The Writings of Carl Schurz/Political Disabilities: Political Conditions, Especially in Missouri


Mr. President:—The meaning of the resolution which you have heard must appear so clear, plain and just to every intelligent and patriotic mind that it would, at first sight, seem superfluous to say anything in its defense, or even in explanation of it; and yet events have taken place which render it doubtful whether the policy it indicates is justly appreciated in the high places of the Government; and considering this fact it is proper that a sentiment so emphatically indorsed by the people of the State which I have the honor to represent should find a vindicating voice here.

I have already given notice that I would avail myself of this opportunity to submit some observations upon the political movements in Missouri, which seem to have attracted unusual attention and have acquired more than local interest. If my remarks partake largely of the nature of a personal explanation it is not as if I felt any solicitude concerning my political position and fortunes, which are matters of little moment; but I feel that I owe a full statement of the facts to the brave and faithful Republicans with whom I acted; I owe it to the many friends on this floor with whom I have so long been associated in a common work, and who have given me so many marks of their generous confidence and partiality; I owe it to the people, who are entitled to a clear exposition of a political event which has been brought to their notice in so prominent a manner and with such a variety of interpretations.

The immediate result of the recent election in Missouri is the reënfranchisement of those who had been disfranchised on account of their connection with the rebellion. The principles upon which this result was brought about were in strict accord with those which have guided my course throughout my public life, and which more particularly determined my views of policy since the close of our civil war.

When the conflict of arms had ceased you found yourselves confronted by two great problems: first, to organize and secure the new order of things, which had resulted from the war, in the political and social institutions of the Republic, and then to create a moral support for that new order of things in the public opinion of the States where the great change had taken place. You had to contend with extraordinary difficulties. The sudden emancipation of the slaves, the precipitate transition from slave-labor to free-labor society, naturally called out the violent opposition of the popular habits and prejudices which had been identified with the abolished system, and the passions of the war, still burning after defeat, threatened to inflame this new contest.

But to effect the change was a necessity, and that necessity dictated the means to be employed. You found yourselves obliged to disarm, to a great extent, the social forces arrayed in hostility to the establishment of the new order of things, and to accomplish this a large number, and in some States all of those who had been connected with the rebellion, were excluded from all participation in the exercise of political power by disfranchisement. Thus disfranchisement was resorted to as a measure of safety, as a temporary expedient whose duration would be determined by circumstances. As a measure of punishment it would have been utterly impolitic. It was not severe enough to terrify; it was just severe enough to exasperate. As a measure of safety it was well calculated to relieve the establishment of the new order of things from untimely and dangerous interference. Its justification rested on the plea of necessity.

In this sense I supported the measures of restriction as long as that necessity lasted, and I went with my party in my State even so far as to acquiesce in disfranchisement until the rights of political citizenship had been conferred upon the race lately in slavery, so that no hostile influences should prevent that consummation. But when all the principles which had issued victorious from the civil war, and which formed the basis of the new order of things, had become firmly fortified in our institutions by Constitutional amendments, and the public mind had accepted that settlement so generally that a reactionary attempt might at worst create but a temporary disturbance, and could no longer lead to a total subversion of accomplished results, that necessity appeared to me to cease, and the revolutionary phase of our National affairs to be closed. If carried beyond that point, disfranchisement was calculated—nay, it was bound—to prove hurtful to the very objects for which it had been adopted.

It has always been my opinion that, although the new order of things had to be established under a pressure of force and restriction, other agencies than a continued protection by force and restriction—a system uncongenial to our principles of government—had to be relied upon for its development and perpetuation.

Public opinion had to be won by a generous and conciliatory policy. The people of the late slaveholding States had to be cut loose from their past, with its painful memories, as well as its peculiar desires and aspirations. The most efficient measures to this end were naturally those which were best calculated to make the Southern people measurably satisfied with their changed condition, and to identify their interests, aspirations and hopes with the new order of things. Their thoughts had to be diverted from the past in order to be directed to the future.

To divert their thoughts from the past two things were necessary: first, to fortify the results of the war in the political institutions of the country so firmly as to make all attempts at a reaction appear utterly hopeless; and then to do away as soon as possible with those restrictive measures which are felt by them as a common grievance, irritatingly reminding them of the past. And nothing can be better calculated to direct their thoughts to the future than to dispose as rapidly as possible of all political questions that have sprung from the war, and to clear the track for the new issues which are of equal interest to all of us, without any reference to our former dissensions and conflicts. The attention of the people once absorbed by new topics of general interest, controversies connected with the war will gradually drift into the background; people will meet upon new fields, irrespective of their former relations; the new order of things will insensibly and irresistibly grow into the daily habits and ways of thinking of the masses, and the desire of a reaction will gradually disappear in the absorbing activity for the furtherance of new objects. That this process may not work itself out as rapidly and as smoothly as we might desire, I will admit; but I am profoundly convinced that it is, after all, the most rapid and the safest that can be devised.

It is evident that the political disqualifications and disabilities, especially the exclusion of large numbers of people from the ballot-box, have to disappear before this great end of moral pacification can be accomplished; for nothing will remind men more painfully of our past conflicts, nothing is more calculated to stir up from day to day the heartburnings of defeat and a deep dissatisfaction with the existing condition of things, than an abnormal and degrading position in society, which imposes all the duties and burdens of citizenship without coupling with them the corresponding rights.

But still another thing appeared to me most essential to the restoration of fraternal feeling. It was that the same party under whose auspices those political disqualifications had been imposed, and which was accused of a desire to continue them for the selfish purpose of perpetuating its ascendency, should, while in the full possession of the powers of the Government, with free and frank generosity remove them; thus furnishing conclusive proof that such measures had not been dictated by a spirit of hatred and vindictiveness, but by the necessity to establish in the shortest possible time that which would be for the common good of all, and that the first opportunity to abolish invidious distinctions was embraced not only willingly, but with gladness.

In forming these conclusions I was not governed by a mere sentimental and hasty generosity, although I am willing to admit that it is against my nature to deprive others without the most irresistible necessity of rights which I myself enjoy; but I followed the plainest rule of statesmanship, which, under existing circumstances, could have no higher aim than to bring the late rebels once more under the influence of the sentiment that this is their country just as well as ours; that their interests are wrapped up in its welfare just as well as our interests are; that their rights as citizens enjoy the same protection as ours under its institutions, and that the fortunes and the honor of this our common Republic should be as dear to them as they are to us.

It was for these reasons that I offered in the National Republican Convention of 1868 a resolution welcoming back to the communion of the loyal people all those of the late rebels who would coöperate with us in the establishment of the new order of things, and declaring the Republican party in favor of a prompt removal of political disabilities and disqualifications as soon as it would be compatible with public safety. This resolution was incorporated in the National Republican platform by a unanimous vote of the Convention, and upon that platform we carried on that memorable contest which elevated General Grant and you, sir, to the high offices which you now occupy. Thus was an important step taken in the direction I have just indicated, a step accompanied by the approval and applause not only of the Republican party, but of the whole American people; and it remained to carry out by practical measures that policy of which the Republican platform contained so emphatic a promise.

Permit me now, sir, to give an account of the manner in which that Republican promise was carried out in Missouri. In Missouri the civil war had raged with uncommon fierceness. The State had been devastated by repeated invasions. Great atrocities had been committed by rebel guerrillas, producing in some parts of the State that most terrible of wars, a neighborhood war in the truest sense of the term. This continued in a measure even some time after the surrender of the rebel armies. The bitterest resentments divided the people. It was thought questionable whether rebels and Unionists would be able to live peaceably together on the same soil. Under such circumstances a State constitution was adopted which excluded from the right of suffrage all who had been connected with the rebellion either by act or by sympathy.

But while in no State the struggle between rebels and Unionists had been fiercer, in no State the animosities of the war died out more rapidly and more completely. Under the influence of restored peace the material development of the State at once took a new and vigorous start. For some time outrages were committed by the bushwhacking tribe; soon they disappeared. For some time, even until within the last two years to some extent, social and business ostracism was kept up by the two parties; gradually the genial habits of good neighborship revived. The people of Missouri became again throughout an orderly and law-abiding people, until at the commencement of the present year the governor could proclaim in his message that there was not a county in the State where the sheriff could not at any time obtain a posse to aid him in the execution of the laws, and that life and the rights of property were as safe in Missouri as in any State of the Union. And never was there a word of praise more richly deserved. The governor might have said far more without going beyond the truth.

From other parts of the country reports have reached you of rebel riots, excesses and outrages; of attempts to nullify the freedom of the late slave; of those wild commotions which usually follow suppressed rebellions. I will not here investigate how much of exaggeration there may have been in some of these stories; but tell me whether within the last two years even the attempt at such a story has come from Missouri at all! You might travel over my State far and wide in all directions, and you would behold with your own eyes the irresistible evidences of a most beneficent and wonderful transformation. You would find society everywhere moving again in the quiet channel of productive activity; you would find the minds of the people absorbed with railroad enterprises and mines and new fields of agricultural labor; you would find the school-house, against which the old pro-slavery prejudice had been so bitterly fighting, in successful operation; you would find the late slave securely enjoying his new rights as a freeman; you would find the late rebel obeying the laws, paying his taxes, and working peaceably by the side of the Union man as a good neighbor; you would find, even in those places which during the war had been specially noted for their rebellious spirit, society in a more peaceful and orderly condition than it had ever been there, not only during, but even before the rebellion. You would, in one word, find the new order of things rapidly working itself into the daily habits and the ordinary ways of thinking of the whole people. And if you heard here and there a hare-brained individual still indulge in an occasional swagger of the rebellious kind, you would find also that his voice is deadened by the very air surrounding him, like a voice on the sea which awakens no echo.

But a short time ago you would have found only one fountain of bitter feeling still flowing; and that fountain consisted in those very laws which cut off thousands and thousands of citizens from all the political rights of citizenship while they were fulfilling its duties and bearing its burdens. Of all living institutions this was the only one daily reminding the people of the great conflict, of the passions which had inflamed them, of the hatred which they had borne to one another; the only one calculated to rekindle the old bitter rancor of the vanquished against the conqueror, and to prevent the revival of that fraternal feeling among children of the same country which all generous and patriotic men are longing for; the only one threatening to disturb the peace of society once more, if continued beyond measure.

And what could we answer when asked upon what ground disfranchisement could be continued in Missouri under such circumstances? Could we say that the life of the Republic and the results of the war were still threatened there by organized efforts? Everybody knew that they were not. Could we say that the rights and the lives and the property of the loyal people were not yet safe? Everybody knew that they were. Could we answer that the late rebels refused to obey the laws, to pay their taxes, and to fulfil the duties of citizenship? Such refusal was not heard of. What pretext, then, was left for sustaining disfranchisement? Absolutely none in the remotest degree resembling the justification of necessity. If continued, the system rested upon nothing but the arbitrary pleasure of the ruling party.

It was evident that disfranchisement had no longer any ground to stand upon. Republicans who were not willing to sacrifice every consideration of honor and decency to party advantage were rapidly growing ashamed of it, and finally the legislature, at its last session, resolved to submit to the people of Missouri amendments to the State constitution wiping out the system of disfranchisement and establishing complete equality of political rights without distinction of color, as well as of previous political attitude. This was done last spring, the amendments to be voted upon at the State election this fall. Thus the question was plainly placed before the people of Missouri, and when going to the polls they were called upon to answer simply “ay” or “no.”

