Do Not Sit Idly By
By Matt Miller
One need not look far to stumble upon the anti-Confederate rhetoric from various journalists or history organizations. The Atlantic, The Root, or the ACWM (American Civil War Museum) are all prime examples. I’ve noticed they like to pick on someone in particular: General Robert E. Lee.
I recently came upon an article entitled Myths & Misunderstandings: Lee as a Slaveholder. The short piece is premised around an account by a Mr. Wesley Norris who claims Robert E. Lee himself gave out a brutal whipping to slaves who attempted to run away. After doing a bit of research it can be discovered that this historical tale was originally printed in a vehemently anti-slavery paper in 1866—7 years after the alleged incident occurred. Interestingly, there is no evidence whatsoever to back up this claim and there was never an attempt to interview the many supposed witnesses to the occurrence. A couple other accounts mention a whipping, but none of the stories line up with one another. While certain aspects of the story could be historically verified, the alleged whipping could not. In fact, there’s a body of evidence that contradicts what this account presents concerning General Lee’s character.
“I was raised by one of the greatest men in the world. There was never one born of a woman greater than Gen. Robert E. Lee, according to my judgment. All of his servants were set free ten years before the war, but all remained on the plantation until after the surrender." Reverend William Mac Lee, Robert E. Lee’s personal black body servant, stated the previous quote directly in his biography. Reverend William Lee was just one of dozens upon dozens of historical, verifiable accounts, from those all around the world—including many Northerners, who spoke about the outstanding character of Robert E. Lee. This biography was published years after the war when Lee was long-gone. Does anyone suppose the Reverend had any benefit to lying about his friend? Why would he say these things if he didn’t have an utmost respect for the General?
How shall the journalists and historians debunk and refute the countless accounts, from those both black and white, who had nothing but praise and admiration for Lee? Humility, Christian character, duty, honor, service, kindness, these are all attributes remarked upon when those who knew Lee spoke of his character. In fact, it appears Mr. Norris’s account is a minority view in a sea of positives, it makes one wonder if the Norris account wasn’t fabricated. Is it really that farfetched to believe that the same kind of folk who spun the lies of Uncle Toms Cabin, a fictional work presented as reality, would fabricate an account to denigrate the name of Robert E. Lee? These are all things to ponder.
Secondly, Lee did inherit slaves from his father-in-law’s estate which were finally released in 1862, a mere six months after the wills request. There could be multiple reasons why Lee may have not immediately set them free. One historical aspect anti-Southern historians forget to mention is that after the War Between the States many slaves chose to remain with the plantation family they previously served. This was because they were part of that family, but sometimes it was because they had no where else to go. During reconstruction many slaves who were suddenly set free had no means to support themselves—no working trade or skill. It's possible that Robert E. Lee’s strategy was no different, how can you justify releasing a people from your care who have no means to support themselves? Take for example the humane systems we’ve constructed which attempt to help convicts, homeless, or the mentally challenged. These institutions try to train people to live in the real world. Is it that unbelievable to suspect that Robert E. Lee may have kept them around until he knew they could support themselves? Is this not a justifiable, humane thing to do?
Of course, for attempting to refute claims and defend the good name of Robert E. Lee I will be called a racist. Make no mistake, it is titles such as these that were designed to shut down arguments and bolster up the accuser. It’s everywhere these days, and unsurprisingly blatant in the article which I previously referenced. “Alexander Stephens Cornerstone Speech” apparently tells-all about what the Confederacy is based upon, which they say is “white supremacy.”
These subjective historians forget to mention that both Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy, and Robert Toombs, another prominent Confederate leader, both gave similar speeches citing that the cornerstone of the Confederacy was something other than “white supremacy.” Do these not hold any historical ground? The real difference between their speeches and Mr. Stephens is that there are written copies. What the modern historians conceal is that Mr. Stephens speech was reported ad hoc by a journalist, which is the only piece of evidence. For the benefit of the doubt, let’s assume the Vice-President’s speech is true. And if that’s the case is the rhetoric of Stephen’s Cornerstone Speech any different than what was produced by Abraham Lincoln in his Lincoln-Douglas Debates where he literally says, on record, that whites are superior to blacks and that he never desires blacks to vote, much less have citizenship? That was the 16th President talking—let’s remove the Lincoln memorial!
People that write disparaging articles on Robert E. Lee are the same ones who blatantly tar and feather the reputation of one of America’s greatest political leaders and founders; Thomas Jefferson, who supposedly “impregnated one of his slaves.” This is what is preached on the tours at Monticello, incessantly. No matter he helped create one of the greatest political systems in the world. No matter he wrote the Declaration of Independence. No matter he was the President. No matter he was a brilliant man and a superb example of Americanism. He was a slave owner, therefore all else is out the window, he’s “evil.” To all those still eating up this lie, do a thorough research for yourself on Mr. Jefferson and his slaves. Most historians do not believe Thomas impregnated one of his slaves. The evidence more strongly suggests it was not him.
From Lee to Jefferson—from the Confederate flag to Betsy Ross, it doesn’t take much to discover that there’s a war on for our history, symbols, and culture. There’s no sugar coating about it, this is a war on Southern Christian America, and anyone who defends them. This Robert E. Lee article is a prime example. These are the same people praising Lincoln—but little do they know that the agenda isn’t just for Lee, its for every piece of history in our beloved society. Working man or woman, do you want every vestige of history and the heroes we hold sacred to be drug through the mud? Will you allow them to depreciate all the good which our founders and people have produced? We must not stand idly by as people with vile agendas steal, kill, and destroy our history and heroes.