Historical ignorance seems to have a cozy home on the Left these days. Leftists attacked President Trump for praising Robert E. Lee as a great general, which he manifestly was. They attempted to ignore that the point of the story was to praise General Grant before an Ohio audience. I guess Leftists will now be wanting to take Theodore Roosevelt off Mount Rushmore because of this comment of his on Lee:
THE WHITE HOUSE,
January 16, 1907
To the HON. HILARY A. HERBERT, chairman,
CHIEF JUSTICE SETH SHEPHERD, GENERAL MARCUS J. WRIGHT,
JUDGE CHARLES B. HOWRY, MR. WILLIAM A. GORDON,
MR. THOMAS NELSON PAGE, PRESIDENT EDWIN ALDERMAN,
MR. JOSEPH WILMER, and others of the
Committee of Arrangement for the Celebration of the Hundredth Anniversary
of the Birth of General Robert E. Lee.
I regret that it is not in my power to be with you at your celebration. I join with you in honoring the life and career of that great soldier and high-minded citizen whose fame is now a matter of pride
to all our countrymen. Terrible though the destruction of the Civil War was, awful though it was that such a conflict should occur betweenbrothers, it is yet a matter for gratitude on the part
of all Americans that this, alone among contests of like magnitude, should have left to both sides as a priceless heritage the memory of the mighty men and the glorious deeds that the iron days
brought forth. The courage and steadfast endurance, the lofty fealty to the right as it was given to each man to see the right, whether he wore the gray or whether he wore the blue, now make the
memories of the valiant feats, alike of those who served under Grant and of those who served under Lee, precious to all good Americans. General Lee has left us the memory, not merely of his extraordinary skill as a general, his dauntless courage and high leadership in campaign and battle, but also of that serene greatness of soul characteristic of those who most readily recognize the obligations of civic duty. Once the war was over he instantly under took the task of healing and binding up the wounds of his countrymen, in the true spirit of those who feel malice toward none and charity toward all; in that spirit which from the throes of the Civil War brought forth the real and indissoluble Union of to-day. It was eminently fitting that this great man, this war-worn veteran of a mighty struggle, who, at its close, simply and quietly undertook his duty as a plain, every-day citizen, bent only upon helping his people in the paths of peace and tranquillity, should turn his attention toward educational work; toward bringing up in fit fashion theyounger generation, the sons of those who had proved their faith by their endeavor in the heroicdays.
There is no need to dwell on General Lee s record as a soldier. The son of Light Horse Harry Lee of the Revolution, he came naturally by his aptitude for arms and command. His campaigns
put him in the foremost rank of the great captains of all time. But his signal valor and address inwar are no more remarkable than the spirit in which he turned to the work of peace once the war was over. The circumstances were such that most men, even of high character, felt bitter and vindictive or depressed and spiritless, but General Lee s heroic temper was not warped nor his great soul cast down. He stood that hardest of all strains, the strain of bearing himself well through the gray evening of failure ; and therefore out of what seemed failure he helped to build the wonderful and mighty triumph of our national life, in which all his countrymen, North and South, share. Immediately after the close of hostilities he announced, with a clear sightedness which at that time few indeed of any section possessed, that the interests of the Southern States were the same as those of the United States ; that the prosperity of the South would rise or fall with the welfare of the whole country; and that the duty of its citizens appeared too plain to admit of doubt. He urged that all should unite in honest effort to obliterate the effects of war and restore the blessings of peace; that they should remain in the country, strive for harmony and good feeling, and devote their abilities to the interests of their people and the healing of dissensions. To every one who applied to him this was the advice he gave. Although absolutely without means, he refused all offers of pecuniary aid, and all positions of emolument, although many such, at a high salary, were
offered him. He declined to go abroad, saying that he sought only “a place to earn honest bread while engaged in some useful work.” This statement brought him the offer of the presidency of
Washington College, a little institution in Lexington, Va., which had grown out of a modest foundation known as Liberty Hall Academy. Washington had endowed this academy with one hundred shares of stock that had been given to him by the State of Virginia, which he had accepted only on condition that he might with them endow some educational institution. To the institution which Washington helped to found in such a spirit, Lee, in the same fine spirit, gave his services. He accepted the position of president at a salary of $1,500 a year, inorder, as he stated, that he might do some good to the youth of the South. He applied himself to his new work with the same singleness of mind which he had shown in leading the Army of Northern Virginia. All the time by word and deed he was striving for the restoration of real peace, of real harmony, never uttering a word of bitterness nor allowing a word of bitterness uttered in his presence to go unchecked. From the close of the war to the time of his death all his great powers were devoted to two objects: to the reconciliation of all his countrymen with one another, and to fitting the youth of the South for the duties of a lofty and broad-minded citizenship.
