[Speech of Carl Schurz at a banquet given by the Chamber of Commerce of the State of New York, New York City, November 5, 1881, in honor of the guests of the Nation, the French diplomatic representatives in America, and members of the families descended from our foreign sympathizers and helpers, General Lafayette, Count de Rochambeau, Count de Grasse, Baron von Steuben, and others, who were present at the centennial celebration of the victory at Yorktown. The chairman, James M. Brown, Vice-President of the Chamber of Commerce, proposed the toast, "The Old World and the New," to which Carl Schurz was called upon for a response.]

Text from Thomas B. Reed, ed., Modern Eloquence, Vol. III ("After-Dinner Speeches"),
Chicago: Geo. L. Shuman & Co., 1903, pp. 1036-1041.

Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen of the Chamber of Commerce: -- If you had been called upon to respond to the toast: "The Old World and the New" as frequently as I have, you would certainly find as much difficulty as I find in saying anything of the Old World that is new or of the New World that is not old. [Applause.]

And the embarrassment grows upon me as I grow older, as it would upon all of you, except perhaps my good friend, Mr. Evarts, who has determined never to grow old, and whose witty sayings are always as good as new. [Laughter.] Still, gentlemen, the scenes which we have been beholding during the last few weeks have had something of a fresh inspiration in them. We have been celebrating a great warlike event -- not great in the number of men that were killed in it, but very great in the number of people it has made happy. It has made happy not only the people of this country who now count over fifty millions, but it has made happier than they were before the nations of the Old World, too; who, combined, count a great many more. [Applause.]

American Independence was declared at Philadelphia on July 4, 1776, by those who were born upon this soil, but American Independence was virtually accomplished by that very warlike event I speak of, on the field of Yorktown, where the Old World lent a helping hand to the New. [Applause.] To be sure, there was a part of the Old World consisting of the British, and I am sorry to say, some German soldiers, who strove to keep down the aspirations of the New, but they were there in obedience to the command of a power which they were not able to resist, while that part of the Old World which fought upon the American side was here of its own free will as volunteers. [Cheers.]

It might be said that most of the regular soldiers of France were here also by the command of power, but it will not be forgotten that there was not only Lafayette, led here by his youthful enthusiasm for the American cause, but there was France herself, the great power of the Old World appearing as a volunteer on a great scale. [Cheers.] So were there as volunteers those who brought their individual swords to the service of the New World. There was the gallant Steuben, the great organizer who trained the American army to victory, a representative of that great nation whose monuments stand not only upon hundreds of battle-fields of arms, but whose prouder monuments stand upon many more battle-fields of thought. [Cheers.] There was Pulaski, the Pole, and DeKalb who died for American Independence before it was achieved. And there were many more Frenchmen, Germans, Swedes, Hollanders, Englishmen even, who did not obey the behests of power. [Cheers.] And so it may be said that the cause of the New World was the cause of the volunteers of the Old. And it has remained the cause of volunteers in peace as well as in war, for since then we have received millions of them, and they are arriving now in a steady stream, thousands of them every week; I have the honor to say, gentlemen, that I am one of them. [Cheers.]

Nor is it probable that this volunteering in mass will ever stop, for it is in fact drawn over here by the excitement of war as much as by the victories of peace. It was, therefore, natural that the great celebration of that warlike event should have been turned or rather that it should have turned itself into a festival of peace on the old field of Yorktown -- peace illustrated by the happy faces of a vast multitude, and by all the evidence of thrift and prosperity and well-being; peace illustrated by the very citizen-soldiery who appeared there to ornament as a pageant, with their brilliant bayonets that peaceful festival; peace illustrated by the warmth of a grand popular welcome offered to the honored representatives of the Old World; peace illustrated, still more, by their friendly meeting upon American soil whatever their contentions at home may have been; peace glorified by what has already been so eloquently referred to by Dr. Storrs and Mr. Evarts; that solemn salute offered to the British flag, to the very emblem of the old antagonism of a hundred years ago; and that salute, echoing in every patriotic American heart, to be followed as the telegraph tells us now, by the carrying of the American flag in honor in the Lord Mayor's procession in London -- all this a cosmopolitan peace festival, in which the Old World sent its representatives to join in rejoicing over the prosperity and progress of the New. [Cheers.]

