The Writings of Carl Schurz/Address to the People of Missouri

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Sept. 10, 1870.

In pursuance of a resolution passed at the Republican State convention, which organized at Jefferson City on the 2d of September, the undersigned submit to the voters of Missouri the following statements:

A large number of the delegates in the Radical State convention which assembled at Jefferson City on the 31st of August, a number representing a considerable majority of those who in 1868 voted for Grant, considered it their duty to withdraw from that convention and to effect a separate organization. Here are the circumstances and reasons which compelled them to take that important step.

Every sensible man knows that the civil war is over, and that the exigencies of a great public danger which brought forth the necessity of exceptional measures for the salvation of the Republic and the protection of the loyal people, have ceased to exist.

Every honest friend of republican institutions admits that such exceptional measures as the exclusion of a large number of citizens from the ballot-box and all participation in the functions of self-government can find justification only in the extreme case of imperative public necessity.

Every faithful Republican will remember that the Republican party, in its National and State platforms, has solemnly pledged itself to remove those disqualifications and disabilities as soon as the justification based upon public danger should have disappeared.

We consider, and always have considered, that pledge to be an honest pledge, and the Republican party in honor bound to redeem it. No party can trifle with so solemn an obligation without disgracing itself.

For a considerable time profound peace has reigned in Missouri. The governor of the State, in his last annual message, declared: “There is no county in the State where organized resistance to the law exists, and where the sheriff cannot procure a posse to aid in the execution of the laws. The rights of person and property are as secure as in any State of the Union.” And Governor McClurg, now the candidate of the advocates of continued proscription, cannot be suspected of any inclination to overstate the matter. Everybody knows that the pacification of Missouri is complete. Under such circumstances, the Republican majority in the legislature resolved, by submitting to the people certain amendments to the State constitution, to give the people an opportunity to wipe out from the fundamental law of the State all prescriptive features and to make this a commonwealth of equal citizens. Those amendments are to be voted upon at the next election. Thus the issue is clearly placed before the people, demanding an answer, aye or no.

How can there be any doubt as to what that answer should be? Is the peace reigning in Missouri not an undeniable fact, as clear as sunlight? Is it not the obvious interest of all classes of society in the State that odious distinctions, calculated to keep alive the heartburnings of past conflicts, should without delay be abolished? Is it not time, at last, to open to all the prospect of a common future, so that all may devote their energies to the problems we have in common to solve? Is it not the imperative duty of all friends of Republican institutions to do away with proscriptive laws which must be condemned as unrepublican when unnecessary for the salvation of the Republic? Or can the Republican party afford to stand by without taking any position with regard to this important question? Is it not time for them to prove to the world that in establishing those disqualifications they were not actuated by feelings of hate or desires of revenge, but compelled by the necessities of the situation, and that after the cessation of those necessities, they are happy to show a spirit of peace and good-will to all men? Can the Republican party disregard its solemn pledge to that effect, as it stands recorded in its platforms, without shame and dishonor?

Indeed, it would seem under circumstances so plain, under obligations so solemn, no faithful Republican, no good patriot could hesitate a moment to declare himself emphatically in favor of the constitutional amendments. What reason could there possibly be for putting off this act of good faith, true patriotism and sound policy, to an indefinite future, either by direct opposition or insidious equivocation? And yet, such opposition was made and organized by all the contrivances known to the art of political trickery.

It is our duty to tell the plain truth. It so happens that in some parts of the State the Radical party has fallen under the control of politicians who desire to monopolize the local offices, and who find themselves endangered in the possession of the spoils by the removal of political disabilities from those who might vote against them; and those spoilsmen, together with a class of narrow-minded persons, whose only political capital and wisdom consist in the resentments and battle-cries of the past, formed the scheme of maintaining their ascendancy at any price. To this end the State convention of the Radical party was to be packed and controlled, the passage of any resolution favoring the adoption of the constitutional amendments was to be prevented and the nomination for the governorship of a man representing them to be secured. And in order to pack and control that convention, means were resorted to so outrageous as to be almost without precedent in the history of political parties.

A basis of representation was invented dividing the white and the colored voters into two distinct classes, and to the colored voters, who had never exercised the right of suffrage, a representation was given in the State convention at the rate of one delegate to ninety voters, while the whites had to content themselves with a representation at the rate of one delegate to one hundred and forty constituents. And measures were taken at the same time, by all the appliances of demagogism, to unite the whole colored element against the enfranchising amendments and in favor of the candidate of the proscriptionists. In vain did the chairman of the State central committee protest against this absurd and flagrantly unjust basis of representation; he was overruled.

But more than that. In thirty-four counties delegates to the State convention were surreptitiously appointed at meetings ostensibly called not for that purpose, but merely for the election of local committees, prior to any call of the State committee for the election of delegates, and thus the people of those counties were deprived of a fair expression of opinion. Finally, a number of counties were represented in the convention by proxies in the hands of single individuals, though no meetings whatever were held in such counties. And all this was done in the interest of the friends of continued proscription and of their candidate.

Those members of the convention who deemed it their duty to stand faithfully by the best interests of the State and the pledges of the Republican party—actuated by a spirit of moderation and forbearance—made several attempts to correct some of the outrages above enumerated. Twice a resolution was offered to put the representation of the colored voters upon an equal footing with that of the whites, and to secure the representation of men instead of the representation of bare acres—and twice that act of justice and fairness was denied. A fixed determination was clearly visible on the part of those who had planned and instigated those iniquities, to reap the whole benefit to be derived from them. Still we submitted.

