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A Conniving Feminist Activist on the Mexico-Texas Border

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103.     [CAZNEAU, Jane Maria Eliza McManus Storms]. Eagle Pass; or, Life on the Border by Cora Montgomery. New York: George P. Putnam & Co., 10 Park Place, 1852. [2, ads], [i-v] vi-viii, [9] 10-188, [6, ads] pp. 8vo (18.7 x 13 cm), original brown cloth, covers with blind-embossed logo of Putnam’s Popular Library, title stamped in gilt on spine. Spine a bit light and with a few small spots and stains, corners slightly bumped, text with scattered light to moderate foxing, overall very good with author’s 1852 ink presentation: “1852 To Capt. P.C. Dumas From his much obliged friend. The Author” and subsequent 1879 presentation in ink: “To his Son F.C. Dumas from Robert H. Swift Esq. Ex U.S. Consul to Maracaibo S.A. June 17, 1877.”

     First edition, fourth issue of an important record of life along the recently acquired Rio Grande frontier by one of the first settlers of Eagle Pass, Texas. The book appeared first in wraps, followed by this cloth edition. In the first issue pp. 73-74 and 79-88 have the text misimposed. In the second issue, the text on pp. 73-74 has been corrected. In the third issue pp. 79-88 have also been replaced. In the fourth issue, the corrections have been incorporated into a new sheet. Graff 2873 (wraps). Hanna, Yale Exhibit: “More than an account of life in Texas in the 1840s and 50s. It is, in general, a plea for just and humanitarian treatment of all people, and, in particular, a stinging indictment of the abominable treatment of the Indian and the Black in America.” Howes C251n. Jones, Adventures in Americana (Checklist) 1285. Raines, p. 252n. Sabin 50132. Tate, The Indians of Texas: An Annotated Research Bibliography 2466: “Discusses the continuous Indian raids along the southern Texas border during the early 1850s, and describes the Seminoles who had recently settled along the Mexican side of the Rio Grande.” Wright II:477: “A verisimilar story of Texas.” Though Cazneau’s life sometimes reads more like fiction than fact, this book is not fiction.

     Born in an age when women were supposed to concern themselves with domestic economy and child rearing, Cazneau (1807-1878) instead spent her life engaging in schemes to settle Texas, seize large parts of the New World for the U.S., and influence political and social policy on a national level. Now recognized as the author of the phrase “Manifest Destiny,” she lived a life that demonstrated that to her the term was more than an idle concept. At various times in her life, she advocated that the U.S. annex Mexico, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic, inter alia. Not idle on the home front, either, she was once publicly accused of being Aaron Burr’s mistress. During the Mexican-American War she was the only U.S. reporter to send dispatches from behind enemy lines, distinguishing her from her countryman George Wilkins Kendall, who was with the U.S. Army and apparently is erroneously credited with being the first U.S. war correspondent. She also advocated better treatment for women and Blacks.

     This work reflects the author’s life in Texas around 1849, when she moved with her husband, William Cazneau, to Eagle Pass, then newly founded. Ranching content includes a description of the wretched working conditions of vaqueros and peons on the vast Mexican haciendas (as described by Severo Váldez, a vaquero who had left Mexico to work as a ranch hand for Col. Henry Lawrence Kinney in Corpus Christi); prospects for stock raising in Texas; and cattle rustling and horse thievery on the border by Mexicans and Native Americans. In the present work, the author urges the states of Northern Mexico to establish an independent confederation that would buttress the southern portion of the United States.

     The book is an important work by a woman who, in the words of Ben E. Pingenot, engaged in exploits that “would make many twentieth-century feminists blush.” The best and most recent study of Cazneau is Linda S. Hudson’s Mistress of Manifest Destiny (Austin: TSHA, 2001). Notable American Women I:315-316: “Her career—in some respects a comedy of grandiose plans and bungled opportunities—nevertheless epitomizes the cycle of nineteenth-century American expansionism.” Wallace (Destiny and Glory, chapter 12) states that the author “was the most adventurous of any American woman on record and deserves far more than the oblivion which has been her fate.” See also: Handbook of Texas Online: Jane Maria Eliza McManus Cazneau. See also Item 154 herein.


Sold. Hammer: $100.00; Price Realized: $120.00

Auction 22 Abstracts

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