The Writings of Carl Schurz/To Rutherford B. Hayes, August 14th, 1876

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Fort Washington, Pa., Aug. 14, 1876.

My dear Governor: I have received your kind note of the 8th [9th] inst. In it you say that you replied to my letter addressed to you some time ago, but I have received no such reply. Can it have been lost on the way to this place? It would not surprise me since the postal service here is not very regular. You remember I made some suggestion to you concerning the levying of assessments on Department clerks and other Government officers. The matter is now being discussed in the newspapers. It appears the Senate amended a provision in a House bill touching this subject so as to make the prohibition to levy such assessments apply only to persons connected with the Government, but not to “other persons” as the House bill provided. If this amendment is agreed to, the Government clerks, etc., will receive circulars asking for campaign contributions, from party committees, which, in effect, leaves the matter just where it was before. The papers report that assessments are actually being levied now under the name of voluntary contributions. But we know from experience how voluntary they are. Not having received your letter in answer to mine I do not know what your reply may have been. But I venture to repeat my suggestion that you protest in some way against the collection of money for the canvass from Department clerks and other Government officers. A civil service reform campaign in which one of the principles we profess is, that Government officers are neither expected nor desired to render any partisan service—such a campaign run on money collected from Government officers, very many of whom would not pay “voluntary contributions” did they not know that there is danger in refusing, is a contradiction in itself. A protest from you, which would come as a perfectly natural thing, would be tangible proof that we mean what we say, and would have a most excellent effect. In fact it would be the honest thing to do.

I must recur also once more to the subject of my last letter. It grows every day more important that something of the kind suggested there be done. To the “plain people” who think that a Democratic victory would bring the Rebellion into power no other argument need be addressed. But there are vast numbers of Republicans or men who used to vote the Republican ticket who have lost their fear of the return of the Rebellion to power. They want a change in the conduct of Government, not only a change of persons in the Presidential chair, but a radical change in the influences directing the Government. The only way to prevent that class of citizens from seeking that change outside of the Republican party is to make them quite sure that they will find it inside. At present there is a quiet migration going on from one side to the other. But I assure you I know what I am speaking of when I say that this migration is almost all going the other way. Unless that movement be arrested and, if possible, turned back, the election will be lost. I tell you here what I know to be true. The cry for a “change” is immensely powerful. People say, Governor Hayes is an honest man, but what good will it do to elect him, if his Administration is controlled by Morton, Conkling, Cameron, Chandler, Blaine, etc.—and off they go where they are sure of “a change.” I could show you a number of letters from men of Republican sympathies, of cool judgment and more or less prominence and influence who have taken, or are inclined to take, that course. To some extent that movement is showing itself on the surface, but more of it is going on in a very quiet way unobserved by the party leaders. And, of course, the Democratic managers are using every possible means to stimulate that tendency. How easy it is for them to make an impression in that respect I know from my own convictions of the absolute necessity of a thorough reform, and of the removal of the most powerful influences at present controlling the conduct of Government. I cannot refrain therefore from urging the importance of the suggestion.

I feel that the subject I am discussing with you is a delicate one. But I can speak about it with entire frankness and candor, because I have no ax of my own to grind. If you are elected you will not find me among those who ask for or expect place or favor. I have been long enough in public positions to become sensible of their worthlessness as an element of human happiness and especially since my recent bereavement I have absolutely no ambition in that line. Being so minded and having no friends to push forward nor enemies to punish, I feel that I can afford to speak to you about everything connected with our common cause without reserve and in perfect confidence. The only thing that I want is to promote certain objects of public importance and to that end to preserve, as a private citizen, my influence on public opinion and the esteem of those whose respect is worth something. I can do that only by telling the people what I honestly believe to be true and what I can reasonably prove to be true. What I believe as to the consequences of your election, especially with regard to the work of reform, I have stated in my letter to Mr. Ottendorfer, and I shall repeat it in every speech. It is a draft on the future, and it is in the interest of our common cause as well as your own as a candidate, that this draft be as well endorsed as possible. The strongest endorsement is your own.

I have not been well of late but am now in a condition to go into the campaign. I have given up the idea of opening in New York. It is just now a bad time for public meetings there, a large number of people being out of town and public assemblages in closed halls not being very comfortable in this warm weather. Moreover, the main speech I wish to deliver is not yet in that shape in which I want to have it. Perhaps I shall divide it into two, one on the reform question and the other on the currency. In a day or two I shall appoint a day for a meeting of the Germans in Cleveland, and then I may go for the same purpose to Chicago and Milwaukee, to return immediately to Ohio. I shall write to Mr. Wikoff about it. After Ohio I may go into Indiana. In New York, the campaign will not become warm until after the nomination of the State tickets. More depends on the wisdom of the Republican convention in their nominations than on any speeches that can be made. As soon as I am once in the campaign I shall stay in with the exception of a few days which I shall have to devote to my children.