The Writings of Carl Schurz/To Benjamin H. Bristow, February 15th, 1876


New York, Feb. 15, 1876.

General [James H.] Wilson and General Burnett are just discussing with me the propriety of your offering your resignation, and have also stated to me the reasons which are thought to justify such a course. They give me to understand that my opinion on that matter would be of some interest to you, and presuming upon that assurance I take the liberty of giving it with entire frankness.

The American people consider you their agent and representative in the present Administration. You are expected to do their work without regard to the influences that may be arrayed against you. As long as any of that work is to be done and you are permitted to do it, I do not think that public opinion would approve of your throwing up your commission. I can readily understand that your position may be made very uncomfortable by the influences most potent with the President; but as long as you can hold the fort, which seems the only one left to the people in this Administration, I do not think you should surrender it as long as there is a shot in the magazine. And when your position has become altogether untenable, it appears to me that it would be better for the public interest, not to retire voluntarily but to force upon the Administration the responsibility of removing you and stopping your work. You may be more and more isolated in Washington, but you may be sure, also, that the people will gather round you the more strongly and earnestly, the greater the difficulties you have to face and the more resolution you show in fighting them.

Of course, I do not want to obtrude my opinion upon you, but you may look upon it as the candid advice of a sincere friend.

  1. Secretary of the Treasury from June, 1874, to June, 1876.