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Robert Edward Lee.

The speech of honorable Don P. Halsey

On the bill to provide a statue of Robert Edward Lee to be placed in Statuary Hall in the Capitol at Washington, delivered in the Senate of Virginia, February 6, 1903.

[The preservation in these pages of this just and admirable exposition will be held in satisfaction, generally in this country, as well as in the broad domain of civilization. It would seem incredible to conceive of a dissentient to the meed due an exemplar of the noblest embodiment of the patriot, citizen and soldier, of which history has cognizance.—Ed.]

Mr. President:
In presenting the Bill now under consideration, I did so from no desire to offend Northern sentiment, or to re-open old wounds now happily healed. Rather I did so from entirely opposite motives, for, believing that the feeling of good will between the sections is now greater than ever before, I considered this an opportune time for Virginia to accept the invitation so long held out to her by the Federal Government, and place in the National Valhalla, by the side of her Washington, the figure of him whom she deems to be his peer, and the fittest of all her sons for this high distinction, thereby showing her good feeling towards the reunited nation of which she is a part.

Right glad am I to feel that those who are the truest exponents of the sentiment of the North, sustain me in my belief that in this era of good feeling the statue of Lee may be thus placed without justly exciting passions of sectional animosity or tirades of bitter comment. I did not hope, of course, that the idea would meet with the approval of everybody—the man does not live who can win universal approbation, no matter how well he may deserve it, and neither can a proposition to do any act, no matter how meritorious, be made without there being some who will disapprove, and, perhaps, condemn it. [82]

I recognize the fact that there are those in the North who are still irreconcilable as well as those in the South who are still ‘unreconstructed’—to use that word in the Northern sense—but I take it also that the irreconcilable of the North are no more representative of the true sentiment of that section, than the unreconstructed are representative of the true sentiment of the South, and, therefore, I believe that the great heart of the North beats in unison with that of the South in honoring the memory of the great exponent of the chivalry and the glory and the true manhood of the South, just as I know that the South delights to honor the memory of his great adversaries, Lincoln and Grant, the first of whom pursued his course from a sense of duty as he saw it, ‘with charity towards all, and malice towards none,’ and the other of whom uttered those words— ‘Let us have peace,’ which fell like a benediction upon the sore and wounded spirit of the South in the hour of her greatest tribulation and distress.

It is not as a representative of the spirit of secession that Virginia will offer the statue of Lee, nor as insisting that the right of secession now exists. Lee was never a secessionist, but, on the contrary he called secession ‘anarchy,’ and said that if he owned the four million slaves in the South he would give them all to save the Union. In a letter written to his son in January, 186r, he used these words: ‘I can anticipate no greater calamity for the country than the dissolution of the Union. It would be an accumulation of all evils we complain of, and I am willing to sacrifice everything but honor for its preservation.’ Again, in a letter to his sister, he said: ‘We are now in a state of war which will yield to nothing. The whole South is in a state of revolution into which Virginia, after a long struggle, has been drawn; and though I recognize no necessity for this state of things, and would have foreborne and pleaded to the end for a redress of grievances, real or supposed, yet in my own person I had to meet the question whether I should take part against my native State.’ After the war his whole influence was used in the direction of peace and reconciliation, and his last years were spent in teaching by precept and example the loyal acceptance of the verdict of the war, and the duty of building up the reunited country. It is not, therefore, as typifying the doctrine of secession that Virginia will offer his statue, but only as her superbest example of manhood, believing that ‘in perfection of character, as tested by struggle, victory and defeat, he is unequalled in history,’ and that, therefore, he, and no other, should be placed by the side of her [83] majestic Washington, that together they may stand through the centuries as chiefs of our grand army of immortals.

Neither do we offer Lee because we have no others worthy to stand in that congregation of the nation's great. It is rather from such a wealth of material that we must draw, that it constitutes an embarrassment of riches. Our Jefferson, our Mason, our Henry, our Madison, our Monroe, and our Marshall; all of these and many others are worthy of that great company, but having selected Washington for our representative of the Revolutionary time, it seems that the most fitting selection we can now make is to fake the other from a later time and that the most stirring period of our history, and surely none can be found more ‘worthy of this national commemoration’ than the stainless chieftain, Robert Edward Lee.

