William Tecumsuh Sherman.
Edited by Rachel Sherman Thorndike.
The Sherman Letters.
General Sherman's feeling towards the South — Counsels moderation to his brother — Helper's "The Impending Crisis" — John Sherman on the Speakership — His New York speech in April, 1860 — Comments of General Sherman — Favors Seward as against Lincoln — John Sherman on Republican policy towards the South — The situation in Louisiana — Seizure of the Baton Rouge Arsenal — Resignation from the Louisiana Military Academy — Predicts ruin of politicians and rise to power of military men — Believes war inevitable — Interview with Lincoln — "Oh well, I guess we'll manage to keep house" — Secession of Virginia — Praise of McClellan — Witnesses the first fighting in the West — Early judgment of Thomas — Re-enters the army as Colonel of 13th Infantry
IN August of 1859, General Sherman was appointed superintendent of a military school in Louisiana. At that time great attention was paid in the South to the military education of the young men; and it is singular, in the knowledge of after events, that General Sherman should have gone to teach the art of war to the youth of the South.
While there, or about that time, he received an offer from a banking firm to open a branch office in London; but after consulting John, he decided not to leave this country and his school, in which he was greatly interested. It was not long, however, before his relations with the school became strained, owing to his Northern ideas. In September, 1859, he wrote to John from Lancaster, Ohio, where he stopped on his way to Louisiana.
I will come up about the 20th or 25th, and if you have an appointment to speak about that time, I should like to hear you, and will so arrange. As you are becoming a man of note and are a Republican, and as I go South among gentlemen who have always owned
slaves, and probably always will and must, and whose feelings may pervert every public expression of yours, putting me in a false position to them as my patrons, friends, and associates, and you as my brother, I would like to see you take the highest ground consistent with your party creed.
Throughout all the bitterness in the House of Representatives before the war, General Sherman urged upon his brother John to maintain a moderate course; but even then the General thought him too severe on the ' South, and writes in October, 1859, as follows: —
Each State has a perfect right to have its own local policy, and a majority in Congress has an absolute right to govern the whole country; but the North, being so strong in every sense of the term, can well afford to be generous, even to making reasonable concessions to the weakness and prejudices of the South. If Southern representatives will thrust slavery into every local question, they must expect the consequences and be outvoted; but the union of States and general union of sentiment throughout all our nation are so important to the honor and glory of the confederacy that I would like to see your position yet more moderate.
In December, John Sherman, being the Republican candidate for Speaker of the House, his brother, who was greatly excited and anxious as to his election, writes: —
NEW ORLEANS, Dec. 12, Sunday. Dear Brother :
I have watched the despatches, which are up to Dec. 10, and hoped your election would occur without the usual excitement, and believe such w r ould have been the case
had it not been for your signing for that Helper's Book. Of it I know nothing, but extracts made copiously in Southern papers show it to be not only abolition but assailing. Now I hoped you would be theoretical and not practical, for practical abolition is disunion, civil war, and anarchy universal on this continent, and I do not believe you want that. ... I do hope the discussion in Congress will not be protracted, and that your election, if possible, will occur soon. Write me how you came to sign for that book. Now that you are in, I hope you will conduct yourself manfully. Bear with taunts as far as possible, biding your time to retaliate. An opportunity always occurs.
Your affectionate brother,
W. T. SHEKMAX.
The following letters, relating to the "Helper Book," explain themselves: — -
WASHINGTON, D.C., Dec. 24, 1859.
My Dear Brother: Your letter was duly received, and should have been promptly answered but that I am overwhelmed with calls and engagements.
You ask why I signed the recommendation of the Helper Book. It was a thoughtless, foolish, and unfortunate act. I relied upon the representation that it was a political tract to be published under the supervision of a committee of which Mr. Blair, a slave-holder, was a member. I was assured that there should be nothing offensive in it, and so, in the hurry of business of the House, I told Morgan, a member of last Congress, to use my name. I never read the book, knew nothing of it, and now cannot recall that I authorized the use of my name. Everybody knows that the ultra sentiments in the book are as obnoxious to me as they can be to any
one, and in proper circumstances I would distinctly say so, but under the threat of Clark's resolution, I could not, with self respect, say more than I have.
Whether elected or not, I will at a proper time disclaim all sympathy with agrarianisin, insurrection, and other abominations in the book.
In great haste,
Your affectionate brother,
SEMINARY, ALEXANDRIA, LA., Jan. 16, 1860.
Dear Brother: I received your letter explaining how you happened to sign for that Helper Book. Of course, it was an unfortunate accident, which will be a good reason for your refusing hereafter your signature to unfinished books. After Clark's resolution, you were right, of course, to remain silent. I hope you will still succeed, as then you will have ample opportunity to show a fair independence.
The rampant Southern feeling is not so strong in Louisiana as in Mississippi and Carolina. Still, holding many slaves, they naturally feel the intense anxiety all must whose property and existence depend on the safety of their property and labor. I do hope that Congress may organize and that all things may move along sm It would be the height of folly to drive the South to desperation, and I hope, after the fact is admitted that the North has the majority and right to control national matters and interests, that they will so use their power as to reassure the South that there is no intention to disturb the actual existence of slavery.
