Banquet to the Honorable Carl Schurz/Introductory Note
HONORABLE CARL SCHURZ
During the latter part of the month of January, 1899, a number of the friends of the Honorable Carl Schurz met in the Chamber of Commerce, and formed a General Committee of seventy-three, for the purpose of arranging for a special celebration of the Seventieth Anniversary of Mr. Schurz's birthday, on the second of March, 1899. It was considered that this occasion was a fit one for a hearty manifestation of the high esteem felt for this distinguished citizen throughout the country, and for a formal recognition of his personal qualities and of the great public services he had rendered for many years to the land of his adoption.
The Committee consisted of the following gentlemen:
CHARLES FRANCIS ADAMS, Boston,
At a subsequent meeting of the General Committee, after a full discussion, it was unanimously resolved to tender a Banquet to Mr. Schurz on the evening of his birthday, which would afford an opportunity to his friends to tender their personal congratulations.
A Committee, consisting of the following, was then appointed, with power to make the necessary arrangements:
Gustav H. Schwab,
Delmonico's, Fifth Avenue and Forty-fourth Street, was decided upon as the place for the Banquet. The decorations of the Hall were simple but tasteful, consisting of the flags of the United States and the German Empire, intertwined, and the coats of arms of the two nations. The tables were profusely adorned with American beauty roses and smilax.
The menu card was illustrated by an engraved portrait of the distinguished guest — which forms the frontispiece of this volume.
Three hundred and seventy-three gentlemen attended. A large number were deprived of the privilege of doing honor to Mr. Schurz because of the limited capacity of the Hall.
The Honorable Charles Francis Adams, of Boston, presided.
The various periods of Mr. Schurz's public career were made the subjects for the speeches of the evening.
Young Germany in the Storm and Stress Period.
The Chairman, in his opening speech, sketched briefly the distinguished services rendered by Mr. Schurz to his country, and referred at length to the deficiency, in our political system, as the result of which such men are rarely retained in official and parliamentary life, to the country's inestimable loss. While Mr. Schurz sat in the Senate, elected from Missouri, the speaker, though a resident of Massachusetts, had been completely, almost ideally, represented there. When he was called to the Cabinet, the services of a thoroughly equipped and brilliant parliamentarian were necessarily lost. Such constituencies as in England or Germany would have returned a man of this stamp to the House of Commons or to the Reichstag, as quickly as opportunity offered, could not, under our plan, give him their votes, or seek his leadership. The unwisdom of a system that encourages provincialism, and that denies to the nation the constant public service of the best and most capable of its citizens, the speaker believed to have been clearly shown. In every field in which Mr. Schurz had been active he had displayed the greatest of abilities and the loftiest character. In his long public experience he had in a sense served the highest of constituencies, and whether in the halls of Congress or the councils of the President, or as the private citizen, his voice and pen had never failed to give expression to what he conceived to be in the interest of the highest public good.
The first period of Mr. Schurz's career, that of his participation as a youth in the movement for constitutional liberty in Germany, was covered by Dr. A. Jacobi, who had served in the same cause. Dr. Jacobi told of the part taken by the young men of the German Universities in the great uprising of 1848, and of the first prominent appearance of Carl Schurz — a youth of nineteen — as a delegate from Bonn in the Student's Congress in the Wartburg. He referred to the later exploits of Mr. Schurz as an officer in the Revolutionary Army, of his career from battlefield to battlefield, and of his escape from imprisonment after the disaster of Rastatt. He told also of the brilliant rescue of Gottfried Kinkel, Schurz's teacher and friend, from the fortress of Spandau, an episode that attracted the attention of all Europe, and that in Germany will probably never be forgotten. Passing the failure of the revolution and the flight of Schurz and Kinkel to England, the speaker referred to the time, twelve years afterward, when, before the proclamation of a general amnesty, official notice was given by the German Government that the United States Minister to Spain, Mr. Carl Schurz, would pass through the country, and that he was not to be molested. He referred also to the later visit of Mr. Schurz to Germany, after his service in the American Cabinet, and to his reception then by Prince Bismarck and the Emperor.
Dr. Jacobi concluded with a tribute to those qualities in Mr. Schurz, first revealed in his youthful experience in Germany, to which his honorable success in America is to be attributed.
Professor Sloane told of Mr. Schurz's appearance, three years after his coming to America, as a leader in another movement for civic liberty and human rights. Quickly imbibing the spirit of the anti-slavery cause, he had enlisted in it his most earnest efforts, and in 1886 delivered some of the most effective speeches that were made for Fremont. In the campaign for Lincoln he had taken a still more prominent part. He was already the constructive statesman, seeing clearly that there could be no heroic up-building of the Union without a war against slavery, and contending that the black man must have his rights in order to permit the white man to keep his. The speaker referred to the invaluable historic record of the period of the anti-slavery contest contained in Mr. Schurz's biographical studies of Lincoln and Clay, a record that admirably supplements the contemporary account embodied in his own speeches.
General Lockman, in speaking of Mr. Schurz's military services in the war, referred to the fact that he was called from the command of the cavalry regiment he had organized immediately following the outbreak of hostilities, to go as Minister to Spain. Six months later, however, he had induced President Lincoln to permit him to return and to fight himself for the maintenance of the principles he had advocated on the platform. Commissioned at once as Brigadier-General, he had served with credit and distinction, until, in the spring of 1863, he was made Major-General, and assigned to the command of the Third Division of the historic Eleventh Corps. The speaker, who had served in General Schurz's command, gave a graphic description of the Chancellorsville campaign, and of some of the notable incidents of Gettysburg, where Schurz led the entire Eleventh Corps.
