HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI. Steamer Russia, Beaufort Harbor, May 6, 1865. 6 a.m.
Honorable S. P. CHASE, Chief Justice United States, Steamer Wayanda:
DEAR SIR: On reaching this ship late last night I found your valued letter, with the printed sheet, which I have also read, but not yet fully matured. I am not yet prepared to receive the negro on terms of political equality for the reasons that it will arouse passions and prejudices at the North, which superadded to the causes yet dormant at the South, might rekindle the war whose fires are now dying out, and by skillful management might be kept down. As you must observe, I prefer to work with known facts that to reason ahead to remote conclusions that by slower and natural laws may be reached without shock. By way of illustration, we are now weather bound; is it not better to lay quiet at anchor till these white-cap breakers look less angry and the southwest wind shifts? I think all old sailors will answer yes, whilst we impatient to reach our goal, are tempted to dash through, at risk of life and property. I am, wiling to admit that the conclusions you reach by pure mental process may be all correct, but don’t you think it better first to get the ship of state in some order, that it may be handled and guided? Now at the South all is pure anarchy. The military power of the United States cannot reach the people who are spread over a vast surface of country. We can control the local State capitals, and it may be slowly shape political thoughts, but we cannot combat existing ideas with force. I say honestly that the assertion openly of your ideas as a fixed policy of our Government, to be backed by physical power, will produce new war, and one which from its desultory character will be more bloody and destructive then a the last.
Our own armed soldiers have prejudices that, right or wrong, should be consulted and I am rejoiced that you, upon whom devolves so much are aiming to see facts and persons with your own eye. I believe you will do me the credit of believing that I am as honest, sincere, true, and brave as the average of our kind, and I say that to give all loyal negroes the same political status as white “voters” will revive the war and spread its field of operations. Why not, therefore, trust to the slower and not less sure means of statesmanships? Why not imitate the example of England in allowing causes to work out their gradual solution instead of imitating the French, whose political revolutions have been bloody and have actually retarded the development of political freedom? I think the changes necessary in the future can be made faster and more certain by means of our Constitution than by any plan outside of it. If, now we go outside of the Constitution for a means of change we rather justify the rebels in their late attempt, whereas now, as Geenral Schofield tells us, the people of the South are ready and willing to make the necessary changes without shock or violence. I, who have felt the past war as bitterly and keenly as any man could, confess myself “afraid” of a new war, and a new war is bound result from the action you suggest of giving to the enfranchised negroes so large a share in the delicate task of putting the Southern States in practical working relations with the General Government.
With great respect,
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General.
HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI, On Board the Steamer Russia, Beaufort Harbor, N. C., May 6, 1865.
Honorable S. P. CHASE, On Board Wayanda:
DEAR SIR: Your note with the letter of instructions of the Secretary of War to Governor Shepley, of Louisiana, is received and I thank you for the perusal. I approve in my mind every word of those instructions for it is a well-established principle and practice that during war the conqueror of a country may use the local government and authorities already in existence, or create new ones subordinate to his use. That is not the question now, for war has ceased, and the question is, to adapt legal governments to constitutional communities which fully admit their subordination to the national authority. I have had abundant opportunities to know these people both before the war, during its existence, and since their public acknowledgment of submission. I have no fear of them armed or disarmed, and believe that by one single stroke of the pen nine-tenths of them can be restored to full relations to our Government so as to pay Taxes, live in peace, and in war I would not hesitate to mingle with them and lead them to battle against a national foe. But we must deal with them with frankness and candor, and not with doubt, hesitancy, and prevarication. The nine-tenths would, from motives of self interest, restrain the other mischievous tenth, or compel them to emigrate to Mexico or some other country cursed with anarchy and civil war. I return you the paper as you request, and send you a copy of an order I make to my troops to counteract the effect of the insult so wantonly and unjustly and so publicly inflicted on me by the Secretary of War. Of course this will soon lead to the closing of my military career, and I assure you that I can have no aspirations to civil favors but will shun them with disgust. Indeed, I have not yet thought whither I will cast my fortunes, but probably to some foreign land, if, in my judgment events are drifting us further into another civil or anarchal war. That you may study the chances of changing the tone and character of a people by military occupation and military governors, I invite your attention to the occupation of Spain by Napoleon’s best armies from about 1806 to the close of his career.
With great respect, your friend.
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General
P. S. – I feel additional confidence in the ability of the United Staes to rule the late rebel States by and through even their existing State authorities by reason of the facts that we now have possession of all forts, arms, and strategic points. We have a vast political majority which cannot be lost, unless by seeming acts of a oppression a reaction is created in their support. Their resources are all gone and their confidence in their leaders is turned to hate. With moderation and courage on our part Jeff. Davis, Toombs, Cobb, Benjamin, Slidell, and other political leaders will receive less mercy at the hands of their country-men than ours. Where is the single act of severity even shown to a political prisoner in our hands? To this hour the War Department has sent me no orders to hunt for, arrest, or capture Jeff. Davis, but on the contrary, as near as I know their wish is that he escape, provided it be “unknown” to them. But the tribunal before which all conflicts must come at last, the Supreme Court, before whose decrees I and all soldiers of my school bend with the veneration of religion, is now surely safe to us on the “vexed questions” which led to one war and now threatens another. In it I hope is the “anchor of safety. ”
Again, with respect and affection,
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General.
MOREHEAD CITY, May 6, 1865.
We are weather bound here. Will not leave until the storm is over. Have you any news?
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General
RALEIGH, May 6, 1865.
I am sorry you have so bad weather. Better come up here where the weather is fine. All quiet. Nothing new, except that Chief Justice Chase is at Wilmington consulting with the North Carolina politicians. New justice of the Supreme Bench. I received your dispatch this morning and am much obliged to you for it. I will do the best I can and trust the rest of Providence.
J. M. SCHOFIELD, Major-General