There could hardly have been a happier expression of this spirit of harmony than was presented in the serenade offered to these gentlemen -- representatives of the honored name of Steuben on the evening of their arrival in New York, the band playing first "The Watch on the Rhine," followed by the "Marseillaise" and "God Save the Queen," and then the martial airs of the Old World resolving themselves into the peaceful strains of the crowning glory of "Hail, Columbia!" and "Yankee Doodle." [Cheers.]

The cordiality of feeling which binds the Old and the New World together, and which found so touching, so tender, so wonderful an expression in the universal heartfelt sorrow of all civilized mankind at the great national bereavement, which recently has befallen us [the assassination of President Garfield], can hardly fail to be strengthened by this visit of the Old World guests whom we delight to honor. [Cheers.]

They have seen now something of our country, and our people; most of them, probably, for the first time, and I have no doubt they have arrived at the conclusion that the country for which Lafayette and Steuben and Rochambeau fought is a good country, inhabited by a good people [cheers]; a good country and a good people, worthy of being fought for by the noblest men of the earth; and I trust also when these gentlemen return to their own homes they will go back with the assurance that the names of their ancestors who drew their swords for American liberty stand in the heart of every true American side by side with the greatest American names, and that, although a century has elapsed since the surrender of Yorktown, still the gratitude of American hearts is as young and fresh and warm to-day as it was at the moment when Cornwallis hauled down his flag. [Applause.]

It seems to me also, gentlemen, that we have already given some practical evidence of that gratitude. The independence they helped to achieve has made the American nation so strong and active and prosperous that when the Old World runs short of provisions, the New stands always ready and eager even, to fill the gap, and by and by we may even send over some products of other industries for their accommodation. [Applause.]

In fact, we have been so very liberal and generous in that respect, that some of our friends on the other side of the sea are beginning to think that there may be a little too much of a good thing, and are talking of shutting it off by tricks of taxation. [Laughter.] However, we are not easily baffled. Not content with the contribution of our material products, we even send them from time to time, some of our wisdom, as, for instance, a few months ago, our friend, Mr. Evarts, went over there to tell them about the double standard -- all that we knew and a good deal more. [Laughter.] We might even be willing to send them all the accumulated stock of our silver, if they will give us their gold for it. [Cheers.] It is to be apprehended that this kind of generosity will not be fittingly appreciated and in that respect they may prefer the wisdom of the Old World to that of the New. [Laughter.]

However, we shall not quarrel about that, for seriously speaking, the New and the Old World must and will, in the commercial point of view, be of infinite use one to another as mutual customers, and our commercial relations will grow more fruitful to both sides from year to year, and from day to day, as we remain true to the good old maxim: "Live and let live." [Cheers.] Nor is there the least speck of danger in the horizon threatening to disturb the friendliness of an international understanding between the Old World and the New. That cordial international understanding rests upon a very simple, natural, and solid basis. We rejoice with the nations of the Old World in all their successes, all their prosperity, and all their happiness, and we profoundly and earnestly sympathize with them whenever a misfortune overtakes them. But one thing we shall never think of doing, and that is, interfering in their affairs. [Cheers.]

On the other hand they will give us always their sympathy in good and evil as they have done heretofore, and we expect that they will never think of interfering with our affairs on this side of the ocean. [Loud cheers.] Our limits are very distinctly drawn, and certainly no just or prudent power will ever think of upsetting them. The Old World and the New will ever live in harmonious accord as long as we do not try to jump over their fences and they do not try to jump over ours. [Cheers.]

This being our understanding, nothing will be more natural than friendship and good-will between the nations of the two sides of the Atlantic. The only danger ahead of us might be that arising from altogether too sentimental a fondness for one another which may lead us into lovers' jealousies and quarrels. Already some of our honored guests may feel like complaining that we have come very near to killing them with kindness; at any rate, we are permitted to hope that a hundred years hence our descendants may assemble again to celebrate the memory of the feast of cordial friendship which we now enjoy, and when they do so, they will come to an American Republic of three hundred millions of people, a city of New York of ten million inhabitants, and to a Delmonico's ten stories high with a station for airships running between Europe and America on the top of it [cheers], and then our guests may even expect to find comfortable hotels and decent accommodations at the deserted village of Yorktown. [Laughter and cheers.]

But, in the meantime, I am sure our Old World guests who to-night delight us with their presence, will never cease to be proud of it that the great names of which they are the honored representatives are inscribed upon some of the most splendid pages of the New World's history, and will live forever in the grateful affection of the New World's heart. [Loud applause.]