|13th United States Secretary of the Interior|
March 12, 1877 – March 7, 1881
|President||Rutherford B. Hayes|
|Preceded by||Zachariah Chandler|
|Succeeded by||Samuel J. Kirkwood|
|United States Senator|
March 4, 1869 – March 3, 1875
|Preceded by||John B. Henderson|
|Succeeded by||Francis Cockrell|
|United States Minister to Spain|
July 13, 1861 – December 18, 1861
|Preceded by||William Preston|
|Succeeded by||Gustav Körner|
Carl Christian Schurz
March 2, 1829
Liblar, Province of Westphalia, Kingdom of Prussia, German Confederation (now Erftstadt)
|Died||May 14, 1906 (aged 77)|
New York City, U.S.
|Liberal Republican (1870–72)|
|Education||University of Bonn (BA)|
|Branch/service||United States Volunteers|
|Years of service||1848|
|Battles/wars||German revolutions of 1848–49|
American Civil War (1861–65)
|Part of a series on|
the United States
Carl Schurz (German: [ʃʊɐ̯ts]; March 2, 1829 – May 14, 1906) was a German revolutionary and an American statesman, journalist, and reformer. He immigrated to the United States after the German revolutions of 1848–1849 and became a prominent member of the new Republican Party. After serving as a Union general in the American Civil War, he helped found the short-lived Liberal Republican Party and became a prominent advocate of civil service reform. Schurz represented Missouri in the United States Senate and was the 13th United States Secretary of the Interior.
Born in the Kingdom of Prussia's Rhine Province, Schurz fought for democratic reforms in the German revolutions of 1848–1849 as a member of the academic fraternity association Deutsche Burschenschaft. After Prussia suppressed the revolution Schurz fled to France. When police forced him to leave France he migrated to London. Like many other "Forty-Eighters," he then immigrated to the United States, settling in Watertown, Wisconsin, in 1852. After being admitted to the Wisconsin bar, he established a legal practice in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He also became a strong advocate for the anti-slavery movement and joined the newly organized Republican Party, unsuccessfully running for Lieutenant Governor of Wisconsin. After briefly representing the United States as Minister (ambassador) to Spain, Schurz served as a general in the American Civil War, fighting in the Battle of Gettysburg and other major battles.
After the war, Schurz established a newspaper in St. Louis, Missouri, and won election to the U.S. Senate, becoming the first German-born American elected to that body. Breaking with Republican President Ulysses S. Grant, Schurz helped establish the Liberal Republican Party. The party advocated civil service reform, sound money, low tariffs, low taxes, an end to railroad grants, and opposed Grant's efforts to protect African-American civil rights in the Southern United States during Reconstruction. Schurz chaired the 1872 Liberal Republican convention, which nominated a ticket that unsuccessfully challenged President Grant in the 1872 presidential election. Schurz lost his own 1874 re-election bid and resumed his career as a newspaper editor. He was elected as a member to the American Philosophical Society in 1878.
After Republican Rutherford B. Hayes won the 1876 presidential election, he appointed Schurz as his Secretary of the Interior. Schurz sought to make civil service based on merit rather than political and party connections and helped prevent the transfer of the Bureau of Indian Affairs to the War Department. Schurz moved to New York City after Hayes left office in 1881 and briefly served as the editor of the New York Evening Post and The Nation and later became the editorial writer for Harper's Weekly. He remained active in politics and led the "Mugwump" movement, which opposed nominating James G. Blaine in the 1884 presidential election. Schurz opposed William Jennings Bryan's bimetallism in the 1896 presidential election but supported Bryan's anti-imperialist campaign in the 1900 presidential election. Schurz died in New York City in 1906.
Carl Christian Schurz was born on March 2, 1829, in Liblar (now part of Erftstadt), in Rhenish Prussia, the son of Marianne (née Jussen), a public speaker and journalist, and Christian Schurz, a schoolteacher. He studied at the Jesuit Gymnasium of Cologne, and learned piano under private instructors. Financial problems in his family obligated him to leave school a year early, without graduating. Later he graduated from the gymnasium by passing a special examination and then entered the University of Bonn.