Of the absolute legal right of Virginia to choose whom she will to represent her in statue in this National Pantheon, there can be no doubt whatever. The law gives palpable expression to this right in terms so clear and explicit that no room is left for any possible adverse construction. It is positively and unmistakably to the effect that every State shall have the right to select such two of its illustrious dead for this purpose as ‘each State shall determine to be worthy of this national commemoration.’ It then goes on to provide that these statues when so furnished by the several States ‘shall be placed in the old Hall of the House of Representatives, in the Capitol of the United States, which is hereby set apart, or so much thereof as may be necessary, as a National Statuary Hall.’ There is no provision in the law giving the authority to the President or anyone else, to either accept or reject these statues, and passing by the question of whether Virginia was in or out of the Union at the time that the law was passed and the invitation extended, I will only say that there is no question about her being in the Union now, and having the same rights under the laws of the Union as every other State. The only people, therefore, who have the right to say anything as to whose statues Virginia shall send are the people of Virginia themselves, who speak through their representatives in the General Assembly. If Kansas were to choose the statue of John Brown to represent her, would Virginia have the right to complain? Certainly not. It is the prerogative of both Virginia and Kansas to choose whom they will to represent them, and neither has the right to interfere with the choice of the other.

These are Virginia's places that Virginia is invited to fill as she herself shall determine, and no acceptance is necessary beyond the [84] mere mechanical act involved. The statue of Washington is already one of the places allotted to Virginia, and as she has the right to choose another of her illustrious sons to fill the vacant niche, whom shall it be but Lee?1

Ah! but it is suggested by some that we might possibly offend Northern sentiment, we might perchance raise a sectional issue, and perhaps we had better consult the Secretary of State. Mr. President, I see no necessity for propriety in such a course. Why should Virginia consult the Secretary of State as to whether it will be agreeable to him for her to exercise a plain legal right, a right as clearly written in the law of the land as her right to choose her own representatives in Congress? It has not been her habit, nor the habit of any Southern State to consult any representative of the national government about whom they should choose to represent them in any capacity, so why should she do it now? At one time there were more ex-Confederates in the United States Senate than would have filled the Confederate Senate, and five of them were from anti-secession States. Joseph E. Johnston and John B. Gordon, generals of the Confederate army, sat in Congress without having to [85] ask the Secretary of State or anybody else whether it was agreeable to them, as did also John H. Reagan, a cabinet officer, and Alexander H. Stephens, Vice-President of the Confederacy, and many others distinguished in both the civil and military history of the Confederacy. Presidents Harrison and Cleveland appointed ex-Confederates to sit on the bench of the Supreme Court, one of them, Justice White, still remaining there; and not only have they time and again filled with honor and distinction the highest civil positions, as cabinet officers, ministers abroad, judges and legislators, in fact, every honor short of the presidency-but when war's loud tocsin again rang o'er the land, the sons of the South sprang as promptly to arms as did the sons of the North, and together they fought and conquered the foreign foe. In that conflict the first blood spilt upon the altar of his country was that of Worth Bagley, a Southern boy and the son of a Confederate soldier.

President McKinley, that pure-souled patriot whose memory is revered by all the nation, made Brigadier Generals of two of the Confederacy's most gallant leaders, ‘Fighting Joe’ Wheeler, and our own Fitzhugh Lee, and President Roosevelt was proud to serve under the first of these at Santiago, when he saved the American army from an inglorious retreat, and none of these events was accompanied by the falling of any stars from either the firmament or the flag. Why then should we suppose that those who have worthily honored and applauded the living Confederates would enter any protest against due honors by his own State to the most renowned and glorious of their dead? Have we not rather far more reason to suppose that they will graciously acknowledge that the statue of Lee is in its proper place when erected by Virginia at the side of that of Washington? Says the Boston Globe: ‘If Virginia wants to put a statue of Robert E. Lee in the Capitol at Washington instead of a statue of Jefferson, why should the North object?’

President McKinley not only recognized the merit of living Confederate soldiers by giving them army commissions in the Spanish war, but he also touched the heart of the South by his suggestion that the national government should care for the graves of Confederate as well as Federal soldiers. His words have begun to bear fruit, and Senator Foraker, another Northern soldier, is even now advocating a bill in Congress, and it has already passed the Senate, making provision for headstones over the graves of Confederate soldiers buried in the North, and a bill is pending in the Pennsylvania legislature to appropriate $20,000.00 towards a statue of General [86] Lee at Gettysburg. Colonel A. K. McClure, the author of the bill, and one of the broadest minded and most generous hearted of America's public men, championed it nobly in a speech of great eloquence the other day, and said he did so not to plead the cause of the Confederacy, but the cause of the Union. In a letter to me about the present bill he says: ‘It is certainly the right thing for Virginia to do.’ In New York the picture of Lee hangs on the walls of the Hall of Fame, and the statue of one ex-Confederate, that of John E. Kenna, of West Virginia, already stands in Statuary Hall. The portrait of Jefferson Davis, for a time disappearing, has reappeared in the War Department among those of the other ex-Secretaries without creating any hysterical excitement in the army, and so that of General Samuel Cooper, a New Yorker, who became adjutant-general and ranking general in the Confederate army, also hangs in the War Department.

