Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 31.djvu/90

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page needs to be proofread.


82 Southern Historical Society Papers.

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 ' ' unrecon- structed" 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 ad- versaries, 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- tribula- tion 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 seces- sion 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, 1861, he used these words: "I can anticipate no greater calamity for the country than the dis- solution 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