Monday, November 03, 2008

A true American

Just wandered across a post on a great American hero, Carl Schurz, and his thoughts about America's role in the world. Scott Horton gives a bit of Schurz's history, but leaves out a great deal. Schurz was actually born in Germany, became a radical, and was trapped in a siege at Rastatt during the Revolution of 1848.

When the defending forces surrendered, Schurz and a small group of confederates tried to escape through a storm sewer, found the way blocked by enemy soldiers and retreated back through the sewer to a barn, where they lay virtually motionless in the loft for a couple of days while Prussian soldiers tended their horses beneath them. The men then worked their way back through the sewer and fled the country.

Then Schurz sneaked back into Germany and bribed a guard to secure the release of his radical old professor, who was being held in prison in Spandau. When I tell my German students about this, I naturally emphasize this heroic gesture.

Only then did Schurz immigrate to the United States, where he became a general in the Civil War, then a senator, the secretary of the Interior and an editor at Harper's. Yellowstone's Mount Schurz is named for him.

As an aging veteran of two devastating wars, he said this:
The man who in times of popular excitement boldly and unflinchingly resists hot-tempered clamor for an unnecessary war, and thus exposes himself to the opprobrious imputation of a lack of patriotism or of courage, to the end of saving his country from a great calamity, is, as to "loving and faithfully serving his country," at least as good a patriot as the hero of the most daring feat of arms, and a far better one than those who, with an ostentatious pretense of superior patriotism, cry for war before it is needed, especially if then they let others do the fighting.

Wonder who he would vote for tomorrow?

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