• The Lees of Virginia
  • The Lees of Virginia
  • 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 It contains published and unpublished items, some well known to historians, others that are rare or have never before been put online.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.



Lexington, 4 Feby. 1867

Hon. Robt. Ould

Virginia Senate

Richmond, Va.


My Dear Sir:

I recd to day your letter of the 31st ult.; and the subject to which it relates is so important that, though confined to my room by indisposition, I reply at once. I feel greatly honored at what you say is the prevailing wish of the leading men in the State, that I should accept the nomination for the office of Governor of Virginia, and I duly appreciate the spirit of kindness that has led them to name me for that high position. I candidly confess, however, that my feelings induce me to prefer private life, which I think more suitable to my condition and age, and where I believe I can better subserve the interests of my State, than in that you propose. 

You will agree with me, I am sure, in the opinion, that this is no time for the indulgence of personal or political considerations in selecting a person to fill that office; nor should it be regarded as a means of sewarding individuals for supposed former services. The welfare of the State and the interests of her citizens should be the only principle of selection. Believing that there are many men in the State more capable than I am to fill the position, and who could do more to promote the interests of the people, I most respectfully decline to be considered a candidate for the office. I think it important, in selecting a chief magistrate of the Commonwealth, for the citizens to choose one capable of fulfilling its high trust, and at the same time not liable to the misconstruction which their choice of one objectionable to the Genl Government would be sure to create, and thereby increase the evils under which the State at present labors.

I have no means of knowing, than are apparent to you, whether my election as Govr. of Va. would be personally injurious to me or not, and therefore the consideration of that question in your letter has not been embraced in my reply. But I believe it would be used to excite hostility towards the State, and to injure the people in the eyes of the country by the dominant party; and I therefore can not consent to become the instrument of bringing distress upon those whose prosperity and happiness are so dear to me. If my disfranchisement and privation of civil rights, would secure to the citizens of the State the enjoyment of civil liberty and equal rights under the constitution, I would willingly accept them in their stead.

What I have written is intended for your own information; and with grateful thanks for your friendly sentiments, I am very truly yours,

R. E. Lee       




Source: Photocopy of original, Lee Family Papers, Mss1 L51 c 738, pp. 18-20, Section 43, Virginia Historical Society, Richmond

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2018 February 20


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