Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 30.djvu/12
Southern Historical Society Papers.
been made of Arlington as a military cemetery, this proposal, involving, as it necessarily did, a removal of the dead, naturally led to warm debate. The proposition was one not to be considered. If a defect in the title of the government existed, it must in some way be cured, as subsequently it was cured. But I call attention to the debate because Charles Sumner, then a senator from Massachusetts, participated in it, using the following language: "Eloquent senators have already characterized the proposition and the traitor it seeks to commemorate. I am not disposed to speak of General Lee. It is enough to say he stands high in the catalogue of those who have imbrued their hands in their country's blood. I hand him over to the avenging pen of History." This was when Lee had been just two months dead; but, three-quarters of a century after the protector's skull had been removed from over the roof of Westminster Hall, Pope wrote, in similar spirit—
"See Cromwell, damn'd to everlasting fame;"
and, sixteen years later, four-fifths of a century after Cromwell's disentombment at Westminster and reburial at Tyburn, a period from the death of Lee equal to that which will have elapsed in 1950, Gray sang of the Stoke Pogis churchyard—
"Some mute, inglorious Milton here may rest,
Some Cromwell guiltless of his country's blood."
And now, a century and a half later, Cromwell's statue looms defiantly up in front of the Parliament House. When, therefore, an appeal is in such cases made to the "avenging pen of History," it is well to bear this instance in mind, while recalling, perchance, that other line of a greater than Pope, or Gray, or Sumner
"Thus the whirligig of time brings in his revenges."
Was Robert E. Lee a traitor? Technically, I think he was indisputably a traitor to the United States; for a traitor, as I under--
Was then Robert E. Lee a "traitor" was he also guilty of his "country's blood?" These questions I propose now to discuss. I am one of those who, in other days, was arrayed in the ranks which confronted Lee; one of those whom Lee baffled and beat, but who, finally, baffled and beat Lee. As one thus formerly lined up against him, these questions I propose to discuss in the calmer and cooler, and altogether more reasonable light which comes to most men, when a whole generation of the human race lies buried between them and the issues and actors upon which they undertake to pass.