Harper's Weekly Articles on Carl Schurz/Whose Funeral is it?

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Mr. Carl Schurz, having lost office and emolument, the regard of the patriotic, and even the confidence of his own countrymen, begins now to despair of the republic. He scarcely hopes to see it survive the Centennial of 1876, or outlive the disappearance of that feeble faction, of which he has been a conspicuous leader, which has delivered Missouri into the power of the Confederates, and which vainly strove in 1872 to perform the same service for the nation. With brave and boastful promises, Mr. Schurz and his followers prepared to divide the Republican party, allied themselves with Confederates and ultramontanes, became the champions of ignorance, the avengers of slavery, and were cast aside with scorn in every free State as untrue to the sacred cause of human equality. The party which they had hoped to betray rose into unexampled strength, the party with which they allied themselves betook itself to murders and assassinations in the savage districts of the South, and the country still suffers from the barbarism and malice of that cruel faction which Mr. Schurz hoped for a moment to place in power. He now, it seems, despairs of freedom, or possibly for himself. No more rich embassies like those he won by persistent application from the care-worn Lincoln, nor those he failed to win from the present administration, nor lucrative major-generalships, nor Senatorships, nor golden hopes of them, await the unlucky exile. The Confederates have driven him from the Legislature he gave into their hands, the people are nowhere willing to accept his late repentance, and even his own countrymen, while they admire his considerable talents, are no more willing to follow his fickle counsels.

Mr. Schurz represents a class of immigrants among us who have never lost the traits of a foreign education. He is still possessed by European ideas. He scoffs at Americans, American principles and hopes. Exile and revolutionist, educated in the ultramontane atmosphere of the Rhine provinces, he has never been able to throw off the rigid restraints of his early training, or to lose the narrowness of the gymnasium and university. A more generous nature would have remembered with gratitude the priceless benefits conferred upon him and his countrymen by the energy and toil of generations of Americans, would acknowledge that Europe has learned its highest political lessons from the examples and teachings of the long line of American patriots. Exile and revolutionist, to them he is at least indebted for freedom and the opportunity of labor, even if he had not already obtained some of the highest offices in the nation. Had he possessed a more resolute intellect, he might have been less shaken by temporary reverses; had he been more unselfish, he would never have contemned the people by whom he was once trusted; or if capable of a true insight into political affairs, he would never have despaired of the republic; for the dangers that affright him are only passing clouds to more patriotic minds; the evils he anticipates are only the phantoms of misanthropy and the fumes of discontent. Happily the great majority of his countrymen do not share his forebodings. To no European race has our country shown more real sympathy than to the Germans, and from none has it received more. In the dangers of rebellion they stood unshaken by the Union, and Germany expended its accumulations in maintaining our national credit and purchasing our bonds. When American securities were refused a sale at the Paris Bourse, and were almost worthless in England, they were steadily advancing in the German cities; when France foretold and sought to profit from our ruin, Germany never despaired of the republic; and in 1870, when danger hung over the German Confederation, the whole Republican party and every friend of union and progress among us lent an earnest sympathy to the German side. In the moment of their national peril the Germans in America appealed to the country for its moral support, and received it. Confederates, Democrats, and ultramontanes might strive to check the general impulse, but the nation's heart was with Germany. Irish Catholics might long to fight on the Rhine for France and plunder, and Tammany Hall foretell the destruction of Prussia and the triumph of Napoleon, or Confederate generals offer their swords and their tarnished honor to the French despot, but the country rejoiced when M‘Mahon was beaten and Germany was safe. Yet it was from this moment, by some unaccountable impulse, that Mr. Schurz formed his league with Confederates in Missouri and Louisiana, with ultramontanes in Cincinnati or St. Louis, with Tammany Hall and all his country's foes, and labored to break down that great party of the people which had covered him with its favors and trusted in his honor. From that moment he began to despair of the republic. Defeat pursued him every where. He fell back into his European ideas, and lost what little sympathy he might ever have possessed with American progress.

