The Shadow out of Spain — Part 2 Essay
I, personally, think it very likely that the Celtiberians of Spain were closely allied to the Gaels, and possibly themselves ancestors of the Irish and Scotch.
— Robert E. Howard to H. P. Lovecraft, 1 Jul 1930 (AMTF 19, CL2.53)We will write a custom sample essay onThe Shadow out of Spain — Part 2
In their first few letters, Howard and Lovecraft spent considerable time on Gaelic history, a favorite subject for Howard (cf. CL2.4-5), with Howard holding that they had come up through Spain. (AMTF1.18-19, 22, 29, 33, 36; CL2.53, 56, 62, 65-66) The conversation drifted at one point to the possibility of Egyptian influence on the aboriginal cultures of Mexico and South America, which both considered unlikely, but which has had its popular proponents in the pseudoscientific literature due to the pyramids in both regions, and which may have been the inspiration for Howard’s unfinished draft or fragment, later given the title “Nekht Semerkhet.
” (AMTF1.30-31, 37; CL2.67-68) Howard also inquires after the “Cthulutl” and “Yog-Sototl” mentioned in Adolphe de Castro’s “The Electric Executioner”; Lovecraft’s response is lost, but presumably admitted his authorship and adaptation of his Mythos entities to the Aztec pantheon, much as he did with Yig and Quetzacoatl.
This identification of Lovecraft’s alien entities with the native mythology of Central America may have, in turn, helped inspire Robert E. Howard’s references to the Yucatan in “The Black Stone” (1931) and the terrible Temple of the Toad in Guatemala in “The Thing on the Roof” (1932).
Eventually, in response to Lovecraft’s comments on the immigrant tenements on the East Coast, Howard turned to the subject of Mexicans:
Almost the same conditions exist in South Texas on the great cotton farms. These farms, owned largely by men in other states, are worked entirely by Mexicans. As each farm consists of from three to eight thousand acres in actual cultivation, it requires the work of many hands. A Mexican thrives on wages that would reduce a white man to starvation. I have seen the huts built for them by their employers and overseers—one roomed affairs, generally painted red, one door, two or three glass windows. There are no chairs, beds, tables or stoves. The Mexicans sleep on rags thrown carelessly on the floor and cook their scanty meals of frijoles and tortillas on open fires outside. The death rate is enormous, the birth rate even more enormous. They live like rats and breed like flies. But while I dislike the methods used in bringing huge droves of Mexicans across the river to stuff the ballots on election day, or to compete with white labor, still I look with tolerance on those already here, and prefer the Mexican to the Italian. After all, the Mexican has some claim to priority, for his ancestor greeted Cortez. These in Texas and along the Border are predominantly Indian; the Spanish strain is very slight. In the interior you will find many fine old dons of almost pure Castilian strain, living a lazy, old World sort of life on their wide-spread ranchos But like most of the better class of foreigners, we seldom get any of that sort as immigrants. There is a great deal of romance about these descendants of Cortez’ knights. (AMTF1.51; CL2.84)
The tone and content of Howard’s comments are as familiar today as they would have been when they were set to paper in 1930. The idea of white Americans possibly being outnumbered by immigrants, or in general the idea that white people of any nationality being a minority compared to other peoples on the planet (as well as speculating on potential wars on racial lines), formed a part in both Lovecraft and Howard’s correspondence—and again there is distinction of race and class, differentiating between the poor Mexican laborer who is “predominantly Indian” with the rich and aristocratic “old dons of almost pure Castilian strain.” Howard would expand on this sentiment in another letter (AMTF1.256; CL2.293) and Lovecraft for his part responded in general agreement:
I had heard that Louisiana was Italian-ridden, but did not realise that Texas also suffered from immigration. The Mexican is probably as much of a problem as the low-grade European, but I can see that he would not be likely to be quite so irritating, since he really belongs by heredity to the landscape. There is always something redeeming about any race on its own soil—where it is fitted to the landscape and possesses settled ways and traditions. The remaining white Spaniards of old Tejas, Arizona, and Nuevo-Mejico must be rather a picturesque and attractive element I think I have heard that quite a number exist in New Mexico. Isn’t that state still officially bi-lingual, with Spanish as one of the legal tongues? (AMTF1.78; cf. 1.247)
