First and Last Consul: Thomas Oliver Larkin and the Americanization of California
October 1, 1971
David J. Weber, Book Review Editor
First and Last Consul: Thomas Oliver Larkin and the Americanization of California. Edited by John A. Hawgood. 2nd edition. (Palo Alto, Ca., Pacific Books, 1970). Illustrations. Index. $5.95.
U.S. Consul at Monterey from 1844 to 1848, Thomas Larkin is well-known to any student of California history. Larkin achieved immortality because his office became the nerve center of American activities in California before the Mexican War and because he left behind a voluminous and revealing correspondence. In this volume, John Hawgood has brought together some of Larkin’s most interesting letters, many of which were published in George Hammond’s ten volume Larkin Papers.
When First and Last Consul appeared in 1962 scholars received it warmly because the letters provided a long-needed corrective to Reuben Underhill’s biography of Larkin; because Hawgood’s choice of letters shed considerable light on commercial and political affairs in California when Larkin was consul; and because Hawgood’s narrative provided a unity to the Larkin letters that made the book a pleasure to read. The first edition having gone out of print quickly, we are fortunate in having First and Last Consul back in print. As an unexpected bonus, it contains some new information: Four previously unpublished Larkin letters to Faxon Dean Atherton, and the “scandalous” evidence that the first child born in Upper California of Anglo American parents was born out of wedlock in 1833 to Larkin and his future wife, Rachel Holmes.