Chronicles of Oklahoma

Skip Navigation

Electronic Publishing Center
Oklahoma Historical Society
Chronicles Homepage
Search all Volumes
Copyright 2001
Purchase an Issue

Table of Contents Index Volume List Search All Volumes Home

Chronicles of Oklahoma
Volume 20, No. 1
March, 1942

Page 68

Council Fires on the Upper Ohio. By Randolph C. Downes (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1940. x + 367 pp. $3.00.)

This book is an endeavor to find a more realistic formula for writing Indian history. We have had too much of the concept of the white man as a bearer of civilization stricken down by treacherous, savage Indians. This interpretation, Mr. Downes believes, is fallacious. The Indians had a civilization of their own, a way of life, which they were protecting against lawless invaders. The contest was a clash of two incompatible civilizations.

The basic difficulty was the Indian's conception of property. He did not understand the idea of land ownership which involved fencing in agricultural areas, cutting down timber and driving off game. To him the forest was the place of sustenance and when white men came to destroy the forest he saw his livelihood disappearing and he resisted.

The story of Indian warfare in the Upper Ohio valley from 1720 to 1795 is told in these terms. There are in fact two stories, that of the wars between the Indian and the white man, and also that of Indian internal feuds. The white men were pressing ever further into Pennsylvania and driving the Indians westward, while the dissensions among the Six Nations and their neighbors and particularly the position of the Shawnee were likewise causing confusion and bloodshed. The Indians were fighting against being dispossessed but they were also fighting against being debauched and cheated by the traders of the white men. They were shrewd enough to capitalize the rivalries of the white men and consequently sought aid from French against British and later from British against the new government of the United States.

This complicated story is told well, its complexities are ably handled in interesting fashion. The effort of the author to present the Indians' point of view has been successful and provides a significant contribution to Indian historiography.

Roy F. Nichols

University of Pennsylvania

First Expedition of Vargas into New Mexico, 1692. (Translated, with Introduction and Notes). By J. Manuel Espinosa. Coronado Cuarto Centennial Publications. (Albuquerque: The University of New Mexico Press, 1940. xv + 307 pp. Index. $400.)

This is Volume X of the Coronado Cuarto Centennial Publications, 1540-1940, under the editorship of Professors George P. Hammond, University of New Mexico, and Agapito Rey, Indiana University. The series comprise in a comprehensive panorama of scholarly narratives and numerous documents the activities and achieve-

Page 69

ments of the Spanish conquistadores, padres, and settlers in our Southwest.

During a period of almost a century and a half after the expedition of Coronado the Spanish conquerers treated the native Pueblos shamefully, forcing on them heavy burdens of tribute and personal service, and suppressing their native religion. By 1680 more than 2500 Spaniards resided in the upper Rio Grande Valley between Isleta and Taos. These were known as the Rio Arriba settlements, and the lower ones as Rio Abajo. On August 9, 1680, the Pueblos, under the leadership of Pope, a fanatical native priest, rose in revolt, slew 400 settlers, including 22 missionaries, and drove the other Rio Arriba Spaniards southward to El Paso, where a new community was established and Governor Otermin set up his seat of administration. In the next year, he attempted to recover his lost district but was unsuccessful, as were also his successors, Cruzate and Reneros. Indeed, for fifteen years the Pueblos had control of their own affairs, and it was not until the appointment to the governorship of Diego de Vargas Zapata Luján Ponce de León in 1691 that a successful reconquest campaign was launched. If one were inclined to be facetious, one might say that the governor's name intimidated the natives! But he was also long in patience and enterprise. Wherever possible, De Vargas sought to persuade the natives to accept peacefully their former masters, and was successful in recovering much of the region without fighting. At San Ildefonso, Taos and elsewhere, however, he was forced to resort to battle and siege operations. By 1695 it appeared that tranquility had been restored, but a new revolt occurred and another year of hard fighting was necessary before the natives would submit.

Preceding the De Vargas documents, Professor Espinosa covers in forty-two pages of graphic detail the story of Spanish exploration and colonization in New Mexico, and adequately buttresses his narrative with numerous citations of authority. Then he submits the following documents: report of the finance committee of the government of New Spain, Mexico city, May 28, 1692, officially authorizing Don Diego de Vargas to reconquer Mexico; Vargas' campaign journal and correspondence, August 21 to October 16, 1692; Vargas' campaign journal and correspondence, October 16, 1692 to January 12, 1693; letter from Don Diego de Vargas to the Conde de Galve, El Paso, January 12, 1693, concerning the settlement of New Mexico; report of the Count de Galve to Don Diego de Vargas, Mexico city, November 24, 1692; report of the general junta, Mexico city, February 25, 1693; and order of the Conde de Galve to Don Diego de Vargas, Mexico city, April 18, 1693.

