The Writings of Carl Schurz/To Wheeler H. Peckham, January 23d, 1903
TO WHEELER H. PECKHAM
Jan. 23, 1903.
I thank you most sincerely for your kind invitation giving me the privilege of joining you in doing honor to Abram S. Hewitt's memory.
He was a rare man, of whom it can be said that the story of his life, truthfully told, will be a eulogy, and whose death causes a void very hard to fill.
He was a true statesman, a statesman of thought and knowledge and effective energy, of conviction—in legislative, as well as in executive place, a pillar of public integrity and honor, and a builder of good government.
His political ambition reached not merely for distinguished position, but for opportunity to render useful service. He strove not merely to be something, but to do something.
He was a democrat, believing in the people, and, like Lincoln, in government of, for and by the people. But he never flattered the multitude; neither was he afraid of it.
He would rather be right than be popular. The instinctive dignity of his manhood would never stoop to the mean arts of hypocrisy.
He was a party man, but never a party slave. His supreme allegiance was always to the public good. He had the outspoken courage rather to see his party defeated than the public good suffer.
He was a leader, but such a leader as democracies most need—a leader of opinion, not a mere captain of organization.
Whether impulsive or calmly matured, whether right or wrong, his opinions were his own. They were always so transparently honest and buttressed with reasoning so thoughtful and a character so high that sincere men would differ from his conclusions not only with profound respect for him, but not seldom with mistrust of their own judgment.
His peculiar usefulness on the field of public affairs was that of a practical business man endowed with the philosophic spirit capable of grasping the relation of small to great things, and the bearing of general principles upon facts.
He was a philanthropist of unbounded generosity and discriminating judgment, giving not only his treasure, but his active care to the objects of his benevolence, and wisely intent upon helping them to help themselves. Uncounted thousands he served in lighting to them the lamp of knowledge, and thus guided them on the path of fruitful work.
He was a conscientious friend of the laboring man, although some of them would not accept his theory, for he not only was just and kind to all employed by him, but he also strove to defend the freedom of all of them, as men and citizens, against what he considered the tyranny of their own organizations.
He was a thoroughly genuine man, magnificently sincere and free from cant; never seeking to appear what he was not; his very foibles, errors and indiscretions springing from a large idealism and a high-spirited, almost impatient, zeal in serving justice and truth and the public good.
And how charmingly human he was with his vivid enthusiasms, his quick and combative temper, his irascible moods—and, behind all this, a soul overflowing with warm sympathies and love of peace and good-will to all men.
And what a great figure he was in his retirement from public office! Indeed, our history shows no finer example of active statesmanship in private station, as the words uttered by that single citizen could not have commanded higher respect and compliance if they had come from a Senate chamber or an Executive chair.
And he enjoyed, as he deserved, the rare fortune that to his last days in old age the light of his mind burned with undiminished brightness, and that his counsel was sought by his fellow-citizens with ever-increasing confidence.
Thus it may be said, that when he died, his head rested upon the pillow of universal affection and esteem, and that the most ambitious among our people may well envy the record of a life so splendid in devotion, usefulness and inspiring example.