A pretty incident showing the change of Northern feeling on this subject is related by Mr. Charles Hallock, a Brooklyn gentleman, in a recent communication to one of the Richmond papers. In 1868, he bought a portrait of Lee, by a notable Richmond artist, named Anderson, and offered it to be placed on view at the annual exhibition of the Brooklyn Art Loan Association. It was contemptuosly refused, with the remark that Lee should have been hung as a traitor years before. But note the sequel, which I give in the narrator's own language:

‘Now as indicating the rapid amelioration of public sentiment which soon followed, and the softening of the acerbities of 1861-65, I will state that in 1875, only ten years after the war, I presented this picture to the Long Island Historical Society, of Brooklyn, of which the Rev. Dr. Storrs was President, and the Lows, Chittendens and Pierponts directors, and it was not only gratefully and graciously accepted, but was at once placed vis-avis with Gilbert's portrait of Washington, in its most conspicuous corridor, and it remains in that position to this day. Hence if this honor was accorded “ in the green tree,” what disposition or decision shall obtain at the present time, a full third of a century later, when we all exult in a unified American history, and wear one common chaplet for bravery and heroism? Are we not brothers? It seems to me that there should be few dissenting voices to the courteous proposal embodied in the bill before the Virginia Senate. The precedent which I instance should have tremendous weight in procuring a decision favorable to placing the Lee memorial in the Capitol hall of Statuary.’ [87]

To like effect are the words of President Roosevelt, uttered on the 9th of last April, the anniversary of Lee's surrender, at the Charleston Exposition, where he said: ‘We are now a united people; the wounds left by the great Civil War incomparably the greatest war of modern times, have healed, and its memories are now priceless heritages of honor, alike to the North and to the South. The devotion, the self-sacrifice, the steadfast resolution and lofty daring, the high devotion to the right as each man saw it, whether Northerner or Southerner, all these qualities of the men and women of the early sixties, now shine luminous and brilliant before our eyes, while the mists of anger and hatred that once dimmed them have passed away forever. All of us, North and South, can glory alike in the valor of the men who wore the blue, And the men who wore the gray.’

Mr. Roosevelt has also written such high praise of Lee, as a soldier, that none of his own followers can say more.

In his life of Thos. H. Benton, in the American Statesman Series, on page 34, are found these words:

The world has never seen better soldiers than those who followed Lee; and their leader will undoubtedly rank as without any exception the very greatest of all the great captains that the English speaking peoples have brought forth, and this although the last and chief of his antagonists may himself claim to stand as the full equal of Marlborough and Wellington.

It is not my intention at this time to discuss the rights or the wrongs of the great fraternal conflict in which Lee won his immortal fame. Those questions belong now to history, and any discussion of them hereafter must be wholly from the academic and not the practical standpoint. It may not be amiss, however, to call attention to the fact that the North already admits that the people of the South were honest in their contentions, and that they at least thought they were right. Furthermore, it is even conceded that the South was not without great support for its contentions from legal, moral and historical points of view. For instance, Professor Goldwin Smith, an Englishman, a distinguished historian, resident of, and sympathizing with the North during the Civil War, recently said: ‘Few who have looked into the history can doubt that the Union originally was, and was generally taken by the parties to it to be, a compact; dissoluble, perhaps most of them would have said, at pleasure, dissoluble certainly on breach of the articles of Union.’ [88]

To the same effect, but in even stronger terms, are the words of Mr. Henry Cabot Lodge, now a Senator from Massachusetts, who said in one of his historical works: ‘When the Constitution was adopted by the votes of States at Philadelphia, and accepted by the votes of States in popular conventions, it is safe to say that there was not a man in the country from Washington and Hamilton on the one side to George Clinton and George Mason on the other, who regarded the new system as anything but an experiment entered upon by the States and from which each and every State had the right peaceably to withdraw, a right which was very likely to be exercised.’

As far back as 1887, General Thomas C. Ewing, of Ohio, said in a speech in New York: ‘The North craves a living and lasting peace with the South; it asks no humiliating conditions; it recognizes the fact that the proximate cause of the war was the constitutional question of the right of secession—a question which, until it was settled by the war, had neither a right side nor a wrong side to it. Our forefathers in framing the Constitution purposely left the question unsettled; to have settled it distinctly in the Constitution would have been to prevent the formation of the Union of the thirteen States. They, therefore, committed that question to the future, and the war came on and settled it forever.’

And right here, let me say, that the South has accepted that settlement in good faith, and will forever abide by it as loyally as the North, although we will never admit that our people were wrong in making the contest.

This question was calmly and logically discussed by Mr. Charles Francis Adams in his speech delivered in Charleston, S. C., on December 23rd, last, when he said:

When the Federal Constitution was framed and adopted “an indestructible union of imperishable States,” what was the law of treason, to what or to whom in case of final issue did the average citizen owe allegiance? Was it to the Union or to his State? As a practical question, seeing things as they were then—sweeping aside all incontrovertible legal arguments and metaphysical disquisitions— I do not think the answer admits of doubt. If put in 1788, or indeed at any time anterior to 1825, the immediate reply of nine men out of ten in the Northern States, and of ninety-nine out of a hundred in the Southern States, would have been that, as between the Union and the State, ultimate allegiance was due to the State.

