The Writings of Carl Schurz/To N. B. Judd, August 27th, 1861


Madrid, Aug. 27, 1861.

These lines may show you that I am still alive and well, although not half as proud of our fighting brethren in the United States as I was when we met at New York. These are indeed dark days for American pride, but if the war brings about the final destruction of the slavery-system, as it bids fair to do, the price we are paying is not too heavy. I am homesick and wish I had never taken this mission. It is easier work to fight in America than to disguise our defeats in Europe. But let us hope for brighter days.

This letter is written for an object. You can do me a great service if you are willing, of which I have no doubt. I have considerable property interests in the city of Hamburg which want looking after.[1] For this purpose it is exceedingly desirable that I should spend a few days there some time this fall. In order to get there I have to pass through Prussia, unless I take the circuitous route by London. You are probably aware that in consequence of my connection with the revolutionary trouble of '48 and '49 my relations with the Prussian Government are not of the most friendly nature. Some time ago the King of Prussia granted an amnesty to the political offenders of that period, but whether its provisions apply to my case I do not know.

Now I would not undertake to set my foot upon Prussian soil without having previously come to some understanding with that Government, and in no case would I avail myself of the privileges of my present position for the purpose of giving offense in that way. I would not even go to Hamburg by way of London if my presence there could be disagreeable to Prussia. In my present situation as Minister of the United States I can not very well afford to treat with that Government myself or to appear as a supplicant before it. But I think you might, if you should deem it consistent to do so, ask the Secretary of Foreign Affairs in an unofficial and informal way whether the Government would have any objection to my crossing the Prussian territory on my way from Belgium to Hamburg. I have hardly any doubt that motives of international courtesy will induce them to grant the request.

You may assure them on your (and my) word as a gentleman, that the voyage will be undertaken for none but purposes of a strictly private nature; that for a number of years, in fact since my emigration to the United States, I have been in no connection whatever with the political affairs or parties of Germany, and that, while on Prussian soil, I shall conform myself to whatever restrictions the Government may reasonably impose upon me. Of course, if such restrictions should be incompatible with my character and position, I would then rather give up the project. It is hardly necessary that, aside from these statements, I should give you any further assurances of the perfect loyalty of my intentions.

You would greatly oblige me by conducting this affair in as quiet and private a manner as possible. I am so tired of seeing my name in the newspapers as to studiously avoid everything that might draw public attention upon me.

This is the service I wish you to do me, if you can. My wife and children are at present at a water-cure establishment near Hamburg and I desire to take them back with me to Madrid. This is a dull place, and if our affairs did not keep me busy, the ennui would kill me. I have no doubt you like Berlin, the German Athens.

  1. This referred to property of Mrs. Schurz, coming from her father.