From the 28 October 1900 issue of The New York Times.

Letters From Readers on Various Timely Topics


To the Editor of The New York Times:

I apprehend that most Southerners read with considerable amusement, mingled with some natural indignation, the protests against having Robert E. Lee’s name enrolled in the so-called “Hall of Fame.” The tempest (in a teapot) raised, the invectives hurled against one of the greatest men of the century, the attempted belittling of his achievements and genius, and the calling him “rebel,” “traitor,” “Benedict Arnold,” reveal a state of sectional narrow-mindedness and ignorance of history that is amazing. As the American Colonies were subject provinces of Great Britain at the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, there is no doubt that in fighting against the sovereignty of England, Washington, Jefferson, and his compatriots were “rebels,” no matter how just their cause, nor how patriotic their motives. But Lee in drawing his sword for the South at the behest of his State, Virginia, was no “rebel.” By the doctrine of State rights held generally from the adoption of the Constitution to the outbreak of the war between the States, both North and South, each citizen owed paramount allegiance to his State, and not to the Federal Government, and there existed no Constitutional power in the Federal Government to coerce a seceding sovereign State to return to the Union. The great daily newspapers at the North steadily advocated conciliation and deprecated force up to the attack on Fort Sumter. That rash attack created the storm which swept away forever every vestige of sovereignty in the States, and completely obliterated the right of secession. The war revolutionized the Constitution of the United States and fused all the States into one great Nation. No right-thinking ex-Confederate would now have the results otherwise.

But when Robert E. Lee obeyed the call of his State, he acted according to his lights not only as a true patriot but as a true citizen.

It is no secret that Gen. Scott and President Lincoln offered him the command of the United States armies if he would fight on the side of the Union. But he resisted the most glittering temptation possible to one in his situation, and cast his all in with fortunes of his native State. Certainly the great Lincoln did not underestimate Lee. I offer this suggestion: Let the Hall of Fame be exclusively sectional in the enrollment of illustrious names.

Assuredly no one can for a moment beleive that the illustrious fame of Robert E. Lee can be added to by the enrollment of his name in this so-called “Hall of Fame,” or one jot diminished by its omission.

Greenville, S.C., Oct. 23, 1900.