Would it be thought possible, sir, that under the circumstances I have described those amendments should have found any serious opposition? Should it not have been expected that the whole Republican party, remembering the word of promise held out in the national platform, would, as one man, have greeted with gladness this tempting opportunity to wipe out the last remnant of the old animosities which had distracted us, to disarm the charge of vindictiveness and of a selfish policy which had been brought against them, and to unite the whole people of the State once more in the bonds of equal rights and fraternal feeling? Could patriotic men hesitate when the plain alternative was presented to them either to accomplish all this by responding “ay” to the simple proposition placed before them by the legislature, or, by saying “no,” to take a step backward in the line of proscription?

Thus every generous impulse, every dictate of honor, of patriotism, of common-sense, of sound statesmanship, of fidelity to Republican pledges, pointed in one direction. Nay, sir, men of ordinary shrewdness, not even appreciating those higher motives, would have discovered that every consideration of prudent party polity did the same; for had we hesitated, the day would certainly have come when disfranchisement would have been abolished in spite of the Republican party, instead of by it, as a victory over the Republican party instead of a triumph of its good faith and just principles; and what hope had Republicans then to win over to their cause any of the reënfranchised, if they had resisted reënfranchisement when their very honor commanded them to grant it? And thus, I must confess, when under such circumstances the constitutional amendments were proposed by the legislature, I candidly thought all struggles on this subject in Missouri were over, and I congratulated, in my letters, my friends on the cheerful prospect.

And yet the opposition to this measure developed itself in a most formidable shape. We found a remarkable combination of forces in array against it. There were those whose whole political horizon was bounded by the struggles of the rebellion; whose whole political stock in trade consisted in the battle-cries of the civil war; who would forever have rolled the word “rebel” as a sweet morsel under their tongues, and delighted in discoursing grimly over the beauties of eternal damnation. But the bulk of the opposition was moved by more practical views. I suppose there is a class of politicians everywhere whose great aim and end in political life it is to monopolize the local offices. That class in Missouri found disfranchisement a very handy contrivance to keep their presumptive opponents away from the polls. Enfranchisement struck at their monopoly; to prevent it was with them a question of personal advantage. They acted upon the simple principle that those who would probably vote against them had better not be permitted to vote at all. They did not expressly deny that the rebels should be admitted to the ballot as soon as public safety would permit it, but they simply reasoned that public safety would not be perfect without their own election as sheriffs or county clerks. I suppose Senators know the breed.

Thus we found inveterate prejudice and unscrupulous greed for office arrayed against fidelity to sacred pledges and sound statesmanship. I am aware that my colleague has distributed a speech among Senators in which he asserts that the opposition was not so much directed against enfranchisement itself as against the constitutional amendment as a form of effecting it, while the same thing might in 1871 also be accomplished by an act of the legislature. I boldly assert that this is not in accordance with the facts. From fifty to sixty country papers in Missouri, mostly published under the shadow of country courthouses, led by a central organ at St. Louis, began at once to assail the constitutional amendment, not merely as an objectionable manner of accomplishing enfranchisement, but bitterly protesting against enfranchisement, or, as they termed it, rebel suffrage, itself. It was the thing they fought, not the mere shape in which it appeared, and my colleague ought to know it.

But there the opposition did not stop. It organized itself for the purpose of defeating any indorsement of the enfranchising amendment in the Republican State convention, and of carrying the nomination of a candidate for governor hostile to it. This candidate was Mr. McClurg. In order to accomplish this, things were done probably without precedent in the history of political parties.

I ask the pardon of the Senate for going into details; but they are interesting, and those who desire to study the art of wire-pulling as part of the civilization of our times will have an opportunity to learn something. The opponents of the constitutional amendment commanded a majority in the State central committee. The circumstance that the colored citizens of Missouri were to vote this year for the first time was taken advantage of to insure a majority in the convention against enfranchisement and for their candidate.

It was customary with the Republican party in Missouri that, on the basis of the general election last preceding, every one hundred and fifty Republican voters should have one delegate in the State convention. The colored citizens had never voted, but the majority of the State committee proceeded upon the presumption that every colored man would vote the Republican ticket and ought therefore to be represented in the convention. This appeared rather novel, yet the general proposition was acquiesced in. But then, instead of simply adding the colored citizens, according to the last census, to the aggregate number of Republican voters in each county, the State committee decreed to the colored men, as a distinct class, a separate representation, and giving every fraction over one hundred and fifty, however small, a delegate, things were so manipulated that while one delegate appeared in the convention to every one hundred and forty white Republican voters, including fractions, the colored citizens were represented by one delegate to every ninety voters. The purpose for which this was done became soon apparent.

A great iniquity was perpetrated, far worse in its nature than a common trick of wire-pulling. Colored agitators were sent all over the State, from town to town, from settlement to settlement, to enlist the newly enfranchised colored people in the crusade against the enfranchising amendment and the support of the candidates representing that hostility, and all the artifices of demagogism, every possible appeal to passion, prejudice and fear, were freely employed. Look at this. The colored citizens were to exercise the right of suffrage for the first time, and those against whom so many prejudices were still alive, wrongful prejudices indeed, but stubborn; those who for their future welfare need the good-will of their neighbors more than any other class of society; those whose rights can be perfectly secure only in the security of the equal rights of all, were to be seduced to signal their very entrance in political life by using their virgin franchise for the purpose of continuing the disfranchisement of others. The thought is so abominable in itself that I do not hesitate to denounce the demagogues who gave the colored people of Missouri that most iniquitous advice as the worst enemies of the colored race.

And I regret to state the fact that this most unscrupulous trick succeeded. The colored voters, with some most honorable exceptions, permitted themselves to be used by the opponents of enfranchisement in organizing for the convention. And that was the object in giving them a representation in proportion almost double that of the white voters. The students of the science will admit that this was an instructive piece of wire-pulling, and most neatly executed.

It was but natural that men who did not shrink from the employment of such means should have resorted to all the other appliances known to politicians who practice the art of fraudulently getting up delegations and of packing conventions. And all these things were done for the sole purpose of preventing the indorsement of the enfranchising amendment by the convention, and of securing the nomination for governor of Mr. McClurg, the candidate in sympathy with them. But I will not go into further detail.

Of this character was the opposition the friends of enfranchisement had to contend with in the convention. Twice we appealed to the convention to abandon that most absurd and scandalous system of representation, the nature of which I have just described. But twice, in spite of arguments and appeals incontrovertible and pressing, we were voted down. We should have been justified in leaving the convention then, and public opinion would have sustained us. But we preferred to submit even to these wrongs, willing to give our opponents a last chance to refrain from carrying their scandalous advantage to the utmost, but fully determined also that the fruit of it should not be reaped.

Finally we arrived at the main question. The committee on resolutions, of which I was a member, was unanimous on all other points, but on the question of indorsing the franchise amendment it was divided. The majority reported the following resolution:

That the Republican party stands pledged to remove all disqualifications and restrictions imposed upon the late rebels in the same measure as the spirit of disloyalty may die out and as may be consistent with the safety of the loyal people; that we consider the time to have come, and we cordially indorse the action of the legislature of Missouri in submitting to the qualified voters of the State the amendments removing all disqualifications from the disfranchised people of Missouri and conferring equal political rights and privileges on all classes, and we earnestly recommend them to the people for their approval and adoption.

The resolution reported by the minority was as follows:

That we are in favor of reënfranchising those justly disfranchised for participating in the late rebellion, as soon as it can be done with safety to the State; and that we concur in the propriety of the legislature having submitted to the whole people of the State the question whether such time has now arrived, upon which question we recognize the right of any member of the party to vote his honest convictions.

The meaning of the majority resolution was unequivocal and plain; a solemn and straightforward declaration of the Republican party, through its convention, that as an organization it was in favor of enfranchisement, and of the measure proposed by the legislature to effect it, and that it called upon its members to redeem the solemn pledges of the party. But what was the meaning of the minority resolution? I have heard it argued by public speakers and in newspapers that there was no real difference between the two. Can any discerning mind fail to see the difference?

In the first place, it was an absurdity in itself. It repeated the promise of enfranchisement at some future period which it did not define. If under the circumstances surrounding us the time for enfranchisement had not come, when in the name of common-sense would it come? It approved of the act of the legislature submitting the question to the people, but then, referring the matter to every individual voter, it declared that the Republican party as such had no opinion to express, no advice to give on the subject. Look at this; the question of reënfranchisement was the only one agitating the public mind, the only one prominently in issue before the people of Missouri. And that the great ruling party of the State should in its platform declare its neutrality, as a party, as to the only great question in controversy, a question so greatly affecting the future welfare of the State, was in the very nature of things so utterly absurd and ridiculous that you would search the history of parties in vain for a parallel. It amounted, in fact, to a confession either of imbecility or of cowardice: of imbecility, if the party had no opinion to express upon the subject; or of cowardice, if it had an opinion and did not dare to say so.

But that was not the worst feature of it. It was a fraud on its very face. In reiterating the promise that disfranchisement should be removed when compatible with the safety of the State, it virtually denied that it was already compatible with the safety of the State. If not then, under the circumstances prevailing, when would it be? The repetition of an indefinite promise was, therefore, the repudiation of a promise already due; the redemption of a pledge by another pledge, accompanied by the demonstration that the binding force of the pledge was not acknowledged. The honesty of the party stood in a worse light than Micawber's, when, after giving his due-bill for a debt long due, he exclaimed, “Thank God, that debt is paid, and I can once more raise my head as an honest man.”

But even that was not the worst feature of it. It was a declaration of neutrality and an indefinite promise only in appearance. It was the device of the enemies of the constitutional amendment to defeat that measure. The resolution was framed and introduced by the bitterest and most openly avowed enemy of the enfranchising amendment, who, while subsequently advocating the minority report, bluntly proclaimed his hostility to the measure and his intention to defeat it. In addressing the convention he boastingly pledged three-fourths of the people of his Congressional district to vote against it. His principal supporter, a colored man, spoke in the same vein, and so one after another, the advocates of the minority resolution, with few exceptions, while arguing in favor of it, professed their hostility to enfranchisement.

The operations which had preceded the convention, as well as the known character and proclivities and open and emphatic expressions of the movers and advocates of that resolution, left no possible doubt, therefore, of the fact that the apparent declaration of neutrality on the subject was nothing but a thin disguise, if a disguise at all, of determined hostility to enfranchisement, and that the adoption of that resolution would be an unmistakable victory for the enemies of enfranchisement. The question was therefore perfectly plain. All that had happened had made it plain before the debate on the resolutions began. What course was left to those who were determined to stand by the solemn pledges of the National Republican platform?

It fell to my lot to play a somewhat prominent part in those proceedings, and my convictions of duty were clear. In opening the debate I used, among others, the following expressions, and I select the strongest:

We are resolved, and I think I may declare it in the name of a considerable portion of this convention, we are resolved to maintain the plighted faith of the Republican party. We are resolved to have that which is declared in this platform and nothing less. We are resolved not to equivocate about it. Upon this question as honest men and faithful Republicans we cannot yield. I therefore declare in my own name and in the name of my friends that this is our platform. Some such platform will go before the people of this State at the next election, and a candidate will go before the people for their suffrages who does not by his known opinions, by his associations and by his record give the lie to what is declared in the platform upon which he is nominated.

I may add, the charge which was made, that we insisted upon our own candidate and would accept no other, was false. We would have been satisfied with any candidate who was openly and honestly in favor of enfranchisement; but we would not put an anti-enfranchisement man upon an enfranchisement platform, for we were resolved not to deceive the people.

