The Writings of Carl Schurz/To Mrs. Schurz, December 24th, 27th, 1860


Boston, Dec. 24, 1860.[1]

Yesterday and to-day I rested, to-morrow work begins again. I can tell you with great joy, that the danger of a Republican surrender to Southern demands has decreased more than ever. Lincoln himself stands firm as an oak, and his determination has communicated itself to the timid members of the party. The letters which I receive from Washington (and my correspondence with my friends who are there is most lively) have been full of encouraging news during the last few days. The bravery of our people seems to grow in the same measure in which the embarrassment of our adversaries increases. I have used all the time I could spare to feed the fire vigorously, and nearly every day I send my views and suggestions regarding the steps to be taken.

It seems probable that the matter will go well in Congress. But one thing has become almost certain. There will be a fight between the North and the South. How long it will continue will depend upon the determination with which it is carried on, that is to say, the greater the vigor of the North in handling the matter, the shorter will be the crisis. Then men of firmness and resources will come to the front, and it would not be strange if I were then called into service.

I shall probably not enter the ranks again, but it is quite possible that I shall be active in the preparations for this struggle, in the organization etc. As soon as the matter has reached the crucial point, I shall send to the different Republican governors a plan of organization which I recently worked out.

We live in a great age and we should not be less great than the demands which this age makes upon us. Unless all signs deceive me, the end of the political slave-power is close at hand. The Republican party has only to understand its strength, in order to accomplish at a blow one of the greatest reforms of our day. Why cannot I be in Congress now? I could say things there that would make our timid brothers heads swim. However, I am not as far removed from Congress as people think. I am at this moment busy with a speech which is to be delivered in Congress by one of the Representatives. Is that not amusing? Even though I cannot be there myself my speeches are making themselves heard there. I have already discovered traces of the effects of the letters which I have sent to Washington.

Dec. 27, 1860.

The secessionists are attempting to draw Virginia and Maryland into the movement. If they succeed, their next step will be to take possession of the city of Washington, which lies wedged in between Virginia and Maryland. As this will be done while Buchanan is still in office, or on the fourth of March, if the step is taken at all, military measures will have to be resorted to, not only that the policy of the next Administration may be carried out, but also, meantime, in order to make sure of Lincoln's coming into office at all. In my opinion, the whole disturbance can be prevented if the Northern States will arm themselves as soon as possible and show their readiness to fight for the preservation of the Union.

Such preparations and a demonstration of such a determination seem to me to be the only way in which the Southern desperadoes can be frightened out of their scheme. They assume that the Northerners will not fight. In this they are mistaken. The fighting spirit of the people is growing with the increasing boldness of our Representatives at Washington. In whatever way the struggle may break out, I am certain that it will be short. I shall write to Lincoln to-day to submit to him the outlines of a plan for the arming of the free States.

You see what matters I am brooding over most. I confess that often, while I am delivering a lecture, my thoughts wander to questions quite foreign to the subject of my discourse. That makes the “lecture business” repulsive to me. But what is the use? I must earn money and there is no way but to grind away at work. I want nothing more than to be in Washington, if only for a few days, but that's impossible.

The owners of the Atlantic Monthly sent for me the other day. I went to see them and they requested me to write for their magazine, at the rate of five dollars to eight dollars per page. That will be a good thing when I am finally able to work quietly again. . . . They advised me not to publish my speeches, for there is no sale for books at present.

  1. Translated from the German.