The Finest American Who Ever Lived ?

Post any relevant material in regards to their great WISDOM. Quotes, papers, trials, arguments. Generally any topic that supports Freedom and Liberty.
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The Finest American Who Ever Lived ?

Post#1 » Mon Jan 19, 2009 9:40 pm

I can't help it. I still long for the Confederacy of the Founding Fathers. The South was the right side in the War for Southern Independence according to Constitutional principles. I've heard many times that might doesn't make right, but the War of Northern Agression was the exception to the rule. Us Sothrons are yet today suffering discrimination in many arenas. But, we keep the spirit of General Lee in our hearts, if not always in our deeds. The Union had no such gentleman in their ranks. Our statewide newspaper prints a picture of General Lee every year and every year there are letters to the editor that chastise the editor for continuing the racism contained in the sentiment (ignorantly). I consider the General the finest, most decent American who ever lived. The following are articles from the newspaper that are restricted, so I'm posting them in their entirety. They do this every year. Long live the South. ... -20090119/

A Lee Scrapbook

LEE’S FAREWELL TO HIS TROOPS General Order No. 9 Headquarters Army of Northern Virginia April 10, 1865

After four years of arduous service marked by unsurpassed courage and fortitude, the Army of Northern Virginia has been compelled to yield to overwhelming numbers and resources.

I need not tell the survivors of so many hard fought battles, who have remained steadfast to the last, that I have consented to this result from no distrust of them, but feeling that valour and devotion could accomplish nothing that could compensate for the loss that would have attended the continuation of the contest, I have determined to avoid the useless sacrifice of those whose past services have endeared them to their countrymen. By the terms of the agreement, officers and men can return to their homes and remain there until exchanged. You will take with you the satisfaction that proceeds from the consciousness of duty faithfully performed; and I earnestly pray that a merciful God will extend to you His blessings and protection. With an increasing admiration of your constancy and devotion to your country, and a grateful remembrance of your kind and generous consideration of myself, I bid you an affectionate farewell.


The forebearing use of power does not only form a touchstone, but the manner in which an individual enjoys certain advantages over others is a test of a true gentleman.

The power which the strong have over the weak, the employer over the employed, the educated over the unlettered, the experienced over the confiding, even the clever over the silly, the forebearing of inoffensive use of all this power or authority, or a total abstinence from it when the case admits it will show the gentleman in plain light . . . .


Here is how Robert E. Lee appeared to an entering freshman at Washington College, now Washington and Lee, which General Lee served as president after the War Between the States:

The morning after we reached Lexington we repaired to the office of General Lee for the purpose of matriculation and receiving instructions as to the duties devolving upon us as students. . . .

General Lee was alone, looking over a paper. He arose as we entered and received us with a quiet gentlemanly dignity that was so natural and easy and kind that the feeling of awe left me at the threshold of his door. General Lee had but one manner in his intercourse with men. It was the same to the peasant as to the prince . . . .

When we had registered, my brother asked the General for a copy of his rules. General Lee said, “Young gentlemen, we have no printed rules. We have but one rule here and it is that every student must be a gentleman.” I did not until after years fully realize the comprehensiveness of his remark and how completely it covered every essential rule that should govern the conduct and intercourse of men.

John B. Colyar


The shadow of Lee
A forgotten wholeness beyond today’s grasp

IT HAPPENS every January 19th, or rather shortly after our annual tribute to The General appears. There is always a letter or two from some wouldbe debunker who inevitably uses the word traitor. And for bad measure notes that Robert E. Lee wasn’t all that great a general, either, for he really should have done this or not done that at Gettysburg or Antietam.

Such letters are as sure to materialize as those that arrive shortly after our annual tribute to Abraham Lincoln appears every February 12th, and they just as inevitably use the word racist. Attached, often as not, is some gnostic version of history, maybe a whole pamphlet, explaining that The Great Emancipator actually emancipated no one, among his many other sins of commission and omission, always including his instigating the War of Northern Aggression.

If the genius of American politics is consensus, that unity arises out of churning currents of vitriol, each swelling up from the ocean of bitterness that every terrible war leaves behind. The tone of such letters, whatever their import, always brings to mind an entry in the diary of a Southern widow who had lost everything save honor in The War-husband, sons, her plantation and all other earthly possessions. In her emptiness, she held on to her one remaining, boundless satisfaction: to hate, hate, hate. And to write, which some say is the best revenge, forgetting to add the essential qualifier: To write well is the best revenge.

