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Civil War and Reconstruction(Part3)

Political Involvement

An exception among the Forty-Eighters was Carl Schurz (1829-1906). Born into a prosperous, rural family at Liblar, near Bonn, and educated in a strict but intellectually stirring atmosphere, Schurz had joined the revolution of 1848 in Baden. After its collapse and his arrest, he made a daring escape from prison and fled to safety in France. In 1850, he returned clandestinely to Germany and, in a spectacular coup, rescued his former professor, Gottfried Kinkel, from the fortress at Spandau. This act, Schurz' last involvement in the German movement, made him a hero among fellow exiles. After a sojourn in England, Carl Schurz came to America in 1852 with the firm resolve to make his home here.

For four years, first in Philadelphia, then in Watertown, Wisconsin, Schurz studied the language, traditions and political situation of his chosen homeland. Then, in 1856, he entered American political life to fight for his old ideal, the freedom of man. Four years later, after campaigning against slavery and for Lincoln, Carl Schurz was known among friend and foe for his masterful oratory and uncompromising idealism. He had succeeded in injecting a Teutonic sense of mission into the vital debates before the great conflict. Seeking a rest after the exhausting political campaign, Schurz agreed to head the American mission in Spain, but he was back within a year to join the fighting. President Lincoln's assassination ended not only a personal relationship of rare mutual esteem, it also closed to Schurz, temporarily at least, his opportunity for high government office. He returned to journalism, both in English and German and, in 1867, became part-owner of one of the most respected German dailies, the Westliche Post of St. Louis. Its editor, Emil Pretorius, was a fellow Forty-Eighter and its star reporter in 1868 was Joseph Pulitzer, for whom this brush with German-American journalism became the springboard for one of the greatest careers in American newspaper history.

In 1868, Schurz returned to national politics as senator from Missouri; in 1877, he became secretary of the Interior of Hayes' cabinet. Throughout his political career, his name was associated with two causes in particular, civil service reform and the conservation of natural resources. He was horrified by the "spoils system" and deeply worried by the wanton destruction of America's forests. In speeches and lectures, as president of the National

Civil Service Reform League and in his editorial work for The Nation and Harper's Weekly, Schurz continued fighting for his ideals and represented for many the incarnation of a national conscience. For Mark Twain, Carl Schurz was "the political channel finder" and his "master in citizenship."

Source:
SPAN200 by Klaus Wurst and Norbert Muehlen. Published in behalf of Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen, Stuttgart

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