If you’re a current subscriber, log in below. If you would like to subscribe, please click the subscribe tab above.
Username and Password Help
Special to the News
By John M. Taylor
In these Orwellian times it can be difficult to discern fact from fiction. One individual who has been falsely demonized is Robert E. Lee.
Having two family members who signed the Declaration of Independence, a father who was a Revolutionary War hero, being the only individual to attend West Point and never receive a single demerit, and being a devout Christian (Episcopalian), Lee is often demonized for his allegiance to the State of Virginia. As far-fetched as it sounds to “nationalists,” Lee considered Virginia his “country,” and once his home state voted to leave the Union, he felt duty-bound to follow.
Over time, many prominent individuals have expressed their opinions about Lee. President Dwight D. Eisenhower responded to an individual who questioned why he kept a picture of Lee in his office:
“General Robert E. Lee was, in my estimation, one of the supremely gifted men produced by our nation. He believed unswervingly in the constitutional validity of his cause which until 1865 was still an arguable question in America; he was a poised and inspiring leader, true to the high trust reposed in him by millions of his fellow citizens; he was thoughtful yet demanding of his officers and men, forbearing with captured enemies but ingenious, unrelenting and personally courageous in battle, and never disheartened by a reverse or obstacle. Through all his many trials, he remained selfless almost to a fault and unfailing in his faith in God. Taken altogether, he was noble as a leader and as a man, and unsullied as I read the pages of our history.
“From deep conviction…a nation of men of Lee’s calibre would be unconquerable in spirit and soul. Indeed, to the degree that present-day American youth will strive to emulate his rare qualities, including his devotion to this land as revealed in his painstaking efforts to help heal the nation’s wounds once the bitter struggle was over, we, in our own time of danger in a divided world, will be strengthened and our love of freedom sustained.”
President Theodore Roosevelt described Lee as “the very greatest of all the great captains that the English-speaking peoples have brought forth.” Lee’s grace in defeat helped “build the wonderful and mighty triumph of our national life, in which all his countrymen, north and south, share.”
Franklin Delano Roosevelt described Lee as “one of our greatest American Christians and one of our greatest American gentlemen.”
President John F. Kennedy said: “Robert E. Lee, a great son of the South, a great leader of the South – and I assume no modern day leader would question him or challenge him – Robert E. Lee counseled us well when he told us to cast off our animosities and raise our sons to be Americans.”
Winston Churchill said that “Lee was the noblest American who had ever lived and one of the greatest commanders known to the annals of war.”
Harry Truman referenced Lee as a “great man.” Truman also gave his mother a portrait of Lee and memorized one of Lee’s prayers.
President Gerald Ford said: “As a soldier, General Lee left his mark on military strategy. As a man, he stood as the symbol of valor and of duty. As an educator, he appealed to reason and learning to achieve understanding and to build a stronger nation. The course he chose after the war became a symbol to all those who had marched with him in the bitter years towards Appomattox.”
President Jimmy Carter said Lee “was a soldier whose affection for his home and family called him to a life of service that often meant hardship, loneliness and long separation from those he loved and even from the nation which he most loved.”
President Ronald Reagan referenced Lee as a “southerner who criticized secession and called slavery a great moral wrong” and who “would become himself an American legend.”
Carleton University (Canada) Professor Waller Newell described Lee as “a model gentleman, father and leader of youth in his private and post-war life.” He also described Lee as a “warm and loving,” but firm father who was “idolized” by his children. These characteristics transcended his family and extended to the students at Washington College, where he was loved and respected.
As Philosophy Professor Jack Kerwick noted, attacks on Lee are attacks on Christian Western Civilization. Indeed, if Christian gentlemen like Robert E. Lee are cast aside, what is the fate of the thousands of individuals who pale in comparison? A country that allows great men like Robert E. Lee to be demonized is a country on a fast train to oblivion.
Sources: Dwight D. Eisenhower in Defense of Robert E. Lee, August 10, 2014, Mathew W. Lively Blog Posts; Jack Kerwick, May 23, 2017, from Townhall.com.
Robert E. Lee’s birthday is January 19.