Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 17.djvu/380
372 Southern Historical Society Papers,
was, therefore, not subject to arrest. Another grand jury was sum- moned and a bill was presented against me alone and amended by inserting specifications of overt acts. General Lee was summoned as a witness before that grand jury, the object being to prove by him that I was responsible for certain things done by him during the war. I was in Richmond, having been released by virtue of the writ of habeas corpus. General Lee met me very soon after having given his testimony before the grand jury, and told me that to the inquiry whether he had not, in the specified cases, acted under my orders, he said that he had always consulted me when he had the opportunity, both on the field and elsewhere ; that after discussion, if not before, we had always agreed, and therefore he had done with my consent and approval only what he might have done if he had not consulted me, and that he accepted the full responsibility for his acts. He said he had endeavored to present the matter as distinctly as he could, and looked up to see what effect he was producing upon the grand jury. Immediately before him sat a big black negro, whose head had fallen back on the rail of the bench he sat on ; his mouth was wide open, and he was fast asleep. General Lee pleasantly added that, if he had had any vanity as an orator, it would have received a rude check.
The evident purpose was to offer to Lee a chance to escape by transferring to me the responsibility for overt acts. Not only to repel the suggestion, but unequivocally to avow his individual respon- sibility, with all that, under existing circumstances, was implied in this, was the highest reach of moral courage and gentlemanly pride. Those circumstances were exceptionally perilous to him. He had been indicted for treason; the United States President had vindic- tively threatened to make treason odious ; the dregs of society had been thrown to the surface ; judicial seats were held by political ad- venturers; the United States judge of the Virginia district had answered to a committee of Congress that he could pack a jury so as to convict Davis or Lee — and it was under such surroundings that he met the grand jury and testified as stated above. Arbitrary power might pervert justice and trample on right, but could not turn the knightly Lee from the path of honor and truth.
Descended from a long line of illustrious warriors and statesmen, Robert Edward Lee added new glory to the name he bore, and, whether measured by a martial or an intellectual standard, will com- pare favorably with those whose reputation it devolved upon him to
sustain and emulate.