The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 107, July 2003 - April, 2004 Page: 484
484 Southwestern Historical Quarterly January
who also served as a federal marshal late in his career. Texas historians have long
held that when it comes to the Rangers, truth is often more than an even match
for legend, especially with regard to individuals, and the biography of John H.
Rogers is a good example. The book could have benefited from tighter editing,
more contextual analysis of Ranger policies, and the use of maps-especially
given the statewide sweep of Rogers's career; regardless, those interested in Texas
law enforcement history will find more than enough detail and substance on one
of the Rangers' most influential and truly legendary early leaders.
Pflugerville DAN K. UTLEY
Manifest Destiny's Underworld: Filibustering zn Antebellum America. By Robert E. May.
(Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. 2002. Pp. xviii+426.
Preface, epilogue, notes, index. ISBN 0-8078-2703-7. $45.00, cloth.)
To be fair, there is much to admire in this book. The research is impressive;
the prose is lucid; illustrations are clearly rendered. That said, much of the time
my compulsion was to hurl it out the window.
First, allow me to address its virtues. Dr. May, a professor of history at Purdue
University, offers an exhaustively researched analysis of the antebellum fili-
busters and asserts that they "significantly exacerbated the breakdown in North-
South relations that led to the Civil War" (p. xv).
May, however, is careful to restrict his definitions to bolster his argument. He
defines filibusters as "American adventurers who raised or participated in private
military forces that either invaded or planned to invade foreign countries with
which the United States was formally at peace" (p. xi). Odd it is that May
employs a word derived from the French filzbustzer and the Spanish filibustero to
describe a transgression that is, in his view, unique to the United States.
For the sake of discussion, suppose that there was an Argentznean adventurer
who raised or participated in private military forces that either invaded or
planned to invade foreign countries with which Argentna was formally at peace.
Would Professor May identify, say, Ernesto "Che" Guevara as a filibuster? Never.
He might depict him as an agrarian reformer, or an idealist, or, as Jean Paul
Sartre eulogized him, "the most complete human being of our age." But how
could Che ever be a filibuster? He wasn't an American.
It is not the organization, nor the research, nor the syntax that causes May's
monograph to be so infuriating. It is his supercilious tone, his moral superiority
that drips from every page. It is, of course, possible for historians to become too
enamored of their subjects and for history to become hagiography. May goes
quite the opposite direction-which proves no more satisfying. "Whatever their
intentions," he intones, "U.S. filibusters engaged in criminal behavior" (p. 6).
To tar every antebellum American involved in conflict abroad as a common
criminal appears overly legalistic.
May's explanation of the Texas Revolution of 1835-1836 will surprise (and,
perhaps, even anger) many Texans. He concedes that the rebellion "began as an
uprising against Mexican rule by Anglos and some Tejanos already living in
Here’s what’s next.
This issue can be searched. Note: Results may vary based on the legibility of text within the document.
Tools / Downloads
Get a copy of this page .
Citing and Sharing
Basic information for referencing this web page. We also provide extended guidance on usage rights, references, copying or embedding.
Reference the current page of this Periodical.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 107, July 2003 - April, 2004, periodical, 2004; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101224/m1/542/ocr/: accessed July 27, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.