The Writings of Carl Schurz/To James A. Garfield, September 22d, 1880

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Washington, Sept. 22, 1880.

My dear Garfield: Yesterday I received your telegram asking me to go to Cleveland to speak. I shall certainly do so with pleasure and to-day telegraphed to Mr. Chas. O. Evarts, the secretary of the Campaign Committee, to that effect.

Now a word on the campaign as it has developed itself during the last two months. Since my return from the West I have received some strong impressions in that respect from numerous letters and conversations. They were most pointedly summed up in a few words spoken by a New York business man whom I met here yesterday. He is a man of standing and influence in his circle, has always voted the Republican ticket when voting at all and may be taken as a fair representative of a large class. “At first,” he said, “it looked as if the election of General Garfield would give us another sober, quiet, clean, businesslike Administration, uncontrolled by extreme partisan influences, like the present Administration. But for several weeks the old talk and cries of sectional warfare and bloody shirt, etc., have been uppermost again, as is said, with the full approval of Mr. Garfield. Now if that, as well as the old patronage business, is to be the spirit and character of Mr. Garfield's Administration, there are a great many of us who think we might as well try a change, for four years of sectional quarrel may and probably will have a disturbing effect upon the business affairs of the country, and unsettle everything.” I find similar apprehensions expressed in many letters I receive, particularly also from Germans. Of course it is unjust to hold you responsible for everything that is said on the stump. But somehow or other the impression seems to have got around that the tone of the campaign was determined upon at your conference in New York as the result of an agreement or capitulation concluded between yourself and the elements represented there. I am free to say that I always considered your trip to New York a mistake, for it was certain that under existing circumstances you could not make it without giving color to rumors of concession, surrender, promises etc., impairing the strength of your legislative record. And I may add, that if, as the newspapers state, you go to the meeting at Warren, the result will be just as injurious with a large class of voters, besides exposing you to the chance of listening to expressions of condescension like those at the Academy of Music in New York, very little short of contempt and insult. I enclose a couple of editorials from the Evening Post and the N. Y. Herald which it is worth your while to read. They may be somewhat overdrawn in their coloring, but they do give expression to a current of thought running through the heads of a large number of people whose votes we need. That the effect of that sort of a campaign is virtually as stated by these papers is abundantly proven by the Maine election. There we had the “sectional” music by the whole orchestra and in endless variations. I will not say that it caused the Republican defeat, but it proved entirely ineffectual in preventing it, while a quiet, conservative, persuasive tone of discussion, in the line of your anti-sectional and reform utterances in Congress, might have won converts and so prevented the disaster.

These things are not pleasant to contemplate, but as your friend I consider it my duty to point out to you dangers you have to confront, and which you ought to see and appreciate in time. I should like to have a talk with you, but that is probably not an easy thing to arrange, and, perhaps for some reasons not even desirable. But I want you to know that upon all these things you can depend upon me to tell you exactly what I think.

By the way, when I was in Indiana, the Committee showed a great desire to have me speak at some places before the October election. I have not heard from them since my return. I might visit two or three important places in Indiana in connection with my appointment at Cleveland. Webb Hayes writes me that they want a speech from me very much at Fremont. I thought, as you are probably better informed about the necessities of the campaign in that region, you might indicate to the respective committees what to do. I ought to be back here by the 6th or 7th of October on account of public business.