The remarks I made may appear strong, and I admit that they were. They were intended to be strong. I would not hesitate a moment to hold the same language again under similar circumstances. My personal position was a peculiar one. I have already alluded to the fact that in the National Republican Convention of 1868 I introduced a resolution in favor of the removal of political disabilities as soon as public safety would permit it. I, for my part, was honest in proposing that resolution and in making that promise. I sincerely meant what I said. I did not mean to deceive the people by opening the prospect of a conciliatory policy, with the secret intention to break the pledge and to obtain the votes of the people on false pretenses. I am sure the National Convention, which unanimously made that resolution a part of the Republican platform, understood the nature of the pledge also, and was honest in putting it forth. But of all men in the world I, who had moved the resolution and been the originator of the great promise, was the very last to trifle with it or to equivocate about it. I could not have done so without disgracing myself forever in my own estimation. If I am proud of anything, it is not so much the position in the first law-giving body of the Republic to which I have been elevated by a generous people, but it is the fact that during my whole public career I have always been mindful of the great responsibility of those who undertake to exercise an influence upon public opinion; that I have never said anything to the people which I did not myself honestly believe in; that I never made a pledge which I did not mean honestly to keep; and that whenever I made a pledge in conjunction with others I meant to keep those others to it too.

I therefore looked upon that promise as one admitting of no uncertainty, no compromise, no trifling, no equivocation, which would have been faithlessness of the darkest nature. And this sentiment, which always has been and always will be the guide of my public life, governed me in this instance and dictated my language.

But more than that. It is well known that the conciliatory policy to which the Republican party pledged itself in its platform had much to do with the greatness of the success we achieved in the Presidential election of 1868. It was most emphatically indorsed by our candidate for the Presidency in those simple but powerful words which became the very inscription of the banner under which we fought, “Let us have peace.” The words were accepted as meaning, and they could mean nothing else, that a firm but generous and conciliatory policy should be adopted, which, “with malice toward none and charity for all,” would overcome the bitter animosities of the past and make the Americans once more a united people. And therefore it was that those words fell upon the popular heart like a clear sunrise after a long period of storm and anguish, warming it with new hope and noble aspirations. Therefore it was that they attracted to our cause thousands and thousands of people who had never belonged to our organization and whose votes we could otherwise never have hoped for.

Am I not justified, then, in saying that the binding force of that promise was increased by value received in consideration thereof; value received, if I may use that expression, in cash down votes? And in this light that promise stood before my eyes in our State convention, when I saw it on the point of being dishonored by all the appliances of political trickery. Who will still pretend that the language I used was too strong? Whatever others may think, I considered it my duty to declare that if there were men unscrupulous enough to repudiate or evade a faithful recognition of their solemn obligations, there were also men there resolved to stand by their pledges to the last and at every hazard, to take their honor and that of their party into their hands and to carry that great measure of peace and reconciliation over the heads of the tricksters. I thought it due even to our opponents that I should let them know what the consequences would be if they persisted in the iniquity.

But, before going further, I desire to show the Senate what the character of that system of disfranchisement was upon the condemnation of which we insisted, and which our opponents by trickery and equivocation strove to preserve. I wish to call the special attention of Senators to it; for this, too, will be a somewhat valuable and interesting contribution to the history of our politics. I am sure but few if any members of this body know what disfranchisement in Missouri really was; and I must confess that I myself never fully understood it until many months after the election of 1868 I had occasion to investigate its working.

The constitution of Missouri, third section, second article, disfranchised not only those who had been in armed hostility to the United States or the government of the State, but all those who had ever by act or word shown sympathy with the rebellion, or with any one engaged in exciting it or carrying it on, or had in other terms indicated their disaffection to the Government of the United States in its contest with rebellion, or had ever, except under overpowering compulsion, submitted to the authority of the Confederate States, etc.

This, it will be admitted, was rather sweeping. Sympathy with persons engaged in “exciting or carrying on rebellion” was somewhat calculated to cover a multitude of sins not visible to the unpracticed eye. No citizen could be registered as a voter unless he took a solemn oath that he had carefully abstained from all those things. But such oath was, according to section five, article two, of the constitution, not to be deemed conclusive evidence of the right of a person to vote or to be registered. Such right might be disproved, and all evidence for and against such right was to be “heard and passed upon by the registering officers, and not by the judges of election.”

These registering officers, exercising a judicial power over the right of citizens to vote, thus became persons of extraordinary importance. A word about the machinery of which they formed part. Under the law, the governor appointed one supervisor of registration in each senatorial district, thirty-four in all. These supervisors of registration had the exclusive power to appoint and to remove at pleasure three registrars in each county, whose duty it was to make a list of the qualified voters. These registrars had power to examine under oath any person applying for registration as to his qualifications, and also to “ascertain and diligently to inquire that such person had not done any of the acts specified in the constitution as causes for disqualification,” and if those registrars “were satisfied in their own minds” that such person was disqualified, they had power to reject him, and they could do so even without any testimony. To be sure, an appeal from their decision was provided for by law. On certain days preceding each general election the supervisor and the three registrars of each county, or a majority of them, were to meet as a board of appeals and revision at each county seat, with power “to pass upon the claims of all persons who had been unable to appear before the registrar of their respective districts, and upon persons who considered that injustice had been done them by the officers of registration refusing to record them as voters; also on further objections made to persons who may have already been registered as voters. They shall add to the list in each election district the names of such persons as they may consider legally entitled to registration, and shall strike therefrom such as they shall consider improperly registered.”

Such is the language of the law. Thus it will be seen that the appeal from the first decision of the registering officers lay again to the same registering officers. And then these same registering officers had the power, as a board of revision, to add to and strike from the list as they might see fit, this time without any further appeal. In fact the registrars evolved out of their own inner consciousness other people's right to vote. You will see, sir, that thus an immense and absolutely irresponsible power was conferred upon these men, for they were to construe, for their own guidance, the disqualifying provisions of the constitution to their own satisfaction. What were these disqualifying provisions? I have already mentioned some of them. Sympathy, shown by word or act, with the rebellion or with those engaged in exciting it or carrying it on. What was that? A man, a good Union man, had a son or a brother or a cousin in the rebel army, carrying on the rebellion, a not unfrequent case, where, as in Missouri, families were divided against themselves. Did he desire to see that son or brother or cousin killed? Probably not. Did he therefore sympathize with him? The registering officers were to determine that to their own satisfaction. “Sympathy with those exciting rebellion.” It was charged that the Democratic party was exciting rebellion. Did sympathy with Democrats constitute the disqualifying crime? The registrars might construe it so, and there was no appeal from their decision. And if they did, where was the limit to arbitrary disfranchisement?

You might say that this is running things to a fine point. But what was there to prevent it? If the registering officers had in all cases been high-minded, conscientious men, they would have put a liberal construction upon the law. But were they? Facts will tell. I know of faithful and consistent Union men, unfortunate enough to have had sons or relatives who insisted upon joining the rebels. They endeavored to keep them back; but, striving in vain to hold them, gave them a woolen shirt or a pair of socks, and not denying it, were disfranchised for giving aid and comfort to the enemy. Others expressed the wish that their relatives in the rebel army would return home safely, and were disfranchised for sympathizing with those engaged in rebellion. I know of scores of men who served three or four years in the Union Army, some having lost arms or legs in the service, disfranchised for having expressed sympathy with those exciting rebellion, and having used the incriminating expressions in some cases before they put on the blue jacket, in others long after the war was over. Nay, I know of the case of an old abolitionist in Linn county, Missouri, who had made emancipation speeches in 1861 and all through the war, and who was disfranchised in 1868 for having made certain remarks in 1865 and 1866 in favor of the so-called peace policy then agitated by some political leaders in Missouri.

And these were no isolated cases. Their number is legion. The fact is, that in a great many counties in Missouri the registering officers acted under the influence of the radical candidates for office, and the question governing their action in a multitude of cases was simply how many opposition votes had to be thrown out in order to insure the success of those candidates. And this cutting-off process was not confined to Democrats; Republicans of old standing were disqualified because they were suspected of an intention to vote against certain men running for office. The consequence was that now and then the Democrats attempted and succeeded in buying up a supervisor of registration, who, for value received, appointed registrars favorable to them. These registrars then usually registered with an excessive liberality, in violation of the law justly construed, and the successful candidates were then kept out of office on account of the fraudulent registration.

What I say here is not a mere surmise based upon vague rumor. It is a matter of general notoriety in Missouri, scarcely contradicted, and in many cases proven by official investigation. To show the atrocity of the abuses which had developed themselves under the system of disfranchisement, you will permit me to give the details of one case.

In 1868 there was appointed as supervisor of registration for the ninth senatorial district of Missouri, composed of the counties of Audrain, Boone and Galloway, an individual by the name of Conklin. This Conklin had at the same time secured for himself the radical nomination for the State senate. The district was strongly Democratic, but Conklin was determined to be elected, or rather to elect himself, and he went about it in a business-like way. As supervisor of registration he had the power to appoint the registering officers for the three counties. He appointed a set of men upon whom he believed he could rely to do his bidding, and having the power to keep or remove them, as he pleased, he cracked his whip over them to his heart's content. His plan of operations was very simple. He followed his registrars as they were making the list of voters from place to place, attended nearly all their meetings, and controlled them in all their actions. In this way he had, in the first place, all the Democrats rejected against whom, by any possibility, the disfranchising provisions of the constitution could be construed. Heavy work was done, but his mind was not relieved of doubt. He was so thoroughly despised by a great many Republicans that he thought it best to have a good many of them cut off by the board of review. Thus a number of Union officers and soldiers and other citizens of high respectability, who would have voted for Grant and Colfax but not for Conklin, were disfranchised for disloyalty.

But even this did not relieve him of doubt. He hit upon a most ingenious expedient, and that was simply to disqualify his competitors. Shortly before the day of election he had the candidate who was nominated against him struck off, late enough, as he thought, to render another nomination impossible. The name of this decapitated opponent was David H. Hickman, a gentleman of great moral worth, an unflinching Union man during the war, and formerly a member of the legislature. But Conklin did not feel quite safe yet; and so he had also the only man cut off who, as he suspected, was likely, if there was still time, to be nominated in Hickman's place—a Dr. Hunter, also a Union man.

But, wonderful as it may seem, fortune did not smile upon the intrepid Conklin. The Democratic committee nominated at the eleventh hour Hon. James S. Rollins. My colleague knows him well; he is the same who in 1857 was a candidate for governor in Missouri, when my colleague refused to vote for him on the ground that his election would be dangerous to the institution of slavery in Missouri; he is the same who as a member of Congress voted for the Constitutional amendment abolishing slavery. Well, Mr. Rollins was put in nomination, while he was absent from home, without his knowledge and consent. And Mr. Rollins assures me that to his certain knowledge Conklin would have disqualified him, too, had he not relied upon his previous declaration that he would not be a candidate. But Mr. Rollins, returning home on the day before election, reconsidered that declaration, and Conklin, who in the meantime had thoroughly disgusted every decent man, was defeated by a respectable majority. Still he had the impudence to contest Mr. Rollins's seat, but was sent home by a unanimous vote of the senate. The record of that contest, containing the sworn testimony, which proves the facts I have stated, I have in my possession.

But there the story does not end yet. You will admit that in this transaction Conklin had proved himself a thorough villain. His first appointment as supervisor of registration by Governor Fletcher may be excused on the ground that the governor did not know him. But now Conklin had made a public record of irrepressible rascality, and yet in spite of the remonstrances of several Republican members of the legislature, Governor McClurg, the same gentleman whom we defeated at the late State election, reappointed him to the same place, possibly to do the same sort of work. But this time Conklin acted under the impulse of different motives. When he was a candidate himself and determined to elect himself, in a senatorial district containing about nine thousand males over the age of twenty-one years, he registered them down to sixteen hundred and twenty-one. But this year the same Conklin registered in the same district fifty-nine hundred and ninety-three legally qualified voters. Whence the discrepancy? There were about twelve hundred colored voters in the district, swelling the number of legal voters to that extent. But, then, there is still a difference of thirty-one hundred and seventy-two to be accounted for; thirty-one hundred and seventy-two over and above the number registered two years ago. The increase did not result from immigration, for in those counties immigration was notoriously inconsiderable. No, aside from other influences that may have been brought to bear upon him, Conklin was this time not a candidate himself, and, as I heard him declare in a speech, he made it a special object to defeat the Liberal Republican candidate for Congress, Colonel Dyer. And so he registered “liberally” against him.

