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Cazneau, Jane McManus

CAZNEAU, Jane McManus

Born 6 April 1807, Troy, New York; died 12 December 1878, near Cape Hatteras, North Carolina

Wrote under: Mrs. William Leslie Cazneau, Cora Montgomery, Corinne Montgomery

Daughter of William T. and Catharina Coons McManus; married Allan B. (or William F.) Storms, 1825; William L. Cazneau, circa 1848

Jane McManus Cazneau's major work is Eagle Pass; or, Life on the Border (1852), a first-person narrative of her months in a Texas border town. It is, as Cazneau states in her preface, mainly a protest against the government's Native American policy, which she labels a system of "despoilment and extermination." She also wants to alert the public to the Mexican government's policy of imprisoning American citizens living in Mexico and along the border. In her opening chapter, Cazneau urges her countrymen to pressure Congress to act in the aid of these citizens; she blames their imprisonment as much on the U.S. government as on the Mexican regime. Her work also provides fascinating accounts of her conversations with the Native Americans and slaves living in Eagle Pass. Perhaps most compelling is her description of Wild Cat, the Seminole chief. Cazneau recounts his warm eloquence in talking with her as well as his resigned, yet devastating assessment of the White Man's role in destroying his people. Eagle Pass closes with stunning predictions of the Red Man's threatened extermination and of the inevitability of a revolution in Mexico. Cazneau, solidly on the side of the oppressed, pleads for Congress to stand behind the spirit of freedom in Mexico. She also attacks the abolitionists for their "hypocritical" attitudes, accusing them of ignoring the great injustice done to the Indians and the white servant classes.

Cazneau's other works include two companion pieces: The Queen of Islands (1850) and The King of Rivers (1850). In the former, Cazneau proposes aid to the Cuban people in their revolution against Spain. She further urges that Cuba be annexed and eventually granted statehood. Her treatise provides a comprehensive study of the Cuban economy, with charts, diagrams, and governmental statistics to document Cuba's potential for economic growth and therefore its benefits to the U.S.

In The King of Rivers, Cazneau argues against slavery along the states bordering the Mississippi River, again using her research to support the position that slavery would prove an economic, as well as a moral, disaster. She predicts the imminent emancipation of the slaves, and also denounces the abuse of the Native American and his land.

Cazneau's style is simple and direct. Even though she apologizes in her preface to Eagle Pass for her lack of rhetorical flourish, her clear-thinking, straightforward prose style is her strength. Cazneau presents her arguments in practical terms, basing her convictions on her research and knowledge of economic facts. She believes passionately in the cause of oppressed peoples who attempt to claim their freedom, and she thinks the historic revolutionary struggle of her own nation obligates the U.S. to support the claims of the Native American, the slave, and the oppressed everywhere. Cazneau attacks Congress for being incompetent and corrupt, charging politicians with being more concerned with reelection than with moral issues.

—ROSE F. KAVO

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