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Lee's Birthday: eminent men of the United States send sentiments for the day—ministers, soldiers, statesmen and scholars each bring an offering.

January 19, 1890. —The Birthday of Robert E. Lee.
The Richmond State wishes to gather from leading citizens all over the United States a brief sentiment deemed appropriate to the occasion. You will very much oblige us by sending by return mail a contribution that you may deem suitable.

Such was the request sent out to a number of prominent men in various walks of life. Here are the answers:

General J. M. Schofield, commander of the United States Army.

I will say that it was the well-known character of the Southern soldiers, of which that of General Robert E. Lee was the highest type, which made it possible for the Union army to regard the Confederates not as rebels to be ether punished or pardoned, but as honorable antagonists, worthy to become trusted friends when they had laid down their arms. Thus this high character became of inestimable value to the Southern people, and hence to the whole country.

Admiral Porter, of the Navy.

No man should hesitate to bear testimony to the reputation of [349] General Robert E. Lee as one of the greatest soldiers of the civil war.

But for his generalship the Southern Confederacy would no doubt have sooner broken up, and he kept his army together under circumstances that would have appalled almost any other leader.

General Lee accepted the situation after Appomattox in the true spirit which characterized all his actions, and I feel sure that when he died he had the respect of every Northern soldier and sailor, to say nothing of the thousands of citizens who admired his private character.

Gov. Campbell, of Ohio.

As a Northern man, and a member of that wing of the Democratic party which readily conceded anything to prevent war, yet cheerfully risked everything to preserve the Union after war had come, I pay my modest tribute to Robert E. Lee, the Christian gentleman, the fearless soldier, the upright citizen, the model husband, son, and father.

Senator Reagan, of Texas.

General Robert E. Lee combined in his own person and character the best qualities of a good citizen and great military commander. To a handsome and noble personal appearance, combined with finished grace and dignity of manner, was added great ability and courage, thorough military training and calm judgment, which no good or bad fortune could disturb.

I regarded and do now regard him as the best ideal type of an American citizen, gentleman, and soldier.

Cardinal Gibbons.

General Lee was a hero of whom the whole nation is proud.


Charles A. Dana, Editor New York sun.

Robert E. Lee was a man of ideal personal character. He was always a gentleman, always sincere, always true, always considerate of others. His moral elevation was especially manifest in the readiness and calmness with which he bore disaster. Defeat never shook his equilibrium. Misfortune was never followed by any relaxation of his principles. His intellectual resources were prompt, broad, comprehensive, admirable. In his dignity there was no affectation, in his self-respect no petty egotism, in his judgment no unjust depreciation of others. He was great in the noblest qualities of human nature.

C. A. Dana. New York.

Hon. Thomas F. Bayard.

‘I would not give my dead Ossory for any living son in England,’ was the proud cry of a bereaved English mother. ‘We would not give our dead Lee for any living soldier,’ is the proud response of every true Virginian.

Charles Dudley Warner.

To my mind the greatness of Robert E. Lee lay in the admirable balance of his powers and the integrity of his character. In the long run the world recognizes this harmony of qualities in large endowment as superior to excessive brilliancy in one direction. Besides, he had the genius to be loved. As a soldier he commanded everywhere respect and admiration, and history must say that he excited less personal enmity than almost any other conspicuous actor in a civil war.

Senator John W. Daniel.

A splendid intellect and a great heart in a noble form—instinctive rectitude, modest unselfishness, artless courage—this was General [351] Lee, the friend of humanity. Such a character no people, age or clime can claim as wholly their own. It is a possession and glory of the human race.

From Henry Watterson.

I cannot answer your command for a sentiment in commemoration and in homage of the great Lee better than by sending you the noble lines which Sir Henry Taylor puts into the mouth of the Duke of Burgundy over the dead body of Philip Von Artevelde. They might be fittingly uttered by the North on the occasion which you celebrate:

——Dire rebel though he was,
Yet with a noble nature and great gifts
Was he endowed—courage, discretion, wit,
An equal temper and an ample soul,
Rock bound and fortified against assaults
Of transitory passion; but below
Built on a surging, subterranean fire
That stirred and lifted him to high attempts,
So prompt and capable, and yet so calm,
He nothing lacked in sovereignty but the right,
Nothing in soldiership except good fortune.
Wherefore with honor lay him in his grave,
And thereby shall increase of honor come
Unto their arms who vanquished one so wise,
So valiant, so renowned.

