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The New York Times/Mr. Schurz and Militarism (Schurz)

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To the Editor of The New York Times:

In your last Sunday number you say of my address on “Militarism and Democracy,” recently delivered before the American Academy of Political and Social Science:

“We confess that we cannot share the apprehensions that the Hon. Carl Schurz, with perfect sincerity and great seriousness, entertains as to the possible advent of militarism in the United States and the evils that would accompany it.”

And then you quote the following sentence from my address:

“A large part of the Revolutionary Army, ‘turned by six years of war from militia into seasoned veterans,’ and full of that overbearing esprit de corps characteristic of standing armies, urged George Washington to make himself a dictator, a monarch; that, as one of his biographers expresses it, ‘It was as easy for Washington to have grasped supreme power then as it would have been for Caesar to have taken the crown from Antony upon the Lupercal’; and that it was only George Washington's patriotic loyalty and magnificent manhood that stamped out the plot.”

If you mean to suggest by this quotation that I apprehended any military usurpation of that kind you must have overlooked that the passage quoted was preceded by the following sentences:

“I am far from predicting that the organization, maintenance, and use of large armaments will speedily bring forth in this country the same consequences which they did produce in England in Cromwell's time and in France at the periods of the first and the Second French Republics. With us the ‘man on horseback’ is not in sight. There is no danger of monarchical usurpation by a victorious General — although it is well worthy of remembrance that even here” — and then I mentioned the attempt to seduce Washington's republican virtue. The quotation, “It was as easy for Washington to have grasped supreme power then as it would have been for Caesar to have taken the crown from Antony upon the Lupercal,” is from the “Life of Washington,” by Mr. Henry Cabot Lodge.

But I went on to say: “However, usurpation of so gross a character would now be rendered infinitely more difficult, not only by the republican spirit and habits of the people, but also by our federative organization, dividing so large an expanse of country into a multitude of self-governing States. But even in such a country, and among such a people, it is possible to demoralize the constitutional system and to infuse a dangerous element of arbitrary power into the Government without making it a monarchy in form or name.” And then I went on to show that recent events had stimulated among us a spirit of recklessness as to the disregard of the constitutional limitations of governmental power which may indeed become very dangerous to our democratic institutions.

Had you quoted me a little more fully your article would not have left upon the mind of the reader an impression as if I were troubled by the apprehension that some successful military or naval commander might soon make himself King or Emperor of the United States. But, as I set forth in my address, I do entertain apprehensions of a different kind, which I know to be entertained also by a great many cool-headed citizens, and which are not unlikely to be share by yourself.


New York, April 9, 1899.

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).