W. T. SHERMAN.
Through all General Sherman's letters of this date, one can hear the thunder crash before the storm. His ardor for peace and the avoidance of trouble are reassuring in a man of great military longings and ambitions. In February, 1860, he writes : —
If Pennington succeeds, he will of course give you some conspicuous committee, probably quite as well for you in the long run as Speaker. I don't like the looks of the times. This political turmoil, the sending commissions from State to State, the organization of military schools and establishments, and universal belief in the South that disunion is not only possible but certain, — are bad signs. If our country falls into anarchy, it will be Mexico, only worse. I was in hopes the crisis would have been deferred till the States of the Northwest became so populous as to hold both extremes in check. Disunion would be civil war, and you politicians would lose all charm. Military men would then step on the tapis, and you would have to retire. Though you think such a thing absurd, yet it is not so, and there would be vast numbers who would think the change for the better. •
I have been well sustained here, and the Legislature proposes further to endow us well and place us in the strongest possible financial position. If they do, and this danger of disunion blow over, I shall stay here; but in case of a breach, I would go North.
W. T. SHERMAK.
Later, when things look more peaceful for the country, he writes: —
The excitement attending the Speakership has died away here, and Louisiana will not make any disunion
moves. Indeed, she is very prosperous, and the Mississippi is a strong link, which she cannot sever. Besides, the price of negroes is higher than ever before, indicating a secure feeling.
I have seen all your debates thus far, and no Southern or other gentleman will question their fairness and dignity, and I believe, unless you are unduly provoked, they will ever continue so. I see you are suffering some of the penalties of greatness, having an awful likeness paraded in Harper's, to decorate the walls of country inns. I have seen that of Harper, and as the name is below, I recognize it. Some here say they see a likeness to me, but I don't.
The following letters, relating to John Sherman's speech in New York, explain themselves.
WASHINGTON, March 26, 1860.
My Dear Brother: Yours of the 12th instant was received when I was very busy, and therefore I did not answer in time for you at Lancaster. I sent Gales and Seaton the six dollars for the paper.
Your estimate of the relative positions of Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means Committee is not accurate. The former is worth struggling for; it is high in dignity, influence, and when its duties are well performed it is an admirable place to gain reputation. I confess I had set my heart upon it and that I could have discharged its duties. . . . My present position is a thankless, laborious one. I am not adapted to it. It requires too much detailed labor and keeps me in constant conflict; it is the place of a schoolmaster with plenty of big boys to coax and master. I will get along the best I can. . . . You need not fear my caution about extreme views. It
is my purpose to express my political views in the State of New York in April, and to avoid hasty expressions, I will write it out in full for publication.
LOUISIANA STATE SEMINARY OF LEARNING
AND MILITARY ACADEMY, ALEXANDRIA, LA., April 4, 1860. Dear Brother:
I know that some men think this middle course absurd, but no people were ever governed by mere abstract principle. All governments are full of anomalies, — English, French, and our own; but ours is the best because it admits of people having their local interests and prejudices, and yet living in one confederacy. I hope you will send me your speech, and if national, I will have it circulated.
I see you have reported nearly all the appropriation bills early in the session. This has been referred to in my presence repeatedly as evidence of your ability and attention to business; so, whether you feel suited to the berth or no, it will strengthen your chances in the country.
W. T. SHERMAN.
WASHINGTON, D.C., April 13, 1860.
I sent you a copy of my speech in New York. I delivered it with credit and to a very large and kind audience. Upon looking it over, I perceive a good deal of bitterness, natural enough, but which you will not approve. It is well received here.
Affectionately yours, JOHN SHERMAN.
ALEXANDRIA, LA., May 8, 1860.
Last night I got the copy of the speech and read it. ... There is one point which you concede to the Southern States, perfect liberty to prefer slavery if they choose; still, you hit the system as though you had feeling against it. I know it is difficult to maintain perfect impartiality. In all new cases, it is well you should adhere to your conviction to exclude slavery because you prefer free labor. That is your perfect right, and I was glad to see that you disavowed any intention to molest slavery even in the District. Now, so certain and inevitable is it that the physical and political power of this nation must pass into the hands of the free States, that I think you all can well afford to take things easy, bear the buffets of a sinking dynasty, and even smile at their impotent threats. You ought not to expect the Southern politicians to rest easy when they see and feel this crisis so long approaching, and so certain to come absolutely, at hand.
But this year's presidential election will be a dangerous one; may actually result in civil war, though I still cannot believe the South would actually secede in the event of the election of a Kepublican.
Your affectionate brother,
W. T. SHERMAN.
As the year goes on, General Sherman's anxiety increases, and his position becomes almost too strained for comfort. In his intense longing for the preservation of peace, he favors the nomination of Seward rather than of Lincoln, believing him to be less inimical to the South. In June of 1860, he writes : —
I think, however, though Lincoln's opinions on slavery are as radical as those of Seward, yet Southern men, if they see a chance of his success, will say they will wait and see. The worst feature of things now is the familiarity with which the subject of a dissolution is talked about. But I cannot believe any one, even Yancey or Davis, would be rash enough to take the first step. If at Baltimore to-day the Convention nominate Douglas with unanimity, I suppose if he gets the vote of the united South he will be elected. But, as I apprehend will be the case, if the seceders again secede to Richmond, and there make a Southern nomination, their nomination will weaken Douglas' vote so much that Lincoln may run in. The real race seems to be between Lincoln and Douglas. . . . Now that Mr. Ewing also is out for Lincoln, and it is strange how closely these things are watched, it is probable I will be even more "suspect" than last year. All the reasoning and truth in the world would not convince a Southern man that the Republicans are not abolitionists. It is not safe even to stop to discuss the question : they believe it, and there is the end of the controversy. ... Of course, I know that reason has very little influence in this world : prejudice governs. You and all who derive power from the people do not look for pure, unalloyed truth, but to that kind of truth which jumps with the prejudice of the day. So Southern politicians do the same. If Lincoln be elected, I don't apprehend resistance; and if he be, as Mr. Ewing says, a reasonable, moderate man, things may move on, and the South become gradually reconciled. But you may rest assured that the tone of feeling is such that civil war and anarchy are very possible.
