Preface to the Second Edition [chapter]

2020 Carl Schurz  
Since the appearance of this book in 1982, the significance of the legacy of Carl Schurz has, if anything, become more timely. With the steady increase of immigration to the United States, as well as the heightened debate about its benefits or disadvantages, it has become more important than ever to establish the proper framework for the absorption of the newcomers. Schurz's solution to this problem, assimilation with the retention of each newcomer's ethnic heritage, while no longer put in
more » ... terms, is as valid today as it was in the nineteenth century when he first formulated it. In fact, his answer would seem to be the solution to our present difficulties, so that its message deserves to be as widely distributed as possible. The motto of the United States, E pluribus unum-Out of Many, Oneperfectly expresses the national commitment to the pluralistic society. While stressing the variegated origins of the American people, it also gives expression to their common beliefs, their commitment to the ideals shared by all the inhabitants of the United States. Thus, the fusion of ethnic identities and American values becomes of the utmost importance, and the example set by Carl Schurz might well be upheld today as a model for all immigrants. Schurz's insistence on Americanization while retaining one's ethnic heritage would seem to be the perfect answer to the problem confronting the United States today. And the fact that he rose to become a major general, United States Senator, and Secretary of the Interior, the highest offices ever occupied by a non-nativeborn citizen, lend even more credibility to his agency as a role model. Schurz also had an impact in another respect. While other nations pride themselves on their common, or presumed common, ethnicity or origin, thus framing their national pride about assumed hereditary traits binding the people, American nationalism has always rested upon the sharing of common ideals, the ideals of the Declaration of Independence and the Enlightenment. Again Carl Schurz showed clearly how necessary it was, and presumably is, for newcomers to embrace these ideals. A firm believer in democracy, he not only became enamored of the American system, but also sought to popularize it among his German-American compatriots. Moreover, he attempted to extend it and perfect its shortcomings. Thus, he fought for the abolition of the institution of slavery before the Civil War and the reform of the patronage system and city governments afterward. In addition, he preached tolerance of all groups, the blacks, the Jews, the Chinese, and even the Indians, though at first he had difficulty with the native Americans. And his unyielding opposition to imperialism, his conviction that the acquisition of overseas territories violated all American traditions certainly tends to be in line with present-day thinking.
doi:10.1515/9780823295227-001 fatcat:lppxzksegbbvnhofbfkj2fxjce