The Writings of Carl Schurz/To President Roosevelt, December 29th, 1903


24 East 91st., New York, Dec. 29, 1903.

According to your wish I herewith return to you Mr. [James S.] Clarkson's letter, and I thank you sincerely for the kind words you have written me about my paper on the negro question.[1] They were most welcome and, I assure you, I appreciate them very highly. Of the many letters I have received on this occasion, yours was certainly the most gratifying surprise. Now let us hope that my appeal may exercise some influence on the Southern mind.

I thank you also for the explanations you have given me of your action on various subjects with regard to which my sympathies have always been, and are now, in point of principle on your side. You are undoubtedly right in saying that the race question in its various phases and effects presents a much more bewildering puzzle than the question of capital and labor—perplexing as that is—because matters of mere interest are accessible to reason and argument, while matters of feeling inflamed by prejudice usually are not. Therefore I deem it so important that the campaign of education against race-antagonism in the South should in the main be undertaken and carried on by Southern men and women who would at once disarm the charge of “foreign” interference with home conditions which will always confront Northern advisers. The deplorable excitement called forth by your comparatively scanty appointments of colored persons in the South is only an exhibition of the unreasonableness and injustice of the race-prejudice and of the spasmodic character of its eruptions, which we have to bear with patience in the hope that gradually the Southern mind may be made to open itself to a perception of the utter absurdity and banefulness of its racial hysterics.

In your letter you refer to the fact that you have occasionally taken the advice of Booker Washington about the appointment to office of colored persons. Pardon me for remarking that, when I found at the time mention of this fact in the newspapers, it caused me some anxiety—not as if I had feared that his advice might not be candid and wise, which it undoubtedly was, but because I thought that Booker Washington was so peculiarly valuable a man and his mission so important and at the same time so delicate that he should most carefully be kept free of all contact with politics—especially that part of politics which has to do with patronage. Do you not think so?

Let me add that, in memory of old times, it does me good to speak with you on things on which we substantially agree, while it makes me feel more keenly the sorrowful regret that there are other things of fundamental importance on which we differ. But no more of this now. I would only repeat that I thank you heartily for your kind letter; and I say this as one whose course is nearly run, who is retired from the activities of politics, except that he may now and then express in print his opinion on this or that matter of public interest, and to whom it is the greatest pleasure to find something to praise, instead of something to blame.

Wishing you and your family a happy new year, I am,

Sincerely yours.

  1. The article on “Can the South Solve the Negro Problem?” which follows.