The following letter, written by John Sherman to his brother shortly after the election of Lincoln, is full of the intensest feeling and is a complete statement of the Republican sentiment of the time: —
MANSFIELD, OHIO, Nov. 26, 1860.
My Dear Brother: Since I received your last letter I have been so constantly engaged, first with the election and afterwards in arranging my business for the winter, that I could not write you.
The election resulted as I all along supposed. Indeed, the division of the Democratic party on precisely the same question that separates the Republican party from the Democratic party made its defeat certain. The success of the Republicans has no doubt saved the country from a discreditable scramble in the House. No doubt the disorders of the last winter and the fear of their renewal induced many good citizens to vote for the Republican ticket. With a pretty good knowledge of the material of our House, I would far prefer that any one of the candidates be elected by the people rather than allow the contest to be determined in Congress. Well, Lincoln is elected. No doubt, a large portion of the citizens of Louisiana consider this a calamity. If they believe their own newspapers, what is far worse, the lying organs of the Democratic party in the free States, they have just cause to think so. But you were long enough in Ohio and heard enough of the ideas of the Republican leaders to know that the Republican party is not likely to interfere directly or indirectly with slavery in the States or with the laws relating to slavery; that, so far as the slavery question is concerned, the contest was for the possession of Kansas and perhaps New Mexico, and that the chief virtue of the Republican success was in its condemnation of the narrow sectionalism of
THE SHERMAN LETTERS
Buchanan's administration and the corruptions by which he attempted to sustain his policy. Who doubts but that, if he had been true to his promises in submitting the controversy in Kansas to its own people, and had closed it by admitting Kansas as a free State, that the Democratic party would have retained its power? It was his infernal policy in Kansas (I can hardly think of the mean and bad things he allowed there without swearing) that drove off Douglas, and led to the division of the Democratic party and the consequent election of Lincoln.
As a matter of course, I rejoice in the result, for in my judgment the administration of Lincoln will do much to dissipate the feeling in the South against the North by showing what are the real purposes of the Eepublican party. In the meantime, it is evident we have to meet in a serious form the movements of South Carolinian Disunionists. These men have for years desired this disunion ; they have plotted for it. They drove Buchanan into his Kansas policy; they got up this new dogma about slave protection; they broke up the Charleston Convention merely to advance secession; they are now hurrying forward excited men into acts of treason without giving time for passion to cool or reason to resume its sway. God knows what will be the result. If by a successful revolution they can go out of the Union, they establish a principle that will break up the government into fragments. Some local disaffection or temporary excitement will lead one State after another out of the Union. We will have the Mexican Republic over again, with a fiercer race of men to fight with each other. Secession is revolution. They seem bent upon attempting it. If so, shall the government resist? If so, then comes civil war, a fearful subject for Americans to think of.
Since the election I have been looking over the field for the purpose of marking out a course to follow this winter, and I have, as well as I could, tested my political course in the past. There has been nothing done by the Republican party but merits the cordial approval of my judgment. There have been many things said and done by Republican leaders that I utterly detest. Many of the dogmas of the Democratic party I like, but their conduct in fact in administering the government, and especially in their treatment of the slavery question, I detest. I know we will have trouble this winter, but I intend to be true to the moderate conservative course I think I have hitherto undertaken. Whatever may be the consequences, I will insist on preserving the unity of the States, and all the States without exception and without regard to consequences. If any Southern State has really suffered any injury or is deprived of any right, I will help redress the injury and secure the right. They must not, merely because they are beaten in an election, or have failed in establishing slavery where it was prohibited by compromise, attempt to break up the government. If they will hold on a little while, they will find no injury can come to them unless, by their repeated misrepresentation of us, they stir up their slaves to insurrection. I still hope that no State will follow in the wake of South Carolina. If so, the weakness of her position will soon bring her back again or subject her to ridicule and insignificance.
It may be supposed by some that the excitement in the South has produced a corresponding excitement in the North. This is true in financial matters, especially in the cities. In political circles, it only strengthens the Republican party. Even Democrats of all shades say, The election is against us; we will submit and all must
submit. Kepublicans say, The policy of the government has been controlled by the South for years, and we have submitted: now they must submit. And why not ? What can the Kepublicans do half as bad as Pierce and Buchanan have done ?
But enough of this. You luckily are out of politics, and don't sympathize with my Republicanisms any way; but as we are on the eve of important events, I write about politics instead of family matters, of which there is notliing new.
This is followed by a letter from General Sherman, in which one can see that already he fully realizes the inevitable outcome of the attempted dissolution of the Union and the strength of the South. Some months later he demanded 75,000 men to defend Kentucky, which required in the end more than twice that number to defend it, and he was in consequence called and believed to be insane. It was his knowledge, obtained through his singular position in the South, that enabled him to judge more accurately than others the immense proportions of the coming war.
LOUISIANA STATE SEMINARY OF LEARNING AND
MILITARY ACADEMY, ALEXANDRIA, Dec. 1,1860. Dear Brother:
The quiet which I thought the usual acquiescence of the people was merely the prelude to the storm of opinion that now seems irresistible. Politicians, by hearing the prejudices of the people and running with the current, have succeeded in destroying the government. It cannot be stopped now, I fear. I was in Alexandria all day
yesterday, and had a full and unreserved conversation with Dr. S. A. Smith, State senator, who is a man of education, property, influence, and qualified to judge. He was during the canvass a Breckinridge man, but, though a Southerner in opinion, is really opposed to a dissolution of our government. He has returned from New Orleans, where he says he was amazed to see evidences of public sentiment which could not be mistaken. The Legislature meets December 10 at Baton Rouge. The calling a convention forthwith is to be unanimous, the bill for army and State ditto. The Convention will meet in January, and only two questions will be agitated, — Immediate dissolution, a declaration of State independence, and a General Convention of Southern States, with instructions to demand of the Northern States to repeal all laws hostile to slavery and pledges of future good behavior. . . . When the Convention meets in January, as they will assuredly do, and resolve to secede, or to elect members to a General Convention with instructions inconsistent with the nature of things, I must quit this place, for it would be neither right for me to stay nor would the Governor be justified in placing me in this position of trust; for the moment Louisiana assumes a position of hostility, then this becomes an arsenal and fort.
