The Writings of Carl Schurz/To Mrs. Schurz, July 25th, 29th, 1860


Alton, July 25, 1860.[1]

I was with Lincoln yesterday. He is the same kindly old fellow, quite as unpretentious and ingenuous as ever. The reception committee had reserved quarters for me at the hotel, and Lincoln was one of the first to knock at my door. He wears a linen sack-coat and a hat of doubtful age, but his appearance is neat and cleanly. We talked in my room nearly two hours. I was lying on my bed resting, when he came, and he insisted on my remaining so. He talked of the Presidential election with as much placid, cheerful frankness as if he were discussing the potato crop. He told me of all the letters and visits with which he was flooded, and said that he was not answering those asking for office and the like. “Men like you,” he added, “who have real merit and do the work, are always too proud to ask for anything; those who do nothing are always the most clamorous for office, and very often get it, because it is the only way to get rid of them. But if I am elected, they will find a tough customer to deal with, and you may depend upon it that I shall know how to distinguish deserving men from the drones.”

“All right, old Abe!” thought I.

In the evening I took supper with Lincoln. The Madam was very nicely dressed up and is already quite skillful in handling her fan. She chats fairly well and will adapt herself to the White House cleverly enough. Lincoln's boys are typical Western youngsters. One of them insisted on going about barefooted. After supper, to which a number of “leading men” had been invited, we lit our cigars and chatted. At eight o'clock the Wideawakes came to escort me to my mass-meeting in the capitol. I have never seen so large a torch-light procession. Lincoln insisted on accompanying us, although he had not appeared in public since his nomination. He declared that he must once hear “that tremendous speaker.” And so the Wideawakes surrounded “Old Abe” and me; thus arm in arm we marched to the capitol. The cheering was tremendous. My German speech was about the best I ever made. Then I spoke in English, and tried to do specially well. Lincoln sat directly in front of me all evening, watched every movement and applauded with tremendous enthusiasm. When I had finished, he came to me and shook hands and said: “You are an awful fellow! I understand your power now!” He presented me with a copy of his debate with Douglas, and he and Mrs. Lincoln impressed upon me that, on my next visit, I must be sure to bring you and we must be their guests.

I left Springfield this morning at five and arrived here at eight, well and cheerful and as ready for debate as ever.

Belleville, July 29, 1860.

It was my intention to write you yesterday, but you have no idea of the commotion in which I live. I have scarcely a moment to myself. With great effort and difficulty, I have succeeded in finishing two-thirds of my St. Louis speech and hope to be able to write the remainder to-morrow, Sunday; but I am compelled to close my door to all comers. It is to be the greatest speech of my life, and I know you will not be angry with me if my letters are somewhat shorter that my speech may be still better. I am utilizing every free moment for work.

There is to be a great demonstration here to-day; the entire town is decorated with flags and garlands. Hecker will be here and speak at the same meeting. The enthusiasm is at fever-heat. I have been in all respects highly successful. The Germans are coming to our side by hundreds and thousands. If things go everywhere as they did in Egypt,[2] where there were scarcely any Republican votes cast in 1856, Lincoln's election is inevitable.

Good Heavens! The cannon are thundering again, the drums are rumbling, the marshals are dashing by my window. Four and thirty maidens, clad in white, are waiting. Here's the committee coming for me. Good-bye!

  1. Translated from the German.
  2. The colloquial name for southern Illinois.