Sunday, December 23, 2012

Senator John Sherman to Major General William T. Sherman, March 20, 1863

March 20, 1863.

Dear Brother:

I am at length at home with sufficient leisure to think, but still somewhat jaded from a very laborious session. When I went into the Senate I anticipated quiet and dignified leisure with ample time to read, reflect and study such grave questions of politics as I chose to turn my attention to. Such thus far has not been my experience. The vast and complicated legislature required by war, demands of Senators an amount of labor in committees never before given. The Senate has become a laborious committee where bills are drawn as well as discussed. It has so happened that although a junior yet I have had to carry the most important financial bills, such as the Bank Loan and Tax Bills, subjects full of difficulty and detail. . . .

The laws passed at the last session will be a monument of evil or of good. They cover such vast sums, delegate and regulate such vast powers, and are so far-reaching in their effects, that generations will be affected well or ill by them. These measures are distinguished as much by what were omitted as by what were adopted. The negro was not legislated upon. The laws of confiscation, emancipation, &c., were left precisely upon the basis of previous laws, the proclamations of the President and ultimate decisions of the courts. The arming and employment of negroes is left upon the old law and mainly to the discretion of the President. There was but little speech-making and that mainly to the matter in hand. The Union or rather Republican members made scarcely a political speech in either house. They felt too constantly the pressure of practical measures demanding action. On the whole, the recent Congress may fairly appeal to their constituents for a favorable judgment upon the general aggregate of their acts. For myself, I do not reproach myself with any glaring fault. I opposed arbitrary arrests, general confiscation, the destruction of State lines and other extreme measures, and thereby have lost the confidence of some of my old friends. On the other hand, I have taken my full share in framing and supporting other great measures that have proved a success, and think I may fairly claim credit for many of the most valuable features of our financial system, which has been wonderfully sustained under enormous expenditure. I can also claim the paternity of the Bank Law yet to be tested by experience, and for the main features of the Conscription Law. This latter law is vital to our success, and although it was adopted with fear and trembling and only after all other expedients failed, yet I am confident it will be enforced with the general acquiescence of the people and that through it we see the road to peace. But after all, Congress cannot help us out of our difficulties. It may by its acts and omissions prolong the war, but there is no solution to it except through the military forces. The people have got beyond the first danger of the war. They no longer underrate the power of the Confederates and no longer expect a short or holiday war. When coming home at Philadelphia, and in the cars, and here among plain people I find a healthy feeling. They want peace. But very few would accept it on any other terms than the preservation of the Union. They know very well that the South will only yield to this after being thoroughly whipped, and this has not been done.

I am very much rejoiced that you did not act upon your hasty impressions about resigning. The history of your Vicksburg expedition is now well understood and you stand well with all classes.

Most of the papers who joined in the clamor against you have corrected their statements. You never lost the confidence of the department and especially of Stanton and Halleck. . . .

Affectionately yours,


SOURCE: Rachel Sherman Thorndike, Editor, The Sherman letters: correspondence between General and Senator Sherman from 1837 to 1891, p. 194-6

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