Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - March - 2005 Issue

Old and Interesting Western Americana from Arthur H. Clark


Scratchy photo of Senator Thomas Hart Benton, courtesy of the Library of Congress.

While Howard was more understanding and sympathetic to the Indian cause than most of his contemporaries, it would be years before the story would be told from their point of view. A West Virginia rancher and amateur archeologist who moved to Washington State around the turn of the century would be one to help tell that story. Lucullus McWhorter became a great friend and supporter of the local Indians, being adopted into the Yakima tribe in 1909. He befriended Nez Perce war veteran Yellow Wolf, whose personal history he would retell. Eight years after his death, McWhorter's papers would be gathered to produce the book, Hear Me, My Chiefs! Nez Perce History and Legend. McWhorter recounts the Nez Perce War from interviews with survivors, including both Indians and the soldiers of the U.S. Army, some of whom had served under General O. O. Howard. According to the Washington State University Library's website (this library holds his papers), McWhorter noted that his study of the Indians "has not elevated me in the estimation of the local populace in general." He was ahead of his time, describing history through the Native Americans' eyes in an era when they were portrayed as little more than "savages" in western movies. Item 179. From 1952. $210.

Another early attempt to tell the other side of the story came from Major Israel McCreight in Firewater and Forked Tongues: A Sioux Chief Interprets U.S. History. McCreight's book arose from his interviews of Flying Hawk, Sioux Chief and nephew of Sitting Bull, who fought with Crazy Horse at the Little Big Horn. Item 178. From 1947. $75.

Senator Thomas Hart Benton was one of the major figures in the U.S. Senate during the period when the nation slowly slid into disunion. Unlike some of his most notable contemporaries, like Henry Clay, Benton was not into compromising. He opposed the Compromise of 1850, that conglomeration of bills which attempted to appease both slavery and anti-slavery forces. Item 158 is a copy of Mr. Benton's Anti-Compromise Speech...., given on June 10, 1850. Senator Benton represented the slave state of Missouri, and owned slaves himself, but was opposed to provisions which would allow the extension of slavery into any new territories. His position was that slavery should be allowed where it existed, but that it was not something that should be extended any further. As a result, he opposed the Compromise's elimination of slavery in the District of Columbia, but also maintained that slavery could not constitutionally be instituted in any new states without congressional approval, which effectively would have prevented any new slave states. His unusually moderate position on the issue by Missouri standards in 1850 was a major cause of his defeat that year after 30 years in the senate. $110. For an autobiography of this important 19th century figure, there is Benton's Thirty Year's View, or, A History of the Working of the American Government, From 1820-1850. It offers 739 pages of views from an insider during the period of western expansion, the annexation of Texas, the Jacksonian debates, and more. Item 9. From 1854. $85.

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