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[447]

Colonel Lee, before you proceed, I have something to say to you. Permit me to speak first. I am authorized by the President of the United States to say to you that, if you remain by the old flag and the Union, you will be placed in supreme command of the armies of the United States, subject only to a nominal command in myself; which command, you know, at my age must be nominal only.’

Colonel Lee paused for a moment, and but for a moment, and replied, ‘General Scott, I will conclude what I came to say. I am awaiting the action of the State of Virginia. If Virginia stands by the old flag and the Union, I shall stand by them with my sword and my life. If Virginia shall secede, I shall go with her. I hold my loyalty as due to Virginia.’

Governor Anderson then proceeded to say that this fact rested not only upon the statement of General Scott, but that he has since seen in the report of a Congressional committee that Francis P. Blair, Sr., had made the statement; that on the next day—General Scott meanwhile having reported to Mr. Lincoln this interview with Colonel LeeMr. Blair went from Mr. Lincoln to Colonel Lee, and repeated in the same words the same offer, and received the same answer.1

1 Upon these facts Governor Anderson specified the following justifications of that high estimate of General Lee's rare virtue, which might seem at first thought to be a mere extravagance in personal or partisan admiration: First. Neither the overwhelming military arguments of the greatest American General against the success of secession; nor, second, the insolent conduct of superviceable and almost self-appointed officials, so common in revolutionary times; nor, third, the temptation of the highest military office in the world, with highest and assured pay, could, either or all, prevent him from determining in Texas, and of doing in Washington, what he felt it his duty to decide and do! Accordingly, the Governor said, Greek, Roman, English, and possibly here and there American patriots and heroes, may have actually been as pure and exalted in principles as Robert E. Lee; but it is very certain that no one of them all was so rarely fortunate as to show such clear proofs of his temptations and of his steadfast virtue in them.

[Don't you remember General Echols's story of Lee's first official act and his opinion of the dangers and uncertainties of that cause which he had just then espoused? Remember, too, that the Confederate high places were all notoriously filled or engaged (Sidney Johnston for first command, &c). Remember, also, Lee's ‘Virginia soil conditions’ of acceptance! His is a wondrous record of consistent purity!Gov. Anderson.]

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