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Robert E. Lee

R. B. Campbell

West Point

24 May 1853.

My dear Sir.

Your son Frank came to me yesterday to request permission to resign. I was the more unprepared for his application, as he had dined with me Saturday, & responded cheerfully to my expectations of his success at the approaching Examination. He stated his belief however in this interview that he could not pass, & his preference of resigning now to running the risk of being found deficient in his course. I endeavoured to encourage him to persevere to the end. That he would have two weeks yet before being called upon, & that he must make a last & vigorous effort to succeed.

In the evening I took occasion to converse with his Professor, who thinks the probabilities of his success so very doubtful, that I have determined to refer the matter to you. He says he has not on his general review exhibited that knowledge of his course he had expected. That his irreproachable conduct & gentlemanly manners in the section room, has always drawn his attention to him, & made him particularly anxious for his success. He would therefore regret his failure the more—yet unless some good change should take place between this & his Examination, or that he should exhibit a full knowledge of his course at his examination, his could not pass. He is a youth of such fine feelings & good character that I should not like to subject him to the mortification of failure, to which he might give more value than it deserves. For I consider the character of no one affected by a want of success, provided he has made an honest effort to succeed.

I shall however be governed by your wishes & judgement in this matter, & should I not hear from you before your sons examination & should both he & his Prof. be of the opinion that he will not pass, I shall consider that I am following your wishes, by using the authority you have left with me, & not bring him before the Board, but allow him to resign.

I need not tell you how much I regret what I have to communicate, as I had hoped for a different result.

I remain very truly your friendSigned/ R. E. Lee.

Superintendent’s Daily Correspondence
United States Military Academy

Superintendent’s Letter Book No. 3, p. 27. Addressed “Genl. R. B. Campbell Care of Mrs. Stow Esq New Orleans. La.”