At Bonn, he developed a friendship with one of his professors, Gottfried Kinkel. He joined the nationalistic Studentenverbindung Burschenschaft Franconia at Bonn, which at the time included among its members Friedrich von Spielhagen, Johannes Overbeck, Julius Schmidt, Carl Otto Weber, Ludwig Meyer and Adolf Strodtmann. In response to the early events of the revolutions of 1848, Schurz and Kinkel founded the Bonner Zeitung, a paper advocating democratic reforms. At first Kinkel was the editor and Schurz a regular contributor.
These roles were reversed when Kinkel left for Berlin to become a member of the Prussian Constitutional Convention. When the Frankfurt rump parliament called for people to take up arms in defense of the new German constitution, Schurz, Kinkel, and others from the University of Bonn community did so. During this struggle, Schurz became acquainted with Franz Sigel, Alexander Schimmelfennig, Fritz Anneke, Friedrich Beust, Ludwig Blenker and others, many of whom he would meet again in the Union Army during the U.S. Civil War.
During the 1849 military campaign in Palatinate and Baden, he joined the revolutionary army, fighting in several battles against the Prussian Army. Schurz was adjunct officer of the commander of the artillery, Fritz Anneke, who was accompanied on the campaign by his wife, Mathilde Franziska Anneke. The Annekes would later move to the U.S., where each became Republican Party supporters. Anneke's brother, Emil Anneke, was a founder of the Republican party in Michigan. Fritz Anneke achieved the rank of colonel and became the commanding officer of the 34th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment during the Civil War; Mathilde Anneke contributed to both the abolitionist and suffrage movements of the United States.
When the revolutionary army was defeated at the fortress of Rastatt in 1849, Schurz was inside. Knowing that the Prussians intended to kill their prisoners, Schurz managed to escape and travelled to Zürich. In 1850, he returned secretly to Prussia, rescued Kinkel from prison at Spandau and helped him to escape to Edinburgh, Scotland. Schurz then went to Paris, but the police forced him to leave France on the eve of the coup d'état of 1851, and he migrated to London. Remaining there until August 1852, he made his living by teaching the German language.
While in London, Schurz married fellow revolutionary Johannes Ronge's sister-in-law, Margarethe Meyer, in July 1852 and then, like many other Forty-Eighters, immigrated to the United States. Living initially in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the Schurzes moved to Watertown, Wisconsin, where Carl nurtured his interests in politics and Margarethe began her seminal work in early childhood education.
In Wisconsin, Schurz soon became immersed in the anti-slavery movement and in politics, joining the Republican Party. In 1857, he ran unsuccessfully as a Republican for lieutenant governor. In the Illinois campaign of the next year between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas, he took part as a speaker on behalf of Lincoln—mostly in German—which raised Lincoln's popularity among German-American voters. In 1858, Schurz was admitted to the Wisconsin bar and began to practice law in Milwaukee. Beginning 1859, his law partner was Halbert E. Paine. With Paine's encouragement, Schurz took more of an interest in politics and public speaking than in law. In the state campaign of 1859, Schurz made a speech attacking the Fugitive Slave Law, arguing for states' rights. In Faneuil Hall, Boston, on April 18, 1859, he delivered an oration on "True Americanism," which, coming from an alien, was intended to clear the Republican party of the charge of "nativism". Wisconsin Germans unsuccessfully urged his nomination for governor in 1859. In the 1860 Republican National Convention, Schurz was spokesman of the delegation from Wisconsin, which voted for William H. Seward. Despite this, Schurz was on the committee which brought Lincoln the news of his nomination.
After Lincoln's election and in spite of Seward's objection, Lincoln sent Schurz as minister to Spain in 1861, in part because of Schurz's European record as a revolutionary. While there Schurz succeeded in quietly dissuading Spain from supporting the South.
During the American Civil War, Schurz served with distinction as a general in the Union Army. Persuading Lincoln to grant him a commission in the Union army, Schurz was commissioned brigadier general of Union volunteers in April 1862. In June, he took command of a division, first under John C. Frémont, and then in Franz Sigel's corps, with which he took part in the Second Battle of Bull Run in August 1862. He was promoted to major general in 1863 and was assigned to lead a division in the XI Corps at the battles of Chancellorsville and Gettysburg, both under General Oliver O. Howard. A bitter controversy began between Schurz and Howard over the strategy employed at Chancellorsville, resulting in the routing of the XI Corps by the Confederate corps led by Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson. Two months later, the XI Corps again broke during the first day of Gettysburg. Containing several German-American units, the XI Corps performance during both battles was heavily criticized by the press, fueling anti-immigrant sentiments.
