The Journal of San Diego History
Fall 1989, Volume 35, Number 4
Thomas L. Scharf, Editor

Book Notes

Raymond Starr, Book Review Editor

Doomed to Fail: Gaspar de Portola’s First California Appointees.

By Harry W. Crosby. San Diego: Institute for Regional Studies of the Californias, San Diego State University, 1989. Maps. Notes. 36 pages. $7.50 Paperbound.

This is an interesting revisionist piece by one of San Diego’s major writers about Baja California. Harry Crosby. In it he has examined the historical problems regarding a series of temporary appointments Governor Gasper de Portola made at the missions in Baja California. Portola had been sent in 1767 to the area to supervise the removal of the Jesuits from the missions there; since there were no replacement missionaires at the time. Portola appointed soldiers at each mission to temporarily supervise things. They were replaced in about six months by Franciscans, who were in turn replaced by Dominicans in 1772. Because of documents by the Franciscans, many historians have been very critical of the soldiers administrations, and have accused them of mismanagement, misappropriation and much else. By going beyond the Franciscan documents and looking at many other kinds of source materials, Crosby has been able to put the matter into a little fuller contect. His conclusion is that the soldiers themselves were mostly capable men who did the best they could under difficult circumstances. This well done pamphlet is a good corrective to the Franciscan mythology which has dominated historiography to this time.