among some Texans confidence in the future
of slavery survived even into the last desperate year of the Civil War.
Although a women's historian might well call for more emphasis on
gender-related issues, An Empire for Slavery makes excellent use of a
wide variety of sources to examine the peculiar institution in Texas
from the perspectives of both blacks and whites. Campbell is at his best
when dealing with social structure and economics, topics that show off
his extensive research into local tax and court records as well as his
skillful compilation and interpretation of an array of quantitative data.
Evidence from county probate records undergirds a convincing argu-
ment that the peculiar institution in Texas was characterized not only
by reasonable levels of productivity and profitability, but also by a high
degree of "flexibility and functional utility" (p. 82), demonstrated par-
ticularly in the system of slave hiring. Although Campbell's preference
for the concrete and sensitivity to ambiguity keep him from taking
sides in current theoretical debates about Southern slave society, he
clearly believes that slaveholders could be both paternalistic and capi-
talistic at the same time.
All historians of the Old South will be grateful for the consistently
meticulous and evenhanded quality of Campbell's analysis. With the
appearance of An Empire for Slavery just five years after publication of
Walter L. Buenger's Secession and the Unzon in Texas (1984), the 1980s
appear to have been an exceptionally good decade for scholarship on
University of Texas at Austin SHEARER DAVIS BOWMAN
Reluctant Confederates: Upper South Unionists in the Secession Crisis. By
Daniel W. Crofts. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press,
Here’s what’s next.
Citing and Sharing
Reference the current page of this Periodical.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 94, July 1990 - April, 1991, periodical, 1991; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101214/m1/716/?rotate=270: accessed June 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.