Amidst the 3-week craze spreading across the nation promoting the demolition, destruction, and/or removal of any public statues of Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis, it would be prudent to mention some historical facts. These notations will likely not show up in the New York Times or the Washington Post, or on CNN.
There is no excuse or rationale for slavery, and it is clear that the focal point of the secession and subsequent civil war was African American slavery. States’ rights was also relevant and extremely contested, however in the end the #1 reason why the southern states were fighting was to continue its type of economy.
That said, the persons of R.E.L. and J.D. were not the second coming of Adolph Hitler or Idi Amin, et al. As may be shown from the following:
Regarding General Robert E. Lee-
- General Lee, according to nearly every military ranking, is deemed to be in the top 5 or 6 generals in American history. Most “experts” believe he was slightly more skilled and adept than his counterpart, U.S. Grant.
- President Gerald Ford restored the U.S. citizenship of Robert E. Lee in 1976, saying “General Lee’s character has been an example to succeeding generations, making the restoration of his citizenship an event in which every American can take pride,”.
- Lee served as the president of Washington College in Virginia, from 1865 to 1870.
- Lee regularly expelled white students from Washington College for physical attacks on local black men, and he publicly urged respect for law and order. Also, in 1869–70 he was a leader in some successful efforts to begin state-funded schools for African Americans.
- After the surrender and the end of the Civil War, General Lee was not arrested or punished.
Regarding (President) Jefferson Davis-
- President Jimmy Carter (D) and the U.S. Congress (1978) restored the U.S. citizenship of Jefferson Davis. In doing so, President Carter declared, “He had served the United States long and honorably as a soldier, Member of the U.S. House and Senate, and as Secretary of War. General Robert E. Lee’s citizenship was restored in 1976. It is fitting that Jefferson Davis should no longer be singled out for punishment. Our Nation needs to clear away the guilts and enmities and recriminations of the past, to finally set at rest the divisions that threatened to destroy our Nation,”.
- While Davis was imprisoned for about 2 years, after being arrested for treason, he was never tried- and was then released.
- Horace Greeley, the founder and chief editor of the acclaimed and influential “New York Tribune” newspaper wrote on Nov. 9, 1866 (while Davis had been in U.S. prison for about 1 ½ years) that Davis should be immediately released from prison.
- President Franklin Pierce, who had been U.S. President just 4 years prior to the Civil War, continued to be very close friends with Davis. As soon as Davis was released from prison, President Pierce invited Davis and Davis’ family to stay at Pierce’s family cottage in NH for 6 weeks (in order to relax and get out of the limelight).
- His post-prison period was relevant and positive. In 1869 he became the president of the Carolina Life Insurance Company. Shortly after he declined the offer to become the first president of what is now known as Texas A&M University. In 1875 the residents of Mississippi elected him (again) to the U.S. Senate (he was rejected by the federal government and wasn’t allowed to take office).
- At a reception held in New Orleans in May 1887, Davis urged southerners to be loyal to the U.S.A. He said, “United you are now, and if the Union is ever to be broken, let the other side break it,”.
Both men were flawed, and their side during the lead-up to the war and during the conflict was wrong- in regards to the encouragement of enslaving other people. But does this fact validate the defacement and destruction of dozens of their statues across several States?
The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by EagleRising.com