shower and decamp up to the roof to prepare for the fireworks (it’s 6pm and still daylight in Honolulu) just a thought from one of my favorite senators. But first, some background.
Carl Schurz was one of the Forty-Eighters, a generation of young Europeans radicals who fled abroad (mostly to the US) after the failed democratic rising in 1848. The German states were fragmented, and these young people wanted to unify Germany under a constitutional monarchy. Their efforts, like the efforts of so many others across Europe, failed in the face of absolutist repression and violence.
Forty-Eighters, while mostly German, came from all over Europe, and settled all over the world – Australia, the UK, and Switzerland have all benefited from Forty-Eighter attention. Regardless of where they came from or settled, the Forty-Eighters succeeded admirably in their new countries – Schurz’s wife Margaret, for example, created what we now know as “kindergarten.” In the US especially, German Forty-Eighters had an enormous impact on culture, demographics, and political life where they settled.
Schurz himself backed the failed German onstitution as a youth and fled to the US. He settled in Wisconsin, where his convictions opposing nativism and slavery led him into the nascent Republican Party, where he developed a following among German-Americans in the Midwest and became a major player in the Republican convention, supporting first Seward and then Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln in turn appointed Schurz as minister to Spain, major general in the Union army, and chief of staff to a Union army in Georgia.
After the war, Schurz was elected to the Senate in 1869 from Missouri, and was appointed Secretary of the Interior in 1876. Schurz was the first German-American to sit in the US Senate. He also made a name for himself as a newspaper publisher – he hired Joseph Pulitzer (yes, “Pulitzer Prize” Pulitzer” as a cub reporter) and continued to build German-American political power in the face of nativist, anti-immigrant sentiment.
Schurz was legendary in his day for being a polarizing figure, but one deeply loyal to his vision of America:
“I confidently trust that the American people will prove themselves … too wise not to detect the false pride or the dangerous ambitions or the selfish schemes which so often hide themselves under that deceptive cry of mock patriotism: “Our country, right or wrong!” They will not fail to recognize that our dignity, our free institutions and the peace and welfare of this and coming generations of Americans will be secure only as we cling to the watchword of true patriotism: “Our country—when right to be kept right; when wrong to be put right.””
This July 4th, keep this patriot from another shore in mind. America is in the heart, and we can all cherish it – and call it out when we expect that it can do better.