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Letter from Carl Schurz to Abraham Lincoln, May 22, 1860

Watertown, Wis., May 22, 1860.   

As a man of honor and faithful to the wishes of my constituents, I stood by Governor Seward for the nomination. If I am able I shall do the work of a hundred men for Abraham Lincoln's election. I congratulate you upon having received at the hands of the Republican party so high an acknowledgment of your merits; I congratulate the party on so strong and unobjectionable a candidate; and the country upon the prospects of an able, high-toned and pure administration. I feel some delicacy in telling you this, for I do not belong to those worshippers of success whose hearts and minds are readily turned by the changing breezes of fortune. But I deem it my duty to establish between us that confidence which must exist between the head of the party and those who are to fight in the front ranks — and, so let me assure you, that after I have done my duty in paying a debt of honor to the old chieftain of the anti-slavery movement, there is no feeling of disappointment left in my heart, and I shall carry into this struggle all the zeal and ardor and enthusiasm of which my nature is capable. The same disinterested motives that led me and my friends to support Governor Seward in the Convention, will animate and urge us on in our work for you, and wherever my voice is heard and my influence extends you may count upon hosts of true and devoted friends.

Now let us turn to things of practical moment. I was elected a member of the National Central Committee and, as a matter of course, the “foreign department,” if it may so be called, fell to my special charge. The plan I wish to carry out is as follows: I intend to get up a complete list of all the Germans, Norwegians, Hollanders, etc., who can serve our cause in the way of public speaking and to make regular contracts with them. I would then send them in little squads into those States in which the principal work is to be done, have them stump township after township in regular succession as the exigencies of the case may demand, and as soon as they get through with their work in that particular State, have them relieved by another party and sent off into another State. In this way we can carry on the agitation in a regular and systematic way, keep the work going without interruption, and concentrate our forces where it may seem most desirable. I would, of course, go to all the principal points and do the heavy work myself. In order to carry out this system of canvassing the doubtful States efficiently, it will be necessary for me to take a survey of the whole ground first, to make my arrangements in detail with the different State central committees, to organize local committees and clubs where there are none, and to establish a complete system of correspondence. In 1856, piles of money and much work were spent for no purpose, because it was done at random and without plan and direction. The plan I propose will, in my opinion, be the cheapest and most efficient. It seems to me that much work is to be done, especially in Indiana and Pennsylvania, before the Democrats nominate a candidate. The field is all our own for four weeks, and we ought not to neglect the opportunity of committing people before they receive an impulse from the other side. This work will of course occupy all my time from now till election day, and I am now endeavoring to arrange my private affairs so as to be able to devote myself exclusively to it. I intended to start this matter in a meeting of the National Committee before we left Chicago, but people were in such a hurry that nothing could be done. You are undoubtedly now in active correspondence with the principal managers of the party and I wish you would direct their attention to it. By a canvass of this systematic kind I have no doubt we can at least double the foreign Republican vote in the Northern States and may secure Indiana, Pennsylvania and New York beyond peradventure.

In the first and second week of June I shall in all probability go down to Pennsylvania and open my campaign there. If I can get ready by that time I shall make a leading campaign speech (I hope at least it will become a leading one) on your doctrine of the “irrepressible conflict” on account of which the Democratic papers are already attacking you. If you should wish this or that topic to be brought prominently into the foreground, please let me know. I wish to consult you about several matters before I start out, but I do not know whether I shall have an opportunity to see you.

Let me again press the above plan upon your attention. Time is precious and not a day ought to be lost before the Baltimore Convention comes off. I would not have troubled you with this matter, but our friends are scattered all over the country, and you are now the natural centre towards which everything converges and from which everything radiates. I shall address a circular to the members of the National Committee as soon as I find time to write it.

We shall have ratification meetings all over this State during this and next week, and you may be sure that Wisconsin will give a good report of herself.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1924. It may be copyrighted outside the U.S. (see Help:Public domain).

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