Generally, the narrative flows smoothly and flawlessly. Only occasionally does the author seem to be at fault. He speaks of Spanish counter-colonization in western Texas (p. 2) when he probably refers to the Massanet mission on the Neches River of eastern

Page 70

Texas in 1690. He emphasizes unduly the antecedents of De Vargas (pp. 21-22), and occasionally commits the fault of word repetition, like "for the time being it was like being" . . . (p. 35). But these are minor faults. The book represents careful scholarship.

Accompanying the interesting narrative and documents is a reproduction of a rare De Vargas portrait, and a satisfactory index.

Carl Coke Rister

University of Oklahoma

Sixty Years of Indian Affairs. By George Dewey Harmon. (Chapel Hill, North Carolina: University of North Carolina Press, 1941. viii + 428 pp. $5.00.)

This book is almost a parody on the procedures and techniques of historical scholarship; it is so ponderous in its appearance, so heavily and carefully documented, so meticulous in its balancing of evidence—and so unsatisfactory in its content.

It purports to be a "political, social, and diplomatic" history of Federal Indian administration from 1789 to 1850, but in the main it is only an arid summary of treaty provisions, with no indication of what lay back of their negotiation and no investigation of the manner of their fulfilment. In a few instances, notably with the Creeks, the Choctaws, and the Cherokees, the author, has made an attempt to follow through, but here he is apparently unaware of the competent work already done in this field by Grant Foreman. The section dealing with trading houses—Chapters IX and X—is the best part of the book; here the author has done a neat and finished job of research and organization.

In general the literary style is not good. Many of the chapters are simply masses of undigested and overlapping material, with no beginning and no ending, and no orderly sequence. There is moreover the use of such grotesque wording as "The balance was to be distributed equally among each individual of the tribe," and "His personal safety was in danger."

There is a bibliography of thirty-one pages arranged with great attention to accepted form. But it is clearly apparent not only in the footnote citations but in the text itself that the author has not used ten per cent of these titles. In some cases he even shows that he is unfamiliar with their content.

The book, however, contains much material not previously assembled in one volume; and all this material is easily available through an excellent index. It should be useful as a guide to future writers in the field of United States Indian policy.

It has the attractive format characteristic of the University of North Carolina Press publications.

Angie Debo

Marshall, Oklahoma

Page 71

Malaria and Colonization in the Carolina Low Country, 1526-1696. By St. Julien Ravenel Childs. (Baltimore: The John Hopkins Press, 1940. 292 pp. Bibliography, Map.)

As astounding allegations concerning the effects of diseases on society have been made by historians of the past, the findings of modern science have made desirable the rewriting of the history of many diseases. Professor Childs has undertaken to determine the extent to which the colonization of the rice planting region of colonial America was affected by its most characteristic disease, malaria. The evident care which he has expended in his research and in the writing of each statement inspires confidence in his conclusions.

Convincing proof is offered that malaria played no part in the failure of French and Spanish settlements of the sixteenth century in Carolina and that malaria did not become endemic there until at least eight years after the establishment of a permanent English settlement on Ashley River in 1670. Even this was a mild form of malaria similar to that which occurred in England. The author credits malaria with having cut short a spurt of immigration in the 1680's, but explains that in doing so it merely hastened an inevitable event, for no industry capable of supporting a large population had taken root at that time.

It was not until the eighteenth century, when the extensive cultivation of rice brought a heavy importation of African Negroes, that the virulent forms of malaria appeared. This, says Professor Childs, demonstrates the influence of society on disease rather than of disease on society. Pointing to the similarity of malaria-free Barbados and the Carolina Low Country, he concludes that in the latter region malaria lacked the power to determine social patterns and, more particularly, that it was not a cause of the establishment of slavery.

Robert W. Barnwell, Jr.

Florence, South Carolina

The Background of the Revolution in Maryland. By Charles Albro Barker, Assistant Professor of History in Stanford University.(New Haven: Yale University Press, 1940. x + 419 pp. $3.50.)