* * * * It was not a question of law or of the intent of the [89] fathers, or the true construction of a written instrument, for on that point the Constitution was silent—wisely—and as I hold it, intentionally silent.

In studying the history of that period we are again confronted by a condition and not a theory; but as I read the record, and understand the real facts of that now forgotten social and political existence, in case of direct and insoluble issue between sovereign State and sovereign Nation, between 1788 and 1861, every man was not only free to decide, but had to decide for himself; and whichever way he decided he was right. The Constitution gave him two masters. Both he could not serve; and the average man decided which to serve in the light of sentiment, tradition and environment. Of this I feel as historically confident as I feel of any fact not matter of absolute record or susceptible of demonstration.

Mr. Adams is himself a soldier and a gentleman, who shows himself worthy of the Presidential line from which he sprung, by his magnanimous appreciation of the valor and manhood of his former enemies. In another speech, delivered before the Phi Beta Kappa Society of the University of Chicago in June of last year,2 he effectually rebukes those who would apply to Lee the epithet of ‘traitor,’ and with merciless and faultless logic, demonstrates that if Lee was a traitor, ‘so also, and indisputably, were George Washington, Oliver Cromwell, John Hampden and William of Orange,’ and further, that the man who pursued Lee's course after the war ‘had not, could not have had in his whole being one drop of traitor's blood or conceived a treacherous thought.’

It is in this speech, which is entitled ‘Shall Cromwell have a Statue?’ that he proposes that the Federal Government shall provide a site for an equestrian statue of Lee in the city of Washington, and shows that the choice of Lee, when he put aside the temptations of ambition, place and power (being unreservedly tendered the command of the Union forces shortly afterwards held by General McDowell), and cast in his lot with his own people, his State, his kindred and his home, was the choice of a high-minded gentleman and loyal patriot. He then adds these words:

Whatever differences of opinion may exist as to the course of Lee when the choice was made, of Lee as a foe and the commander of an army, but one opinion can be entertained. Every inch a soldier, he was an opponent not less generous and humane than formidable, [90] a type of the highest martial character—cautious, magnanimous and bold, a very thunderbolt in war, he was self-contained in victory, but greatest in defeat. To that escutcheon attaches no stain.

To the chivalric and the noble of the North, to such men as he who wrote these words, the offering of Lee's statue to fill one of Virginia's places in that august assemblage of the Nation's great will cause no offense or bitterness, but rather the contrary, because to the Northern mind, to again use the words of that distinguished soldier and scholar, ‘It will typify the historical appreciation of all that goes to make up the loftiest type of character, military and civic, exemplified in an opponent once dreaded but ever respected; but above all, it will symbolize and commemorate that loyal accceptance of the consequences of defeat, and the patient upbuilding of a people under new conditions by constitutional means, which I hold to be the greatest educational lesson America has yet taught to a once skeptical but now silenced world.’

Furthermore, it will again illustrate the fact that the American people are one people, and, as in England, the white rose of York and the red rose of Lancaster are entwined together in fragrant garlands of fraternal love, and a statue of Cromwell stands in the yard of Westminster Hall, where his skull was once exposed to insult; as in Mexico, the statues of Viceroy, Emperor, Dictator, King and President all stand together, so may we, as citizens of a common country, unite in honoring the heroes of every section who have fought and suffered for what they deemed the right. Upon the same granite obelisk at Quebec are engraved the names of Wolfe and Montcalm, with this inscription: ‘Valor gave a united death; history a united fame; posterity a united monument,’ and in the hall of the Kremlin at Moscow there stands a grand statue of the great Napoleon. Surely, then, the statue of Robert E. Lee can stand in the Capitol of his own country without arousing rancorous or unkind feelings.

It is a remarkable fact, Mr. President, that, although nearly a month has elapsed since this bill was offered, and that during all that time it has been widely discussed, no representative man of the North has spoken against it. On the contrary, at least three Northern Republicans, who are as representative of Northern sentiment as any who can be selected, have expressed themselves in favor of it. Judge Crumpacker can hardly be called an enthusiastic friend of the South, and yet he has said that he sees no objection to this measure, and that ‘Lee is Virginia's son and it is for her to decide [91] this question as she sees fit.’ Senator Beveridge says he is inclined to favor the idea, and Senator C. M. Depew, of New York, unequivocally gives his approval, and says that when the Union side won, ‘the issue was accepted at once by the defeated side, and I think the placing of a statue of General Robert E. Lee in Statuary Hall would be an emphatic recognition of the fact that we are all now advocates of nationality and its perpetuity. I am heartily in favor of receiving the Lee statue.’3 So that while the North makes [92] no objection, it has been left for Virginians to suggest objections and to say that we are trying to place a statue of Lee ‘on Northern soil.’

