Gen. Robert E. Lee: A Man Worth Remembering, Not Erasing

With the exception of Jesus Christ, we do not build monuments to perfect people. We don’t even build monuments to great people. We live on a small planet that circles a small star. None among us is great.

So, if none of us is great, why do we build monuments? The most memorable monuments — those most admired — we build in gratitude that God gave us someone who could and did lead us with some nobility.

In earlier times, those who supposed themselves great built monuments to themselves. Robert E. Lee however, was one of those who led with some nobility.

If monuments to Lee and other such were built in gratitude, why are these monuments being torn down? Gratitude requires humility. When our nation made the mistake of letting politicians educate its children, too many of those politicians, seeking to please everyone, including special interests, slowly took God out of our schools. Therefore, we have raised generations who refuse to see their own sinfulness, too many unwilling to forgive the sinfulness of previous generations.

Unless we have the humility to understand we too have sinned and need a Savior, we have difficulty forgiving a sin we do not want to believe we could commit. Therefore, too many now have trouble imagining how anyone could be grateful to Lee. Yet the children of people who knew him best built most of the monuments to Lee.

Oddly, gratitude to anyone, even God, requires humility. Until we realize our need, we cannot be grateful to anyone.

The Recovering Legalist

I don’t know where it went during the move, but I am not ashamed to admit that I used to have a 5×7 portrait of Gen. Robert E. Lee hanging in my office (and I’d like another). Robert E. Lee was more than just a Confederate General; he was a man of supreme moral character and a leader like few this world has ever seen.

Yet, today, his statue in Virginia – his home state for which he fought – has been torn down by people who have no appreciation for history or bigger men than them. Petty and pitiful men are convinced that the removal of Lee’s statue will move us “forward,” but without a beginning, a foundation, a starting place, a past, there is no moving forward; it’s nothing more than flailing in mid air.

Therefore, I want to share several quotes from the man so many hate…

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18 thoughts on “Gen. Robert E. Lee: A Man Worth Remembering, Not Erasing

  1. Example B: Dedication Speech by Charles Scott, May 10, 1906, University of Mississippi. It was reprinted in full in the Vicksburg Herald the next day under the headline “Mr Scott makes splendid speech” and introduced as “It was in every way a rare literary gem and was listened to with an unusual degree of interest by those present.”

    Click to access The_Vicksburg_Herald_Fri__May_11__1906.pdf

    Excerpt follows:

    There was a time, I grant you, during the nightmare called the reconstruction, when these men boldly, aggressively and intentionally overrode the letter of the law that they might maintain the spirit of the law and preserve Anglo Saxon civilization as a priceless heritage for their children’s children and for the benefit of our common country, the people of the north as well as the people of the south. Indeed, do you know that I regard this act as the crowning glory of the Confederate soldier. It overshadows all his brilliant victories on the field of battle. It entitles him to lasting gratitude of the civilized world, and mark my prediction, the time will come as forshaddowed by many things, notably by the recent utterance on the race question of the great American, already mentioned, Charles Francis Adams, in the last number of the Century Magazine, when our brethren of the north will see this grave question as we see it, and thereafter for this one act alone the memory of the Confederate soldier will be reverenced by the north as it is already loved and revered by all the people of the south.

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    1. @marmoewp

      One time won’t be enough. To ensure none of the vermin called human beings survive to further desecrate Creation, the perfect must nuke the entire planet ten times until nothing remains save a glassy plain pockmarked with craters.

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  2. It may be worthwhile, to go back to the actual dedication speeches, to understand the spirit in which the monuments were put up. A few have been recovered from old newspapers. The examples are not about Robert E. Lee statues, but memorials to Confederate soldiers.

    Example A: Julian Carr’s Speech at the Dedication of Silent Sam, “Unveiling of Confederate Monument at University. June 2, 1913”, at the University of North Carolina. (https://hgreen.people.ua.edu/transcription-carr-speech.html) The rest of this comment is an excerpt:

    This beautiful memorial is unique in one aspect. I have participated at the unveiling of several Confederate monuments, and have intimate knowledge of a great many more, but this is the first and only one in which the living survivors have been distinctly mentioned and remembered, and in the distinguished presence I desire to thank that Daughters of the Confederacy, in the name of the living Confederate students, for their beautiful and timely thoughtfulness.

