The Writings of Carl Schurz/To J. F. Potter, April 12th, 1860


Milwaukee, April 12, 1860.

You have learned the result of our judicial election. To be defeated is bad; but to see Republicans rejoice over it is worse. I did, indeed, expect that Sloan would be elected by a small majority, but I must confess Dixon's sweep does not surprise me very much. Sloan has been defeated by his own friends, or rather the friends of the State-rights cause. The fire-eaters of our party (and you know there are such, who are always apt to undo by overdoing) threatened to bolt unless Sloan would make a public statement of his views on the State-rights question. Shortly after the convention, while I was travelling in Indiana, I wrote Sloan that there was some difficulty in Milwaukee and Racine, probably instigated by A. D. Smith and his particular friends, and that he, probably, would be called upon to write a letter for publication. I told him that I would consider it very improper for a candidate for a judicial office to make a public statement of his views on matters which might come up to him for adjudication; but if it was necessary that something should be done, I advised him to write private letters to some prominent Republicans, enabling them to endorse him as a State-rights man, without publishing the letters. When I got home, the first thing that met my eye was a letter from Sloan stating that my advice had come too late, and that he had yielded to the urgent demands of the State-rights men. He had, indeed, showed himself to be driven into doing a very weak thing and doing it in a very weak manner too. You have probably seen Sloan's letter to his “dear brother” in Janesville. That letter has cost him over two thousand votes, for it made even State-rights men doubt of the good sense of their candidate. So there was no fire, no enthusiasm, no alacrity in the fight on our side, while Dixon's friends were active and working in all parts of the State. Recent developments show that the farm-mortgage interest went in for Dixon, while, during the campaign, Sloan had to bear the odium of it. In short, there was foul play, discontent, disaffection, treachery everywhere; men who had worked to get Sloan nominated and voted for him in the convention, turned right against him as soon as his letter appeared, and our opponents found in the apparent make-up of the thing a new ground to place their batteries upon. Thus the thing was done. Meanwhile we have to rally for a new battle. The Democrats are no stronger than they were before, and, whatever may have happened, the State is sure for the Chicago nominee by an increased majority.

You have heard of our municipal election here. We have made large inroads upon the Democracy, and if our Republicans had believed in the possibility of victory, victory would have been ours. The whole work was done by a few young men. The old stagers did not move. I venture to predict that, if Douglas is not nominated at Charleston and the Chicago Convention gives us a good Republican candidate, Milwaukee will give us a majority next fall, and the Second ward will be the Republican banner ward of the city. Seward stock is rising in the West. Bates may have gained a little by his letter, but he will not get the foreign vote. I think that Seward stands the best chance, but, if he should fail to get the nomination, Lincoln's and Wade's prospects are the next best.

Give my best regards to Washburn and Doolittle. I shall reply to their letters as soon as I can find time. You have won golden opinions by your defense of the freedom of debate. Lovejoy and yourself did nobly. Your two or three sentences and determined action were better than a long and eloquent speech.

As to your running for Congress again next fall I think you will hardly escape the nomination and we shall reëlect you as a matter of course. How they feel in the rural districts I do not know, but I suppose it is all the same way. It would be difficult to unite upon any other man, and now, more than ever before, we want Representatives who stand their ground.