Let me hear the moment you think dissolution is inevitable. What Mississippi and Georgia do, this State will do likewise.
W. T. SHEKMAN.
In the next letter, of December 9th, General Sherman, after reasserting his belief that " all attempts at reconciliation will fail," and realizing that Louisiana will
undoubtedly follow South Carolina and Georgia, laments personally this, his fourth change in four years, and " each time from calamity," — California, New York, Leavenworth, and now Louisiana, which must be admitted was discouraging to any man. On December 15th John Sherman urges his brother to leave Louisiana at once, while the General waits, hoping against hope for peace.
I am clearly of the opinion that you ought not to remain much longer at your present post. You will in all human probability be involved in complications from which you cannot escape with honor. Separated from your family and all your kin, and an object of suspicion, you will find your position unendurable. A fatal infatuation seems to have seized the Southern mind, during which any act of madness may be committed. ... If the sectional dissensions only rested upon real or alleged grievances, they could be readily settled, but I fear they are deeper and stronger. You can now close your connection with the seminary with honor and credit to yourself, for all who know you speak well of your conduct, while by remaining you not only involve yourself but bring trouble upon those gentlemen who recommended you.
It is a sad state of affairs, but it is nevertheless true, that if the conventions of the Southern States make anything more than a paper secession, hostile collisions will occur and probably a separation between the free and the slave States. You can judge whether it is at all probable that the possession of this capital, the commerce of the Mississippi, the control of the territories, and the natural rivalry of enraged sections can be arranged without war. In that event, you cannot serve in Louisiana against your family and kin in Ohio. The bare possibility of such a contingency, it seems to me,
renders your duty plain, to make a frank statement to all the gentlemen connected with you, and with good feeling close your engagement. If the storm shall blow over, 3 7 our course will strengthen you with every man whose good opinion you desire; if not, you will escape humiliation.
When you return to Ohio, I will write you freely about your return to the army, not so difficult a task as you imagine.
The following short extracts from letters at this time show the gradual approach of war. General Sherman writes from Louisiana : —
Events here seem hastening to a conclusion. Doubtless you know more of the events in Louisiana than I do, as I am in an out-of-the-way place. But the special session of the Legislature was so unanimous in arming the State and calling a convention that little doubt remains that Louisiana will, on the 23d of January, follow the other seceding States. Governor Moore takes the plain stand that the State must not submit to a black Republican President. Men here have ceased to reason; they seem to concede that slavery is unsafe in a confederacy with Northern States; ~and that now is the time; no use of longer delay. All concessions, all attempts to remonstrate, seem at an end.
A rumor says that Major Anderson, my old captain (brother of Charles Anderson, now of Texas, formerly of Dayton and Cincinnati, Lary, William and John, all of Ohio), has spiked the guns of Fort Moultrie, destroyed it, and taken refuge in Sumter. This is right. Sumter is in mid-channel, approachable only in boats, whereas Moultrie is old, weak, and easily approached under cover. If Major Anderson can hold out till relieved
THE SHERMAN LETTERS
and supported by steam frigates, South Carolina will find herself unable to control her commerce, and will feel, for the first time in her existence, that she can't do as she pleases.
A telegraph despatch, addressed to me at Alexandria, could be mailed at New Orleans, and reach me in three days from Washington.
WASHINGTON, D.C., Jan. 6, 1861.
I see some signs of hope, but it is probably a deceptive light. The very moment you feel uncomfortable in your position in Louisiana, come away. Don't for God's sake subject yourself to any slur, reproach, or indignity. I have spoken to General Scott, and he heartily seconds your desire to return to duty in the army. I am not at all sure but that, if you were here, you could get a position that would suit you. I see many of your friends of the army daily.
As for my views of the present crisis, I could not state them more fully than I have in the enclosed printed letter. It has been very generally published and approved in the North, but may not have reached you, and therefore I send it to you.
Affectionately your brother,
Following is the letter referred to: —
WASHINGTON, Dec. 22, 1860.
Gentlemen: Your note of the 15th inst., inviting me to attend a public dinner in your city, on Friday evening next, was duly received.
I remember with pleasure the kindness shown me during the recent canvass by our political friends at Philadelphia, and would gladly avail myself of the proposed celebration, to mingle my personal thanks with your rejoicings over the recent triumph of our political principles. Other engagements and duties, however, will not allow me that pleasure.
No State can dispute with Pennsylvania the honor of this triumph. Her own son was upon trial, and her voice of condemnation was emphatic and decisive. The election of Governor Curtin foreshadowed her decision, and strengthened our cause in every State where freedom of election is allowed to the people. Her verdict in November reconsidered and reaffirmed her verdict in October. And now, since the victory is won, let us not lose the fruits of it.
Fidelity to principle is demanded by the highest patriotism. The question is not whether this or that policy should prevail, but whether we shall allow the Government to be broken into fragments, by disappointed partisans, condemned by four-fifths of the people. It is the same question answered by General Jackson in his proclamation of 1833. It is the same question answered by Henry Clay in the Senate in 1850. It is the same question answered by Madison and Jefferson, and recently by Wade and Johnson. It is a question which, I feel assured, every one of you will answer, in the patriotic language of General Jackson — " The Union, it must be preserved."
