Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 29.djvu/101

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


Life ami Chan/Her <>f Robert E. La-. 85

and both cast behind them the most dazzling- prospects of power and preferment to accept a leadership which brought with it no material or resources commensurate with the strength against which they were arrayed. In the midst of difficulties for which there was no human remedy boch displayed a patient fortitude almost superhu- man. Both were of constant minds, of patient courage ; neither elated by success nor depressed by failure.

The parallel might be continued almost indefinitely. Indeed, one who saw Robert Lee in the ripe maturity of his powers, under cir- stances strongly if superficially suggestive of the earlier days of the American revolution, might not unnaturally have said : The mantle of Elijah hath fallen upon Elisha.

Reproduced as exactly as though recreated, were the poise and balance of moral and mental elements the same harmonious com- pleteness of practical talents the same predominant traits of tem- perament under the same stern control the same hand of steel under the glove of velvet the same patient devotion to duty for its own high sake the same fine sense of honor the same inflexible love of truth the same dignity of bearing, purity of conduct, lofti- ness of purpose and superiority to the cares of mere ambition.

Seldom has it been given to a State to give birth to two sons with such claims to immortality ! And that their gifts of genius and graces of character displayed so much of the kinship of resemblance, is but another illustration of the fact that true greatness has but one sure foundation and bears but one core in every age. It may wear a different form, but beneath the fashion of the day are the identical elements. The differences are apparent; the similarities are real. Methods of expression change; principles and rules of conduct are immutable. The Cid may never come again, nor Douglas, " in the same likeness that he wore"; but honor, patriotism, valor, never

die or but to speedy resurrection.

When the thoughtful boy in the widow's home at Alexandria came to that age when the fledgling longs to try his wings, his choice of a profession had perhaps been formed already by a process of which even he was unconscious. The diet upon which his mind was fed at a period when impressions are most easily made, was largely of a sort to turn his ardent heart towards a soldier's life. By this time we may be sure that he knew line upon line the story of those battles in which the power of Britain had been broken and the free-