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(authors icon)1918

Carl Schurz

from Wisconsin Authors and Their Works   1918
by Charles Rounds

Carl Schurz

Carl Schurz was born at Liblar, Prussia, 1829. He was educated in the gymnasium of Cologne, and the University of Bonne. He entered the revolutionary army in 1848, and was likewise the editor of a revolutionary paper. He was obliged to flee to Switzerland, and his accounts of his narrow escapes in getting across the border, as given in his Reminiscences, are intensely thrilling. He came to America in 1852, and after three years' residence in Philadelphia, he settled in Watertown, in our own state. Though he was later a resident of Michigan, Missouri, and New York, And indeed represented the second-named state in the Senate of the United States, yet throughout his Reminiscences he frequently speaks of Wisconsin in a manner that shows he thought of it as his home.

Mrs Carl Schurz

Old Watertown

His life as an American citizen was full of honor and responsibility. He was made Minister to Spain by President Lincoln, but soon resigned to come back home and serve in the Civil War. He was a brigadier-general of volunteers and took part in the battles of Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, and Chattanooga. During all the rest of his life he was active in the service of his country, both in and out of office. He was strongly on the side of reconciliation with the South, and he hoped and worked for a re-united country. His addresses and his letters show his intense faith in Civil Service reform. His Reminiscences indicate how thoroughly American this man became, and how deeply he appreciated, and how jealously he wished to guard, the freedom which he had failed to find in his mother country, and which he had risked so much to obtain here.

Major General Schurz

The first selection here given is from Volume I of his Reminiscences. It relates the escape from the prison at Spandau of his dear friend, Professor Kinkel, in which Schurz played an important part. We see here how closely organized this band of revolutionists was, and the intensity of their love for each other, together with the sense of fun and adventure in all they did.

The second selection is characteristic of the oratory of Mr. Schurz during his later years. It shows an intense patriotism, and emphasizes the fact that though he was not born here, for him but one country had the slightest claim upon his devotion.


From Vol. I--1829-1852. Chapter X, p. 311. Copyright, 1907, by the McClure Co.

Shortly before midnight I stood, equipped as on the night before, well hidden in the dark recess of the house door opposite the penitentiary. The street corners right and left were, according to agreement, properly watched, but our friends kept themselves, as much as possible, concealed. A few minutes later the night watchman shuffled down the street, and, when immediately in front of me, swung his rattle and called the hour of twelve. Then he slouched quietly on and disappeared. What would I have given for a roaring storm and a splashing rain! But the night was perfectly still, My eye was riveted to the roof of the penitentiary building, the dormer windows of which I could scarcely distinguish. The street lights flared dimly. Suddenly there appeared a light above, by which I could observe the frame of one of the dormer windows; it moved three times up and down; that was the signal hoped for. With an eager glance I examined the street right and left. Nothing stirred. Then on my part I gave the signal agreed upon, striking sparks. A second later the light above disappeared and I perceived a dark object slowly moving across the edge of the wall. My heart beat violently and drops of perspiration stood upon my forehead. Then the thing I had apprehended actually happened: tiles and brick, loosened by the rubbing rope, rained down upon the pavement with a loud clatter. "Now, good heaven, help us!" At the same moment Hensel's carriage came rumbling over the cobblestones. The noise of the falling tiles and brick was no longer audible. But would they not strike Kinkel's head and benumb him? Now the dark object had almost reached the ground. I jumped forward and touched him; it was indeed my friend and there he stood alive and on his feet.

"This is a bold deed," were the first words he said to me.

"Thank God," I answered. "Now off with the rope and away."

I labored in vain to untie the rope that was bound around his body.

"I cannot help you," Kinkel whispered, "for the rope has fearfully lacerated both my hands."

I pulled out my dirk, and with great effort I succeeded in cutting the rope, the long end of which, as soon as it was free, was quickly pulled up. While I threw a cloak around Kinkel's shoulders and helped him get into the rubber shoes, he looked anxiously around. Hensel's carriage had turned and was coming slowly back.

"What carriage is that?" Kinkel asked.

"Our carriage."

Dark figures showed themselves at the street corners and approached us.

"For heaven's sake, what people are those?"

"Our friends."

At a little distance we heard male voices sing, "Here we sit gayly together."

"What is that?" asked Kinkel, while we hurried through a side street toward Kruger's hotel.

"Your jailers around a bowl of punch."

"Capital!" said Kinkel. We entered the hoteI through a back door and soon found ourselves in a room in which Kinkel was to put on the clothes that we had bought for him--a black cloth suit, a big bear-skin overcoat, and a cap like those worn by Prussian forest officers. From a room near by sounded the voices of the revelers. Kruger, who had stood a few minutes looking on while Kinkel was exchanging his convict's garb for an honest man's dress, suddenly went out with a peculiarly sly smile. When he returned carrying a few filled glasses, he said, "Herr Professor, in a room near by some of your jailers are sitting around a bowl of punch. I have just asked them whether they would not permit me to take some for a few friends of mine who have just arrived. They had no objection. Now, Herr Professor, let us drink your health first out of the bowl of your jailers." We found it difficult not to break out in loud laughter. Kinkel was now in his citizen's clothes, and his lacerated hands were washed and bandaged with handkerchiefs. We thanked his faithful friends with a few words which brought tears to their eyes. Then we jumped into Hensel's vehicle. The penitentiary officers were still singing and laughing around their punch bowl.


By Carl Schurz. From "Modern Eloquence." Vol. IX, p. 1025. Copyright. 1900, by The University Society.

(Address delivered in New York City at a meeting of the Chamber of Commerce of the State of New York, January 2, 1896, Mr. Schurz rising to second the resolutions embodied in a report to the Chamber by its Committee on Foreign Commerce and the Revenue Laws upon the then pending Venezuelan question).

*   *   *   What is the rule of honor to be observed by a power so strongly and so advantageously situated as this Republic is? Of course I do not expect it meekly to pocket real insults if they should be offered to it. But, surely, it should not, as our boyish jingoes wish it to do, swagger about among the nations of the world, with a chip on its shoulder, shaking its fist in everybody's face. Of course, it should not tamely submit to real encroachments upon its rights. But, surely, it should not, whenever its own notions of right or interest collide with the notions of others, fall into hysterics and act as if it really feared for its own security and its very independence. As a true gentleman, conscious of his strength and his dignity, it should be slow to take offense. In its dealings with other nations it should have scrupulous regard, not only for their rights, but also for their self-respect. With all its latent resources for war, it should be the great peace power of the world. It should never forget what a proud privilege and what an inestimable blessing it is not to need and not to have big armies or navies to support. It should seek to influence mankind, not by heavy artillery, but by good example and wise counsel. It should see its highest glory, not in battles won, but in wars prevented. It should be so invariably just and fair, so trustworthy, so good tempered, so conciliatory, that other nations would instinctively turn to it as their mutual friend and the natural adjuster of their differences, thus making it the greatest preserver of the world's peace.

This is not a mere idealistic fancy. It is the natural position of this great republic among the nations of the earth. It is its noblest vocation, and it will be a glorious day for the United States when the good sense and the self-respect of the American people see in this their "manifest destiny." It all rests upon peace. Is not this peace with honor? There has, of late, been much loose speech about "Americanism." Is not this good Americanism? It is surely today the Americanism of those who love their country most. And I fervently hope that it will be and ever remain the Americanism of our children and our children's children.

"Carl Schurz." Wisconsin Authors and Their Works. Madison: The Parker Educational Company, 1918. 126-130.
From the GLS Department of Special Collections reference room: PS 283 W6 R6 1918.