The Writings of Carl Schurz/To Rutherford B. Hayes, July 5th, 1876


St. Louis, Mo., July 5, 1876.

Your kind letter of June 27th has been forwarded to me. I can only thank you for the confidential frankness with which you speak to me and may assure you that this confidence is not misplaced. I am exceedingly glad to know that your views on civil service reform agree so well with those I ventured to submit, and that you desire to make that reform “the issue of the canvass.” In compliance with the desire you expressed at our interview last Saturday, I submit the following draft of a paragraph for your letter of acceptance:

“I have long been convinced of the necessity of a thorough and permanent reform of the civil service. Dishonest officers will have to expect from me only the most rigorous execution of the law and the strictest enforcement of personal accountability. But the reform must not confine itself to mere changes of persons, it requires a change of system. The Constitutional relations of the Executive and the Legislative branches of the Government with regard to appointments to office, as correctly defined in the Republican platform, shall be inflexibly observed. The principles acted upon by the wise founders of this Government must be our rules of conduct. They did not mean the civil service to become a system of political rewards, spoils, patronage and favoritism. They regarded not party services, but ability, honesty and fidelity as the only true qualifications for appointment and promotion. They meant that the officer should be secure in his tenure as long as his personal character remained untarnished, and performance of his official duties satisfactory. They meant that the public officer should owe his whole duty to the Government and the people. They neither expected nor desired from him any partisan service. The growth of the government machinery may have rendered a judicious selection of officers all over the country by the Executive more difficult, but this difficulty is to be obviated by well regulated and fixed methods of ascertaining the fitness of candidates, and the permanency of this system may be insured by legal enactment. Upon these principles I shall, if elected, organize and conduct my Administration, and its whole energy will be devoted to the task of establishing and perpetuating this reform.”

This paragraph may at first sight appear somewhat longer than you desire to have it, but the subject is of such paramount importance and it is so necessary to show a clear and complete understanding of the question and to avoid the least appearance of equivocation, that, as I think, not a single point should be sacrificed to the mere charm of brevity. Its fearless straightforwardness and completeness will undoubtedly with great effect appeal to the best impulses of the popular heart. To fight for such a program would, even in case of defeat, be glorious enough. But to succeed with it in the election, as I trust you will, and then faithfully to carry out such a reform, will place him who does it in the first rank of the best names in American history.

You ask me about the propriety of introducing the one-term principle. My impression is that it might appear well at the close of the above paragraph and with direct reference to it. It would be calculated to strengthen the earnestness of the reform pledge.

Now another matter. You say that you do not deem it necessary to refer to the currency question again. There I venture to differ with you. The equivocal position in which the Democrats have placed themselves by demanding the repeal of the resumption clause furnishes us one of our main weapons of attack. I have already assailed that point in my paper. But neither is the Republican platform clear enough in that respect. It is indeed important that you should strengthen our position. Permit me to propose to you the following paragraph:

“On the currency question I have frequently expounded my views in public and stand by my record. I regard every law of the United States concerning the payment of any form of our public indebtedness, the legal-tenders included, as constituting a pledge and moral obligation of the Government which must in good faith be adhered to. Moreover, I am convinced that the feeling of uncertainty inseparable from the existence of an irredeemable paper currency with its incidental fluctuations of value and the restless agitation it causes is one of the great obstacles standing in the way of a revival of business confidence and the return of prosperity. That uncertainty can be put an end to only in one way: by the resumption of specie payments, restoring to the business of the country a safe basis; and the sooner this is accomplished the greater will be the benefit to all our economic interests and all classes of society.”

This, I think, would place you on an unassailable ground and give us a great advantage of position, especially in the State of New York. It may appear again a little long, but I would ask you to consider that never in American history was there a letter of acceptance written of such exceeding importance, and for which the people looked with so much anxious interest.

Day after to-morrow, Friday, I shall pass through Columbus at noon and can stay until 6:30. I should be very glad to have a conversation with you on these and some other points in your letter of acceptance before it comes out. If this be agreeable to you, may I suggest that you be kind enough to ask Captain Lee to meet me at the depot and to take me where I may see you?