The New York Times/Carl Schurz is Dead

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From The New York Times of May 15, 1906.



Statesman and Soldier Expired

Early Yesterday.


A Private Funeral on Thursday — A

Memorial Service Later — The

President Sends Condolences.

Carl Schurz, the soldier, statesman, and writer, who was Secretary of the Interior under President Hayes, died at his home, 24 East Ninety-first Street, at 4:35 o'clock yesterday morning. His death was due to a complication of diseases. He had been seriously ill about a week.

Mr. Schurz had reached the age of 77. He lapsed into a state of coma about 10 o'clock on Sunday evening, and did not regain consciousness again.

There was a group of relatives and intimate friends in the house when the end came. Those who were by the bedside were Mr. Schurz's two daughters, Miss Marianna and Miss Agathe Schurz; his son, Carl L. Schurz; his widowed sister, Mrs. A. Juessen of Milwaukee, and Drs. Jacobi and Straus.

Among the group in an adjoining room were his business partner, Edward L. Pretorius of St. Louis, Roger Whitman, and some others who had been his especially close friends.

Not long after death came a cablegram arrived from Prince Henry of Prussia saying:

“Please inform me of the condition of Herr Carl Schurz.”

The wires had hardly conveyed to Washington the news that Mr. Schurz had died when this dispatch to Mr. Schurz's son was received from the White House:

“Mr. Carl L. Schurz, 24 East Ninety-first Street:

“Pray accept the expression of my profound sympathy in the death of your father. The country has lost a statesman of Lincoln's generation, whose services, both in peace and in war at the great crisis of the Republic's history, will not be forgotten while that history lasts.


There were a great many other dispatches which followed. Some were from potentates and public officials in Germany. Others came from the German Embassy at Washington, others still from public men all over this country, a great many from organizations, German and English, of which Mr. Schurz was a member. Of this latter kind the one from the New York Alumni Association of the Kappa Psi fraternity was a sample. It read:

“His brothers of the New York Alumni Association of the Kappa Psi fraternity extend their heartfelt sympathies. Our fraternity has lost one of its most honored members.

“FRANK A. COOK, Secretary.”

The list of dispatches included those from Baron and Baroness Bussche, Mr. and Mrs. Oscar Straus, Isaac L. Seligman, Edward M. Shepard, A. W. Cooley of the United States Civil Service Commission, Gen. F. C. Winkler of Milwaukee, Charles A. Schieren, and Edmund Clarence Stedman. Many persons called in person and left cards, among them W. D. Howells, William S. Hornblower, Felix Adler, John T. Lockman, S. S. McClure, Karl Bitter, Magistrate Wahle, P. M. Warburg, the Rev. Dr. Ernest M. Stires. Mark Twain some time before Mr. Schurz died sent a message on his card which was sent to the sick room. It read:

“Affectionate salutation and good cheer, old friend.”

The funeral arrangements were partly made last evening. The funeral will take place at the house on Thursday at an hour yet to be fixed. This service will be only for the relatives and close friends of the dead statesman and soldier. The officiating clergyman has not yet been selected. The burial will take place the same day in the family plot in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery at Tarrytown. Mr. Schurz's body will rest beside that of his first-born son, who died here some years ago. His wife is buried in Hamburg, Germany.

On account of many requests a memorial service will be held in about ten days, probably at Carnegie Hall. A number of the foremost men in the land will speak. Similar meetings will be held in St. Louis and other cities within a fortnight.

Yesterday afternoon Karl Bitter, the sculptor, took an impression for a death-mask of Mr. Schurz.

Ex-President Cleveland at Princeton last evening spoke this tribute to the memory of Carl Schurz:

“I look upon the death of Mr. Schurz as a National affliction. Though he had reached length of years and though his activity had waned, he was still a power and strong influence in the life and sentiment of his countrymen. To those who prized high, disinterested patriotism he continued to be an inspiring leader; to those who loved unflinching moral courage he was a constant teacher, and to those who aspired to the highest ideals in civic life he was an unfailing guide.

