The Writings of Carl Schurz/To E. L. Godkin, November 23d, 1872


St. Louis, Nov. 23, 1872.

How cruel you are! The Nation makes me responsible for the disaster at Cincinnati, because I “had an opportunity to retrieve it, and missed it.” The truth is that the disaster might easily have been prevented, had not our friends, probably you and I among the rest, considered the nomination of Mr. Adams certain until the last ballot was taken. And when Greeley had a majority of the votes, a not inconsiderable number of the supporters of Adams changed to his side, many left the hall before the result of the ballot was announced and a demonstration on the spot had become impossible. In fact, the consternation was so great that scarcely anybody seemed to have a definite idea of what should or could be done. I did not find three of our friends together in spite of diligent search after the event.

Moreover, I had a reason for not putting myself too prominently forward in making a nomination, which perhaps few others will appreciate. I am foreign born, a circumstance which is thrown into my face but too frequently. I should not play the role of a President-maker, and it would not have been desirable for any candidate in this case to appear as my nominee. I had encountered so much of this kind of prejudice already, that I did not consider it wise to provoke it. Just in that sort of business I must appear as a follower. This feeling had much to do with determining my conduct at Cincinnati and afterwards. Still, I will not say now that it would not have been better to disregard such considerations in that emergency, if anything could have been effected. But we are all so much wiser after the event than before.

At the New York conference I came to the conclusion that it was too late for anything but a mere demonstration, and that there was no man upon whom measurably to unite the elements of the opposition, except Greeley. A third nomination then would probably have induced the Baltimore Convention to nominate a straight-out Democrat, which would have materially impeded the much-to-be-desired disintegration of that party. I will admit also, that I had much better hopes of Greeley in case of his success than you had, while Grant's reëlection appeared to me so heavily fraught with danger to the future of our republican institutions, that I could not, even indirectly, favor his success. His second Administration will show whether I was justified in these apprehensions. I fear I was.

But while taking this opportunity to suggest that you spare the slain and wounded after the fight, whose lot is by no means the most enviable, I really write for another purpose.

I shall be at New York next Friday and Saturday and possibly Sunday. I should be glad to exchange views with you about certain things likely to come up in Congress this winter, exspecially the civil service matter, the postal telegraph bill etc. I shall probably not be in a situation to do much if anything of importance this winter, but things may possibly take such a turn as to make it necessary for the defeated to take position, and I should be very glad to act in concert with you. Having missed you several times at your office, I would ask you to be kind enough to inform me, by addressing a line to me, care of Dr. Jacobi, 110 West 34th St., when I shall be sure to find you.

Grant has made a good beginning in which we must certainly support, and if our support is superfluous, applaud him. But the true test is still to come.