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[344] acted in the war in a way to make the whole chain of events contribute to his fame. But he seemed to care little for fame, and indeed was unmoved when others claimed the credit of his victories. If it be, as Pascal says, ‘the truest mark of a great mind is to be born without envy,’ few men in history have shown more of this greatness than he. And when, as was sometimes the case old companions-in-arms reflected upon him to excuse their own mistakes, he had only to lift the veil from the secrets of history to confound them. But under all such temptations he was dumb. Nothing that he did or said was more truly grand than the silence with which he bore the misrepresentations of friend or foe. This required a self-command such as Washington had not to exercise at the end of his military career; for he retired from the scene crowned with victory, with a whole nation at his feet ready to do him honor; while Lee had to bear the reproach of the final disaster—a reproach in which friends sometimes joined with foes. Yet to both he answered only with the same majestic calm—the outward sign of his magnificent self-control. Such magnanimity belongs to the very higest order of moral qualities, and shows a character rare in any country or in any age.

This impression of the man does not grow less with closer observation. With the larger number of ‘great men’ the greatness is magnified by distance and separation. As we come nearer they dwindle in stature till, when we are in their very presence and look them squarely in the face, they are found to be but men like ourselves, and sometimes very ordinary men—with some special ability perhaps, which gives them success in the world, but who for all that are full of the selfishness which is the very essence of meanness, and puffed up with a paltry conceit and vanity that stamps them as little rather than great.

Far different was the impression made by General Lee upon those who saw him in the freedom of private intercourse. It might be expected that the soldiers who fought under him should speak with admiration and pride of their old commander; but how did he appear to his neighbors? Here in Lexington everybody knew him, at least by sight; they saw his manner of life from day to day in his going out and his coming in, and on all the impression was the same; the nearer he came to them the greater he seemed. Every one has some anecdote to tell of him, and it is always of something that was noble and lovable. Those who knew him best loved him most, and revered him most. This was not a greatness that was assumed, that was put on like a military cloak; it was in the man, and could not


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William H. F. Lee (2)
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