it technically, is one guilty of the crime of treason; or, as the Century Dictionary
puts it, violating his allegiance to the chief authority of the State
; while treason against the United States
is specifically defined in the Constitution
as ‘levying war’ against it, or ‘adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort.’
That Robert E. Lee
did levy war against the United States
can, I suppose, no more be denied than that he gave ‘aid and comfort’ to its enemies; and to the truth of this last proposition, I hold myself, among others, to be a very competent witness.
This technically; but in history, there is treason and treason, as there are traitors and traitors.
And, furthermore, if Robert E. Lee
was a traitor, so also, and indisputably were George Washington
, Oliver Cromwell
, John Hampden
, and William of Orange
The list might be extended indefinitely; but these will suffice.
There can be no question that every one of those named violated his allegiance, and gave aid and comfort to the enemies of his sovereign.
furnishes a precedent at every point.
A Virginian like Lee
, he was also a British subject; he had fought under the British
flag, as Lee
had fought under that of the United States
; when, in 1776, Virginia
seceded from the British Empire
, he ‘went with his State,’ just as Lee
went with it eighty-five years later; subsequently Washington
commanded armies in the field designated by those opposed to them as ‘rebels,’ and whose descendants now glorify them as ‘the rebels of ‘76,’ much as Lee
later commanded, and at last surrendered, much larger armies, also designated ‘rebels’ by those they confronted.
Except in their outcome, the cases were, therefore, precisely alike; and logic is logic.
It consequently appears to follow, that, if Lee
was a traitor, Washington
It is unnecessary to institute similar comparisons with Cromwell
and William of Orange
No defense can in their cases be made.
Technically, one and all, they undeniably were traitors.
But there are, as I have said, traitors and traitors—Catalines, Arnolds and G$o:;rgeis, as well as Cromwells, Hampdens and Washingtons.
To reach any satisfactory conclusion concerning a candidate for ‘everlasting fame,’—whether to deify or damn—enroll him as savior, as martyr, or as criminal—it is, therefore, necessary still further to discriminate.
The cause, the motive, the conduct must be passed in review.
Did turpitude anywhere attach to the original taking of sides, or to subsequent act?
Was the man a self-seeker?
Did low or sordid motives impel him?
Did he seek to aggrandize himself at his country's cost?
Did he strike with a parricidal hand?