Schurz, Carl 1829-1906

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SCHURZ, Carl 1829-1906

PERSONAL: Born March 2, 1829, in Liblar, Prussia; died May 14, 1906, New York, NY; son of Christian Schurz (a schoolmaster), and Marianne Jussen Schurz; married Margarethe Meyer (a kindergarten teacher), July 6, 1852 (died 1876); children: Agathe, Marianne, Emma, Carl Lincoln, Herbert. Education: Attended Jesuit Gymnasium, Cologne, Germany; University of Bonn, Ph.D., 1847. Religion: Catholic.

CAREER: Journalist, soldier, speech writer, and editor. Watertown Anzeiger, Watertown, WI, editor, 1859; Deutsche Volkszeitung, Watertown, WI, founder and editor, 1859; U.S. minister to Spain, 1861-62; brigadier general of volunteers, 1862; engaged at Second Bull Run, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg; U.S. senator, 1869-75; founded Liberal Republican Party, 1872; named secretary of the interior under President Rutherford B. Hayes, 1877-81. New York Tribune, Washington correspondent; Detroit Post, editor; St. Louis Westliche Post, co-owner and editor, beginning 1867; New York Evening Post, editor, 1881-83; Harper's Weekly, editorial writer, 1892-98. Military service: U.S. Army, major general, 1863.

MEMBER: National Civil Service Reform League (president, 1892-1901), Civil Service Reform Association of New York (president, 1893-1906).


Court of Inquiry on Major General Hooker's Report of the Night Engagement of Wauhatchie, [Washington, DC], 1864.

Speeches of Carl Schurz, Collected and Revised by the Author, Lippincott (Philadelphia, PA), 1865.

The Condition of the South, [Washington, DC], 1866.

Eulogy on Charles Sumner, Lee, Shepard, and Dillingham (New York, NY), 1874.

The Spoils System, an Address to the Civil Service Reform League, Washington, DC, December 12, 1895, H. Altemus (Philadelphia, PA), 1896.

American Imperialism, the Convocation Address Delivered on the 27th Convocation of the University of Chicago, [Chicago, IL], 1899.

For Truth, Justice, and Liberty, Anti-Imperialist League of New York (New York, NY), 1900.

The Reminiscences of Carl Schurz, three volumes, McClure (New York, NY), 1907-1908.

Bancroft, Frederic, editor, Speeches, Correspondence and Political Papers of Carl Schurz, six volumes, Putnam, (New York, NY), 1913.

Intimate Letters of Carl Schurz, 1841-1869, edited and translated by Joseph Schafer, State Historical Society of Wisconsin (Madison, WI), 1928.

SIDELIGHTS: Soldier and statesman, linguist and historian, orator and journalist, Carl Schurz was the first German-born member of the United States Senate. He also was an antislavery leader and served as minister to Spain under President Abraham Lincoln and secretary of the interior under President Rutherford B. Hayes.

Schurz was born in Liblar, a small village on the Rhine, near Cologne, Prussia. His schoolmaster father and devoted mother worked hard to help their son fulfill his dreams of becoming a history scholar, possibly a professor. In the evenings, his grandfather shared colorful tales of the Napoleonic Wars.

As young Schurz's interest in history, literature, and languages flourished, his interest in organized religion declined. Turned off by what he considered church intolerance, Schurz could not reconcile the limiting principals of strict denominational faith with his emerging liberal world view.

After entering the University of Bonn as a doctoral candidate in history in 1847, Schurz helped lead a student revolutionary movement. Oswald Garrison Villard wrote in Dictionary of American Biography, "His rare gift of oratory he discovered when he suddenly addressed, to great applause, a meeting in the university hall at Bonn, to which he came without the slightest intention of speaking."

In 1850, after serving as lieutenant in the revolutionary army and facing defeat at the hands of the Prussians, Schurz took a huge risk and rescued his imprisoned professor friend, Gottfried Kinkel. Soon after, Schurz contributed articles to revolutionary presses in Germany and throughout Europe. He and his wife, Margarethe Meyer of Hamburg, relocated to America a couple of years later, as did many other German revolutionaries. Upon their arrival in New York, Schurz, twenty-four at the time, was already internationally known. The Schurzes lived in Philadelphia upon arrival.

Once settled, Schurz mastered English, opposed slavery, campaigned for Abraham Lincoln, fought against the Confederacy in the civil war, helped plan civil reform strategy and opposed American imperialism in the Spanish-American war.

In 1856, he and his wife settled in Wisconsin and helped form the Republican party. Villard remarked, "Having espoused the antislavery cause with all the ardor and enthusiasm he gave to the revolution of 1849, Schurz was immediately drawn into Republican politics."

Schurz ran for lieutenant governor in 1858. "His forceful support of antislavery forces brought him instant attention nationally, but he was defeated in the general election by 107 votes," wrote John M. Butler, also in Dictionary of Literary Biography.

