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Carl Schurz

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Carl Schurz

Carl Schurz
13th United States Secretary of the Interior
In office
March 12, 1877 – March 7, 1881
President Rutherford B. Hayes
Preceded by Zachariah Chandler
Succeeded by Samuel J. Kirkwood
United States Senator
from Missouri
In office
March 4, 1869 – March 4, 1875
Preceded by John B. Henderson
Succeeded by Francis M. Cockrell
United States Ambassador to Spain
In office
July 13, 1861 – December 18, 1861
President Abraham Lincoln
Preceded by William Preston
Succeeded by Gustav Körner
Personal details
Born Carl Christian Schurz
(1829-03-02)March 2, 1829
Liblar, Kingdom of Prussia
Died May 14, 1906(1906-05-14) (aged 77)
New York City, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Margarethe Meyer
Alma mater University of Bonn
Profession Politician
Religion Catholic
Military service
Allegiance Forty-Eighters
United States of America
Service/branch Union Army
Years of service 1848
Rank Major General
Battles/wars Revolutions of 1848
American Civil War

Carl Christian Schurz (German: ; March 2, 1829 – May 14, 1906) was a German revolutionary, American statesman and reformer, U.S. Minister to Spain, Union Army General in the American Civil War, U.S. Senator, and Secretary of the Interior. He was also an accomplished journalist, newspaper editor and orator, who in 1869 became the first German-born American elected to the United States Senate.[1]


  • Biography 1
    • Early life 1.1
    • Revolution of 1848 1.2
    • Emigration to America 1.3
    • Civil War 1.4
    • Newspaper career 1.5
    • U.S. Senator 1.6
    • Secretary of Interior 1.7
    • New York City 1.8
    • Death and legacy 1.9
  • Works 2
  • Memorials 3
  • Harper's Weekly Gallery 4
  • See also 5
  • Notes 6
  • References 7
  • Further reading 8
  • External links 9


Early life

Carl Christian Schurz was born on March 2, 1829 in Liblar (now part of Erftstadt), in Rhenish Prussia, the son of Marianne (Jussen), a public speaker and journalist, and Christian Schurz, a schoolteacher.[2] 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.[3]

Revolution of 1848

Carl Schurz as a young man

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.[4][5] 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.[6] 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.[3] 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.[7] 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.[3] 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.

Emigration to America

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, emigrated to the United States.[3] 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 was an unsuccessful Republican candidate 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 (though it should be remembered that Senators were not directly elected in 1858, the election being decided by the Illinois General Assembly).

In 1858, he was admitted to the Wisconsin bar and began to practice law in Milwaukee. In the state campaign of 1859, he made a speech attacking the Fugitive Slave Law, arguing for states' rights. In Faneuil Hall, Boston, on April 18, 1859,[8] 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.

In spite of Seward's objection, grounded on Schurz's European record as a revolutionary, after his election President Lincoln sent him in 1861 as ambassador to Spain,[9] where he succeeded in quietly dissuading Spain from supporting the South.

Civil War

German commemorative stamp
”For freedom in Germany and America"

During the Civil War, although Brig. Gen. Schurz served with distinction, known for his personal bravery and military discipline, his "German regiments" in 1862 were heavily criticized by the press for retreating during the Second Battle of Bull Run at Chancellorsville.[10] After the war, Schurz was elected a Senator from Missouri in 1868. 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 ideals of European superiority and fears of miscegenation.[11][12]

Persuading Lincoln to grant him a commission in the Union army, Schurz was commissioned brigadier general of Union volunteers in April, and in June took command of a division, first under John C. Frémont, and then in Franz Sigel's corps, with which he took part in the 1862 Second Battle of Bull Run. He was promoted major general of volunteers in 1863 and was a division commander in the XI Corps at the Battle of Chancellorsville, under General Oliver O. Howard, with whom he later had a bitter controversy over the strategy employed at that battle, resulting in their defeat by Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson.

He was at Army of Georgia. He resigned from the army after the war ended in April 1865.

Carl Schurz is Don Quixote in this cartoon by Thomas Nast from Harper's Weekly of April 6, 1872

In the summer of 1865, President Mississippi. Schurz's report, suggesting the readmission of the states with complete rights and the investigation of the need of further legislation by a Congressional committee, was ignored by the President.

Newspaper career

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 – the 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" (the gold standard) during the Presidential campaign of 1868.

U.S. Senator

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 Fessenden's death, Schurz was 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 1870, Schurz formed 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 Force Acts. 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 1877, Schurz was appointed Secretary of Interior by President Rutherford B. Hayes. Although Schurz honestly attempted to reduce the effects of racism toward Native Americans and was partially successful at cleaning up corruption, his solutions towards American Indians "in light of late twentieth-century developments", were repressive.[13] Indians were forced to move into low quality reservation lands that were unsuitable for tribal economic and cultural advancement.[13] Promises made to Indian chiefs at White House meetings with President Rutherford B. Hayes and Schurz were not always kept.[13]

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.[14] The election was a debacle for the Greeley supporters: Grant won by a landslide, and Greeley died shortly after the election.

