Socialist Revolutionary, Yankee General, Secretary of the Interior (Socialism Pays in Yankeeland)
by Al Benson Jr.
Many who study the history of the 19th century have heard of Carl Schurz. To most others the name will be meaningless. However, Schurz was quite active and influential in the country's history in the 19th century. You might almost say he was one of the "historians'" best kept secrets.
Carl Schurz was one of Abe Lincoln's socialist generals during the War of Northern Aggression. Honest historians (a rare breed of animal) will admit that there were many socialists in Mr. Lincoln's armies. As we have pointed out in the past, socialists seemed rather attracted to Mr. Lincoln's cause of "preserving the Union." That the price for such a "preservation" was the ever-increasing power of a strong central government at the expense of the rights of the states bothered them not at all. Lincoln, had, after all, championed their cause in Europe in 1848, so they could do no less for him in the 1860s.
Schurz has been called "a refugee from the European uprisings in 1848." The author of that quote did not bother to tell his readers that the "political uprisings" in Europe at that time were mostly socialist revolts. Yet another author labeled Schurz as "the charismatic refugee from Prussian militarism." Note how these authors totally ignore the socialistic aspects of what happened in Europe in 1848. You aren't supposed to know that socialists and communists were involved.
Schurz was attending the University of Bonn when he became immersed in the 1848 socialist upheavals. When those revolts ultimately failed Schurz fled the country (Germany) after having been a lieutenant in the anti-government "militia." He went first to Switzerland, later to England, and then to France, which country expelled him as a "dangerous foreigner." He then returned to England, later to come to America in 1852.
Schurz ended up in the midwest, where his first notable political activity was to support the radical abolitionist John C. Fremont in his presidential asperations in 1856. By 1858 he was campaigning for Lincoln. As a reward for his services to Mr. Lincoln in the 1860 presidential election he was appointed as Minister to Spain in 1861. He returned from Europe in 1862, at which time he was appointed a brigadier general in Lincoln's army.
Schurz, like many other forty-eighter socialist refugees, did not always agree with his more conservative German brethren. In typical socialist fashion, the forty-eighters were noted for the ultra-liberal, leftist political views and for their hostility toward organized religion. Many were anti-Christian "freethinkers." Like many other socialists, Schurz survived the War. Later he served a term in the Senate and then became Secretary of the Interior in the Hayes Administration.
Carl Schurz is just one example of how European socialists seemed to arrive in this country, almost broke, and then ended up in all sorts of important military and political situations. One would think that, in the supposed "land of the free" any form of socialism or collectivism would be a natural impediment. Rather, it seems that socialism turns out to be an advantage--at least since the advent of the Lincoln Administration.
I wonder how many of our government schooled students have ever been told that a former Secretary of the Interior was a European socialist. Not many I'll wager. Most people, even the patriotic ones, have no concept of how active a part European socialists took in our military and government in the mid-to-late 19th century. Socialist influence has been exerted on this country for a lot longer than most people would like to think about. Americans need to go back and reread their history with much more of a critical eye than they have heretofore. Socialism pays in America--thanks to the efforts of Honest Abe and most of those that followed him.