Following Gettysburg, Schurz's division was deployed to Tennessee and participated in the Battle of Chattanooga. There he served with the future Senator Joseph B. Foraker, John Patterson Rea, and Luther Morris Buchwalter, brother to Morris Lyon Buchwalter. Senator Charles Sumner (R-MA) was a Congressional observer during the Chattanooga Campaign. Later, he was put in command of a Corps of Instruction at Nashville. He briefly returned to active service, where in the last months of the war he was with Sherman's army in North Carolina as chief of staff of Henry Slocum's Army of Georgia. He resigned from the army after the war ended in April 1865.
In the summer of 1865, President Andrew Johnson sent Schurz through the South to study conditions. They then quarreled because Schurz supported General Slocum's order forbidding the organization of militia in Mississippi. Schurz delivered a report to the U.S. Senate documenting conditions in the South which concluded that Reconstruction had succeeded in restoring the basic functioning of government but failed in restoring the loyalty of the people and protecting the rights of the newly legally emancipated who were still considered the slaves of society. It called for a national commitment to maintaining control over the South until free labor was secure, arguing that without national action, Black Codes and violence including numerous extrajudicial killings documented by Schurz were likely to continue. The report was ignored by the President, but it helped fuel the movement pushing for a larger congressional role in Reconstruction and holding Southern states to higher standards.
In 1866, Schurz moved to Detroit, where he was chief editor of the Detroit Post. The following year, he moved to St. Louis, becoming editor and joint proprietor with Emil Preetorius of the German-language Westliche Post (Western Post), where he hired Joseph Pulitzer as a cub reporter. In the winter of 1867–1868, he traveled in Germany; his account of his interview with Otto von Bismarck is one of the most interesting chapters of his Reminiscences. He spoke against "repudiation" of war debts and for "honest money"—code for going back on the gold standard—during the Presidential campaign of 1868.
In 1868, he was elected to the United States Senate from Missouri, becoming the first German American in that body. He earned a reputation for his speeches, which advocated fiscal responsibility, anti-imperialism, and integrity in government. During this period, he broke with the Grant administration, starting the Liberal Republican movement in Missouri, which in 1870 elected B. Gratz Brown governor.
After William P. Fessenden's death, Schurz became a member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs where Schurz opposed Grant's Southern policy as well as his bid to annex Santo Domingo. Schurz was identified with the committee's investigation of arms sales to and cartridge manufacture for the French army by the United States government during the Franco-Prussian War.
In 1869, he became the first U.S. Senator to offer a Civil Service Reform bill to Congress. During Reconstruction, Schurz was opposed to federal military enforcement and protection of African American civil rights, and held nineteenth century ideas of European superiority and fears of miscegenation.
In 1870, Schurz helped form the Liberal Republican Party, which opposed President Ulysses S. Grant's annexation of Santo Domingo and his use of the military to destroy the Ku Klux Klan in the South under the Enforcement Acts.
In 1872, he presided over the Liberal Republican Party convention, which nominated Horace Greeley for President. Schurz's own choice was Charles Francis Adams or Lyman Trumbull, and the convention did not represent Schurz's views on the tariff. Schurz campaigned for Greeley anyway. Especially in this campaign, and throughout his career as a Senator and afterwards, he was a target for the pen of Harper's Weekly artist Thomas Nast, usually in an unfavorable way. The election was a debacle for the Greeley supporters. Grant won by a landslide, and Greeley died shortly after the election.
Schurz lost the 1874 Senatorial election to Democratic Party challenger and former Confederate Francis Cockrell. After leaving office, he worked as an editor for various newspapers. In 1875, he assisted in the successful campaign of Rutherford B. Hayes to regain the office of Governor of Ohio. In 1877, Schurz was appointed United States Secretary of the Interior by Hayes, who had been by then been elected President of the United States. Although Schurz honestly attempted to reduce the effects of racism toward Native Americans and was partially successful at cleaning up corruption, his recommended actions towards American Indians "in light of late twentieth-century developments" were repressive. Indians were forced to move into low-quality reservation lands that were unsuitable for tribal economic and cultural advancement. Promises made to Indian chiefs at White House meetings with President Rutherford B. Hayes and Schurz were often broken.