Again, I ask, sir, whose country is this anyway, and whose Capitol is it in which we propose to place this statue? If any State more than another can claim both the country and Capitol for her own, that State is Virginia, since seven of the greatest States of the Union (not counting either of the Virginias) occupy ground once owned by her, but freely given to others for the general good. Is Virginia a conquered province, or an equal among her equals in the union of the States? Northern soil, indeed! Take away the part that Virginia has played in the foundation and upbuilding of this country, and its most glorious memories will be blotted out. When we think of the debt of gratitude which this country owes to Virginia it seems to me that we, as Virginians, ought indeed to feel that we are in ‘our father's house,’ and not talk or act as if the Federal government were a foreign power and we were in fear of straining international relations.

Forty years seems a long enough probation for Virginia to serve in order to prove her loyalty and devotion to the reunited country, especially when her sons have shown their willingness to shed their blood for it, and to my mind the time has come, if it is ever to come, when Virginia should realize and every other State should realize, as I believe they do, that in the Union no State has superior rights to hers, and that there is no reason why she should hesitate to claim her rights more than any other State. [93]

We are not trying to force the North to honor Lee. We could not if we would, and would not if we could, although we believe that the time will come when the North will honor him with one voice, but we are choosing Lee just as we choose Washington, and in so doing only exercise our legal right to choose those characters whom we consider best fitted to represent Virginia in a place where every other State may exercise the same privilege without complaint or objection from us, and where every State is supposed to send the two she deems her greatest and her best. If there be those who would deny us this right, then let them understand that they cannot do it without denying it to themselves.

No, Mr. President, there is no sectionalism in the proposition contained in this bill, and there should be no sectional prejudices aroused by its passage. Sectionalism belongs to the past, and we do not now propose to revive it, but simply to recognize and realize that it is dead and buried, and that reunion and reconciliation have taken its place. Reunion and Reconciliation—these are the watchwords now with us who would honor Lee's memory. Reunion and Reconciliation, with Peace and Friendship. The aspiration of Grant for peace has reached its fulfillment, and in spite of the feelings of enmity which may still exist in some ‘little hearts that know not how to forgive,’ I fondly and firmly believe that now to a greater degree than at any time in its history we have the spirit of peace in all our country's borders. Unless we have been deceived, the consummation for which Grady prayed has been reached, and we may truly see a nation ‘reunited in the bonds of love, loving from the Lakes to the Gulf, with the wounds of war healed in every heart and on every hill.’ Reunion and Reconciliation! Let who will stand against them, the stars in their courses are for them, and all the constellations in the heavens will twinkle when the statue of Lee goes to Washington, as Virginia's offering to the Union she helped to make and which she stands forever ready to defend!

I am one of the generation born since the war, but the son of one who faithfully followed the fortunes of Lee and his cause for four long years, and gloriously fought with him at Gettysburg, and speaking for the young men of Virginia I unhesitatingly declare that we have no bitterness in our hearts towards those who fought our fathers, and that to the government that survived the conflict we render loyalty and patriotic citizenship, holding it the freest, the grandest, the brightest and best of all the empires, kingdoms and republics upon which the sun looks down in his circuit through the heavens. We [94] breathe the spirit of the new South, of which Grady spoke, but still we cling to the memories and the glories of the old South; and we have no patience with those in a spirit of time-serving sycophancy would deny our heroes or say we are ashamed of the past. We feel, too, that if ever the South is to take the place in the Union which she is entitled it is upon the old South, that we are to build, the old South with its old courtesy, its old chivalry, its old reverence for woman, its old courage, its old patriotism, its old fortitude in trial, and its old spirit of pride in our history and in our people. Yes, I am proud to be a citizen of this great American republic, and I am true to my allegiance and faithful to my flag, but at the same time I am proud of the State of my birth, and the memories that surround her name, and I feel that a young Virginian who does not feel proud that he is sprung from a people who fought beneath a flag dishonor never touched, is false to his native land—aye false to the very stars that shine above her, and false to the God beyond them!

It is not my purpose to attempt a eulogium upon the character of Lee. That would indeed be a superfluous task, for already the great poets have sung him, and the great orators have praised him in words that shall never die, while all the nations of the world, as well as his followers and former foes, have acclaimed him as one of those who throughout all time shall be held supreme among the greatest sons of earth.

