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Lee, Davis and Lincoln.

Tributes to them by Charles Francis Adams and Henry Watterson.

Lee's statue in Washington urged—magnanimity of Lincoln.

He could not have offered to pay for the slaves of the South.

The thirteenth annual banquet of the Confederate Veteran Camp of New York, held Monday night, January 26, 1903, at the Waldorf-Astoria, was made memorable by eloquent eulogies of the great figures of the South and North during the Civil War, delivered by men who themselves had fought in the armies opposing them.

Charles Francis Adams, of Massachusetts, a soldier of the Union, responded to the toast of ‘Robert E. Lee,’ and Colonel Henry Watterson, a soldier of the Confederacy, paid tribute to the character of Abraham Lincoln.

Toast to Robert E. Lee.

The opening toast, ‘To the President and the Army and Navy of the United States: A Prince among the Rulers of the World and but the Servant of a Free People,’ was followed by the toast to General Lee, ‘Nature Made Him and then Broke the Mold.’ In responding, Mr. Adams said:

A New Englander by birth, descent, tradition, name and environment, closely associated with Massachusetts, I was a Union soldier from 1861 to 1865, and the one boast I make in life was, and is, and will ever be, that I also bore arms and confronted the Confederacy and helped to destroy it. Formerly of the Army of the Potomac, through long years I was intent on the overthrow of the Army of Northern Virginia. So far, moreover, as that past is concerned, [122] having nothing to regret, to excuse or to extenuate, I am yet here on this day to respond to a sentiment in honor of the military leader once opposed to us—a Virginian and a Confederate.

Lee's Method of warfare.

I shall confine myself to that one attribute of Lee which, recognized in a soldier by an opponent, I cannot but regard as his surest and loftiest title to enduring fame. I refer to his humanity in arms and his scrupulous regard for the most advanced rules of civilized warfare.

On this point two views, I am well aware, have been taken from the beginning and still are advanced. On the one side it is contended that warfare should be strictly confined to combatants and its horrors and devastations brought within the narrowest limits; that private property should be respected, and devastation and violence limited to that necessary to overcome armed opposition at the vital points of conflict. This by some. But, on the other hand, it is insisted that such a method of procedure is mere cruelty in disguise; that war at best is hell, and that true humanity lies in exaggerating that hell to such an extent as to make it unendurable. By so doing it is forced to a speedy end. On this issue I stand with Lee. Moreover, looking back over the awful past, replete with man's inhumanity to man, I insist that the verdict of history is distinct—that war is hell at best; then make it hell, indeed. That cry is not original with us. Far from it. It echoes down the ages.

Lee's order to spare property.

No more creditable order ever issued from a commanding general than that formulated and signed by Robert E. Lee at the close of June, 1863, he advanced on a war of invasion. “No greater disgrace,” he then declared, “can befall the army, and through it our whole people, than the perpetration of barbarous outrages upon the innocent and defenseless. Such proceedings not only disgrace the perpetrators and all connected with them, but are subversive of the discipline and efficiency of the army, and destructive of the ends of our movement. It must be remembered that we make war only on armed men.”

In scope and spirit Lee's order was observed, and I doubt if a hostile force ever advanced in an enemy's country or fell back from it in retreat, leaving behind it less cause of hate and bitterness than did the Army of Northern Virginia in that memorable campaign [123] which culminated at Gettysburg. Because he was a soldier Lee did not feel it incumbent upon him to proclaim himself a brute or to exhort his followers to brutality.

Lee's statue in Washington.

I have paid my tribute. One word more and I have done. Some six months ago, in a certain academic address at Chicago [see ante, pp. 1-33], I called to mind the fact that a statue of Oliver Cromwell now stood in the yard of Parliament House, in London, close to that historic hall of Westminster from the roof of which his severed head had once looked down, and asked, “Why should it not also be so with Lee?” Why should not his effigy, erect on his charger and wearing the insignia of his Confederate rank, gaze from his pedestal across the Potomac at the Virginia shore, and his once dearly loved home at Arlington?

My suggestion was met with an answer to which I would now make reply. It was objected that such a memorial was to be provided for from the national treasury, and that Lee, educated at West Point, holding for years the commission of the United States, had borne arms against the nation. The rest I will not here repeat The thing was pronounced impossible.

Now let me here explain myself. I never supposed that Robert E. Lee's statue in Washington would be provided for by an appropriation from the national treasury. I did not wish it; I do not think it fitting. Indeed, I do not rate high statues erected by act of congress, and paid for by public money. They have small significance. Least of all would I suggest such a one in the case of Lee. Nor was it so with Cromwell. His effigy is a private gift, placed where it is by an act of Parliament. So, when the time is ripe, should it be with Lee, and the time will come. When it does come, the effigy, assigned to its place merely by act of congress, should bear some such inscription as this:
Robert Edward Lee.
Erected by Contributions
of Those Who,
Wearing the Blue or Wearing the
Gray, Recognize Brilliant Military
Achievements and Lofty Character,
Honor, Greatness and Humanity
in War, and Devotion and
Dignity in Defeat.”


If Lincoln had lived.

In responding to the toast to Abraham Lincoln, ‘He was not for an age, but for all time,’ Colonel Henry Watterson incidentally said:

Jefferson Davis, than whom there never lived, in this or any other land, a noblier gentleman, and a knightlier soldier; Jefferson Davis, who, whatever may be thought of his opinions and actions, said always what he meant and meant always what he said; Jefferson Davis declared that next after the surrender at Appomattox, the murder of Abraham Lincoln made the darkest day in the calendar for the South and the people of the South. Why? Because Mr. Davis had come to a knowledge of the magnanimity of Mr. Lincoln's heart and the generosity of his intentions.

If Lincoln had lived there would have been no era of reconstruction, with its repressive agencies and oppressive legislation. If Lincoln had lived there would have been wanting to the extremism of the time the cue of his taking off to spur the steeds of vengeance. For Lincoln entertained, with respect to the rehabilitation of the Union, the single wish that the Southern States, to use his homely phraseology, “should come back home and behave themselves;” and, if he had lived, he would have made this wish effectual, as he made everything effectual to which he seriously addressed himself.

For purchase of slaves.

The story that he offered payment for the slaves, so often affirmed and denied, is in either case but a quibble with the actual facts. He could not have made such an offer, except tentatively, lacking the means to carry it out. He was not given the opportunity to make it, because the Confederate Commissioners were under instructions to treat solely on the basis of the recognition of the independence of the Confederacy. The conference came to naught. It ended where it began. But there is ample evidence that he went to Hampton Roads resolved to commit himself to that proposition. He did, according to the official reports, refer to it in specific terms, having already formulated a plan of procedure. This plan required no verification. It exists and may be seen in his own handwriting.

The final toast of the evening was to ‘The Silent Brigade,’ all rising, and a bugler sounding ‘taps.’

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