The Writings of Carl Schurz/To Friedrich Althaus, November 5th, 1858


Watertown, Nov. 5, 1858.[2]

For some time, I have again been swimming on the crest of the wave of public life, and as I have resolved to make my very best efforts to succeed, complete concentration is necessary. For several days, I have again enjoyed the comfort of my domestic life without interruption, and I beg of you to conclude from the fact that I write to you at once that I have waited for such a quiet moment to resume our correspondence.

We are still somewhat under the influence of the excitement of recent months. The anti-slavery party has made new and strenuous efforts in the political campaign of this year, and we are now literally resting on our laurels. In all the Northern States we have achieved an uninterrupted succession of the most brilliant victories this country has ever witnessed; we have stormed almost the last citadels of our opponents, and even in Illinois, where it is uncertain whether Douglas has won or lost, there has been an emphatic protest against the Administration of Buchanan. If the Republican party is wise enough in its politics to hold the ground we have gained, we are sure of the Presidential election in the year 1860 and the political supremacy of the slave-power will be impossible.

If I mention to you the fact that my name has penetrated beyond the borders of Wisconsin and the Western States during the last fight, and that I have won a national reputation, I do not speak of this fact boastfully, but because I know that it will give you pleasure. A speech which I made in Chicago has been read from Maine to Minnesota; one million copies have been printed and distributed and the newspapers have given it boundless praise.[3] I am sending you a copy of it and also a copy of an academic address which I delivered last summer at Beloit College, one of the best institutions of this State and of the entire West.

There is soon to be a great change in our domestic life. We intend to settle in Milwaukee, but we shall not entirely break up our household here. Margarethe and the children will have a hired house in Milwaukee during the winter and will pass the summer here, in our pretty country home. The railway connections will make it possible for me to be here at least once a week, probably oftener, and so the interruption of our family life will not be too trying. I have assurances that promise me a good law practice, and my political reputation will naturally be a great help. I shall then dispose of my property here at the first favorable opportunity. At present, the prospects are not especially brilliant, as financial conditions in the West are only slowly recovering from the recent crisis. It was terrible, and its lingering consequences are still very depressing. We have all suffered, and probably years will be required to remove the last traces of it. Only the lawyers are “doing well,” as the phrase here is.

Some time ago, I was made a member of the board of regents of the University of Wisconsin. It is located in Madison, one of the most beautiful spots in the United States. It is, of course, not of the standard of German universities, but rather of that of the German “gymnasium,” only more liberal and without the elementary classes. Yet the lecture system has been introduced into some courses. The instruction of modern languages is limited to German, French and English. There are excellent men among the professors; the conditions of college life are good and social relations are pleasant. How would such a position please you? If you were here, a mere suggestion from me would probably suffice.

  1. Schurz's intimate fellow-student at Bonn.
  2. Translated from the German.
  3. The Irrepressible Conflict,” delivered in Chicago, Sept. 28, 1858. Speeches (1865), 9-37.