And yet I do desire to again give utterance to a thought which has often been expressed by lips far more eloquent than mine, and that, to give it in the felicitous language of another, is this:

That of the long list of glorious names which America has furnished to the history of the world, it was our Mother's fortune to furnish the two who lead that mighty band—the two characters that tower in complete and rounded stature over all their great compatriots, the Castor and Pollux of our nation's history, the “Great Twin brethren,” who will ride down the centuries leading the vanguard of our army of immortality—chiefs of the deathless host of patriots, soldiers, philosophers and statesmen, who put life to heroic uses and battled for noble ends, the two of this continent incomparable and unrivalled—George Washington and Robert E. Lee.

Both of them were ‘rebels.’ If one is to be condemned for it the other must be also, for there is no difference between them except that the rebellion in which Washington figured was successful, [95] while that led by Lee was not. Both of them had held commissions under the governments which they afterwards opposed. Washington won against the king under whose flag he had served, while Lee lost against the country whose battles he had fought. Each ‘went with his State’ when the time came when the choice had to be made, and the parallel between them is complete, except that one was victorious and the other vanquished. Is there cause then for crowning the one with laurel and the other with thorns? No—

—by the graves,
     Where martyed heroes rest,
He wins the most who honor saves,
     Success is not the test.

That is why, then, Mr. President, that I wish to see the statue of Lee by the side of that of Washington in Statuary Hall—because there are no two great characters in history so much alike as Washington and Lee, and because I want the world to know that Virginia gives these two noblest and best-beloved of all her sons equal honor and equal reverence, and points to them with greater pride than that of Cornelia when she pointed to the Gracchi and called them her jewels, and dares the world to match them. I want to see them together where Virginia can say to all her sister States:

“These are the two I furnish, produce their equals if you can!”4 [96]

To say that Lee needs no statue to honor him is quite beside the question. It is because he needs no statue that we want to give him one. If we gave monuments only to those who need them no one who is worthy of a monument would ever have one. Already have the people of the South built other monuments to Lee than the imperishable monument of their love, and now again Virginia desires to see her ‘snow-white chief’ stand forth in enduring bronze or monumental marble, not as in that peerless figure in Lexington, where he lies, ‘the flower of knighthood,’ with his eyes closed in peaceful, dreamless sleep, but erect and with the fire of battle in his eye—that fire which blazed in the fearless face of Arthur when in the midst of conflict Sir Lancelot saw him and knew him for the King.

It may be true that we cannot thus give additional honor to Lee, but if we cannot honor him we can at least honor ourselves. Old Carlyle said: ‘Who is to have a statue? means whom shall we consecrate and set apart as one of our sacred men. * * Show me that man you honor; I know by that symptom better than any other what kind of man you yourself are, for you show me there what your ideal of manhood is; what kind of a man you long inexpressibly to be, and would thank the gods, with your whole soul, for being if you could.’

No, we cannot, indeed, give more honor to Lee than is already his, but we can at least show to the world the kind of man we want to honor, and if we cannot honor him more it is only because, as Swinburne sang of Tennyson:

Far above us and all our love, beyond all reach of its voiceless praise,
Shines forever the name that never shall feel the shade of the changeful days,
Fall and chill the delight that still sees winter's light in it shine like May's.
Strong as death is the day's dark breath whose blast has withered the life we see,
Here where light is the child of night and less than visions or dreams are we;
Strong as death; but a word, a breath, a dream is stronger than death could be.
Strong as truth, and superb in youth eternal, fair as the sundawn's flame,
Seen when May on her first born day bids earth exult in her radiant name,
Lives, clothed around with its praise, and crowned with love that dies not, his lovelit fame.

To those who feared that the offering of the statue would arouse [97] bitter attacks upon the South in the North, it is a pleasure to be able to show that precisely the contrary has been the result. While it is true that a few G. A. R. camps have passed resolutions against it, the great number of expressions from representative men and newspapers in the North, not only of toleration, but of enthusiastic approval, have been so numerous and so cordial as to justify the conviction that the movement will be, as it was intended to be, of great moment toward strengthening the ties that bind the two great sections together in one great patriotic country in which sectionalism is lost in nationality. The discussions have been of such a nature as to elevate instead of depreciating the estimate of Lee's character in the North, for, instead of abuse and vituperation, have been uttered words of eulogy and of magnanimous appreciation of his great attributes. For my part, I have never shared in the apprehensions of those who feared that the proposal to send General Lee's statue to the Capitol would result in a tirade of abuse against him and the Southern people on the part of the North, but have always felt that Lee and the South had nothing to lose by discussion, and that the more the discussion, the more would his great character shine out against the background of disparagement, and the more would the world be brought to an appreciation of his greatness and the righteousness of the cause for which he fought. The result has already gone far to vindicate this conviction.

It is impossible, of course, to mention more than a few of the utterances of Northerners upon the proposition, but it is worth while to note that in all the discussion that has ensued not one Northern man or periodical of representative standing has taken ground against it. On the contrary, the comments of the Northern press, and of Northern men best qualified to voice Northern sentiment, have been notably of a most favorable nature.

