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Visit of the Hon. Carl Schurz to Boston/Address by Dr. E. B. de Gersdorff

< Visit of the Hon. Carl Schurz to Boston

Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen, — I am thankful for the privilege of welcoming our distinguished guest in behalf of his German countrymen. We recognize him as a statesman superior to many, inasmuch as he has always endeavored to keep himself in a position above party politics. This, at least, is what the Germans especially honor in the character and the public career of Mr. Schurz; and I do not know out the whole nation has lately inclined to that way of thinking, since it has selected for the highest offices men, not so much known to be thorough-going partisans, as thoroughly pure men of honesty and principle. When I make use of the word countrymen, I mean to do it in more senses than one; for first, of course, Mr. Schurz is by birth the countryman of us Germans, and we are proud of him; but, what is of more importance, he is, secondly, our countryman here and now as a naturalized citizen. In fact, he is the countryman of every man in this hall; for if naturalization does not make a countryman of any man in the country in which he lives, it means nothing. What the rights and the duties of a naturalized citizen are no one has better taught us by words and example than our honored guest; and it is only natural that the man who has laid down the principles of justice which enable the newly-arrived European immigrant to have his rights preserved, both in the country of his adoption and that of his birth, so that in due time he will, according to his intrinsic value, find, as it were, his specific gravity in the social scale, — that man, I say, will treat with the same humanity and justice the aborigines, and will allow them, according to their merits and capacity, to contribute their share to the development of the new history of mankind on this side of the Atlantic.

Let me take this occasion to assure Mr. Schurz that here, in the little German community of Boston, we have acknowledged and profited by his teachings. I mean to say that in this New-England corner, here by the side of the old cradle of English liberty; here, surrounded by an enormous majority of English and Irish descendants, — even here the Teutonic element has held its own. We have become, in the true sense of the word, naturalized and nationalized. This naturalization is a peculiar process; it works both ways, — on the new and on the old settlers. We have done here what Germans do wherever they go; whether as humble immigrants, or as conquerors with sword in hand, — we have both learned and taught, given and taken. We have imparted to our new fellow-citizens some of our ways of thinking and living; of our knowledge, habits, and arts. And we have gradually acquired some of their prominent achievements and qualities; and both parties, I think, have been the gainers. But, Mr. President, there exists another bond between our guest and some of his countrymen here, which I cannot omit to mention. We are not only countrymen as Germans, — fellow-citizens of this great Republic, — but we are also fellow-citizens in the republic of German letters represented by the German universities. Cives academici fuimus atque adhuc sumus.

I cannot forego the pleasure of reminding Mr. Schurz of that happy era in his life, and greet him with a hearty vivas! crescas! Thirty odd years ago, when some of us frequented, as happy students, the classic halls of Berlin. Leipsic, or Jena, the University of Bonn on the Rhine counted Mr. Schurz among her academic citizens. There it was that his future career began to shape itself; and there he first lifted up his voice for liberty with an eloquence presaging future renown, and flashing on his fellow-citizens with a brilliancy comparable only to that of a young Phillips forty years ago in Boston. And I call upon our guest to bear me out, when I contend that these seats of learning in Germany were, and always have been at the same time also the hearths and the nurseries of liberty; for these German high schools have what no other schools in any other country ever had to that extent, — namely, that great treasure of strength, that proud distinction of German universities, — academic liberty: a liberty superior to political freedom; a higher, a philosophical, and critical liberty of the mind and conscience; a liberty in teaching and learning uncontrolled, untamed by despotism, untramelled by church interference or protection, uncontaminated by any schemes for gain. And thus only they were able to produce and educate men who again and again have saved the liberties of the German nation.

But enough of this; pardon, gentlemen, my fond attachment to German schools. In politics I am a contented American citizen. Our honored friend and guest will sympathize with me. My hope and wish would be, that in his future career his work may lie in a direction which shall lead to foundation of independent universities, — of which we have in Boston and Harvard the promise, if not the very beginning. Now, once more, welcome, our guest, our German countryman! first German senator and Presidential councilor! Welcome, the man of civil reform, the financial adviser! Welcome, the German student of old! May he ever remain young!

The Chairman. Gentlemen, we want now to wind up this demonstration; and we want a man to do it who will do it with dignity, with grace, with humor, and with intelligence, — and that man is Colonel Theodore Lyman.