Such would be the voice of the whole country, if the Government was not now administered by those who not only permit treason but actually commit it, by turning the powers of the Government against itself. They kill the Government they have sworn to maintain and defend,
because the people, whose agents they are, have condemned them. In this spirit we have seen a Secretary of the Treasury, charged with the financial credit of the Government, offering for sale the bonds of the Government, and at the same moment declaring that it will be overthrown, and that he would aid in overthrowing it. We see other high officers receiving PAY for services to the Government and yet, at the same moment, plotting its destruction. We see the Treasury robbed by subordinate officers amid the general ruin. Stranger still, we see the President of the United States acknowledging his duty to execute the laws, but refusing to execute them. He admits that the Constitution is the supreme law; that neither a State nor the citizens of a State can disregard it; and yet, armed as he is with all the executive power, I he refuses even to protect the property of the United States against armed violence. He will not hear General Cass, the head of his cabinet. He will not heed General Scott, the head of the army. He has transferred to Southern States more than one hundred thousand arms, of the newest pattern and most effective calibre, to be turned against the Government.
The American people are now trembling with apprehension lest the President allows our officers and soldiers to be slaughtered at their posts for want of the aid which he has refused, or what is far more disgraceful, shall order the flag of the Union to be lowered without resistance to lawless force.
Treason sits in the councils, and timidity controls the executive power. The President listens to, and is controlled by threats. He theorizes about coercing a State when he should be enforcing the laws against rebellious citizens. He admits that the States have surrendered the power to make treaties, coin money and regulate
commerce, and yet we will probably have the novel and ridiculous farce of a negotiation between the President and a State for the surrender of forts and arsenals and sovereignty. Congress can do nothing, for the laws now are sufficient, if executed. Impeachment is too slow a remedy. The Constitution provided against every probable vacancy in the office of President, but did not provide for utter imbecility.
The people, alarmed, excited, yet true to the Union and the Constitution, are watching with eager fear, lest the noble Government, baptized in the blood of the Eevolution, shall be broken into fragments, before the President elect shall assume the functions of his office.
What pretext is given for this alarming condition of affairs? for every treasonable act has its pretext. We are told that the people of the Southern States apprehend that Mr. Lincoln will deprive them of their constitutional rights. It is not claimed that, as yet, their rights have been invaded, but upon an apprehension of evil, they will break up the most prosperous Government the providence of God ever allowed to man.
We know very well how groundless are their apprehensions, but we are not even allowed to say so to our fellow-citizens of the South. So wild is their apprehension, that even such statesmen as Stephens, Johnson, Hill, Botts, and Pettigrew, when they say, "wait, wait, till we see what this ^Republican party will attempt," are denounced as Abolitionists, — Submissionists. You know very well that we do not propose to interfere in the slightest degree with slavery in the States. We know that our leader, for whose election you rejoice, has, over and over again, affirmed his opposition to the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia, except upon conditions that are not likely to occur; to any interference with the inter-State
slave trade; and that he will enforce the constitutional right of the citizens of the slave States to recapture their fugitive slaves when they escape from service into the free States. We know very well that the great objects which those who elected Mr. Lincoln expect him to accomplish will be to secure to free labor its just right to the Territories of the United States; to protect, as far as practicable, by wise revenue laws, the labor of our people; to secure the public lands to actual settlers, instead of to non-resident speculators; to develop the internal resources of the country by opening new means of communication between the Atlantic and the Pacific, and to purify the administration of the Government from the pernicious influences of jobs, contracts and unreasonable party warfare.
But, some of you may say, all this is very well, but what will you do to save the Union? Why don't you compromise ?
Gentlemen, remember that we are just recovering from the dishonor of breaking a legislative compromise. We have been struggling, against all the powers of the Government, for six years, to secure practically what was expressly granted by a compromise. We have succeeded. Kansas is now free. The Missouri restriction is now practically restored by the incipient Constitution of Kansas, and safer yet by the will of her people. The baptism of strife through which she has passed has only strengthened the prohibition. There let it stand.
But, our political opponents, who have dishonored the word " compromise," who trampled, without a moment's hesitation, upon a compromise, when they expected to gain by it, now ask us to again compromise by securing slavery south of a geographical line. To this we might fairly say: There is no occasion for compromise. We
have done no wrong; we have no apologies to make, and no concessions to offer. You chose your ground, and we accepted your issue. We have beaten you, and you must submit, as we have done in the past, and as we should have done if the voice of the people had been against us. As good citizens you must obey the laws, and respect the constituted authorities. But we will meet new questions of administration with a liberal spirit. Without surrendering our convictions in the least, we may now dispose of the whole Territorial controversy by the exercise of unquestioned Congressional power.
The only Territory, south of the line, except that which, by treaty with Indian tribes, cannot be included within the jurisdiction of a State, is New Mexico. She has now population enough for admission as a State. Let Congress admit her as a State, and then she has the acknowledged right to form, regulate, change or modify her domestic institutions. She has now a nominal slave code framed, and urged upon her by Territorial officers. Practically, slavery does not exist there. It never can be established there. In a region where the earth yields her increase only by the practice of irrigation, slave labor will not be employed. At any rate, it is better to settle all questions about slavery there, by admitting the Territory as a State. While a Territory, it is insisted that slavery shall be protected in it. We insist that Congress may prohibit it; and that the people have an undisputed right to exclude slaves. Why not, by terminating their Territorial condition, determine this controversy ? The same course might now properly be adopted with all the Territories of the United States.
