Frontier Swashbuckler: The Life and Legend of John Smith T

Article excerpt

Frontier Swashbuckler: The Life and Legend of John Smith T. By Dick Steward. Missouri Biography Series. (Columbia and London: University of Missouri Press, c. 2000. Pp. xii, 264. $34.95, ISBN 0-8262-1248-4.)

Frontier Swashbuckler serves notice that narrative still has an important place in historical scholarship. It presents an interesting tale of adventure and also makes a scholarly contribution to frontier and Missouri history in at least four ways. First, Steward's book offers readers a window into the life and culture of Missouri in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Second, this volume furthers understanding of American expansionism during that period. Third, the depiction of Smith T's life provides an opportunity to discuss why some individuals become the stuff of enduring myths and legends and why others do not capture the imagination of the public. Finally, in what this reviewer judges to be the most important contribution of the book, Steward uses Smith T's life to look at the political economy of Missouri from a perspective other than that of the emerging freedom-loving Jacksonian yeoman farmer. Steward places Smith T's life in the same context as other, better known, early Missouri leaders such as Auguste and Pierre Chouteau, Moses Austin, William Clark, and Thomas Hart Benton. …