ROBERT E.  LEE 
 

THE ESTIMATE OF THE SOUTHERN LEADER
                            BY A CANADIAN.*

From Southern Historical Society Papers
Volume XVII-January-December , 1889 pages373-374 
 

The Week, of Canada, contains the following
intereseting article by T.E.Moberly on Robert E.Lee,  suggested by the unveiling of his statue at Richmond:

On the 29th of May, at Richmond, Virginia, the French sculptor Mercie's equestrian statue of the immortal Lee  was unveiled. the world needs no monument to  perpetuate the unfading memory of this gentle, noble, gifted man. So long as this Northern continent endures, the name, the genius, and the character of Lee shall wield detractors have crumbled into the dust, and avenging time  has blotted out their names and memories from the records of the past -in each succeeding age the human heart will on such occasions respond to the sentiment of the poet:

"The heart ran o'er with silent worship of the great of old!

 The dead, but sceptered, sovereigns who still rule 
spirits  from their urns."

and pay its meed of homage to Robert E.Lee.

The motive which led Lee to share the fortunes of
his mother State, Virginia, in the tremendous 
struggle between North and South was the great
 principle of States as opposed to Federal sovereignty - a principal which had been rocked in the cradle of the Republic and espoused by some of her greatest statesmen, such as Madison and Jefferson.   The conflicts between Ontario and Canada are more than an object lesson to Canadians, to prove that the seeds of this apple of discord are being already rooted in our land.    There is no need of dwelling on the varied fortunes of the great war which, a quarter of a century ago, convulsed the contending States. Suffice it to say, that the brilliant genius of the great Captain of the South,   backed by the
 indomitable bravery and tried efficiency of his 
armies, put a tramendous strain upon the vast
 resources in men and money of the North.  And
 it was only when the absolute want of food, 
clothing, and other munitions of war made it 
imperative, that Lee issued the historic order to 
his army:

"HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF NORTHERN
 VIRGINIA, "Appomattox Courthouse, April 10,1865.

("GENERAL ORDERS NO.9.)

"After four years' arduous service, marked by unsurpassed courage and fortitude, the Army of Northern Virginia has been compelled to yield to overwhelming numbers and resources.

"I need not tell the survivors of so many hard fought
battles who have remained steadfast to the  last, that
I have consented to this result from no  distrust of them, but feeling that valor and devotion  could accomplish nothing that could compensate  for the loss which would have attended the continuation of the contest, I hae determined to avoid the useless sacrifice of those whose past  servicese have endeared them to their countrymen. 

You will take with you the satisfaction that proceeds
 from the consciousness of duty faithfully performed, 
and I earnestly pray that a merciful God may extend 
to you His blessing and protection. With an increasing
admiration of your constancy and devotion to your 
country, and a grateful remembrance of your kind and
 generous consideration of myself, I bid you an 
affectionate farewell.

"ROBERT E.LEE, General."

In this sublime and pathetic epistle is  vividly portrayed a lofty and intrepid spirit, softened by an almost womanly tenderness , and sasnctified by the most exalted Christian principle.

This ended Lee's masterly defense of the South
 during four of the most memorable years of modern warfare. As to the merits of his operations it will suffice  to refer to the opinion of the military critics and  writers of Germany, of whom it has been said that,  "having examined minutely the campaigns of Lee, they  unite in the following judgment: Despiteits adverse issue,  the four years' conduct of the warby Lee is the ablest  that ever a war of defense has exhibited, with the exception of the `Seven Years' defensive war which Frederick the  Great conducted in Saxony and Silesia." Thus, Lee is, by  the most competent judges, calmly ranked with their national hero, Frederick, one of the most consummate  captains the world has ever seen.

