Thursday, January 19, 2006

Robert E. Lee

If you rely on the mainstream media for your news, you probably do not know that January 19, is the 199th anniversary of the birth of Robert E. Lee. Nor would you know that numerous celebrations will be held to honor the General on that day. I am not sure why the mainstream media ignores Lee. It is certainly not because he isn’t newsworthy. Lee is immensely popular not only throughout America but also in Europe. And when any organization compiles a listing of famous Americans, General Lee is always ranked near the top. During the War Between the States and continuing into the years following the War, Lee was frequently the subject of articles by journalists and editors. These men often sought his opinion regarding affairs of state. General Lee spoke for many of us in this statement contained in his January 5, 1866, letter to New York editor, C. Chauncey Burr: "All the South has ever desired was that the Union, as established by our forefathers, should be preserved, and that the government, as originally organized, should be administered in purity and truth." (emphasis added)Today, the government that Lee described no longer exists, but when the General made his comments many mistakenly believed that the government "as originally organized" might survive. They had not realized how radically the government had already been altered during the War years. Lee himself thought that the concept of sovereign states combined with a limited federal authority would continue. And he wanted to do his part to sustain such a concept. So, within months of his surrender at Appomattox, he decided to apply for the restoration of his citizenship that had been revoked as a result of his War efforts. An official pardon and a restoration of citizenship was eventually granted to Robert E. Lee, but not during his lifetime. How did it all come about? Well, "thereby hangs a tale" – 100 years in the making and along the way there were the usual bureaucratic logjams, petty politics, high hopes, and disappointments. And, also, an unsolved mystery and an extraordinary bit of luck....

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