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Robert E. Lee.

The Estimate of the Southern leader by a Canadian.

The Week, of Canada, contains the following interesting article by T. E. Moberly on Robert E. Lee, suggested by the unveiling of his statue at Richmond:

On the 29th of May, at Richmond, Virginia, the French sculptor Mercie's equestrian statue of the immortal Lee was unveiled. The world needs no monument to perpetuate the unfading memory of this gentle, noble, gifted man. So long as this Northern continent endures, the name, the genius, and the character of Lee shall wield their potent sway upon the mind of man, and long after his puny detractors have crumbled into the dust, and avenging time has blotted out their names and memories from the records of the past-in each succeeding age the human heart will on such occasions respond to the sentiment of the poet:

The heart ran o'er with silent worship of the great of old!
The dead, but sceptered, sovereigns who still rule our spirits from their urns,

and pay its meed of homage to Robert E. Lee.

The motive which led Lee to share the fortunes of his mother State, Virginia, in the tremendous struggle between North and South was the great principle of State as opposed to Federal sovereignty—a principle which had been rocked in the cradle of the Republic and espoused by some of her greatest statesmen, such as Madison and Jefferson. The legal conflicts between Ontario and Canada are more than an object lesson to Canadians, to prove that the seeds of this apple of discord are being already rooted in our land. There is no need of dwelling on the varied fortunes of the great war which, a quarter of a century ago, convulsed the contending States. Suffice it to say, that the brilliant genius of the great Captain of the South, backed by the indomitable bravery and tried efficiency of his armies, put a tremendous strain upon the vast resources in men and money of the North. And it was only when the absolute want of food, clothing, and other munitions of war made it imperative, that Lee issued the historic order to his army:

(General orders no. 9.)

headquarters Army of Northern Virginia, Appomattox Courthouse, April 10, 1865.
After four years arduous service, marked by unsurpassed [374] courage and fortitude, the Army of Northern Virginia has been compelled to yield to overwhelming numbers and resources.

I need not tell the survivors of so many hard fought battles who have remained steadfast to the last, that I have consented to this result from no distrust of them, but feeling that valor and devotion could accomplish nothing that could compensate for the loss which would have attended the continuation of the contest, I have determined to avoid the useless sacrifice of those whose past services have endeared them to their countrymen. You will take with you the satisfaction that proceeds from the consciousness of duty faithfully performed, and I earnestly pray that a merciful God may extend to you His blessing and protection. With an increasing admiration of your constancy and devotion to your country, and a grateful remembrance of your kind and generous consideration of myself, I bid you an affectionate farewell.

Robert E. Lee, General.

In this sublime and pathetic epistle is vividly portrayed a lofty and intrepid spirit, softened by an almost womanly tenderness, and sanctified by the most exalted Christian principle.

This ended Lee's masterly defense of the South during four of the most memorable years of modern warfare. As to the merits of his operations it will suffice to refer to the opinion of the military critics and writers of Germany, of whom it has been said that, ‘having examined minutely the campaigns of Lee, they unite in the following judgment: Despite its adverse issue, the four years conduct of the war by Lee is the ablest that ever a war of defense has exhibited, with the exception of the Seven Years defensive war which Frederick the Great conducted in Saxony and Silesia.’ Thus, Lee is, by the most competent judges, calmly ranked with their national hero, Frederick, one of the most consummate captains the world has ever seen.

In reading the references to Lee in many United States papers, and the blatant and bombastic harangue of Mr. Senator Ingalls at the Gettysburg memorial services on the 30th ult., one cannot help re-echoing Cicero's lament—“O! Tempora, O! Mores.” Did they but know it, such writers and speakers are rending afresh a well-healed wound, and exposing themselves and their country to the merited contempt of every right-thinking, magnanimous nation upon earth. The seed of exalted patriotism, however, does not germinate in the breast of the petty politician. If this is all the forbearance [375] and wisdom that twenty-five long years of peace have fostered in the Republican press and Senate of the North towards their white fellowcountrymen of the South, and bearing in mind the negro, Mormon and Irish questions, the future of the United States may well seem problematical.

Let me present to Lee's aspersers, in the hope that they may catch —though a long way off—a portion of his spirit, the calm, dignified, and patriotic ‘open letter’ written by him, after the close of hostilities to Governor Letcher, the war Governor of Virginia. It is as follows:

The questions which for years were in dispute between the State and general Government, and which, unhappily, were not decided by the dictates of reason, but referred to the decision of war, having been decided against us, it is the part of wisdom to acquiesce in the result and of candor to recognize the fact.

The interests of the State are, therefore, the same as those of the United States. Its prosperity will rise or fall, with the welfare of the country. The duty of its citizens, then, appears to me too plain to admit of doubt. All should unite in honest efforts to obliterate the effects of war, and to restore the blessings of peace. They should remain, if possible, in the country—promote harmony and good feeling, qualify themselves to vote and elect to the State and general Legislatures wise and patriotic men, who will devote their abilities to the interests of the country and the healing of all dissensions. I have invariably recommended this course since the cessation of hostilities, and have endeavored to practice it myself.

In referring to the Northern press, all honor should be paid to the New York Times, for the pure, manly and patriotic tone of its reference to Lee, in its issue of May 30. There are also some other honorable exceptions.

Of the monument, but little can be said in its praise. The pedestal is pretty, but that is all. If you conceal the body of the horse and its rider, you might readily think that the legs were those of a cow. After having considered the admirable and comprehensive conception and spirited design of the Canadian sculptor, Mr. Gilbert Frith, for the Lee monument, one is amazed at the choice that was made.

Lee's retirement to the comparative obscurity of an humble citizen, and the self-supporting labor of a teacher of youth, when he might have lived in luxury and been pampered and idolized abroad, was in keeping with the general tenor of his life. How like the Roman Cincinnatus, who, having rendered signal service to the Roman arms [376] and State, returned to his farm to plow! Of Lee's personal presence Sir Garnet Wolseley and Lieutenant-Colonel G. T. Denison have said, ‘that he, more than any other man they had ever met, impressed them with human greatness.’

Many years ago a writer in the Illustrated London News thus described the charm of Lee's presence: ‘If a number of men were seated in a circle, Lee being one of them, and a little child were placed in their midst, after looking round the circle, it would be sure to go to Lee.’ Canadians may well be proud of having been born upon the Continent which produced so great a man. With what sublime appropriateness could Robert E. Lee at his life's close have repeated the memorable words of Horace:

Exegi monumentum aere perennius
Regailque situ pyramidium altius,
Quod non imber edax, non aquilo impotens
Possit diruere aut innumerabilis
Annorum series et fuga temporum.

Lee's private and public character has extorted even from his detractors unwonted praise. In him were combined in exquisite proportion many of the choicest gifts and graces of heart, of mind, of body. With sweet and simple dignity he trod the pathway of domestic life—loving, and beloved by all. With rare unselfish modesty he took upon his titan shoulders the crushing burdens of his comrades' errors without a murmur or complaint. In him humility and greatness walked hand in hand, and from his life there fell with pure and steadfast lustre the off shining of that ‘true light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.’ The contemplation of the life and personality of this great and gentle man recalls the words of Wordsworth:

Soft is the music that would charm forever.
The flower of sweetest smell is shy and lowly.

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