Commenting on the Depew interview the New York World said:

Senator Depew measures up to the toga standard when he talks about the Lee statue.

After the bill had become a law, St. Clair McKelway, the famous editor of the Brooklyn Eagle, uttered a most eloquent eulogy upon Lee in Richmond, and his words were warmly endorsed by Mr. Hamilton W. Mabie and Dr. Lyman Abbott, the editors of The Outlook, and other prominent Northern men in attendance upon the Southern Educational Conference.

In its issue of July 11 (1903), The Outlook said editorially: [98]

‘It is hardly possible that any man in the North could have gone through the spiritual struggle that Robert E. Lee went through during the days when war was threatened. In the North those men that wavered were choosing between a low motive and a high one. Robert E. Lee was beset by two conflicting high motives. That he chose to follow that high motive which kept him with his State The Outlook believes to have been an error of political judgment; but it was not a moral error, not even an error of political morality. He who is loyal cannot be a traitor, and Lee and the men of his stamp were as loyal to their conscientious convictions as were the men who fought against them. The test of patriotism, like the test of any other moral quality is not success, but loyalty to conviction; and by that test Robert E. Lee stands to-day among the purest, though among the most tragically misled and misunderstood of patriots. * * * If willingness to sacrifice what is passionately prized next to honor itself is any criterion as to the degree of patriotism that begets such sacrifice, then those Southerners of whom Robert E. Lee is the type, are to be counted among the patriots whose lives constitute the real riches of the nation.’

Harper's Weekly said that it could thoroughly understand the motives which prompted the Virginia Legislature to pass the bill, calling Lee ‘a great and good man,’ and saying:

The conviction that his State had a right to secede if she chose, and that she having done so, it was his duty to uphold her, was shared not only by almost all the contemporary statesmen in the Southern States, but also by Josiah Quincy and many other New England statesmen in the first fifteen years of the nineteenth century. It will, therefore, be as impossible for the future American historian, however devoted to the Union he may be, to dispute the rectitude of Lee's motives, as it will be to belittle his military abilities.

In this connection it may be mentioned that the Springfield (Mass.) Republican, while thinking the time not yet ripe for the presentation of the statue, said, in commenting upon the fact, brought out by Mr. Charles Francis Adams in a footnote to his Charleston address, that the constitutional right of secession was taught in the textbook (Rawle's View of the Constitution), in use at West Point while Lee was a student there:

The question immediately arises whether the United States government had any just grievance against Robert E. Lee, when in [99] 1861 he put into practice the principles of constitutional law taught him as an officer in the United States army.

The Indianapolis Journal, an ultra-Republican paper, said:

It is clearly the right of Virginia to select the statue of Gen. Lee to represent that State in that Hall. No one has objected to the representation of other States by statues of the men selected, and no one should be so illiberal as to object to Virginia's choice.

The Chicago Tribune, another pronounced Republican paper, said in quite a lengthy editorial:

Let Virginia choose the dead she wishes to commemorate. If she honors Lee above all but Washington let her place his statue in the Capitol. He was a great and good man, although he stood by his State instead of the Union. The North as well as the South may take pride in this American for the purity of his life and his military genius.

The Washington Post copied this editorial, and added:

That is the broad-gauged American view, the intelligent and patriotic view. We believe that nine out of ten of all the men who actually fought for the Union will endorse that timely deliverance.

In the light of such utterances as these, how can any one doubt that by sending as one of her two perpetual ambassadors to Washington, the image of the man she loves and honors best, and who did more than any other to restore good feeling and acquiescence in the result of the war, Virginia reflects the greatest possible credit upon herself, and offers the finest possible pledge of her national patriotism and devotion to the Union?

Don P. Halsey. January 22, 1904.

[100] [From the Richmond, Va., News-Leader, July 27, 1903.]

1 The law on the subject was passed in 1864, and was introduced by Mr. Justin S. Morrill, of Vermont. To show that it was intended to apply equally to all the States and that there was no thought of excluding any or hampering any in making an absolutely free choice of representatives, may be quoted the language of Mr. Morrill himself, who said in a speech on the occasion when the statue of Lewis Cass was placed in the Hall in 1889:

We have much reason to expect the grand old hall will ere long be adorned by such notable figures, possibly, as would be that of Benton, from Missouri, or those of Charles Carroll and William Wirt, from Maryland; Lincoln and Douglas, from Illinois; Grimes, from Iowa; Morton and Hendricks, of Indiana; Webster, from New Hampshire; Macon, once styled ‘the last of the Romans,’ from North Carolina; Clay, from Kentucky; Calhoun, from South Carolina; William H. Crawford and George M. Troup, from Georgia; Austin and Sam Houston, from Texas, and Madison and Patrick Henry, from Virginia, with a long illustrious list of others easily to be mentioned, sufficient to show that our materials to make the hall nationally attractive are in no danger of being exhausted, but in some States may prove embarrassing from their abundance.

