Fort Brown, Texas, 27 December 1856
Nothing has occurred dearest Mary, since my letter of the 20th worthy of relating, except the arrival on the 24th of the Steamer from New Orleans, bringing full files of papers & general intelligence from the “States”. I have enjoyed the former very much, & in the absence of particular intelligence, for my letters of Course have all taken the other direction, have pursued with much interest the series of the Alexandria Gazette from the 20 Nov to 8 Decr. inclusive. Besides the usual good general reading matter, I was interested in the relation of local affairs, & inferred from the quiet & ordinary Course of events, that all in the neighborhood was going on well. I trust it may be so, & that you & particularly all at Arlington & our friends elsewhere are well.
The steamer also brought the Presidents message to Cong:, & the reports of the various heads of Depts; the proceedings of Cong: &c &c, So that we are now assured, that the Govt: is in operation, & the Union in existence, not that we had any fears to the contrary, but it is satisfactory always to have facts to go on.
They restrain supposition & Conjecture, Confirm faith & bring Contentment. I was much pleased with the Presidents message & the report of the Secr of War, the only two documents that have reached us entire. Of the others synopsis have only arrived. The views of the Pres: of the systematic & progressive efforts of certain people of the North, to interfere with & change the domestic institutions of the South, are truthfully & faithfully expressed. The consequences of their plans & purposes are also clearly Set forth, & they must also be aware, that their object is both unlawful & entirely foreign to them, their duty; for which they are irresponsible & unaccountable; & Can only be accomplished by them through the agency of a civil & servile war. In this enlightened age, there are few I believe, but what will acknowledge, that slavery as an institution is a moral & political evil in any Country. It is useless to expatiate on its disadvantages. I think it however a greater evil to the white than to the black race, & while my feelings are strongly interested in behalf of the latter, my sympathies are more strong for the former. The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially & physically. The painful discipline they are undergoing, is necessary for their instruction as a race, & I hope will prepare & lead them to better things. How long their subjugation may be necessary is Known & ordered by a wise & merciful Providence. Their emancipation will sooner result from the mild & melting influence of Christianity, than the storms & tempests of fiery Controversy. This influence though slow is sure. The doctrines & miracles of our Saviour have required nearly two thousand years to Convert but a small part of the human race, & even Christian nations, what gross errors still exist! While we see the Course of the final abolition of human slavery is onward, & we give it the aid of our prayers & all justifiable means in our power we must leave the progress as well as the result in his hands who Sees the end; who Chooses to work by slow influences ; & with whom two thousand years are but a single day. Although the abolitionist must Know this; & must see that he has neither the right or power of operating except by moral means & suasion, & if he means well to the slave, he must not create angry feelings in the master; that although he may not approve the mode by which it pleases Providence to accomplish its purposes, the result will nevertheless be the same: that the reasons he gives for interference in what he has no Concern, holds good for every Kind of interference with our neighbours when we disapprove their Conduct; Still I fear he will persevere in his evil Course. Is it not strange that the descendants of those pilgrim fathers who crossed the Atlantic to preserve their own freedom of opinion, have always proved themselves intolerant of the spiritual liberty of others.
Although the Steamer brought us much general news, it brought no intelligence of, or from, our absent intrusses. The Court therefore at its meeting yesterday, adjourned for another week, 2 Jany ’57. I wish I Could see that this great delay in accomplishing what I think might have been finished while at Ringgold, was right, it would not then be so irksome to me. But I cannot help it. I must therefore hope that it is right & be Content. I have not yet heard from San Antonio & therefore have heard nothing from you. Two or perhaps three weeks must yet elapse, before I can expect a response. This is very grievous, but must be borne too. I hope you all had a joyous Xmas at Arlington & that it may be long & often reported! I thought of you all & wished to be with you. Mine was gratefully but silently passed. I endeavoured to find Some little presents for the children in the Garrison to add to their amusement & succeeded better than I anticipated. The stores are very barren of such things here, but by taking the week before hand, in my daily walks, I pick up little by little something for all. Tell Mildred I got a beautiful Dutch doll for little Emma Jones. One of these crying babies, that can open & shut their eyes, turn their head &c &c. For the two other little girls Puss Sibly, & Mary Seawell, I found handsome french teapots to match cups given them by Mrs. Waite. Then by means of Knives & hooks, I satisfied the boys. After disposing of my presents I went to Church. The Congregation was very respectable & Mr Passmores discourse was on the subject of the birth of our savior. It was not simply or touchingly told as it is in the bible. By previous invitation Major Thomas & I dined with him at 2 P.M. on roast turkey & Plumb pudding. He & his wife were alone. I had provided a pretty singing bird for their little girl, & passed the afternoon in my room. Give much love to all the Children your father & all friends. God bless you all!
R E Lee
Source: Photocopy of photocopied letter, Lee Family Papers, Section 9, MSS1 L51C 181, Virginia Historical Society, Richmond
Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2016 March 3
 This may be Mary Sibley McKibbin (1850-1928), who was the daughter of Lee’s classmate at West Point, Caleb Sibley (1806-1875). Caleb Sibley was married to Nancy Davenport.