CONNECTED WITH THE UNVEILING OF THE STATUE OF
GENERAL ROBERT E. LEE,
AT LEE CIRCLE, NEW ORLEANS, LA., FEB. 22. 1884.
BY HON. CHAS. E. FENNER.
POEM, By H. F. REQUIER, Esq.
HISTORICAL SKETCH OF R. E. LEE MONUMENTAL ASSOCIATION.
W. B. Stansbury & Co. Print, 38 Natchez Street.
BY H. F. REQUIER.
Rear aloft the solid column—
Rear it high that men may see
How the valiant honor valor—
How the brave remember Lee.
Poise him on the lofty summit
Of the white euduring stone,
Where his form may linger, teaching
In dumb majesty alone.
Never braver spirit battled,
Give him greeting while he rises
Never grander soldier shone,
Than this victor—vanquished only
When his hosts were overborne.
On this monument to-day,
As the warrior who led armies
To the enemy's dismay;
As the hero thrice encompassed—
Thrice outnumbered by the foe—
Who with all the odds against him,
Still resisted overthrow.
He, the leader of the legions—
He, the chieftain of the brave—
He, the model man and Christian,
Sleeping where the willows wave—
Shall be numbered with the noblest
That have ever swayed the world
Though his cause be lost forever
And his fated flag be furled.
God anoint us in this moment
Of memorial for the dead—
For the once contending armies
Now united overhead—
For the Blue and Gray together
That so bravely fought and fell,
When the North and South divided—
Faced the flashing flame of hell.
They are looking from the Heavens
On this hallowed scene to-day.
And the pipes of peace are playing
To their spirits gentle sway.
While we rear the solid column.
Hear it high that men may see
How the valiant honor valor—
How the brave remember Lee.
FOR THE UNVEILING OF THE ROBERT E. LEE MONUMENT,
HON. CHAS. E. FENNER,
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN:
If I appear before you in the double capacity of President of the E. E. Lee Monumental Association and of orator of the day, it is not of my seeking, but in obedience to the unanimous will of my brother officers and directors, who have imposed on me the task of commemorating the character, the deeds and the cause of Lee, in words, as this monumental tribute was designed to commemorate them in perennial bronze and stone.
It is now nearly two years since this summons came to me; and during that time, at such intervals as a somewhat busy life afforded, I have devoted myself to the study of the memorial records of Lee, with growing wonder at the purity of his life, the moral grandeur of his character and the splendor of his achievements.
Amazed at the glowing picture, and little disposed to believe in human perfection, I have, with the eye of the critic, sought to discover whether eulogy had not distorted truth, and whether, after all, this man was not too great to be so good, or too good to be so great as he is painted.
Unless it was my honest and considerate belief I would not insult the divine modesty of the spirit of Lee by proclaimmg as I do that he was “the cunning'st pattern of excelling nature” that was ever warmed by the “Promethean heat.” For surely never revealed itself to the human mind a more delightful subject for contemplation than the life and character of Lee.
The phenomenal elevation of his soul was developed by every fertilizing influence that could tend to stimulate and strengthen, by the antecedents of hhis race, by the surroundings of his life, by the lofty character of his education and profession.
The blood which coursed in his veins descended in purest strain through an illustrious ancestry running back to William the Conqueror, every record of which indicates a race of hereditary gentlemen. That the blood of Launcelot Lee, who landed with the Conqueror, and of Lionel, who fought with Cœur de Lion, had not dengenerated, as it percolated through the centuries, is evidenced by the history of the American Lees, whose founder was Richard Lee, a cavalier of Charles the First, who removed to the New World, and is described by Bishop Meade as “a man of good stature, comely visage, enterprising genius, sound head, vigorous spirit and most generous nature.” From his stock sprung a host of illustrious Virginians, the most conspicuous of whom were that Richard Henry Lee, who, in the Congress of the Colonies, moved the resolution adopting the Declaration of Independence, and proclaiming that the American colonies “are, and of a right ought to be, free and independent;” and the father of our hero. Light Horse Harry Lee, the Rupert of the Revolution, the friend of Washington, elected by Congress to deliver the eulogy of that illustrious man at his death, and who conferred upon him the memorable title of “first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.”
Born in the same county with Washington, and thus bound to his memory by the ties of hereditary friendship, fate seems to have determined that this illustrious exemplar should “rain influence” upon Lee from every source. It gave him to wife Mary Randolph Custis, daugther of the adopted son of Washington, the nearest representative of his house, and a woman whose exalted virtues were derived by lineal inheritance from the wife of Washington. This marriage transferred his residence to beautiful Arlington, the repository of the Washington relics, where he lived surrounded by objects so freighted with the dearest memories and associations of the hero's life, that the very atmosphere of the place seemed instinct with the lirooding influence of his spirit.
From his very infancy Lee seems to have been enamored of virtue. In writing of him at an early age his father says: “Robert, who was always good, will be confirmed in his happy turn of mind by his ever watchful and aflectionate mother.”
That mother was an invalid, and so tender and dutiful was he in his attentions to her, even during his rough boyhood, that when he left her to go to West Point she exclaimed: “How can I live without Robert! He is both son and daughter to me.”
And here we catch the earliest glimpse of that epicene nature, the highest type of humanity, combining feminine gentleness and modesty, quick sympathy and capacity for self-abnegation, with masculine strength, energy and inflexible purpose—a combination which, in its liighest form, makes man, indeed, “the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals!”
Free from perilous precocity, his boyhood and early youth gave ample evidence of that vigorous and symmetrical intellectual organization, which, at every stage of his career, rose to the level of the highest tasks imposed upon it, solved all the problems of life, whether great or small, as they presented themselves, with infallible judgment, lifted him to the summit of the profession of his choice, and, by the evenness, roundness and fullness of its development, left no doubt that, in any other sphere of human activity, it would have enabled him to achieve equal eminence.
Bountiful nature had endowed him with exceptional gifts of physical beauty. The eye of the South Carolina poet, Hayne, once rested upon him in the first year of the war, when he was already on the hither verge of middle age, as he stood in the fortifications of Charleston, surrounded by officers, and he has left the following pen picture of him: “In the middle of the group, topping the tallest by half a head, was, perhaps, the most striking figure we had ever encountered, the figure of a man seemingly about fifty-six or fifty-eight years of age, erect as a poplar, yet lithe and graceful, with broad shoulders well thrown back, a fine, justly proportioned head posed in unconscious dignity, clear, deep, thoughtful eyes, and the quiet, dauntless step of one every inch the gentleman and soldier. Had some old English Cathedral crypt or monumental stone in Westminster Abbey been smitten by a magician's wand and made to yield up its knightly tenant restored to his manly vigor, with chivalric soul beaming from every feature, some grand old Crusader or Red Cross warrior, who, believing in a sacred creed and espousing a glorious principle, looked upon mere life as nothing in the comparison, we thought that thus would he have appeared, unchanged in aught but costume and surroundings. And this superb soldier, the glamour of the antique days about him, was Robt.
If such was the Lee of fifty-six years, what must have been the splendid beauty of his youth? The priceless jewel of his soul found fit setting in this grand physique, marked by a majestic bearing and easy grace and courtesy of gesture and movement, sprung from perfect harmony and symmetry of limb and muscle, instinct with that vigorous health, the product of a sound mind in a sound body.
Such was the magnificent youth who graduated from West Point with the honors of his class, and dedicated himself to the service of his country. It was easy to see that “Fate reserved him for a bright manhood.” Not his the task, by the eccentric flight of a soaring ambition, to “pluck bright Honor from the pale-faced moon,” or with desperate greed, to “dive into the bottom of the deep and drag up drowned Honor by the locks.” This great engineer laid out the road of his life along the undeviating line of Duty, prepared to bridge seas and scale mountains; to defy foes and to scorn temptations; to struggle, to fight, to die, if need be, but never to swerve from his chosen path. Honor and Fame were not captives in his train. Free and bounteous, they ambuscaded his way and crowned him as he passed.
Needless to dwell upon the incidents of his life from his graduation to the Mexican war. This period of his early manhood was passed in the study of his profession; in the cultivation of his mind; in the exercise of every virtue; in the enjoyment of domestic life; in the rearing of children who, in the fullness of time, were destined to repay his care by lives not unworthy of the paternal example.
At the opening of the Mexican war he was, perhaps, as perfectly equipped in the science of soldiership as any living man. Although but a captain of engineers and debarred from rapid promotion by the rules of the regular service, he achieved a distinction, if not so noisy, deeper than was gained by any subordinate in that war. No name figured so conspicuously in the reports of the general commanding for brilliant and important services. At its end, while the multitude was sounding the noisier fame of others, the judicious few, who were familiar with the interior of the campaigns, awarded the palm of soldiership to the modest officer of engineers, and already fixed on him as the coming captain of America. The man most competent of all to judge, the hero of Lundy's Lane himself, did not hesitate to declare that “Lee was the greatest living soldier of America,” and that “if a great battle was to be fought for the liberty or slavery of America, and I were asked my judgment as to the ability of a commander, I would say with my dying breath, ‘Let it be Robert E. Lee.’ ”
One of the name of Lee has defined happiness in the following homely but thoughtful words: “Peace of mind based on piety to Almighty God; unconscious innocence of conduct, with good will to man; health of body, health of mind and prosperity in our vocation; a sweet, affectionate wife; children devoted to truth, honor, right and utility, with love and respect to their parents; and faithful, warm-hearted friends, in a country politically and religiously free—this is my definition of happiness.”