The attachment of race and geography—the idea of a “native soil” for a people—was a common element to the prejudices of both Howard and Lovecraft, and underlies some of the difficulties they faced talking about this or that race; the idea of an ancestral plot of land, which a succession of ancestors has inhabited unchanged for long periods of time, their culture and nature shaped by the environment, has to be balanced against the history and evidence for the migration of peoples. As Howard later wrote to Lovecraft:
It’s a queer thought to think that Americans are transplanted Europeans, somehow; after a race has lived in a locality five or six generations, its members tend to unconsciously consider that the race has lived there always—it really takes some conscious thought to realize that it’s otherwise! (AMTF1.87; CL2.96)
For the most part, however, such statements went unexamined. There was a certain irony in the racial identity politics of the period that even Howard could not resist pointing out:
Yes, the lower country is filling up with Latins and Polacks and even the Mexicans resent that fact. I remember the conversation of a certain Spanish-Italian desperado, one Chico the Desperate, whose real name was Marcheca, on the road to San Antonio, a few years ago. Chico was suspicious and reticent at first but soon warmed up and narrated his crimes with a gusto that kept me roaring with laughter. He was either a monumental liar or the most atrocious rogue unhung. But what amused me the most was his violent denunciations of the foreigners who were stealing the country! He was in favor of deporting al Germans, Polacks, and eya, even Italians! who had come over within the last generation and giving their land to natural Americans—including himself. He explained that the deportation of foreigners would not touch him, for though he was but one generation removed from Spain on the one side, on the other hand the Marchecas had been settled in America for three generations. […] But for Chico’s Spanish affinities, I don’t believe I ever heard a Mexican admit he was anything but pure Castilian or Aragonese. His hair may be kinky or he may have the copper skin of a Yaqui but he will assure you that at least one of his very recent ancestors first saw light in Barcelona, Valladolid or old Seville. (AMTF1.98; CL2.120)
Howard’s stereotype of multiracial Hispanic persons to identify as white Europeans—or to remonstrate and diminish their Native American heritage—is played against the exact sort of ancestral priority which Howard, Lovecraft, and other “old Americans” claimed against the waves of immigrants, often gently ignoring or seeking to justify their own positions as relative newcomers compared to the Native Americans. In a later latter Howard, responding to Lovecraft, addressed this particular point directly:
I agree with all you say about foreign immigration. “The melting pot”—bah! As if we could assimilate all the low-lived scum of southern Europe without tainting the old American stock. And that stuff they pull about “everybody being foreigners except the Indians,” makes me fighting mad. Then the Indian is a foreigner too, because he was preceded by the Mound-builders. And the Gaelic-Irishman is a foreigner because the Picts came into Ireland before him. And the Anglo-Saxon is a foreigner in England because the Cymric Celts were there when he came. No—the true facts are this—after our ancestors had conquered the Indians, killed off the wild animals, leveled the forests, driven out the French and Spaniards and won our independence from England, a horde of lousy peasants swarmed over to grab what our Aryans ancestors had won. (AMTF1.88; CL2.96-97)
Aside from the anti-immigrant rhetoric apparent here, there are three main ideas expressed in Howard’s defense. The first is the idea that the Indian has no more substantial prior claim to being native to the Americas, because they were preceded by “the Mound-builders”—Howard taking the common line that the Native Americans could not, or did not, build the large mounds and associated communities encountered by the early Spanish explorers, and evidenced by later explorers; this is the implicit line of thought in Lovecraft’s “The Mound,” and later Howard’s “The Horror from the Mound” (1932) and “Valley of the Lost” (also published as “Secret of Lost Valley”). Second, the right of conquest—that military might had secured the land for the early European colonists. Finally, the class issue once again, equating the more recent European immigrants as low-class “peasants.”
