Letter from Carl Schurz to Abraham Lincoln, November 8, 1862
Will you, after the great political defeat we have suffered, listen a moment to the words of a true friend who means to serve you faithfully, and in whose judgment you once, perhaps, reposed some confidence?
The defeat of the Administration is owing neither to your proclamations, nor to the financial policy of the Government, nor to a desire of the people to have peace at any price. I can speak openly, for you must know that I am your friend. The defeat of the Administration is the Administration's own fault.
It admitted its professed opponents to its counsels. It placed the Army, now a great power in this Republic, into the hands of its enemies. In all personal questions to be hostile to the party of the Government seemed to be a title to consideration. It forgot the great rule, that, if you are true to your friends, your friends will be true to you, and that you make your enemies stronger by placing them upon an equality with your friends. Is it surprising that the opponents of the Administration should have got into their hands the government of the principal States after they have had for so long a time the principal management of the war, the great business of the National Government?
Great sacrifices and enormous efforts had been made and they had been rewarded only by small results. The people felt the necessity of a change. Many of your friends had no longer any heart for the Administration as soon as they felt justified in believing that the Administration had no heart for them. I do not speak of personal favors but of the general conduct of the war. A change was sought in the wrong direction. This was the true cause of the defeat of your Government.
You have now made a change. This evening the news reaches us that the command of the Army of the Potomac has passed into new hands. But the change of persons means little if it does not imply a change of system. Let us be commanded by generals whose heart is [sic] in the war, and only by such. Let every general who does not show himself strong enough to command success, be deposed at once. Let every trust of power be accompanied by a corresponding responsibility, and all may be well yet.
There is but one way in which you can sustain your Administration, and that is by success; and there is but one thing which will command success, and that is energy. In whatever hands the State governments may be,—as soon as you are victorious, they will be obliged to support you; and if they were all in the hands of your friends,—if you do not give them victories, they will after a while be obliged to oppose you. Therefore let us have energy without regard to anything that may stand in your way. Let not the Government be endangered by tender considerations. If West Point cannot do the business, let West Point go down. Who cares? It is better that a thousand generals should fall than that the Republic should be jeopardized a single moment.
To-day we are still strong enough to meet the difficulties that stand against us. We do not know what we shall be to-morrow.