From the 20 January 1907 issue of The New York Times.


Urges Permanent Memorial in Some Educational Institution.

WASHINGTON, Jan. 19.—With elaborate exercises and in the presene of a distingushed audience, the one hundredth anniversary of the birth of Gen. Robert E. Lee was commemorated here to-night, under the auspices of the United Confederate and Southern Societies of the District of Columbia. The immense ballroom of the New Willard Hotel, where the meeting was held, was filled to overflowing.

A special section was set apart for Confederate veterans, who marched to the hall in a body, escorted by the United Spanish War Veterans, headed by Capt. J. Walter Mitchell, Department Commander.

Although unable to attend, President Roosevelt sent a letter in which he extolled the virtues of the Confederate General, in war as well as in peace.

Hilary A. Herbert, ex-Secretary of the Navy, presided. The reading of the President’s letter was assigned to Mrs. Ralph Walsh, President of the District of Columbia Division, United Daughters of the Confederacy. It was as follows:

The President’s Letter.

The White House,
Washington, D.C., Jan. 16, 1907.

To the Hon. Hilary A. Herbert, Chairman; Chief Justice Seth Shepherd, Gen. Marcus J. Wright, Judge Charles B. Howry, Mr. William A. Gordon, Mrs. Thomas Nelson Page, President Edwin Alderman, Mr. Joseph Wilmer, and others of the Commmittee of Arrangement for the celebration of the hundredth anniversary of the birth of Gen. Robert E. Lee.

Gentlemen: I regret that it is not in my power to be with you at your celebration. I join with you in honorig the life and career of that great soldier and high-minded citizen whose fame is now a matter of pride to all our countrymen. Terrible though the destruction of the civil war was, awful though it was that such a conflict should occur between brothers, it is yet a matter for gratitude on the part of all Americans that this, alone among contests of like magnitude, should have left to both sides as a priceless heritage the memory of the mighty men and the glorious deeds that the iron days brought forth. The courage and steadfast devotion, the loft fealty to the right as it was given to each man to see the right, whether he wore the gray or whether he wore the blue, now makes the memories wore the blue, now makes the memories of the valiant feats, alike of those who served under Grant and of those who served under Lee, pious to all good Americans.

Lee’s Greatness of Soul.

Gen. Lee has left us the memory not merely of his extraordinary skill as a General, his dauntless courage and high leadership in campaign and battle, but also of that serene greatness of soul characteristic of those who most readily recognize the obligations of civic duty. Once the war was over he instantly undertook the task of healing and binding up the wounds of his countrymen, in the true spirit of those who feel “malice toward none and charity toward all”; in that spirit which from the throes of the civil war brought forth the real and indissoluable union of to-day. It was eminently fitting that this great man, this war-worn veteran of a mighty struggle, who at its close simply and quietly undertook his duty as a plain, everyday citizen, bent only upon helping his people in the paths of peace and tranquillity, should turn his attention toward educational work, toward bringing up in fit fashion the younger generation, the sons of those who had proved their faith by their endeavor in the heroic days.

There is no need to dwell on Gen. Lee’s record as a soldier. The son of “Light Horse Harry” Lee of the Revolution, he came naturally by his aptitude for arms and command. His campaigns put him in the foremost ranks of the great captains of all time. But his signal valor and address in war are no more remarkable than the spirit in which he turned to the work of peace once the war was over.

His Heroic Temper Not Warped.

The circumstances were such that most men, even of high character, felt bitter and vindictive or depressed and spiritless, but Gen. Lee’s heroic temper was not warped nor his great soul cast down. He stood that hardest of all strains, the strain of bearing himself well through the gray evening of failure, and therefore out of what seemed failure he helped to build the wonderful and mighty triumph of our National life, inwhich all his countrymen, North and South, share.

Immediately after the close of hostilities he announced, with a clear-sightedness which at that time few, indeed, of any section possessed, that the interests of the Southern States were the same as those of the United States, that the prosperity of the South would rise or fall with the welfare of the whole country, and that the duty of the citizens appeard to plain to admit of doubt. He urged that all should unite in honest effort to obliterate the effects of war and restore the blessings of peace, that they should remain in the country, strive for harmony and good feeling, and devote their abilities to the interests of their people and the healing of dissensions.

To every one who applied tohim this was the advice he gave. Although absolutely without means, he refused all offers of pecuniary aid and all positions of emolument, although many such, at a high salary, were offered him. He declined to go abroad, saying that he sought only “a place to earn honest bread while engaged in some useful work.”

This statement brought him the offer of the Presidency of Washington College, a little institution in Lexington, Va., which had grown out of a modest foundation known as Liberty Hall Academy. Washington had endowed this academy with 100 shares of stock that had been given to him by the State of Virginia, which he had accepted only on condition that he might with them endow some educational institution. To the institution which Washington helped to found in such a spirit Lee, in the same fine spirit, gave his services.

His Work as a College President.

He accepted the position of President at a salary of $1,500 a year, in order, as he stated, that he might do some good to the youth of the South. He applied himself to his new work with the same singleness of mind which he had shown in leading the Army of Northern Virginia. All the time by word and deed he was striving for the restoration of real peace, or real harmony, never uttering a word of bitterness nor allowing a word of bitterness uttered in his presence to go unchecked. From the close of the war to the time of his death all his great powers were devoted to two objects—to the reconciliation of all his countrymen with one another, and to fitting the youth of the South for the duties of a lofty and broad-minded citizenship.

Such is the career that you gather to honor, and I hope that you willtake advantage of the one hundredth anniversary of Gen. Lee’s birth by appealing to all our people, in every section of this country, to commemorate his life and deeds by the establishment at some great representative educational insitution of the South a permanent memorial that will serve the youth of the coming years as he, in the closing years of his life, served those who so sorely needed what he so freely gave. Sincerely yours,


Following brief remarks by Senator Berry of Arkansas and Justice David Brewer of the United States Supreme Court, Representative John Sharp Williams of Mississippi spoke. He said in part:

If our custodianship of our own destiny, now regained, is ever again to be lost, it will be because we lost sight of the example Robert E. Lee set. No mad words, leading himself and others to mad deeds, ever came from his lips. To solve our problems of peace we have only to invoke the spirit of Lee, as in war we invoked his sword. That spirit was firmness, calm, equipoise, a noble self-defense, and a resort to what was needful in self-defense without hatred or malice.

There are those yet who will doubt that he was greater than either of the greatest two Union Generals—Sherman, the strategist, or Grant, the sledgehammer—but the number of the doubters is decreasing as we get further from war feeling and the halo of success and more into the region of calm, dispassionate historical judgment.