Reverend Frank Stringfellow, Lee's scout.

General Robert E. Lee, the greatest production of America's civil and religious institutions. Although his military genius placed him at the head of the armies of the South, it only served to gain him friends at the North, for Lee, the soldier, was lost in Lee, the Christian. He was so truly great that he had no weaknesses to hide. He did not wrap himself in the mysteries of his great office, for the humblest private could approach him with confidence. He loved us all. What a man was he; so great, so kind, so wise!


Bishop A. M. Randolph.

General Wolseley, commander-in-chief of the armies of Great Britain, himself a nobleman and perhaps the leading military critic of our age, closes a remarkable article upon General Lee with these words: ‘When Americans can review the history of their last great rebellion with calm impartiality, I believe all will admit that General Lee towered far above all men on either side in that struggle. I believe he will be regarded not only as the most prominent figure of the Confederacy, but as the Great American of the nineteenth century, whose statue is well worthy to stand on an equal pedestal with that of Washington, and whose memory is equally worthy to be enshrined in the hearts of all his countrymen.’ This estimate is based upon a criticism of his character as a man, a soldier, and a Christian citizen. As a thinker and a man of intellectual powers little has been said of him, and, yet, intellectual power, associated with moral purity, are the true springs of greatness. General Lee was a thinker of broad sympathies, deep insight, and of philosophical grasp, which would have made him, had his vocation called him to the field of literature, one of the wisest writers of his time. There are few passages in literature greater than these words, written by him in the darkest hour of his own life and of the fortunes of the Southern people. He wrote: ‘My experience of men has neither disposed me to think worse of them, nor indisposed me to serve them; nor in spite of failures, which I lament; of errors, which I now see and acknowledge, or of the present aspect of affairs, do I despair of the future. The truth is this: the march of Providence is so slow and our desires so impatient, the work of progress is so immense and our means of aiding it so feeble, the life of humanity is so long and that of the individual so brief, that we often see only the ebb of the advancing wave, and are thus discouraged. It is history that teaches us to hope.’ These noble words contain the Christian philosophy of the progress of the race. They ought to be printed and read by our countryman upon every recurrence of his birthday. As a distinguished American has said: ‘They are worthy to be inscribed upon the pedestal of his statue.’

Congressman William L. Wilson, of West Virginia.

The world has already enrolled General Lee in the small number [353] of its greatest captains. It is fast learning that the man was greater than the soldier—for,

His grandeur he derived from Heaven alone,
     For he was great ere fortune made him so;
And wars, like mists that rise against the sun,
     Made him but greater seem, not greater grow.

Rev. Dr. Moses D. Hoge.

The public career of Robert E. Lee forms one of the most impressive and inspiring chapters in human history. In many respects he occupies a place all his own in the military annals of the world. But men are not fully known by their official lives or by those conspicuous acts which fill the world with their fame. It is to the social and domestic realm that we look for those traits of character—the uprightness, the courtesy, the magnanimity, and the supreme devotion to duty—which constitute the true men. So, too, it is to the religious life that we look for the sincerity, the meekness, the humility and the self-consecration which constitute the true Christian.

Therefore, when we contemplate a man, like Lee, it is not the splendid renown of the soldier, nor the virtues of the citizen, nor the devotion of the Christian alone that impresses us, but the harmonious blending of all in a character of such strength, symmetry and attractiveness as to form an ideal which at once gratifies the intellect and satisfies the heart.

Men thus endowed by nature and by grace form the models most worthy of imitation and become the bequests of Providence to coming ages.

By the admiration they command and by the affection they attract, they inspire and encourage others to the pursuit of ‘whatsoever things are just and true and lovely and of good report,’ and thus lift humanity to a higher plane.

Professor J. J. White, Lee's intimate friend.

Robert E. Lee-Supremely good and great among men.

J. J. white. Washington and Lee University, Lexington.


Rev. Dr. W. H. Milburn, the blind Chaplain of the House of Representatives.

