Remembering General Robert E. Lee#039;s 193rd birthday
Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 2, 2000
(Ed. notes: The editorial material that
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was lifted from The Washington Times on the occasion
of Gen. Robert E. Lee's 189th
Appearing previously in the Advocate
on January 21st, 1996, it is just as applicable
as it was four years ago.)
by Richard T. Hines
Vice President, Commonwealth Foundation.
Today is the 189th anniversary of the birth of Robert E. Lee in Westmoreland County, Va.
Not many years ago, in Washington and throughout the country the date was observed with solemn but joyful ceremony.
Senators in morning coats
came to Statuary Hall to lay wreaths before Lee's statue.
Schoolchildren recited in unison the General's moving "Farewell Address" to his army.
Many thousands of ordinary
in the cold at one of the hundreds
of Confederate monuments throughout the South to participate in pious services of patriotic and religious
Now, the day largely
Lee was a common hero
of all Americans, along with other Virginians
like Washington and Jefferson.
A few years ago, I read that Lee still regularly
up on the list of the ten persons most admired by American high school students.
This is astounding, given the deliberate miseducation that many schools
At best, Lee has suffered from mere neglect
at the hands of those who dictate our current social and cultural standards.
Indeed as Lynne Cheney, former head of the National Endowment of the Humanities has pointed out, the proposed standards of the high school American
curriculum do not even mention his name.
Lee is the model of strict but modest virtue that is the goal of every Christian saint, and before them, the "virtuous
pagans" like Cicero
Despite the efforts of the debunkers
distort the record, Lee remains
of all the personal virtues.
I think that the General would be extremely
to know that his character
or career could ever be the subject of public
He was not
driven by ambition, but impelled by a sense of duty.
Indeed, in one of his
famous sayings, he observed that "duty" was the most sublime word in the language.
After the war, when Lee was a figure of veneration, babies
were often brought
to be presented to him, as if to receive a blessing
from a saint.
After brushing the hair and touching the cheek of one such child, Lee looked at the mother and said, "Teach him he must deny
These terms, when
they are understood at all, have an almost
For ours is an age of many
celebrities, but few heroes; many
politicians, but few statesmen; much moralizing, but
little morality; much wealth, but little worth.
Yet, if America
is to survive as a civilization, we must recover the lost personal virtues exemplified by Robert E. Lee.
And if we are to survive as a free people, we must
recover those principles of the founding fathers for which he was foremost military champion.
Perhaps the most succinct
epitaph for Lee was offered by Senator Benjamin
J. Hill of Georgia.
"He was a
hate and a friend without treachery, a soldier without cruelty and a victim without murmuring .
He was a public officer without vices, a private
wrong, a neighbor
reproach, a Christian without hypocrisy, and a man without guile.
He was Caesar without
his ambition, Frederick without his tyranny, Napoleon without his selfishness, and Washington without his reward."