In 1876, he supported Hayes for President, and Hayes named him Secretary of the Interior, following much of his advice in other cabinet appointments and in his inaugural address. In this department, Schurz put into force his belief that merit should be the principal consideration in appointing civil servants to jobs in the Civil Service. He was not in favor of permitting removals except for cause, and supported requiring competitive examinations for candidates for clerkships. His efforts to remove political patronage met with only limited success, however. As an early conservationist, he prosecuted land thieves and attracted public attention to the necessity of forest preservation.
During Schurz's tenure as Secretary of the Interior, a movement to transfer the Office of Indian Affairs to the control of the War Department began, assisted by the strong support of Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman. Restoration of the Indian Office to the War Department, which was anxious to regain control in order to continue its "pacification" program, was opposed by Schurz, and ultimately the Indian Office remained in the Interior Department. The Indian Office had been the most corrupt office in the Interior Department. Positions in it were based on political patronage and were seen as granting license to use the reservations for personal enrichment. Because Schurz realized that the service would have to be cleansed of such corruption before anything positive could be accomplished, he instituted a wide-scale inspection of the service, dismissed several officials, and began civil service reforms whereby positions and promotions were to be based on merit not political patronage.
Schurz's leadership of the Indian Affairs Office was at times controversial. While certainly not an architect of forced displacement of Native Americans, he continued the practice. In response to several nineteenth-century reformers, however, he later changed his mind and promoted an assimilationist policy.
Upon leaving the Interior Department in 1881, Schurz moved to New York City. That year German-born Henry Villard, president of the Northern Pacific Railway, acquired the New York Evening Post and The Nation and turned the management over to Schurz, Horace White and Edwin L. Godkin. Schurz left the Post in the autumn of 1883 because of differences over editorial policies regarding corporations and their employees.
In 1884, he was a leader in the Independent (or Mugwump) movement against the nomination of James Blaine for president and for the election of Grover Cleveland. From 1888 to 1892, he was general American representative of the Hamburg American Steamship Company. In 1892, he succeeded George William Curtis as president of the National Civil Service Reform League and held this office until 1901. He also succeeded Curtis as editorial writer for Harper's Weekly in 1892 and held this position until 1898. In 1895 he spoke for the Fusion anti-Tammany Hall ticket in New York City. He opposed William Jennings Bryan for president in 1896, speaking for sound money and not under the auspices of the Republican party; he supported Bryan four years later because of anti-imperialism beliefs, which also led to his membership in the American Anti-Imperialist League.
True to his anti-imperialist convictions, Schurz exhorted McKinley to resist the urge to annex land following the Spanish–American War. In the 1904 election he supported Alton B. Parker, the Democratic candidate. Carl Schurz lived in a summer cottage in Northwest Bay on Lake George, New York which was built by his good friend Abraham Jacobi.
Schurz died at age 77 on May 14, 1906, in New York City, and is buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Sleepy Hollow, New York.
Schurz's wife, Margarethe Schurz, was instrumental in establishing the kindergarten system in the United States.
Schurz is famous for saying: "My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right."
He was portrayed by Edward G. Robinson as a friend of the surviving Cheyenne Indians in John Ford's 1964 film Cheyenne Autumn.
Schurz published a volume of speeches (1865), a two-volume biography of Henry Clay (1887), essays on Abraham Lincoln (1899) and Charles Sumner (posthumous, 1951), and his Reminiscences (posthumous, 1907–09). His later years were spent writing the memoirs recorded in his Reminiscences which he was not able to finish, reaching only the beginnings of his U.S. Senate career. Schurz was a member of the Literary Society of Washington from 1879 to 1880.
Schurz is commemorated in numerous places around the United States:
Several memorials in Germany also commemorate the life and work of Schurz, including:
ARMY CHARGES ANSWERED; THE INDIAN SERVICE UPHELD BY MR. SCHURZ. WHY IT WOULD BE UNWISE TO TRANSFER THE INDIAN BUREAU TO THE WAR DEPARTMENT--INCONSISTENT AND INACCURATE STATEMENTS BY MILITARY OFFICERS--LOOSE MANAGEMENT UNDER THE ARMY. INCONSISTENT AND INACCURATE STATEMENTS BY ARMY OFFICERS. ALLEGED ARMY DISHONESTY. MEASURES OF IMPORTANCE. MR. SCHURZ CROSS-EXAMINED. OTHER WITNESSES