    The duty due to our dear Southland, and the conspicuous service rendered, did not end at Appomatox[sic]. The four years immediately following the four years of bloody carnage, brought their responsibilities hardly of less consequence than those for which the South laid upon the altar of her country 74,524 of her brave and loyal sons dead from disease, a grand total of 133,821.

    It is true that the snows of winter which never melt, crown our temples, and we realize that we are living in the twilight zone; that it requires no unusual strain to hear the sounds of the tides as they roll and break upon the other shore, “The watch-dog’s bark his deep bay mouth welcome as we draw near home”, breaks upon our ears—makes it doubly sweet to know that we have been remembered in the erection of this beautiful memorial. The present generation, I am persuaded, scarcely takes note of what the Confederate soldier meant to the welfare of the Anglo Saxon race during the four years immediately succeeding the war, when the facts are, that their courage and steadfastness saved the very life of the Anglo Saxon race in the South – When “the bottom rail was on top” all over the Southern states, and to-day, as a consequence the purest strain of the Anglo Saxon is to be found in the 13 Southern States – Praise God.

    I trust I may be pardoned for one allusion, howbeit it is rather personal. One hundred yards from where we stand, less than ninety days perhaps after my return from Appomattox, I horse-whipped a negro wench until her skirts hung in shreds, because upon the streets of this quiet village she had publicly insulted and maligned a Southern lady, and then rushed for protection to these University buildings where was stationed a garrison of 100 Federal soldiers. I performed the pleasing duty in the immediate presence of the entire garrison, and for thirty nights afterwards slept with a double-barrel shot gun under my head.

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    1. @marmoewp

      Somebody said something somewhere. That makes the entire human race awful and unsalvageable. The only solution is to carpet the planet with the explosion of nuclear bombs. So say the perfect.

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      1. Silent Sam is one of the statues recently torn down, one of those statues whose destruction you have repeatedly lamented on this blog. The speakers were selected and invited as guests of honor, and the speeches were well received and lauded by the general public. The speeches speak to the spirit of the gratitude and the humility in which they were erected, it is this gratitude and humility of the people you praise in this very post.

        You do know, that I come from a country with an outstanding genocide on its record. After WWII people generally avoided thinking about the past and their own role in it and just wanted to look forward. It took the student generation the late 1960s in West Germany, along with their protests, to really start a discussion in society and make the people actually face the crimes the German people has committed. It was a painful process, but today’s Germany is a better Germany for it, in my opinion. Obviously not everybody shares this opinion, otherwise we would not have large numbers of right-wing extremists and neo-nazis that we still have today. And yes, of course, unwillingness to learn from history is not limited to just one side of the political spectrum, the extreme left suffers from the same. Nevermind, that any decent person ought to share my opinion.

        Coming back to statues and monuments, we do have memorials for the dead of both world wars in Germany, most of them on cemetries. The dead are not commemorated for their heroic deeds or galantry, nor for the cause they were fighting for, but simply for being the fathers, husbands and sons lost to their families. And we have memorials for the Shoa, which I regretfully have to observe, are being vandalized quite frequently.

        I do see the human race neither as awful, nor as unsalvagable. However, I do think it is our duty to remember the past and learn from it, rather than make up a cosy phantasy and call it history and wrap it around our shoulders in pride. Facing history hopefully teaches one to be vigilant for the present and future. After all, almost everything starts with sombody saying something somewhere.

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          1. @marmoewp

            I think you are trying to say something, but what? Who are you quoting?

            Anyway, I think I beat you to the sarcasm. Should I have tagged it? Didn’t know I could. Still, sarcasm is like a joke. If you have to explain it, it has fallen flat.

            Since you introduced the topic, here is an observation. Once we insist that any decent person must share our opinion we had better have a good, solid, indisputable reason reason for that belief. Otherwise, we have just given ourselves an excuse bully or destroy our opponents. When you see pictures of rioters destroying and defacing monuments, that is their excuse, “any decent person ought to share my opinion.” Using the same rationale, the Black Lives Matters and Antifa crowd is rioting, hurting and killing people, and destroy both public and private property.

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          2. @Tom

            Yes, the sarcasm bit fell flat. I am aware, that thinking “I am the only one getting things right and everyone must agree with me” is a very attractive trap, just like “if everybody did as I say, the world would be a better place”, and that’s what I wanted to express.

