The Writings of Carl Schurz/From President Lincoln, November 10th, 1862

Executive Mansion,[1]
Washington, Nov. 10, 1862.

“Private & Confidential”

Gen. Schurz.

My dear Sir Yours of the 8th was, to-day, read to me by Mrs. S[churz]. We have lost the elections; and it is natural that each of us will believe, and say, it has been because his peculiar views was not made sufficiently prominent. I think I know what it was, but I may be mistaken. Three main causes told the whole story, 1. The democrats were left in a majority by our friends going to the war. 2. The democrats observed this & determined to re-instate themselves in power, and 3. Our newspapers, by vilifying and disparaging the administration, furnished them all the weapons to do it with. Certainly, the ill-success of the war had much to do with this.

You give a different set of reasons. If you had not made the following statements, I should not have suspected them to be true. “The defeat of the administration is the administrations own fault.” (Opinion) “It admitted its professed opponents to its counsels.” (Asserted as a fact) “It placed the Army, now a great power in this Republic, into the hands of it's enemy's.” (Asserted as a fact) “In all personal questions to be hostile to the party of the Government, seemed, to be a title to consideration.” (Asserted as a fact) “If to forget the great rule, that if you are true to your friends, your friends will be true to you, and that you make your enemies stronger by placing them upon an equality with your friends.” “Is it surprising that the opponents of the administration should have got into their hands the government of the principal states, after they have had for a long time the principal management of the war, the great business of the national government.”

I can not dispute about the matter of opinion. On the the three matters (stated as facts) I shall be glad to have your evidence upon them when I shall meet you. The plain facts, as they appear to me, are these. The administration came into power, very largely in a minority of the popular vote. Notwithstanding this, it distributed to it's party friends as nearly all the civil patronage as any administration ever did. The war came. The administration could not even start in this, without assistance outside of its party. It was mere nonsense to suppose a minority could put down a majority in rebellion. Mr. Schurz (now Gen. Schurz) was about here then & I do not recollect that he then considered all who were not republicans, were enemies of the government, and that none of them must be appointed to military positions. He will correct me if I am mistaken. It so happened that very few of our friends had a military education or were of the profession of arms. It would have been a question whether the war should be conducted on military knowledge, or on political affinity, only that our own friends (I think Mr. Schurz included) seemed to think that such a question was inadmissable. Accordingly I have scarcely appointed a democrat to a command, who was not urged by many republicans and opposed by none. It was so as to McClellan. He was first brought forward by the Republican Governor of Ohio, & claimed, and contended for at the same time by the Republican Governor of Pennsylvania. I received recommendations from the republican delegations in Congress, and I believe every one of them recommended a majority of democrats. But, after all many Republicans were appointed; and I mean no disparagement to them when I say I do not see that their superiority of success has been so marked as to throw great suspicion on the good faith of those who are not Republicans. Yours truly,

A. Lincoln

  1. In preparing this letter for publication the Editor was confronted with a somewhat perplexing problem. The rule in this work has been not to change the text of any document except in case of mistakes probably due to haste or to the oversight of some copyist or printer, long ago. It has, of course, been necessary to adopt rules for uniformity in regard to capitalization, punctuation etc.; thus making the meaning clearer, rather than changing it. It was found that if this Lincoln letter were made to conform to this practice, many changes would be necessary—so many that there was risk that at some future time, should the printed copy be compared with the original manuscript, one might infer that the liberties taken in this letter had been taken in other cases, which would be both erroneous and injurious. On the other hand, if the letter were reproduced as it was written, it might seem as if there were an attempt to make an invidious comparison, for hardly anyone's letter may well be printed precisely as written. However, in the present case it seems best to follow the manuscript in every detail. This makes the reproduction more realistic and may incidentally serve some historical or biographical purpose.

    But, lest it should be inferred that Lincoln's other letters were penned with equal lack of care, the long letter of November 24, 1862, is also printed exactly as written. The few oversights in this latter letter indicate that those in the former were exceptional.