In reading the references to Lee in many United
 States papers, and the blatant and bombastic 
harangue of Mr.Senator Ingalls at the Gettysburg
 memorial services on the 30th, ult, one cannot
 help re-echoing Cicer's lament - "O! tempora, O! mores."    Did they but know it, such writers and speakeres are sending afresh a well-healed wound, and exposing themselves and their country to the merited contempot  of every right-thinking, magnanimous nation upon earth. The seed of 
exalted patriotism, however, does  not germinate
in the breast of the petty politician.   If this is all the forberance and wisdom that twenty-five long years of peace have fostered in the Republication press and Senate  of the North towards their white fellow-countrymen of the South, and bearing in 
mind the negro, Mormon and Irish questions, the future of the United States  may well seem problematical.

Let me present to Lee's asperseres, in the hope that they may catch- though a long way off - a portion of his spirit, the calm, dignifited, and patriotic "open letter" written by him, after the close of hostilities to Gevernor Letcher, the war Governor of Virginia. It is as follows: "The questions  which for years were in dispute between the State  and general Government, and which, unhappily, were not decided by the dictates of reason, but  referred to the decision of war, having been decided against us, it is the part of wisdom to acquiesce in the result and of candor
to recognize the fact.

"The interests of the State are, therefore, the same
 as those of the United States. Its prosperity will rise or fall, with the werlfare of the country. The duty of  its citizens, then, appears to me too plain to admit of doubt. All should unite in honest efforts to obliterate the effects of war, and to restore the blessings of peace. They should remain, if possible, in the country - promote harmony and good feeling, qualify themselves to vote and elect to the State and general Legislature wise and patriotic men, who will devote their abilities to the interests of the country and the healing of all dissensions. I have invariably recommended this course since the cessation of 
hostilities, and have endeavored to practice it myself."

In referring to the Northern press, all honor should be paid to the New York Times, for the pure, manly and patriotic tone of its reference to Lee, in its issue of May 30.There are also some other honorable exceptions.

Of the monument, but little can be said in its praise. The pedestal is pretty, but that is all. If you conceal the body of the horse and its rider, you might readily think that the lags were those of a cow. After having considered the admirable and comprehensive conception and spirited design of the Canadian sculptor, Mr.Gilbert Frith, for the Lee monument, one is amazed at the choice that was made.

Lee's retirement to the comprative obscurity of
 an humble citizen, and the self-supporting labor 
of a teacher of youth, when he might have lived in 
luxury and been pampered and idolized abroad, was in keeping with the general tenor of his life. How like the Roman Cincinnauts, who having rendered signal service to the Roman arms and State, returned to his farm to plow!

Or Lee's  personal presence Sir Garnet Wolseley and Lieutenant-Colonel G.T.Denison have said, 

"that he, more than any other man they had 
ever met, impressed them with human greatness."

Many years ago a writers in the Illustrated  London News thus described the charm of Lee's presence:

"If a number of men were seated  in a circle, Lee being one of them, and a little child were placed in their midsts, after looking round the  circle, it would be sure to go to Lee."

Canadians  may well be proud of having been born upon the Continent which produced so great a man. With what  sublime appropriateness could Robert E.Lee at his life's close have repeated the memorable words of Horace:

"Exegi monumentem eare perennius
Regailque situ pyramidium altius,
Quod non imber edax, non aquilo impotens 
Possit diruere aut innumerabilis
Annorum series et fuga temporum."

"Lees private and public character has extorted
 even from his detractors unwonted praise.In him
 were combined in exquisite proportion many of 
the choicest gifts and graces of heart, of mind, of 
body. With sweet and simple dignity he trod the
 pathway of domestic life - loving, and beloved by
 all. With are unselfish modesty he took upon his
 titan shoulders the crushing burdens ofhis comraders' errors without a murmur or complaint. In him humanity  and greatness walked hand in hand, and form his life  there well with pure and steadfast lustre the offshining of that "true light which lighteth every man that cometh  into the world." The contemplation of the life and  personality of this great and gentle man recalls the words of Wordsworth:

"Soft is the music that would charm forever.

The flower of sweetest smell is shy and lowly."

 Taken from the Southern Historical Society Paper 
Volume XVII-January-December,1889 Pages 373-374

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