The Writings of Carl Schurz/To Charles Francis Adams, Jr., December 21st, 1876


St. Louis, Dec. 21, 1876.

I have just received your letter of the 18th. At first sight your plan, as to the general idea involved in it, strikes me favorably. But will it be possible to carry it out? I write at once without taking time for mature consideration, in order to get at the details of the scheme, and for this purpose I state the difficulties and doubts which occurred to me in reading your letter.

1. Can Congress, Constitutionally, “declare” that there “has been no election”? Vide 12th amendment.—Would it not, if the understanding you propose be arrived at, be necessary that Congress consume the time between the 14th of February and the 4th of March in counting the votes pro forma, so as to reach the 4th of March without declaring an election?

2. Would it not require the convening of the Senate and the House immediately after the 4th of March, to have the committees appointed for the “surveillance” of the election in the “returning-board States”? This would render indispensable the coöperation of Grant in the execution of the plan. He might, I suppose, convene an extra session of Congress, although his term expires on the 4th of March.

3. Is it your idea that we should consult the two candidates about this matter before giving it to the public, or that, without their knowledge and consent, we should try a sort of moral coercion on them, and, through them, on the two parties in Congress?

4. Have you any reason to expect that Tilden would accept this plan? I may say here, that I do, of course, not know whether Hayes would, the proposition being entirely fresh, but it may be possible.

5. While it is true that if one party accepted and the other rejected the plan, the latter would place itself at a great disadvantage,—would it not also be true that, if both rejected it, your father and I would be in the very unpleasant position of officious, and unsuccessful intermeddlers?

6. Do you think the idea of a new election would strike the people favorably? I am very doubtful about that,—and it is a very important question.

7. Would it be wise to do anything of this kind before the joint Committee of the two houses of Congress has demonstrated its inability to devise a practicable plan?

I hope to be advised in a few days whether there is any hope of a satisfactory arrangement at Washington. There are some men there of our way of thinking who will do the best they can—or at least try.

Now I want you to understand that I do not submit these questions in any spirit hostile to your scheme. I shall be very glad to be convinced of its practicability, and as you have undoubtedly thought about it a good deal, I want to have the whole of your idea as soon as possible. Why not communicate it to your father at once and have his opinion?

I shall be happy to give whatever aid I can to the execution of any Constitutional and practicable plan to remove the decision of the Presidential question from the theater of party-strife in Congress so as to secure at least a National Government whose legitimacy cannot be called in question.