Addresses in Memory of Carl Schurz/ADDRESS OF PROFESSOR HERMANN A. SCHUMACHER
PROFESSOR HERMANN A. SCHUMACHER
AMERICA, in whose beloved soil rests all that is earthly of Carl Schurz, is foremost in honoring him to-night. But as in his heart the love of his native land never ceased to rival his devotion to the American people, so the country, in which Carl Schurz was born and educated, also claims him as one of its greatest sons.
As a member of the University of Commerce in the city of Cologne, where Schurz attended school, and as a Professor of the University of Bonn, where as a gifted and spirited student of twenty years he gave to his life its decisive turn,—from the native soil of Carl Schurz, where we so heartily hoped to welcome him this summer at the unveiling of Kinkel's statue, I bring greetings of sympathy and good will. I am grateful to have the opportunity of paying on behalf of all Germany this tribute of love and admiration to the man whom we commemorate to-night.
This memorial is of a unique character. It is the only instance of which I know where two nations join in celebrating one whose official position did not place him among the powerful of the land, and who cannot be regarded as merely a scientist or a man of letters, brilliant and profound as his writings are.
What is it that two great nations admire and honor in this personality? What explains the extraordinary influence, the great success of Carl Schurz? It may be summed up in the phrase: German idealism.
This idealism of Schurz was, in the first place, an ethical quality. Never did personal interests exercise an influence upon his public acts. He formed his decisions with utter disregard of consequences. He showed in all his actions a heroic courage, a courage inherited from his noble mother. Even in his childhood that is conspicuous. You remember in his memoirs, when, as a school-boy, he had to write a composition on the Battle of Leipzig, how he expressed his indignation at the political situation, although he knew that he would thereby incur the serious displeasure of his teachers. As the boy, so the man. Although he had eagerly assisted in the election of Grant, he did not hesitate a moment to oppose with all his might those measures of the administration which he believed would be injurious to the American people. And perhaps the most remarkable instance of this unselfish courage is, when he advocated with unceasing energy the re-establishment of the suffrage in the South, although he clearly saw that he was thereby helping to create a democratic majority in Missouri and that he would in consequence lose his seat in the Senate of the United States.
This same trait of chivalry is found everywhere: a vigorous fight for what he regarded as just and good, a fight with the splendid ardor of his enthusiastic spirit, with all the captivating force of his remarkable personality. As a result, many misapprehensions and enmities were unavoidable, and it was as a poor man that there died the ablest and most influential of all those of foreign birth and foreign education who have made their home on this side of the Atlantic.
But when we admire in Schurz the incarnation of what we call German idealism we regard not only the moral impulse which prompted him to decide all public questions without reference to his personal interests, but also the intellectual faculty of looking at all problems of practical life from the loftiest points of view. This Carl Schurz did in a most unusual manner. He believed, as he often emphasized, in the logic of things, in an over-ruling fatality, which stands above the power of majorities and of governments. “It is the close connection between cause and effect, between principle and fact,” he explained—“a connection which cannot be severed and a clear knowledge of which is the only safe foundation of political wisdom.” He was convinced that “what is nonsense in theory, will never make sense in practice.” But from this he did not conclude that men could not intervene. On the contrary, he considered it the duty of every upright man to lend himself with all his force to what he believed to be just and right. To the question, What is meant by the spirit of the age? he answered: “It is action, action, and action again.” Action, spirited action in behalf of the general welfare, action for the benefit not only of the American people, but of all mankind, was the text of his long, eventful, and strenuous life. Schurz never tired of battling for his convictions, against what he regarded as a hindrance to progress. Thus he became at an early age a revolutionist, struggling for the removal of political obstacles which, once accomplished, would open for the people, as he himself expressed it, new fields of inquiry, knowledge, and improvement, as a foundation on which to erect a solid structure of a broader and higher development. A fighter also he remained in this country, whose soil appeared to him so ideal a field for developing in absolute freedom all that is noble, progressive, and just in human nature.
The characteristic peculiarity of Carl Schurz consists in the great variety of objects for which he was struggling and the great diversity of weapons which he handled so skilfully. Thus did he fight for political freedom, for a constitutional government in Germany, with the most daring revolutionary methods; thus he fought, still far more successfully, in this country, in his capacity as general, diplomat, and politician, for his high ideals of democracy, and especially for the freedom of the negro; thus he fought as your Secretary of the Interior, and ever since that time for Civil Service Reform and the merit system; thus he fought for the protection of the Indian, whom he so ardently desired to lift to the level of American citizenship, and for the preservation of the forests, which he loved with all the sentiment of his German soul. Wherever dangers seemed to arise in the marvelously rapid development of American life, he came boldly before the public to warn and to admonish, even in the face of an overwhelming opposition, not only of the people, but also of his friends. And he was always listened to. Although in official position but a few years, and never in constant connection with either of the large parties, he was for half a century a powerful factor in the life of the American nation, untiringly and successfully helping to strengthen the ethical forces in the great process of shaping public opinion. That was his unique position in the history of this country.
Let us consider once more what an extraordinary attraction, what irresistible influence upon the opinions of his fellow-countrymen has been exercised by this man throughout his life. Historical proofs are not lacking. When he delivered his maiden speech, as a student in Bonn, the rector of the University asked him his age. “Nineteen years,” was the reply. “A pity,” said the rector, “then you are too young to be elected to our new parliament.” The same impression was Spielhagen's, our well-known novelist, who studied with Schurz at Bonn, and who wrote in his memoirs: “Schurz was the greatest oratorical genius I have ever met.”
An especially interesting illustration of his great captivating influence was once told to me by the curator of my university, Dr. von Rottenburg. It appears that Dr. von Rottenburg, when private secretary to Bismarck, was ordered, when a visitor remained too long, to send to the Chancellor a red portfolio indicating some urgent business, and, if this proved ineffectual, to repeat it, and, if still ineffectual, to announce the arrival of a special messenger from the Emperor. Schurz once paid a visit to Bismarck, and the red portfolio was, in accordance with the custom, sent in the first time, and after fifteen minutes the second time, but the official upon returning said to Rottenburg: “Don't trouble yourself any more, even the direct messenger from the Emperor will have no effect, the Chancellor has just ordered hock and cigars and the two gentlemen are enjoying themselves immensely.”
Nor is this personal influence of Carl Schurz apt to cease. As a model of self-denying idealism he will not only continue to live in the hearts of the great number of his friends and of the best of his American fellow-countrymen but in Germany also with the conflicting interests created by the astounding development of its industrial life, a man of Carl Schurz's type will become of more and more importance. For in the midst of the increasing conflicts of economic interests, solutions in harmony with the general welfare can be found and enforced, not by routine politicians, but only by philosophical and wholly sincere men who are convinced that ultimately great ideas and not petty personal interests must govern the destinies of nations. And that is true of the political conflicts, not only within a nation but also between nations. Only broadminded and farsighted idealism can satisfactorily solve these important problems. And so we Germans shall cultivate the memory of the great man whom we mourn to-night as eagerly and as gratefully in our country as you will in yours. Thus Carl Schurz, even after his death, is destined to remain a mighty personal factor in shaping public opinion, in both of the countries to which his noble soul was patriotically devoted,—even after his death a powerful connecting link between the two great peoples that join in commemorating him to-night.
You all know what a friend Carl Schurz was to the Indian and the colored man, how devoted he was to Hampton and Tuskegee; and this memorial meeting would not be complete without the presence of Dr. Booker T. Washington, the President of the Tuskegee Institute and leader of his race, whom I have now the honor to present to you: