TO WILLIAM M. MCPHERSON
Headquarters, Military Division of the Mississippi, In the Field, Goldsboro N.C., March 24, 1865
Wm. M. McPherson Esq. St. Louis Mo.
On reaching Goldsboro yesterday I found many letters & among them yours of January 31. One of later date I think reached me at Fayetteville a fortnight since. I thank you kindly for your friendly expressions. As my opinions of the various questions which arise in the progress of events are formed for my own use, and not designed to please the people, or self constituted representatives of the People, I am utterly indifferent whether they please or displease. I am a better judge of what is right & proper touching the negro with whom I deal hourly, than Ben Butler, Sumner or Giddings, or any mere theorist dealing with the hypothetical negro of their own creation. If I risk my life & health in the vindication of a Cause I claim to prove my sincerity by a more honest test than all the mouthings of the noisiest preacher or demagogue.
I believe the honest, working People of the United States agree with me, to fight to maintain the Government according to the form bequeathed to us, and not to carry out any pet speciality. When the just powers of the President Congress & Supreme Court are recognized by all the People of our Country reason & argument may resume their sway, and Settle the thousand little questions that always have and always will agitate human Councils. But of what use is Congress? or Laws when the Marshal & Sheriff can’t go & enforce his writs? Then the sword steps in, and Commands the Peace. When peace is restored, and men find it to their interest to submit to Law whether right or wrong, then the machinery resumes its motion, and generally all interests are reconciled.
I have always thought we mixed up too many little side issues in this war. We should make a single plain issue & fight it out. The Extreme Radicals North & South have long since dodged, shirked the dangers of this war & left the moderates to blow each others brains out. I again repeat I make up my opinions from facts & reasoning, and not to suit any body but myself. If People don’t like my opinions, it makes little difference as I don’t solicit their opinions or votes. But a man who preaches and thunders offensive opinions, and when the storm raises sneaks out and lets others in to catch the blows is a villain ten thousand times worse than a murderer. I Know many such who are Coiled away in fancied security, but the day will come when they will be dragged out & made to taste the cup they have drugged. We have no time for this now. The Constitution & Laws of the U.S. must be obeyed implicitly, from the Lakes to the Gulf, & from the Atlantic to the Pacific.
I see my name occasionally alluded to in connection with some popular office. You may tell all that I would rather serve 4 years in the Singsing Penitentiary than in Washington & believe I could come out a better man. If that ain’t emphatic enough use strong expressions and I will endorse them. Let those who love negroes better than whites follow me, and we will see who loves his Country best. A negroe as such is a most excellent fellow, but he is not fit to marry, to associate, or vote with me, or mine.
W. T. Sherman, Major General