The Writings of Carl Schurz/To Murat Halstead, February 19th, 1877

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St. Louis, Feb. 19, 1877.

My dear Halstead: Sincere thanks for your kind letter. I shall respond to its candor and friendly spirit by giving you my true inwardness.

I have reasons to believe that Governor Hayes desires to “satisfy” me, as you say. He can do that in no better way than by carrying out faithfully and vigorously the policy indicated in his letter of acceptance. No man has staked his whole public credit more unreservedly upon the sincerity of Governor Hayes's promises than I have. If he redeems them, that will satisfy me completely.

Office for its own sake is of no value to me at all. I can afford to remain in private life, and in many respects it would be best for me. I, therefore, do not ask for anything. If Governor Hayes thinks that I can render essential service in aiding him in carrying out his pledges and calls me into his Cabinet for that purpose, then I shall consider it my duty to accept and aid him to the best of my ability. I do not think of taking office under any other circumstances.

If my preferences were consulted as to any particular Department I should say that there are two things I have studied and know something about—international relations and finances. The State Department has another special value, as the Secretary of State is ex-officio more than any other Secretary the confidential Minister of the President and the representative of his policy. But that place goes very properly to Evarts, whom I have myself recommended, and I hope he will get it, unless it be thought advisable to make him Attorney-General, for which there may be strong reasons.

As to the Treasury, I have even yesterday urged Bristow in a letter to Hayes in the strongest possible manner. All the reasons given for not taking him are small compared with the great good his appointment would accomplish. It would at once give the new Administration the confidence of the country as nothing else could. Hayes is a man who listens to candid advice, and I would entreat you to use all the influence you can still to put Bristow through. It seems to me of very great importance, and the point may still be carried. But if adverse considerations should prevail then I think every possible effort should be made to have at least a man appointed to that place who believes in reform and will have courage enough to fight for it. The name you mention in your letter in connection with that Department almost frightens me. Can Governor Hayes expect that man to stand by his reform policy against the pressure of politicians? Would not the Treasury, practically the most important Department of the Government, thereby be surrendered to the old partisan influences? I fear such an appointment would damage the new Administration very seriously in the eyes of the best part of the people, and, heaven knows, the Administration will stand greatly in need of the support of public opinion. I think it would be well for you to go to Columbus and personally urge the appointment of Bristow with all possible earnestness, or, if you find that Bristow cannot be carried, to warn Hayes against the appointment of any man who would have to change his nature in order to become a true reformer. If the Treasury be not given to Bristow, or at least to a man who enjoys and deserves the same popular confidence that Bristow has, the effect will be very bad. This is a point of such immense importance that you should not mind a trip to Columbus to carry it. I still hope for Bristow.

The Interior would not be [a] very interesting Department to me, as I have never given much attention to the Indians, patents, pensions and public lands. But it does offer some opportunities for useful work, and a seat in the Cabinet council.

On the whole, if Governor Hayes forms a good strong reform Cabinet without me, I shall be completely and sincerely satisfied. If he wants me to aid him where I can be really useful, well and good. I do not ask for anything and shall in no case be personally disappointed.