Maryland as one of the American colonies within the British connection was of course conditioned by the sweep of imperial currents. It would distort the truth to treat the province primarily from that vantage point and to slight the more important fact that Maryland was largely a product of independent forces peculiarly her own. This point the study makes clear. It does not purport to explain the province in the Revolution proper but to interpret the forces and issues which schooled her to share in the greater movement of American secession. The maturing opposition to proprietary authority was joined in time to the protest against the extension of arbi-

Page 72

trary British power. The chief staple of the background history was the clash of irreconcilable systems of life. Maryland labored under the weight of proprietary order, alien, self-centered, selfish, dominating the higher councils of government, controlling the land system, and the beneficiary of financial and ecclesiastial privileges. This semi-feudal order was not in harmony with the best interests of the colony. It had to face the persistent opposition of a vigorous self-reliant people breaking hard against fixed institutional molds.

This study does far more than display the anatomy of institutions or to catalogue facts in imposing array. It plumbs the depths of life in an admirable effort to interpret the varied human forces which molded and directed thought and action. The author interprets and blends the social, intellectual and economic factors in all their complexity and variety which contributed to the totality of the movement against the proprietary system. The depression of the tobacco trade gave rise to political discontent and this created a climate ready to receive the liberal ideas of Coke, Locke and a host of writers whose philosophy mirrored the gropings to fix limitations upon arbitrary power. Brief space is here our portion making it impossible to review the many significant contributions of this study. One is impressed with the pages analyzing the money accruing to the proprietary purse as compared with the cost of provincial government. Again one may point out that the colony was not broadly democratic. It was controlled by a squirearchy composed of the landed class, secure in their position, affluent, intelligent and well knit together socially and politically. To them goes the credit for fighting the contest for home rule.

The author has the gift of clear, thoughtful and forceful style. The wide and careful use of sources is obvious to all who scan the footnotes and the bibliographical notes. Forged in admirable scholarship, it is a significant addition to colonial history.

Winfred T. Root

University of Iowa.

Oklahoma: A Guide to the Sooner State; American Guide Series. (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. 442 pp. $2.50.)

The Works Projects Administration conceived a number of worthwhile projects devoted to cultural investigation and achievements. One of them best known to the public at large is the "American Guide Series." The output of this project came to include "Guides" to all the states of the Union. The last of that series to make its appearance is the "Oklahoma Guide," which is introduced to the public as a "final state guide in a distinguished series of American Guide books compiled and written by the writers' program of the Work Projects Administration." Its authors claim the attention of the reader on the score that "the pictures and text of this book make it an indispensable introduction and guide to those who would like to know Oklahoma, a state where pioneer days are

Page 73

still within living memory. Here in story and picture is a chronicle of a state more closely identified with the Indian than any other in America."

Sixty-four pages of illustrations, together with maps, and nearly five hundred pages of text describe the history, geography, industry and people of Oklahoma, from the days of the Spanish explorers, the sixty years of Oklahoma's existence as a veritable Indian Commonwealth, and its great days of cattle trail herds, to the development of the state's lush oil fields, the mechanization of its agriculture, and its national defense industries. Here is a state whose established culture owes much to its independent nations known as the Five Civilized Tribes, settled in Indian Territory in the eighteen-thirties with their schools, printing-presses and democratic governments.

"This is more than a guide book—it is, like others in the 'American Guide Series,' a veritable library of information; it contains many road and state maps and suggested tours that will answer your problem of where to go and what to see."

The above, taken from the cover of the book, is a fair statement of its composition, and leaves little to be said to acquaint the reader with the contents of the book.

This book was compiled under the immediate direction of Dr. Angie Debo, assisted by John M. Oskison. The general plan of the book is enhanced by a foreword by Dr. W. B. Bizzell, a sketch by Dr. Edward Everett Dale entitled "The Spirit of Oklahoma," and other attractive features such as a chapter on "Natural Setting," another chapter on "Early Oklahomans" and a competent, though necessarily much abridged history of Oklahoma. "Music," "Architecture and Art," "Newspapers," "Land of the Indians," "Education," "Sports and Recreation," "Agriculture," "Transportation," "Industry and Literature," "Folklore and Folkways," are titles of the divisions of the book that are calculated to provide information to the reader essential to an understanding of Oklahoma history. The subject of "Literature" is briefly but adequately covered by Kenneth C. Kaufman. In a book of this character there are necessarily included a vast number of facts and details presented by the authors, and it would be nothing less than a miracle if an occasional mistake did not creep in. However, mistakes are surprisingly infrequent.

The book is beautifully printed by the University of Oklahoma Press, and is adorned by many excellent illustrations, adding immeasurably to its interest. It contains ten maps, indispensable to a correct understanding of the text. Most of the book is incorporated in Part III which is devoted to the description of sixteen tours throughout the state. There is also an appendix, made up of the chronology, selected reading list, and an extensive index.

Grant Foreman

Muskogee, Oklahoma

Return to top

Electronic Publishing Center | OSU Home | Search this Site