From the 23 June 1902 issue of The New York Times.

OBJECTIONS TO A LEE STATUE.


To the Editor of The New York Times:

I desire to express my great satisfaction in your editorial of June 18 in regard to the bronze statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee, for it seems to me that you have shown conclusively the impropriety of such a commemoration. Having a distinct remembrance of all the issues of the war and the causes which led up to it, will you permit me to add a few words to your able article?

Let me premise, however, that I fully realize that the war is over and I have not the least disposition to wave the “bloody shirt,” and, furthermore, that I recognize the bravery and heroism of the Southern character, and their patriotic action in the recent war with Spain. Nevertheless there are some facts which can never be forgotten and some principles involved which we never should cease to defend. These should be remembered for the sake of the coming generations, if for no other reason.

In the first place, let it be borne in mind that for eighty years the South had dominated the Government, adn the North has meekly submitted to that domination. There was, it is true, a fanatical faction, called Abolitionists, which was rampant against slavery, but the great body of the North was utterly opposed to any interference with Southern State rights, and in Congress the Southern members had their way almost without let or hindrance until the dastardly attack upon Senator Sumner by Brooks. This infused some spirit in the North, and the “mudsills,” so called, were aroused to some sense of the condition of things and some resolution to prevent the extension at least of slavery into new territory.

At the same time slavery was but one cause of the war. The repeal of the Missouri Compromise, the questions of “State rights,” which became “State sovereignty,” and the ambition of a few political leaders to establish a Southern Confederacy, of which slavery should be the “corner stone,” were all involved in the impending conflict. State sovereignty was the issue with Robert E. Lee. “If my State goes,” he said, “I go with it.” This I have from one of his classmates at West Point, who afterward became a General on the side of the South, William F. Barry.

Previous to the secession of his State Gen. Lee was loyal and patriotic, and a man of splendid character. He lamented the rebellion; he did what he could to prevent the secession of Virginia, nevertheless when she went out he went with it, and became the military head of the rebellion, and while we make all due allowance for his training in the Southern heresy of State sovereignty, yet we can by no means go so far as Charles Francis Adams goes, and advocate the erection of a bronze statue at the Nation’s capital to his memory.

You have conclusively shown that between him and Cromwell and William of Orange there is no real analogy. But what a travesty of history this would be! What a mockery of loyalty and fidelity to truth and righteousness! What an insult to the Government and rebuke to the Administration that called a million of men into the field and sacrificed thousands of lives and untold treasure to put down insurrection, to preserve the Union, and maintain the Constitution and the laws.

If the North was mistaken or in the wrong then the war of 1860 was one of the most cruel, unjustifiable wars of all history—a fratricidal war, a slaughter of thousands and tens of thousands of innocent men and the destruction of millions of peroperty. In fact the slaughter of Southern men and the desolation of the South in that view of the case were crimes almost unparalleled in history. And waht otherwise would the bronze statue of Robert E. Lee, side by side with that of Gen. Grant, signify?

We can afford to forgive, we can afford to be magnanimous, but we cannot afford to go back on ourselves by such a commemoration, to virtually acknowledge that the war was unnecessary, or that treason and rebellion can be condoned after a few years, and the traitors be as honored as the loyal and patriotic. This would confound all distinctions between right and wrong, all the great principles of Government and law, and say to our children’s children thee is not, after all, any real difference between loyalty and patriotism and treason and rebellion, for here we have the evidence that one is equally commemorated and honored with the other.

M.K.
Atlantic City, N.J., June 21, 1902.