In the presidential election that year, Schurz wrote and delivered speeches for John C. Fremont, and for Abraham Lincoln against Stephen Douglas in the Illinois campaign for the U.S. Senate. During this period, he also acquired a law degree and penned one of his most famous speeches, "True Americanism," for Senator Henry Wilson of Massachusetts, which went far in defeating a proposal to deny foreign-born voters the ballot until two years after naturalization.

After serving as minister to Spain from 1860-1862, Schurz returned to help organize a Union offensive. Promoted to major general of volunteers in 1863, he served at Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, and Nashville. Butler said, "Schurz took his military duties seriously and soon won the respect of his officers and men." Schurz, however, left the following year to work on Lincoln's re-election campaign.

In 1865, working as a journalist for President Andrew Johnson and for a major Boston paper, he proclaimed that Southern whites were determined to oppress black people. Though the president would not acknowledge Schurz's findings, congressional Republicans made sure his report was published and circulated. According to an essayist in the Encyclopedia of World Biography, "This document was of great influence in molding a radical Reconstruction policy based on Negro suffrage."

Schurz served as Washington correspondent for the New York Tribune, editor of the Detroit Post, and coowner and editor of the St. Louis Westliche Post, a German-language publication, in 1867.

On March 4, 1869, his fortieth birthday, amid a bitter showdown between Radicals and Liberals within his party, he joined the U.S. Senate. Butler wrote, "Schurz was also a distinguished linguist, amazing his fellow senators on one occasion by translating at sight lengthy passages . . . into four different languages. It has been said that 'he was the only statesman of his generation who could make an eloquent speech either in English or German without revealing which was his native tongue."

According to Villard, Schurz quickly joined the group of anti-Grant senators, opposing Grant's plan to annex Santo Domingo, among other points of his agenda, and added, "He was at his best in his incessant attacks upon political corruption. The news that he would speak at a given hour usually crowded the public galleries. But the high rank he took and held in the Senate, and his national reputation as an orator and a leader, did not assure him reelection in 1875, for, because of the Republican split, the Democrats had gained control of the Missouri legislature. He was again compelled to turn to journalism and the lecture platform for support."

On March 4, 1877, Schurz became President Rutherford B. Hayes' secretary of the interior. While in charge, he adopted a more enlightened policy toward Indians, installed a merit system in his department, and helped preserve the public domain and develop national parks.

Schurz was editor of the New York Evening Post and of the Nation for several years beginning in 1881. Later, he freelanced for Harper's Weekly. There, his controversial identity was briefly kept anonymous, as it had been at the Nation.

In 1884, Schurz supported the "Mugwumps" or reform Republicans in their campaign against nominee James G. Blaine, in favor of replacing Grover Cleveland. Schurz campaigned long and hard against the Spanish-American War of 1898, and against annexing the Philippines. His outspoken opposition of U.S. involvement in this war effectively ended his relationship with Harper's.

Three of Schurz's more celebrated works remain his biography, Life of Henry Clay; his pamphlet, The New South; and his autobiography, The Reminiscences of Carl Schurz.



Almanac of Famous People, sixth edition, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1998.

Ashley, Perry J., editor, Dictionary of Literary Biography,Volume 23: American Newspaper Journalists, 1873-1900, Gale (Detroit, MI), pp. 313-322.

Bancroft, Frederic, editor, Speeches, Correspondence and Political Papers of Carl Schurz, six volumes, Putnam (New York, NY), 1913.

Dictionary of American Biography, American Council of Learned Societies, 1928-1936, reprinted, Gale (Detroit, MI), 2002.

Easum, C.V., The Americanization of Carl Schurz, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1929.

Encyclopedia of World Biography, second edition, 17 volumes, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1998.

Fuess, C. M., Carl Schurz, Reformer, Dodd, Mead (New York, NY), 1932.

O'Brien, Marjorie, Carl Schurz: Patriot Illustrated, State Historical Society of Wisconsin (Madison, WI), 1960.

Schafer, Joseph, Carl Schurz, Militant Liberal, Center Press (Evansville, WI), 1930.

Schafer, Joseph, editor, Intimate Letters of Carl Schurz, 1841-1869, State Historical Society of Wisconsin (Madison, WI), 1928.

Slone, William M., In Memoriam: A Book of Record, The American Academy of Arts and Letters, 1922.

Trefousse, Hans L., Carl Schurz: A Biography, University of Tennessee Press (Knoxville, TN), 1982.

Tutt, Carol Little, Carl Schurz, Patriot, State Historical Society of Wisconsin (Madison, WI), 1960.


Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies Web site, (July, 1990), Ernest K. Giese and Monique Bourque, "Register of the Papers of Carl Schurz."*

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Schurz, Carl 1829-1906

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