The identification of the Mound-Builders as equivalent precursors to the Picts in Howard’s tirade was probably not accidental, either. In a letter dated 20 July 1930, Lovecraft had written to Howard:
Now the heliolithic culture, which extends all the way from Ireland across Europe and North-Africa to Arabia, India, South China, Melanesia, Polynesia, and even Mexico and Peru, is pretty definitely associated with the small, dark Mediterranean race, and is known to have had nothing whatever to do with any branch of Nordics. (AMTF1.26-27; SL3.161-162)
This part of Lovecraft and Howard’s correspondence, centered around the idea of a squat prehuman race that survived into antiquity, inspired in equal parts by Arthur Machen’s “Little People” stories and Margaret Murray’s The Witch-Cult in Western Europe (1921), would find its ultimate expression in several of Robert E. Howard’s own weird tales, perhaps most notably “The Children of the Night” (1931), “Worms of the Earth” (1932) and “People of the Dark” (1932)—but also found their expression in his American weird tales, such as “The Valley of the Lost,” where he wrote of the “dark inscrutable little people men call the Mound Builders,” evidently following Lovecraft’s comment.
Talk turned to architecture, and Howard spoke of the enduring Spanish legacy:
Here in the Southwest, as I see it, at least, modernistic architecture and the like is resisted to a large extent by a Spanish style, tradition, culture or whatever it might be called, though I suppose the eventual result will be a weird blending of the styles. I hope not, though. I particularly like the old “Mission” form of architecture and if I ever build me a house, it will be as much like a hacienda of Spanish days as possible. The furniture too, of high-class Mexicans has a certain richness and attractiveness seldom met with in American homes, whatever their wealth—Mexicans, that is, who have no adopted American ways too wholly. Altogether, Mexican tastes as a whole, appeal to me, though I cannot say that the Mexicans themselves do. (AMTF1.148, cf.150; CL2.165, cf.168)
Howard’s conception of Spanish architecture, like as not influenced by his trips across the Border as much as his brief mentions to Lovecraft, can be seen in stories like the Diamond J. ranch described in “Texas Fists” (1931):
They was a nice big house, Spanish style, but made of stone, not ‘dobe, and down to one side was the corrals, the cook-shack, the long bunkhouse where the cowboys stayed, and a few Mexican huts. But they wasn’t many Mexes working on the Diamond J.
Lovecraft, by this time, had arrived in St. Augustine, Florida, where he would get his own first taste of Old Spain in the New World:
Well—I’ve struck your ancient Spanish country at last—oldest city in U.S., & site of Ponce de Leon’s quest! […] There are many houses built in the late 1500’s—the typical form being a coquina (coral stone) lower story & wooden upper story. No adobe construction—indeed, I think the western Spaniards must have picked that idea up from the Indians. There was no Indian influence here. (AMTF1.165)
As typical, Lovecraft accompanied this note by a collection of pictures and other material, to which Howard in turn replied:
Many of the views of San Augustine seem familiar to me, because of their resemblance to the Spanish architecture of Southern Texas. Especially the patio of the “oldest house” which much resembles the Governor’s Palace in San Antonio, snap-shots of which I’m enclosing. But that trick of building the upper part of the house with wood is new to me. You are right about the western Spaniards borrowing ideas from the Indians. You’ll notice in some views I sent you of New Mexico, the similarity between the ancient pueblos and the Spanish buildings. (AMTF1.166; CL2.204)
In the same letter, the Texan would comment on more martial matters:
The Mexican is quick and deadly with a knife, but his instinct seems to be to slash his foe to ribbons, while the instinct of the Anglo-American seems to be to thrust—to drive the blade in straight with terrific force. (AMTF1.176; CL2.217)
That’s a curious contrast which you point out in connexion with Latin and Nordic knife-fighting. Doubtless each of the two tendencies is deeply bound up in some transmitted racial tradition. (AMTF1.187)
Here again we see very clearly the tendency of both men to associate stereotypes with races, not distinguishing between cultural traditions of blade-play and inherited attributes, and exacerbating the supposed differences. Howard would end this part of the conversation with a long passage on the subject:
