Who was Turner anyway?

Who was Turner anyway?

Click on this image to find out who Turner was.

Field Musicians Wanted!

A Turner Bugler, 2004

Click on this image to learn about opportunities as a bugler, fifer or drummer with the Turner Brigade.

Death of Douglas.


June 1861

From The Missouri Democrat, Tuesday, June 4, 1861.


Yesterday, Stephen A. Douglas departed this life. Here, the melancholy message was received with emotions of sorrow by all classes of the community, who, we doubt not, were in this respect true exponents of national feeling. Throughout the United States the event is universally mourned; for a great people are ever quick to forget the errors and applaud the virtues of their great men; and among the great men of the Republic, Douglas will never fail to be discerned by the eye of history. When the civil war shall have passed away, and the new order of things arisen, he will be recognized as one of the giants before the flood. That burly figure charged with such exuberant life, will never utterly disappear from the memory of the American people. However distant the perspective, he will never be wholly invisible, for he fills the very foreground of his age and country, as it were, on the political canvas. What his place will be in the national Pantheon it is difficult to say; but that he will have some niche there—some wide conspicuous one, is certain. After all, death has come to him not inopportunely. Though his life may be a mere fragment, inscribed with the common but terrible epitaph “failure,” its noble, patriotic close redeems it from every criminal imputation; and now the solemn sanction of the grave interposes to seal the recently pronounced approval of the people in its favor. The last testament of the dead statesman vindicates his character, and guarantees his fame as a patriot. Those words were an invocation to arm for the holy war in defense of the Constitution and the Union. Not until he had pledged his support to the new administration, and his friendship to the new President; not until he had made and offering of all personal feuds and rivalries, and all political aspirations at the shrine of patriotism; not until summoning the fierce Democracy to the battle field, there to fight side by side with his Republican opponents against the traitor foe, did his eyes and lips close forever. It is for these reasons that we say death came to him not inopportunely. Never before would the whole people have lamented his decease or chanted his requiem; never before would those of his native and of his adopted State have bent above his bier and followed his hearse with clasped hands.

Though his life be but a fragment, his death rounds off an era. It is hardly necessary to remark that the political system with which he was identified had ceased to be, even in the regions of the possible, before he was called away. He strove hard to solve the problem of his age in American statesmanship, but alas! he only succeeded in accelerating the advent of the inevitable conflict. Looking at his acts and purposes in the favorable light which his recent conduct throws upon them, we are able to concede that his great legislative experiment was an honest, though fatal, attempt to reconcile freedom and slavery; but collision, almost immediate—as we now perceive, and as he, also, perceived—and not reconciliation, has been the result. The catastrophe might have been long postponed if the slavery extensionists had been satisfied with the abrogation of the Missouri Compromise. The Free States would have ultimately accepted the dogma of Popular Sovereignty. The Slave States spurned it the moment they found it would not answer their purposes. In 1854 they all subscribed to it; in 1860 they all repudiated it and its author, and put forward in quick succession a series of most insolent demands and iniquitous schemes, with the fell design of bringing about the exact state of things which now exists. Who can doubt that the Dred Scott decision, the Lecompton policy of Buchanan, the project for a Congressional slave code, and other kindred projects, were not as much a part of the plan for destroying the government as the attack on Fort Sumter? Let us, however, avail ourselves of some other occasion for imparting distinctness and detail to this view. Suffice it now to say, that Douglas awoke at last to the true character of Southern policy. In the memorable struggle over the Lecompton bill he confronted it as its chief opponent, overthrowing it, and virtually dissolving the Democratic party at the same time. The fate of that party seems to be symbolized in the fate of the heroine of late romance. When the time came for the poison of the rattlesnake to pass away from its organization, the struggle which the change involved quenched the subtle fire of life. The National Democratic party was no more, and the fact was rendered palpable to the senses by the disruptions of the Charleston convention—an event which was foreordained by the secession managers. Nearer and nearer loomed the dread apparitions of discord and rebellion. Douglas, still true to his role as a negotiator and mediator between opposing sections, advocated impossible compromises, not discerning the true state of public opinion in either the free or the slave States. It is with reluctance we say that all his efforts, prodigious and heroic as they were, have been proved powerless to avert the struggle which the Kansas-Nebraska bill initiated. He failed, but then he failed where no man could have succeeded. The part which he played could not be so much as undertaken by any of his contemporaries. He brought Titanic strength to the task, but not having the godlike power of transforming the nature of slavery into something rational and beneficent, he was defeated. Benton, before him, was defeated, and so was every other man who had the temerity to wrestle with slavery in that organization which was all its own. But defeat hardly derogates from greatness, for how few of the great men of the past, in any age, escaped defeat? We cannot, however, help thinking that Douglas had very little practical prescience, and very imperfect conceptions of the force of the moral sentiments in political life. His mind seems to have been all engrossed by the present, looking before and after but rarely, and with no remarkable range of vision. Deficient in humor and imagination, he surpassed any American statesman that has ever lived in argumentative powers. He possessed a practical comprehensiveness of intellect which made him not only the most formidable debater, but the most effective and popular tribune of his age. Other men may have excelled him in discussing these separate specialties, but no man living can be named who was his equal on the broad field of American politics. He was not distinguished for subtle logic, pathetic sentiment, or eloquent language, but he was nevertheless matchless in arguing a question, whether before the Senate or the people. No wonder that he was so long the idol of the Northwestern Democracy. He was its very type. He embodied all its robust strength, fearlessness and originality. He had also vast demagoguic forces at command. Exalting in the exuberance of his native intellectual vigor, he set but slight value on literary or scientific culture. One of his standing jokes on the stump was his inability to understand a word of latin oration addressed to him on the occasion of his first visit to his native State after he became famous. Like the party of which he was the representative man—the Northern Democracy—he cared nothing for slavery one way or the other, and this indifference was probably the great source of his errors. His moral courage was of the highest order, for what Northern man not utterly insensible to fear, would have dared to introduce the Kansas-Nebraska bill; and what Democrat, not equally insensible to fear, would have dared to oppose the Lecompton bill? No man of his day was more deeply penetrated with the pagan religion of manifest destiny, or cherished bolder and broader theories or citizenship, or of the relations which the United States should bear to foreign countries. The more clearly the various episodes of his career recur to us, the more entirely are we persuaded that the slavery propagandism of the Democratic party was his evil genius, and the prompter of those legislative measures and doctrinal expositions which darkened his meridian renown. But let us again call to mind that he was returning in his orbit and approaching nearer the center when death overtook him; and that he went down to the grave a patriot and not a partisan, shouting Excelsior to the embattled hosts of the Union! Having freed himself from all association with the oligarchy, he would have developed, had he lived, a nobler statesmanship than anything which can be reconstructed from his speeches, reports, letters, &c., &c., for such influences as these he had to contend with in the party he led are fatal to all worthy intellectual achievement. Though the leader of the South, as long as he chose to hold that bad eminence, he was as legibly the product of free society—the child of genuine democracy—as any man ever born north of Mason and Dixon’s line. You can read it in every lineament of his face, in every trait of his character. May his tomb be another altar on which to sacrifice passion and prejudice to the love of country, and may his fame be the tender care of every American citizen.