But when finally, after a full debate, a resolution, declaring the time to have come when the solemn pledges of the Republican party should be redeemed by the adoption of the enfranchising amendments, was voted down, and a substitute was adopted, drafted and proposed by the very men who openly declared their hostility to the removal of political disabilities; and when thus the maneuvers of the spoilsmen and proscriptionists had resulted in a decided triumph, then it was clear to us that, as good citizens and faithful Republicans, we could no longer sit in that convention, and that it was our solemn duty to take our own honor and that of the Republican party into our own hands; there was no other remedy left; for, as Lieutenant Governor Stanard, who after an ineffectual attempt of his friends for reconciliation, turned away from the rump-convention and came over to us, said with indignant emphasis: “We have worked with a determination to create harmony, but we have failed; there was a party of men who had such a greed for office, such a determination to have the spoils, that they would not listen to reason.”

Missourians: Having faithfully discharged our duty, we confidently submit our conduct to the intelligent and patriotic judgment of the people. We are well aware that our purposes will be unscrupulously misrepresented. We are already denounced as enemies of the Republican Party. There is our platform; scrutinize it. Is there one iota of the great principles the Republican Party fought for given up? Is there a single one of the great results of the war compromised in the least? Not one. But we do insist that the great pledge of the Republican party to guarantee equal rights to all as soon as the public danger is past must be kept sacred. We do insist upon the honest performance of our whole duty, while the proscriptionists recoil from that part of it, the discharge of which may not redound to their personal benefit. Weigh the difference and you will find that we are the consistent advocates of the true Republican faith, and not they.

Look at our candidates. Is there a single one whose past conduct is not identified with the great achievements of which the Republican party is so justly proud? But, faithful to the true Republican faith, there is not one among them who, for his personal advancement, would deprive any other human being of his rights.

Republicans, you are not exempt from the laws which govern political life. When a party once falls under the control of politicians who care more for spoils and plunder than for their plighted faith and the common good, or who are too narrow-minded to progress with the requirements of the new order of things, then it is time that such a party should pass through a process of purification. A party cannot live on the glory of its past achievements alone. It cannot quarter itself, like an idle and hungry pensioner, upon the public crib on the ground that it has once well deserved of the Republic. It must come up to the living exigencies and obligations of the present and the future, or it will go under. Every true Republican will, therefore, thank us for having been mindful of those obligations, for thus only we could save our great cause from disaster and disgrace.

We are accused of desiring the support of Democrats. We have abandoned no principle to secure it. But have not those of us who ever took an active part in political campaigns, always worked for the distinct purpose of convincing our opponents of the justice of our cause, and of inducing as many as possible of them to coöperate with us? Is not that one of the principal objects of every canvass? And if there are Democrats who now, when the whole Republican program, the establishment of the equal rights of all, is to be carried into effect, frankly recognize the great results of the civil war as accomplished and irreversible facts, and unite with us in promoting upon that basis the common welfare—is it not well that they should do so? Would any Republican be justified in telling them: You shall not work for the same ends with us? Nay, every sensible and patriotic man will say: Welcome all who honestly mean to coöperate with us for the good of the country.

A word to the colored people. You have just been admitted to the exercise of political rights. It has cost a long and terrible struggle to break your chains. Your trials are not ended yet. For a long time yet you will have to contend against unjust and unreasonable, but stubborn, prejudices. And now, there are unscrupulous men who advise you, when you are to exercise the franchise for the first time, to use that franchise for the purpose of continuing the disfranchisement of others. Do you not see that such a course cannot fail to strengthen the prejudices which are still arrayed against you? If you are wise you will repel those who thus strive to seduce and make tools of you, as your most dangerous enemies, for it must be clear to every one of you that your rights can be secure only if no other class of citizens is deprived of the privileges which you enjoy. Your safety can be only in a perfect equality of rights. As your sincere and lifelong friends, we call upon you to aid in establishing it. We know that many of your race are already on our side. But if you understand your true interests you will make it manifest that the colored people en mass, without exception, cast their first ballots in favor of giving back the ballot to those who are now deprived of it. Only thus can you establish that fraternal feeling between you and all other classes of citizens, which is so essential to your welfare.

Fellow-citizens, in laying before you the reasons compelling us to refuse our acquiescence in the action of the convention which disregarded the great pledges of the Republican party, we do not mean to say that all those who remained in that convention were responsible for the faithlessness and trickery of the spoilsmen and proscriptionists who controlled it. We know of many well-meaning men who, although at heart convinced of the justness of our cause, permitted themselves to be kept there by the habit of party discipline. To them we would say that, if they mean to be consistent in the true sense of the term, they will take their stand with us; for the honor and the moral power and efficiency of a party go with its principles and pledges. As patriots they cannot remain neutral in this contest, and they can find no satisfaction in adhering to the mere empty shell of that organization from which the element of true moral power, the will and ability to do that which is needful for the peace and prosperity of the country, has departed.

The integrity of Republican institutions is menaced by great abuses. Having in this instance the demoralizing influence of the spoils system once more clearly before our eyes, we were the first of the political organizations of this country to pronounce in favor of a thorough reform of the civil service, and we call for the support of all who desire to elevate our political life to a higher level of morality.

And now, having submitted this candid statement of our conduct and views to the people of Missouri, we appeal to their judgment and patriotism. Ours is the cause of reform, equal rights, peace and fraternal feeling, and we are confident that this cause will be triumphantly sustained by an intelligent and patriotic people.

Carl Schurz, Senator, and pres't of the convention.
E. O. Stanard, of St. Louis co., lieutenant-governor.
J. C. Orrick, of St. Charles Co., speaker house rep.
Thos. Harbine, of Buchanan Co., State senator.
H. G. Mullins, member house of representatives.

  1. This address of bolting Republicans appeared in full in the St. Louis Democrat, of Sept. 11, 1870. Schurz inclosed a clipping of it with his letter of Sept. 10, 1870, to Hamilton Fish and mentioned it in a postscript of Sept. 11th.