The Writings of Carl Schurz/To J. F. Potter, August 12th, 1859


Milwaukee, Aug. 12, 1859.

My dear Friend: I hoped to see you here some time last week, but, being disappointed in that respect, I have to write you a few lines. The note of the Atlas, which I had endorsed, was extended for sixty days, and the matter settled for the present in that way. I have given them a further endorsement so as to keep them running until the campaign commences. The party will then have to take care of the concern, if necessary.

Did you hear from Doolittle?[1] I understand he is not inclined to do anything in regard to [the] gubernatorial contest. This is a disappointment to me. I thought that his advice, joined to yours, would carry a great weight with it in the convention. I shall follow your advice not to withdraw at present. The general impression is that my chances are improving as the convention approaches, but I am, of course, the last man to judge. I feel that my being a candidate before the convention is a dangerous experiment, but there is no backing out at present. I must rely on the energetic support of my friends. I hope you will be a delegate to the convention. Do so by all means. Did you write to Washburn and will he be there?

I think the best way to manage things would be to have a kind of informal consultation, a committee of the whole, before the vote is taken, and to discuss matters there. I saw Randall yesterday and had a talk with him and several of his friends. He thinks he can get the nomination, but he seems to be a little troubled about the election. There is one thing that puzzles them very much. Their opinion is, that a ticket can hardly be successful without there being a German on it; now if he should be nominated they would have to find some new man (for I have declared definitely that I shall accept no nomination under him). Who shall be that man? And suppose we find one, where is the place for that man? There is, I think, no German in the State suited for the position of lieutenant-governor. They might think of the treasury, but can they discard Hastings? There is no German Republican, as far as I know, who would be fit for attorney-general. Where, then, find the man, and if the man can be found, where the place for that man? There Randall's friends are at a deadlock and they know it. I think that this matter if calmly explained in an informal meeting of the delegates before the opening of the convention might decide the contest. I should not wonder if this very difficulty should induce Randall to decline.

At all events I should be very glad to have you go to the convention as a delegate. If consistent, let me know what I may expect of Doolittle and Washburn. Doolittle's influence would be very valuable. I do not like the idea of writing to him myself. Randall's friends boast of being sure of the whole delegation from Walworth. Is that so?

When shall I have the pleasure of seeing you here?[2]

  1. James R. Doolittle, U. S. Senator.
  2. The following letter throws an interesting sidelight on the youthful Schurz:
    Racine, Sept. 10, 1859. 

    Dear Judge [Potter]: I hoped to meet you at Milwaukee, but did not. I am going to try and raise $100 in Kenosha and $100 in Racine towards the amount, $750, for which our friend, Mr. Schurz, is liable as endorser for the German Republican papers. I said to one friend that I thought Mr. Durkee would pay fifty dollars, Washburn fifty, you fifty, and I fifty, making two hundred dollars of the amount. Now whatever course the German Republicans may pursue in this election makes no difference to me and should make no difference with our friends in this matter. But now is the time for the true and wise friends of Col. Schurz to take care of him, and not allow him to be sacrificed. He is a man of noble impulses, and of the highest order of genius. But like men of that character he needs some men of strong practical good sense to act for him at this juncture, which is perhaps the crisis of his life as well as the crisis in our Republican battle so far as Wisconsin is concerned. The people, if the German Republicans should, as some anticipate, bolt Randall, will place these two facts in juxtaposition, and no explanations will ever separate them. The German Republicans urged Mr. Schurz's nomination for governor. The convention by a large majority nominated Randall for governor and unanimously tendered any other office on the ticket to Mr. Schurz, which he declined. The German Republicans bolted the nomination of Randall, and the inference, whether right or wrong, will be irreparably drawn in the popular mind that the Germans bolted because a German was not nominated for governor. It will not remove the inference to say they would accept Hanchett or somebody else. Nothing could do so much to rekindle into a flame all the elements of American Know-Nothingism among our people, and Mr. Schurz, our most eloquent and gifted orator, would be crushed between the upper and nether millstone, between German Know-Nothingism and American Know-Nothingism, and our Republican party at once divided by the element which I had hoped was forever laid aside. Dear Judge, will you see that our good Republican friends in your neighborhood raise say one hundred dollars towards paying off his liability by endorsement? Please remember us kindly to Mrs. P. I remain ever devotedly yours,

    If you do not come and see me, write me.