This truly representative hall, with its fraternal congress of the dead, who yet speak in marble and bronze, will tend to increase mutual respect, tend to knit us together as a homogeneous people, here united forever in a common tribute of high regard to Americans not unknown to fame, and designated and crowned by their respective States as worthy of national commemoration.

2 See Southern Historical Society Papers, Vol. XXX, pp. 1-33.

3 As illustrative of the real state of intelligent Northern sentiment may be cited the words of Dr. Albert Shaw, the editor of the Review of Reviews, who speaks for a large clientele of educated and conservative Northerners, and says in the June (1903) number of that well known periodical:

The recent session of the Virginia Legislature which made the appropriation to the Jamestown Exposition had been in session a long time, by reason of an extraordinary amount of business, necessitated by the new constitution. The provision of the constitution relating to corporations, taxation and a great many other important subjects required extensive revision of the statutes. The work seems, upon the whole, to have been well carried out. Incidentally, one of the enactments of the recent session provided for the placing in the rotunda of the Capitol of Washington a statue of Robert E. Lee. It will be remembered that the States are authorized to be represented at the Capitol by two of their most distinguished sons. Virginia has now decided upon Washington and Lee as her representatives.

Virginia's contribution of great men to the constructive period of the republic was, of course, unparalleled. To every one must occur promptly the names of Washington, Jefferson, Marshall and Madison. But the heart of Virginia goes out to Lee as to no other man that the State has ever produced. The selection of Lee for the rotunda at Washington caused some dissension, because there were those who felt that it might be misunderstood and criticised in the North; and they preferred that the name of Lee should not now be made a subject of controversy. It seemed to many, indeed, who have no prejudices, and who revere the character of Robert E. Lee, that the thirteen original States should be represented in the rotunda at Washington, not by their later heroes, but by earlier men, eminent in the forming of the Union. But there can be no just ground for finding fault with Virginia's choice. It would be a mistake to assume that the Virginia devotion to the memory of Robert E. Lee, which amounts almost to idolatry, is wholly or chiefly political in its nature and motive. It is not so much that Lee personates a movement or a cause, for he was not an original promoter or advocate of the secession movement. His place in the hearts of the men who knew him and of their descendants has to do with his personality and character. The tradition of Lee is that of a Christian gentleman of such rare blending of personal courage and genius for leadership with the most beautiful qualities of temperament and private character as to make him the very flower of American manhood. Robert E. Lee is regarded, in short, as the ultimate and final personal expression of the highest and finest ideals of public and private life that two centuries of Virginia civilization has evolved.

It is for reasons of this sort that Virginians wish to place a statue of Lee by the side of that of Washington in the rotunda of the national Capitol. In making this selection there is no thought in Virginia of belittling the greatness of Jefferson on the one hand or of giving offense on the other by recalling the terrible strife of forty years ago. Virginia has the good fortune to possess a sculptor equal to the work of designing the Lee statue. Mr. Edward Virginius Valentine knew him intimately, and made ample studies and notes while the great general was still living as president of what is now known as Washington and Lee University, after the close of the war. What is probably the finest recumbent statue in America marks the tomb of Lee, which adjoins the chapel of the University, at Lexington, and Mr. Valentine is the sculptor who created this masterly monument. We may be assured, therefore, of a notable Lee statue for the galaxy of great Americans in the national Capitol.

4 In a notable speech on Robert E. Lee, which he says was inspired by the action of the Virginia Legislature in declaring the purpose to present his statue to be placed in Statuary Hall, Judge Emory Speer, a distinguished and eloquent Georgian, says:

“Deny Lee a place by Washington! Ah, is it sure, if in the awful hour when the invading columns approached Virginia's soil, the winds of the Prophet had breathed upon the slain that they might live, caught from the wall at Mount Vernon by the reincarnated hand of the Father of his Country, the defensive blade of Washington would not have gleamed beside the sword of Lee? Repel then not, my country, the fervid love of thy sons who fought with Lee, and of the children of their loins. Their prowess thou hast seen on the hills of Santiago, on the waters of Luzon. In thy need the children of Grant have been and are brethren in arms of the kinsmen of Lee. Officers of his thou hast called to thy service in the highest places in peace and war. His comrades and his kinsmen wear thy swords. With joy his sword, too, leaped at thy command. The flowers of spring with equal hand thou wilt henceforth strew on graves of all thy dead. Why, then, repel his blameless name from thy immortals' scroll? Then honor him and in thy need on those who love him wilt thou not call in vain. And woe to the foe in press of battle when the soul of Lee shall fire their hearts and his bright sword shall point the charging columns of thy sons.”

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