drift of the two sections toward war, and in February, 1861, upon the secession of Texas
, he was recalled to Washington
It is needless to discuss exhaustively Lee
's attitude on the questions that were dividing the country.
He did not believe in slavery or secession, but, on the other hand, he did not admit that the general Government had the right to invade and coerce sovereign States, and he shared the conviction of his fellow Southerners that their section had been aggrieved and was threatened with grave losses.
He sided with those whom he regarded as his ‘people,’ and they have continued to honor his decision, which, as we have seen, was inevitable, given his training and character.
It was equally inevitable, in view of the oaths he had taken, and of the existence of theories of government to which he did not subscribe, that his entering the service of the Confederacy
should seem to many Americans
a wilful act of treason.
His conduct will probably continue to furnish occasion for censure to those who judge actions in the light of rigid political, social, and ecclesiastical theories instead of in the light of circumstances and of the phases of character.
To his admirers, on the other hand, who will increase rather than diminish, Lee
will remain a hero without fear and without reproach.
spent the weeks immediately following the inauguration of Lincoln
in a state of great nervous tension.
There seems to be little reason to doubt that, had he listened to the overtures made him, he could have had charge of the Union
forces to be put in the field.
On April 20, 1861, he resigned the colonelcy of the First Cavalry, and on the 23d he accepted the command of the military forces of Virginia
in a brief speech worthy of the career upon which he was entering.
A little less than a month later he became a brigadier of the Confederacy
, that being then the highest grade in the Southern
For some time he chafed at not being allowed to take the field, but he could not be spared as an organizer of troops and