“His example and lofty career are left to us to stimulate the young to virtuous emulation and to encourage all in right living. Such men can ill be spared, and what they leave to us should be carefully kept as a precious legacy.”

The life of Carl Schurz divides itself naturally in three periods — that of his youth before coming to this country, that which closed with his retirement from active public life at the end of President Hayes's Administration, and that which closes with his death, for his unresting energy hardly flagged as long as life lasted. The activities of these periods are not sharply differentiated, and a thread of consistent purpose ran through them all, but their general scope was sufficiently varied to make the division convenient.

Mr. Schurz was born on the 2d of March, 1829, in the little hamlet of Liblar, in the neighborhood of Cologne, and at the age of 17 entered the University of Bonn. Two years later, under the influence of Prof. Kinkel, Schurz joined with enthusiasm in the insurrectionary movement, and served as Adjutant under Gen. Tiedemann until the capture of the Fortress of Rastadt, from which he escaped into Switzerland only to return the next year to rescue Kinkel, then in prison under a life sentence — a project carried out with infinite ingenuity and audacity in November, 1850. For the next two years Schurz lived in Paris and in London, acting as correspondent of German papers and making himself familiar with the two languages, which he did with extraordinary thoroughness. In 1852 he married Margaret Meyer, of a wealthy Hamburg family, and concluded to remove to America. In this first period of his manhood Schurz had demonstrated his possession of heroic courage, physical and moral, absolute loyalty to friendship and to conviction, a keen and acquisitive mind, great resolution and persistence in any course that appealed to his conscience, and an unusual tact in persuading and convincing others by voice and pen. “After much reading and dreaming,” he declared, “I turned my eyes across the Atlantic Ocean; America and Americans, as I fancied them, appeared to me as the last repositories of the hopes of all true friends of humanity.”

After three years in Philadelphia Schurz settled in Watertown, Wis., in 1855, entering upon the study of the law, and on a still more engrossing study of the political questions engaging the attention of the people among whom he had cast his lot. The Republican Party had been organized, though hardly more than tentatively, in the previous year, and by the following year was strong enough to put a Presidential candidate in the field. The cry of the party, “Free soil, free men, Frémont!” embodied ideas and purposes that went straight to the heart of the young German who had risked his life for the cause of liberty in his own land. There were many German citizens in Wisconsin, and he threw himself with the utmost zeal into the contest for the Republican Party and its essential principle of the restriction of slavery. So great was his popularity that the next year he was named for Lieutenant Governor, and came within a few score votes of election. By 1858 he had so far mastered the ready use of the English language that he made a series of speeches in that language as well as in German in Illinois in the famous campaign for the Senate between Douglas and Lincoln, forming a close friendship with the latter which lasted until Mr. Lincoln's death. In the interval before the Presidential campaign of 1860 Mr. Schurz performed one of the most remarkable achievements of his life. The so-called native American element in the Republican Party was important in strength and in activity, especially in New England, where Nathaniel P. Banks and Henry Wilson were its leaders and exerted a powerful influence. During 1850 Mr. Schurz delivered a series of addresses, mostly from the lecture platform, then so popular, in support of full equality of rights for naturalized citizens, and he was so far successful that when he led a movement for the committal of the party to this principle in the National Convention of 1800 it was adopted by a large majority.

In the canvass of 1860 Mr. Schurz was indefatigable and spoke constantly in all parts of the North, though chiefly in the West, in German and in English. It is within reason to say that no one advocate of the Republican cause contributed more to its triumph at the polls than he, especially through his influence with the German voters, who at that time were generally inclined toward the Democratic Party. The distinguishing features of his work as a speaker on politics were his complete avoidance of appeal to partisan prejudice, his close adherence to reason, his rare knowledge of the principles of the Constitution and of the political history of his adopted country, and his keen analysis of the actual situation. On the accession to the Presidency by President Lincoln Mr. Schurz was appointed Minister to Spain. He retained that post for some eighteen months, and then resigned to take service in the Union Army, in which he was commissioned Brigadier General in April, 1862. He commanded a division in the corps of Gen. Sigel in the second battle of Bull Run, was promoted Major General in March, 1863, commanded a division in the corps of Gen. Howard at the battle of Chancellorsville, and with the same corps took part in the battles of Gettysburg and Chattanooga, and in the March of Gen. Sherman to the Sea. Promptly at the close of the war he resigned his commission. In the following Summer he was sent by President Johnson through the South and made a careful report on conditions there existing, urging especially that a competent commission should investigate the situation before a definite policy of “reconstruction” was adopted.

