The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 95, July 1991 - April, 1992 Page: 555
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and Langum delineate Larkin's connection with the events of annexation and
its aftermath, such as Commodore Thomas ap Catesby Jones's seizure of Mon-
terey in 1842, the Archibald Gillespie mission, John C. Fremont's movements,
Commodore John D. Sloat's proclamation of July 7, 1846, Commodore Robert
F. Stockton's occupation of Los Angeles, the Gold Rush, and the California con-
stitutional convention. A merchant with business ties to ruling officials, whom
he cultivated at notoriously lavish entertainments, Larkin lamented Mexican
inefficiency but was neither racialist nor, until the 1840s, American expan-
sionist. Still, unlike most members in his immigrant cohort who anticipated
land and offices as a reward for conversion to Catholicism and undergoing
naturalization, Larkin resisted acculturation into Hispanic ways and Mexican
citizenship. By the 1840s, he hoped that the Californios themselves would see
the sense of peaceful annexation to the United States. His consular reports and
letters to eastern newspapers helped inspire the overland migration that guar-
anteed California's Americanization, and also affected attitudes in Washington,
where little was known about California as late as 1843. These findings seem to
suggest, in contrast to much historiography on the Polk administration, that
the impetus for expansion came more from the periphery than from Polk and
the Young America folk at the metropolis. This book's soul, however, is its thor-
ough analysis of the multifaceted business dealings of Mexican California's
leading American merchant. Hague and Langum do for California what
Harold Woodman did for the southern factorage system in Kzng Cotton & Hzs
Retainers (1968). In the process of unraveling Larkin's retail and wholesale
operations, his speculations, his banking and debt collection services, his activi-
ties as consul and U.S. navy agent, and a miscellany of other dealings, they pro-
vide a compelling rendition of California's mercantile community. Hague and
Langum contend that merely by fostering a consumer culture, American mer-
chants undermined the rigid social stratification necessary for continued Mexi-
can rule. Clear explanations of shipside bazaars and why they became over-
shadowed by fixed merchants, the Mexican tariff system, how the merchants
maintained the equivalent of a credit-rating agency, and related findings pro-
vide a wide window into Mexican California's economy. And there is much on
the post-conquest economy too. Historians of the South may find unanticipated
nuggets in the book's handling of Larkin's middle passage in North Carolina
(1821-1831) where he came into slave ownership and adapted to southern
mores. Larkin's thoughts on southern courtship, violence, and politics bear on
issues under modern debate.
Hague and Langum portray Larkin as an acquisitive, sometimes ruthless,
capitalist. Larkin even allowed his first child to be born illegitimate rather than
forfeit plans of marrying into wealth, and then married the mother when
money suddenly came her way. But the coauthors also keep a watchful eye
upon Larkin's redeeming qualities. They craft the vast amount of documents
Larkin left behind into an objective, engrossing account.
ROBERT E. MAY
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 95, July 1991 - April, 1992, periodical, 1992; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117153/m1/631/: accessed October 22, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.