The Writings of Carl Schurz/To W. M. Grosvenor, March 29th, 1869

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Washington, March 29, 1869.

I wrote you yesterday before I had your letter, which arrived this morning. I am surprised you did “not understand” my speech.[2] Everybody here understood it. It is certain—at any rate it is clear to everybody here—that civil service reform measures have little if any chance of success in Congress, unless we manage to produce a pressure. And there is nothing so available and so easy within reach as this law, of which everybody knows that it will have to be amended. If we succeed in keeping the necessity of doing something in this matter alive, we have a splendid chance to make a regular reform campaign next winter. But if the matter is now finally disposed of, as it would be by a repeal, the probability is that we shall have to struggle hard to bring the reform bill properly before the two houses, with chances rather against us. I have talked with the most prominent friends of reform, and they are entirely of my opinion. They considered my speech, as to its immediate effect upon the question, the most judicious that has been made.

This is one point. Another is that there is one feature in the tenure of office law which, although obnoxious in its connection with the present system of appointments, will be of value connected with the reforms proposed.

The third point, already hinted at in my letter of yesterday is this. The growing tendency of flinging down legislative powers at the feet of “personal government,” when that “personal government” is carried on by one who starts on [with] a certain capital of popularity, is rather too much for my republican blood. If done at all, it ought to be done with decency. The agencies and men principally at work for repeal are of such a character as to repel my instinct. Nothing could be better for Grant, just now, than to learn, that the Legislative power is, as such, independent and somewhat animated by an independent spirit. While suspension is calculated to convey that impression to him and accomplishes all the objects above alluded to, it gives him at the same time all the liberty of action he wants and anybody can reasonably ask for. Then we would, pressed by the existence of the law, and the necessity of remodeling it, take the matter of reform vigorously in hand next winter. There now!

I shall send you the Globe. Write me more frequently, if you can, and I know you can.

  1. At this time editor of the St. Louis Democrat.
  2. On the repeal of the tenure of office act.