Sunday, September 8, 2013

Senator John Sherman to Major General William T. Sherman, May 16, 1865

MANSFIELD, OHIO, May 16, 1865.

Dear Brother:

Your letter of the 8th is received this morning, and at the same moment I hear through K. W. that you will be in Lancaster to-day. I wrote you some days ago about public opinion as to your arrangement with Johnston, but presume you did not get it. It is now manifest that many high officials seized upon that arrangement to ruin you, and you will not be wise if you allow them to do it. Especially don't ever think of resigning. Your position is too high and valuable to be drawn from it by temporary hostile political power. Remember the case of Scott after the Mexican War. The mystery to me is that Stanton acted as he did. If his motive was malicious, he is certainly the worst devil I ever read of. He manifested and assumed the intensest kindness for you, and certainly showed it to me. I still think that with him it was mere anger, — the explosion of a very bad temper, — and if so, I sincerely trust no breach will be made. With Halleck I was not disappointed. Has Johnson any enmity to you? I have not seen him since his elevation, and have feared he was at the bottom of the business. It is also manifest to me, that the bitter hostility shown you springs partly from political jealousy, — a fear of the future. Much of this is aimed at me. I have observed that every man who is opposed to me is eager to assail you, while my personal friends, even among the Radicals, have defended you. . . .   Chase, you know, is in favor of negro suffrage, and Jay and Henry Cooke are old Republicans, yet they have uniformly, in public and in social circles, sustained you. So with the newspapers. The feeling has so subsided and reacted that you can afford to be calm and cautious. Grant is a jewel. I hope two things,— that you will have no controversy with him, and never resign.

It was my purpose to go to-morrow to Washington, but I will now delay it until Friday or Saturday. I suppose you will soon return to Washington. I may be there some days, and hope to meet you there. . . .

Now as to your arrangement with Johnston.  I think the judgment of unprejudiced men has settled upon the conviction that your terms were too liberal. The recognition of the rebel state organizations, now completely in the hands of the worst men of the South, will not answer. They could perpetuate their sway, and we should inevitably have new difficulties. Lincoln first recognized the Legislature of Virginia, but after full reflection abandoned it. Why did not Stanton and Halleck denounce Lincoln? And why suppress the fact that you were acting in accordance with that precedent? Still I think it was not advisable to recognize the state officials. In my opinion, it would have been wise for you to have insisted upon the recognition of the emancipation proclamation, at least until the courts passed upon it. It would be very wrong to let these rebels enjoy again the unpaid labor of their slaves. Both these questions are past.

As to negro suffrage, I admit the negroes are not intelligent enough to vote, but some one must vote their political representation in the States where they live, and their representation is increased by their being free. Who shall exercise this political power? Shall the rebels do so? If yes, will they not now in effect restore slavery?

Will they not oppress the negroes? Is it not hard to turn these negroes over to the laws made by the very men who endeavored to overthrow the Government? After all, how much more ignorant are these slaves than the uneducated white people down South? I assure you, that while I will not commit myself on these matters, I feel sorely troubled about them, and would be glad to talk with you in respect to them. . . .

Affectionately yours,

SOURCE: Rachel Sherman Thorndike, Editor, The Sherman Letters: Correspondence Between General and Senator Sherman from 1837 to 1891, p. 249-51

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