And now, sir, what does this prove? Simply this: that under such a system the right of citizens to vote was completely at the mercy of any villain who might happen to be appointed a registration officer, and there was no remedy against the grossest of outrages. But the case was, if possible, even worse than that.

Permit me to give you another instance. In 1868 there were in Buchanan county, Missouri, 4,621 persons registered as qualified voters. Before the board of review met, over one thousand affidavits were filed with the members of that board against persons who had taken the prescribed oath and had therefore been registered, and who were afterwards to be disfranchised. When the board of appeals and review met, hundreds of them besieged the door of their meeting place. But the proceedings of that board, limited by law to a very few days, were remarkably slow. About three hundred cases were considered—about forty favorably, the others unfavorably; the board closed their doors in the faces of the rejected citizens, and the rest of the one thousand who had not been heard were simply disfranchised. On what ground was this done? On the ground that the registration of those individuals had been objected to by somebody. By whom they were objected to, they were never informed. They simply learned that affidavits had been filed against them. Neither was their demand to have the affidavits produced complied with. They obtained only a general intimation of the charges against them, and were required to prove their loyalty; and the board of review not sitting long enough to hear even one-third of them, they were simply disfranchised, for the registering officers were sufficiently satisfied that they ought not to vote.

Time has shed a little more light upon those proceedings also. It turns out that over five hundred of those secret affidavits, on the ground of which so many citizens were deprived of their right to vote, had been manufactured by and under the direction of one man, one James Beach, living at St. Joseph, Missouri, an employee of insurance companies, who was at different times prosecuted for embezzlement. The hundreds of affidavits of this individual were for a long time kept a profound secret among the official records of the registering officers. But some of them have found their way to other people's eyes, and it will edify you to know, sir, that hundreds of men were deprived of their suffrage for no other reason but that such a disreputable individual, of whom the most respectable Republicans of St. Joseph assured me that they would not believe him under oath, objected to them simply on the ground, as the affidavits read, “that the person mentioned in the affidavit has the reputation of being disloyal or of being a rebel sympathizer.” It is also instructive to know that the same man importuned the Representative in Congress of that district to obtain for him the post-office at St. Joseph, urging as his peculiar claim to reward that he had disfranchised so many hundreds of individuals; an application which was properly rejected.

I might go on for some time yet, giving you further detail of an equally interesting character. But it is enough. Last summer I listened to the burning eloquence of the Senator from New York, denouncing the election frauds committed in the metropolis of his State. His denunciations were not too severe. But he will agree with me when I say that it matters little whether the frauds be committed by stuffing illegal votes into the ballot-box, or stealing legal votes out of it under color of law. I feel much freer to-day to hurl denunciations against the Democratic repeaters of New York and Philadelphia, after having struck an honest and decisive blow against a similar abomination in Missouri where it disgraced my own party.

I call it an abomination, sir, as it had developed itself. I will not impeach the motives of those who first introduced disfranchisement. They certainly did not foresee the disgusting abuses that would grow out of it. But as it had developed itself the system amounted to this: the governor selected and appointed the supervisors of registration; the supervisors appointed the registering officers, subject to removal at their pleasure, and therefore under their control; and the registering officers, under a constitutional provision open to the most arbitrary construction, and being judges on all appeals against themselves, virtually appointed the voters. With such a machinery carefully made up, an unscrupulous man in the executive office, choosing instruments equally unscrupulous, might not only maintain himself in power against any opponent, but he might have a legislature elected to carry out his will. And even with an honest governor at the head of the system, the highest right of the citizen was completely at the mercy of any set of registration officers who might combine their interests with those of candidates for office. Call such a system whatever you will, but call it not republican government. Let such a system be defended by whosoever may do it, but let it not be the Republican party that mourns over its downfall.

Well, sir, it was this system, demonstrating itself in its workings as the very incarnation of arbitrary party despotism, as the very nursery of fraud, and the most scandalous political demoralization; this system which, however good the intentions of its originators may have been, was bound in time to stifle all sense of honor, shame and decency in any party supporting it, and to hand that party over as a mere engine of corruption and tyranny to the most unscrupulous of political schemers; it was this system which the wire-pullers and spoilsmen in our State convention attempted to shield by a dishonest equivocation.

I ask you, sir, in the face of these glaring facts, what good American, bearing the faintest love to the purity of democratic institutions, what honest Republican caring in the least for the honor and good faith of his party, could have hesitated to condemn it in the strongest language, and not only to advise but to implore the people to relieve themselves of the disgrace? Who could have stooped to a declaration of neutrality on such a question, a dodge which was avowedly devised as a hint in favor of the continuation of the system?

The vote was taken. Our resolution, pronouncing for the adoption of the constitutional amendment abolishing disfranchisement, was voted down; the substitute was adopted, and the proscriptionists and spoilsmen had carried their point in the convention. Then we went out; then we adopted a platform which did justice to the feelings of honest men and faithful Republicans, and upon that platform we nominated Hon. B. Gratz Brown, one of the oldest and most consistent anti-slavery men of Missouri, as our candidate for the governorship. And I affirm that in leaving that body we carried the honor, the good faith, the true principles and the true banner of the Republican party with us.

This, sir, is the history of the party division in Missouri; and it is for this that those who acted as I did have been denounced as traitors to the Republican cause.

Here I desire to notice an impression, which was spread abroad by public speakers and newspapers advocating a high protective tariff, that the so-called “bolt” in Missouri was nothing but the upshot of a conspiracy formed at Washington last winter by advocates of revenue reform. I had as much to do with the division in Missouri and the movements which preceded it as any man. I know every detail of its history. Whatever meetings of revenue reformers may have taken place at Washington, I not only did not participate in them, but no plan that could possibly have been formed there had the least influence upon my action in the Missouri convention. My colleague, in the speech he has distributed among Senators, arraigns me as the leader of the “bolt.” I take my full share of the responsibility for it—the whole, if you please—and I pronounce the statement, that the “bolt” had anything to do with any such conspiracy of revenue reformers formed at Washington or anywhere else, unqualifiedly and absolutely false. While my convictions, conscientiously formed, lead me to oppose the protective system, I know that the tariff question was not the one which produced the division of the Republican party in my State. While it is unquestionably true that the Republicans with whom I acted readily indorsed the anti-protective tariff resolution in our platform, it is also true that no discussion of the tariff question occurred in the convention at all before we left it. In fact, a resolution on that subject, drawn by myself, and identical in spirit with the revenue-reform plank of our platform, was unanimously reported by the committee on resolutions and adopted by the rump convention after we had left it. Another resolution, intended to favor protection, was adopted also, and we enjoyed the rare spectacle of seeing in the McClurg platform the two hostile sisters, revenue reform and protective tariff, peaceably standing side by side, the most accommodating assortment of principles heard of in the history of political parties. I make this statement in order to place the real cause of our party division in its true light.

At the same time I give it as my opinion that, had protection or anti-protection been the only question before the people of Missouri, unincumbered by any other issue, the majority against protection would in all probability have been nearer one hundred thousand than forty thousand. A close examination of the vote on candidates for Congress would bear me out. The question was indeed discussed, but it was not overshadowing the main issue. No, sir; the party division in Missouri was not the result of a plot formed at Washington or anywhere else. Its cause appeared on the very face of our action. It was nothing more and nothing less than the spontaneous outburst of the honest feelings of men who wanted to relieve the people of a great wrong and themselves and their party of the disgrace of a flagrant public scandal. The motive-power was the impulse of duty.

But it has been said that we might have performed that duty in another way. My colleague, in the speech I have referred to, states that the question might have been referred to the legislature, which, in 1871, would have had power to abolish disfranchisement. But how refer it? Was not the constitutional amendment before the people demanding an answer, “ay” or “no,” and should we say “no,” and first defeat the constitutional amendment in order to refer the matter from the people to the pleasure of a majority in the legislature? Would not that have been absurd? But my colleague himself in his speeches avowed the reason why he desired that reference to the legislature. It was that he wanted to preserve at least part of the system which our consciences condemned, and we were not foolish enough to fall into his trap. And, besides, would that have preserved the unity of the party? It would simply have transferred the struggle to the legislative districts, ranging the Republicans for disfranchisement on one side and the Republicans hostile to disfranchisement on the other.

But might we not have submitted to the action of the convention and fought for enfranchisement just as well? Had we done that, what then? We might indeed have been at liberty to pronounce individually against disfranchisement. But their victory in the convention would have inspired the friends of the obnoxious system with new courage and determination. Every nook and corner of the State would have rung with a bitter fight against the constitutional amendment; its enemies would have strained every nerve and organized a registration more arbitrary than ever to defeat it; all the scandals of former elections would have repeated themselves. But, as it was, the mere act of our leaving the convention, showing our determined earnestness, already decided the contest. A popular uprising took place, before which even the bitterest enemies of enfranchisement finally yielded their opposition. When the matter was already virtually decided, then one by one they dropped; and at last, not many days before the election, even Governor McClurg himself, the very standard-bearer and candidate of the proscriptionists, withdrew his hostility to the constitutional amendment, and announced that he would consent to anything if the people would let him only be governor once more. Without the division this could never have been accomplished. Just the reverse would have taken place. They struggled against enfranchisement as long as they thought they had a chance; they struck their flag when the fight was virtually decided. That is the whole story.

But the significance of our action went further. When a party once falls under the control of that class of spoilsmen and wire-pullers who in Missouri had arrayed themselves in defense of the disfranchising system, and were ready to sacrifice all higher considerations for their personal advantage, that party stands in eminent need of purification. Then it becomes necessary to demonstrate by tangible facts that the control of the organization by such elements can and will not be tolerated; and if the administering of such a lesson was ever indispensable it was so in Missouri. Had we submitted, in spite of all that had happened, it would have been a surrender to the most unscrupulous elements in the party, and there would have been no check to its demoralizing influences save another insurrection. Thus, from whatever point of view you may look at the circumstances surrounding us, the step we took was the only honorable, the only dignified, the only efficient one left to us. It was a moral necessity.

A bold and unusual movement like ours could not be expected to escape acrimonious criticism and misrepresentation. But it was a somewhat curious spectacle to me to see my colleague take the lead in personal attack, and to direct his most pointed shafts against myself and against the Germans generally. He treated the case as a sort of criminal prosecution, putting the most singular pieces of evidence together to prove a deep-laid plot against the Republican party and all the good things that party had ever achieved. If I refer to this at all, sir, it is not for the purpose of defending myself, but for the purpose of showing the Senate what kind of capital our traducers were working on. It was the comical intermezzo of a serious drama. In a speech which my colleague made at Hannibal early in the campaign, and which he subsequently repeated on every possible occasion except one, which one he will certainly remember, he tried to convict me of having meditated treason to the Republican party long ago by the following piece of history. He said:

I have here, too, a thing which I have carried in my pocket-book now for some twenty months, knowing perfectly well when I put it there that the time would come when the explanation of it would appear. I cut it from the New York Tribune of the 27th of February, 1869. It gives an account of the presentation to General Schurz in New York of an address in German beautifully engrossed on parchment. A copy of the address is published, but that is not a matter of any interest here. But there is given a statement of General Schurz's response to the presentation of this address, and I read it in the language of the report in the Tribune, which I have reason to believe is correct:

“Mr. Schurz responded in a few words, stating that if he was considered the representative of German-Americans it was no merit of his own, but all had contributed toward this result, the citizen by his voice and the soldier on the field of battle. He was, perhaps, the least enthusiastic of all about his election to the United States Senate, because of the high idea he entertained of the importance of the position to which he had been called. If in the future new ties would have to be formed, and he should arrive at different conclusions from those held by the ones who had now addressed him, they might nevertheless rest assured that a conscientious conviction alone had guided him.”

