This sweeping work of history explains the westward spread of
cotton agriculture and slave labor across the South and into Texas
during the decades before the Civil War. In arguing that the U.S.
acquisition of Texas originated with planters' need for new lands
to devote to cotton cultivation, celebrated author Roger G. Kennedy
takes a long view. Locating the genesis of Southern expansionism in
the Jeffersonian era, "Cotton and Conquest "stretches from 1790
through the end of the Civil War, weaving international commerce,
American party politics, technological innovation, Indian-white
relations, frontier surveying practices, and various social,
economic, and political events into the tapestry of Texas
The innumerable dots the author deftly connects take the story
far beyond Texas. Kennedy begins with a detailed chronicle of the
commerce linking British and French textile mills and merchants
with Southern cotton plantations. When the cotton states seceded
from the Union, they overestimated British and French dependence on
Southern cotton. As a result, the Southern plantocracy believed
that the British would continue supporting the use of slaves in
order to sustain the supply of cotton--a miscalculation with dire
consequences for the Confederacy.
As cartographers and surveyors located boundaries specified in
new international treaties and alliances, they violated earlier
agreements with Indian tribes. The Indians were to be displaced yet
again, now from Texas cotton lands. The plantation system was thus
a prime mover behind Indian removal, Kennedy shows, and it yielded
power and riches for planters, bankers, merchants, millers, land
speculators, Indian-fighting generals and politicians, and slave
In Texas, at the plantation system's farthest geographic reach,
cotton scored its last triumphs. No one who seeks to understand the
complex history of Texas can overlook this book.
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