Letter from the Author of the Yankee Note-Book
This is a letter from Henry Gusley to William Richardson, the editor of the Tri-Weekly News in Galveston, Texas, the newspaper that printed the serial version of Gusley's diary.
Camp Groce, October 13, 1863
The letter accompanying the papers I have read and duly considered. Your request for me to send you the balance of my notes up to the time of our capture I can comply with. Thus far I may prove that I am under obligations to you. But, however, much I would like to avail myself of the opportunity to express my views upon the present war and the causes which led to it, my position as a sworn soldier of the Federal Government debars me from doing so. Your supposition that, as a "freeman having still the constitutional right to express my opinions," I can do so, is erroneous. A soldier is not entitled to the free expression of his opinions, nor is he allowed to discuss and comment upon the actions of his government. The late amendments to the "act for the better government of the navy of the United States" was decisive on this point, and I should make myself amenable to the laws which I have accepted for my government whilst in the U.S. Navy, did I dare utter anything against the authority, and my duty teaches me to grant it to them without a murmur. What opinions, founded upon experience, I have expressed in my Note-Book, can scarcely be evidence against me, as they were not written for publication, nor do you give them to the world as the opinions of the crew or corps to which I belonged; but it must be obvious to you, that were I to venture any farther I would be treading upon dangerous ground. That I hold the same opinions regarding the right or the wrong of slavery and the doctrine of State Sovereignty as you have seen proper to express privately to me, I may say I do, and in this the National Democratic party and conservatives North and South agree with us. These men did not and would not agitate this question; they endeavored to allay the storm whenever it was raised, knowing as they did how fraught with destruction to the Union it was should it be pushed to extremes. But these patriots were too few for the numerous class of crafty politicians who saw in its agitation an opportunity for setting the fanatics of both sections at each others throats, and by this means advance their own interests. They attained their object and the South seceded. The right of secession was not and is not now admitted by the North. Herein, too, the National Democratic party (or a majority of them) modify the doctrine of State Sovereignty. The Union is paramount to everything with them, and in this they coincide with the Administration. You of the South continue to think differently, and argument is useless. We must remain enemies until the Union is restored, and be it with slavery extended or entirely exterminated, it is a "consummation devoutly to be wished."
Believe me, then, that the great mass of the people of the North do not uphold the Administration on the principle of abolishing slavery, but that the restoration of the Union is the grand incentive; and while such is the fact, every nerve and every sinew will be strained to bring about a victorious end.--Would to Heaven that the blood already spilled was a sufficient sacrifice for this great result.
Hoping that my reasons for not accepting your kind offer may prove satisfactory, and that you will excuse any indiscreet remark I may have made, I remain, your obedient servant.
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