Speaking of the contrast between Nordic and Latin knife-play: I don’t know whether the slashing habit is an Indian or a Spanish instinct. If Spanish, it may be a survival of Moorish influence. As of course you know, the Oriental nations favor curved blades, and generally slash instead of thrusting. The early Nordic warriors hacked too, but they used straight swords, depending on the weight of the blade and the force of the blow, whereas the Orientals curved the blade to gain the effect. But the early Greeks and the Romans understood the art of thrusting, as witness their short swords. And the rapier was created in the West. I am not prepared to say whether the Spaniards borrowed any ideas of weapons and their use from the Moors, but I will say that Mexicans swords are generally more curved than those used by Americans. I noted this recently during a trip to the battlefield of Goliad where Fannin and his men were trapped by the Mexican army. I saw two sabers—a Mexican arm and an American—both of which were used in that battle. The Mexican sword was curved far more than the Texan weapon—in fact, it would be almost impossible to thrust effectively with it. Blade, hilt and guard were all made in one piece of steel, and I could hardly get my hand inside the guard to clutch the hilt; some grandee wielded it, no doubt, some proud don with blue blood and small aristocratic hands—well, I hope he got his before Fannin surrendered, and gasped his life out in the mud of Perdido with a Texas rifle-ball through him. (AMTF1.198; CL2.234-235)
Whatever the historical accuracy of his remarks and deductions regarding different styles of swords and swordplay, it is evident in Howard’s fiction that he made use out of these preconceptions. Asians, Latins, and non-northern European types have a tendency to use curved blades, whether daggers or swords, and seem to have a tendency to slash rather than thrust. In the Breckinridge Elkins story “Pilgrims to the Pecos” (1936), for example, when describing the wounds conveyed by a band of Mexican bandits it describes “knife slashes” but no stab wounds.
If Lovecraft and Howard agreed on the generally undesirability of European immigration into the United States, remarking on the class of the immigrants as much as their origin, they were also—as shown in Lovecraft’s “The Terrible Old Man”—predisposed to associate them with criminal activities. Howard wrote:
Your mention of Latins reminds me of a question I have intended asking for some time—are the New England wops as criminally inclined, and as well organized in crime as the Italians of Chicago and New York? I suppose a great deal of killing goes on among them, where-ever they are, as that seems to be a characteristic of the Latin races. Our most turbulent element is the Mexicans, of course, who slaughter each other with energy and consistency. Yet it isnt fair to blame all their lawlessness on the Latins, since there is so little actual Spanish blood in most of them. San Antonio leads the rest of Texas cities in crime a long way. In the three weeks I spent there last winter there must have been half a dozen murders, at least—all Mexicans. And a daily and nightly tale of sluggings, robberies and hold-ups; burglaries and thefts. Occasionally a Mexican kills a white man. Naturally, the closer to the Border, the more such crimes occur. The most recent atrocity was when a Mexican wood-chopper raped and murdered a little white girl and fled from San Antonio south across the Border. The Mexican government refused to give him up for punishment. Well, I know what would have happened in the old days. (AMTF1.201; CL2.238-239)
This was followed by a number of sanguinary and grisly anecdotes about various Mexican criminals, of the kind that Howard loved to spin. Part of Howard’s general antagonism toward Mexicans was less racial than historical, owing to the complex history of Texas and the United States’ wars with Mexico, as he mentioned to Lovecraft in March 1932:
Along the Border there is a definite undercurrent of expectation, or at least apprehension, of Mexican invasion in case of war. There has been a persistent rumor, ever since the last war, of the mysterious presence of vaguely sinister activities of a hundred thousand Japanese in the interior of Mexico. It is well known that in several cases of banditry, the Mexican outlaws were led by Japanese. Possibly these Orientals were mere renegades—possibly not. Of late there has been some bandit activity in the Rio Grande valley, just west of the thickly settled citrus-fruit district. Mexico has unofficially declared that she will stand by the United States in case of war. But the memory of Mexican treachery is still too fresh in the minds of Texans—the betrayals and massacres of at Goliad, Mier, and elsewhere—for them to take much stock in such declarations. Doubtless the government would keep its pledges. But Americans along the border seem not inclined to trust their southern neighbors overmuch. During the last war there were the usual rumors of a Mexican invasion which never materialized. But this is somewhat different. There were not enough Germans in Mexico to bring such a movement about. We dont know how many Japanese there are there. I wonder if the recent movement on the part of the Mexicans to drive the Chinese out of Mexico was prompted by Japanese? I wouldnt want to say, lacking all accurate knowledge. Possibly it was only a natural part of the recent nationalist movement in Mexico, a movement in which I am heartily in accord. Mexico has been a grab-bag for foreign exploiters long enough. I’d be glad to see them take hold of their country and make something out of it—if they can, which is rather doubtful. (AMTF1.269-270; CL2.303-304)
The idea of Mexico as a staging ground for agents provacteurs was not unique to Howard; the idea of a foreign power allying with or trying to turn Mexico against the United States was fodder for tensions since at least the Zimmermann Telegram affair in 1917. The Japanese were singled out due to the invasion of Manchuria, which began in 1931.
