Book Review: Seeds of Empire: Cotton, Slavery, and the Transformation of the Texas Borderlands: 1800-1850

ISBN 9781469624242
Review Another men's book club selection. And if you're in Texas, like Texas, hate Texas, or just like a really excellent lengthy summary of how and why Texas got the way it is, in terms of agriculture, extreme conservative political perspective on the part of many, and (at least) implicit racial sensitivity toward blacks and browns, then this is the book for you. Texas is the current manifestation of the remnants of all of this, along with its thirty-plus years of tenuous independence before it limped into the US to avoid being forcibly retaken back into Mexico by the Federal government in the state of Coahuila. The state joined the breakaway Confederate States of America before being absorbed back into the United States of America after the Civil War but did so with a unique clause that allowed it to remain as a single state or break apart into as many as five separate U.S. States if so desired. Whew!

It's sobering but accurate to state that Texas became a Republic "dedicated to defending slave-based agriculture in a world increasingly hostile to slave labor." It bordered the economies of the US Cotton Belt, and in many ways its climate and soil proved superior to the traditional SE USA states. Texas was both the Western edge of the US South and also the NE edge of Mexico. A confluence of Anglo-dominated deep-south thinking, thin Spanish and then Mexican governance, and powerful Comanche (and other native American) tribal reluctance to give up their traditional hunting grounds and often nomadic lifestyle left broad crosscurrents of powerful forces spreading over the huge borderlands.

This book offers a fascinating summary of "Centralism" versus "Federalism" in pages 150-151. This gap clearly has never been resolved one way of another, with resulting instability present in modern day America.

All in all, this is not only a brilliant, detailed, and nuanced history of Texas, but is quite relevant in today's difference of thinking in modern day America.

5 Responses

  1. Jim, I'm curious how your Texas friends discussed this book. More importantly, were there both Liberals and Conservatives in the group and what where the cross-currents between them? 73, Bill
    • JK James George
      Hi Bill. Our meeting comes up in about a week. Will post a summary here. Jim.
  2. JK James George
    From Anon-1: Hi Jim, This book sounds really interesting to me! I’m now reading 1619. It’s also a fascinating book!! You might like it.
  3. JK James George
    From Anon-2: Good review, Jim. I really enjoyed the book and learned so many new things about my native state that I didn’t know.
  4. JK James George
    From Anon-3: While living in Texas as a pastor and then a state government person, I was always impressed with the way blacks and Hispanics were treated, promoted and welcomed both by the community at large and state government proceedings. Not that everyone shared our views, but I have great stories about Midland and how the police handled everything related to minorities. I was the police chaplain for 6 years. Of course, population density had a lot to do with it in segregated communities. I am still shamed by the way people have treated blacks in our country. What a burden… Thanks for the review. We can just imagine what it must have been like in those days.

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