The Writings of Carl Schurz/To Gerrit Smith, September 14th, 1858


Watertown, Wis., Sept. 14, 1858.

Your kind letter was to me a very agreeable surprise. I was almost sure that the ideas on true Americanism set forth in my speech would meet your approbation, but I had no right to expect so encouraging an applause. It seems to me, that the only way to fight the prescriptive tendencies of the misnamed Americanism successfully is by meeting it with an array of positive ideas. It will make a sensible Know-Nothing ashamed of himself.

It is impossible for me to accept your kind invitation to take part in the political campaign in New York, first, because I am not sufficiently conversant with New York politics, which do not appear to be quite so plain and simple as they ought to be, and secondly, because my business affairs do not permit my absence from here. The crisis has been rather hard on me, and although I would be happy to devote all my energies and my whole life to the propagation of ideas and principles which I consider just, yet I have to consider this now as a luxury which I cannot very extensively indulge in. I have, however, accepted an invitation of the Republican central committee of Illinois and shall spend a week there; besides this, I have to do a little work in my Congressional district. It would be impossible to devote any more time to political agitation this fall; I have to submit to the stern demands of life.

I understand your hostility to the Republican organization of the Eastern States perfectly well. I deplore with you the turn which things have taken and especially the course which the Tribune is following.[1] But I do not know whether I would have gone so far as you have, unless I considered the Republican party past redemption. I do not know what it is in New York, and I am not able to judge; but it is not so here. I believe that in the Western States that wing of the Republican party, which I might rather call the philosophical than the radical wing, will gradually obtain the control of the policy of that party. I think we shall be able to raise the standard of Republicanism gradually. We are now in one of those periods of reaction which are always unproductive. But that will pass away, I hope, before 1860. At all events, we shall struggle all we can to subdue the bargaining spirit which is gangrening all political organizations.

Permit me to say, sir, that there is no man in America for whom I entertain a deeper respect than for you.