There, gentlemen, in February, 1869, just before he took his seat in the Senate of the United States, to which the great-heartedness of Missouri had confidingly elected him, you see the foreshadowing of the purpose in the future to form new ties different from those that connected him with those who presented him that address that night.

Well, sir, this is a grave thing. It must have been difficult for my colleague to overcome the kind collegiality of his feelings toward me when he carefully cut out that damning piece of evidence, with a certainty to use it some day as proof of my treachery to my party. But I ask you, sir, to imagine my situation. Oh, if I had known when in the meantime I held sweet and pleasant converse with my colleague, and he was making me glad with his winning smiles, that in his bosom he was carrying something far more dangerous than a loaded pistol—a loaded pocket-book; something like a paper torpedo, ready at any moment to vomit forth destruction upon me—had I known that, what would my feelings have been! Imagine it, sir, as I can well imagine how carefully my colleague kept that trusty weapon in his pocket-book for twenty long months, and how, when the great moment had finally come, he went to the President, and, with sorrow and anguish in his eye, performed the most painful duty of unfolding to the Executive this most conclusive proof of my long-plotted and deliberate crime! Ay, sir, what would my feelings have been had I known that!

But what would my colleague's feelings have been had he known that the precious paper torpedo in his pocket-book, so carefully picked up and so lovingly preserved, was nothing but a weapon loaded with sawdust after all; that it was a speech addressed in German to a German audience, and reported in English; that I had never spoken of new ties to be formed; but at most of new questions, new issues to arise, and that a mere mistake of a reporter, or of a type-setter, making “ties” out of “issues,” was at the bottom of that dark and infamous plot to overthrow the Republican party?

Of course my colleague did not think of looking into other newspapers for a confirmation of the harrowing intelligence. Had he done so he would have found that same speech in the New York Herald reported as follows:

General Schurz responded briefly, thanking the committee for the honor they had conferred upon him, and assuring them that, no matter what might be the change in the political firmament, his countrymen would ever find him enlisted in the cause of humanity and ready at all times to sacrifice every personal consideration for the welfare of the country of his adoption.

And in the New York Times of the same date my colleague would have found my intention to betray the Republican party expressed in the following words:

Senator Schurz replied that he felt it an honor to be identified with the Republican party. With that party his sympathies had ever been, and it would be his proudest boast that he had always endeavored to popularize the principles of that party.

How sad that my colleague had no access to those journals! But had he suspected that he was carrying a mere reportorial fancy in his pocket, and that for twenty long, agonizing months, what would his feelings have been? I know it. He would have come to me with tears of joy in his eyes; he would have pressed my hand with fraternal fervor. He would have said: “My friend, my brother, I always felt that this must be a mistake. It struck me at once that you could not have been so foolish as to confide to a party of serenaders your secret intention to commit treason against the Republican cause and to join the Democrats. I am altogether too smart to be caught by such nonsense, as you are too honest to have any such designs. Come, let us embrace.”

In fact, sir, when I read my colleague's speech in the papers I enjoyed it so much that I refrained from correcting the misrepresentation in the same public manner; for it would have been a pity to disturb the intense and grave satisfaction with which my colleague was peddling that preposterous story from town to town, to have it laughed at by his hearers just as heartily as by myself.

And from evidence of this character, rivaling the immortal Buzfuz with his “chops and tomato-sauce,” my colleague drew a most ingenious conclusion, which, with the same intensity of satisfaction, he conveyed to the people of Missouri, as follows:

I believe that General Schurz has nurtured the more daring thought of marching the entire German mass of the Republican Germans of the United States over to the Democracy, to secure the election of a Democratic President in 1872, over whose Administration he may exert an influence as supreme as his aid in its election was efficient. It is the old idea of “a power behind the throne greater than the throne itself.”

Is my belief on this point unreasonable? If General Schurz does not mean this, what meant his dark hint in February, 1869, just before taking his seat in the Senate, when, in answer to New York Germans, who had presented him an address, he spoke of new ties to be formed by him in the future, and of his “arriving at different conclusions from those held by the persons who had then addressed him”?

Sir, this case is becoming more and more grave all the time. The future of the Republic seems to be trembling in the balance. But as my colleague has evidently given his whole mind to this subject, and has formed his conclusions, no doubt with great reluctance, it will not do to treat the matter lightly.

Seriously speaking, sir, if I should discuss the moral aspect of my colleague's performance, I do not know whether it would be easy to remain within the bounds of parliamentary language. But being charitably disposed, I look at it as a thing of pathological interest, as a somewhat morbid hallucination, such as is frequently produced by the tortures of disappointed affection, and which, in its wild flights, loses all perception of reality and all appreciation of probabilities. I forgive him, sir; I forgive him, especially as I must do him the justice to say that his distemper did not altogether overcome the natural kindness of his heart, for I will not ascribe it to prudent discretion that he carefully avoided making any of those assertions in my presence. At the commencement of the campaign I invited my colleague to a public discussion; he declined for reasons undoubtedly satisfactory to himself, and then went straightway to a place where he knew I would not be to set afloat these stories. And when afterward I met him at some place in the interior of the State he carefully left out of his speech all that related to my contemplated treason; and then at the next place where I was not, he repeated the same stories again. His extreme reticence may be most satisfactorily explained on the theory that he thought such charges pronounced in my face might be too harrowing to my feelings.

But it was not against me alone; it was against the Germans generally that my colleague directed his batteries. After having represented them as a class of voting cattle who can be used by unscrupulous politicians for any purpose, and transferred from one party to another at pleasure, he gives us his idea of the motives which govern the German-born citizens of this country on political matters. In his speech at Hannibal he appealed to the native prejudice, referring to the tariff question in the following language:

For my part all my sympathies are with the industries of my own land, and not with any other country of Europe or on the face of the globe. But General Schurz is a German; perhaps he might not be expected to have quite as warm sympathies for the industries of America as for the industries of his Fatherland.

As a piece of demagogism my colleague would consider it in anybody else of rather a low order, as low, I think, as a small politician may be capable of; and I use this strong term because not I alone am assailed, but because the patriotism of a very numerous, and I may say a very valuable class of our population is categorically called in question. In explaining it I shall have to return to my pathological hypothesis. To accuse me, because I was born a German, of a propensity to sacrifice the interests of this to the interests of a foreign country, and thus to stigmatize German nativity as the source of unpatriotic feeling, and this in the face of that spirit of self-sacrificing devotion which but yesterday led far more than a hundred thousand German-born citizens upon all the battlefields of the Republic, where their blood was as freely shed as that of any class of American citizens, and to do this in the position of a United States Senator and a professed spokesman of the Administration, is a thing so utterly repugnant to the commonest common-sense, so frantically preposterous, so ridiculously unjust, that the explanation on the pathological theory is the last refuge of the psychologist.

In the name of the Germans, sir, I forgive him again.

But while the charges and insinuations thrown out by my colleague had no effect upon the people of Missouri, except the contrary of that which they were intended for, I am sorry to say they seem to have had a strong effect upon the mind of the President. For, as the circumstances of the case have convinced me, it was at my colleague's instance that the President wrote a letter to the collector of internal revenue at St. Louis, in which the following language occurred:

I regard the movement headed by Carl Schurz, Gratz Brown, etc., as similar to the Tennessee and Virginia movement, intended to carry a portion of the Republican party over to the Democracy, and thus give them control. I hope you will all see your way clear to give the regular ticket your support.

And it was also at the instance of my colleague that the President subsequently suspended a number of Federal officeholders in Missouri for the reason that they preferred one Republican candidate for governor to another.

While the interference of the Administration in State elections by means of the patronage has long been considered a matter of most questionable propriety and bad policy under any circumstances, I am inclined to think that in this case he who persuaded the President to interfere proved a most dangerous adviser. I have already exposed some of those absurd stories which my colleague, before retailing them in Missouri, poured into the President's ear for the purpose of eliciting from him that denunciatory letter and a sort of commission to punish refractory officeholders in Missouri. To these he added the further assertion that the Gratz Brown movement was distinctly designed to be a war upon the Administration. That the President should have lent his ear to such insinuations I sincerely deplore; I should not deplore it were I really an enemy of the Administration.

My position with regard to the Administration is easily stated, and that statement will be a complete refutation of the charge of factious opposition. When General Grant was elected to the Presidency his mission appeared to me so exalted and enviable as to excite and satisfy the noblest ambition. I described that mission, as it stood before my mind, in the first speech I delivered in the campaign in 1868, and I desire to quote a few passages of it, not as though the ideas put forth might not be clothed in more fitting language, but in order to show that I have only adhered to the line of thought expressed before General Grant's election. In July, 1868, I said:

The nomination of General Grant for the Presidency was not the work of the politicians; it was the work of the people. The popular instinct pointed to him as the available man in the best sense of the term; that is to say, not only because his renown as a soldier would command for him the largest number of votes, but because General Grant was looked upon as the fittest man to do just the things which at present are to be done. To execute the laws and to secure the results of the Congressional policy of reconstruction is a task which might have been performed with judgment and vigor by any Republican President. But another thing is to be done. The great objects of the Republican policy are to be reached in a manner calculated to overcome the difficulties produced by passion and animosity, to bring forth willing submission on the part of our opponents and to restore the long lost cordiality of feeling.

The waves of passion are still running high, and nothing is more necessary than that the country should be brought back to an even balance of mind. The questions before us require calm thought and a considerate exchange of ideas. It is in vain to hope for this as long as Andrew Johnson is President. It would certainly be vain to hope for it if the Democratic party with all its impatient greed and pent-up vindictiveness should come into power. But the elevation of just such a man as Grant will be calculated to calm the waves of excitement, and to give to our deliberations the necessary degree of equanimity.

Immediately after the close of the war the late rebels of the South were disposed to submit quietly to whatever conditions of restoration the National Government might have imposed upon them. Had that opportunity been judiciously improved the country would have been at rest long ago. By Andrew Johnson's vicious intrigues it was lost. With General Grant's elevation to power it will return. He knows the Southern people and they know him. They have been in close and lively contact, and understand one another. He has given them evidence of his unbending determination in a conflict and of his generosity after a victory. They know that when he demanded an unconditional surrender he meant it to be unconditional; they know also that he treated the vanquished with magnanimous forbearance. He has proved to them that he is well capable of achieving and following up a success, but not capable of abusing it. The people of the South will therefore have no reason to fear that he will act with the vindictive spirit of an exasperated partisan, and no reason to hope that iniquity and factious opposition will meet from him with weak indulgence. They will be convinced that they will have to submit, and they will readily submit, to a policy which has been conceived with moderation and will be adhered to with firmness. As Andrew Johnson has stirred up the most vicious elements of Southern society to new activity, so Grant's election will give new encouragement and moral power to those men who in a spirit of peace and justice strive to confirm the new order of things.

Thus the new Republican Administration will move quietly and steadily forward on a line clearly traced in a fixed direction; the most unruly elements of Southern society will see the uselessness of kicking against irreversible results; the fires of party passion will burn out for want of fuel; the different branches of the National Government will coöperate in harmonious action, and with a President whose mind is untouched by the acrimony and bitterness of long party feuds we may once more hope for what the Republic stands so greatly in need of, an era of good feeling.

