New Orleans, Sunday, Dec. 12.
. . . I am stopping at the City Hotel which is crowded and have therefore come to this my old office, now Captain Kilburn's, to do my writing. I wish I were here legitimately, but that is now past, and I must do the best in the sphere in which events have cast me. All things here look familiar, the streets, houses, levees, drays, etc., and many of the old servants are still about the office, who remember me well, and fly round at my bidding as of old
I have watched with interest the balloting for speaker, with John (John Sherman) as the Republican candidate. I regret he ever signed that Helper book, of which I know nothing but from the extracts bandied about in the southern papers. Had it not been for that, I think he might be elected, but as it is I do not see how he can expect any southern votes, and without them it seems that his election is impossible. His extreme position on that question will prejudice me, not among the supervisors, but in the legislature where the friends of the Seminary must look for help. Several of the papers have alluded to the impropriety of importing from the north their school teachers, and if in the progress of debate John should take extreme grounds, it will of course get out that I am his brother from Ohio, universally esteemed an abolition state, and they may attempt to catechize me, to which I shall not submit.
I will go on however in organizing the Seminary and trust to the future; but hitherto I have had such bad luck, in California and New York, that I fear I shall be overtaken here by a similar catastrophe. Of course there are many here such as Bragg, Hébert, Graham, and others that know that I am not an abolitionist. Still if the simple fact be that my nativity and relationship with Republicans should prejudice the institution, I would feel disposed to sacrifice myself to that fact, though the results would be very hard, for I know not what else to do.
If the Southern States should organize for the purpose of leaving the Union I could not go with them. If that event be brought about by the insane politicians I will ally my fate with the north, for the reason that the slave question will ever be a source of discord even in the South. As long as the abolitionists and the Republicans seem to threaten the safety of slave property so long will this excitement last, and no one can foresee its result; but all here talk as if a dissolution of the Union were not only a possibility but a probability of easy execution. If attempted we will have Civil War of the most horrible kind, and this country will become worse than Mexico.
What I apprehend is that because John has taken such strong grounds on the institution of slavery that I will first be watched and suspected, then maybe addressed officially to know my opinion, and lastly some fool in the legislature will denounce me as an abolitionist spy because there is one or more southern men applying for my place.
I am therefore very glad you are not here, and if events take this turn I will act as I think best. As long as the United States Government can be maintained in its present form I will stand by it; if it is to break up in discord, strife and Civil War, I must either return to California, Kansas or Ohio. My opinions on slavery are good enough for this country, but the fact of John being so marked a Republican may make my name so suspected that it may damage the prospects of the Seminary, or be thought to do so, which would make me very uncomfortable. . .
"William T. Sherman to Ellen Sherman, December 12, 1859," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College, http://hd.housedivided.dickinson.edu/node/1963.
W. T. Sherman may not have owned any slaves or servants, but he sure didn't mind using them.