During the next five years Mr. Schurz devoted himself to journalism first as the Washington correspondent of The New York Tribune, then as editor of The Detroit Post, and finally as editor and part owner of The Westliche Post of St. Louis, to which city he removed in 1867. He was Chairman of the Missouri delegation to the convention of 1868 which nominated Gen. Grant for the Presidency, his especial work there being the advocacy of a resolution for general amnesty. In 1869 he was elected to the United States Senate from Missouri, where he served a full term. In 1877 he was appointed Secretary of the Interior by President Hayes. it was during these ten years of active participation in the National Government that Mr. Schurz established his reputation as a statesman of an unusually high order. In the Senate he found himself soon forced to differ widely from the general policy of his party and the President in some important matters. He strongly opposed the scheme of the President for the acquisition of San Domingo and the policy of his party in the Southern States, especially in Louisiana. He was merciless in exposing the low morals of the party managers in the administration of many of the departments, particularly the Custom House in this city. He opposed the so-called Ku-Klux measures and advocated the practical application of the principle of general amnesty to which the party had committed itself. In short, he stood firmly and aggressively for what he regarded as the dictates of honesty, purity, and justice at a time when the influence of the war, long possession of almost undisputed power, and the subtle corruption of a period of reckless speculation, stimulated by an inflated currency, had wrought very general demoralization. He was, however, far from confining himself to mere opposition, extraordinary as was his work in this direction. Although not an economist in his general studies, and without experience as a financier, he was one of the strongest and most effective advocates of a return to specie payments and of the abandonment of the system of inflation into which the country had been forced during the war. In his grasp of the essential nature of currency and of the functions it did and could discharge, in the conception of the real duty of the Government as to currency, and in his knowledge of what the experience of other nations had demonstrated in these matters, he was on the whole better equipped than any other member of the Senate at the time. In his power of clear and orderly statement and of simple and convincing application of principle to the facts of the situation he had no equal. The following passage from The Evening Post as to Mr. Schurz's ability in this extremely difficult branch of political science records the opinion of an indisputable authority:

“The two speeches against inflation and in favor of a return to specie payments which he made in the Senate on Jan. 14 and Feb 24, 1874, were models of sound doctrine. Of the second of them, Prof. Bonamy Price of Oxford, certainly a sober-minded and competent critic, said that it was the ablest speech ever made on banking in any parliament, that its range and solidity were wonderful, and that if offered a body of detailed doctrine which almost throughout will bear the test of the closest examination.”

While still in the Senate, Mr. Schurz, deeply concerned at the state of political demoralization in the country, aided in organizing the Liberal Republican movement in Missouri, which afterward developed into the Liberal Republican movement in the Nation and in the nomination of Horace Greeley for President, which he, with deep misgiving, supported. After the overwhelming defeat of Greeley in 1872 Mr. Schurz returned to the support, but always to the absolutely independent support, of the Republican Party. He led the canvass for Mr. Hayes in Ohio in the Fall of 1875, in which the signal triumph of sound money made Mr. Hayes the candidate of his party next year for the Presidency. In 1877 Mr. Schurz entered the Cabinet of Mr. Hayes as Secretary of the Interior. Apart from his steady influence in the direction of sound money, which counted for much in the veto of the Free Silver bill, the administration of his own department was solidly successful and, in a very unusual manner, brilliant. He made radical and practical reforms in the policy of the department with reference to the Indians and laid the foundation for the honest and just system that has since been carried out. He rendered a like service with regard to the public lands. He introduced the idea of systematic forestry which has since been so far advanced. But his greatest and most important service was in the application and evolution of the merit system long before it had obtained any recognition in law. He promptly and completely abolished the spoils system, made no removals save for cause or for reduction of expense, made promotions solely for tested merit, and adopted the plan of competitive examination, supplemented by probation, as the means for testing merit in both promotions and original appointments. To these rules he refused to make any exception, even in the case of his private secretary. His actual experience in office thus made him in after years one of the most effective and formidable advocates of civil service reform.