I know not where a better can be found; and if ever man enjoyed these blessings in bountiful measure, supplemented by a wealth of golden opinion in the minds of all his countrymen, it was Robert E. Lee, as the current of his life flowed peacefully through the years preceding the great civil war. Nothing disturbed the placidity of its course save the shadows, rapidly lengthening and thickening, cast by the dread events which were coming with the impending future.
Lee loved the Union. It was emphatically the Union of his fathers, whose cunning hands had wrought in its construction. It was the Union of Washington, the idol of his worship. It was his own Union for which he had fought, and in whose service the “dearest action” of his life had been spent. The tenor of his way had removed him from the growing exacerbation of political strife. The bitterness of sectional hate had not entered his soul. He loved the whole Union. To his acute prevision, its threatened disruption meant chaos and inevitable, desperate war. He opposed secession. He lifted his voice against it in words of solemn warning and protestation.
In vain! Who can lift his hand against fate, and, with feeble gesture, stay or divert its course? The inevitable swept on resistless, remorseless. Snapped, in quick succession, the cords which bound State after State to the Union; and, at last, with mighty effort, Virginia tore asunder the “hoops of steel” which encircled her, and, standing in the solitude of her original sovereignty, with imperial voice, in her hour of peril, summoned all her children to her side. Lee she called by name, singled him out as chiefest of her sons, her Hector, the pil1ar of her house. Stern mother, as she was, she held out to him the baton of her armies and bade him take it and protect her honor, or die in its defense.
The crisis of his life had come. His known love for the Union, his avowed opposition to secession, his devoted attachment to the venerable Commander-in-Chief of the Federal army, his education at West Point, his life spent in the Federal service—all kindled hopes in the supporters of the Union that his services would not be wanting to their cause, and he was semi-officially advised that the chief command in the field of the Federal forces then being organized was subject to his acceptance.
Eloquent lips have pictured the struggle which it cost Lee to resist this glittering temptation. And, indeed, viewed from the standpoint of mere personal interest and professional ambition, the alternative presented was “all the world to nothing.” But my study of his character forbids me to believe that such considerations ever assumed the dignity of a temptation to him. Amongst the records of his written or spoken thoughts I find no evidence of even a moment's hesitation in his choice. Duty, the guide and guardian of his life, never spoke to Lee in doubtful accents. Its voice was ever as clear as the trumpet's note, and by him was never heard but to be instantly obeyed.
With gracious mien, he put aside all contrary solicitations, surrendered to the Union the unstained sword which he had worn so worthily, and parting from the friends and associations of his youth and manhood in sorrow, but not at all in anger, bent his steps to his mother, Virginia, and kneeling reverently at her feet, received from her hand the chieftain's sword, and there kissing its hilt, swore eternal fealty to her cause.
For this act he has been denounced as a deserter from his flag, and a traitor to his country. For this act he went down to his grave a disfranchised citizen of a restored Union. For a like act there yet rests the stigma of disfranchisement upon a single man out of millions, the chivalric chieftain of the lost cause.
[To Mr. Davis. Venerable man! while the smirking littlenesses of official life deny you the bauble of an unsought amnesty, that providence which, in the end, surely guides aright the ultimate judgments of mankind, is eloquent in your behalf to the awakening conscience of the American people. Malice and slander have exhausted their power against you. We congratulate you that the kindling splendors of that fame which will light up the centuries, already illumine the declining years of a life which has illustrated the history of two nations by valor in battle, wisdom in council, eloquence in debate, temperance in triumph and inexpugnable fortitude in adversity. O, pater patriæ! living as it were “in an inverted order,” and mourning, sternly and inconsolably, over the dead country, salre et vale!]
If these charges against Lee are true, the urgent question presents itself: What do we here today; erecting a monument to a deserter or a traitor?
To magnify the deeds of our heroes, without, at the same time, vindicating the cause for which they were done, would be to ignore that which gives to those deeds their highest merit and grace and beauty. Mere brute courage and even the highest military skill are not, of themselves, fit subjects for commemoration in monumental brass. A pirate captain has often fought in defense of his black flag with as deperate bravery and as consummate art as Nelson at Trafalgar or Lawrence on the decks of the Constitution. A bandit chief might display as much devotion, skill and courage in defending some mountain pass, the key to the lair of his band, as were exhibited by Leonidas at Thermopylæ. But we do not build monuments to these.
We cannot afford to sink our heroes to the level of mere prize fighters, who deluged a continent in blood without just right or lawful cause.
Remembering that we are here, as Americans, to do honor to one of the greatest of Americans; gratefully acknowledging the presence of many of those who fought against Lee, and who have chivalrously accepted our invitation to participate in these ceremonies; I have anxiously asked myself whether I might, without just censure, undertake to speak in defense of the cause of Lee.
Two decades have passed since the Confederate flag was folded to its eternal rest. The Union is restored. The wounds of internecine strife are healed. An affluent tide of patriotism, welling from the hearts of a reunited people, rolls, with resistless ebb and flow, through the length and breadth of a common country, and breaks, with equal volume, upon the Southern, as upon the Northern confines of the Republic. All men agree that we live to-day under a Constitution, the meaning and effect of which have, in certain particulars, been as definitely settled in a sense opposed to that contended for by the Southern States in the recent conflict, as if it had been, in those respects, expressly amended. This has been effected by the inveterate res adjudicata of war, from which there is no appeal and no desire to appeal. We, the people of the South, have renewed our unreserved allegiance to the Constitution as thus authoritatively construed. By the bloody Cæsarian operation of the war, the right of secession has, indisputably, been eviscerated from the fundamental law.
Blistered be the slanderous tongue, and cankered the coward heart, which would pervert what I am about to say, into an attempt to revive dead issues or reopen settled controversies.
The constitutional dispute between the States as to the right of secession is, to-day, as purely a historical question as the questions between the colonies and Great Britain about the rightfulness of the stamp act and of taxation without representation. As such I feel myself charged with the solemn duty of discussing it, to the end that I may aid in distributing and perpetuating for the benefit of this and coming generations, a knowledge of the grave and substantial grounds upon which their forefathers believed, when they “stood i” the imminent, deadly breach, in defense of the States, of which they were citizens, that they were acting in their right, in obedience to lawful authority, and in violation of no rightful allegiance due by them to any earthly power.
Standing by the grave of this dead and buried right of secession, we inscribe upon its tomb the solemn “requiescat in pace,” we admit that the sepulchre wherein it is “inurned” may never “ope his ponderous and marble jaws to cast it up again;” but fanaticism itself cannot deny us the privilege of asserting that it once “lived and moved and had its being,” sprung from the womb of the Constitution, begotten of the loins of the Fathers, in its day a leader of hosts as true and valiant as ever struck for the “altars of their country and the temples of their gods.”
Follow me, therefore, oh fellow-citizens of a reunited country, whether from the North or from the South, while, with reverent heart, in the spirit of impartial history, and in necessary vindication of the cause for which he fought in whose memory this monument is erected, I seek to trace the origin, the foundation and the history of the right of secession, bearing ever in mind that I speak not from the standpoint of to-day, but of that eventful moment in the already distant past when Lee was called upon to determine, by the lights then surrounding him, whether his allegiance was due to his native State or to the Federal Government, from which she had withdrawn.
Down to the days of Hobbes, of Malmesbury, kingship founded its claim to authority on Divine right. Hobbes originated the doctrine that political authority was derived from the consent of the governed, and based that consent upon the fiction of an “original contract” or implied covenant, which created “that great Leviathan called the commonwealth of State.”
The right of secession, even in the form of revolution, had no place, however, in the theory of Hobbes, because he held that this “original contract” was irrevocable, and thus laid for despotism a firmer foundation than that which he had destroyed.
Locke made a prodigious advance. Adopting Hobbes' theory that political authority was derived from the consent of the governed, he repudiated the doctrine of irrevocability, and held that the power of rulers was merely delegated, and that the people, or the governed, had the right to withdraw it when used for purposes inconsistent with the common weal, the end which society and government were formed to promote. By thus recognizing the responsibility of rulers to their subjects for the due execution of their trusts and the right of resistance by the people in case of abuse thereof, he established the sacred right of revolution, in the assertion of which the people of England expelled the Stuarts from the throne, and the American colonies established their independence.
On emerging from a revolution in which their rights of self-government had been so strenuously denied, in which they had endured such sufferings and perils and had so narrowly escaped from complete subjugation, it might naturally be expected that in thereafter establishing a general government among themselves, the colonies would have been careful in guarding the nature and terms of their consent thereto and in leaving open a safe and peaceful mode of retiring therefrom, whenever, in their judgment, it should endanger their rights or cease to promote their welfare. Their experience had taught them the danger, difficulty and possible inadequaey of the mere right of revolution.
Accordingly, we find that in the Federal Governments, which they instituted, both in the articles of confederation and in the constitution of 1789, they assiduously guarded and restricted the consent upon which alone the authority of these governments rested, and, “to make assurance double sure,” distinctly provided that all powers, not expressly delegated, were reserved to the States.
The question of the right of secession had its birth prior to the formation of the present Constitution of the United States. It arose under the prior articles of confederation. Those articles, let it never be forgotten, contained an express provision that the Uuion of the States created thereby should be “perpetual.” In view of this clause, it was vehemently contended that, without the consent of all, no portion of the States had the right to withdraw from a Union which all of them had solemnly covenanted with each other should last forever.
These objections were overborne by the Convention of 1787, and the Constitution of the United States had its origin in the assertion of the right of the States to secede from the confederation previously existiug; for the going into effect of that constitution was, by its terms, made to depend, not upon the assent of all the States, but upon the assent of nine only, each one of them acting separately and independently.
Did not this action concede that the right to withdraw from a Federal Union was a right that inhered in the States prior to the establisliment of the present Constitution? And if in the latter instrument we can tind no surrender of that right, how can it be denied that it was reserved to the States?
