The Writings of Carl Schurz/From Secretary Seward, October 10th, 1861

Department of State,
, Oct. 10, 1861.

Your despatch of September 14th, No. 18, has been received.

I have read carefully the views concerning our domestic policy which you have submitted. Of the propriety of your submitting them there can be no question, especially when they are presented with reference to the public sentiment of Europe and the possible action of the Governments of that continent.

It would, however, be altogether inconvenient, and it might be in some degree hazardous for me to engage in explanations of domestic policy in a correspondence which, for all practical purposes, is to be regarded as involving only the foreign relations of the country. Moreover, the policy on which an Administration charged with the duty of maintaining itself and preserving the Union shall conduct a civil war, must be confined always to the existing condition of political forces and to the public sentiment of the whole country.

I am not surprised when you inform me that sympathies with the United States regarded as a nation struggling to maintain its integrity against the assaults of faction are less active in Europe than they might or ought to be in view of the benefits which the Republic has already conferred and the still greater benefits which it promises to confer on mankind.

Nations like individuals are too much wrapped up in their own interests and ambitions to be deeply concerned by accidents or reverses which befall other nations.

I can well enough conceive also that the United States in the first emergency might excite more fervent sympathies abroad by avowing a purpose not merely or even chiefly to maintain and preserve their existing Constitutional organizations, but to modify and change it so as to extirpate at once an institution which is obnoxious to the enlightened censure of mankind.

But, on the other hand, it is never to be forgotten that although the sympathy of other nations is eminently desirable, yet foreign sympathy or even foreign favor never did and never can create or maintain any state; while in every state that has the capacity to live, the love of national life is and always must be the most energetic principle which can be invoked to preserve it from suicidal indulgence of fear of faction as well as from destruction by foreign violence.

For my own part, it seems to me very clear that there is no nation on earth whose fortunes, immediate and remote, would not be the worse for the dissolution of the American Union. If that consideration shall not be sufficient to save us from unjust intervention by any foreign state or states in our domestic troubles, then that intervention must come as a natural incident in our unnatural domestic strife, and I entertain no fears that we shall not be able to maintain ourselves against all who shall combine against us.

If it were profitable I might reply to your point that our case suffers abroad because we do not win victories so fast as impatient friends could wish. But I have no time for such discussions in the midst of daily duties and cares. It must suffice to say that rebellion if at all successful, matures fast, acts by surprise, with vehement energy, and wins considerable successes in the beginning. Government gathers its forces more slowly and may well be content if it maintains itself until the revolutionary passion submits to the inevitable law of reaction. Especially must this be so in a federative republican government like our own. While you who have gone abroad are hearing apprehensions of the failure of the Government on all sides, there is not one citizen who has remained at home who is not more confident in the stability of this Union now than he was on the day of your departure upon your mission. This confidence is not built on enthusiasm, but on knowledge of the true state of the conflict, and the exercise of calm and dispassionate reflection.