I don’t know where it went during the move, but I am not ashamed to admit that I used to have a 5×7 portrait of Gen. Robert E. Lee hanging in my office (and I’d like another). Robert E. Lee was more than just a Confederate General; he was a man of supreme moral character and a leader like few this world has ever seen.
Yet, today, his statue in Virginia – his home state for which he fought – has been torn down by people who have no appreciation for history or bigger men than them. Petty and pitiful men are convinced that the removal of Lee’s statue will move us “forward,” but without a beginning, a foundation, a starting place, a past, there is no moving forward; it’s nothing more than flailing in mid air.
Therefore, I want to share several quotes from the man so many hate, yet know nothing about. The man that was President Lincoln’s first pick to lead the Union Army. The man that was partly responsible for making the South the “Bible belt” through the revivals he encouraged to sweep through the ranks of the troops. The man who hated war and hated slavery!
“I can anticipate no greater calamity for the country than a dissolution of the Union. It would be an accumulation of all the evils we complain of, and I am willing to sacrifice everything but honour for its preservation. I hope, therefore, that all constitutional means will be exhausted before there is a resort to force. Secession is nothing but revolution. The framers of our Constitution never exhausted so much labour, wisdom, and forbearance in its formation, and surrounded it with so many guards and securities, if it was intended to be broken by every member of the Confederacy at will.”
In a letter to his sister, he wrote… “With all my devotion to the Union and the feeling of loyalty and duty of an American citizen, I have not been able to make up my mind to raise my hand against my relatives, my children, my home. I have, therefore, resigned my commission in the Army, and, save in defense of my native state, with the sincere hope that my poor services may never be needed, I hope I may never be called on to draw my sword.”
“What a cruel thing is war; to separate and destroy families and friends, and mar the purest joys and happiness God has granted us in this world; to fill our hearts with hatred instead of love for our neighbours, and to devastate the fair face of this beautiful world!”
“My heart bleeds at the death of every one of our gallant men.”
“So far from engaging in a war to perpetuate slavery, I am rejoiced that slavery is abolished. I believe it will be greatly for the interests of the South. So fully am I satisfied of this, as regards Virginia especially, that I would cheerfully have lost all I have lost by the war, and have suffered all I have suffered, to have this object attained.”
“The march of Providence is so slow, and our desires so impatient; the work of progress is so immense and our means of aiding it so feeble; the life of humanity is so long, that of the individual so brief, that we often see only the ebb of the advancing wave and are thus discouraged. It is history that teaches us to hope.“
From the Encyclopedia Britannica:
Although history knows him mostly as “the Rebel General,” Lee was a disbeliever in slavery and secession and was devoutly attached to the republic that his father and kinsmen had helped bring into being. He was, moreover, very advanced in his rejection of war as a resolution of political conflicts—a fact that has been almost entirely ignored by posterity. As a U.S. Army colonel in Texas during the secession crises of late 1860, he wrote, “[If] strife and civil war are to take the place of brotherly love and kindness, I shall mourn for my country and for the welfare and progress of mankind.”
“It is history that teaches us to hope.” Why would we want to erase it?