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Carl Schurz


Centurion, 1892–1906

Full Name Carl Christian Schurz

Born 2 March 1829 in Erftstadt, Germany

Died 14 May 1906 in New York (Manhattan), New York

Buried Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Sleepy Hollow, New York

Proposed by Clarence King and George William Curtis

Elected 4 June 1892 at age sixty-three

Archivist’s Note: Father of Carl L. Schurz

Century Memorials

It is a striking proof of the fundamental soundness of the American idea that Carl Schurz, a German by birth, a citizen of the world by the breadth and loftiness of his hope for and faith in the destiny of humanity, was in the very fibre of his civic consciousness a loyal and devoted American. And it is a matter for pride and for gratitude that in our land his rare gifts, guided in their exercise by his strict standard of duty and service, found so rich and fortunate a field. This is not the place, nor would time suffice, for a review of his remarkable career. Nearly fifty years ago, on the morrow of a signal victory for the Republican party in Wisconsin to which he had greatly contributed, he declared: “We must encourage moral independence in politics; we must admonish every man to think and reason for himself, to form his own convictions, and to stand by them; we must entreat them never to accept, unseen and uninvestigated, the principles and opinions of others, even if they be our own.” To that declaration he was steadfast. Naturally many differed from his “principles and opinions,” and still more from his application of them; sometimes his opponents were the majority, even the great body of his countrymen; but, apart from his treatment of the obviously contentious phases of our politics, it is to be remembered of him that as much as any one American, possibly more, he had the fortune—and knew how to use it—to guide our nation toward what is now nearly universally recognized as sound finance and toward the abolition of the spoils system and the initiation of the merit system. He was an idealist, no doubt. “Ideals,” he said on the eve of Lincoln’s election, “are like stars: you will not succeed in touching them with your hands; but, like the seafaring man on the desert of waters, you choose them as your guides, and following them you reach your idestiny.” But he was from his very youth a statesman if ever our republic has known one; his mind was profoundly concerned with essential principles, and, equally, with constructive policies, and to the advancement of these he contributed in remarkable degree. Few men, possibly not one, in times when the public mind was deeply stirred, exerted a wider or better influence. And always it was the influence of his personal reasoning from deliberate and mature conviction. He believed, as do most students of modern history, in popular government by debate, and, with the exception of Lincoln, his time furnished no debater more richly endowed, more admirably equipped. It was the fortune of The Century, to which he was much attached, to share the charm of his social side, and it was very great. His wide experience of men and affairs, his thorough knowledge of a curiously varied range of literature, the sweetness, as fresh air is sweet, of his simple and winning nature made him a peculiarly welcome, as he was always a happy, associate.

Edward Cary
1907 Century Association Yearbook

Schurz was born in Liblar, Germany, and studied at the University of Bonn, where he was active in politics and advocated democratic reforms. Schurz took up arms in defense of the new German constitution and, during the struggle, met many men he would meet again in the Union Army. The German struggle ultimately failed and Schurz left, settling in London.

While teaching in London in 1852, he married Margarethe Meyer, and they moved to America, eventually settling in Wisconsin, where he began to practice law. At the 1860 Republican National Convention, Schurz was a supporter of Lincoln.

In 1861, Lincoln made him ambassador to Spain, where he succeeded in quietly dissuading Spain from supporting the South. After receiving an Army commission in 1862, 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. He was a division commander at the Battle of Chancellorsville, and he fought at Gettysburg and at Chattanooga. Although without military training, he was one of the best of the politically appointed generals.

After the war, President Andrew Johnson sent Schurz through the South, but his subsequent report, containing strong recommendations for black suffrage and Civil rights, was ignored by the president. In 1869, he was elected to the Senate from Missouri. But, disgusted with the Republican Party, he became the chief organizer of the Liberal Republican Party, which nominated Horace Greeley for president in 1872. In 1876, Schurz returned to the Republican ranks, supporting Rutherford B. Hayes, who subsequently appointed him Secretary of the Interior.

Upon his retirement in 1881, Schurz moved to New York, and from 1881 to 1883 was editor-in-chief of the New York Evening Post and editor of The Nation.

James Charlton
“Centurions on Stamps,” Part I (Exhibition, 2010)