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Lee the Central figure.

Amid all these stirring scenes who was the central figure? Around whom did all the hopes of the people cluster? To whom did the people of the Southland look in the darkest hour with a confidence that knew no wavering? To that grand man and great commander, Robert E. Lee. And what shall I say of him? Language which my feeble ability enables me to command, is inadequate to express my admiration for him, and my conception of his greatness as man and soldier. The Southland, ploughed with graves and reddened with blood, that can look the proudest nation fearlessly in the face, and whose sons he led to battle, will ever cherish for him the highest regard and the deepest affection. Aye, more, his fame is not bounded by the country of which he was a citizen, but it has gone across the waters, and wherever there is a heart upon whose altar burn the fires of liberty, and a soul that appreciates all that is great and good, there the name of Robert E. Lee is enshrined, and when the monuments we may build to his memory shall have crumbled into dust, his virtues will still live—a high model for the imitation of generations yet unborn. As has been beautifully said, ‘he was a foe without hate; a friend without treachery; a soldier without cruelty, and a victim without murmuring. He was a public officer without vices; a private citizen without wrong; a neighbor without reproach; a Christian without hypocracy, and a man without guilt. He was Caesar without his ambition; Frederick without his tyranny; Napoleon without his selfishness, and Washington without his reward. He was obedient to authority as a servant, and royal in authority as [361] a king. He was as gentle as a woman in life; pure and modest as a virgin in thought; watchful as a Roman vestal; submissive to law as Socrates, and grand in battle as Achilles.’

The profession of the soldier has been honored by his renown, the cause of education by his virtues, religion by his piety.

The greatest gift a hero leaves his race
Is to have been a hero.

In the ancient East, it is said, the wandering Arabs are searching for treasures buried in the tombs of their monarchs. He whose memory we commemorate, on this, the ninety-first anniversary of his birth, has no treasures buried with him. The treasures of his life were brave, noble, unselfish deeds, which he left behind him to make the sons of men wiser, nobler and better.

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