From the 24 October 1900 issue of The New York Times.

TOPICS OF THE TIMES.


—In the discussion, already bitter and tending inevitably to become more so, that has been excited by the selection of Gen. ROBERT E. LEE’S name for a place in the “Hall of Fame,” among the very greatest of the Nation’s heroes and benefactors, there is to be seen one of the many unfortunate results that not a few of us have anticipated ever since the curious shceme took definite shape. Some good will folllow its execution, dobutless, in the way of directing public attention to the services of certain men who for one reason or another have failed to secure deserved recognition, but all possible benefits of that kind are vastly overbalanced by the harm done in this single case. Whether Gen. LEE was a patriot or a traitor is a question with no bearing on the present or the future of the United States, and there is not the slightest possibility that Americans will ever agree upon an answer to it until the civil war comes to be merely an episode in the history of the country. Anything that practically forces present argument about it is deeply to be regretted. A tacit agreement to disagree is the only course now compatible with the harmonious relations so earnestly desired in both North and South, the only course that willhasten the ultimate coincidence of opinion. But the “Hall of Fame” people, by their premature attempt to settle the controversy, have given new life to animosities that were dying for lack of sustenance, and for months to come we are fated to hear, in newspapers and out of them, an interchange of epithets the harshness of which is only equaled by their uselessness. There are millions of persons in the United States to whom LEE represents an abhorrent cause, and other millions for whom he typifies a sacred one. For them to discuss the matter is to quarrel, since they are not at odds about facts, but about deductions from facts, and in making the deductions the two sides move instinctively in different directions. The safe and healing silence of the last ten or fifteen years has been rudely broken, the agreement to disagree has been violated, all because a little group, well intentioned but ill advised, have assumed, without authority or invitation, to perform a task which the Nation in its own good, and vastly better, time would have attended to for itself.