The Writings of Carl Schurz/To W. M. Grosvenor, June 5th, 1872


Washington, June 5, 1872.

I have received your letters of May 28th and 31st and June 2d. They came all at the same time. You are rather hard on me. I think I have about as much at stake in this business as any one, but I look at things from a different point of view.

1. I do not think that, as things now run, success is certain or even very probable. There is evidently a reaction against the white hat, which may become very dangerous in the Baltimore Convention. The opposition in the Democratic ranks is becoming more determined every day, and unfortunately it is not confined to men like Voorhees, the Bourbons, but many of the best men of the party, who before the Cincinnati Convention were heartily with us, are in it. A split of considerable dimensions at Baltimore is no longer improbable, and we can scarcely hope to make up by gains from the Republican ranks what is thus lost on the Democratic side.

2. The free-trade people are going to do something, and you cannot prevent them. Their following is not large, but if they place the nomination of Charles Francis Adams before the country, it will find an echo outside of their distinctive ranks, while, as their man, Adams will only serve to break the lines of the whole movement. I know what is going on, and this thing will come.

3. It is, therefore, absolutely necessary that an effort be made to unite the opposition forces. I can do more in that direction than any other man, but I cannot do it if I now take part in the campaign. The difficulty really consists in there being no harmony between our candidates and the true spirit of the movement; and the worst of it is that this cannot be denied. A good many of the opponents of Greeley think that something can still be done to restore to the movement its original character. I, myself, think there is one chance in ten. But it is certain that as long as it is thought that something still can be done to that end, the opposition forces will not unite. And we are exposed to accidents which we shall not be able to control.

4. Under such circumstances, I think it wise that an effort be made to get the representative men of the different opposition elements together. There is a conference proposed, to take place at New York some time about June 2Oth, to which prominent Greeley men and Anti-Greeley men are invited to consult together—probably also some prominent Democrats who are likely to exert an influence in the Baltimore Convention. At that conference the question will be discussed, whether it is desirable to change the alternatives of the campaign, whether it is possible to do so and, if so, how it is to be done. If the question of possibility is answered in the negative, many of those who now hold off will consent to do the only thing by which Grant can be defeated. Nothing will satisfy them that this must be done, except that all other possibilities are exhausted. I feel very much the same way. When you tell me that I must necessarily make a vigorous speech for the Cincinnati ticket now, I have simply to say that I can advocate the election of that ticket only upon the ground that it is the only way to beat Grant, and that there is absolutely no chance for another practicable alternative.

If I attempted to ratify now, the words would stick in my throat. It is against my nature and I cannot do it. I shall do my best when the issues are finally made up.

Now, you must be at that conference in New York. I shall have you notified more particularly; and if you can suggest the names of some prominent Liberals in Missouri, Illinois and Indiana, whose standing and reputation are such as to add weight to their advice and action, I wish you would do so.

Do not blame me for my silence. I cannot speak now, and your hard words cannot make me speak. These four weeks since the Cincinnati Convention are among the unhappiest periods of time I ever went through. What loss of reputation I may suffer by a course which many do not understand, will be little compared [with] the disappointment caused by the loss of so great an opportunity as we had.

It is my intention to leave Washington on Friday night, unless developments in the Senate render it probable that Congress will sit beyond June 10th. I want very much to go to St. Louis and I hope I shall be able to do so.

Last Sunday, Sam Bowles was here. He thinks just as I do. This evening, I shall see Horace White who, as is reported to me from New York, is pretty much of the same mind.