Lovecraft, who had returned down south in the summer of 1932, ventured South once more to Natchez, Mississippi and New Oreleans (where, with a timely telegram from Howard, he was able to meet with E. Hoffmann Price) and expressed his own interest in the Spanish history of the region:
In 1799 the Spaniards under Don Bernando de Galvez (Governor of La. and son of the Viceroy of Mexico) took advantage of the American revolution to invade West-Florida, and seized Natchez among other towns—holding them by force till 1798, even though the treaty of 1783 very clearly assigned the northern part of West Florida to the nascent U.S. Many surviving houses of Spanish design attest to the solid nature of the Spanish occupation. […] The great fire of 1788 destroyed nearly all of the old French houses, but the area was at once rebuilt—very solidly, and in a predominantly Hispanic style—with the aid of government engineers. It is this really Spanish town of arcaded, galleried brick houses with inner courtyards or patios which survives to this day, almost unchanged materially, as the “Vieux Carre” or “old French quarter.” (AMTF1.304-305)
Lovecraft and Howard’s conversation continued to drift back to Spanish and Mexican culture from time to time, often with Howard offering lurid passages marked by casual racism and hyperbole, with Lovecraft offering a minimal but appreciative response. An example of this kind of exchange occurred on Mexican cuisine, where Howard wrote:
Mexican dishes I enjoy, but they don’t agree with me much. However I generally wrestle with them every time I go to the Border. Tamales, enchilados, tacos, chili con carne to a lesser extent, barbecued goat-meat, tortillas, Spanish-cooked rice, frijoles—they play the devil with a white man’s digestion, but they have a tang you seldom find in Anglo-Saxon cookery. You know a coyote nor a buzzard never will touch a Mexican’s carcass—they can’t stand the pepper he ate in life-time. The last time I was on the Border I discovered one Pablo Ranes whose dishes smoked with the concentrated essence of hell-fire. I returned to his abode of digestional-damnation until my once powerful constitution was but a shell of itself. I aided Pablo’s atrocities with some wine bottled in Spain that kicked like an army mule, and came to the conclusion that the Border is a place only for men with cast-iron consciences and copper bellies. (AMTF1.436; CL2.447-448)
To which Lovecraft answered:
Spanish cooking pretty fair, but not up to Italian. Like tamales and chili con carne. Am fond of stuffed green peppers with tomato sauce …. in general, I doubt if the buzzards will stage much of a fight over my mortal remains when I explore the west and get dropped by some rampageous two-gun desperado! (AMTF1.465; SL4.103-104)
Further conversations discussed a Socialist attempting to organize a rally among Mexicans in San Antonio (AMTF1.346; CL2.402), Mexican prisons (AMTF1.394-395, 411; CL2.447-448), the history of Spanish colonization in the Southwest (AMTF2.587, 648; CL3.49, 126), the adaptation of Spanish architecture in Florida and New Orleans versus Mexico (AMTF2.651, 656, 657; CL3.130), and the relations between Mexico and the Native American tribes, particularly the Comanche (AMTF1.441, 508, 2.530-531; CL2.465, 515).