We have many among us like Mr. Schurz, whose tastes and impulses are altogether European, but they are all of the Democratic party, and it is safe to say that not a single Republican would exchange freedom and equality for any form of foreign politics. Every honest Republican, indeed, is resolved to maintain and purify the institutions of his ancestors, and never doubts their perpetuity. Yet we may use Mr. Schurz's name and example chiefly to suggest a reply to the doubts he occasions and the ruin with which he threatens us. What are the dangers of the republic and what their remedy we may learn from our foreign critics, and the chief of its perils are those that spring from the disorders and the corruptions that have followed the rebellion. War brings with it a host of terrors, and leaves behind it the pains of a lingering disease. Here there is, in fact, real danger. There is a dangerous class in the far South, idle, malicious, bent upon revolution; there is a Roman Catholic club sitting at Tammany Hall which controls another turbulent element of our population; and should these enemies of freedom seize upon the government, there would be a real peril to republican institutions. But does any one suppose that the people will permit ultramontanes and Southern revolutionists, the enemies of honest labor, good order and peace, to destroy their freedom? Yet this is not the danger upon which our foreign critics enlarge. They would not be sorry to see Tammany Hall clutch the national treasury, or Southern ruffians brandish their favorite weapons in the national Senate. This is plainly not the danger to the republic with which Mr. Schurz and his foreign allies, from the London Times to the most active of our own ultramontane papers, would affright us; their ideas are all European; and they hold up before us the vision of Cæsarism and military despotism in a country without an army, where only the people rule; of emperors and kings, of anarchy or despotism. Nothing can exceed the bitterness with which the London Times and the leading London journals have continued to assail the President and the Republican party, except the rage of their allies in our own borders and the fury of Tammany Hall. But the pretensions of that notorious club, where Confederates and ultramontanes meet weekly to scoff at republican institutions, and perhaps plot the destruction of a government which they hate, have already shocked the patriotic sentiment of honest Democrats in all the rural districts. No Roman Catholic club which attempts to govern in American politics can long be successful. It may win temporary advantages, but it must ever prove at last odious to the people. For what must the millions of Americans reply to the demand of a foreign sect for enormous political power and patronage except a universal condemnation? How can they long endure the insolence of the foreign faction which surrounds itself with the bitterest rebels, and foretells the ruin of the republic?

Except the latent designs of the Democracy, and the possibility that the national government may be ruled by Southern revolutionists and foreign corruption, there seems no real danger to the country. Nor has any nation ever recovered so rapidly from the disasters of a violent internal struggle. There is peace all over the land, except where a small and depraved minority keep alive the dying rebellion. All over the Free States population and wealth have advanced with ceaseless rapidity, new nations have grown up within the past ten years, the ravages of war have been repaired by a tenfold increase, and, except in some portions of the disordered South, the growth of the whole country has been unexampled in its history. Within ten years Minnesota has more than doubled its population, Iowa nearly attained the same rate of increase, Nebraska and Kansas trebled theirs. The immense Territories on the slopes of the Rocky Mountains are drawing in an industrious population, and the railways that are reaching Westward have become the channels of a ceaseless progress. The temporary panic which has passed over our business interests with intense severity, like so many others that have swept over England and America, will probably be followed by a new revulsion of unusual prosperity, and there can be no doubt that the enormous wealth of the country will be soon brought into active use. A liberal system of internal improvements and of general education would soon develop such boundless fields of industry as would employ a larger number of immigrants than Europe has yet been able to furnish us with, and supply the world with new sources of comfort. The school-house and the railway will be the chief factors in our future progress; our coal, iron, wheat, corn, cotton, will spread ease and plenty among the European throngs who now linger in perpetual want. Nor is the condition of our Southern States so far below that of their Western or Northern neighbors. If they can not point to a growth like that of Kansas or Ohio, they may at least assert that they have risen from a greater depression. A fierce and mad minority of their people drove them into rebellion; they have suffered extraordinary disaster, yet the yield of cotton and corn at the South has very nearly reached what it was before 1860; and with peace and good order, the Southern States may easily surpass all they have done in the past, and for this they are indebted to the ready industry of four millions of colored people, who, suddenly raised to freedom, have proved themselves worthy of it. To the industry and skill of its colored population the nation owes the chief part of its merchantable wealth, and the export of its Southern productions has saved it from bankruptcy and kept it from commercial decay. The colored race have given a new impulse to the South, and we believe the majority of the Southern whites will soon have as intense a horror and disapprobation for the murderous deeds of Vicksburg or Coushatta as prevail among the most intelligent Republicans. Such are some of the omens of our future prosperity. The intrigues of foreign politicians seek to stimulate our internal dissensions; the rage of a foreign sect would check our advance in knowledge and virtue; a despairing exile may predict the ruin of the republic. But it is not unlikely that in 1876 a united people will confound all their plans, that true-hearted and honest American Republicans will rule from ocean to ocean, and that the foreign cabal who foretold the ruin of republican institutions will receive a more signal defeat than they have met with since Washington sheathed his sword in victory or Richmond fell.

Eugene Lawrence.    

Schurz Senate Exit.jpg


Herr Carl Schurz. “Let the hundredth anniversary of the Republic be a confession of its failure, and make up your minds to change the form as well as the nature of our institutions. To play at republic would then be a mockery.”

Our Republic. “You need not go in mourning for me yet.”

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1923. It may be copyrighted outside the U.S. (see Help:Public domain).