So much for Virginia
; and now as to Robert E. Lee
More than once already, on occasions not unlike this, have I quoted Oliver Wendell Holmes
's remark in answer to the query of an anxious mother as to when a child's education ought to begin—‘About 250 years before it is born;’ and it is a fact—somewhat necessitarian, doubtless, but still a fact—that every man's life is largely molded for him far back in the ages.
We philosophize freely over fate and free-will, and one of the excellent commonplaces of our educational system is to instil into the minds of the children in our common-schools the idea that every man is the architect of his own life.
An admirable theory to teach; but, happily for the race, true only to a very limited extent.
Heredity is a tremendous limiting fact.
Native force of character—individuality—doubtless has something to do with results; but circumstances, ancestry, environment have much more.
One man possibly in a hundred has in him the inherent force to make his conditions largely for himself; but even he moves influenced at every step from cradle to grave by ante-natal and birth conditions.
Take any man you please—yourself, for instance; now and again the changes of life give opportunity, and the individual is equal to the occasion—the roads forking, consciously or instinctively he makes his choice.
Under such circumstances, he usually supposes that he does so as a free agent.
The world so assumes, holding him responsible.
He is nothing of the sort; or at best such only in a very limited degree.
The other day one of our humorists took occasion to philosophize on this topic, delivering what might not inaptly be termed an occasional discourse appropriate to the 22d of February.
It was not only worth reading, but in humor and sentiment it was somewhat suggestive of the melancholy Jacques
We are made brick by brick of influences, patiently built up around the framework of our born dispositions.
It is the sole process of construction; there is no other.
Every man, woman and child is an influence.
Washington's disposition was born in him, he did not create it. It was the architect of his character; his character was the architect of his achievements.
It had a native affinity for all influences, fine and great, and gave them hospitable welcome and permanent shelter.
It had a native aversion for all influences mean and gross, and passed them on. It chose its ideals for him; and out of its patiently gathered materiels, it built and shaped his golden character.
And give him the credit.
Three names of Virginians
are impressed on the military records of our Civil War, indelibly impressed—Winfield Scott
, George Henry