This last point, on the origin of Native Americans, their relationship to other peoples, and their part in the population of Mexico, is a point of peculiar interest. As we have already seen, Howard had a tendency to grade Mexicans (and, to a certain extent, other multiracial peoples) by the number of European ancestors they had, with the highest class being those with the least amount of admixture. This has to be balanced against Howard’s generally high regard for Native American, or at least a portion of them:
The Eastern Indians were quite apparently of a much higher type than those of the West. For one thing, they tended toward the dolicholcephalic type, whereas the typical Western Indian was brachycephalic. This has not been perfectly explained; at least if it has, I haven’t encountered the explanation. Some authorities seem to think—what I had decided myself before encountering the theory in print—that there was a prehistoric connection between the primitive Mongolian type and a Caucasian race, from which hybrid breed the Indian sprang. It can not be denied that the red Indian seems much less repugnant and alien to the white man than the negro, Malay, Mongol or Chinaman. Indeed, I see no reason why the race should not be admitted on an equal footing, determined by education and advancement rather than color. I have no Indian blood in me, but I certainly would not be ashamed of it if I did. I have a number of cousins who are of mixed blood, boasting both Cherokee and Chickasaw strains, and this mixture does not result in any inferiority on their part. (AMTF1.440; CL2.464)
The terms “dolicholcephalic,” “brachycephalic,” and “Mongolian” come from early 20th century racial anthropology theories, which both Lovecraft and Howard ascribed to—in fact, in Lovecraft’s story “The Mound” there is a passage on the subject:
And yet my trained ethnologist’s eye told me at once that this was no redskin of any sort hitherto known to history, but a creature of vast racial variation and of a wholly different culture-stream. Modern Indians are brachycephalic—round-headed—and you can’t find any dolichocephalic or long-headed skulls except in ancient Pueblo deposits dating back 2500 years or more; yet this man’s long-headedness was so pronounced that I recognised it at once, even at his vast distance and in the uncertain field of the binoculars.
Howard’s use of cephalic index terms is unusual for him, and the only mentions that survive are in his letters to Lovecraft, which is part of what marks out their correspondence as exceptional, since Lovecraft was prone to use the terminology more frequently, both in his fiction and to his other correspondents. However, Howard would express similar sentiments, albeit in different language, in “The Thing on the Roof” (1932):
The withered features and general contour of the skull suggested certain degraded and mongrel peoples of Lower Egypt, and I feel certain that the priest was a member of a race more akin to the Caucasian than the Indian.
In terms of the perceived racial make-up of Mexicans, Howard makes clear that his prejudice lies not just in having Native American ancestors, but the wrong kind of Native American ancestors, as he explained to Lovecraft:
The Comanches were justified in their contempt of the Spaniards and Mexicans. The average Comanche warrior was braver, stronger physically, more honorable, quicker-witted, and more intelligent than the average Mexican peon. I have heard Mexicans referred to as savages; they are not even that; they are products of two decadent and rotten civilizations—the degenerate Aztec, and the degenerate Spanish. (AMTF2.864; CL3.342)
The reason for Howard’s contempt for the Aztecs, to which he continually ascribed what he perceived as some of the Mexican’s worst characteristics, is never fully described in either his letters or his fiction; though at this point the bitterness in “decadent and rotten civilizations” may be a bit of hyperbole based on Howard and Lovecraft’s longstanding argument. Even in “Boot Hill Payoff” (1935) a novelette that Howard completed for Chandler Whipple, once Mexican’s final send-off is described as:
Jose Martinez of Chihuahua lifted one scream of invocation and blasphemy at some forgotten Aztec god, as his soul went speeding its way to hell.