Nay, more; how does it happen that the clause in the articles of confederation, which had declared the Union thereby formed to be “perpetual,” and which had been the foundation of the arguments against the right of secession therefrom, was omitted from the Constitution?
Can such things be,
And overcome us like a summer's cloud,
Without our special wonder?
We might pause here, and ask, in all candor, whether, if the Southern States erred in believing and asserting the right of secession, the fault does not rest on the shoulders of those who framed the Constitution?
Unless there is something in the essential nature of the government established by the Constitution, or in the character of the parties who established it, or in the nature and mode of the consent upon which it rests, which is inconsistent with the right of secession in the States, it is difficult to conceive how such right could be disputed.
The doctrine that the Constitution was a compact, voluntarily entered into between sovereign and independent States, purely federal in its character, and differing from the former articles of confederation, not as to the nature of the consent upon which it was founded nor as to the character of the parties thereto, but only as to the kind and extent of the powers granted to the general government and the mode of their execution, may be said to have passed substantially unchallenged for considerably more than a quarter of a century after its adoption. That doctrine blazes forth in every step taken in the formation and adoption of the Constitution; in Mr. Madison's resolution adopted by the Virginia Legislature appointing commissioners to meet such commissioners as may be appointed by the other States, to take into consideration trade and commercial regulations; in the address of the convention of those commissioners, subsequently held at Annapolis, which recommended a “general meeting of the States, in a future convention,” with powers extending “to other objects than those of commerce;” in the consequent commissioning of delegates by the several States to the convention of 1787, with instructions to join “in devising and discussing all such alterations and further provisions as may be necessary to render the Federal Constitution adequate to the exigencies of the Union;” in the organization of that convention, under which every State, large or small, had an equal and independent unit vote; in the submission of the instrument for ratification to a convention of the people of each separate State, which, thus acting independently and alone, gave its own consent to the proposed compact; in the letter of the convention recommending its ratification, which expressly described the government proposed therein as “the Federal government of these States;” and finally, in the mode of promulgation directed, which provided that “as soon as the conventions of nine States shall have ratified this Constitution,” a day should be fixed on which “electors should be appointed by the several States which shall have ratified the same.”
The same doctrine likewise appears in the ordinances of ratification of several of the States, in the debates of the convention itself and in those of the various State conventions—denied only by the opponents of the Constitution, always affirmed by its friends.
It is repeatedly and explicitly proclaimed in the Federalist. It appears in the writings and utterances of all the fathers of the Constitution, of Hamilton as well as of Madison, of Washington, Franklin, Gerry, Wilson, Morris, of those who favored as well as those who feared a strong government. It is emphatically announced not only in the extreme Kentucky resolutions, but in the famous Virginia resolutions of 1798, the first from the pen of Jefferson, the last from that of Madison, the latter of which declared that they viewed “the powers of the Federal Government as resulting from the compact to which the States were parties.” These resolutions formed thereafter the corner stone of the great States Eights party, which repeatedly swept the country and which elected Jefferson, Madison, Monroe and Jackson to the Presidency.
Even the Supreme Court of the United States had declared that the Constitution was a compact to which the States were parties.
The first purely Juridical work on the Constitution was published in 1825 by William Rawle, an eminent jurist of Philadelphia, who, writing as a jurist and not as a politician, did not hesitate to declare that “the Union was an association of Republics,” that the Constitution was a compact between the States; that “it depends on the State itself whether it continues a member of the Union,” that “the States may withdraw from the Union,[”] and that “the secession of a State from the Union depends on the will of the people.”
At a later period, De Tocqueville, who in his great work on Democracy in America, brought to the study of our institutions a patient and impartial spirit, reached the same conclusions, and declared that “the Union was formed by the voluntary agreement of the States, and, in uniting together, they have not forfeited their nationality. * * If one of the States choose to withdraw from the compact, it would be difficult to disprove its right of doing so.”
I must halt here in the enumeration of the plain historical facts and overwhelming authorities upon which rested the great doctrine that the Constitution of the United States was purely a federal compact between sovereign and independent States, deriving its force and authority from the free and individual consent of the several States in their separate political capacities. In these essential respects it did not differ from the articles of confederation, but only, as before stated, in the extent and mode of execution of the powers granted to the general government.
The entire argument against the right of secession rested on a denial of this doctrine.
That denial was never made by any respectable authority until, during the nullification and agitation of 1831–3, Webster and Story stepped into the lists as champions of an indissoluble Union.
These were great men and great lawyers. They saw, and indeed a reference to their works will show, that they admitted that, if the doctrine above stated were correct, the right of secession could not be successfully disputed.
They therefore took bold ground against it. They denied that the Constitution was a compact at all. They denied that, even if a compact, it was one to which the States were the parties. They asserted that the government created thereby was a National, and not a Federal Government. They asserted that the Constitution was ordained and established by the consent, not of the States, but of “the whole people of the United States in the aggregate,” and could only be undone by like consent.
In view of the historical record which I have faintly sketched, and which might have been indefinitely extended, the mind is stupefied at the utter impotence of human language as a vehicle of thought, when it encounters such opposite interpretations of a written instrument, and discovers that after the lapse of forty years, time sufficient to have consigned to their tombs nearly every one of those who had aided in its confection, a construction should be advanced diametrically opposed to what they had declared, in every form, to be their veritable meaning.
Of course, it would not be possible for me, within the limits of this address, to state all the arguments advanced by Webster and Story, in support of their theory, or the answers made to them; but one or two of the most salient deserve attention.
To show that the government was National and not Federal, they seized upon the first resolution adopted by the convention, which declared that a “National Government ought to be established, consisting of a supreme legislative, executive and judiciary.” This resolution was proposed before the convention was full; and how shall we restrain our wonder at the reliance placed upon it, when, in the record of the further proceediugs of the convention, we learn that, upon motion of Ellsworth, of Connecticut, and upon his expressed objection to the term “National,” the resolution was altered, nem. con., so as to read that “the Government of the United States ought to consist,” etc. Thus the convention expressly repudiated the term “National Government,” and substituted therefor words expressive of the Federal character of the government; and, indeed, as already shown, in the letter recommending the ratification of the Constitution, the convention expressly described it as the “Federal Government of these States.”
The grand cheral de battaille of their argument, however, was the preamble of the Constitution itself, which declares that “We, the people of tbe United States. * * * * * * * ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
There is no doubt that these words, more than all other considerations combined, have lent force to the argument of those who supported the National theory of the government; and had the plain explanation of their use which has since been given, been advanced at the time when the question arose, it is doubtful if that theory would ever have attained the acceptation which it received.
What is that explanation, so apparent and conclusive, and yet, so far as I am aware, first advanced, after the war, by that great publicist, Albert Taylor Bledsoe? It is this: The original draft of the Constitution, instead of using in its preamble the words “We, the people of the United States,” used the words “We, the people of the States of Virginia, Massachusetts, etc.,” specifying each State by name as parties to the compact. So matters stood until the language of the Constitution was submitted to the revision of a “committee on style.” That committee discovered that under the provisions relative to the mode of ratification which directed that the accession of any nine States should carry the Constitution into effect, the naming of all or any of the States in the preamble was impracticable, because it might well be that all the States would not ratify, and it would be impossible to state in advance which nine of them would do so. How then were they to be named? It thus became absolutely necessary to strike out the enumeration of the States, and to substitute some general phrase which should embrace those States which should ratify and exclude those which should reject the Constitution. Such a phrase was discovered in the words, “the people of the United States,” by which the convention surely did not intend to alter the entire nature of the instrument, but only meant the respective peoples of the several States, not named only because unknown, which should thereafter become parties, and, by consenting to the proposed Union, become thereby United States. Gouverneur Morris, of Pennsylvania, was chairman of the committee on style which reported this alteration in the preamble, and he informs us in one of his letters, that the Constitution, in its final shape, was “written by the fingers which write this letter.” He, therefore, wrote the words, “We, the people of the United States,” in the preamble, and should have known better than any other what was their true import. He was one of the most pronounced advocates of a strong government. The record shows that he had actually moved the reference of the Constitution for ratification to “one general convention chosen and authorized by the people, to consider, to amend and establish the same,” but that his motion had not even received a second. What becomes, then, of the argument based on this expression of the preamble, when we find that Gouverneur Morris, its author, with his well known desire to establish a National government, himself declares in his writings, that “the Consitution was a compact, not between individuals, but between political societies, the people, not of America, but of the United States, each (State) enjoying sovereign power, and, of course, equal rights.”
Time and the occasion admonish me that I must arrest here the discussion of this interesting historical question. I have, of course, barely indicated the faint outlines of the grand argument sustaining the right of secession. Those who desire to go deeper may consult those great storehouses of facts and principles, the works of Calhoun, Bledsoe, Stephens, Sage, and our immortal leader, Jetterson Davis.
It is not for me dogmatically to proclaim that we were right and that the supporters of the Union were wrong. I shall have accomplished a duty, and shall, as I believe, have rendered a service to the whole Union, if what I have said shall contribute to confirm the Southern people in the veneration and respect justly due to the cause for which their fathers fought, and, at the same time, to moderate the vehemence with which many of the Northern people have denounced that cause as mere wicked and unreasoning treason. The war may have established that the Constitution no longer binds the States by a mere love tie, but by a Gordian knot, which only the sword can sever; yet all patriots will admit that the safest guarantee of its permanence must lie in the mutual respect and forbearance from insult of all sections of the people toward each other.
Far be it from me to impugn the motives of those who advocated and enforced the indissolubility of the Union.