            The reason I offered the two examples of dedication speeches is your premise in this post, that the monuments were erected predominantly to honor the dead for their valor and nobility. Given the speeches, I would think you are overlooking important aspects of what the memorials were meant to convey to the general public. Namely, that the South may have lost the battles, but was morally on the right side of the war, and that the “Saxon heritage” must be preserved against the Blacks. Keep in mind, that the speeches were given to large parts of the white population in the expectation of meeting approval, and approval they got.

            The people at those dedications – either as orator or cheering crowd – made it quite clear, what they were honoring, and I do not think gratitude to have had noble leaders was the main point. I agree with you that as Christians we are commanded, to honor our parents, and our ancestors by extension. I disagree, that we honor them by ignoring evil, when evil was what they have done or have advocated for. At the same time I presume, that the large majority of these people, that I today denunciate for their support of racism, were loving and caring parents to their children, and should be cherished for that aspect of their life by their descendents.

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          3. Yes, I am generalizing from two contemporary, well-received speeches and contemporary news reports.

            “If monuments to Lee and other such were built in gratitude, why are these monuments being torn down?”

            Soooo, how about you? What do your base your premise on, that all / the majority of those memorials were dedicated in gratitude to God for giving them a leader with some nobility? In my examples, I fail to see that gratitude.

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        1. @marmoewp

          There is only one man who was perfect.

          We each have the task of accepting our own sinfulness and confessing our own sins. Confessing the sins of our mothers, fathers, all those who preceded us does not do either them or us any good. It most certainly does not honor either our parents or our more distant ancestors.

          The Democratic Party has set out to bury the past, especially its own past. Initially, that party set out to cast down the Confederate monuments. Since the Democratic Party backed slavery and later the Jim Crow laws, the vast majority of those monuments memorialized Democrats. When Republicans observed as much and humorously suggested disbanding the Democratic Party, the radicals started tearing down other monuments using almost any excuse.

          Prohibitions against slavery and against discrimination based race, sex, and creed are relatively new concepts, and we still don’t agree upon what exactly we should prohibit. If we are going to condemn the memory of people who did not meet standards that did not even exist in their day, then we will find precious few able to meet our standards, not even ourselves.

          Monuments exist to memorialize the people who formed the present. We keep them to remember and be grateful for the good and to sorrow over and fear repeating the bad.

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  3. Tom,
    The present statue issues occurring in the USA reminds me of another King Solomon observation repeating again.

    Also, I can remember the times in life when I was a hero in the eyes of some only t later change as a bum to others over time.

    No one remembers the former generations, and even those yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow them. (Ecclesiastes 1:11)

    Sadly, it appears in the eyes of many in our contemporary times that the statues are going to experience both King Solomon’s and my remembrances in life.

    Oh well, perhaps you can relate the same experiences in your life? After all nothing new ever seems to change under the sun when it comes to human madness and folly as recorded in history, or ever will unless we wise up, in my opinion.

    Regards and goodwill blogging.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What’s going on has little to do with Confederate racism. It’s political thuggery to create hatred, division, and anarchy. All you need to see are stories like the statue of Black abolitionist Frederick Douglass that was torn down and dump in a river in Rochester, N.Y.! The Marxist BLM organization has even talked of removing the Lincoln Memorial if they get their way. These people are domestic terrorists.

    “Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped.” (1984, George Orwell)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. @Mel Wild

      Spot on! What is sad is that groups like Black Lives Matter and Antifa have at least the tacit if not the explicit support of the Democratic Party.

      For all practical purposes, one of our major political parties is trying wreck our Constitution, and most of the elected officials in the other party are not putting up much of a fight.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Absolutely. There is a long history of socialist and Marxist hatred for the constitution, especially, among these radical groups.

        Btw, I watched Larry Elder’s documentary movie, “Uncle Tom” last night. It’s quite an eye-opener! It will shock you even if you knew a lot about what’s been going on with the radical left. Every American should watch this movie if they care about the truth behind these movements. The truth is, we’ve been lied to for the last 50 years and it’s hurt Black Americans the most.
        https://uncletom.com/

        Liked by 2 people

    1. @Doug

      Kindly? A combat general? In a bloody war? Yeah! I think he buried too many young men too have been thought of as kind. Still, he was brave, and his men were proud to call him their general.

      Think about my comment. Think about the effort to destroy the reputations of the confederate generals, the founders, the explorers, and so forth. It stems from a haughty, judging, pride.

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