Carl Schurz

  • Sculptor: Karl Bitter
  • Exedra: Henry Bacon
  • Dedicated: 1913
  • Medium and size: Overall about 50 feet wide. Bronze figure (9 feet) on a pedestal, with granite reliefs below the figure (4 x 3 feet) and at the ends of the exedra (each 4 x 9 feet)
  • Location: Upper Morningside Drive at 116th Street
  • Subway: 1 to 116th Street - Columbia University

Schurz whole

Schurz figure

What Is Imperialism?

Schurz's speech "The Policy of Imperialism," delivered in 1899, was a brilliant 13,000-word exposition that started with a definition of "imperialism" as "the policy of annexing to this republic distant countries and alien populations that will not fit into our democratic system of government" - territories that would be ruled indefinitely as subject provinces, rather than admitted as equals into the United States. After giving the background of the conflict in the Philippines, he refuted arguments for having Americans fight there and offered specific suggestions about what the United States ought to do. His analysis delved into such issues as executive vs. congressional authorization for war, the deleterious effect of precedent, and the commercial and military implications of a liberated Philippines. The most thought-provoking and memorable line, and the one still relevant today, came at the very end of the speech: "Our country - when right to be kept right; when wrong to be put right." Here’s some of the earlier speech.

The American people ... should be specially careful not to permit themselves to be influenced in their decision by high-sounding phrases of indefinite meaning, by vague generalities, or by seductive catchwords appealing to unreasoning pride and reckless ambition. More than ever true patriotism now demands the exercise of the soberest possible discernment.

I am far from denying that this republic, as one of the great powers of the world, has its responsibilities. But what is it responsible for? Is it to be held, or to hold itself, responsible for the correction of all wrongs done by strong nations to weak ones, or by powerful oppressors to helpless populations? Is it, in other words, responsible for the general dispensation of righteousness throughout the world? Neither do I deny that this republic has a “mission”; and I am willing to accept, what we are frequently told, that this mission consists in “furthering the progress of civilization.” But does this mean that wherever obstacles to the progress of civilization appear, this republic should at once step in to remove those obstacles by means of force, if friendly persuasion do not avail? Every sober-minded person will admit that under so tremendous a task any earthly power, however great, would soon break down. – Carl Schurz, “The Policy of Imperialism,” 1899 

American Expansion


Above: Another idea-packed cartoon, this one from 1902. Caption: “Expansion: The water-cure method of extorting from Uncle Sam the confession that an Empire is better than a Republic.” On a table labeled “Roosevelt Platform” sits a barrel full of “Imperial Measures administered by the Administration. Repeal of the Declaration of Independence. Perversion of Monroe Doctrine. Military despotism. Violation of rules of war. Government by injunction. Autocracy, aristocracy, plutocracy, feudalism.” From the top of this barrel hangs a flag: “Slavery & polygamy protected. Sultan of Sulu per Roosevelt,” with a smaller pennant, “The flag will stay put.” At the right, Teddy Roosevelt (identifiable by his glasses, mustache, and toothy grin) pours the barrel’s contents through a funnel labeled “House & Senate” into Uncle Sam, who’s pinned down by an army of little devils (each labeled “Imp”[erialist]). In the foreground are scraps of paper: “Act of Congress giving president despotic control of Porto Rico & Phillipines” and “Army Bill giving President despotic control of troops.” In the background, an imp kicks Uncle Sam’s hat, from which fly “American Ideals,” including the names Jefferson, Hamilton, Adams, Hancock, Franklin, Madison, Prescott, and Warren, plus Washington’s Address, Monroe Doctrine, Lincoln’s Doctrine, and Sumner’s Teaching.

Karl Bitter

Bitter (1867-1915) studied sculpture in his native Vienna, then moved to the United States in 1887. He often collaborated with Richard Morris Hunt, producing the sculptures for Hunt's Administration Building at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago and the sculptural ornament for Biltmore, the Vanderbilt estate in North Carolina.

Manhattan has many of Bitter's works:

  • The reliefs on the doors of Trinity Church, 1893 (Broadway at Wall Street)
  • The facade sculptures on Hunt's Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1899 (Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street)
  • The three-figure group of Peace on the Madison Avenue side of the Appellate Court, 1900 (at 25th Street)
  • A cartouche on the Customs House Cornice representing the Great Seal of the United States, flanked by Peace and Strength, ca. 1907 (see Continents)
  • Franz Sigel, 1907 (Riverside Drive at 106th Street)
  • The Pulitzer Fountain, 1913-1916 (Fifth Avenue at 58th Street).

The Bronx has Henry Hudson, 1909-1939(Spuyten Duyvil), which was part of the reason for Verrazzano.

Brooklyn has Confucius, ca. 1900 (Brooklyn Museum). 

Cross References

Copyright (c) 2013 Dianne L. Durante