He presented to the guest the greetings of many of his old army associates, and concluded with a tribute to the soldierly qualities that General Schurz personally had exhibited throughout the course of the war.
In responding for "The Statesman in Reconstruction," Representative Fleming referred to the appointment of Mr. Schurz by President Johnson as Special Commissioner to examine into conditions at the South. The report of his findings and opinions, made as the result of this inquiry, while, in the judgment of the speaker, necessarily imbued with ideas in conflict with those generally held by the Southern people, was most fair in tone, and indicative of a determined purpose to seek for the truth wherever it might be found. Mr. Schurz's influence in the work of reconstruction was thus potent from the outset. He contended for the establishment and protection of a new system of free labor to take the place of the broken system of slave labor, but in all of his propositions he never failed to remember that the former masters were human as well as the freedmen, and that the interests of both should be considered in any scheme for the pacification and rehabilitation of the war-torn Southern country. Later, in 1868, he had written and proposed the first plank favoring general amnesty to be adopted by a national convention, and in 1872, when a member of the Senate, he had delivered a speech before that body that figured among the most powerful and effective utterances on the subject throughout the whole period of discussion. The speaker referred, in closing, to the independent position taken by Mr. Schurz on every question — both in and since the Reconstruction days — where the public welfare seemed to him to be involved.
Mr. Storey, in his address, covered the term of Mr.
Schurz's service in the Senate,
to which he was sent by
the State of Missouri in 1869. This, he stated, was a
period of re
-action, when the problem of reconstruction
was not the only vexing thing but when the intense
earnestness that characterized the national struggle had
yielded to a feeling of ease and careless content on the
part of the people, and a disposition to leave the settlement
of all minor questions blindly to the victorious
heads of the government. It was then that the complete
demoralization of the civil service was threatened, that
inflation so nearly triumphed, and that public scandals
of so many sorts demanded investigation and exposure.
The Senate, on which depended in so great a measure
the determination of the new issues and policies, had
commenced to lose in character. Sumner, Fessenden
and Trumbull — whose nearest parliamentary
Mr. Schurz at once became — remained,
with a few others
of the same stamp, but the proportion of new-comers
was great, and among these the "carpetbag"
contingent from the South, and a more selfish political
element from the North, seemed to predominate. Mr.
Schurz quickly became recognized as one of the
conservative forces in this body, as the best equipped
debater, an orator second to none, a constant champion
of every measure that made for right, and the consistent
foe of that which, in his judgment, seemed unwise in
the policy of his party or the administration. It was in
the Senate, the speaker declared, that Mr. Schurz
won the confidence and the affectionate admiration of
all classes of his fellow-countrymen. With his presence
there his career as a publicist of national reputation,
and of constantly increasing strength, may properly
be said to have begun.
In responding for "The Member of the Cabinet," Mr. Welsh traced the course of Mr. Schurz as Secretary of the Interior under President Hayes, and dwelt especially on the reforms accomplished, through his efforts, in the administration of the Indian service, the preservation of the public forest lands, and in improvement of the methods of appointment of subordinates of the Department, in every class. The industrial education of the Indians, a work that is now thoroughly grounded and recognized as the chief factor in the solution of the Indian problem, was started at Mr. Schurz's instance. The practice of appointing and retaining competent reservation agents was practically unbroken during his term, and the improvement of general Indian conditions received an impetus, the effect of which has been of the highest permanent importance. The measures taken by Mr. Schurz for the care of the great Western forests and the prevention of depredations were to be counted as a second memorable achievement. The spoliation of these vast timber tracts had been arrested, and the foundation laid for a system of scientific control that is now being successfully worked out. The details of Mr. Schurz's work in the Cabinet for Civil Service Reform, the speaker left for his successor on the programme. He concluded with a reference to those high standards of public virtue that Mr. Schurz had maintained consistently throughout his career, and the observance of which had carried him to the highest position under the Government of the United States that it is possible for a citizen of foreign birth to hold.
Mr. Shepard's address dealt with the work that Mr. Schurz has carried on, both officially, at Washington, and in his place as private citizen, for the reform of the civil service. In the Senate, in 1871, he had introduced a general bill to regulate and improve the Federal administrative service, and made the first great speech on behalf of the reform heard within that Chamber. As Secretary of the Interior, he had established a complete system for the selection of subordinates of every class on the basis of special fitness, and in every appointment or removal that he made, he had considered the personal merit or deserts of the officer or employee, and nothing more. In the summer of 1881 he became an active member of the Governing Committee of the National Civil Service Reform League, then organized, and in 1892 succeeded the lamented George William Curtis as its President. The progress that this great cause, has made in the past twenty years, and the conspicuous place that it has held in our national politics, the speaker declared, is largely due to the part that Mr. Schurz has taken.
Mr. Schurz's part in the campaign for sound money in 1896, as well as in those other campaigns for a generation past, where this has been the issue, had been assigned the last place on the programme. Of this Ex-President Grover Cleveland had been invited to speak. Mr. Cleveland was unable to be present, but sent a letter, expressing his regret and paying a high tribute to the guest of the evening. The career of Mr. Schurz, he wrote, illustrates with peculiar aptness "the moral grandeur of disinterested public service, and the nobility of a fearless advocacy of the things that are right and just and safe." Concluding, Mr. Cleveland declared, that, to him, the permanency and continued beneficence of our free institutions seemed to rest upon the cultivation by those entrusted with public duty "of the traits that have distinguished the man you propose to honor."
The responsive address of Mr. Schurz, which was received with every evidence of appreciation, ended the programme of the evening.