The Writings of Carl Schurz/To Horace Greeley, May 11th, 1872


Washington, May 11, 1872.

Your two letters[1] have reached me. I thank you for the remark at the close of your note of yesterday that if there was anything in your letter of the 8th that seemed to imply a lack of appreciation of my position and services you pray me to believe that the implication does injustice to your intentions. I am not sensitive about such things, I am only anxious that the reform movement, which I have zealously served to promote, should bear as good fruit as possible, and it was that anxiety which dictated my letter of the 6th. There is one thing I desire you to know and depend upon. Whatever difference of judgment there may be between us I shall, in our intercourse, always tell you the truth exactly as I understand it, without color or concealment; and if there be anything unpleasant in it, I shall tell it to you directly instead of to other people and rely upon your good sense and generous impulses for a just appreciation of my motives. In that way I can serve the cause I have at heart and you, personally, better than in any other. I tried the same thing with Grant when he made his first mistakes, and failed. Were he not so narrow-minded as he is, he would probably now remember with regret some interviews I had with him.

I wish to dispel some misapprehensions you seem to be laboring under. If you believe the “revenue reformers,” or, if you prefer the word, the “free-traders,” spent money to bring delegations from the South to Cincinnati, you are surely mistaken. The Southern delegates brought on in that way were in the Davis interest. I know of what I speak. The free-traders did not spend a penny. Those from New York, of whom you say that they were no Republicans, were very [few] in number and exercised no influence.

On the whole, I think that element is entitled to great consideration. In the West it started and directed the movement and made it strong; without it the movement would never have assumed its great proportions. In the Convention its conduct was honorable throughout and conciliatory, and now it ought not to be disregarded or treated with neglect.

As to the Germans in the West, the temperance question is not the only nor the main difficulty, nor the tariff question either. They went in for reform in the best and largest sense of the term. What they found most objectionable in the Convention and its results was the appearance of the movement being taken possession of and used by just that class of politicians they thought they were fighting against. Whether right or wrong, that was the impression, and just there is the difficulty in enlisting the best men and their best efforts in the support of the Cincinnati ticket. If such apprehensions can be allayed, it will help very materially. From the large number of letters I have received, I enclose you one coming from an American; you will pardon me for withholding the signature as I have no right to give it. Most of the letters I have of this kind are from Germans whose support would be very valuable.

If you would in your letter in reply to the notification of your nomination say something to disarm such apprehensions, in strong and unequivocal language, for instance, pledge yourself to appoint, at once after coming into power, a civil service commission to determine removals and appointments, the latter to [be] made strictly in accordance with the rule laid down in the civil service resolution, the 6th in the Cincinnati platform, it would undoubtedly have a good effect. You are certainly right in saying that there is no hurry about your letter. Its importance cannot be overestimated. All I care about is that this movement should have the greatest possible success, not only in the campaign, but in its ultimate results, and you will not misinterpret me when I say that although I abstained in the Convention from exerting any influence in favor of this or that candidate, I feel some personal responsibility in the matter.

  1. Of May 8th and 10th. The former is printed in full in Schurz's 3 Reminiscences, 350-51. The only important paragraph in the letter of the 10th was: “If there was any sentence in my letter of the 8th that seemed to imply a lack of appreciation of your position and services, I pray you to believe that the implication does injustice to my intention. I am sure that you have ever meant to do the right, though your judgment on important points differs widely from that of


    Horace Greeley.”