by Al Benson Jr.
I have previously noted the socialist (and communist) support Mr. Lincoln received from many Forty-Eighter socialists from Europe during the War of Northern Aggression. Many of these European socialists joined Lincoln's army and became generals, as well as officers of other ranks. I have also commented about the socialist support in Europe that Lincoln received and how much he was admired by Karl Marx.
In keeping with my contention that socialism was alive and well in this country long before most people are willing to admit that it was, I felt that a brief look at Lincoln's election in 1860 would be helpful. Lincoln received the support of socialists even before the war started. The socialists saw something in Lincoln's "cause" they could identify with.
Although many Germans in 1860 had favored Seward, they gladly switched over to Lincoln once he had endorsed a homestead law and an anti-nativist "Dutch Plank" for the Republican Party platform. The "Dutch Plank" for the Republican Party platform was written by none other than Forty-Eighter socialist Carl Schurz, who was a member of the Republican Platform Committee. It is worth noting here that the almost baby-new Republican Party already had, in 1860, socialists helping to write the party's platform.
Schurz, in his autobiography, alluded to this, although somewhat modestly, as if he did not want people to grasp his full involvement. Schurz wrote: "I was appointed a member of the Committee on Resolutions that had to draw up the Republican platfor, and in that committee was permitted to write a paragraph concerning the naturalization laws so that the Republican Party be washed clean of the taint of Knownothingism...I also took part in formulating the anti-slavery declarations of the platform..."
There were many Germans in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Missouri, and Lincoln, although professing to be a "reluctant" candidate, was very conscious of the German vote. Pragmatic politician that he was, Lincoln purchased the German language newspaper "Illinois Staatsanzeiger." He bought the whole thing, lock, stock, and barrel, press included. I find it quite amusing that Lincoln is so often portrayed in the "history" (hystery) books as the poor, humble, hayseed politician, just trying to make his way in the world as a country lawyer. Obviously if he could afford to purchase a newspaper he was not quite as poor as we have been led to believe.
As the campaign of 1860 continued the Republicans even got hold of German orators to stress the importance of "German issues" in the campaign. As we observe these tactics and see what goes on in our elections today, we must be tempted to see the truth of the statement in the Book of Proverbs which says that the thing that has been is that which shall be and there is nothing new under the sun.
Forty-Eighters other than Schurz supported and worked for Lincoln. Edward Solomon did, and he ended up becoming governor of Wisconsin in 1862. Sigmund Kaufman, yet another Forty-Eighter, was also a delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1860. We might well speculate on how many other delegates were socialists that we don't know about yet.
Other Forty-Eighters and socialists that supported Lincoln were writer Casper Butts, journalists Friedrich Kapp and Gustave Struve. Although some of these men did not get into combat as did the socialist generals in the Union armies, they supported Lincoln and the war effort on the journalistic front. The efforts of these men and their support for Lincoln and his centralizing policies have borne bitter fruit for the country even down to our own day. Unfortunately, in our day, we are forced to live with the results of their actions.