• The Lees of Virginia
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  • The Lees of Virginia
  • The Lees of Virginia

The Lee Family Digital Archive is the largest online source for primary source materials concerning the Lee family of Virginia. It contains published and unpublished items, some well known to historians, others that are rare or have never before been put online. We are always looking for new letters, diaries, and books to add to our website. Do you have a rare item that you would like to donate or share with us? If so, please contact our editor, Colin Woodward, at  (804) 493-1940, about how you can contribute to this historic project.



Arlington 17 March 1858

My dear Son,

I recd to night your letter of the 18 Feby, & also the deed relinquishing to me all your right & title to Arlington, the Mill, adjacent lands, personal property &c bequeathed you by your Grd father. I am deeply impressed by your filial feelings of love & consideration, as well as your tender solicitude for me, of which however I required no proof, & am equally touched by your generosity & disinterestedness. But from what I said in a previous letter, you will not be surprised at my repeating that I cannot accept your offer. It is not from any unwillingness to receive from you a gift, you may think proper to bestow, or to be indebted to you for any benefit, great or small. But simply because it would not be right for me to do so. Your dear Grd father distributed his property as he thought best, & it is proper that it should remain as he bestowed it. It will not prevent me from improving it to the best of my ability, or of making it as comfortable a home for your mother sisters & yourself as I can. I only wish I could do more than I shall have it in my power to do, but all the revenue derived from your Grd father’s Estate I must devote to the payment of the legacies & debts; & except then such as I can derive from Arlington & the mill, which are not bound for either under his will, & can only obtain from my slim income. Still something Can be done, & but for my absence on my military duties, I would hope for much. Nothing Can be made off the farm this year, & shall have to expend in its cultivation more than I can hope to obtain, But next year it ought to yield something, & though a little it will help. I have had to expend already $831. in strengthening the barns, & almost $200. in necessary implements. The lime & guano that I hope to put on the land this year will cost about $500, but will pay in profit the next. I wish you had have recd my previous letter on this subject in time to have saved you the trouble of executing the deed you transmitted me. And indeed I also regret the expense you incurred, which I fear in that Country is considerable, as I wish you to save all your money & invest it in Some Safe & lucrative way, that you may have the means to build up old Arlington & make it all we would wish to see it. The necessity I daily have for money has I fear made me parsimonious. In order that you may know the full intent of your Grd father’s will, I enclose you a Copy. You will see there is a condition implied in your reversionary interest to Arlington. How far it may be considered obligatory in law I do not know. No provision is made for the payment of his debts, of which there exists upwards of $10,000. After reading the will I wish you would give me your opinion as to its provisions, especially that clause respecting his slaves.

I shall leave to Mary the relation of all family matters. Rooney leaves us to morrow on his return to New York where he will accompany the last batch of recruits for the “Relieving Army of Utah” to Leavenworth & then join his Regt: destined for that service. It is needless to say how pained I am at his departure. If I could only have my children around me, I could be happy. Louis Marshall has gone to New Port Bks: to conduct the recruits from there. Florence since his departure has given birth to a daughter. Aunt M & John Goldsborough dined with us to day. The court has acquitted Col Summer & as far as I can judge properly. Farewell dear, dear Son.

Affy your father

R E Lee

ans 18th April 1858



Source:  Digital scan of original letter, The Papers of Robert E. Lee, 1749-1975, Rubenstein Library, Duke University

Transcribed by Katie Hall, 2018 June 26

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