The Writings of Carl Schurz/To Rutherford B. Hayes, January 21st, 1877

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St. Louis, Jan. 21, 1877.

I thank you for your letter of the 17th inst. and gladly comply with the desire you express, that I should write often and fully. As to the opinion held by some Republicans “that the interests of the party will be promoted by Tilden's success,” I candidly think that either party would gain immensely in strength if the other secured the triumph of its candidate by means which in the opinion of good citizens would cast doubt upon the legitimacy of the title of the next President. On the other hand, I am just as sincerely convinced that an Administration headed and conducted by you will be able to render immense service to the country—infinitely more than even Tilden could—provided your accession to power comes about in a way that places your title above reasonable dispute, and then the pledges made in your letter of acceptance are strictly adhered to and carried into effect.

As to the first proviso I must say that I have welcomed the bill reported by the Conference Committee with great satisfaction. I think there is no man in the country who should be more heartily congratulated upon the passage of that bill,—if it does pass, which I can scarcely doubt,—than yourself. My reasons are these: If the board of arbitration established by that bill decides in your favor, no man will be able to say that you were put into the Presidency by mere partisan action. The result of the great contest will not only be submitted to by the whole people, but all good citizens will unite in defending it, as brought about by the fair and impartial judgment of the highest authority in the land, against what clamor may still be raised against it by extreme partisans. The latter will then appear as the wanton disturbers of the public repose. And even if the board should decide against you, you would be saved from the mortification and disappointments which would inevitably follow such a decision in your favor brought about by a proceeding which would be looked upon, not only by the Democrats, but by a very large number of Republicans, as an unscrupulous stretch of party power for selfish party interest; and so the counting and declaring of the vote by the President of the Senate certainly would be regarded. Your name would not be associated in our history with one of the most dangerous precedents of party action.

The Conference bill may not be perfect; it may provide for a proceeding of an extra-Constitutional character, although I think its Constitutionality can be successfully defended on solid ground; but it has the great virtue of removing a question, the manner of whose decision may establish a precedent fraught with the most pernicious consequences for the future of the Republic, from the theater of apparently selfish and excited partisan strife; of insuring to the country a Government whose legitimacy will stand above serious dispute, and of restoring confidence and repose to the popular mind. It is no wonder, that, some political circles excepted, the people should have welcomed it with such preponderance of sentiment as a measure of relief. By the agreement of the Conference Committee on that measure the situation has been entirely changed. The question is no longer whether the President of the Senate or the two houses of Congress shall determine the result, but whether this measure shall be accepted or rejected. I am convinced that the party undertaking to defeat this bill and to put in its place either the power of the President of the Senate to count and declare the vote, or the principle of the 22d rule, will sink to the bottom; and let me confess—for you want me to speak to you without reserve—I felt a pang when I saw it stated in the despatches, that telegrams coming from Ohio to Republican Congressmen advised opposition, and that Sherman, Garfield and others, generally assumed to be your particular friends and spokesmen, were going to try to defeat the bill. Whatever their views and wishes may have been before, now that a measure like this, agreed upon by the foremost men in the Senate and the House, is before Congress and the country, with that popular support which springs from a general demand for a just and impartial decision, your friends ought to understand that you cannot afford, even by implication, to appear hostile to this settlement;—just as, by the way, they ought to have understood, when at New Orleans, that as your friends it was their imperative duty to insist with all the influence at their disposal upon the appointment of a Democratic member of the returning-board, according to statute of the State, so as to take away from the proceedings of that board their exclusive and therefore so suspicious partisan character. If the Conference bill should fail by Republican opposition, and you be then declared elected by the President of the Senate, the sentiment of the country will be so overwhelmingly against you, that, if the House sets up Tilden as a counter-President, as it then will certainly do, it will be no mere puppet show. In such a case I should consider the peace of the country more seriously in danger than before.

However, I think the measure will not fail. But it will be a matter of keen regret to me, as well as to a great many of your friends, to have an impression prevail that it succeeded against the opposition of men currently regarded as your nearest friends in Congress. Such a circumstance might even in a deplorable degree compromise the moral advantage which your success through this measure would otherwise give you to stand on. Your repugnance to any public declaration of your views and feelings on such a matter is undoubtedly well grounded and may be insuperable. But I submit to you, whether in a case like this it would not be desirable privately to advise your friends in Congress that if they deem it their duty to persist in their opposition to the Conference bill, it is also their duty not to permit the country to believe that they speak as your representatives and as such stand in the way of the settlement.

It is mainly to make this suggestion, which is prompted by the despatches from Washington and the impression they are apt to produce, that I write to-day. I shall as soon as possible comply with your invitation to your friends concerning inaugural and Cabinet matters.