Carl Schurz, one of the most celebrated German Americans, was born on March 2, 1829, in Liblar near Cologne, and died on May 14,1906, in New York. In 1929, on the 100th anniversary of his birth, Germany's Foreign Minister Gustav Stresemann characterized him in the following way:
"Carl Schutz managed to combine his love for Germany with a loyalty to his American homeland in a marvelous unity reflecting the striving of his great personality which, here as well as there, was concerned with profound moral goals that are not restricted to a single nation, but apply to all mankind."
While a student in Bonn, Schurz joined what would become the German revolutionary movement of 1848. He participated in the rebellions in the Rhineland, the Palatinate and in Baden. After the defeat at Rastatt, Schurz escaped via Strasbourg to Switzerland, and later to Paris and London. From there he shipped out in the fall of 1852 to New York, along with his wife, settling in 1855 as a farmer in Watertown, Wisconsin, where he gained admittance to the bar to practice law.
He became a dedicated supporter of the still young Republican Party and campaigned for Lincoln in Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and Wisconsin. After the election, President Lincoln appointed him U.S. envoy to Spain. The first defeats of the Union Army in the Civil War occasioned his return to play an active part as Union general in the war against the Confederacy and the struggle for the emancipation of the slaves.
After the devastating war had ended, leaving 600,000 dead, Schurz returned to civilian life, working as Washington correspondent for the New York Tribune, then as editor-in-chief of the Detroit Post and after l867 as co-editor and part owner of the German-language Westliche Post in St. Louis, Missouri. In 1869, he was elected U.S. senator by his new home state. Thus at the age of forty, only sixteen years after arriving in America as a homeless fugitive, Carl Schurz became a member of his adopted country's highest legislative body, an institution often more powerful than the president in those days.
As secretary of the interior under President Rutherford B. Hayes from 1877 to 1881, Schurz had the opportunity to begin his long championed civil service reform and make improvements in the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
He then moved to New York City, where he helped found the New York Evening Post. From 1892 to 1898 Schurz wrote the editorials for Harper's Weekly. He became nationally famous as a political writer and reformer, especially in the field of civil service administration.
During extensive lecture tours and new journalistic endeavors after his service in the Cabinet Schurz continued
He died in New York on May 14, 1906. In addition to his collected speeches, books written by Schurz include Life of Henry Clay (2 vol., 1887) and Abraham Lincoln: An Essay (1891).
Some of his quotes:
"Our ideals resemble the stars, which illuminate the night. No one will ever be able to touch them. But the men who, like the sailors on the ocean, take them for guides, will undoubtedly reach their goal."
"My Country! When right keep it right; when wrong, set it right!"