In each of the Territories there are now small settlements scattered along the lines of transit. Within five years, the least populous will contain sufficient popula-
THE SHEEN AN LETTERS
tion for a representative in Congress. Dacotah, Washington, Nevada and Jefferson are destined soon to be as familiar to us as Kansas and Nebraska. It is well worthy the consideration of the old States, whether it is not better to dispense with all Territorial organizations — always expensive and turbulent — and, at once, to carve the whole into States of convenient size for admission. This was the Jeffersonian plan, which did not contemplate Territories, but States. It was also sanctioned by General Taylor, and, but for his death, would have been adopted.
This is an easy, effectual remedy, within the power of Congress, and in its nature an irrevocable act. There is no necessity of an amendment to the Constitution. It is not at all probable that two-thirds of both Houses of Congress and three-fourths of the States can agree to any amendments. Why attempt it, unless to invite new conquests, new acquisitions, to again arouse sectional animosities? We know that if Mexico is acquired, the South will demand it for slavery, and the North for free institutions. We must forego, for the present, new conquests, unless the love of acquisition is stronger than the love of domestic peace.
Suppose it to be conceded that the Constitution should be amended, what amendment will satisfy the South? Nothing less than the protection of slavery in the Territories. But our people have pronounced against it. All who voted for Mr. Lincoln or Mr. Douglas — over three million three hundred thousand citizens — voted against this claim. Less than a million voted for it. Should the great majority yield to a meagre minority, especially under threats of disunion ? This minority demand that slavery be protected by the Constitution. Our fathers would not allow the word " slave " or " slavery " in the
Constitution, when all the States but one were slave-holding. Shall we introduce these words when a majority of the States are free, and when the progress of civilization has arrayed the world against slavery? If the love of peace, and ease, and office, should tempt politicians and merchants to do it, the people will rebel. I assure you, whatever may be the consequence, they will not yield their moral convictions by strengthening the influence of slavery in this country. Recent events have only deepened this feeling. The struggle to establish slavery in Kansas; the frequent murders and mobbings, in the South, of Northern citizens; the present turbulence and violence of Southern society; the manifest fear of the freedom of speech and of the press; the danger of insurrection; and now the attempt to subvert the Government rather than submit to a constitutional election — these events, disguise it as you may, have aroused a counter irritation in the North that will not allow its Representatives to yield, merely for peace, more than is prescribed by the letter and spirit of the Constitution. Every guarantee of this instrument ought to be faithfully and religiously observed. But when it is proposed to change it, to secure new guarantees to slavery, to extend and protect it, you awake and arouse the anti-slavery feeling of the North to war against slavery everywhere.
I am, therefore, opposed to any change in the Constitution, and to any compromise that will surrender any of the principles sanctioned by the people in the recent contest. If the personal-liberty bills of any State infringe upon the Constitution, they should at once be repealed. Most of them have slumbered upon the Statute-book for years. They are now seized upon by those who are plotting disunion as a pretext. We should give them no pretext. It is always right and proper for each State to apply to State laws the test of the Constitution.
It is a remarkable fact that none of the border free States — New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, nor Iowa — have any such upon their Statute-books. The laws of these States against kidnapping are similar to those of Virginia and Kentucky. The laws of other States, so called, have never operated to release a single fugitive slave, and may be regarded simply as a protest of those States against the harsh features of the fugitive-slave law. So far as they infringe upon the Constitution, or impair, in the' least, a constitutional right, they are void and ought to be repealed.
I venture the assertion, jthat there have been more cases of kidnapping of free negroes, in Ohio, than of peaceable or unlawful rescue of fugitive slaves in the whole United States. It has been shown that the law of recapture and the penalties of rescue have been almost invariably executed. Count up all the cases of rescue of negroes in the North, and you can find in your newspapers more cases of unlawful lynching and murder of j white men in the South. These cases have now become so frequent and atrocious, as to demand the attention of / the General Government. The same article of the Con-\_stitution that secures the recapture of fugitives from service and justice also secures the rights of citizens of Pennsylvania and Ohio to all the immunities and privileges of citizens of the several States. No law has been passed by Congress to secure this constitutional right. No executive authority interposes to protect our citizens, and yet we hear no threats of retaliation or rebellion from Northern citizens or Northern States. So, I trust, it may ever be.
The great danger that now overshadows us does not arise from real grievances. Plotters for disunion avail themselves of the weakness of the Executive to precipi-
tate revolution. South Carolina has taken the lead. The movement would be utterly insignificant if confined to that State. She is still in the Union, and neither the President nor Congress has the power to consent to her withdrawal. This can only be by a change in the Constitution, or by the acquiescence of the people of the other States. The defence of the property of the United States and the collection of the revenues need not cause the shedding of blood, unless she commences a contest of physical force. The increase, in one year, of our population is greater than her entire population, white and black. Either one of several Congressional districts in the West has more white inhabitants than she has. Her military power is crippled by the preponderance of her slaves. However brave, and gallant, and spirited her people may be, and no one disputes these traits, yet it is manifest she is weak in physical force. This great Government might well treat with indulgence paper secession, or the resolves of her Convention and Legislature, without invoking physical force to enforce the laws among her citizens.
Without disrespect to South Carolina, it would be easy to show that Shays's rebellion and the whiskey insurrection involved the Government in greater danger than the solitary secession of South Carolina. But the movement becomes imposing when we are assured that several powerful States will very soon follow in the lead of South Carolina; and when we know that other States, still more powerful, sympathize with the seceding States, to the extent of opposing, and perhaps resisting, the execution of the laws in the seceding States.
