The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 47, July 1943 - April, 1944 Page: 196
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
past and later careers and their complex interrelations, com-
bined with an ability which any historian must envy to weave
multitudes of details into a unified pattern.
The book sparkles with acute characterizations, most of them
in rapier-like phrases, and all the product of sound understand-
ing. Polk was "the only 'strong' President between Jackson
and Lincoln," and much more (pp. 7-8). Fremont: "Greatness
was a burden on his soul but nature kept the lines a little out
of drawing . . . who had a literary wife. . . . Also he was a
literary man and the Thunderer was his father-in-law . . .
Hero . . . but always with the lines just out of drawing" (pp.
40, 198, 201, 471, 480). Calhoun: "He had no simple emotions
and if any of his ideas were simple they have been clear to
no one else" (p. 106). The Kansa: "a degenerate tribe fluent
at theft" (p. 128). Zachary Taylor: "a predestinate candidate
for the Presidency" (p. 193). Kearny: "stands out as a gen-
tleman, a soldier, a commander, a diplomat, a statesman, and
a master of his job" (p. 234).
I agree with so many of the author's judgments that I hesi-
tate to differ with him. With all his appreciation of Polk, I
think he exaggerates the President's simplicity in dealing with
Santa Anna. He is too categorical in asserting that Thomas
La'rkin was instructed to stimulate revolution in California-
it is neither provable nor disprovable. It is certainly too strong
to say that the British government "had no designs on Cali-
fornia" (p. 21). The influence of Texas bonds and land scrip
upon annexation sentiment in the United States in 1844 requires
more factual authority. The "swamps" that embarrassed Tay-
lor's movements at Corpus Christi were more or less imaginary.
The two-thirds rule that defeated Van Buren in the Democratic
convention of 1844 was not invoked solely for his undoing-
it was already twelve years old. Finally, in one incident, the
author's dramatic instinct lets us down: why maintain our
suspense while Lieutenant Archibald Gillespie, traveling through
Mexico and Honolulu, seeks Fremont at Klamath Lake? Those
who know the story wonder whether after all he may be car-
rying a significant message, though they know he can't be;
others are disappointed to learn that he carried, historically,
just nothing at all. But such minutiae do not affect for this
reviewer the sterling worth of the book.
EUGENE C. BARKER
The University of Texas
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 47, July 1943 - April, 1944, periodical, 1944; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth146054/m1/214/: accessed August 16, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.