Carl Schurz’s Socialist crusade impacts 19th Century Missouri

Carl Schurz (1829-1906): “Carl Schurz was a soldier, politician, and writer best remembered for his passionate support for liberal democracy. He helped elect President Lincoln, fought in the Civil War, served as a U.S. Senator, and denounced the Republican Party’s shift toward conservatism in the late 19th century.” (1)

Schurz, who was born in Germany, writes of meeting Karl Marx in his youth, “I was all the more eager to gather words of wisdom from the lips of that famous man. This expectation was disappointed in a peculiar way. Marx’s utterances were indeed full of meaning, logical and clear, but I have never seen a man whose bearing was so provoking and intolerable.”(2)  However, not dissuaded, Schurz would go on to play an active, but unsuccessful role in attempting to replace German aristocracy with Socialism in 1848. And like so many of his German compatriots who had played an important role in the failed revolution, many would soon migrate to the United States in order to continue waving the banner for their liberal cause.

For instance, Schurz was an early supporter of Abraham Lincoln, served as a chairman of the Wisconsin delegation to the Republican National Convention, and was appointed as an ambassador to Spain in order to dissuade Spain from aiding the Confederacy. In 1862, Schurz was commissioned as a brigadier General in the Federal Army, and fought at Gettysburg and the Second Battle of Manassas. Later, he would work in St. Louis editing a German Language newspaper, and was elected U.S. Senator from Missouri in 1868. (1)

In 1870, Carl Schurz would lead a Liberal Republican party, which started in Missouri, and which would spread nationwide with support from Horace Greeley (who himself was fascinated with Utopianism, Socialism, and featured Karl Marx as a correspondent in the New York Tribune), Charles Sumner, Lyman Trumbull, and others. Eventually, Schurz would eventually lead the Indian Affairs Office, and advocate the resettling of Native American tribes on reservations. However, he later changed his mind and promoted an assimilationist policy. (3) (4)

Carl Schurz’s wife, Margarethe Meyer Schurz, was also quite active in promoting socialism in the United States. As a native of Hamburg Germany, she learned about the concept of “Kindergarten” from Friedrich Froebel (See Friedrich below). Upon coming to America, Ms. Schurz started a small Kindergarten in Watertown Wisconsin, and then Milwaukee. “The Kindergarten continued sporadically here, always operated as a private school, through the nineteenth century, finally becoming a part of the public school curriculum after the turn of the last century.” (5)

Friedrich Froebel – the individual who Ms. Schurz learned the concept of Kindergarten from, was accused of undermining traditional values in 1851 by Karl von Raumer, the Prussian minister of education. Raumer believes that Froebel was spreading atheism and socialism – which Froebel denied. Still, von Raumer banned kindergartens in Prussia. In 1852, in the midst of the controversy, Froebel died. Although kindergartens existed in the other German states, they were not reestablished in Prussia until 1860. By the end of the nineteenth century, kindergartens had been established throughout Europe and North America.(6)

  1.  Wisconsin Historical Society
  2. The Reminiscences of Carl Schurz/Volume One/06 Darkening Prospects — Resisting the Reaction
  3. Hoxie, Frederick E. A Final Promise: The Campaign to Assimilate the Indians, 1880-1920, Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1981.
  4. “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.
  5. Watertown History
  6. Friedrich Froebel at State

 Special thanks to Gary Ayres and the newsletter of the Col. John T. Coffee Camp for providing inspiration for this look into the impact of the Schurz’s in our community.

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2 Responses to Carl Schurz’s Socialist crusade impacts 19th Century Missouri

  1. Pat Hines says:

    Bull Run? That’s a Yankee term, we don’t use it. The proper term is Manassas, the First and Second thereof.

  2. spinoza1111 says:

    Excellent. My ancestors, Nilges, Hochwalt and Piel all came to Amerika seeking freedom and they realized that a freedom that’s denied the black man is not freedom. They themselves were discriminated against by the Union Pacific Railroad as immigrants west of St Louis, and forced to ride segregated “Zulu” cars for “dirty Germans”.

    During World War I, once the bankers persuaded President Wilson that the United States had to enter the War to safeguard the income of the holders of British and French bonds, widespread attacks on German-Americans, African-Americans and labor organizers for the IWW erupted throughout the midwest.

    Today, a low-level prejudice exists against German-Americans in academia, primarily on the East and West coasts. For example, Noam Chomsky confused Nietzsche and Hegel online and disregarded this mistake because to him, they both were responsible for the Nazis. When I pointed this out I was banned from the Z Magazine site on which Chomsky was featured.

    We tend to write with an accuracy and thoroughness that is considered, wrongly, to be verbosity. My father, for example, was always very meticulous as a physician in documenting medical facts and this may have annoyed aliterate colleagues who’d rather watch football: but now as it happens it is considered good practice in diagnostic medicine to document everything and use checklists so that nothing is missed.

    Carl Schurz should be remembered. Thanks for this article.

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