The Writings of Carl Schurz/To B. B. Cahoon, December 23d, 1876

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St. Louis, Mo., Dec. 23, 1876.

. . . It seems to me, the most important thing to be kept in view is, that the Republic should have a Government the legitimacy of which cannot be seriously questioned. When we once have a President going into office by a method more or less revolutionary, we shall have more of that sort of thing, and worse in point of character. I think it therefore of very great consequence, that in so great a matter Constitutional forms should be guarded as scrupulously as possible.

If the counting of the votes and the determination of the results be undertaken on the 14th of February without any previous authoritative settlement of the question, What is the meaning of the provision of the Constitution as to the relative power of the President of the Senate and of the two houses of Congress? we may witness a furious and unscrupulous struggle of party interests, which may land us nobody knows where. It was mainly for this reason that Mr. Henderson and myself favored a Constitutional amendment referring the whole matter to the Supreme Court. As you are aware, that proposition failed in the Senate; but there is still some hope that the joint Committee of the two houses, recently appointed, will agree upon some mode of submitting the question above mentioned to the members of the Supreme Court or some other impartial authority for an opinion, the two parties agreeing to accept that opinion as the law to govern their action. I should consider that the happiest possible event under existing circumstances, no matter which candidate for the Presidency may derive benefit from it. The dangers and evils of the accession of the Democratic party to power are very clear to my mind. But any action on the part of the Republicans looking like a coup d'état, resorted to for the purpose of retaining power, would inevitably be the destruction of the party and would thus prepare the way for Democratic ascendancy under circumstances a great deal worse. The bad precedents furnished by the former would be followed by the latter, probably with much greater recklessness—and where will be the end? Whatever influence I may possess is used, therefore, to induce Members of Congress to remove the question of power with regard to the counting of the votes from the theater of party strife and to have it conclusively decided by some tribunal standing above party interest and ambition. That is, as I firmly believe, the best that can be done under present circumstances.