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‘  South if we are not here to support and protect them?’ And as the thought of his country was thus uppermost and controlling in the awful hour of surrender, so it remained to the closing of his life. Ere the struggle ended he had disclosed to a confidential friend, General Pendleton, that ‘he never believed we could, against the gigantic combination for our subjugation, make good our independence, unless foreign powers, directly or indirectly, assisted us.’ But, said he, ‘We had sacred principles to maintain and rights to defend, for which we were in duty bound to do our best, even if we perished in the endeavor.’ And now that this belief was verified, he declared: ‘I did only what my duty demanded. I could have taken no other course without dishonor. And if all were to be done over again, I should act in precisely the same manner.’ And when those about him mourned the great disaster, he said: ‘Yes, that is all very sad, and might be a cause of self-reproach, but that we are conscious that we have humbly tried to do our duty. We may, therefore, with calm satisfaction, trust in God, and leave results to him.’ Lee thoroughly understood and thoroughly accepted the situation. He realized fully that the war had settled, settled forever the peculiar issues which had embroiled it; but he knew also that only time could dissipate its rankling passions and restore freedom; and hence it was he taught that ‘Silence and patience on the part of the South was the true course’—silence, because it was vain to speak when prejudice ran too high for our late enemies to listen— patience, because it was the duty of the hour to labor for recuperation and wait for reconciliation. And murmuring no vain sigh over the ‘might have been,’ which now could not be—conscious that our destinies were irrevocably bound up with those of the perpetual Union, he lifted high over the fallen standards of war the banner of the Prince of Peace, emblazoned with ‘Peace on Earth and Good Will toward Men.’ The President and Congress of the United States made conditions of pardon and absolution. They were harsh and exacting. The mass of the people, affected by them of necessity, had to accept them. Therefore he would share their humiliation. Accordingly he asked amnesty. But his letter was never answered. He was indicted for treason. He appeared ready to answer the charge. But the government now revolted from an act of treachery so base, for his parole at Appomattox protected him. Thus was he reviled and harrassed, yet never a word of bitterness escaped him; but, on the
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