In union the States had achieved their independence. In union, at a later time, during the infancy of the Republic, they had defied again the power of the mightiest nation of the earth, and had vindicated their capacity to protect and defend the rights which they had so dearly won. In union they had subdued the savage, leveled primeval forests, subjected vast wildernesses to the sway of peaceful populations and happy husbandry, borne the ensign of the Republic to the capital of a foreign foe, extended their frontiers till they embraced a continent and swelled their population to a strength which might defy the world in arms. In union the sails of their commerce whitened every sea, wealth poured in affluent streams into their laps, education flourished, science and art took root and grew apace, and those ancient foes, religion and toleration, liberty and law, public order and individual freedom, locked hands and worked together to magnify and glorify the grandest, happiest and freest people that ever flourished “in the tides of time.”
The contemplation of this exhilarating spectacle naturally tightened the bands of the Union and infiamed the minds of the people with a deep patriotisin, which tended more and more to centre round the Federal Government.
When, in 1833, while the glorious panorama I have just sketched was still being unrolled, upon a comparatively trifling occasion, behind the absurd spectre of Nullification appeared the gigantic figure of the Right of Secessicm, panoplied though it was from head to foot in the armor of the Constitution, it struck terror to the souls of the lovers of the Union, and shook even the firm poise of the aged Madison. It threatened at a touch and upon inadequate cause to crumble into ruin the grand fabric which had been builded with such pain and had risen to such majestic height.
It conjured up before the quick imagination of Mr. Webster that terrible vision of a Union quenched in blood, of “States discordant, dissevered, belligerent,” of strength frittered away by division, of liberty imperilled by the conflicts of her devotees, of the high hopes of humanity blasted by the ambitions, dissensions and conflicting interests of jarring sovereignties.
In my humble judgment Mr. Webster's was the grandest civic intellect that America has produced. The most prodigious achievement of his eloquence and genius was the success with which he darkened and, to the minds of many, actually obliterated the clear historical record which I have heretofore exhibited, confuted the very authors of the Constitution as to the meaning and effect of their own language, and may be said substantially to have created and imposed upon the American people a new and different Constitution from that under which they had lived for so considerable a period.
Yet we must forgive unich to the motives and inspirations upon which he acted.
Ah, well had it been if all the followers of Mr. Webster had been inspired by his own deep respect for the guaranties and limitations of the Constitution.
Time and inclination alike restrain me from any particular notice of the direct causes which provoked the actual assertion of the right of secession.
Suffice it to say that events occurred and conflicts arose which rendered impossible the continuance of a voluntary union. The predestined strife was not to be averted. Passion usurped the seat of reason. Dissension swelled into defiance, chiding grew into fierce recrimination, constant quarrel ripened into hate. In vain did those who clung to the Constitution seek “upon the heat and flame of this distemper to sprinkle cool patience.” Fourteen Northern States, in their so-termed “personal liberty bills,” openly nullified the Constitution in that very clause which had been the condition sine qua non, upon which the Southern States had acceded to the compact. A sectional party was formed upon a basis known and designed to exclude from its ranks the entire people of fifteen States. An election delivered the control of the Federal government into the hands of this party.
Perhaps these and all other causes might have not been sufficient to justify a resort to revolution. Perhaps allegiance due might have borne the strain of greater wrongs than any with which we were oppressed or threatened.
But a broken bargain, civic strife, the triumph of a sectional party whose electoral majority left no hope that it could be overcome, surely justified the minority of States in peacefully withdrawing from the Union, which they believed, upon the solid grounds which I have stated, to have been created and to exist, as to them, only by virtue of their original and continued consent.
Although Lee, with thousands of other Southern men, believed the justification to be insufficient, and opposed secession, this fact, while rendering his duty more difficult, did not leave it less clear, under his theory of the government, to yield his allegiance to his native State.
And here I leave the cause of Lee to be judged at the bar of impartial history.
That cause presents this singular claim to the considerate judgment of its adversaries, that we, who fought for it, have done and will do what in us lies to gild their triumph by making the restored Union so prolific in benefits to all coming generations that our posterity, while respecting the principles and convictions for which we fought, may rejoice in our defeat.
The Constitution yet lives, an imperishable monument to the wisdom of those who framed it, capable, if preserved in its integrity, of accomplishing all their beneficent purposes, and consecrating forever the co-ordinated rights of individual liberty, local self-government and union for “the common defense and general welfare.”
Turn we now to the campaigns of our hero. Lee's campaigns were the poetry of soldiership, so grand and simple in their conception, so masterly in their execution, so daring in their attempts, so astounding in their results, that the simplest intelligence may comprehend and the dullest admire them.
They are not to be regarded as made up of merely detached and independent marches and battles springing from the haphazard order of events, but are, from first to last, the development of a uniform and consistent plan of operations, based on the profoundest science of strategy, and having in view the accomplishment of a specific purpose. That purpose may be announced at once to have been the defense of Richmoud. Richmond was not merely important as being the capital of the Confederacy, but also as being the grand centre of depots, arsenals and military manufactures necessary to the support of an army operating north of it, and as the only point having railroad connections with the South sufficient for transportation of necessary supplies.
The position of the Federal capital on the banks of the Potomac, and the exposure of the Southern border of the United States along the line of Maryland and Pennsylvania, made it of transcendent importance that the countrv intervening between Richmond and Washington should be made and kept, as far as possible, the theatre of the war. The retirement of the Confederate forces from Kentucky, Tennessee and Missouri, thus practically relieving the Southern border of the United States from menace in that direction, had removed a great source of alarm to them, and had liberated for operations at other points the vast forces which would have been required for the defense of that line. Had we been forced to retire from Virginia also, besides the immense moral and material loss, the removal of the seat of war entirely away from the Northern capital and territory, would have freed the large forces constantly engaged in their protection to concentrate around us in a narrowing circle of fire, eventuating inevitably in our ultimate destruction. The Confederacy fell with the forced evacuation of Richmond. It is certain it could not long have survived its earlier voluntary abandonment.
The task of defending Richmond was, as I have said, the task of Lee; and it was the most difiicult one ever assigned to any soldier. The prime necessity was to avoid a siege. Once shut up in the fortifications of Richmond, the city was lost, for the difficulties of its defense would have been insuperable; because it would have involved the protection of long lines of railroad, without which the army could not be sustained, and in view of the enormous forces which could have been concentrated by the enemy, this would have been impossible.
Yet conceive the difficulty of avoiding such a siege, when you reflect that by the undisputed possession of the James and York rivers, and with the aid of their powerful flotillas of transport ships and gunboats, the enemy was able, at any time, without the possibility of opposition by us, to land an army within a day's march of our capital, and to support it there by deep water lines of supply, which we could neither destroy nor interrupt.
No invading army ever had such advantages as the Northern Army of the Potomac. The greatest difficulty of successful invasion, the protection of its lines of communication with its base of supplies and reinforcements, was practically eliminated from the problem; for not only were the water routes of the James and the York open almost to the gates of Richmond, but even when it finally moved from the direction of Culpeper Court House, its path lay across successive lines of communication, so that, in the words of a philosophic commentator on the campaigns, “it abandoned one, only to find another and a safer at the end of every march.” At Culpeper Court-House, the Orange and Alexandria Railroad was its line. When it abandoned that, its halts at the Wilderness and Spottsylvania Court-House opened up a new line via Acquia Creek. As it advanced to the Annas, the Rappahannock at Port Royal furnished another efficient water line. When it reached the Pamunkey, the York river and Chesapeake Bay gave it one still more efficient; and finally, when its last march brought it to the James, that great river formed a perfectly safe avenue to Washington.
When these facts are considered, in connection with the enormous disparity of numbers and resources now demonstrated beyond the possibility of question by the historical records of the two armies, Lee's successfnl defense of Richmond for three years must take its place in history as one of the grandest military achievements of ancient or of modern times. Had like success attended the Confederate operations in other directions, the backbone of the war would, undoubtedly, have been broken. As it was, the tremendous blows of Lee so staggered his adversary that the issue lay in doubt to the very last, and at more than one period in the contest the Northern cause barely escaped collapse.
Follow me now in a rapid sketch of the mere outline of the marvelous campaigns.
After the indecisive battle of Seven Pines, and the unfortunate wounding of the first commander of the Army of Northern Virginia, that skillful soldier, Joseph E. Johnston, his successor in command, Gen. G. W. Smith, had retired the army to its encampments near Richmond, and there it was when, on June 2, 1862, Lee assumed command. Its effective strength, using round numbers, (as I shall continue to do) was fifty-six thousand men. McCellan, an able commander, who, in the first year of the war, adopted that route to Richmond, the return to which after many disasters, at last led to its capture, at that moment lay, possibly within sight of the spires, certainly within sound of the bells of the churches of Richmond, with a present effective force of one hundred and five thousand. McDowell, with forty thousand men, the flower of the Federal Army, was en route to reinforce McClellan, while strong forces under Banks and Fremont were operating in the Valley. Jackson, with a force never exceeding sixteen thousand, was still engaged in that wonderful series of operations in the Valley which resulted in the successive defeats of Banks, Fremont and Shields, and in the utter paralysis of the movement of McDowell to reinforce McClellan. It was still evident, however, that this paralysis was but temporary, and that with renewed concentration of the vast though shattered forces of the enemy, Jackson, with his little army reduced by forced marching and constant fighting, would have no alternative but to retire to the defenses of Richmond, which would be reduced to a state of siege by the combined and overwhelming Federal armies.
Nothing less than the geinus of Lee could have relieved such a situation. To await the tardy attack of McClellan, while the movement for the annihilation or forced retreat of Jackson and the reinforcement by McDowell was resumed, would be fatal.
