Banquet to the Honorable Carl Schurz/Speech of Mr. Herbert Welsh
“THE MEMBER OF THE CABINET.”
SPEECH OF MR. HERBERT WELSH, OF PHILADELPHIA.
Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen: My time is of necessity brief, but I must spend a moment of it to say that I feel deeply the honor of being placed among those chosen to review the career and point out some of the great and varied public services of our distinguished friend, Carl Schurz.
Those whose good fortune it has been, like mine, to be brought into personal relations with him, cannot regard him simply as a public man whose worth is to be estimated solely from that point of view. With them the heart claims lips and a tongue, for it has its own message to deliver, urgent as that of the mind. I for one would say to our friend to-night, as this goodly company meets to rejoice with him over his harvest of years, rich in unselfish service and in honors, that his simplicity of character, his fidelity to intellectual and moral convictions, his unfailing consideration and kindness, have won the warm and deep affection of those who, even like myself, have been associated with him but for a few years, and in a single branch of his public work—that which relates to the reform of the Civil Service.
We esteem and love him as a true friend, as well as honor him for what he has accomplished as citizen and statesman.
I am asked to touch upon Mr. Schurz's work as a member of Mr. Hayes' Cabinet. The brief time of necessity allotted to each speaker this evening forbids more than a very slight allusion. It is, however, an especial pleasure to me to treat two distinct lines of Mr. Schurz's Cabinet work, for both of them relate to subjects with which I have been more or less familiar for many years, and both are of great present importance—the care of the Indians and the protection of our national forests. Both subjects require, for successful treatment on the part of one occupying a position of such general control as devolves upon the Secretary of the Interior, sound general principles, intelligent interest, broad capacity, and practical common sense. It was these qualities precisely that Carl Schurz displayed in dealing with Indian affairs, and the public domain. [Applause.] In regard to Indian affairs as treated by Mr. Schurz, I desire to call your attention to two points, salient and vital, both of which illustrate the truth of what I have said. In 1878, Captain R. H. Pratt, now the distinguished head of the great Indian School, at Carlisle, Pa., where nearly 1,000 Indian youth receive a practical education, had brought a handful of Kiowa and Arapahoe warriors, taken red-handed on their murderous forays in Texas, to St. Augustine, Florida. There, Captain Pratt had made such progress in civilizing them, that rather than be returned to the idleness of their reservations, they expressed willingness to go into the prisons of civilization to learn more of the white man's ways of labor. A place was made for them, however, at the great Negro Industrial School at Hampton, of which General S. C. Armstrong was the distinguished founder and head. There President Hayes, Mr. Schurz and other members of the Cabinet visited them, and were so much impressed by what had been accomplished towards their training in the ways of Christian civilization, that they arranged to have the Indians transferred under the superintendency of Captain Pratt, to the old Military Barracks, at Carlisle. Thus, under Mr. Schurz's direction, they formed the nucleus of the great institution which now exists at Carlisle. The old barracks, which formerly sheltered United States cavalrymen until ready to be sent out to the plains to fight Indians, came to shelter Indians while Christianity and labor transformed them into peaceful citizens. There is a practical hint in this fact as to how the white man may best bear the burden of the red man, or the brown or black man. Carl Schurz helped to show how that problem may be solved. [Applause.]
When I first became acquainted with Indian affairs in 1882, I visited one of the wildest reservations of the Northwest—Pine Ridge, in South Dakota. There were 7,000 Indians at that point, many of them restless, and, if aroused, dangerous men. But their agent, Dr. V. T. McGillycuddy, [applause,] was a man of strict honesty, great ability and courage. He had received his appointment from Mr. Schurz, and Mr. Schurz was his firm friend. As an officer of the Indian Rights Association, much of my time was passed in defending Dr. McGillycuddy against the unjust attacks of traders and interested persons who worked in every conceivable way for his removal, because he interfered with their schemes. Once, when there was serious danger at the agency from a threatened uprising of the Old Chief, Red Cloud, Dr. McGillycuddy suppressed it by his Indian police force, without calling on the military and without firing a shot. The spoils system subsequently removed Dr. McGillycuddy. His removal cost the Government $1,000,000 and 200 lives of whites and Indians at the battle of Wounded Knee. That was the price we paid for the luxury of the spoils system. Mr. Schurz aimed to solve the Indian question by practical education and just treatment, and the application of the merit system to the Indian Service.
And now I would say a word as to the care of our national forests—our wood wealth richly strewn over the vast regions of the West. It is wealth direct and indirect. By husbanding such resources great supplies of lumber will in successive crops be furnished throughout coming generations. In the wise national nature of these forests, also, lies protection of arable soil, water supply for great regions, and even the blessing of climate. Mr. Schurz, as Secretary of the Interior, was the official guardian of our federal forests. He found them being wasted and destroyed by thieving lumber companies, who were, to use his own language, in a speech made in Philadelphia some years ago, “Not merely stealing trees, but stealing whole forests. I observed,” he continues, “hundreds of saw mills in full blast devoted exclusively to the sawing up of timber stolen from the public domain. I observed a most lively export trade going on from Gulf ports as well as Pacific ports, with fleets of vessels employed in carrying lumber stolen from the public lands to be sold in foreign countries, immense tracts been devastated that some robbers might fill their pockets.” * * * * “I therefore deemed it my duty to arrest that audacious and destructive robbery—not that I had intended to prevent the settler and the miner from taking from the public lands what they needed for their cabins, their fields, or their mining shafts, but I deemed it my duty to stop at least the commercial depredations upon the property of the people, and to that end I used my best endeavors and the means at my disposal, scanty as they were. [Applause.]
“What was the result? No sooner did my attempts in that direction become known than I was pelted with telegraphic despatches from the regions most concerned, indignantly inquiring what it, meant that an officer of the government dared to interfere with the legitimate business of the country. Members of the Congress came down upon me, some with wrath in their eyes, others pleading in a milder way, but all solemnly protesting against my disturbing their constituents in this peculiar pursuit of happiness. I persevered in the performance of my plain duty.”
Mr. Schurz was not then fully successful in the important work he undertook. The country was not then ready for the direct application of honesty and common sense to the treatment of our national forests. But since then great progress has been made in forest preservation, and a powerful public sentiment has been aroused both West and East which supports the national policy he tried to institute. What Mr. Schurz accomplished as a Cabinet officer for the important cause of Civil Service Reform I leave to my successor on the programme to state. The principles which guided the course of Carl Schurz as a Cabinet officer are precisely such as are needed in the educated and influential young men of the coming generation, to whom we must look for leadership in the American Democracy—simple, unswerving honesty—no compromise on questions of principle, a broad enlighted intelligence, a willingness to stand alone when truth requires it.
Carl Schurz, though not a child of our soil by birth, is more than one by adoption. He is a citizen who, through good report and evil report, in moments of popular sunshine and of popular shadow, has carried without faltering into private and public life the highest American ideals. [Applause.]