In 1875, he campaigned for Rutherford B. Hayes, as the representative of sound money, in the Ohio governor's campaign.

Secretary of Interior

Carl Schurz and James Blaine in a Puck political cartoon of c. 1878 by J. Keppler

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 in force his theories in regard to merit in the Civil Service, permitting no removals except for cause, and 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.

Delegation of Ute Indians in Washington, D.C. in 1880. Background: Woretsiz and general Charles Adams (Colorado) are standing. Front from left to right: Chief Ignatio of the Southern Utes; Carl Schurz US Secretary of the Interior; Chief Ouray and his wife Chipeta.

During Schurz's tenure as Secretary of the Interior, there was a movement, strongly supported by Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman, to transfer the Office of Indian Affairs to the War Department.[15] 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 of the Interior Department. Positions therein were based on political patronage and were seen as granting license to use the reservations for personal enrichment. Schurz realized that the service would have to be cleansed of such corruption before anything positive could be accomplished, so 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.[16]

Schurz's leadership of the Indian Affairs Office was not uncontroversial. While certainly not an architect of the campaign to push Native Americans off their lands and into tribal reservations, he continued the practice of the Bureau of Indian Affairs of resettling tribes on reservations. In response to several nineteenth-century reformers, however, he later changed his mind and promoted an assimilationist policy.[17][18]

New York City

When a statuary tribute to German poet Heinrich Heine was resisted because of anti-Semitic opponents in Germany, Schurz's activism aided in its relocation across the Atlantic to New York.[19]

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.[20] Schurz left the Post in the autumn of 1883 because of differences over editorial policies regarding corporations and their employees.[21]

In 1884, he was a leader in the Independent (or 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 Abraham Jacobi.

Death and legacy

Schurz died at age 77 on May 14, 1906 in New York City and is buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Sleepy Hollow, New York.[23]

Schurz's wife, Margarethe Schurz, was instrumental in establishing the kindergarten system in the United States.[24] Schurz is famous for saying: "My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right."[25]


Schurz published a number of writings, including 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 — he only reached the beginnings of his U.S. Senate career. Schurz was a member of the Literary Society of Washington from 1879 to 1880.[26]


Schurz monument in New York City
Carl Schurz Park, Upper East Side Manhattan, New York City
Carl Schurz grave, Sleepy Hollow, N.Y.

Schurz is commemorated in numerous places around the United States:

Several memorials in Germany also commemorate the life and work of Schurz, including:

Harper's Weekly Gallery

See also


  1. ^ Wisconsin Historical Society: Schurz, Carl 1829 - 1906
  2. ^ [2]
  3. ^ a b c d Dictionary Of American Biography (1935), Carl Schurz, p. 466.
  4. ^ Schurz, Carl. Reminiscences, Vol. 1, pp. 93–94.
  5. ^ Van Cleve, Charles L. (1902). . p. 209Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity From Its Foundation In 1852 To Its Fiftieth Anniversary: Philadelphia: Franklin Printing Company.
  6. ^ Schurz, Reminiscences, Vol. 1, Chap. 6, pp. 159.
  7. ^ W. R. Mc Cormick: BAY COUNTY Memorial Report: Emil Anneke: in: Report of the Pioneer Society of the State of Michigan, Vol. XIV, 1890, Lansing, Michigan, W. S. George & Co., State Printers & Binders, Page 57–58
  8. ^ Hirschhorn, p. 1713.
  9. ^ Dictionary Of American Biography (1935), Carl Schurz, p. 467
  10. ^ Dictionary Of American Biography (1935), Carl Schurz, pp. 467–468
  11. ^ Mejías-López (2009), The Inverted Conquest, p. 132.
  12. ^ Brands (2012), The Man Who Saved the Union: Ulysses S. Grant in War and Peace, p. 489.
  13. ^ a b c Fishel-Spragens (1988), Popular Images of American Presidents, p. 121
  14. ^ This story, and the conflict between Nast and Harper's editorial writer George William Curtis, is related by Albert Bigelow Paine in Thomas Nast: His Period and His Pictures, 1904.
  15. ^ "Army charges answered".  
  16. ^ Trefousse, Hans L., Carl Schurz: A Biography, (U. of Tenn. Press, 1982)
  17. ^ Hoxie, Frederick E. A Final Promise: The Campaign to Assimilate the Indians, 1880-1920, Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1981.
  18. ^ "Annual Report of the Secretary of the Interior, November 1, 1880," In Prucha, Francis Paul, ed., Documents of United States Indian Policy, Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 2000. See Google Books.
  19. ^ Sturm und Drang Over a Memorial to Heinrich Heine. The New York Times, May 27, 2007.
  20. ^  
  21. ^ "No Longer an Editor; Carl Schurz Severs his Connection with the 'Evening Post'." The New York Times, December 11, 1883
  22. ^ Tucker (1998), p. 114.
  23. ^ Carl Schurz at Find a Grave
  24. ^ Schurz, Margarethe [Meyer] (Mrs. Carl Schurz) 1833–1876
  25. ^ Schurz, Carl, remarks in the Senate, February 29, 1872, The Congressional Globe, vol. 45, p. 1287. See Wikisource for the complete speech.
  26. ^ Spauling, Thomas M. (1947). The Literary Society in Peace and War. Washington, D.C.: George Banta Publishing Company. 
  27. ^ Shurz Monument, Wisconsin Historical Society
  28. ^


