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 Posted: Mon Jun 14th, 2010 06:34 pm
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Texas Defender

Joined: Sat Jan 27th, 2007
Location: Texas USA
Posts: 907

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  Making assumptions seems to be what you are about. Colonel Lee at this time was assigned to the 2nd U.S. Cavalry stationed in Texas. In 1857, his father-in-law died, and as he was executor of the estate, Lee had to take an extended leave from the Army to restore the fortunes of the estate at Arlington.

  When the Harper's Ferry raid took place, Lee, being in the general area, was called in and told to retake the arsenal. He was given a contingent of Marines to accomplish the task. These men would not normally have ever been under his command. Lee did not run to WDC and ask to be sent.  He was given orders to recapture the arsenal, and if he was eager to do anything, it was to do his duty. A quote attributed to him is: "Duty is the most sublime word in our language."

  As for John Brown, he wasn't there to negotiate anything. His mission, as he saw it, was to capture arms from the federal arsenal and use them to arm slaves and precipitate a giant slave revolt. On the way, he clearly demonstrated that he was willing to kill citizens and take hostages. At Harper's Ferry, this resulted in skirmishes between Brown's men and private citizens and militia groups of Virginia before the federal troops arrived.

  Here is an account of the raid:

John Brown's Raid

  As for Robert E. Lee's views on slavery, I would take a passage from a letter that he wrote to his wife in 1856:

  "In this enlightened age, there are few, I believe, but will acknowledge, that slavery as an institution, is a moral and political evil in any country. It is useless to expatiate on its disadvantages. I think it however, a greater evil to the white man than the black race, and while my feelings are strongly enlisted on behalf of the latter, my sympathies are more strong for the former. The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially, and physically. The painful discipline they are undergoing is necessary for their instruction as a race, and I hope will prepare and lead them to better things. How long their subjugation may be necessary is known and ordered by a wise Merciful Providence."

- ROBERT E. LEE: A BIOGRAPHY, Douglas Freeman, 1934, p.372.

  Thus, it can be said that while Lee was not an abolitionist, he did view slavery as an evil institution, and looked forward to its eventual end. In these views, I believe that he was less: "Conservative" than most of his generation.

  I do not know of any writings in which Lee stated whether or not he considered blacks to be inferior biologically. However, it can maintained that Abraham Lincoln did not consider the black man to be his equal. He was of the opinion that the two races would never be able to live together on equal terms.  (And he favored the resettlement of blacks to places such as Central America). Quoting from the Lincoln- Douglas debates:

  "I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together in terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together, there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I, as much as any other man, am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race."

The Great Emancipator Abraham Lincoln and the Issue of Race

  In the end, both Lee and Lincoln were the products of their time and the society they were a part of. Those who insist on trying to apply 21st century values to the 19th century are, in my view, engaging in a foolish enterprise.

Last edited on Mon Jun 14th, 2010 06:56 pm by Texas Defender

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