With additional troops already received, and by calling Jackson to him, Lee would have a force of eighty thousand men with which to engage the one hundred and five thousand of McClellan. While the latter General was clamoring for reinforcements and maturing his plans of assault, Lee determiued to order Jackson to his support, and with the bulk of his army to march rapidly out of his lines, cross the Chickahominy, gain McClellan's right and there assault him on his flank.
The brilliant audacity of this plan maybe appreciated when you remember that in its execution he left but twenty-five thousand men between the army of McClellan and Richmond, and exposed his own rear without a man intervening between it and the large force of McDowell.
Its profound strategic wisdom is demonstrated by the result of the glorious seven days' battle which followed, at the end of which we find the grand army of McClellan, its dream of triumphal entry into the Confederate capital vanished, cowering, shattered and demoralized, at Harrison's Landing, on the James, under the protection of the powerful gunboats which alone saved it from destruction.
It is a cold, historic fact that after deducting losses of the battles and stragglers, Lee with sixty-two thousand men pursued Mclellan with ninety thousand to the banks of the James; yet so had the handling of the Confederate force multiplied its numbers in the imagination of McClellan, that his dispatches informed his Government that he had been overwhelmed by an enemy not less than two hundred thousand strong!
Richmond was relieved and for the moment safe; but the situation was full of peril.
The army of McClellan, resting in its impregnable position within a day's march of Richmond, reorganized and strengthened with reinforcements; would, if left undisturbed, soon be in position to resume offensive operations. Meanwhile the Federal forces in the other direction had been placed under a new commander, Maj. Gen. John Pope, who, at the head of 43,000 men, was organizing a bold campaign to operate against Richmond in connection with McClellan.
Lee determined that the easiest way to remove McClellan from the James would be to threaten the inferior force of Pope, upon which the protection of Washington depended. Accordingly, he dispatched Jackson with twelve thousand men in the direction of Gordonsville to threaten Pope. This left him with only fifty-eight thousand men to confront the ninety thousand of McClellan; but the latter General still remaining inactive, Lee, a week later, further depleted his force by sending A. P. Hill's division to reinforce Jackson. Jackson, with his force of about eighteen thousand men, did not hesitate to attack Pope with thirty-seven thousand at hand, and more in easy reach, and won the victory at Cedar Run. This bold feat had the effect of checking all serious advance on the part of Pope, and of so alarming the Washington authorities for the safety of their capital, that they accomplished the very purpose of Lee, by ordering the transfer of McClellan's army to the support of Pope. This enabled Lee to dispatch the rest of his own force in the same direction. McClellan's forces were being rapidly transported to Alexandria and moving to the support of Pope. If suffered to complete their junction the force of the enemy would be overwhelmingly superior. The only hope was to annihilate Pope before the whole of McClellan's force could reach him. To accomplish this, an attack upon Pope's front, even if successful, would be unavailing, because that would only drive him back upon McClellan. Lee, therefore, determined upon a movement unsurpassed for boldness in the annals of war. He threw his whole army entirely around the right flank of Pope, and, by rapid marching, gained his rear, thus establishing himself directly between the two hostile armies, each outnumbering his own. His safety depended upon the prompt defeat of Pope. Failure was destruction. Lee had fifty thousand, Pope seventy-five thousand men. Under these circumstances the great battle of the second Manassas was delivered, resulting in the complete defeat of Pope and the retirement of his entire army within the defenses of Washington.
Thus, within ninety days from the date of his assuming command, the genius of Lee, operating against over-whelming odds, had completely reversed the relative situation of the contending forces, and rolled back the tide of war from the fortifications of Richmond to the outposts of Washington.
But the task of the Confederate commander was like that of Sysiphus.
He stood victorious in battle, but what was he to do with his victory? The attempt to besiege or assault the Federal army in the defenses of Washington was too absurd for serious contemplation. He could not maintain his army in its then advanced position, because the country was stripped of supplies, and there was no railroad communication with Richmond nearer than the Rapidan. To fall back would be to forfeit the prestige of success, and to leave the enemy, with his overwhelming numbers free to organize another expedition, by the water route of the James, to the gates of Richmond, and thus to reinstate the peril which had just been averted.
The bold resolve was quickly taken to cross the Potomoc, find subsistence on the enemy's soil, force his adversary to leave his fortifications and meet him on a battlefield of his own selection, where a victory might arouse the discontented people of Maryland, and lead to other advantages of incalculable value.
A formidable Federal force of twelve thousand men lay at Harper's Ferry, on the flank and rear of his intended movement. It was absolutely essential that this force should be captured or dispersed. This must be done certainly and quickly, and, to make sure, a strong force must be dispatched for the purpose. He therefore, detached Jackson with five divisions to sweep this obstacle from the path, and then by rapid marching to rejoin him in time to join battle with the army of McClellan. Lee retained, in the meanwhile, only three divisions to confront that vast force, trusting that Jackson's task would be accomplished before McClellan should discover the weakness of the force left to oppose him. There is no reason to doubt that the plan would have succeeded, but for one of those accidents which “turn awry” the best laid schemes. One of Lee's orders to his general officers formulating the movement, was lost in some way and fell into the hands of the enemy. McClellan, thus fortuitously apprised of the departure of Jackson and of the slight force left to oppose him, was quick to hurl his army upon the latter, confident of annihilating it before Jackson could come to its rescue. The situation was fraught with peril, but the heroic resistance of this small force at South Mountain Pass and Crampton's Gap, held McClellan in check until Jackson by tremendous forced marches, having accomplished the object of his detour, was able to rejoin it; and Lee was thus enabled, at last, to concentrate his army for the battle of Sharpsburg. The accident of the lost order, however, destroyed the chance of that success which might otherwise have attended this brilliantly planned expedition. The divisions with Lee reached Sharpsburg worn and fatigued, and with ranks decimated by the severe fighting they had undergone, while the extraordinary forced marches to which Jackson was driven, had strewed his route with exhausted and broken-down men.
Lee delivered battle in this engagement with thirty-five thousand men, worn out and exhausted as we have seen, against eighty-seven thousand under MeClellan. The result was a drawn battle, both sides resting on their arms the following day, on the night of which Lee, quietly and without molestation, retired his army across the Potomac.
But for the lost order, nothing indicates a doubt that, after the success of Jackson's movement, Lee would have effected an unopposed and leisurely concentration of his forces, in a position chosen by himself, where, with at least fifty thousand men, fresh and elated with victory, he would have met the onslaught of McClellan. The result of the engagement actually delivered, as well as of past contests, leaves little doubt that an overwhelming victory would have been achieved, the consequences of which no man can now divine.
Not until October, 1862, did the Federal army recross the Potomac. A new commander, Gen. Burnside, now leapt into the saddle. His career in that capacity was speedily ended by the crushing defeat at Fredericksburg, where, with one hundred thousand men, he had the temerity to assault Lee in strong position with seventy-five thousand. This was the easiest victory of the war, inflicting terrific loss upon the attacking force, while that of Lee was insignificant.
The next act of this tremendous drama opens with the spring of 1863, when Lee, with fifty-seven thousand men, confronted Hooker, the new Federal commander with one hundred and thirty-two thousand.
Now, Lee, look to thy charge! These be odds which might well strike terror to the stoutest heart.
Sedgwick, with a strong force, crossed the river below Fredericksburg and demonstrated against Lee's front, while Hooker, with the bulk of his army, swept around Lee's left, crossing at the upper fords, and concentrated at Chancellorsville, in position, not ten miles removed, to assail Lee in left flank and rear. The ordinary commander would have escaped from this cul-de-sac by promptly retiring his army and establishing it between his enemy and coveted Richmond. But Lee never failed to find, in the division of his adversary's forces, an opportunity to neutralize, as far as possible, the odds against him, by striking him in fragments. Lee's resolve was promptly taken. Leaving the gallant Early with only nine thousand men to handle Sedgwick, he himself with the forty-eight thousand remaining, marched straight for Chancellorsville, vigorously assaulted the advance of Hooker and soon placed that portion of the Federal army on a serious defensive. No time was to be lost. Sedgwick would soon drive back the inferior force of Early, and come thundering on his rear. Hooker must be disposed of promptly, or all was lost. Hooker had seventy-five thousand men well entrenched, which was increased to ninety thousand before the battle was over. Direct assault was desperate, if not hopeless. “The lion's skin is too short, we must eke it out with the fox's.”
By a movement whose inconceivable boldness alone insured its success, he still further divided his force, and remaining with only 14,000 men in Hooker's front, he sent Jackson with the rest of his army to march across Hooker's line of battle clear around his right, and there, to dash upon his flank and rear, while by simultaneous assault upon his front he would be inevitably crushed.
With that rapidity and perfection of execution which characterized him, Jackson, unobserved, reached the coveted position, stood with Fitzhugh Lee alone upon an eminence from which he looked down upon the unsuspecting camps of the enemy, deployed his forces for assault and hurled them upon the astonished foe. This took place in the afternoon, and before night had suspended operations Hooker's discomfiture was assured. The advantage was promptly and vigorously pushed on the next morning: in the course of which Lee and Stuart (who had succeeded to the command of the wounded Jackson), again touched elbows, swept Hooker's army out of its works at Chancellorsville and sent it reeling and broken back upon the Rappahannock.