  • Eicher, John H., and Eicher, David J., Civil War High Commands, Stanford University Press, 2001, ISBN 0-8047-3641-3.
  • Tucker, David M. (1998). Mugwumps: public moralists of the gilded age.  
  • Yockelson, Mitchell, "Hirschhorn", Encyclopedia of the American Civil War: A Political, Social, and Military History, Heidler, David S., and Heidler, Jeanne T., eds., W. W. Norton & Company, 2000, ISBN 0-393-04758-X.

Further reading

  • Schurz, Carl. The Reminiscences of Carl Schurz (three volumes), New York: McClure Publ. Co., 1907–08. Schurz covered the years 1829–1870 in his Reminiscences. He died in the midst of writing them. The third volume is rounded out with A Sketch of Carl Schurz's Political Career 1869–1906 by Frederic Bancroft and William A. Dunning. Portions of these Reminiscences were serialized in McClure's Magazine about the time the books were published and included illustrations not found in the books.
  • Bancroft, Frederic, ed. Speeches, Correspondence, and Political Papers of Carl Schurz (six volumes), New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1913.
  • Brown, Dee, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, 1971
  • Donner, Barbara. "Carl Schurz as Office Seeker," Wisconsin Magazine of History, vol. 20, no.2 (December 1936), pp. 127–142.
  • Donner, Barbara. "Carl Schurz the Diplomat," Wisconsin Magazine of History, vol. 20, no. 3 (March 1937), pp. 291–309.
  • Fish, Carl Russell. "Carl Schurz-The American," Wisconsin Magazine of History, vol. 12, no. 4 (June 1929), pp. 346–368.
  • Fuess, Claude M. Carl Schurz, Reformer, (NY, Dodd Mead, 1932)
  • Nagel, Daniel. Von republikanischen Deutschen zu deutsch-amerikanischen Republikanern. Ein Beitrag zum Identitätswandel der deutschen Achtundvierziger in den Vereinigten Staaten 1850-1861. Röhrig, St. Ingbert 2012.
  • Schafer, Joseph. "Carl Schurz, Immigrant Statesman," Wisconsin Magazine of History, vol. 11, no. 4 (June 1928), pp. 373–394.
  • Schurz, Carl. Intimate Letters of Carl Schurz 1841-1869, Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1928.
  • Trefousse, Hans L. Carl Schurz: A Biography, (1st ed. Knoxville: U. of Tenn. Press, 1982; 2nd ed. New York: Fordham University Press, 1998)
  • Twain, Mark, "Carl Schurz, Pilot," Harper’s Weekly, May 26, 1906.

External links

  • Carl Schurz at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress Retrieved on 2008-08-12
  • Works by Carl Schurz at Project Gutenberg
  • Works by or about Carl Schurz at Internet Archive
  • Works of Carl Schurz, compiled by Bob Burkhardt.
  • The Reminiscences of Carl Schurz at Wikisource.
  • Twain, Mark. Carl Schurz, Pilot, Harper's Weekly, May 26, 1906, p. 727.
  • Reynolds, Robert L. "A Man of Conscience", American Heritage Magazine, vol. 14, no. 2 (1963).
  • "Schurz: The True Americanism" Harper's Magazine, November 1, 2008.
  • "Carl Schurz" from Charles Rounds, Wisconsin Authors and Their Works, 1918.
  • The Political Graveyard
  • Abraham Lincoln's White House - Carl Schurz
  • The Carl Schurz Papers, containing materials especially of interest to the examination of Schurz's image in the press and in the German-American community, are available for research use at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
WMF project links
  • Quotations related to Carl Schurz at Wikiquote
  • Media related to at Wikimedia Commons
  • Works related to Carl Schurz at Wikisource
  •  German Wikisource has original text related to this article: Carl Schurz
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
William Preston
U.S. Minister to Spain
Succeeded by
Gustavus Koerner
United States Senate
Preceded by
John B. Henderson
U.S. Senator (Class 1) from Missouri
Served alongside: Charles D. Drake, Daniel T. Jewett, Francis P. Blair, Jr., Lewis V. Bogy
Succeeded by
Francis M. Cockrell
Political offices
Preceded by
Zachariah Chandler
U.S. Secretary of the Interior
Served under: Rutherford B. Hayes

Succeeded by
Samuel J. Kirkwood
Military offices
Preceded by
John Sedgwick
Commander of the XI Corps (ACW)
January 19, 1863 – February 5, 1863
Succeeded by
Franz Sigel
Preceded by
Adolph von Steinwehr
Commander of the XI Corps (ACW)
March 5, 1863 – April 2, 1863
Succeeded by
Oliver O. Howard
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