The Writings of Carl Schurz/To Charles Francis Adams, Jr., July 22d, 1875

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Thusis, Grisons, Switzerland,
July 22, 1875.

I have just received your letter of June 28th and hasten to reply. Many of the reasons you give for my immediate return to the United States, I debated with myself before my departure. It seems you and I do not quite agree on an important question of tactics. If I were on the ground to-day, I doubt very much whether I would feel inclined to go to Ohio to take an active part in the campaign in the name of “the Independents.” It is true that the Democrats should not be permitted to have it all their own way. But there is no danger of that. The inflationists in the Democratic convention of Ohio have struck a terrible blow at the chances of their party. If they succeed in their State election, it will be such an encouragement to the inflation element in the Democratic party as to make that element insist upon controlling their National Convention next year, which will hopelessly demoralize the party. If they fail in Ohio, it will be a terrible damper upon their spirits and thus have a similar effect.

On the other hand, it appears to me by no means as certain as it seems to you, that the “force-bill and outrage” Republicans will lose the control of the Republican organization. Public sentiment is indeed likely to force them to give up their Southern policy—and they, or at least most of them, will make that sacrifice, for that policy has always been to them merely a means for partisan ends—but they will still hold the leading-strings of the Republican organization. In point of sentiment we Liberals have had a majority of the rank and file of the party with us for a considerable period, but the organization was controlled by the ringmasters all the same. It is so to-day, and the abandonment of the force policy alone will not change this. I admit that the power of those ringmasters is not as absolute now as it was a short time ago, but it was only the defeat of the party at the State elections that weakened it, and it is as yet far from being wholly destroyed. And as long as that power exists, no platform or profession or promise will have much value. Although the Republicans of Ohio have made a decent platform, yet, unless I am greatly mistaken, the controlling spirits are still the old set; and how they will use their success, and what effect it will have on the Republican party—who can tell?

Under ordinary circumstances I might feel inclined to go to Ohio and help the Republicans, because the Democrats are so much worse. But at present we have to keep the more important issues of the Presidential election in view, and I think all the effect the Ohio election can produce with regard to that matter has already been produced by the action of the Democratic convention; and I think further it is our policy as Independents to let it stand there.

There are two ways in which we may expect to exercise a decisive influence upon the Presidential election of '76: either by appealing from the old parties directly to the people, or by imposing our terms as to men and policies upon one of those parties.

Whether we shall be in a situation to do the first, I am not able to predict. But I am not without hope; as you know, I attach some importance to the sentimental character of the campaign of '76, and there may be extraordinary possibilities. In this case I deem it sound policy that the Independents should not, as such, demonstratively attach themselves to either party in the local contests of this year.

But in the other contingency the necessary thing is that one of the parties should be profoundly sensible of needing our aid, and that this feeling should be strong enough to induce them to accept our terms, not only as to platform, but also as to candidates. To that end we must not permit the impression to grow up that we are ready to resign ourselves to a choice of evils, the bad conduct of one party being sufficient reason to us to support the other. As soon as we do that, the ringmasters will laugh at us and do what they please.

I see, therefore, no urgent reason for going into the Ohio campaign. Individually, the Independents will find their way there. But it seems to me best to keep the firm aloof until the time for serious work comes, and I do not see how I could take part in that campaign without, to some extent at least, compromising the firm in it.

So much for the question of tactics. Just now, the working of natural causes will do our business as well and probably better than we could do it by putting our hands in. These were my opinions when I left the United States, and I find nothing in the information I get from there to change them.

Why should I hurry home then? The preparatory work of organization can, I should think, just as well be done without me. All that is needed is some money to keep [W. M.] Grosvenor at work. I have written about this to Cyrus W. Field, but you ought to be able to raise some at Boston. I entirely agree with you that you, and no member of your family, should become conspicuous in this matter, exactly for the reasons you give; but will it not be possible to push forward things in your immediate reach without attracting public attention? If money enough is raised to pay Grosvenor's way this summer and next winter, we shall, I doubt not, have the necessary machinery of organization in good season. I wrote him my views in extenso some time ago. I hope means will be found to keep him at work. It is perhaps the most useful thing to be done just now.

I trust you will believe me when I say that I am not kept away from the United States by a mere desire to enjoy myself in Europe. Far from that; I cannot endure pleasure and inactivity very long, and I would rather start for home to-day than to-morrow. But I have a strong feeling that, as I should not take part in any of the local contests this fall, I had better be away so as not to be obliged to refuse aid when asked to give it. I think I am not mistaken in this. I hope to be in the United States about the middle of October and to see you soon after my arrival.