That is the only small detail missing from such letters: art. Specifically, the art that distinguishes history from ideology. Vico called it fantasia, the imaginative power of the great historian to transport himself utterly into the past, to see it as it saw itself, and know it as it knew itself, whole and unbent by our occluded perspective. And to write free of the prison called the present. (The historians’ term for this disability is presentism.)

Even in their own era, neither Lee nor Lincoln suffered from any shortage of critics, Northern or Southern, fire-eating secessionists or radical abolitionists.It was only with the passage of time, as each went from man to myth, that their greatness emerged, like a great mountain on the horizon rising ever closer as it is gradually approached. How different they were, these two. The guiding light of one was freedom, and the other honor, yet in this they were alike, indeed the same: Each steered by his own star, whatever the world might say.

IF THERE is a single instance of so many that captured the light Lee lived by-perhaps even more fully than his deeds in the field or the always resonant words of his farewell to the Army of Northern Virginia-it is the little-known order he issued as that storied army, perhaps the last appearance of a chivalrous host in Western history, prepared to make its final gamble against all odds, for the times had grown desperate, as times and war will.

Amidst all the turmoil, Lee remained serene as ever. Yes, he had heard the same rumors his troops had-rumors that would prove all too true-about what Yankee marauders were doing back in the South, his poor ravaged South. No wonder they were eager to take revenge on the towns and farms that lay naked and undefended before them just over the border in Pennsylvania.

Lee’s response to his restive army came in his General Order No. 73, issued from Chambersburg, Pa., on June 27 1863, reminding those under his command that “the duties expected of us by civilization and Christianity are not less obligatory in the country of the enemy than in our own.”

The order continued in the measured words that were the mark of the man: “The commanding general considers that no greater disgrace could befall the army, and through it our whole people, than the perpetration of the barbarous outrages upon the unarmed, and defenceless and the wanton destruction of private property that have marked the course of the enemy in our own country.” And he concluded as a Robert E. Lee would have to conclude:

“It must be remembered that we make war only upon armed men, and that we cannot take vengeance for the wrongs our people have suffered without lowering ourselves in the eyes of all whose abhorrence has been excited by the atrocities of our enemies, and offending against Him to whom vengeance belongeth, without whose favor and support our efforts must all prove in vain. The commanding general therefore earnestly exhorts the troops to abstain with most scrupulous care from unnecessary or wanton injury to private property, and he enjoins upon all officers to arrest and bring to summary punishment all who shall in any way offend against the orders on this subject. -R.E. Lee, General’’NO MORE needed to be said, and wasn’t. The general was nothing if not concise, in word and deed. In that military (and moral) order is all one needs to unravel the much discussed mystery of the man, for there is no mystery there at all, only wholeness.No wonder the jagged, disjointed present must struggle to understand him and then fail. For it requires fantasia for our generation to try to grasp such a figure.

In the end it is not his victories that elevate Lee. It is Lee who elevates his victories, and in the end elevates his defeat. He has emerged victorious over the very concepts of victory and defeat. It is his acceptance of all things with honor that makes the conventional meaning of victory and defeat inapplicable in his case. He was the same Lee after Chancellorsville as he was after Appomattox.

The historians who have tried to crack the alabaster memory that is Lee, and proudly unveil some complicated mechanism whirring deep inside have succeeded only in undermining their own theories. They keep running up against the serenity and simplicity of the man and the myth, and can’t be sure which is which.

Once fluency has replaced deliberation, and deconstruction supplanted simplicity, of course Lee would become a mystery. His motives seem inexplicable in this time because he explained them so simply in his own: duty, honor, country. And no, his country was not the South; it was Virginia-a concept surely beyond the mobile, modern bicoastal mind.

LEE’S WAS the code of the gentleman. But who now can remember what a gentleman was? Therefore we conclude that there was never really such a thing. There has to be some selfinterest in Lee, in the idea of a Lee, that we can surely find if only we just keep chipping away at the marble man. Shard by shard, we will yet explain him, until his spell lies shattered into a hundred different pieces before us. All we have to do is make him complicated, and start hammering away at where all the pieces join. And he’ll split apart.

Modernity, which is another name for the American experience, is incapable of seeing wholeness. And it is his wholeness that explains Lee’s emotion without sentimentality, his mythology without fictiveness. He was all of a piece. Maybe that is what mystifies us today.

Lee did not exult in victory or explain in defeat. At Chancellorsville, arguably the most brilliant victory ever achieved by an American commander, his thoughts seemed to be only of the wounded Jackson. As if he understood that losing Jackson would be to lose the war, that nothing would be the same afterward. At Appomattox, he was intent only on the best terms he could secure for his men. From beginning to end, as circumstances changed, he remained the same. And does yet.

