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Addresses in Memory of Carl Schurz/ADDRESS OF THE HONORABLE CHARLES J. BONAPARTE

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ADDRESS OF THE
HONORABLE CHARLES J. BONAPARTE

A MONUMENT to Carl Schurz exists to-day, it exists, nay more, it lives, lives in the amended laws of his adopted country, lives in the enlightened thoughts and beliefs of Americans taught by him and those banded with him to know and cleave to the right in choosing public servants for the people's work. Thirty years ago, when he was called into the counsels of President Hayes, so much of such work as fell to civil servants was in large part entrusted to men and women chosen, not because they were fit to serve the public, but because they were fit to serve politicians, and generally because they were fit for nothing else. Our public offices were then too often asylums for incompetency and ill repute, recruited in great measure, from the failures and outcasts of creditable callings, those too weak, indolent, and vicious to hold their own in any worthy field of competition. Everywhere our politics, National, State, and Municipal, were debauched by the wide and unrebuked prevalence of a peculiarly mean and baleful form of bribery, the use of public employment to influence votes and reward party service; huge corruption funds were constantly accumulated by openly taxing the salaries of public servants for partisan use; and, as the most faithful service to the people could assure no one continued employment when partisan greed clamored for his place, so the most scandalous misconduct might be readily condoned if the culprit had “pull,” or stood well with the dominant “machine.”

It is no abuse of emphatic language to say that the general acceptance of the “spoils” theory of politics by American public opinion, in other words, our acquiescence in the doctrine that public offices are not posts of trust, but mere means of private gain, in very truth, “spoils;” and therefore that any sensible man is “in politics only for what he can get out of them,” in those days constituted a great national disgrace and a great national danger. That disgrace has been largely redeemed, that danger has been in great part averted through a resolute and patient struggle, continued now for many years, amidst many disappointments, apostacies and failures, by a small number of men, who, in season and but of season, have cried out against the shame and iniquity of such doctrines and such practices, until they have gained the people's ear and awakened the people's conscience. To speak of these men is to think of Carl Schurz.

He taught by example that a great Department of the Federal Government could be successfully administered on the principles of Civil Service Reform before there was a Civil League or Association to demand such a law. Restored to private life, he gave his aid to form the New York Association and the National League, and, from their organization to his death, contributed so zealously of his time, his talents, and his labor in their work that their history is his history, their merit his merit, their success his success. In well-nigh everything which has made for righteousness in the progress of this great reform, in our remedial laws, in our corrected customs, whether of administration or politics, in the growth of a strong and healthy public opinion, in the quickening of the Nation's sense of right, one who searches will find the influence, direct or indirect, evident or slightly veiled, of his earnest, persistent, and eloquent advocacy, will see the stamp of his work.

He is dead, and the work is not yet done; but enough of it is done to make sure the doing of what remains to do, and what he did for it will live after him to aid those who for years, doubtless for more than one generation of men, must yet tread the path he trod ere they reach the goal to which he pointed. In every combat for honest government and pure politics, in every effort to give our country faithful servants, and, with and through such servants, rulers worthy of her greatness, his spirit will guide, his memory will inspire the men who strive for the right. Those he taught and led will pass on his teaching to such as they in turn must lead in the like struggle for the same ends; and when there shall be in America no man in any public employment for any other reason than because the man or men who put him there believed him of all who might be chosen best fitted to do well the work he would there have to do, when that time comes, there will have been rounded to full completion the most lasting and most fitting of monuments to the virtues and the services of Carl Schurz.

The Chairman:

We shall now have the pleasure of listening to a poem by Mr. Richard Watson Gilder.

Mr. Gilder then read the following poem: