From the 9 January 1909 issue of The New York Times.


Mr. Thomas Regards Lee as Washington’s Superior—Why the War Was Fought—Mrs. Cornwallis-West’s Reminiscences—Tennessee Mountain Folk—Various Communications.

New York Times Saturday Review of Books:

THERE is no need of Mr. Eldridge Colby’s exhibiting either “consternation” or hysteria over the statement that Robert E. Lee was the greatest English-speaking General that ever lived. Many competent critics, Northern, Southern and Englishmen, have reached the same conclusion, after a study of all the campaigns of all the great English-speaking captains, including Marlborough, Wellington, Crowell, Clive, and Webb. This is a question upon which honest men may differ, and which can only be decided by evidence and reason. No amount of declamation and rhetoric can affect the result—only evidence and reason.

It is difficult for a plain man to see how “pride in Old Glory,” the “Spanish-American war,” (in which ex-Confederate Generals such as Fitzhugh Lee and Joe Wheeler served with distinction), have any bearing on the relative randk of Gens. Washington and Lee. International contests, however interesting in themselves, are beside the question. Mr. Colby brings in the question of secession. I have no wish to discuss that question, which I believe to have been settled by the war. Personally, I believe that the South had every legal and moral right to secede, and was in fact bound to cut the tie which bound her to States that refused to obey the compact. However that may be, the South was defeated, accepted the verdict, and has loyally supported the Federal Government ever since—of this there can be no question.

Gen. Washington’s reputation as a soldier rests in a large measure on the New Jersey campaign and his concentration on the victorious Cornwallis. Lee and Washington were products of the same conditions—both were Virginian gentlemen, planters, soldiers, and slaveholders. Whether Washington could have planned and carried out operations on the large scale of Lee’s will never be known; he never had a chance to show such talent, had he possessed it. Whether Frederick the Great considered Washington to be a greater soldier than Alexander, Caesar, Hannibal, or Frederick himself may well be doubted. A candid man after weighing all evidence may safely say that, while Washington was a great soldier, Lee was his superior in every branch of the military art.

New York, Jan. 4, 1909.