Monday, August 21, 2017


Robert E Lee statue removed in New Orleans
In the midst of protests and controversies about taking down Confederate statues and monuments, seemingly enlightened people state that we judge Robert E Lee too harshly, that he was a complex man who is considered by many to be a person of honor and rectitude.  That may well be, but he led an army of rebellion against the United States to preserve an institution that he himself labeled a moral & political evil.

In this enlightened age, there are few I believe, but what will acknowledge, that slavery as an institution, is a moral & political evil in any Country. It is useless to expatiate on its disadvantages.I think it however a greater evil to the white man than to the black race, & while my feelings are strongly enlisted in behalf of the latter, my sympathies are more strong for the former. The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially & physically. The painful discipline they are undergoing, is necessary for their instruction as a race, & I hope will prepare & lead them to better things. How long their subjugation may be necessary is known & ordered by a wise Merciful Providence. Their emancipation will sooner result from the mild & melting influence of Christianity, than the storms & tempests of fiery Controversy.

Robert E Lee's letter to his wife.

How unfortunate that Lee didn't follow his better instincts and side with those who opposed slavery.

Further, after the war ended, Lee expressed his opposition to Confederate monuments when he received letters asking his support for erecting a statue of Stonewall Jackson:

As regards the erection of such a monument as is contemplated, my conviction is, that, however grateful it would be to the feelings of the South, the attempt, in the present condition of the country, would have the effect of retarding instead of accelerating its accomplishment, and of continuing if not adding to the difficulties under which the Southern people labor.

Yes, Lee was a complex man, but, according to the general himself, the country would be a far better place without Confederate monuments.

Picture from Wikipedia.


  1. Thank you, a very big revelation to me. Len (who as a 18 year old stayed at the Y on Lee Circle).

    1. You're welcome, Len. I remember passing the old building when I rode the St Charles streetcar. The building you stayed in was replaced with a new building in 1980.

  2. thank you from me as well, june. you have done a better job of simplifying these complex issues while retaining and explaining their complexity than i think i've ever seen before. certainly, you provided me with a whole new way of looking at them. sometimes i read something on the computer that causes me to give thanks for the internet. this is one of those times.

    have you thought of sending this column as a letter to your local newspaper? this may be one of those cases where it is worth it to try to preach to more than the choir. certainly, this deserves a wider audience.

    1. Susan, you're welcome. I hadn't thought about sending the post in the form of a letter to a newspaper, but I will now. I was honestly surprised at the number of people who expressed the view. Of course, they have a right to their opinion.

  3. There's always a problem in civil wars with the "honourable enemy", the one who seems to be a good man but on the wrong side. By contrast in international wars, take for example, Rommel who rose to Field Marshal in the Nazi Germany who is still seen (at least in the UK) as a clever and dangerous adversary but essentially and honourable and "good" man especially after his forced suicide after the failed assassination plot against Hitler.
    But in civil wars the leaders of the defeated side, no matter how "honourable" seem to carry the taint of being a traitor since they rebelled with force against the winning side. And they have the indignity of being judged not by their own lights but by those of today, which of course, we apply more lightly on those who were on "our" side in the conflict.
    Its a pity, MikeN.

    1. Mike, Lee's own words about Confederate monuments express my feelings and seal the deal for me.


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