With the retirement of Mr. Schurz from the Cabinet of President Hayes at the close of his Administration in 1881 began the third period of his active life. At that time he may be said completely to have severed intimate party ties and to have entered on his career as a leading and typical Independent. For a couple of years he was engaged with Mr. E. L. Godkin and Mr. Horace White in joint conduct of The Evening Post; then he became for some time the resident director of one of the great German steamship lines, and then he gradually withdrew from active pursuits, wrote his admirable “Life of Henry Clay” for the American Statesmen Series, and devoted much time to study and to the preparation of his memoirs, of which the earlier chapters have since been published in McClure's Magazine. In politics he was the animating spirit in what was known as the Mugwump movement that led to the election of Grover Cleveland and the defeat of Mr. Blaine. His service in this movement was probably unequaled by that of any other single worker, save George William Curtis. It was renewed in 1888 and again, with signal results, in 1892. In 1896, when the issue was that of sound money, he took up with wonderful effect the support of Mr. McKinley as the representative of the right side of that issue. In 1900 he opposed Mr. McKinley on the issue of anti-imperialism, which appealed very strongly to his sense of equality and justice. Meanwhile he had become, after the death of Mr. Curtis, the President of the Civil Service Reform League, to which he gave much time and invaluable work. He had been a pioneer in the cause, and, as already noted, had applied the principle of the reform to his administration of the Interior Department with scrupulous fidelity and with the utmost practical efficiency. In the long and patient and often doubtful contest with the spoilsmen, before and after the passage of the law in 1883, Mr. Schurz's direct personal experience and his mastery of the idea and the details of the merit system were of incalculable aid. There was no task too great or too small, no labor too arduous, and no detail too minute, for his constant and adequate attention. In this, as in many other ways, he proved his possession of the rare combination of the critical and the constructive faculties.

Mr. Schurz is often described as a great orator. He was not exactly that. he was rather a great debater, addressing himself to the reason and conscience of his hearers, sometimes to their sentiment as well, never to their fleeting emotions. He had a passion for the truth, and, what is peculiarly rare, a passion for testing his ideas of the truth. He was an untiring worker, patient, minute, careful, and self-critical, and it was to this that he owed his singular influence. In private life he was the most lovable of men, gentle, considerate, and withal unfailingly stimulating and inspiring. His conversation was at least an aid to a liberal education, with its fund of varied and exact information, its keen intelligence, its lambent humor, its penetrating but candid criticism, its wisdom, and, above all, its native refinement and lofty spirit.

A volume of speeches by Mr. Schurz was published by Lippincott in 1865, but is now out of print. The public libraries and the libraries of clubs and political societies contain hundreds of his pamphlets.

He was a member of a number of local clubs, among them the Authors', Liederkranz, Century, and Reform, and of the Chamber of Commerce. He had lived of late mainly at 24 East Ninety-first Street.

Mr. Schurz was to have presided at the dinner of the Civil Service Reform Association at the Hotel Astor last Wednesday night. Word was sent to the hotel that he would be unable to be present. Without knowing the seriousness of his illness, the members unanimously elected him President of the association.

He leaves three children, Agathe and Marianne, and Carl L. Schurz, a lawyer, who lives at 200 West Fifty-sixth Street. Mrs. Schurz died in March, 1876. A son, Herbert, died several years ago, and many years earlier a daughter.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1928.

This work may be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.

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