Hooker thus disposed of, now for Sedgwick. Early had, by his gallant resistance, gained precious time and given serious occupation to Sedgwick, but the immensely superior numbers of the latter had at last forced Early back and were advancing upon Lee's rear towards Chancellorsville. Lee now gathered up the most available of his victorious forces and rushing to the reinforcement of Early, speedily converted Sedgwick's advance into a swift retreat; which would have resulted in his capture had not the friendly cover of night checked pursuit and enabled him to cross the Rappahannock. So ended the operations of Chancellorsville, at the close of which Gen. Hooker found his army, demoralized by defeat and weakened by tremendous losses, in those very camps opposite Fredericksburg, from which they had so recently set out to imagined victory over an inferior foe.
Chancellorsville! brightest and saddest of Confederate triumphs. Brightest, because the military history of the future must ever point to it as the most conspicuous example of the power of consummate genius in a commander, by audacious wisdom of conception, celerity of movement, and knowing how and when to venture on risks which, by the very sublimity of their rashness, escape anticipation or discovery, and thereby become prudent and safe, to accomplish the apparently impossible and to snatch victory from overwhelming odds. Saddest, because in its tangled thickets and in the shades of that night which fell upon the most brilliant achievement of the war, the immortal Jackson, busy in organizing the sure victory of the morrow, rode upon that death, which leaves the world yet in doubt as to whether the fatal bullet that caused it did not, at the same time, deal the death-wound of the Confederacy. If Lee was the Jove of the war, Stonewall Jackson was his thunderbolt. For the execution of the hazardous plans of Lee, just such a lieutenant was indispensable—one in whose lexicon there was “no such word as fail,” for whom the impossible did not exist, and who, in combined manœuvres depending for success upon separate and consentaneous movements, ever assumed that one which was most difficult and made it the most certain of execution. Never his the task of giving good, bad or indifferent reasons for the non-execution of any order confided to him, or for not executing it in the manner, or within the time contemplated. Alas! we now approach the critical and disastrous campaign of Gettysburg, the whole history of which, on the Confederate side, is made up of controversies as to why this, that, or the other order of the commander was not executed, or executed too late, or executed imperfectly, and at every turn of which we involuntarily exclaim, “Where, oh where was Jackson then? One blast upon his bugle horn were worth a thousand men!”
The motives for the advance into Pennsylvania were similar to those already indicated as prompting the movement into Maryland of the previous year.
The campaign was attended with misfortune from the start. The miscarriage of Stuart's cavalry deprived Gen. Lee of its co-operation and left him in a strange and hostile country without its necessary aid in feeling his way and keeping him apprized of his surroundings. This precipitated the unexpected clash at Gettysburg, which took place without premeditation on either side.
I shall not enter into the details of this tremendous battle, because I cannot do so without involving myself in the controversies already suggested.
The failure to press the advantage gained in the first day's fighting, as ordered by Lee, and thus to gain the historic heights of Gettysburg; the delay to deliver the assault ordered for the early morning of the second day until four o'clock in the evening, thus allowing the enemy to increase his forces, strengthen his position and to occupy the eminence of Round Top; the disjointed character of the assault when made, in which the advantage gained by our right wing was lost because the delay of the left wing in advancing, left the former without necessary support; the like miscarriage and failure of the general assault ordered for the following morning, in which the advance of our left wing was paralyzed because not responded to by the simultaneous movement of the right; and the final tremendous blunder, by which the immortal charge of Pickett's and Heth's divisions, launched across half a mile of open plain swept by an overwhelming fire of artillery, against fortified heights occupied by vastly superior numbers, and culminating in their actual capture and the planting of standards upon the guns of the enemy, was robbed of its results by the lack of support—these errors blasted the fair hopes of a victory which might have changed the result of the war.
I leave to history the task of adjudging the blame for these errors. I content myself with declaring, as the result of my study of the evidence, that Lee was not in fault. The electric cord which bound the great Lieutenants of Lee to each other, and to their commander, and which on so many other fields made them invincible and crowned them with imperishable laurels, seems, on that day, to have sped but a broken current. As Lee was eager to save them from blame and to say “it was all my fault,” their generous souls would be the first to exonerate him and repudiate his self-sacrifice.
The battle of Gettysburg was delivered by Gen. Lee with sixty-two thousand men of all arms against one hundred and five thousand of the enemy. Considering that Lee was the attacking party and was repulsed, it must be accepted as a Confederate defeat. But such was the impression produced upon the enemy by its fierce assaults that he was ignorant of his victory, and the question engaging his attention seems to have been, not whether he should press a defeated adversary, but whether he should himself await a repetition of the attack.
Crimson with the setting of the sun which fell upon the field of Gettysburg, boding storm and tempest to the Confederate cause; yet it substantially ended the campaign of 1863, and left the Federal army farther from Richmond than it was at its opening.
Lee recrossed the Potomac at leisure and without serious molestation, and none but minor operations intervened until the spring of 1864.
We now approach that last and matchless campaign in which the “consummate flower” of Lee's soldiership burst into its fullest bloom, and witched the world with its beauty.
The grim hero of Vicksburg and of Missionary Ridge, a man of inflexible will and desperate tenacity, who measured his own resources and those of his adversary with merciless precision, stepped to the head of the Army of the Potomac. That army was now swollen to an enormous host of one hundred and forty-one thousand men, while his home Government, weary of failure and desperately in earnest, gave him the assurance of reinforcement whenever required.
Lee confronted him with sixty-four thousand men, precious men, the death or capture of every one of whom was a loss not to be repaired.
The grandest compliment ever paid by one soldier to another was paid by Grant to Lee in the famous “attrition” order of the former. It openly abandoned competition with him in the fields of strategy and manœuvre, and simply proposed to hurl superior against inferior forces until, “by the mere force of attrition,” the latter should be annihilated. Whatever else may be said of it, the plan seemed sure of success, and it succeeded; but at the cost of such enormous destruction to the superior force as the Federal general could hardly have contemplated.
The situation was, from the first, a desperate one for Lee. The odds against him and the enemy's unlimited capacity for maintaining and increasing them, left little chance for a decisive victory. He might not hope that Grant would divide his forces, and give him the chance, so often profited by in the past, of whipping him in detail. The policy of retreat, however “masterly,” could lead to but one result—the final submission to a siege within the defenses of Richmond, and consequent abandonment of the capital.
The only course which promised the possibility of success was to fight from the start, to attack regardless of odds whenever opportunity offered, to dispute every step of the advance, to hold every position to the last, and to take those chances which, upon the most unequal fields, genius sometimes finds, to snatch victory from the very jaws of despair.
There is something magnificent in the audacity with which, as soon as Grant had crossed the Rapidan, and set his vast force on the advance to Richmond, Lee marched straight for him, and instantly grappled with him in the Wilderness. A terrible wrestle ensued, lasting for two days, in which the advantage was on the Confederate side. It was Grant, and not Lee, who retired from this struggle and sought by a rapid flank movement to gain Spottsylvania Court-House. But Lee anticipated his design, and reaching that point simultaneously with Grant, again opposed his army to his advance on Richmond. Here again the two armies closed in desperate fight, in which, as at the Wilderness, the losses of the enemy were terrific. After repeated and fierce assaults. Grant again retired from this field, and moved by the flank toward Bowling Green, but Lee reached Hanover Junction in time to place himself again in his front.
Declining the gage of battle here offered, Grant began a series of flank movements eastward, Lee moving on parallel lines and confronting him at every halt, until at last the two armies met on the historic field of Cold Harbor.
Here Grant again closed with his adversary and hurled his columns in repeated assaults upon the impregnable front of Lee, repulsed with such terrible carnage that, though the intrepid Federal commander would have desperately continued them, his troops, gallant as they were, unmistakably reminded him that they were weary of slaughter.
This campaign may be said to have ended with the next movements of Grant, which brought him in front of Petersburg, within the entrenchments of which by the invaluable co-operation of Louisiana's foremost soldier, Beauregard, Lee succeeded in establishing his army, and the siege of Petersburg was begun.
Take now a brief retrospect of the campaign.
Grant started with over one hundred and forty-one thousand men against sixty-four thousand men. He received reinforcements swelling his aggregate engaged in the campaign to one hundred and ninety-two thousand men, while Lee had received but fourteen thousand reinforcement. Lee had so managed his inferior force as to confront his adversary at every halt and to be ready for battle whenever offered. Such skill had he displayed in the selection of his positions and the disposition of his troops that he repulsed every assault, won every battle and forced his adversary to retire from every field. According to the authority of Swinton, the Federal historian, Grant had lost sixty-thousand men, a number nearly equal to the entire force of his opponent. And what had the Federal commander accomplished? He had reached a point on the James River, the water route to Richmond always open, where, in much less time and without the loss of a man, he might have established himself at the opening of the campaign.
The siege of Petersburg! How shall I commemorate it? How shall I do justice to the heroism displayed in the defense of those immortal lines? During nine weary months the great Federal leader, with all his intrepid daring, with his unquestioned military talent, with his vastly superior force, with all the expedients of science and art at his command, and with unlimited supplies of everything essential for his operations, struggled in vain to surmount them. He tried to get over them by assault. He tried to get under them by subterranean mining. He tried to get around them by flanking. He tried to move them out of his way, by explosion. In vain! The genius of Lee met and foiled him at every point.
And what shall he said of that little band of immortal heroes, the Don Quixote of armies, who, with unfaltering devotion and unflinching courage, stood by Lee during the long months of this renowned siege! For four years they had fought, and it might have been supposed that they were weary of strife. Hunger often gnawed at their vitals, and famine sometimes stared them in the face. With tattered garments, and often shoeless feet, they shivered in the freezing winter winds. Disasters everywhere to the Confederate cause robbed them of the soldier's solace, the hope and confidence of ultimate triumph. Turning from their own cheerless lot to their distant homes, the tidings they received from wives and children and aged parents told of burning roof-trees, of flight before invading armies, of want, desolation and despair.
