The Writings of Carl Schurz/To Charles Sumner, May 16th, 1862


Philadelphia, May 16, 1862.

Startling news from Port Royal! What will the Administration do? I have written to the President this morning, telling him, among other things, that if he sustains Hunter I am sure the people will sustain him, and that, if he should feel obliged to modify Hunter's proclamation, it would be unwise to make such declarations of policy as would cripple him for future action. It is perfectly certain that measures similar to that proposed by Hunter will before long have to be adopted, and I have no doubt two months hence Hunter's proclamation would be received as the most natural thing in the world. But it seems to me that at the present time the issuing of such a proclamation, so startling in its propositions and so weak in argument, was premature and ill-advised, especially as the thing was practically being done and there was no necessity for ostentatiously proclaiming it to the world and challenging public discussion. In my opinion the best kind of a proclamation a commanding officer can make would be something like this: “I know but two classes of people in my department: loyal men and rebels. All those that offer us aid and assistance will be welcome; if they are slaves they shall be free; if slaves of loyal masters, the latter may expect compensation from the Government. No man who serves the Government of the United States can be a slave.” If the Administration should not deem it practicable to sustain Hunter's act, a modification of his manifesto in this sense would, perhaps, be the most satisfactory. At all events Hunter must not be recalled. I see a statement in the Herald which indicates that he is, but I trust this is not so. I have no doubt you have already spoken to the President about this matter. Would you be kind enough to let me know how it stands?

One word about my personal affairs. I had a conversation with you last Wednesday. Immediately afterwards I saw the President again who repeated to me that he did not want to see me in the Army unless he could secure me a respectable command and influential position, and that, if he could find none for me, he desired that I should go back to Spain. Finally he promised me to settle this matter as speedily as possible, and I then took leave and returned to this city. I am now waiting for orders and I am afraid I shall have to wait pretty long. I should really prefer to remain here if I can have a sphere of action sufficiently large. But I have placed this matter entirely in the President's hands and shall be governed by his decision. Would you perhaps have the kindness to request him occasionally to end my suspense as soon as possible?