The Writings of Carl Schurz/From Charles Francis Adams, Jr., October 29th, 1900

Boston, Oct. 29, 1900.

Returning from a hurried journey to Wisconsin, I find on my table your letter of the 25th inst., in reply to mine of the 2Oth. Taken together, the two letters seem to set forth very clearly the attitude of that large number of voters who four years ago elected President McKinley, and who now are dissatisfied with the result of so doing. You, in your reply, forcibly indicate the course the more extreme of this class propose to pursue at the polls a week from to-morrow; while I, in my letter of the 2Oth, endeavor to point out a method to go with you all lengths in opposition, yet think we see a way to securing much. For this reason I shall avail myself of your permission to publish the correspondence.

I think you greatly underestimate the consequences of the election of an opposition House of Representatives at this juncture. The common-sense of the country would, I am convinced, accept such a result as equivalent to a vote of want of confidence in an Administration which, under existing conditions, could not safely be displaced. Thus the act could hardly fail to be productive of far-reaching effects; nor do I think an Administration so continued in office would find it the easy matter you suggest to manipulate such a House so as to make it further the policy it was, when chosen, pledged to oppose.

However this may be, one thing is clear—a large proportion of the dissatisfied element of 1896 cannot reconcile themselves to a transfer of the National Government from those now in control to those Mr. Bryan represents, nor will they contribute to that end. It is useless to tell us that Mr. Platt is as bad as Mr. Croker, or that Senator Hanna is little if any better than Governor Altgeld. We want improvement, not a mere change; and we will not aid in bringing about a political overturn which does not even profess to do more than substitute a confessed evil for a, by us, admitted failure. We “prefer to bear the ills we have,” etc.

There is a homely adage to the effect that half a loaf is better than no bread. That half loaf we see a fair chance of securing by pursuing the course I have outlined. In this you concur, merely expressing distrust as to the relative size of the portion of the loaf thus secured to that not secured. Even should the portion we hope to secure prove of no more value than you suggest, our regret at losing the other portion will still be very considerably alleviated by the reflection that it contains a singular collection of most unsavory political plums, scarcely less unpalatable to you than to us.

We can work together, therefore, up to the point where those who feel as I feel stop. With us, that point is the election of an opposition House of Representatives. For educational purposes alone, aside from all others, we desire to bring about a condition of unstable political equilibrium during the next few years, and give the country time in which to reflect.