His Ideas of Education.
General Lee had very well defined opinions on educational subjects. In quoting some of these it might, perhaps, be unjust to apply them to present conditions, which, of course, could not then be foreseen. He was a strong advocate of practical, even technical education, as was shown by his plans for Washington College; but he was equally firm in his support of training studies and liberal culture. I have often heard him say it had been his lifelong regret that he had not completed his classical education (in which, however, he had a respectable scholarship) before going to West Point. Also, he did not believe in separate technical schools, but thought “that scientific and professional studies could best be taught when surrounded by the liberalizing influence of a literary institution.” Hence, he sought to unite all these in the development of Washington College. Especially General Lee did not believe in a military education for others than army officers. Military education, he used to say, is an unfortunate necessity for the soldier, but the worst possible preparation for civil life. “For many years,” he said, “I have observed the failure in business pursuits of men who have resigned from the army. It is very rare that any one of them has achieved success.” One incident finally, which I witnessed, illustrating the General's playful humor. A new roadway of broken stone had just been laid through the college grounds. Colonel J. T. L. Preston, then professor in the Military Institute, came riding through on his way to town. As the stones were new and rough, the Colonel rode alongside on the grass. As he halted where the General was standing, he halted for a talk. General Lee, putting his arm affectionately around the horse's neck and patting him, said: “Colonel, this is a beautiful horse; I am sorry he is so tenderfooted that he avoids our new road.” Afterwards Colonel Preston always rode on the stone-way.