And yet they fought on; defied ill-omened augury; dared fate to do her worst; and with a sublime confidence and matchless devotion such as, I dare to say, no other cause and no other commander ever inspired, they stood by Lee to the very last.
And when the end came, when Gordon had “fought his corps to a frazzle,” and when in fierce combat every other corps had been torn into shreds; when a mere remnant was left surrounded on every side by foes in such overpowering numbers that further resistance would have been a wanton sacrifice of precious lives; and when, at last, Lee submitted to the inevitable and yielded his sword to the victor, these grim warriors gathered round him, seeming more affected by his humiliation than by their own calamity, and with tearful eyes and kissing the very hem of his garments, gave him their affectionate adieux, and sadly turned to the new lives which opened before them.
Success is not always the test of soldiership.
Hannibal ended his carreer as a soldier in the overwhelming defeat of Zama, and died a fugitive in a foreign land.
Charles XII of Sweden, that meteor of war, defeated at Pultowa, sought safety in exile, and on returning to his native land, met death in a vain attempt to restore his fallen fortunes.
Napoleon died, a prisoner and an exile, after his complete overthrow on the field of Waterloo, where he encountered odds less than those which were opposed to Lee in any battle which he ever fought.
Considering the importance of his operations, the large forces engaged, the immense superiority of his adversaries in numbers and resources, the skillful commanders whom he successively vanquished, the number of his victories, the brilliancy and successful audacity of his strategy and tactical manœuvres and the magniticent tenacity which yielded, at last, to destruction rather than defeat—I challenge for Lee an exalted rank amongst the very greatest Captains of the world.
The only obstacle which Lee encounters to the universal recognition of his greatness lies in the perverseness of human nature, which exacts, as compensation for the admiration accorded to great qualities, the privilege of criticising the faults, weaknesses and excesses with which they are usually accompanied.
His freedom from eccentricities, the absence of merely personal ambition, and the simple and perfect equipoise of his temper, lead shallow minds to deny the force of his individuality, forgetting that these very qualities themselves constitute an ennobling eccentricity, shared in the same degree by no other military character, or by Washington alone.
Certainly the impression produced by him upon his contemporaries was marvelous. As we have seen, his first commander, Winfield Scott, pronounced him “the greatest living soldier of America.” His loftiest subordinate, Stonewall Jackson, whose splendid capacities and achievements lifted him into rivalry with Lee himself, said of him: “Lee is a phenomenon—the only man I ever knew that I would be willing to follow blindfold.” The estimate of him by his soldiers is illustrated by the commentary of two “learned Thebans” among them upon Darwin's theory of evolution, in which one said to the other: “Well, you and I and the rest of us may be descended from monkeys, but how are you to account for Marse Robert?” Such was their sublime confidence in him that they regarded criticism of him as blasphemous, and were so blind even to his errors that they were like the disciple of Cato, who, when the philospher died by his own hand, declared that “he would rather believe suicide to be right than that Cato could do anything wrong.”
Let nothing I have said be construed as disparaging the valor of the Union troops, the skill of their leaders or the splendor of their achievements. On the contrary, the tribute I have paid to the genius of Lee and the heroism of his soldiers, only emblazons their triumph and lends to it a glory which, otherwise, it would not possess. And equally is it the surest foundation of Lee's fame that his victories were won from “foemen worthy of his steel.”
Away with such comparisons! Returning from our voyage over historic seas, in quest of the golden fleece of noble deeds and heroic lives, we bring on shore “the riches of the ship,” and cast them into the treasury of our common country. Sail forth, adventurers, on whatever sea, find such jewels where ye may, and whether their tint be gray or blue, the republic will bear them as her proudest ornaments.
My task is done. The fruitfulness of the theme has led me to tax your patience far beyond excuse. I may not follow Lee in that gracious and beautiful life to which he retired as college president, at the close of the war, and in which he labored, to the moment of his death, in repairing the neglected education of the Southern youth, and in teaching his people, by precept and example, the lesson that “human fortitude should be equal to human calamity,” the duty of adapting themselves to the situation in which Providence had placed them, of building up their ruined fortunes, and by a faithful discharge of the duties of citizenship, of re-establishing themselves as members of that Union from which fate did not permit them to depart.
I may not pause to epitomize the various qualities which mark Lee as a great captain. His deeds speak for themselves, and exhibit the characteristics of that military genius which enabled him to achieve them.
I may not stop to delineate the peculiar nobility and sublimity of his character, nor the “daily beauty in his life,” which, from the cradle to the grave, knew no diminution of its pure and steady lustre, which captivated the admiration of the good, and subdued, by its subtle influence, even the malice of the bad.
I may not enumerate those historic examples of heroic courage, by which, in desperate crises of battle, when the fate of the struggle trembled in the balance, he took his life in his hands, and would have rushed into the jaws of destruction, had not his faithful soldiers forced him to the rear, and, reanimated by his daring, restored, by superhuman valor, the fortunes of the day. Whenever, in all future time, the leader in some great cause, finding his followers about to yield, shall be inspired to reanimate them by imperiling his own life, let him, who first feels the shame of such exposure, but raise the cry of “Lee to the rear!” and, if they be made of manly stuff, the remembrance of the grand example thrice set upon Virginia fields will avert that leader's danger and win the day without it!
Proudly, then, we unveil this monument, fearless of any denial that it perpetuates the memory of a man justly entitled to rank as one of the princes of his race, and worthy of the veneration of the world.
The Christian may point to it as commemorative of one who faithfully wore the armor of Christ, and who fashioned his life as nearly after that of the God-Man as human imperfection would permit.
The moralist nmy recognize in it a tribute to a friend of humanity to whom pride and self-seeking were unknown, and whose unconscious nobility of conduct answers to the description of a virtuous man given by the imperial philosopher, Marcus Antoninus: “He does good acts as if not even knowing what he has done, and is like a vine which has produced grapes and seeks for nothing more after it has produced its proper fruit. Such a man, when he has done a good act, does not call for others to come and see, but goes on to another act, as a vine goes on to produce again the grapes in season.”
The social philosopher will see in it a tribute to the highest type of gentleman, in birth, in manners, in accomplishments, in appearance, in feeling, in habit.
The lover of the heroic will find here honor paid to a chivalry and courage which place Lee by the side of Bayard and of Sidney, “from spur to plume a star of tournament.”
It is fitting that monuments should he erected to such a man.
The imagination might, alas! too easily, picture a crisis in the future of the Republic, when virtue might have lost her seat in the hearts of the people, when the degrading greed of money-getting might have undermined the nobler aspirations of their souls, when luxury and effeminacy might have emasculated the rugged courage and endurance upon which the safety of States depends, when corruption might thrive and liberty might languish, when pelf might stand above patriotism, self above country, Mammon before God, and when the patriot might read on every hand the sure passage:
Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey,
Where wealth accumulates and men decay!
In such an hour—quam Dii arertite—let some inspired orator, alive to the peril of his country, summon the people to gather round this monument, and, pointing to that noble figure, let him recount his story, and if aught can arouse a noble shame and awaken dormant virtue, that may do it.
The day is not distant when all citizens of this great Republic will unite in claiming Lee as their own, and rising from the study of his heroic life and deeds, will cast away the prejudices of forgotten strife and exclaim:
We know him now; all narrow jealousies
Are silent, and we see him as he moved—
How modest, kindly, all-accomplished, wise,
With what sublime repression of himself—
Wearing the white flower of a blameless life.
But, proudest, tenderest thought of all, the people of this bright Southland say, through this monument, to all the world:
Such was he; his work is done,
But while the races of mankind endure,
Let his great example stand,
Colossal, seen of every land,
And keep the soldier firm, the statesman pure,
Till in all lands and through all human story,
The path of Duty be the way to glory!
R. E. LEE MONUMENTAL ASSOCIATION.
The R. E. Lee Monumental Association of New Orleans, had its origin in that grand outburst of tributary grief at the death of Lee, which, while it covered his tomb with the votive offerings of the good and wise of all civilized nations, prostrated the people of the Southern States of this Union in peculiar and unutterable woe.
The Association was organized November 16th, 1870, with the following officers and directors:
|WM. M. PERKINS,|| ||PRESIDENT.|
|G. T. BEAUREGARD,|| ||1ST VICE PRESIDENT.|
|A. W. BOSWORTH,|| ||2D VICE PRESIDENT.|
|WM. S. PIKE,|| ||TREASURER.|
|THOS. J. BECK,|| ||RECORDING SEC'TY.|
|JAMES STRAWBRIDGE, ||CORRES. SEC'TY.|
|Hugh McCloskey,|| ||Henry Renshaw,|| ||R. S. Morse.|
|A. M. Fortier,|| ||Edward Barnett,|| ||Samuel Boyd.|
|Chas. E. Fenner,|| ||George Jonas,|| ||S. H. Kennedy.|
|Wm. B. Schmidt,|| ||Abram Thomas,|| ||Newton Richards.|
|Wm. H. Dameron,|| ||Lloyd E. Coleman,|| ||Jas. Jackson.|
|W. K Mercer,|| ||Ed. A. Palfrey,|| ||E. A. Tyler.|
|M. O. H. Norton,|| ||Arch. Mitchell,|| ||Ed. Bigney.|
It is unnecessary to say why the enterprise languished. It was in those dark days when poverty sat by every honest hearthstone in New Orleans, and when the scanty remnant left by the greedy tax-gatherer was too sorely needed for the necessities of the living to be spared for building monuments, even to the most illustrious dead.
In the course of years, it came to be remembered that the small fund which had been accumulated by the first efforts of the founders of the association, was lying idle in bank, and a meeting of the directors was called on February 18th, 1876, for the purpose of determining whether the association should not be dissolved, and its funds returned to the donors or distributed to charitable associations.
