Harper's Weekly Editorials on Carl Schurz/The Speech of Senator Schurz 1

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Harper's Weekly Editorials on Carl Schurz
Harper's Weekly
The Speech of Senator Schurz
From Harper's Weekly, September 2, 1871, p. 810.


THE SPEECH OF SENATOR SCHURZ.


Mr. Schurz is a Senator of such ability and character, and his influence is so great among the Germans, who in this country are naturally Republicans, that his opinions upon public questions command attention, not only from their intrinsic value, but from their probable effect. Mr. Schurz, is perhaps the most philosophic of our statesmen. Those who recall his speeches both at the West and in the East during the closing political campaign against slavery in 1860 will remember the breadth and insight which marked them. And he was one of those who did not disguise his conviction, even before that final struggle in debate, that the question would soon and inevitably be settled in another field. Into that field, also, he went when the settlement came, returning from Spain, whither President Lincoln had sent him as minister. Removing from Wisconsin to Missouri, where there is a large German element in the population, he was connected with the press until sent by the Republicans to the Senate.

His position there his been eminent from his entrance. His mastery of a language not native to him is such that his style is even elegant; while, like Mr. Sumner, he has a certain conscience in his intellect which gives moral force to his intellectual conclusions. In the Senate he has discussed national questions upon truly political and not merely party principles. A Republican, so to say, by nature, because by nature a lover of justice and progress, he has not hesitated to defend Republican principles against what have sometimes seemed to him Republican errors of method. He has advocated amnesty and a thorough reform of the civil service, introducing an elaborate bill for that purpose; and he vigorously opposed the San Domingo treaty and the removal of Senator Sumner from the chairmanship of the Foreign Committee. In all his speeches there is the same reliance upon principle, without which there is no real statesmanship, and of which there is a curious impatience in the English and American mind.

The recent address of Mr. Schurz to his countrymen in Chicago was anticipated with interest, because it was supposed that he would express himself with frank hostility to the President. But it was a calm and temperate discussion of the political situation, the moral of which was that, while his own party had made mistakes, it yet favors a liberal, generous, and constitutional policy; while the angry condition which occasioned what seems to him mistaken legislation was produced by the malignant course of the Democratic party. In his judgment the interest of the country requires the sincerest acquiescence in the settlement secured by the last three amendments to the Constitution. The prejudice against them must be overcome by patriotically upholding the results of the war and by a general amnesty. The disturbance in the Southern States he thinks due to the Ku-Klux on the one hand and to the carpet-bag element, in its worst sense, upon the other; and the remedy lies in the co-operation of good men of both parties. If the Republican party has not accomplished all that might have been hoped, it is, he thinks, because the lawless element in the Southern States and the blind Democratic reactionists have made the conduct of Republican demagogues and schemers comparatively less alarming.

In regard to the annexation of San Domingo he said that it would be a policy ending in the absorption of the American tropics to the Gulf, with a population wholly alien. Mr. Schurz added that he and Mr. Sumner had been asked to compose their personal differences with the President in the interest of the party. But he had no personal differences with the President; nor could he conceive that his personal relations with any body ought to affect his action upon public affairs. Were the President his most intimate friend, he could not defend what seemed to him an unconstitutional policy. This is a position which every honest man will approve. It is the only independent and honorable attitude.

We have not as yet seen the speech of Mr. Schurz in full; but the daily papers have published a long and evidently accurate sketch of it. In this we find no indication of a purpose which has been attributed to him of opposing the election of the Republican candidate for President if the nomination were not approved by him. We have already stated that we do not believe that Mr. Schurz or Mr. Sumner would do any thing to commit the government of the country to the party of the Ku-Klux and of hostility to the amendments, and we shall not easily be made to believe otherwise.


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