In this view of the present condition of public affairs it becomes the people of the United States seriously to consider whether the Government shall be arrested in
the execution of its undisputed powers by the citizens of one or more States, or whether we shall test the power of the Government to defend itself against dissolution. Can a separation take place without war? If so, where will be the line? Who shall possess this magnificent capital, with all its evidences of progress and civilization? Shall the mouth of the Mississippi be separated from its sources ? Who shall possess the Territories ? Suppose these difficulties to be overcome; suppose that in peace we should huckster and divide up our nationality, our flag, our history, all the recollections of the past; suppose all these difficulties overcome, how can two rival Republics, of the same race of men, divided only by a line or a river for thousands of miles, with all the present difficulties aggravated by separation, avoid forays, disputes and war ? How can we travel our future march of progress in Mexico, or on the high seas, or on the Pacific slope, without collision? It is impossible. To peaceably accomplish such results, we must change the nature of man. Disunion is war! God knows, I do not threaten it, for I will seek to prevent it in every way possible. I speak but the logic of facts, which we should not conceal from each other. It is either hostilities between the Government and the seceding States; or, if separation is yielded peaceably, it is a war of factions — a rivalry of insignificant communities, hating each other, and contemned by the civilized world. If war results, what a war it will be! Contemplate the North and South in hostile array against each other. If these sections do not know each other now, they will then.
We are a nation of military men, naturally turbulent because we are free, accustomed to arms, ingenious, energetic, brave and strong. The same qualities that have en-
abled a single generation of men to develop the resources of a continent, would enable us to destroy more rapidly than we have constructed. It is idle for individuals of either section to suppose themselves superior in military power. The French and English tried that question for a thousand years. We ought to know it now. The result of the contest will not depend upon the first blow or the first year, but blood shed in civil war will yield its baleful fruits for generations.
How can we avert a calamity at which humanity and civilization shudder? I know no way but to cling to the Government framed by our fathers, to administer it in a spirit of kindness, but in all cases, without partiality to enforce the laws. No State can release us from the duty of obeying the laws. The ordinance or act of a State is no defence for treason, nor does it lessen the moral guilt of that crime. Let us cling to each other in the hope that our differences will pass away, as they often have in times past. For the sake of peace, for the love of civil liberty, for the honor of our name, our race, our religion, let us preserve the Union, loving it better as the clouds grow darker. I am willing to unite with any man, whatever may have been his party relations, whatever may be his views of the existing differences, who is willing to rely on the Constitution as it is for his rights, and who is willing to maintain and defend the Union under all circumstances, against all enemies, at home or abroad.
Pardon me, gentlemen, for writing you so fully. I feel restrained, by the custom of the House of Representatives, from engaging there in political debate; and yet I feel it is the duty of every citizen to prepare his countrymen for grave events, that will test the strength and integrity of the Government.
Believing that our only safety is in a firm enforce-
ment of the laws, and that Mr. Lincoln will execute that duty without partiality, I join my hearty congratulations with yours that he is so soon to be the President of the United States. With great respect, I remain, very truly Your obedient servant,
MESSRS. WM. READ, D. J. COCHRAN, L. S. FLETCHER, H. E. WALLACE, CHARLES O'NEILL, Committee.
Governor Moore of Louisiana took possession of the Arsenal at Baton Rouge, January 10, 1861. General Sherman comments upon this in a letter written to his brother, January 16, and regarding it as a declaration of war. sends in his resignation January 18, a copy of which he encloses to John Sherman in a letter written the same day.
ALEXANDRIA, Jan. 16th, 1861.
My Dear Brother: I am so much in the woods here that I can't keep up with the times at all. Indeed, you in Washington hear from New Orleans two or three days sooner than I do. I was taken aback by the news that Governor Moore had ordered the forcible seizure of the Forts Jackson and St. Philip, at or near the mouth of the Mississippi ; also of Forts Pike and Wood, at the outlets of Lakes Bogue and Pontchartrain. All these are small forts, and have rarely been occupied by troops. They are designed to cut off approach by sea to New Orleans, and were taken doubtless to prevent their being occupied, by order of General Scott. But the taking the arsenal at Baton Rouge is a different matter. It is merely an assemblage of store-houses, barracks, and dwelling-houses designed for the healthy residence of a garrison, to be thrown into one or the other of the forts in case of war. The arsenal is one of minor importance, yet the stores were kept there for the
moral effect, and the garrison was there at the instance of the people of Louisiana. To surround with the military array, to demand surrender, and enforce the departure of the garrison, was an act of war. It amounted to a declaration of war and defiance, and was done by Governor Moore without the authority of the Legislature or Convention. Still, there is but little doubt but that each of these bodies, to assemble next week, will ratify and approve these violent acts, and it is idle to discuss the subject now. The people are mad on this question.
I had previously notified all that in the event of secession I should quit. As soon as a knowledge of these events reached me, I went to the vice-president, Dr. Smith, in Alexandria, and told him that I regarded Louisiana as at war against the Federal Government, and that I must go. He begged me to wait until some one could be found to replace me. The supervisors feel the importance of system and discipline, and seem to think that my departure will endanger the success of this last effort to build up an educational establishment. . . . You may assert that in no event will I forego my allegiance to the United States as long as a single State is true to the old Constitution.
W. T. SHERMAN.
LOUISIANA STATE SEMINARY OF LEARNING AND MILITARY ACADEMY,
ALEXANDRIA, Jan. 18, 1861.
