The Writings of Carl Schurz/To Jacob D. Cox, December 28th, 1876

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St. Louis, Dec. 28, 1876.

I was on the point of writing to you when I received your letter, and I should have addressed to you very nearly the same questions which you want me to answer. I have been corresponding with Hayes until about three weeks ago. But his letters referred more to the changes of the situation appearing from day to day than to anything else. They indicate moreover that he believes himself fairly and rightfully elected. What influences may at present be potent with him, I do not know. I have been trying to convince him that his own interest as well as that of the country demands a settlement of the Presidential question by some other means than the mere use of party power through the President of the Senate, and I urged him to express himself publicly to that effect. He seemed to agree with me in the abstract, but there our correspondence dropped, probably because my last letter did not call for any answer. Whether he does anything to influence the counsels of the party at Washington, I do not know; but I am inclined to think he does not. I suppose the man now nearest to him is Stanley Matthews. My relations with the latter are not so intimate that I might apply to him for confidential information. Perhaps you could do so. Hayes has on several occasions spoken to me very highly of you as one of his most valued friends, and I suppose there would be no impropriety in your approaching him directly. I feel even as if you ought to do it. He is in a very perplexing and somewhat dangerous position. I mean morally dangerous, and dangerous also as to his standing as a man before the country. He ought not to be left without the advice of just such a friend as you are to him.

As to the general situation of things I conclude from your letter that we feel exactly alike. The doings of the Louisiana returning-board are, to say the least, suspicious. That a fair election in Louisiana, Florida, Mississippi etc., would have resulted in large Republican majorities, is indeed possible and even probable. But such an assumption, however justifiable, is after all no solution of the question. How will Hayes and his friends and his party stand before the world if after proceedings of so questionable a character the President of the Senate, setting aside the constant usage of more than half a century, takes it upon himself alone to count the votes and to determine and declare the result of the election? What will be the upshot of such a precedent in the future history of the Republic?

You are probably aware that I, with Senator Henderson, petitioned Congress to submit the matter to the Supreme Court. I did this because it is clear to my mind that nothing can now give Hayes an impregnable and universally respected title to the Presidency but the determination of the matter by some tribunal standing outside of party interest. I am therefore writing to my friends in Congress, and especially to members of the Compromise Committee of the two houses entreating them to devise and urge some method, formal or informal, to submit at least the question of the relative power of the President of the Senate and of the two houses in counting the electoral votes either to the members of the Supreme Court or some other impartial tribunal invented for the occasion. Not only the honor and existence of the Republican party are in jeopardy now, but by some unscrupulous use of power an injury may be inflicted on our republican institutions fraught with mischief beyond all present calculation.

I think some of us, who are of the same way of thinking, ought to get together as soon as possible to consider whether we cannot ourselves, or induce Hayes to, do something to avert such a danger. Unfortunately, I cannot leave my family just now. But will you not come this way one of these days? I should be most happy to speak with you. Do come if you can. Hayes, I fear, just permits things to drift. Can you not meet him somewhere? I have letters from many of our friends, especially from New England, full of apprehension.