Then, at last, when the country is no longer distracted by a fierce conflict between Congress and the President; when the great results of the war are placed beyond the reach of a reaction; when peace is assured by the fact that every class of society has its rights secured, and when we have a President whose ambition it is to follow the enlightened judgment of the people, then at last the people may safely devote their undivided attention to the important and pressing questions of social improvement and material prosperity. Then we shall be able to discuss the best means for discharging our National debt and the currency problem without being interrupted by wrangles about reconstruction; we can remodel our system of taxation without being troubled by violations of the tenure-of-office law; we can boldly attempt the reforms demanded by the dangerous practices which have crept into the civil service without fear of disturbing the machinery of government at a critical moment.

And just for the accomplishment of this most desirable, nay, most necessary reform, General Grant's peculiar position will afford invaluable facilities. He is indebted for his nomination and will be indebted for his election to nobody in particular. The Republican party in mass, not this or that combination of individual politicians, will have elevated him to the Presidency. No personal obligations to such will bind him to do their bidding, to adopt their preferences or to be governed by their dislikes. When selecting his advisers and instruments he will have the whole mass of talent, knowledge and character to be found among the true men of the country to choose from, without being narrowed down to a given circle by established claims on his gratitude. He will therefore have every inducement to lend a helping hand in the introduction of a thorough and permanent reform of the civil service, which, proceeding upon the idea that established character, knowledge and capability ought to be the only test of fitness for office, will at last give the country an able, honest and economical administration of the public business.

Indeed, from whatever point of view you may look at it, his peculiar position is so singularly fortunate that he needs only to appreciate its advantages in order to make his Administration one of the most peaceful and one of the most productive of good this Republic ever had.

Nobody will pretend, sir, that the hopes I then expressed, and which were undoubtedly shared by the best portion of the American people, were inspired by any but a spirit of the sincerest friendship for the then coming Administration. Indeed, sir, what could be better calculated to crown those in power with imperishable glory than a firm maintenance of the great principles which were victorious in our civil war, coupled with that wise generosity and benevolent justice shrinking from the restriction of any man's liberty and rights beyond the point marked by the evident necessities of the public peace; a steady determination to reform abuses even at the expense of immediate personal or party advantage; even-handed justice in rebuking and redressing that which is wrong, even when perpetrated by friends, and in recognizing that which is good, even when found in opponents; a management of affairs so clearly intended for the public good as to render ridiculous the mere suggestion of other motives; and a noble unselfishness in the use of power calculated to disarm any opposition; for nothing appeals so irresistibly to the popular heart as unselfishness brought into strong relief by great temptations firmly resisted? I ask, what policy could have been suggested by the President's most devoted personal friend that would have been more certain to lead to glorious results?

I have never hesitated, and I shall always be sincerely happy, to give the Administration my most cordial and arduous support in the direction thus indicated, and I solemnly affirm it was in the line of this policy that the movement was designed which we undertook in Missouri. Nay, sir, far from entertaining intentions hostile to the true interests of the Administration, we sincerely believed ourselves entitled to the President's sympathy. And I must confess, when the President's letter appeared it was to me a painful surprise. Was not this surprise natural? Did not General Grant, when he wrote upon his banner those great words, “Let us have peace,” stand before the country as the very exponent of a moderate and conciliatory policy; not as the creature and representative of professional politicians, but as the candidate of the people longing for the restoration of the long-lost cordiality of feeling? And did not this very circumstance give him that peculiar strength which carried him so triumphantly into the Presidential chair? “Let us have peace” was our watchword, just as it had been his. How could we be regarded as the enemies of his Administration in faithfully carrying out that idea with which his own success was so intimately identified?

If finally the election in Missouri became a defeat of the Administration, the President must look to himself or his advisers for the responsibility. We did not attack him; he attacked us. It is thus that our success be came his discomfiture. The President's own principles achieved a victory over his patronage. Those who are denounced as his enemies protected his natural policy against the mistakes which those who call themselves his friends made him commit. Had he only maintained a friendly neutrality, our success would have passed for a triumph of the President's principles. Look at it. What would the result have been had he followed that most natural policy? He would have gained thousands of friends, even among those who had formerly opposed him, where now he has lost thousands. He would have rendered an inestimable service to the cause of peace and good feeling, where now that cause has to be protected against his pretended friends. If instead of celebrating a triumph he has to deplore a rebuke, whose fault is it? Not ours, sir; certainly not ours.

We know well that the President has had no great opportunities for acquiring extensive political experience. That is certainly not his fault. It might have been an advantage. But the advisers who pretended to be his friends ought to have told him what the result of his interference would be. My colleague has been long enough in political life to know that almost all Administrations which attempted to control the people of a State in the regulation of their State affairs broke down in the operation. He might have told him that nothing was more calculated than such interference to rouse that spirit of independence, that feeling of a citizen's pride which indignantly repels all attempts at dragooning, and that the moral power of an Administration never issues unimpaired from the contest. My colleague at least ought to have remembered the history of Pierce, of Buchanan and of Andrew Johnson, and had he been the President's true friend no temptation of patronage would have seduced him to advise the President to fall into the mistakes of such predecessors.

Now, sir, I will show you how the authority of the Administration was prostituted by its pretended supporters. Here is a circular issued by the chairman of the McClurg State committee, addressed to the Federal officeholders in Missouri:

[Confidential and Important]

St. Louis, October 24, 1870.  

Dear Sir: The State Republican committee have great and imperative need of funds at once, to carry the campaign to successful issue. An assessment of one per cent, on the annual gross receipts of your office is therefore called for, and you will please inclose that amount, without delay, to the treasurer, E. S. Rowse, in the envelope inclosed.

This assessment is made after conference with our friends at Washington, where it is confidently expected that those who receive the benefits of Federal appointments will support the machinery that sustains the party which gives them pecuniary benefit and honor. The exigencies are great, and delay or neglect will rightly be construed into unfriendliness to the Administration. We do not look for such a record from you, and you will at once see the propriety and wisdom of the earliest possible attention to the matter.

Isaac Sheppard,
Chairman of Committee.

E. S. Rowse, Treasurer.

That this did not come from the Administration itself may be looked upon as certain. It was probably a mere attempt to levy blackmail by threats and intimidation. But does not the Administration see what the practical political managers are capable of doing in its name?

But there are still other things which render it difficult to find in our history an instance in which the attempt to turn the civil service into a mere machinery of political coercion and moral degradation showed itself in a more repulsive form. Imagine a professed spokesman of those in power travelling from town to town, like Judge Jeffreys with his bloody assize, boisterously proclaiming to the trembling tribe of officeholders that he was the man to have their official heads cut off if they dared to transgress the rules laid down by him. Why, sir, I heard with my own ears how that gentleman, in that assumed representative capacity, with a jubilant taunt referred in a public speech to the postmaster of a small town upon whom the execution had already been performed, and who sat there listening to him. Is it a wonder, sir, that decent men turned away with disgust when the dignity of the National Government was asserted by such exhibitions?

Of course, sir, some of the understrappers caught the lusty spirit of the chief executioner. It was a burst of civil service reform, and the principle which governed it appears with striking clearness in the following correspondence:

U. S. Internal Revenue Collector's Office,

Fifth District Missouri, Carthage,

Missouri, October 3, 1870.

My Dear Sir: It becomes my painful duty to inform you that the course you are pursuing in regard to politics in this State is of such a character, in my judgment, as will in the end prove detrimental to the true interests of the Radical party of Missouri. Such being my view of the matter, I am compelled to inform you that your resignation will be received. In doing this, Colonel, it grieves me to the heart. As an officer you have been honest, worthy and true; as a business man you have exceeded my most sanguine expectations; as a friend I believe I have no more devoted in the State. All of our transactions have been of the most pleasant nature, and in parting at this time let me assure you of my friendship, let me assure you of my well-wishes in all your undertakings (save politics of the Brown kind) in the future. As we have always been friends, let us so remain.

This is as we expected, when I was with you last. Let it be understood as having been your own motion, that you voluntarily resigned. I am anxious that it should be so. None will be the wiser for me, for my feeling toward you is the same personally.

Please retain the records and do the business of the office until I can send your successor to you to transfer.

Very truly, your friend,

Geo. D. Orner, Collector.

Colonel Daniel E. Saunders,

Deputy Collector Fifth Missouri District,

Sedalia, Missouri.

Look at this. There is an officer whose character and

ability are certified to in the highest terms of praise. His efficiency exceeded the most sanguine expectations of his superior; and yet that superior coolly informs him that he must go because he refuses to degrade himself by giving up his honest convictions on a question of difference inside of the party, and a more pliant tool is put in his place! Can you imagine the impression such things make upon the people?

But enough of this detail. We learn from the President's message that the Administration is in favor of civil service reform. I hail the announcement with sincere satisfaction. All patriotic men greet it with applause. It is only to be regretted that in this instance the coming event did not cast its shadow before. Had it been intended to demonstrate in Missouri, even to the dullest mind, how necessary a reform is to prevent such scandals the lesson would not be lost upon the people, and I hope Congress will not hesitate to act upon it. But if the action of the Administration in Missouri was meant to be a specimen of the intended reform, then I am sorry I cannot place much value upon the promise, for in Missouri the civil service was reformed in the true Andrew Johnson style, by an undisguised attempt to organize a genuine bread-and-butter brigade, driving out of the service those who had honest manhood enough to sacrifice their salaries for their convictions, and putting a premium on venality. As to the moral effect, I will not describe the indignation of the more excitable, and the profound sadness at this spectacle which prompted the criticism of our best and most patriotic citizens. There is the result of the Administration following the advice of the “practical political managers.” The Lord save the Administration and the party if such influences should further succeed in governing their course!

And now, sir, why was all this done? “Because you designed to disrupt the Republican party in Missouri,” as our accusers say. Well, sir, my allegiance is to the Republican cause. In the principles embodied in that cause I believe. To the advocacy of those principles I have faithfully devoted the best years and efforts of my manhood. And I do not hesitate to declare that to me that cause stands above the party. When the party or any subdivision of it becomes faithless to that cause, and I have to choose between fidelity to it and fidelity to the organization, then my allegiance belongs to the cause still. And it was that allegiance which directed every one of my steps. Show me in our platform a single resolution that is not a faithful reassertion of the best principles we as Republicans have been fighting for; show me a single point in which any of the great results of the war is given up, in which a single iota of the true Republican creed is compromised. You will search in vain. Point out to me a single one of the candidates we nominated who was not thoroughly identified with the Republican cause. You can find none.

“But you did break the Republican organization of Missouri in two,” our accusers say. So we did. When a portion of the Republican organization became faithless to a vital point of the Republican platform, and when the Republican cause was endangered by the wire-pullers and spoilsmen of the party, it was better to break the organization in two than to permit the whole to be covered with common disgrace and to be reduced to common impotency. In this way we saved the moral power of the Republican cause for the future.

“But you asked for Democratic votes,” we are told. So we did. I always did. During fifteen years of work for the Republican cause I scarcely ever made a speech but for the distinct purpose of obtaining Democratic votes. In my opinion it is the main object of political agitation to convince your opponents that you are right and that they had better go with you. It has always been my ambition to obtain Democratic votes for Republican ideas, and the more I could obtain the better was I satisfied, and, for aught I know, my party too.