Dear Brother: Before receiving yours of the 7th, 1 I had addressed a letter to Governor Moore at Baton Rouge, of which this is a copy: —
1 Meaning the letter of the 6th.
" Sir: As I occupy a quasi military position under the laws of the State, I deem it proper to acquaint you that I accepted such position when Louisiana was a State in the Union and when the motto of this seminary was inscribed in marble over the main door: 'By the liberality of the General Government. The Union Esto perpetua.' Recent events foreshadow a great change, and it becomes all men to choose. If Louisiana withdraw from the Federal Union, I prefer to maintain my allegiance to the old constitution as long as a fragment of it survives, and my longer stay here would be wrong in every sense of the word. In that event I beg that you will send or appoint some authorized agent to take charge of the arms and munitions of war here belonging to the State or advise me what disposition to make of them. And furthermore, as President of the Board of Supervisors, I beg you to take immediate steps to relieve me as superintendent the moment the State determines to secede ; for on no earthly account will I do any act or think any thought hostile to or in defiance of the United States.
"With respect, etc.
«W. T. SHERMAX."
I regard the seizure by Governor Moore of the United States Arsenal as the worst act yet committed in the present revolution. I do think every allowance should be made to Southern politicians for their nervous anxiety about their political power and the safety of slaves. I think that the constitution should be liberally construed in their behalf, but I do regard this civil war as precipitated with undue rapidity. ... It is inevitable. All the legislation now would fall powerless on the South. You should not alienate such States as Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Missouri. My notion is that this war will ruin all politicians, and that military leaders
will direct the events.
W. T. S.
In the following letter of February 1st, the General quotes the handsome note from Governor Moore accepting his resignation: —
I have felt the very thoughts you have spoken. It is war to surround Anderson with batteries, and it is shillyshally for the South to cry " Hands off ! No coercion ! " It was war and insult to expel the garrison at Baton Rouge, and Uncle Sam had better cry Cave ! or assert his power. Fort Sumter is not material, save for the principle ; but Key West and the Tortugas should be held in force at once, by regulars if possible, if not, by militia. Quick! They are occupied now, but not in force. Whilst maintaining the high, strong ground you do, I would not advise you to interpose an objection to securing concessions to the middle and modern e States, — Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Missouri. Slavery there is local, and even if the world were open to them, its extension would involve no principle. If these States feel the extreme South wrong, a seeming concession would make them committed. The cotton States are gone, I suppose. Of course, their commerce will be hampered.
But of myself. I sent you a copy of my letter to the Governor. Here is his answer : —
" Dear Sir: It is with the deepest regret I acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 18th instant. In the pressure of official business I can now only request you to transfer to Professor Smith the arms, munitions, and funds in your hands whenever you conclude to withdraw from the position you have rilled with so much distinction. You cannot regret more than I do the necessity which deprives us of your services, and you will bear with you the respect, confidence, and admiration of all who have been associated with you. " Very truly, your friend and servant,
"Tnos. D. MOORE."
This is very handsome, and I do regret this political imbroglio. I do think it was brought about by politicians. The people in the South are evidently unanimous in the opinion that slavery is endangered by the current of events, and it is useless to attempt to alter that opinion. As our government is founded on the will of the people, when that will is fixed, our government is powerless, and the only question is whether to let things slide into general anarchy, or the formation of two or more confederacies, which will be hostile sooner or later. Still, I know that some of the best men of Louisiana think this change may be effected peacefully. But even if the Southern States be allowed to depart in peace, the first question will be revenue.
Now, if the South have free trade, how can you collect revenues in the eastern cities ? Freight from New Orleans to St. Louis, Chicago, Louisville, Cincinnati, and even Pittsburgh, would be about the same as by rail from New York, and importers at New Orleans, having no duties to pay, would undersell the East if they had to pay duties. Therefore, if the South make good their confederation and their plan, the Northern confederacy must do likewise or blockade. Then comes the question of foreign nations. So, look on it in any view, I see no result but war and consequent changes in the form of government.
In March of 1861 General Sherman started north by the Mississippi River. On the way, and after reaching Ohio, he heard discussions as to the advisability of coercion. Whereas in the South there was absolute unanimity of opinion and universal preparation for war, in the North there was merely argument and apathy. After leaving his family at Lancaster, he went to Washington, still uncertain as to his next move. While there, he called on Mr. Lincoln, and stated his fears and convic-
tions as to war and the gravity of it. Mr. Lincoln treated all lie said with some scorn and absolute disregard, and remarked, "Oh, well, I guess we'll manage to keep house." 1 This, with the general unconcern regarding the necessity of military interference, discouraged General Sherman, and, greatly dispirited, he returned to Ohio, and took his family to St. Louis after ascertaining from friends that, in all probability, Missouri would stick to the Union. In writing at this time he says : —
Lincoln has an awful task, and if he succeeds in avoiding strife and allaying fears, he will be entitled to the admiration of the world; but a time has occurred in all governments, and has now occurred in this, when force must back the laws, and the longer the postponement, the more severe must be the application.
On April 8th General Sherman writes to his brother: —
Saturday night late I received this despatch: " Will you accept the Chief Clerkship in the War Department ? We will make you Assistant Secretary when Congress meets. — M. BLAIR." This morning I answered by telegraph : "I cannot accept."
In writing to explain his refusal, he does not state the real reason, which was undoubtedly that he preferred active service. John Sherman's letter of April 12th approves of the determination, and states more fully his reasons for advising it. It is interesting to see, from the very first, John Sherman's belief in his brother's talents as a soldier, and conviction that he will rise to a high position in the army in the event of war. Through all of General Sherman's letters of that time there are evidences of very sincere distrust of himself and deprecation of John's flattering belief.
1 See Memoirs of Gen. W. T. Sherman, Vol. I., p. 196.
Capuchin A Catholic friar.
Text prepared by:
Cable, George Washington. "Posson Jone'" and Père Raphaël: With a New Word Setting Forth How and Why the Two Tales Are One. Illus. Stanley M. Arthurs. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1909. Google Books. Web. 27 Feb. 2012. .