JOHN S. MARMADUKE
E. W. Stephens
Missouri State Tribune, Jefferson City, MO, 24 November 1901.
The distinguishing characteristics of Governor Marmaduke were courage, conscience, and common sense. There may have been greater statesmen or soldiers, but he was a leader of men in war and peace, and he combined those qualities which constitute a strong character in private and public life. His courage was both physical and moral. More truly than anyone I ever knew was he [a] stranger to fear. On the field of battle it could be said of him, as it was of another, that he was superb. Of splendid physical organization, over six feet in height, with a symmetrical and well knit frame of noble bearing, graceful and athletic, nature formed him for a soldier. A thorough training at West Point had molded him into an ideal military leader. No wonder was it that when in the war between the states leaders were needed to take command of the raw recruits which flocked to the standard of General Sterling Price to form the Missouri State Guard, he was selected for the command of a regiment from which he rose by rapid promotion to a major generalcy. Those who saw him at the capitol in 1861, when his uncle, Gov. Claiborne F. Jackson, was organizing an army to carry away the State government, and cast their fortunes with the lost cause, described him as a tall young soldier, straight as an arrow, of imposing presence, with long auburn hair, as handsome as Adonis, and as knightly as a Cocur[sic] de Lion. He deserved in the best sense the title of chivalrous. There was never any man to whom the word could have been more appropriately applied.
As a cavalry officer, he was brave, gallant, and dashing, who infused his enthusiasm into his troops. He was a splendid horseman, and his presence at the head of his command was an inspiration. In the army he was celebrated for his brilliant leadership and dauntless courage. He fought through the entire war, and at its close no more stainless sword was surrendered.
There have been men who could brave the storm of battle, who could face undaunted the deadly fire of cannon and musketry; but when the flags were furled, the shouting had ceased and the excitement of battle had subsided, would quail before the calmer conflicts of private life. This was not true of Marmaduke. His courage was as strenuous and as true in private life as it was upon the battlefield, and while he never sought a quarrel, was self-contained, and slow to anger, when his courage and honor was impugned, and this was rare, his resentment was swift and terrible. Several illustrations of his superb personal courage could be given. One will suffice:
When he was a member of the Board of Railroad Commissioners he was called upon to testify in a case in which the commission was involved. Just as he was beginning one of the parties to the suit spoke up and said to him: “Remember, sir, you are on your oath.” Marmaduke stopped suddenly, looked at the man, who was a person of considerable distinction in State affairs, and proceeded quietly with his testimony. After court had adjourned he walked over to the Madison House, and, being near-sighted, requested a friend to point out the party who had offered what he considered an insult, walked up to the offender and with deliberation slapped him upon both cheeks and slowly walked away.
Confederate Wizards of the Saddle: Being Remininscences and Observations of One Who Rode With Morganby Bennett H. Young
He rarely had personal difficulties, for the reason that he was absolutely just, never gave needless offense, and it was well understood that an insult to him was a perilous matter to him that gave it. He was charitable in thought and word. He saw the good but not the evil in men. He rarely criticized. If he thought a man was in error, and was untruthful or dishonest, he said so to the man, or said nothing about it. He talked to people, not about them. He stabbed no man in the dark. He despised censoriousness and slander. His life was an open book. He lived in daylight, not in darkness. He detested chicanery, intrigue, [and] double-dealing as sincerely in public life as in private. Hence he had few if any secrets. He never whispered and never asked that what he said be not repeated. He talked it out, and the larger the number of people who heard it, the more it pleased him. He was not a little man in any sense.
During the civil war he fought a duel with General [Lucius M.] Walker, another confederate officer, and slew his antagonist. He always regretted it and never spoke of it. But it was, he felt, forced upon him by the exigencies of honor, and he could not avoid it. Although nearsighted and not a superior marksman, such was his steady nerve that when he pulled the trigger of his pistol the deadly bullet sped straight to the fated spot.
But if his physical courage was marked, his moral courage was no less so. He never flinched from duty. He had a conscience and he obeyed it. In the exercise of his official functions he never stopped to consider the cost to himself. The right was his only standard. He was cautious and deliberate to the last degree. But when the path of duty was clear he dashed into it with the same celerity and promptness with which he led a cavalry charge upon the tented field. When a great strike threatened to overwhelm the railroad corporations of the State, he refused sternly to use the militia to usurp the functions of local authority in the enforcement of the law, notwithstanding the most strenuous appeals. But when the time came for him to act, he took the mob by the throat and strangled it.
When he thought that legislation was needed to place proper restrictions upon the railroads of the State, although fully recognizing the value of those great interests to the public, he urged action with all his energy, and the General Assembly at one session having failed to enact the needed legislation, he promptly reconvened it and the laws were passed.
As governor he was in full sympathy with all classes of the people and stood as resolutely in defense of the rights of capital, as of labor, and was just alike to both.
His administration will stand as one of the wisest and cleanest in the history of the State. No stain or suspicion ever rested upon it. He trusted his subordinates as he did all of his friends, implicitly, and hence held their unflinching love and allegiance. But woe to the one who abused his confidence. His wrath was as terrible as his friendship was faithful. He admired an open foe; he detested a vacillating and false friend.
He possessed the genius of common sense. He had an instinctive sense of right and wrong, and his judgment and conscience led him into the wise conclusion that the duty of him into whose hands the people had placed the sacred trust of office was to defend the right and assail the wrong, whatever the consequences might be.
There have been abler men in public life in Missouri, as the word is popularly understood, but there has never been one who had a higher standard of official duty or who has left a more wholesome example to those who follow him.
The granite shaft which a grateful people has erected over his last earthly resting place, fittingly symbolizes the stalwart manliness of his character, and the impregnable public record he left to posterity.