“But your policy pleased the Democrats,” our opponents say. I am glad it did. It is no objection to our policy that it commended itself to the sensible men of all parties. And in this connection, sir, I may say that something was accomplished by our movement in Missouri which, I think, was never accomplished before in any State. Not only was there not the least attempt at a disturbance anywhere in our State when the colored people for the first time exercised the right of suffrage, and while they were generally supposed to vote against the State ticket, supported by the Democrats, but an overwhelming majority of the Democrats themselves voted for an amendment to the State constitution giving colored men the right to hold office. This alone, sir, is so great a triumph of Republican principles, and in its peculiar greatness it stands so conspicuously alone in the history of our days, that in the face of it all the charges brought against our movement as hostile to Republicanism vanish into utter nothingness. Let our detractors show us anywhere a success like this, and then let them throw a stone at us. Yes, sir, a movement which accomplished the practical recognition of the principle of equal rights even to this extent, and by our opponents themselves, has so gloriously vindicated its Republican tendency by tangible results that no Republican who has his cause more at heart than mere party drill can fail to hail it as a most triumphant consummation.

But, I am asked: “How are those whom you have now enfranchised going to vote? Will they not vote the Democratic ticket?” And here, I suppose, is the rub. Candidly speaking, sir, I expect that a great many of those who were disfranchised on account of their connection with the rebellion will abhor a reopening of the questions that sprang from the war, sincerely accept accomplished results, honestly identify themselves with the new order of things and vote accordingly. I know that some of the most intelligent and prominent men among them would have voted with us in 1868 had they been permitted to vote, and I hope—and I have reasons for that hope—that now the number of their followers will not be small. I know also, that, had we not acted as we did, there would never have been any possibility to produce a moral impression on our part upon that class of citizens. To-day the moral strength of true Republicanism in Missouri is infinitely greater than it was six months ago, for true Republicanism dares to be itself again.

But, sir, the number of votes our opponents would have was not a question which I could permit to control my action. I supported those measures of safety, disfranchisement included, which the necessities of a revolutionary period demanded, as long as those necessities existed. They having ceased, disfranchisement has no longer any justification to rest upon. If to the last man the reënfranchised in Missouri were to vote against me, that, I solemnly declare, is at this day to me no reason why they should not vote at all. I have struggled for the equal rights of men, whether they be black or white. I am ready to stand up for the equal rights of men, whether they be Democrats or Republicans. I do not know how many of the reënfranchised will vote for us, but I do know—and here I express my profoundest conviction, sir—I do know that if there is a party which, after the danger to the Republic is past; after the principles which triumphed in the war are firmly fortified in our fundamental laws; after the rights of even the lowliest citizens are constitutionally secured—still attempts to proscribe and disfranchise its opponents merely for the purpose of maintaining itself in power and of monopolizing the offices, such a party will lose all moral influence over public opinion, and will be bound to go to the bottom. And, moreover, I do know, that as the system of slavery rendered the master-class unfit for true liberty, so the system of disfranchisement, kept up for reasons of party advantage, must in a short time render the ruling party unfit for good government.

In fact, sir, I recognize objects in political life superior to the immediate advantage of my party. I am well aware that political parties are necessary, and that to make them live a certain drill and discipline are needed. I also appreciate the necessity of compromising on minor points inside of a party, for the purpose of securing strong and hearty coöperation in the furtherance of greater ends. A party may not satisfy me in every respect, but I may belong to it because it approaches my ideal more closely than any other. But I have never been able to look up to a party as a deity that has supernatural claims upon my veneration. To me my party has never been anything else than an organization of men gotten up for the purpose of carrying certain principles into living reality, or of promoting the execution of certain measures of public good. This object of the organization has always been to my mind the first, nay, the only thing of real importance, and I look upon all other so-called party interests as absolutely secondary to it. “My party, right or wrong,” is therefore a cry which I never was and never shall be able to appreciate. I might submit to its being wrong on a minor point; but should it go wrong on an essential principle, I should defend that principle even against the party.

Among the fundamental ideas which have governed me in my public life, there is this in the first line: to guarantee the largest possible liberty and, at the same time, the greatest security of individual rights to all in our political and social organization. I joined the Republican party for the only reason that it appeared to me to work in the direction of that great end. And it did. If, under exceptional circumstances, it restricted the rights of some, it was to establish an order of things in which the rights of all would be secured. That accomplished, the vital principles of the party compel a prompt removal of the restrictions, for only thus can the great end of the Republican policy be reached. If it is said that thereby the ascendancy of the Republican organization is imperiled, the answer is, that the true object for which the party has been struggling will be better subserved by securing all in their right to vote, even if ever so many vote against us, than by arbitrarily depriving of their vote those hostile to the party as a means to keep the organization in power.

This is what I mean by saying that I recognize in political life objects far superior to the pretended advantage of my party. Such a doctrine may appear strangely heretic to those who know nothing higher than obtaining at the polls a majority for their candidates, whoever their candidates may be. But these are the principles which have always guided me in my political course; I have always professed them, and shall always be ready to act upon them.

And I go even further than this. The greater this Republic grows, and the more extensive the interests become with which we have to deal in political life, the more imperative becomes the necessity of raising the standard of our political morals, and the more difficult will be this task. In order to effect it, it is not only desirable but indispensable that a healthy spirit of individual independence and self-criticism inside of political parties be encouraged and developed, even at the expense of party discipline.

I do not underestimate the value of party discipline so far as it facilitates the subordination of minor questions to objects of paramount importance. But when the mere possession of power and office for its own sake becomes the paramount object of a party, then party discipline becomes a demoralizing element, and the sooner it gives way the better; the better for the general morality of political life, and sometimes the better for the party itself. Such a case we had in Missouri, and I repeat what I said before, had the object of our independent movement been only to defeat the selfish maneuvers of the spoilsmen and wire-pullers it would deserve the commendation of every patriotic citizen. The spirit of individual independence may seem to be a troublesome element in any organization; but if it is largely represented in a political party it will have the most wholesome effect of keeping the professional managers mindful of the fact that they may succeed in setting on foot a selfish and corrupt scheme, but are by no means certain of being permitted to enjoy the fruit of it, and that an improper nomination even in a majority party is not equivalent to an election.

But the problems this generation has to solve render the development of honest self-criticism and individual independence inside of parties peculiarly indispensable. We have just issued from a social and political revolution which has essentially changed the relations of the elementary forces of society and the distribution of political powers. The political rights of the individual, formerly at the mercy of the States, have been in a great measure placed under the safeguard of the National authority. The working out of this great result has led to certain habits in the assumption and exercise of political power which have to some extent disturbed those balances in which self-government finds its security. We shall have to readjust those balances so as to make the new prerogatives of the National authority answer their legitimate objects, and at the same time render them conformable to that independence which local self-government must possess in order to develop its blessings. In that delicate task we shall not unfrequently find the apparent interests of party in conflict with the important object to be accomplished. And just there a rigid party discipline may sometimes be found standing in the way of the necessary solution, and the intervention of conscientious independent action may become necessary for the public good.

And, more than this. Great pecuniary interests have sprung up in an organized form and commenced to exercise an influence in politics which threatens to become controlling. Do not understand me as indulging here in a one-sided fling at the so-called industrial monopolies fostered by a high protective tariff; I allude to all those powerful corporations whose hands have been so visible here and there in the proceedings of legislative bodies and even in the decisions of judges. Influences like these are more likely to grow than to decrease; and when once the machinery of political parties falls into their hands, with the resources of patronage and all the appliances of professional management, what will the consequences be unless the spirit of individual independence breaks through the routine of party drill and discipline? How much we are involved in those struggles already, or how soon they will be upon us, I will not here undertake to discuss; but certainly we cannot too soon nor too much encourage that spirit which sees in political parties not mere mutual insurance companies, but means for the promotion of great public ends which stand above them; that spirit which recognizes the interests of the public welfare as infinitely superior to the temporary advantage of mere political organizations. It is for such reasons mainly that I am so strongly in favor of destroying what is called patronage, and of a civil service reform which is not only to give the country a more efficient class of public servants, but, above all things, to remove from our political life a most dangerous element of demoralization. Some of our “active and practical political managers” may object that if such doctrines prevail they will no longer be able to run any party. I answer, so much the better. The running of parties which we observe here and there leads me to the conclusion that they would run better were they not run at all.

And now, sir, I desire to devote a few remarks to a subject which of late has been discussed with a certain degree of nervousness, and with which, among others, the recent election in Missouri and my name have been brought in connection. I mean the organization of a new party. I shall express my opinions with entire frankness, for I have never hesitated to avow the motives governing my political course. My colleague, as you are aware, asserts that I intend to go over to the Democrats. Let me assure him, if that were my intention I should have the courage to say so.

Every hint at the possibility of organizing a new party on the part of a Republican or a Democrat has been treated on both sides as a sort of high treason. I will at once confess that, whatever my views concerning its practicability may be, I do not look upon the idea as anything particularly criminal. I am even convinced that things have a tendency in that direction. But I know also that parties cannot be manufactured to order; they spring and grow into being as new issues arise or old ones press into the foreground and give a powerful impulse to the popular mind. Neither can new issues be manufactured to order; they also spring and grow out of the existing condition of things. In one respect, however, the circumstances surrounding us seem to favor a change of party relations.

That the Republican party has virtually accomplished those things which lay in the line of its original policy, and that the Democratic party has had to change its policy with regard to the most essential points in controversy several times within the last ten years, and now exists merely as an opposition party, are things which are every day asserted and every day denied. There is, however, an impression growing on the popular mind that it actually is so; and there is some reason for that impression.

The Republican party fought against slavery and that sort of State sovereignty which formed the protection of slavery, and they have disappeared. The Democratic party fought for these things, and they cannot be restored. The fight for and against them is therefore ended and become obsolete. Thus the great issues which originally formed the line of division exist no longer. Attempts to artificially revive them will not avail much longer. On one side efforts may be made to unsettle the positive results which have grown out of this struggle. These efforts may produce grievous disturbance and confusion for a time, but in the end they will prove powerless against the fixed determination of the popular mind to uphold the new order of things. Such efforts may for a moment strengthen, and justly strengthen, the idea on the other side that much is still to be done to protect accomplished results, and that to this end the continuance of the old organization is necessary; but it will also turn out to be true that the task of protecting those results will in many respects be best performed by a natural development which depends on other agencies than direct political action.

The popular impression, if not entirely right, is there fore not entirely wrong. A new phase of development is upon us. It will naturally bring forth new problems, new duties, new questions of general interest, and this circumstance will not long remain without influence upon the composition and the relations of parties.

But while in this respect the situation of things seems to favor a new formation, in another it does not. While the old issues are well-nigh exhausted, the fresh problems which the new order of things brings with it have not sufficiently developed themselves. Not one of them has so far seized upon the popular mind with that power which is required for a new creation. The question of the removal of disabilities is but an ephemeral one; it may be disposed of to-morrow, and I hope it will. The question of the future relations of the States to the National Government is still covered by the reminiscences of the war, and does not appear yet in the light of the new interests which our new condition will develop. The tariff question, great as its importance is, has not yet proved absorbing enough to overshadow all other political differences. Moreover, it has not yet been reduced to that simplicity which would render it less liable to compromise, and a vague impression of the inexhaustible abundance of our economic resources on the one side, as well as the revenue necessities of the Treasury caused by the National debt on the other, prevents it as yet from gaining sufficient prominence to become the principal line of division between parties. As for civil service reform as a great party issue, we see already that if one party adopts it the other will also raise the cry, although it may be nothing but a cry.

Thus it appears that at this moment the necessary inspiration is wanting for the formation of a new party. And yet the preliminary fermentation is evidently working in both the existing organizations. I confidently assert that a considerable element in the Democratic organization are dissatisfied with their party, but stay in it because they like the Republican party still less. And a considerable element in the Republican organization are dissatisfied with their party, but stay in it because they like the Democratic party less. I know this assertion will be vociferously denied by zealous partisans on both sides; but such is the result of my observations, and I believe it to be correct. Both parties have lost much of that positive moral power which is necessary to sway the popular mind.

