The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 78, July 1974 - April, 1975 Page: 96
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
William Walker, the "grey-eyed man of destiny" who led filibusters into
Nicaragua and became for two years (i855-1857) the country's de facto
ruler, also figures heavily in May's analysis. Walker, May argues, was not
at all a fanatic bent on plunder; his regime and cause found support not
only in the South but throughout the nation. Buchanan's efforts to achieve
a Mexican protectorate in the McLane-Ocampo treaty, which the Senate
defeated in 1859, also derived from the dream of empire.
Some historians may discern in May's work an attempt to repudiate con-
clusions in several older works on the old South and the coming of the war,
particularly Clement Eaton's A History of the Old South (2nd ed., 1966).
Actually May amplifies previous scholarship by arguing that the idea of
Caribbean empire fascinated a majority of southerners and was not, as
Eaton claimed, the dream of a small number of extremists. The author may
be taken to task by others for statements to the effect that satisfaction of the
South's felt need for tropical slave societies might have prevented the se-
cessionist movement. May is less convincing in his contention that "the se-
cessionist call for a tropical confederacy was the culmination of the section-
alization of manifest destiny before the Civil War" (p. 243). In his view,
then, the Crittenden compromise failed in part because of northern fears
about tropical expansionism.
The Southern Dream of Caribbean Empire contributes not only to Amer-
ican diplomatic and antebellum southern history but also delves into the
history of ideas. Ordinarily dissertations do not make the best books, but
May's work is an exception. His research into archival and contemporaneous
sources is excellent, though Caribbeanists might quarrel with his failure to
pursue his topic in Spanish-language material. His analysis of the Cuban
revolutionary L6pez, for example, needs the modification provided in the
three-volume work on the general by Herminio Portell-Vila. And, finally, a
newly acquired loyalty to Georgia prompts this reviewer to point out that
Buchanan named the Georgian John Forsyth, Jr., not the "Alabamanian
John Forsyth," as minister to Mexico.
University of Georgia LESTER D. LANGLEY
Gideon Welles: Lincoln's Secretary of the Navy. By John Niven. (New
York: Oxford University Press, 1973. Pp. xii+ 676. Bibliography, ap-
pendix, index. $17.50.)
Why a 58o-page biography of Gideon Welles supplemented by 56 pages
of notes, an extensive bibliography, and many a sign of meticulous care in
telling the Welles story?
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 78, July 1974 - April, 1975, periodical, 1974/1975; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117149/m1/114/: accessed August 14, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.