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[369] dealt with the vast and active concerns of military life; but the suggestion was unanimously adopted, and Hon. John W. Brockenbrough, Rector of the board, was appointed to apprise General Lee of the fact. At first General Lee hesitated. He modestly distrusted his own competency to fulfill the trust, and he feared that the hostility of the government towards him might direct adverse influences against the Institution which it was proposed to commit to his care. These considerations being successfully combatted by those who knew how high his qualifications were, and how great were his attractions, General Lee accepted the position tendered him, and on the 20th of October, 1865, he appeared before the Rev. W. S. White— the oldest Christian minister of Lexington—took the oath of office, and assumed the duties of President of Washington College. On the eve of acceptance, two propositions were made to General Lee: one to become President of a large corporation, with a salary of $10,000 per annum; another to take the like office in another corporation, with a salary of $50,000. But he had made up his mind to come here, and this is what he said to a friend who brought him the last munificent offer:

‘I have a self-imposed task which I must accomplish. I have led the young men of the South in battle; I have seen many of them fall under my standard. I shall devote my life now to training young men to do their duty in life.’

This was the high resolve that brought him here, and if Robert E. Lee seemed the great, heroic Captain when he stood before the Virginia Convention with superb courage and dauntless mien, and ‘devoted his sword to his native State,’ he seemed informed with a spirit that gathered its strength and loveliness from Heaven, when he stood here and consecrated his remaining years to training up to life's duties, the sons, brothers and comrades of those who had followed him in battle. Young men of the South! To him who thus stood by us, we owe a debt immeasurable, and as long as our race is upon the earth, let our children and our children's children hold that debt sacred.

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