though suggested by General Custis Lee and Captain McCabe, and affirmed by Pr. Jones, must, I think, be rejected.
We have now seen the evidence tending to show that General Lee did not write The Duty Letter; and with this, perhaps, the discussion might close. But the question presses, if General Lee did not write The Duty Letter, who did? Somebody wrote it. What was his motive?
This is the region of conjecture, but I believe proper inferences from known facts will disclose both the forger and his motive.The Duty Letter was published, as has been stated, in the New York Sun, November 26, 1864, with this introduction, written by the forger, or else by the editor on information supplied by him: "The original of the following private letter, from General Lee to his son, was found at Arlington House, and is interesting as illustrating a phase in his character." Now, it is rare that a lie is all a lie; usually it has some basis of truth. In this case, while no letter of General Lee was "found at Arlington House" of which The Duty Letter was a true copy, yet letters of General Lee were found there which suggested the literary imposture (for that is all it was), furnished the topics discussed, and served as models of General Lee's sententious and aphoristic style, otherwise unknown to the fabricator. This assumes (1)
- It is manifest that the objections to the genuineness of the residue of The Duty Letter (after rejecting the first two sentences as "not written by General Lee") which have been stated in discussing The Editorial Emendation Theory, apply equally to The Compilation Theory, and need not be repeated here.
It may be remarked that Dr. Jones who in his "Personal Reminiscences," published in 1874, pronounced (p. 133) The Duty Letter "unquestionably spurious," (with the statement, however, that the Duty Sentence "did occur in a letter to his son"), in his second book, "Life and Letters," published in 1906, adopts (p. 436) The Compilation Theory to the fullest extent. (See the extract quoted above). It is probable that before publishing the second book he had written to General Custis Lee, and received an answer similar to that to the writer from which the above quotation is made. This is indicated by the close resemblance between the expression "as suited the compiler's fancy," in General Lee's letter to the writer, and the expression "to his taste," used by Dr. Jones.