Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 40.djvu/125

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
121
The Forged Letter of General Lee.

dote which constitutes the last paragraph. Yet it is in that paragraph that the often quoted phrase (Duty, then, is the sublimest word in our language) occurs. . . . . . But did he say, 'Duty is the sublimest word in the language? I would give a great deal to know, and that is why I am so much interested in the authenticity of this letter."

In an earlier letter to the writer, dated July 13, 1913, Dr. Bradford says: "The sublimest word passage, however, seems to me decidedly characteristic (of Lee), both positively and negatively; for I should not myself be ready to say that duty was the sublimest word in our language. As for the remainder of the forged letter, I could never feel that the somewhat melodramatic conclusion was quite like Lee." And in a letter published in the Boston Transcript, February 28, 1913, Dr. Bradford says of The Duty Letter: "I suppose that, in spite of all protest, this document which rather libels Lee in its excess of preachmen will go down to future generations with the Cherry Tree Story of Washington."

In addition to the expert testimony, unfavorable to the authenticity of The Duty Letter from the standpoint of its style, I now desire to call attention to some specific objections based on its contents.

(a.) It is dated from "Arlington House, April 5, 1852," and represents General Lee as "just in the act of leaving home." At that time General Lee's home was in Baltimore, not at Arlington. He removed to West Point, as Superintendent of the United States Military Academy, on September 1, 1852. He remained at West Point until April 3, 1855, when he closed his connection with the Military Academy. On April 2, 1855, he wrote to Albert Sidney Johnston, Colonel of the Second Cavalry, Louisville, Ky., and stated, "my address will be Arlington, near Alexandria." All of the above facts are shown by General Lee's letters.

(b.) The Duty Letter is dated from "Arlington House." In no undisputed letter by General Lee does he write "Arlington House." Usually he wrote "Arlington, Virginia," but sometimes added "near Alexandria," as in the letter to Colonel Johns-