Near Cartersville Va: 8 Sept ’65
My dear Captain
I have just recd your letter of the 8 Ulto. We have certainty not found our form of Govt: all that was anticipated by its original founders. But that may be partly our fault, in expecting too much; & partly to the absence of virtue in the people. As long as virtue was dominant in the Republic, so long was the happiness of the people secure. I cannot however despair of it yet. I look forward to better days, & trust that time & experience the great teachers of men, under the guidance of an ever merciful God, may save us from destruction, & restore us the high hopes & prospects of the past. The thought of abandoning the County & all that must be left in it, is abhorrent to my feelings; & I prefer to struggle for its restoration, & share its fate, than to give up all as lost. Still I have a great admiration for Mexico. The salubrity of its climate, the fertility of its soil, & the magnificence of its scenery, possess for me great Charms; but I look with delight upon the mountains & rivers of my native States Still.
To remove our people with their domestics, to a portion of Mexico which would be favourable to them, would be a work of much difficulty. Did they possess the means, & could the System of apprenticeship you suggest, be established, the U. S. Govt: I think would interpose obstacles; under the circumstances there would be difficulty in persuading the freedman to emigrate. Those citizens who can leave the County, & others who may be compelled to do so, will reap the fruits of your considerate labour, but I shall be very sorry if your presence be lost to Virginia. She has now need for all her sons, & can ill afford to spare you.
I am very much obliged to you for all you have done for us, & hope your labours in the future may be as efficacious as in the past; & that your separation from us may not be permanent.
Wishing you every prosperity & happiness
I am most truly
R E Lee
Source: Facsimile of original, vertical files, Jessie Ball duPont Library
Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2016 February 4