A call of the roll at that meeting revealed the fact that, in the years which had passed, the president, the treasurer, the secretary and eleven (11) of the original directors had died.
A re-organization was then effected constituting the following officers and directors: Chas. E. Fenner, President; G. T. Beauregard, 1st Vice President; M. Musson, 2d Vice President; S. H. Kennedy, Treasurer, W. I. Hodgson, Recording Secretary; W. M. Owen, Corresponding Secretary. Directors—W. B. Schmidt, Geo. Jonas, Lloyd E. Coleman, R. S. Morse, E. A. Tyler, Jas. Buckner, Thos. A. Adams, Sam'l Choppin, S. H. Snowden, W. T. Vaudry, Henry Renshaw, E. A. Palfrey, Sam'l Boyd, Arch. Mitchell, W. C. Black, B. A. Pope, Jas. I. Day, I. L. Lyons, J. J. Mellon, E. D. Willett.
The times were scarcely more propitious than they had been before, but when the Directors stood face to face with the proposition to abandon the work, their patriotic impulses refused to accept it, and inspired them with the determination, at all hazards, to complete it.
It was then resolved, with the means which could be immediately commanded, to begin the monument, as the best means of assuring its completion.
Of the numerous designs submitted, that of our distinguished home-architect, Mr. John Roy, was selected, not only because of its artistic merit and beauty, but also because its plan was such that its construction could proceed just as far and as fast as our means would permit.
And so was built the monument which exists to-day.
The difficult and expensive foundation, the massive mound of earth, the granite pyramid, and the shapely marble column, were all constructed under a contract with Mr. Roy, which provided that his work should progress just as fast as our means would allow, stopping when the treasury was empty and proceeding when it was replenished.
Slow and tedious was its progress, often halting, while fresh appeals could be made to the liberality of the people of New Orleans. They were always answered, and, surely though slowly, stone was piled upon stone, until, when the cap stone was set upon the lotty pillar, the whole was paid for.
Then came the task of providing the means for the colossal bronze statue which now crowns the work.
The means of the Association did not allow the privilege of calling to its aid the reigning kings of the artist world.
Fortune threw in our way, a young sculptor, Alexander C. Doyle, of New York, who had already given some evidence of the mettle that was in him, and who had such confidence in his own capacity, that he was willing to execute a plaster model of the exact size of the proposed statue, and from which the latter was to be directly moulded, subject absolutely to the acceptance of the association and without cost unless satisfactory.
That work was done by him in the St. Louis Hotel building of this city—how well, let the statue, now standing in Lee Place, tell to admiring thousands. In purity of conception, spirit and grace of pose and expressive resemblance, it is not unworthy of the subject.
After various changes, the officers and directors of the association consisted of the following:
|CHARLES E. FENNER,|| ||PRESIDENT.|
|G. T. BEAUREGARD,|| ||FIRST VICE PRESIDENT.|
|M. MUSSON,|| ||SECOND VICE PRESIDENT.|
|S. H. KENNEDY,|| ||TREASURER.|
|W. I. HODGSON,|| ||RECORDING SECRETARY.|
|W. M. OWEN,|| ||CORRESPONDING SECRETARY.|
|W. B. Schmidt,|| ||W. T. Vandry,|| ||R. M. Walmsley.|
|Alfred Moulton,|| ||A. H. May,|| ||Lloyd R. Coleman.|
|James Jackson,|| ||W. J. Behan,|| ||Cartwright Eustis.|
|Samuel Boyd,|| ||J. L. Harris,|| ||Ed. A. Palfrey.|
|J. C. Morris,|| ||E. A, Burke,|| ||Arch. Mitchell.|
|J. J. Mellon,|| ||I. L. Lyons,|| ||James McConnell.|
|Ad. Meyer,|| ||C. H. Allen,|| ||E. Borland.|
The statue having been completed, the board selected the anniversary of the birth of Washington, the 22d of February, 1884, as an appropriate occasion for the ceremonies of unveiling.
Great preparations had been made for the event. An immense platform had been erected for the accommodation of subscribers to the association and other invited guests, and upon which the ceremonies were to take place, while in front, and upon the sloping sides of the mound at the base of the monument, seats were provided for thousands.
The day broke threatening and cloudy, but notwithstanding its stormy aspect, there was such an assemblage of the people as has never been seen in the Southern States. The seats were filled with ladies, while the circle and even the streets approaching it were crowded by the multitude eager to do honor to the memory of Lee.
Amongst the many distinguished persons in attendance were the President of the Confederate States, Jefferson Davis, his daughters, and Misses Mary and Mildred Lee, daughters of the great soldier and patriot, in whose honor the monument was erected. The associations of the armies of Northern Virginia and Tennessee, the militia of the State, and a large delegation from the Grand Army of the Republic honored the occasion by their presence. Just as the ceremonies were about to begin, the storm, which had been gathering, burst in torrents of rain which lasted for hours, dispersing the immense audience and rendering it impossible to proceed. In the midst of it, however, and while the salvos of Heaven's Artillery almost drowned the salute with which, in despite of the storm, the event was greeted by the famous Washington Artillery, the monument was unveiled by a private soldier of Lee's army, who, at the suggestion of Miss Lee, in herself declining the honor, had been selected to perform this duty.
Immediately a meeting of the Directors was held at the Washington Artillery armory, of the proceedings of which the following official minute gives a full account and forms the appropriate close to this sketch:
OFFICIAL MINUTES OF THE ASSOCIATION.
R. E. LEE MONUMENTAL ASSOCIATION, February 22, 1884.
Immediately after the dispersion by the storm of the immense audience gathered to participate in the ceremonies attending the unveiling of the statue of Lee, the directors of this Association met at the Washington Artillery Hall, to determine what course should be persued with reference to the ceremonies.
After consideration and discussion, the following resolutions were proposed and unanimously adopted:
Whereas, the immense audience assembled this day at Lee Statue, has signalized the veneration and respect in which the people of New Orleans hold the memory of Robert E. Lee, and the enthusiastic approval with which they regard the erection of the monument to him; and, whereas, a postponement of the ceremonies could add nothing to the tribute already paid thereby:
Be it resolved, That the oration prepared for the occasion be published; that the Mayor being present, the presentation of the monument to the city of New Orleans by the President of this association, be forthwith made; that the directors of the association proceed immediately to the statue, and that the Bishop, J. N. Galleher, here present, be requested to invoke the blessing of Almighty God upon the work, and that the ceremonies of the occasion be then considered as concluded.
Resolved, That the Board of Directors tender their thanks to the Grand Army of the Republic, the Associations of the Armies of Northern Virginia and of Tennessee, the militia of the State and all visiting organizations, as well as to the patriotic women and men of the South, for their attendance in such enormous number's, and express their regret that the storm prevented the completion of the ceremonies.
After the adoption of the foregoing resolution, Hon, Chas. E. Fenner, President of the Association, arose and addressed Mayor Behan as follows:
Mr. Mayor—As President of the R. E. Lee Monumental Association, and in its behalf, I have now the honor of presenting the monument this day unveiled, through you to the city of New Orleans.
What I have to say touching the illustrious man to whom it is erected has been uttered in another form.
The immense outpouring of the people of New Orleans which congregated around the statue to-day, defying the elements until all hope of further proceedings had to be abandoned, testifies to the deep and enthusiastic veneration with which his memory is reveied by the women and men of the South.
The design of the monument and its construction up to the base of the statue are the work of our home architect, Mr. John Roy; while the statue itself is the production of a young American sculptor, Mr. A. C. Doyle, of New York, whose growing reputation will surely be confirmed and extended thereby.
I experience a peculiar pleasure in finding our city represented in her chief officer by one who was a distinguished soldier under Lee, and who was at the same time an active member of this Association and contributed valuable aid in the successful accomplis[h]ment of our enterprise.
Louisiana is entitled to a full share in the glory of Lee. Her sons illustrated by their valor every field on which his fame was won.
To her chief city we confide this monument, with full assurance that she will appreciate and preserve it as one of her most precious possessions.
Thereupon Mayor Behan arose and responded as follows:
Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen of the Lee Monumental Association:
In accepting at your hands and receiving into the charge of the city of New Orleans the monument which, now completed, so proudly stands as an enduring tribute to valor, worth and military genius, it is indeed difficult to sufficieutly acknowledge the appreciation and respect with which our public must regard the affectionate devotion of those who have contributed to its construction.
This shaft has been erected as a tribute to the greatness and virtue of one of the purest and noblest men whose names are written in modern history.
Gen. Lee was not only illustrious as a great commander, but he was also great in all those attributes which might constitute a brilliant exemplar of the highest civilization.
Gentlemen, it needed not this monument to perpetuate the name and fame of Gen. Lee. His deeds are his monument, and they will survive and continue in remembrance long after this marble shall have crumbled into dust; his great example will outlive the brush of the painter and the chisel of the sculptor, for great examples are indeed imperishable:
They will resist the empire of decay,
When time is o'er and worlds have passed away.
Cold in the dust the perished heart may lie,
But that which warmed it once can never die.
After the conclusion of the presentation, the Board of Directors, in company with Bishop Galleher, proceeded to the statue, and the Bishop, in the presence of such persons as were present, pronounced his benediction on the work.
And then, on motion, the meeting adjourned.
By order of the President:
W. I. HODGSON, Secretary.
Company B, Battalion of Washington Artillery, Capt. Eugene May commanding, with a four-gun battery, fired, between 3 and 4 o'clock, a salute of 100 guns in honor of the unveiling of the statue.