<br /> Lee Letter: wl187

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Francis L. Smith
Recipient: Robert E. Lee

My Dear Sir

I was glad to hear, this, a letter, from Mrs Lee to Mrs Dangerfield, that my previous letter, had reached you. As requested, in Mrs Lee’s letter, I had an interview with Mr. Devanty Johnson, a day or two since, in relation to “Arlington.” In reply to a suggestion from me that you had previously written him, Mr Johnson promptly said, that he had not recd. a letter from you, else that he would have replied immediately. He stated that he has written to Mrs Lee in reply to a communication from her. Mr Johnson, like myself, seems embarrassed, as to what legal steps can or ought to be adopted for the redemption or recovery of “Arlington,” in the present posture of affairs.

The oath prescribed by the act of 1865, if not taken, presents a barrier, at the very thresh-hold, of any proceedings, for the redemption of the property – And this must continue until the law is repealed, or declared unconstitutional, by the decision of the courts of proper jurisdiction. I copied that portion of the law prescribing the oath, in my former letter – As Mrs Lee, is a life tenant, and not a tenant sufferance or at new I do not think that the latter portion of the section, applies to her – and therefore, she would not be required, to swear, as to the loyalty of your son, Custis, to whom “Arlington” was devised in reversion.

The two years, as I wrote you, within which Mrs Lees right of redemption, might have been exercised, expired in January last, but still, that is unimportant if the law is unconstitutional – If as the law declares, by the non-payment of the direct tax, the land is forfeited, & henceforth becomes ipso facto, the property of the Government, then it would seem, that no other proceedings, were necessary, to vest the title in the Government – and yet in this case, there seems to have been, the very novel procedure, of a sale by the commissioners, of land, <illegible> up to the Govt in order for the Govt to obtain a title to its own land.

The law, as I wrote you, affords no right of appeal, to the action or proceedings, of the tax commissioners. Several cases, however, have been taken to the United States Circuit Court for Virginia, upon applications for writs of Mandamus, in which I presume, this tax law, will be tested in all its parts, and the powers & duties of the commissioners examined to whom the executive has been confided – It will afford me Genl I assure you, very great pleasure to render you any further service in my power –

Mrs Edward Dangerfield begs me, to say, that Mrs Lee, may expect a letter from her very soon –

Our household join in most kindly remembrance to Mrs Lee, yourself and your family – With great regard I remain General

Most sincerely yours

Francis L. Smith


Robert E. Lee CollectionLeyburn Library, Washington and Lee University