Near Cartersville, Va., August 28, 1865
Hon. John Letcher, Lexington, Va.
My Dear Sir:
I was much pleased to hear of your return to your home, and to learn by your letter of the 2d of the kindness and consideration with which you were treated by your former congressional associates and friends in Washington. The conciliatory manner in which President Johnson spoke of the South must have been particularly agreeable to one who has the interest of its people so much at heart as yourself. I wish that spirit could become more general. It would go far to promote confidence, and to calm feelings which have too long existed. The questions which for years were in dispute between the State and General Government, and which unhappily were not decided by the dictates of reason, but referred to the decision of war, having been decided against us, it is the part of wisdom to acquiesce in the result, and of candor to recognize the fact.
The interests of the State are therefore the same as those of the United States. Its prosperity will rise or fall with the welfare of the country. The duty of its citizens, then, appears to me too plain to admit of doubt. All should unite in honest efforts to obliterate the effects of war, and to restore the blessings of peace. They should remain, if possible, in the country; promote harmony and good feeling; qualify themselves to vote; and elect to the State and general Legislatures wise and patriotic men, who will devote their abilities to the interests of the country, and the healing of all dissensions. I have invariably recommended this course since the cessation of hostilities, and have endeavored to practice it myself. I am much obliged to you for the interest you have expressed in my acceptance of the presidency of Washington College. If I believed I could be of advantage to the youth of the country, I should not hesitate. I have stated to the committee of trustees the obligations which exist in my opinion to my filling the position, and will yield to their judgment. Please present me to Mrs. Letcher and your children, and believe me most truly yours,
R E Lee
Source: Rev. J. William Jones, Personal Reminiscences of General Robert E. Lee, 181
Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2017 January 18