That under such circumstances the discipline of either party should prove insufficient to prevent irregular movements, splits and breaks and schisms, is by no means surprising. You witness such things not in Missouri only; you observe them wherever you turn your eyes. They do not spring from the wiles and intrigues of “political Catilines,” as an indignant party organ expressed itself. They are not the cause but the result, the natural outgrowth of the situation. They are elementary upheavings; and if you try to repress them by a violent enforcement of party discipline you will only provoke more violent and formidable explosions. And now, while the prospect of a new line of division may to-day appear rather dim, yet I repeat something of the kind will come with the necessity of a natural process. It may not come for some time, and yet it may come all at once, over night, as a political question strikes and sets on fire the popular mind; a question, perhaps, existing to-day, but thrust into prominence by a sudden event which we do not think of at present.

And thus I hear myself asked, Thus you think, that if such a new line of division must come, the Republican party is in a moribund condition? No, sir, not necessarily so. I do not think so; for I believe the Republican party may and ought to become the new party itself.

I do, however, believe that the Republican party is doomed if it fails to appreciate the vital conditions of its existence. The rank and file of the Republican party have always been very different in character from the elements composing the Democratic organization. The latter finds its main strength in habit, drill and discipline. But the former consists of volunteers who are united and strong only when fighting for a cause powerfully engaging their intellectual and moral natures. They are always inclined to look with a critical eye at the ends they are to serve and at the conduct of their leaders. Drill and discipline are not sufficient to control them. When they ask, “What are we fighting for?” and the only answer is “The party,” they are slow to march. You remember they did fight with the power of genuine enthusiasm against slavery and for the integrity of the Republic and the great principles from which true republican government draws its life. But if the Republican party should ever adopt as the main aim and end of its political operations its own preservation and the possession of power and office, or other selfish interests, and rely to that end upon something like the patronage and those tricks of the trade which form the traditional apparatus of the “practical political manager,” then the party will most certainly lose the support of its best elements, for it will lose the great inspirations which enlist the volunteers and set them in motion. Trimming and wire-pulling can certainly not preserve the vitality of an organization like ours.

Neither will the high-sounding recital of our glorious memories answer much longer. The Republican masses are indeed proud of their past achievements, as they have a right to be. But they do not desire their party to quarter itself, like an idle and hungry pensioner, upon the public crib on account of great services rendered some time ago. They know that the war is over, and they are glad of it. They do not want to beat the war-drum longer than it is called for.

Still less do I think that a stroke of sensation, such as a foreign difficulty, gotten up for the purpose of preserving the party in a blaze of artificial excitement, can answer the object. Far from going into a trap of that kind, the intelligent and patriotic masses would indignantly repel such a trick as an atrocity worthy of a Louis Napoleon, but not of a republican people governing themselves.

Neither do I believe that the Republican party can live if it makes itself the representative, advocate and agent of any special economic interest. Such a policy would certainly bring on its decomposition.

Nay, sir, the only way to preserve the vitality of the Republican party is to make it the party of progressive reforms; in other words, the new party, which is bound to come in one form or another. I do not mean that as a party of reforms it should lightly catch up every new “ism” hatched by heated brains; but it should resolutely address itself to the reformation of the abuses and the solution of the problems which daily become more evident to every observing mind.

Let it first and foremost promptly sweep away those political restrictions which were born of the necessities of a revolutionary period, and ought not to survive them; things which now, instead of protecting anybody, are only calculated to impede a gradual settlement of difficulties by natural process. Let it speedily abandon the preposterous idea that in days like these such restrictions can be an element of strength to any party. Let it endeavor by all means to divert the minds of those we have conquered away from the past, and to turn them toward the future, by boldly advancing the questions of the present and future to the foreground, instead of harping upon reminiscences. Let it so exercise the powers of the central authority as not to hamper the beneficial action of local self-government, while protecting every citizen in his right to participate in it. Let it be just to itself and to the people by fearlessly acknowledging, exposing and correcting what errors of policy may have been committed and what abuses may have crept in under its rule, and by discountenancing unworthy men in its ranks. Let it resolutely put the ax to the root of the great scandals of our political life which spring from our absurd and demoralizing system of civil service. Let it practice true and conscientious economy, not only in the expenditure and application of public moneys, but also in the method of levying them, so as to be equally just to all classes and all economical interests. And finally, let it set itself, not only in legislation, but also in its influence upon popular elections, with the most indefatigable watchfulness and unflinching energy, against the growing political power of moneyed corporations, which steals upon us with a cat-like step and threatens to make our democratic institutions a mere tool in the hands of despotic monopolies.

Let the Republican party follow a policy like this with an unselfish spirit, and it will find in it a surer means of maintaining itself than in the most refined tricks of political management. It will then scorn the idea of sustaining its ascendancy by disfranchising its opponents, and wonder how that idea could have lived so long; for it will, as in the most glorious days of its past career, again with the full pride and force of great inspirations appeal to the popular conscience, and its rejuvenated moral strength will never falter before a number of opponents ever so large. As it was the great party of the past, thus it may and ought to become the great party of the future.

But can this be accomplished? I know the difficulties and hostile influences to be overcome, and I do not underestimate them. But I have sincere and great faith in the Republican masses. Whatever changes may have taken place in the composition of the party, I believe it still represents a vast preponderance of popular intelligence and also of popular integrity. I am certainly not blind to its failings, and I cannot be blind to its virtues. I firmly believe the Republican party does contain the elements of a healthy regeneration. I further believe, if a new party should arise, it would have to draw its most valuable material from the Republican ranks in order to become equal to the exigencies of the times. I think, therefore, the Republican party has the stuff in it to become that new party itself. The question is only whether its best can also become its controlling impulses. It is the question determining its vitality. I firmly hope and trust it can be successfully solved.

I am aware that the Democrats to-day set up a loud pretense to the monopoly of the true reformatory spirit. But it appears to me that pretense stands somewhat loosely in the air. My Democratic friends on this floor will not accuse me of having been governed in my discussions with them by the stupid prejudices of partisanship. I have not unfrequently put a high value upon their criticisms, and I have endeavored to look at their party with the eyes of a calm and conscientious observer. And having done this, I repeat, I have so far seen no reasons strong enough to make me believe in the reformatory mission of the Democratic organization. It is true, the prevailing sentiment in it may be in favor of what is called revenue reform. But I have not only noticed in their last national platform a resolution strongly squinting the opposite way, but on this very floor I have observed a strange tendency to compromise on that question according to local interests. Besides, the tariff question is not the only, it may perhaps not even be the most important, question of the future.

I read in Democratic papers that their party has always been in favor of civil service reform. This is news to me. I cannot forget that the principle “To the victors belong the spoils” is of Democratic origin; that they have inaugurated the system and developed the abuses under which we now suffer, and if these abuses have multiplied it is only because, in consequence of great necessities, the machinery of the civil service was made more complicated and extensive. I have neither heard from a Democratic leader, nor have I read in a Democratic newspaper, of any practical proposition of civil service reform which would lead me to believe that any other change was intended than to transfer the offices from Republican to Democratic hands, and to let the vicious method of appointment and removal continue. If I am mistaken I shall be glad to be corrected.

But the most prominent feature of the course of the Democracy in our days has been that it did not keep pace with, but continually lagged behind, the progress of the times. I will not rehearse the catalogue of Democratic sins committed during the war. I am not given to that. But here is a point touching the living present. While on the Republican side mistakes were made in relying for the development of the new order of things too long on a policy of restriction, instead of giving wider range to the natural process, the Democratic party impeded a healthy development, and kept up the animosities of the past by mischievous appeals to old prejudices and the promise of a reaction. I know well that a reaction against the new order of things cannot now lead to a lasting success; but I know also that a policy tending in that direction would result in temporary confusion. Instead of burying the issues of the past, the Democracy has rather shown an inclination to gain local advantages by uselessly renewing them. Of late they have here and there promised to give it up, and every patriotic man would hail the fulfilment of that promise with delight.

A more important point still is this: while there is not as much self-criticism in the Republican party as might be desired, party drill and discipline are infinitely more potent in the Democratic party in stifling the moral impulses. This arises in a great measure from the character of the elements which compose the rank and file of the organization. They show little individual independence in political action, and therefore easily yield to management and leadership. The Democrat who still votes for Andrew Jackson may be fabulous, but as a satire on an existing class the story is not without point. I have already spoken of the sinister influence of powerful moneyed corporations. No party will resist them easily. But when such influences take an organization in which habit, drill and discipline are so potent as in the Democracy, in hand, they are for these very reasons apt to be come irresistible. New York may to-day be looked upon as the model Democratic State, and if the Democratic organization, Tammany, with its rings, is to take possession of the Democratic national organization, to dictate its policy and designate its candidates, as has been openly suggested, and as is quite probable, the prospect of stern resistance to the dangerous intrusion of the money power, and the chances of a wise and unselfish reform policy, are, to say the least, not flattering enough to prove seductive. The Democratic party in opposition performs the pleasant office of a critic. But its fair promises are accompanied by a rather damaging commentary furnished by the party in those places where it enjoys decided facilities to carry those promises into practice. Many of those who make promises of reform are undoubtedly sincere. But I fear, with the Democratic party in power, those sincere men would be unable to carry them out. They would find in the component elements of the party an insuperable difficulty.

Taking it all in all, therefore, I may return to what I said before: the best materials for progressive reforms, the true unselfish reformatory spirit, as well as the healthiest impulses of individual independence, are still to be found among the elements out of which the Republican party is formed. And I fervently hope that this spirit and those impulses may succeed in determining the character of its policy, without permitting it first to go through the crucible of defeat, and preventing it from falling into that decomposition which otherwise, not individual politicians, but the natural progress of events, would inevitably bring on.

Mr. President, I am about to close. My remarks have taken a wide range, and I have said things which may displease some of my political friends. I regret that. But, sir, I cannot look at all that surrounds us with the eye of the partisan. I cannot bid my moral impulses and my conscientious convictions be silent in the face of wrongs and abuses, whoever may be responsible for them, and whoever may derive advantage from them. The convictions upon which I have acted in Missouri and spoken here were not formed lightly, on the spur of the moment. They are the political faith of my life. I have cherished them from the beginning of my career, and I think they will guide me to the end. In their advocacy I am profoundly in earnest.

Let no man suspect me, sir, of any willingness to jeopardize for future reforms any of the great results we have won by the struggles of the past. No; not that. By them I shall stand to the last; I will help to maintain them at any cost and hazard. But it is my sincere belief, and I cannot express it too strongly, that there is no policy better calculated to secure those results against all danger, than that which will furnish the conditions for a general revival of national feeling; that which will divert the popular mind from its broodings over past dissensions and occupy it with the great things now to be done for the common good; that which will raise our political life to a higher level of morality; that which will restore once more all over the soil of this Republic the working of true popular government. Whatever temporary disappointments we may have to meet, such a policy is sure to triumph in the end. And I am confident that those who contribute to such a result will, when at a future day the controversies of this period can be surveyed in all their bearings, be considered to have worked for the best interests of their country.

  1. Speech in the United States Senate, Dec. 15, 1870. On the 12th Schurz had submitted the following resolution: Resolved, That the disqualifications and disabilities imposed upon persons lately in rebellion against the Government of the United States were dictated by imperative public necessities, and not by a spirit of hatred or vindictiveness; and that, as soon as such public necessities cease, due regard for the fundamental principles of our system of government, as well as every consideration of sound statesmanship, demands the removal of those disqualifications and disabilities.