Lovecraft, by contrast, had remarked on “the ancient and noble Aztec” in “The Transition of Juan Romero,” and carefully disagreed with Howard in his assessment of the native peoples:
I don’t know whether one could safely say the eastern Indian was superior in biological capacity to the western—for the Pueblo and kindred cultures of the southwest probably surpassed anything the east could boast, and of course the Mexican-Central American cultures were vastly above any other native growths on the continent—were, in fact, virtually true civilisations. (AMTF1.480-482)
A further point where both men had similar ideas was an idealized view of the Confederate States of America and its institutions, particularly slavery, which is tangential to the subject of Hispanics because Lovecraft in particular was influenced by the notion that “low class” persons were congenitally mentally deficient, only really suitable for menial labor and would be happy employed at such work. Which is perhaps the only explanation for why he could make this kind of statement to Howard:
As for peonage or actual slavery—that is hardly a practical possibility except with inferior or badly-cowed race-stocks. The whole psychological equilibrium which made it possible in mediaeval and ancient times has been permanently destroyed. But it really wouldn’t be so bad to enslave niggers, Mexicans, and certain types of biologically backward foreign peasants. (AMTF1.466)
These sort of observations and minor debates were spurs on the main conversations between the two men, often taken up with their travels and their wide-ranging debate on civilization vs. barbarism, of which racialist theories formed an intimate part. There is a note of condescension in the basic language both men employ “savages,” “degenerate,” “true civilization” and the like, subtly or unsubtly reaffirming the higher status both Howard and Lovecraft accorded to their own culture and people. Both men expressed an awareness, though they did not always speak directly to it, of the tenuous philosophical position of the United States with regards to conquered peoples. In a series of discussions of the Texas Revolution, Howard emphasized the law-abiding nature of the American colonists (AMTF2.842; CL3.314), their invitation by the Mexican government and the improvements they made to the land (AMTF2.864; CL3.342), and the weakness of the claim of the Commanches, who were also recently migrated to Texas (AMTF2.849; CL3.322).
Lovecraft’s letter of 11 July 1935 largely agreed with Howard, though again taking the somewhat wider and more philosophical view.
The Mexican War question certainly is a peculiar and interesting one; and today I doubt if cautious commentators are quick to formulate any dogmatic opinions on it, one way or the other. It is so much a part of the larger movement or drift whereby the restless Nordic has overspread the earth and crushed the various other races standing in his way, that one finds difficulty in regarding it separately. The same thing always happens, whatever the especial explanation in any one case—or at least, it has happened up to the present time. Today—after centuries of expansion—the Nordic seems to have paused and begun to consider a sort of stabilisation…a stabilisation involving the abandonment of insecure outposts. Hence the coming relinquishment of the Philippines, and the diminishing protectorate over Cuba, Santo Domingo, Nicaragua, etc. But in 1846 the onward pressure was in full operation. At the time, however, it is certainly doubtful whether many of the individual Texas or California colonists had the idea of wrenching the southwest away from Mexico. In examining the records of the age we find all sorts of differing plans and ideals concerning the region beyond Louisiana—from the Burr dreams of empire downward. Nothing like an unified and deliberate plan can be said to have existed, and the whole problem was mixed up with the struggle to maintain a balance of slave and free territory. Form all I have seen, I think you are right in believing that the typical American settler in Spanish-Mexican territory meant to abide by the existing government. Thanks enormously, by the way, for your generous quotations from the Texas Declaration of Independence—a document I have never read, and which certainly sheds a vast amount of light on the conditions and difficulties of the period. There is, of course, no doubt—even in the popular mind—of the oppressiveness of the Mexican Government. The only debate question has been the justification of the measures employed in meeting that oppressiveness—and even here there has been no real unanimity of opinion against the revolting Texas in any part of the country. […] Today the Mexican War is only a dim legend in the East, about which it is difficult to stir up much intense feeling one way or the other. If any element now harbours a strong pro-Mexican attitude, it is not the descendants of the abolitionists but the foreign radical stratum which finds something reprehensible in any “imperialistic” advance of a strong nation at the expense of a small one. (AMTF2.855)
In their own ways, both Lovecraft and Howard seemed to be aware of the philosophical questions underpinning the colonization of the Americas, and by extension some of their ideas regarding race. Yet it was only Lovecraft who, in a somewhat bitter moment, let slip to his Texan friend the stark irony of trying to justify any claim to a piece of ground beyond the moment of current ownership:
We pompously drape everything in a cloak of moralistic hypocrisy, so that when we steal Indian lands, it’s always ‘for the savage’s own good’, when we snatch half of Mexico it’s to ‘free it from oppression’, etc. Our unwillingness to recognise the stark unmoral forces of the universe as they are proves us children in an important phase of life […] (AMTF2.677)
“The Children of the Night” illo by Greg Staples
Read Part 1, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5