The Writings of Carl Schurz/To Heinrich Meyer, November 8th, 1866


Detroit, Nov. 8, 1866.[1]

No political victory has ever been more complete than that of the Republican majority in Congress and no defeat more humiliating than that of the President. But such a victory was, indeed, very necessary. In almost all of the Southern States the men who had started the rebellion were again holding the political power in their hands and a violent, often even a bloody, reaction had begun. The abolition of slavery and the introduction of free labor was again at stake. Everywhere the negro population was oppressed by laws which only stopped short of the reintroduction of slavery, and the President vetoed every bill designed to prevent this state of affairs. He insisted on leaving a free hand to the former rebels and on allowing them unconditionally to take part in the Government of the country.

Johnson is a very narrow man, obstinate and stubborn to an unscrupulous degree. He is vain like all persons who are not clever enough to see how little they know, and in spite of his past successes he is still hampered by the bad qualities of his low origin. He is a born demagogue and if he were a man of great talent he might in his present position become a menace to the Republic.

Well, we have succeeded in mastering Johnson at the right moment, and during the rest of his Administration Congress will rule the country without paying much attention to him. He may congratulate himself if he escapes an indictment and an impeachment. The mischief he has done so far consists in his having inflamed the South to bitter revolt against Congress and in having delayed the work of reconstruction so that it will require more time than necessary. Let us hope that matters may now proceed peaceably.

  1. Translated from the German.