Harper's Weekly Editorials on Carl Schurz/Oil and Water at Cincinnati
The speech of Mr. Schurz, as permanent President of the Cincinnati Convention, was a fervid protest against political immorality, and an earnest appeal to the highest political aspirations. But the adjuration to rise above the meanness of politics was addressed to an assembly in which a very large part of the conspicuous leaders were noted politicians, and the exhortation to “despise tricky manipulations” fell ludicrously upon the ears of the most accomplished political tricksters. Mr. Schurz is essentially a political philosopher; a man of high and pure political intentions; naturally a free lance, restless, impatient of details and restraints and conditions; but not, we think, apprehensive of the real political feelings that sway this country.
There is no honest American citizen who does not always acknowledge that there is constant opportunity for reform and progress. But, despite the solemn reiterations of the best class of the Cincinnati partisans, that progress is constantly making. The speech of Mr. Schurz described very well a condition of affairs which was trite under Andrew Johnson. But the implication of the speech was that it had grown worse and worse. There was no suggestion that under General Grant there had been a steadily increasing honesty and economy in the collection and disbursement of the revenue, and that the myriad investigations with which the Administration has been scrutinized upon every side do not justify to candid minds the vociferous allegations of loathsome rottenness and corruption which are constantly heard. Vague and general charges of venality and ignorance and carelessness are like the cries of unconstitutionality and sneers at drifting folly that were uttered against the Administration of Mr. Lincoln. There is always pregnant matter for criticism, but the terrible lion still sat in Mr. Schurz's path at Cincinnati. Granting that reform and progress are desirable, we who sustain the Republican party believe that the chances for them are more promising while that party is dominant. And Mr. Schurz failed at Cincinnati, as in New York, to show its why real reform was more probable from a union of a few generous and honest men with Democrats and personally discontented Republicans.
For the Cincinnati movement is composed not only of heterogeneous but of irreconcilable elements. Senator Schurz, for instance, finds himself and Senator Trumbull associated in the Senate with Mr. Fenton and Mr. Tipton. Does he reflect upon the significance of that fact? Beyond the Senate, those who may, not offensively, be called the brains of the movement are, like himself, free-traders, while the multitude who are to do the work and the voting, and who will control the policy of the movement, are composed of Democrats and of what the Evening Post calls bummers. Now the question of free trade did not disturb the Republican party, because that party was founded upon a great principle, to secure which all other questions were to be subordinated. But the Cincinnati movement does not claim to be one of principle. It demands only honest administration under the general Republican principle. But here the question of free trade is vital and paramount, because in the judgment of the Evening Post and other strong friends of the now movement, a protective tariff is merely systematized robbery.
To leave the point to be decided by Congressional districts is not only evasion and cowardice, but it is stupidity. An Executive is not an Administration. If Cincinnati can elect a President, it must also choose a Congress to sustain him. Now if the subject of the revenue be referred to the districts, how can Mr. Greeley and Mr. Dorsheimer vote for the same candidates? To say that it may be left to the majority, as it was during the political fight with slavery is sheer folly, because now, according to the theory the political fight is with corruption, and a tariff is robbery.
In the audience which Mr. Schurz addressed there were two paramount feelings. One was the desire for purity of administration, of which revenue reform was believed to be an indispensable element; the other, and the overwhelming feeling, was revenge upon Grant. We do not believe that to secure the object of the earnest and honest men in that Convention the country is disposed to break up the Republican party and trust to luck.