Lewis Cass and the Politics of Moderation

By Willard Carl Klunder | Go to book overview

EPILOGUE

LEWIS CASS was interred in Detroit's Elmwood Cemetery on June 20, 1866. A Presbyterian burial service was read, and "the sublime ceremonies of the Masonic order" were performed over the body of the former grand master. Following these rites, the grave was covered with sod, and his mortal remains returned to the earth. Thus ended the saga of Michigan's most famous son. President Andrew Johnson proclaimed a period of national mourning, and Cass's personal character was praised by eulogists throughout the United States. A Detroit newspaper testified he was without peer "in honesty of purpose, in purity of character -- both public and private." Lewis Cass embodied the virtues of probity, faithfulness, temperance, and constancy; he was a decent, cultured (albeit ethnocentric), and guileless man.1

Cass led a remarkable life. Born in the same year as Benton, Calhoun, Van Buren, and Webster, he remained in the public arena long after those prominent politicians departed the scene. For well over half a century, he held a succession of local, state, and federal posts. Although his duties carried him far afield, he remained closely connected to the Northwest; more than any other individual, Governor Cass was responsible for the growth and settlement of Michigan. His political principles were molded during this period, and remained steadfast.

Lewis Cass personified the vigorous Americanism prevalent in the Old Northwest during the first half of the nineteenth century. Above all, he was a true democrat, believing in the ability and right of the people to govern themselves. Additionally, he was an unabashed promoter of territorial expansion. Convinced of the superiority of American political

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