Spanish Bourbons and Wild Indians by David J. Weber

By David J. Weber

Staggering observations via one in every of Americas so much acclaimed historians

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California mission Indians, men and women alike, did plan and carry out local revolts—as early as 1775 in San Diego, but more commonly they avoided open conflict with armed Spaniards. They fled more often than they fought. 54 Until the end of the colonial period, most California missions continued to function in the classic manner. In theory, if not always in practice, missionaries retained full control of Indian September 7, 1782, in Beilharz, Felipe de Neve, 157. Weber, Spanish Frontier, 246–47.

The rhetoric of the Bourbons’ nineteenth-century successors, which built an insurmountable wall between savagery and civilization, implicitly rejected Spain’s frequently reiterated goal of gradually acculturating and incorporating “savage” Indians. In this, leaders of the Spanish American republics were not alone. ”61 Yet, there was more continuity between imperial and republican policies than meets the eye. The Bourbons had their own share of war hawks who advocated the destruction of resistant societies of independent Indians, but doves usually prevailed because wars with powerful Indians groups seemed manifestly unwinnable and because the Crown generally favored “gentle” means of bringing Indians into the body politic.

Beginning in the late 1930s, Cook examined the California missions, which were also Bolton’s specialty, paying close attention to records that could be analyzed mathematically. Where Bolton thought that missionaries effectively converted Indians into Europeans, Cook believed missionaries did it badly and at great cost. California’s missions, he concluded, were places of high mortality, where disease spread quickly among populations that had not previously lived in close proximity. Indians found life in missions confining and demoralizing and fled from them or, if they could not escape, found ways to control their own destinies within the missions.

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