Monday, August 17, 1863

Camp on the Big Black River, Near Vicksburg Tennessee

This camp is the perfect place to rest and train an army. No enemy is near; we have cleared the Valley, and have a right to Some relaxation. I could have gone to Natchez, but I am sick and tired of the plundering & pilfering that marks our progress. This country is cleaned out and at Natchez, we would have the same to go through. We have lovely camps, plenty of grass, water and shade trees, and here I fear not yellow fever or any epidemic. A Railroad comes within 4 1/2 miles of my Head Quarters, and we have plenty of horses & wagons to keep our supplies up to the maximum.

Here you could See all the havoc of war, and may see the germ of Military Rule, on which the Great democracy of America may yet have to call to save what little of Constitutional freedom is left to our People. A Government resting immediately on the caprices of a People is too unstable to last. The Will of the People is the Ultimate appeal, but the Constitution, Laws of Congress Regulations of the Executive Departments, subject to the decisions of the Supreme Court are the Law, which all must obey, without stopping to enquire why. All must obey. Government, that is, the executive having no discretion but to execute the Law must be to that extent despotic. If this be our Government it is the “best on Earth”. But if the People of localities can bias & twist the Law or execution of it to Suit their local prejudices, then our Government is the worst on Earth.

If you look back only two years, you will see the application. There are about 7 millions of men in this country, all thinking themselves sovereign & qualified to govern; Some 34 Governors of States who feel like petty kings, and about ten thousand Newspaper Editors who presume to dictate to Generals, Presidents and Cabinets. I treat all these as nothing, but when a case arises I simply ask, “What is the Law?” Supposing the pilot of a ship should steer his vessel according to the opinion of every fellow who watched the clouds above or currents below where would his ship land? No the Pilot has before him a little needle, he watches that and he never errs. So if we make that our simple code, “The Law of the Land must & shall be executed no matter what the consequence”, we cannot err. Hundreds & thousands may honestly differ as to what the Law should be. It is rarely the case, but that all men of ordinary understanding can tell what the Law is.

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