The Writings of Carl Schurz/To James A. Garfield, January 28th, 1881

New York City: G. P. Putnam's Sons, pages 88–91


Jan. 28, 1881.

Dear General: Your letter of the 20th inst. seems to indicate that you do not desire to give your assent in any manner that might be considered binding, to the appointment of Inspector Pollock as Commissioner of Indian Affairs, with the understanding that he should remain in place under your Administration. In suggesting his appointment I did, of course, not mean anything but that after the 4th of March he should have a full and fair chance to prove his efficiency. I recommended him knowing him, from my own official experience, to be in every essential respect well fitted for the place. I do not think that the appointment of Senator Bruce would be a fortunate one. The Commissioner ship of Indian Affairs requires a man of thorough business training and habits, indefatigable industry, quick judgment and great power of resistance. I fully recognize Senator Bruce's excellent qualities, but they are not such as would fit him for the perplexing and arduous duties of that office. He appears to be rather of an indolent disposition, and I am inclined to think he would soon feel very uncomfortable in the Indian Office, which is one of the most difficult and trying positions under the Government. However, if you desire to leave matters in statu quo until the 4th of March and then make new arrangements, I will drop it here, only repeating that you will need in the Interior Department and the Indian Office men of capacity, working energy, experience and great firmness of character, to guard your Administration against damaging accidents.

You ask me whether I do not think that Wayne McVeagh would be a proper man to form the connecting link between your Administration and the independent element. I esteem Wayne McVeagh very highly, and my relations with him are those of warm personal friendship. I should be very happy to see him in your Cabinet, and I sincerely hope he will be there. His general correspondence with the independent Republicans, however, would not be as intimate and confidential as it would be between them and General Walker.

But permit me to suggest that it would probably be an exceedingly good thing for your Administration to have both McVeagh and Walker in it. I cannot impress upon you too strongly the necessity of having in the Interior Department a man who can be depended upon to put that most vulnerable and dangerous point of the Administration in a condition of safety. With regard to this point, if I had the responsibility of constructing a Cabinet, the geographical would not have a feather's weight with me. Let me repeat that the geographical consideration appears of great importance only before the formation of the Cabinet, and perhaps one day after it, and is then never heard of again. General Grant had in his Cabinet at one time five men from the States east of the Alleghany mountains, a fact which was scarcely remembered at that time, and the only censure passed upon the Cabinet was that the men composing it were in some instances not the right kind of persons. Believe me, if your Secretary of the Interior is good, nobody will ask where he comes from a week after his appointment. If he turns out badly, it will not be taken as an excuse that he was selected for geographical reasons. I speak of this with so much warmth and urgency because I know the Interior Department and all the difficulties and dangers connected with it; because I have the policies successfully inaugurated in several of its branches very much at heart and would greatly deplore to see them spoiled, and because I am convinced, from personal observation and experience, that Walker is far better equipped for its business than any man so far mentioned in connection with it, in fact far better than any man I know.

As the Cabinet is the subject of frequent discussions here, I have now and then mentioned Walker's name, and in every instance the unanimous judgment was that his appointment would be almost too good a thing to hope for. I can only add that such an appointment would be hailed by every well-wisher of the Republic in general and your Administration in particular with the greatest satisfaction, while the appointment of any man of indifferent or doubtful qualifications to so enormously difficult and responsible a position would be likely to become the cause of great regret to you.

Pardon this reiteration. My own interest in the matter is only that of an ordinary American citizen. Yours is that of the responsible head of the Government.