The Writings of Carl Schurz/To Mrs. Schurz, March 2d, 5th, 9th, 1860


Milwaukee, March 2, 1860.[1]

Last evening I returned from the State convention. With great enthusiasm and without a dissenting vote, I was placed at the head of the State delegation [to go to the Republican National Convention at Chicago]; and to-morrow I shall send you my short speech of acceptance. A. D. Smith was very badly beaten and Scott Sloan was nominated as chief justice. So far all is well.

Now for something more serious. Last evening Booth was again arrested by the United States marshal on account of his opposition to the fugitive-slave law. This case brings the question of State-rights to an issue. We shall now have the final decision of the great contest between the State of Wisconsin and the United States Supreme Court. It is really dreadful that that rascal Booth is involved in this case and that the great cause has to bear the burden of his sins. But the principles that must be maintained are of so lofty a nature that all other considerations vanish. The supreme court of Wisconsin will be requested next Wednesday to issue a writ of habeas corpus, and in about two weeks the great argument for the support of this case will have to be made. I have been chosen to make that argument and have agreed to do so when my other matters shall have been attended to. I leave here to-morrow to meet my appointments. It is still undecided when the supreme court will take up the matter; the extent of my journey will depend upon this. If it should become very urgent, I should not go to Philadelphia, as that would necessitate my giving up all my appointments. It imposes a lot of work upon me, but it is most profitable.

This is my birthday. Thirty-one years old! I have grown rapidly without growing old. I am still young in strength, ambition and affection. The serious side of life has, indeed, taken a firmer hold of me, but I am as hale as I was ten years ago.

Chicago, March 5, 1860.

I have never seen such political excitement as that which at present makes Chicago seem to stand on its head. Douglas or anti-Douglas is the battle-cry. I arrived Saturday and that evening spoke at two meetings: first, at the German Theatre, where our fellow-countrymen were so crowded together that an apple could not have fallen between them, and many hundred more stood outside in vain trying to get in; and then at the American meeting, in Metropolitan Hall, where at least four thousand persons were packed like sardines, while fully two thousand more filled the streets and listened to several speakers. My reception at the American meeting was tremendously—indescribably enthusiastic. The audience fairly trembled with excitement.

The Republican headquarters is crowded from early morning until late at night and is a continuous mass-meeting. “Long John” [Wentworth] commands like a field-marshal and everything seems to proceed in military fashion. It is really ludicrous to see how even the most quiet persons have lost their senses. The Democrats are also making the most strenuous efforts, but it is generally believed that the Republicans will carry Chicago by their old majority.

South Bend, Indiana, March 9, 1860.

Since I wrote you from Jacksonville, I have had hardly a moment's rest. I was actually unable to find a half-hour's leisure. Our German brothers in Terre Haute and Evansville thought so much of me that they would scarcely allow me to go to bed; and before I was sound asleep, I was wakened by their serenade. This week has really been a hard one and I have been compelled to make great efforts. I have passed three nights on the train, and only one of these in a sleeper. I arrived here a half hour ago (it's now 10 A.M.), and now, at last, I am to have a day to myself. This life on the train is abominable; for breakfast indescribable beefsteak, tough as tanned leather, warmed-up potatoes and saleratus “biscuits” that smell like green soap. Ditto at noon, ditto at night; then the lecture and the same answers to the same compliments, and finally to bed, quite worn out; and the next morning I am on the train again. I am heartily tired of this now and am delighted at the prospect of soon being at home.

The political situation is excellent here. You have doubtless already heard of the surprisingly great success at Chicago. That is a severe blow for Douglas, perhaps the most severe one he could have received under the circumstances. There is great delight over the result among the Republicans. The news was greeted with joyful salutes almost everywhere. I believe that this Republican victory completely destroys Douglas's prospects for the nomination at Charleston. In my opinion, they were never very good, but a Democratic victory in the Chicago election would have given him new prestige. Here in Indiana things look better than I had supposed. The German vote is coming over to our side with increasing numbers, and I have little doubt that we will carry Indiana in the election. My Springfield speech has been very widely read here in the West. In Indiana alone three or four editions have been printed. It has been in almost everybody's hands. Indiana is the only State in which strong sympathy for Bates has been perceptible; elsewhere he is not mentioned. Seward is evidently gaining. If Douglas is not nominated in Charleston, I consider it most probable that Seward will get the nomination in Chicago. If Douglas is nominated, Lincoln will probably be the man for our side. I should be very well satisfied with either.

  1. Translated from the German.