<br /> Lee Letter: v044

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Robert E. Lee
Recipient: Charles Carter Lee

My dear Carter

Both of your letters from Broadneck have been forw – d to me at this place. I was as much surprised at the request made by Bernard in the one, as at the sudden change of his opinion & wishes announced in the other. The principal object of my visit to the District last Spring was to meet Charles on this Subject. He came here & spent the night with me when we discussed the whole matter & I then reiterated what I had previously stated in my letter appointing the meeting, that under all the circumstances it was best for the parties concerned that I should not qualify as Joint Executor & Trustee to which he assented. The next morn – g we went out to Wash – n together where we found Bernard & I stated to him the same thing. He made no objection to my declining, or any request that I should act, & we all three went together to Mr Walter Jones Office with a copy of the will, when I explained the object of our visit & asked him what I should do to renounce the trusts there delegated to me. He said it was merely necessary for me to give Charles a line declining the Office which he would have to shew to the Court before he could qualify. I then drew up & placed in Charles hands the following paper

“From my position & duties as an Officer of the king, it will be impossible for me to perform the duties or attend to the trusts delegated to me jointly with Charles H. Carter by the last will & testament of my uncle Bernard Moore Carter formerly of VA. dated 9 June 1840. The interests of the parties concerned therefore requires that I should decline the office of joint Executor & trustee which I hereby renounce

R E Lee (Signed)
Apl 1842″

I presume this paper was filed with the Court before which Charles became qualified as Sole Executor & Trustee & I do not know whether I could if I would now recall it. It is however certain that the circumstances which in my opinion then required me to decline still exist & prevent my assuming duties which it would be impossible for me properly to perform. On my return to Fort H – – I stopped in Phil – a on purpose to See Josephine & Matilda on the Subject. Josephine was absent somewhere, but I spent the ev – g with Matilda & her Mother. I explained to them what I had done & my reasons for so doing. Neither of them made any objection to the step I had taken or any request that I should act, and the assent of the parties concerned afforded me great pleasure, for I confess it gave me great pain not to comply with the wishes of Uncle B. & cost me a severe struggle to decline the office which he had performed for my Mother & which he had desired me to fulfill towards his Children. I did so however from the conscientious belief that I should be doing them an injury by accepting, & that were he living he would be the last person to wish me to undertake for them what I could not perform. I rec – d early in last month a letter from Bernard of a similar import to that he wrote you. I then replied to him among other things that, “it was from my knowledge of the demands that might frequently arise for a change of investment, & of the necessity that the Executor in that event should be able to form a correct opinion & promptly execute it, that induced me not to qualify; & I believe I should have been guilty of injustice to the legatees, had I undertaken an office which my situation & duty as an Officer of the Army rendered me incapable of fulfilling. My position, besides being uncertain & liable to change, is frequently in remote parts of the Union, where I should be either unable to get information or to profit by it till too late. I am so tied to my station during the progress of operations that I am not supposed even to ask to leave it on any occasion connected with my private affairs, & you may judge of the difficulty of doing so during a temporary suspension, which is now the case, when I inform you that for the last two months, I have been endeavouring to make a short visit to Wash – n to procure some papers referring to my service on the Mississippi & Missouri, involving an amount of $4000. recently charged against me by the Bank at St Louis, My private affairs have suffered ever since I have been in the Army from the empracticability of my attending to them. I am at no time master of my movements & my whole time is engrossed by my duties. How could I then in common honesty with a consciousness of these facts undertake an office requiring much attention & experience & involving great interest? The same reasons which compelled me to decline the Executorship, are equally opposed to my undertaking the office of trustee & I hope they will be so far convincing to you as to prevent you urging what it gives me great pain to refuse & what your good sense must shew you, I would be wronging by accepting, those it is my desire to benefit.” I did not suppose at the time that he was ignorant of my having formally declined the trusteeship as well as Executorship. And I feel somewhat mortified after this explicit declaration in consequence of an apprehended want of harmony between Charles & himself in conducting their private relations. So long as the circumstances which induced me to make that decision, exist; I can never change it, even though it were possible for me to revoke it. What you say of the power conferred in the will upon the trustees to relinquish the trusts with the assent of the Legatees is true, & I have no doubt that Charles would consult his own happiness by so doing. As to the Legality of the Will I know nothing. I shall certainly not mention to any one the least suspicion of a want of harmony between Bernard & Charles, though this is not the first time that the probability of such a thing has reached me; & lest you may misunderstand me I must add I did not hear it from Charles, or as coming from him. Before the reception of your letter Hill had sent me Gardners hire which was $50. I however send you a check on the Bank of VA: at Richmond for $50. payable to your order, not that I recognize your claim on me for Uncle Wms suspension of payment on Joe’s [or Ive’s] Acct, (For you know I took Gardner in exchange for Sam a young man living with John Hill & whom you took out to the Spring Camp with his wife) but in payment of a copy of the “Maid of the Doe” & as a slight evidence of the pleasure its perusal afforded me. Not that I find no fault with it, but I shall not criticize it at this time. I wish I could make it $5000. But I never felt poorer in my life & for the first time in my life I have not been able to pay my debts. Last year my pay was cut down $300. & the year before $500. which added to the failure of dividends of the Bank of VA: has reduced me very low. In addition too my expenses have been increased $300. by Custis, schooling & there seems to be no end to the calls for money. I am afraid I shall break now that the Bankrupt act is repealed. To day Mr Arnolds bill, the immortal 548 is to come up, which is to reduce us 20 per cent. We are all well & all desire much love to Uncle Wms dear charlotte, to all at B. Neck & wherever you go in your peregrinations in that Country; All too desire their love to you. John Hill has been in Alex – a lecturing on temperance & making many converts. I have been ordered here on some business which I have nearly completed & after which I presume I shall return to Ft. H – or go somewhere else. Direct under cover to Col Tolten Chief Engineer Wash – very truly &

aff – y

R E Lee

Notes:

Lee PapersUniversity of Virginia Archives

This letter is addressed “Charles Carter Lee Esqr, Broadneck, Hanover Court House, Virginia.” In the bottom left is written, “Care of Wms Carter Esqr.” The postmark is “Washington, D.C. Feb. 15.” The top 2 inches of page one is cut off, apparently before the letter was started.