If the South is more than only a geographic designation, if there is still a South worth preserving, it is because myth continues to shape her, and Southerners can still imagine what it is to be all of a piece.

When Flannery O’Connor was asked why Southerners seem to have a penchant for writing about freaks, she would say: Because in the South we are still able to recognize a freak when we see one. To do that, one must have some idea of what wholeness would be. In these latitudes that idea and ideal of wholeness has a name: Lee.


Two Southerners, one holiday
By Paul Greenberg

This is one of those years in which Robert E. Lee’s actual birthday falls on the date of the official observance of Martin Luther King Jr.’s. Ideally, that’s the way it ought to be. They belong together. Both, after all, were sons of the South, and came to represent her highest traditions: courage, duty, faith. Even if not all of us may see it that way. Some still insist that a choice must be made: King or Lee, black or white, one or the other.

But why assume the holiday must honor one or the other? Why not both? Because, of course, they are such different figures in American history. They lived in such different times and fought for such different things. Besides, their loudest admirers tend to resent sharing their hero’s day with another so different-or maybe with other, different Americans.

But if these two men were different, and they certainly were, they were different in the way twostriking threads might be in the same rich historical tapestry. There is nothing to prevent their being woven together in American mythology, and much to be gained.

To simple minds, myth is just something not true. To the more thoughtful, myth is something truer than fact. As in the Greek myths.

You can tell a lot about a people by the myths it has chosen to perpetuate, or combine. That we can observe the birthdays of both Robert E. Lee and Martin Luther King at the same time is a tribute to more than the curious coincidences of the calendar. When different Americans celebrate the same past, that is the surest sign we share the same future.

The ability of a King to rise above race, like the ability of a Lee to outlast the Lost Cause, is a tribute to the character of each. So long as both are heroes, there will be no segregated American future. History is powerless to break asunder what myth has joined.

Granted, it would be hard to imagine two more different types: One was a great general (some would say the greatest American general) and the other an apostle of nonviolence. One remains an alabaster knight, so far from the madding crowd as to be almost a political naif, and the other was a mass organizer and preacher, a politician extraordinaire who didn’t need public office to mobilize and change a nation; his arena was the national conscience.

Yet these two historical figures have much in common. Both were profoundly Southern, each in his own way. For example, both were talented rhetoricians, even if one preferred a stoic brevity and the other was at home in the rolling, repetitive cadences of the black church, which may be as close as our time can come to the spirit of the Psalms. Most telling, and most Southern, each followed a code of his own. Perhaps that is why both could be utterly serene in the midst of whirling confusion.

If one hero exalted duty and the other love, those can be different names for self-sacrifice. Both knewvictory and defeat, and neither defined those words as the world might. It might be said of their styles that one was aristocratic and the other plebeian, one Greek and the other Hebrew, one stoic and the other Christian. What a tribute to the varieties of Southern experience.

General Lee and Dr. King make a striking combination, like two sides of a single coin, but such combinations are not unusual in American history and myth. A country that can celebrate both Jefferson and Hamilton, Henry Clay and Andrew Jackson, Lincolnand Lee, Woodrow Wilson and Theodore

Roosevelt, FDR and Ronald Reagan . . .

already has proven that it can absorb the most unlikely combinations of heroes and their qualities.

What was it Jefferson said in his First Inaugural? “We are all Republicans-we are all Federalists.” Today we are all admirers of Robert E. Lee and followers of Martin Luther King. Or should be. Their virtues have proven not contradictory but complementary.

From time to unfortunate time, some will try to create a national identity on the basis of only certain, politically acceptable virtues. They cannot tolerate, much less celebrate, any others. Or they may dream of an American nationality on the European model of blood and iron, and exclude those who don’t meet some racial test. They will fail because they don’t understand that ours is a nation based not on blood but on an idea-or rather a grand, Whitmanesque kaleidoscope of ideas ever changing, forming, and combining, like wave after intersecting wave. The way the American language keeps changing.

The observance of King’s Birthday is still relatively recent, its combination with Lee’s still a piquant irony. But when both occasions cease to be official, artificial exercises, and become natural, universally accepted holidays, like Washington’s and Lincoln’s birthdays, or even Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July, then another part of the American tapestry will have been completed, another peace made with ourselves. And what once divided will unite. From old discords therewill emerge a single resplendent chord. From out of many, one.

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