Such is the career that you gather to honor; and I hope that you will take advantage of the one hundredth anniversary of General Lee s birth by appealing to all our people, in every section of this
country, to commemorate his life and deeds by the establishment, at some great representative educational institution of the South, of a permanent memorial, that will serve the youth of the comingyears, as he, in the closing years of his life, served those who so sorely needed what he so freely gave.
And of course this shocking statement on General Lee by a President who knew a few things about being a General:
If Leftists were truly interested in history, instead of the politicized junk history they consume, they would quickly learn this about Robert E. Lee:
Always outnumbered, with troops often dressed in rags, ill-fed, ill-supplied, he led his men to magnificent victories in the Seven Days, Second Manassas, Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. Fighting another great general, Grant, he achieved a stalemate in 1864 against an army that had more than a two-to-one advantage, and prolonged the life of his country by almost a year. A fighting general with a propensity for taking huge risks, he was also a humane man with unfailing courtesy for both friend and foe. A true Christian, he did his best, in turbulent times, to live the teachings of Christ.
In regard to the great issues of his day, he was opposed to secession as he indicated in this letter to his son “Rooney” on January 29, 1861: “Secession is nothing but revolution. The framers of our Constitution never exhausted so much labor, 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. It was intended for ‘perpetual union’ so expressed in the preamble, and for the establishment of a government, not a compact, which can only be dissolved by revolution, or the consent of all the people in convention assembled. It is idle to talk of secession.” When Virginia seceded however, he decided that he had no choice but to fight in her defense.
As to slavery, before the Civil War Lee condemned it in private correspondence, viewing it as an unmitigated evil. While not an abolitionist he hoped that Christianity and education would eventually end slavery.
Pursuant to the terms of his father-in-law’s tangled pro se will, he manumitted his father-in-law’s slaves.
For years prior to the Civil War, Lee and his wife financially supported black families in Liberia, part of their efforts to encourage freeing slaves to participate in setting up a free black state in Liberia. Lee and his wife led by example, freeing their slaves and offering to pay the expenses of all of his former slaves who wished to settle in Liberia.
Lee was in favor of enlisting blacks in the Confederate army from the moment that it was proposed in 1864, and stated that in simple fairness the black soldiers should be guaranteed freedom for themselves and their families. His thoughts on black troops are set forth in these letters. I have little doubt that if it had been in his power Lee would have used black troops from the beginning of the war with freedom being their reward for volunteering to fight.
After the war Lee stated that rather than fighting for slavery he rejoiced that the outcome of the war had ended slavery. That this was no idle comment was demonstrated by Lee while at Church one Sunday morning soon after the war.
Lee after the Civil War opposed immediate suffrage for former slaves, but only on the ground that they currently lacked the education to exercise the franchise responsibly. He led a successful campaign to remedy this by championing the public funding of schools for blacks in 1869-70. He repeatedly expelled white students from Washington University, of which he was President after the war, who engaged in attacks on blacks.
In the midst of defeat Lee gave a great gift to all Americans. By not starting a guerrilla war against the occupying Union troops Lee ensured that the Civil War was not merely the prelude to an endless cycle of wars between the states. In devoting his remaining years to education in a defeated and devastated South he was a shining example to the veterans who followed him of dignity and courage in the face of adversity. There have been greater generals than Robert E. Lee, there have been few greater men.
“The man was loved, the man was idolized,
The man had every just and noble gift.
He took great burdens and he bore them well,
Believed in God but did not preach too much,
Believed and followed duty first and last
With marvellous consistency and force,
Was a great victor, in defeat as great,
No more, no less, always himself in both,
Could make men die for him but saved his men
Whenever he could save them was most kind
But was not disobeyed was a good father,
A loving husband, a considerate friend. “
Stephen Vincent Benet
Lee was a great general as was Grant, and Abraham Lincoln was a great President. Leftists think there is absolutely nothing great about the past of America, except on the occasions when they use the past to belabor the present, which explains a lot about them.