I know not that my idea of General Lee's character can be better expressed than in these lines from Wordsworth:

Whose high endeavors were inward light,
That made the path before him always bright;
Whose powers shed round him in the common strife,
Or mild concerns of ordinary life,
A constant influence, a peculiar grace,
Who through the heat of conflict kept the law,
In calmness made and saw what he forsaw;
Or if an unexpected call succeed,
Come when it would, was equal to the need.
He who though thus endued as with a sense
And faculty for storm and turbulence,
Is yet a soul, whose master bias leans
To home-felt pleasures and to gentle scenes:
Sweet images which, wheresoe'er he be,
Are ever at his heart, and such fidelity
It is his darling passion to approve;
More brave for this, that he hath much to love.

A. K. M'Clure, Philadelphia ‘times.’

General Robert E. Lee will go into impartial history as the greatest of all the Southern chieftains, and as second to none, North or South, in all the grander qualities of heroism. When the yet lingering passions of civil war shall have perished he will be remembered, not so much as a Southern as an American chieftain. With his exceptional skill as a great commander, conceded by all, his personal attributes will grow brighter and brighter in the lustrous annals of American heroism. In all the bitter asperities of fractional conflict the character of General Lee as a humane and Christian warrior was ever unblemished and his integrity unquestioned. However the North and the South may differ as to the war, the heroism of both the blue and the gray will become the pride of all sections, and then the name of Lee must be linked with the foremost in American reverence.


Rev. Dr. B. M. Palmer.

It may be regarded one of the compensations of all our suffering and loss in the late civil war to have given to the world, to be embalmed in its history, such a type of the ideal man as was Gen. R. E. Lee. Hence-forth, he belongs not to us alone, joyfully as we treasure his memory, but to the country and mankind, the great example of true manliness and of all human virture, equally great in disaster and defeat as in the triumph of successful achievement.

D. M. Stone, Editor New York Journal of commerce.

The memory of Robert E. Lee.

To those who knew thee not no words can paint!
And those who knew thee know all words are faint!

Moore, Sensibility.

O, he sits high in all the people's hearts.

such souls leave behind
a voice that in the distance far away
Wakens the slumbering ages.

O, mortal man! be wary how ye judge!

Dante, Vision of Paradise,

among the sons of men how few are known
who dare be just to merit not their own,

cruel and cold is the judgment of man,
cruel as winter and cold as the snow;
but by-and-by will the deed and the plan
be judged by the motive that lieth below.

Bates, by-and-by.

David M. stone.

Bishop Dudley, of Kentucky.

I am heartily glad that The State will make special commemoration of the birthday of General Robert E. Lee. [356]

It is well and right that Virginians should seek to perpetuate the memory of the peerless man who has illustrated that name, that those who come after us may know what priceless gift was bestowed upon Virginia in the person of this Christian soldier and patriot.

Prof. John B. Minor, law Department, University of Virginia.

The birthday of General Robert E. Lee incites to the contemplation of a character as remarkable for its symmetrical excellence as any that history records.

Profound veneration for the man in his august simplicity, his unblemished uprightness, and his steady, unostentatious pursuit of duty, controlled always by his Christian principle, awakens at once a strong desire to give fitting expressions thereto, and an apprehension that the words may not be worthy of the subject.

The future historian, when prejudice and partiality shall have been alike silenced by time, will say that the world has seldom seen a man on whom it might bestow an admiration and reverence so unreserved. And a Virginian cannot think without exultation that such a chronicler must render to the society in which General Lee was nurtured and by which he was moulded, the tribute of singular aptitude for greatness and for moral excellence, as seen in a Washington and a Lee, and also in the numerous other worthies, great and good, who have grown to world-wide renown beneath the skies of Virginia.

May our people take these examples to heart, and show themselves, through the coming age, worthy to be fellow-citizens with these, our illustrious countrymen!

John B. Minor. University of Virginia.

Rev. John B. Newton, a soldier Preacher.

You ask for a sentiment in connection with the birthday of Robert E. Lee, our great commander.

I give it in the words of the poet-laureate of England upon the death of the great Duke of Wellington, believing that in General Lee they find their truest and noblest illustration:

The man of amplest influence,
Yet clearest of ambitious crime; [357]
Our greatest, yet with least pretence;
Great in council and great in war,
Foremost captain of his time,
Rich in saving common sense,
And, as the greatest only are,
In his simplicity sublime.

John B. Newton. Monumental Rectory, Richmond, Va.

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