From the 1 August 1910 issue of The New York Times.

NO LAW BARS LEE FROM THE CAPITOL


Statue in Confederate Uniform Not Out of Place There, Wickersham Decides.


TAFT APPROVES OPINION


Attorney General Says Lee Stands for Best in Southern Cause and Loyal Acceptance of Defeat.


BEVERLY, Mass., July 31.—President Taft has approved without comment an opinion by Attorney General Wickersham to the effect that there is no provision of law by which the statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee, in Confederate uniform, can be removed from Statuary Hall in the Capitol at Washington.

In addition to deciding the question on a purely legal basis, Mr. Wickersham argues the matter from an ethical point of view, declaring that Lee has come to be regarded as typifying all that was best in the cause to which he gave his services and the most loyal and unmurmuring acceptance of the complete overthrow of that cause. That the State of Virginia should designate him for a place in Statuary Hall as one illustrious for distinguished military service, the Attorney General declares, is but natural and warranted under the reading of the law.

Mr. Wickersham’s opinion was called forth by protests to the President from the Department of New York, Grand Army of the Republic. In his opinon, addressed to and approved by the President, the Attorney General says:

“I have read the resolutions adopted by the Department of New York, Grand Army of the Republic, at Syracuse on June 23, and the communications of Hon. James Tanner with respect to them. The act of July 2, 1864, referred to, provides for the creation of suitable structures and railings in the old hall of the House of Representatives for the reception and protection of statuary, which is to be under the supervision and direction of the Chief of Engineers in charge of public buildings and grounds, and the statue authorizes the President to invite each and all the States to provide and furnish statues in marble or bronze, not exceeding two in number, for each State of deceased persons who have been citizens thereof, and illustrious for their historic renown or from distinguished civic or military services, such as each State shall deem to be worthy of this National commemoration, and when so furnished the same shall be placed in the old hall of the House of Representatives in the Capitol of the United States which is set apart, or so much thereof as may be necessary, as a National Statutary Hall for the purposes herein indicated.

“It is probably true” continues the Attorney General, “that wen this act was passed, Congress did not contemplate that any State would designate one or more of its citizens who were then engaged in warlike rebellion against the Government of the United States as persons ‘illustrious for their historic renown or for distinguished civic or military service’ whose statues should be placed in this hall. Nevertheless, perhaps in the hope that, what Mr. Lincoln so fittingly described as ‘this scourge of war’ might soon pass away, and that a reunited country might be realized, Congress placed no limitation in the act upon the exercise of the discretion of any State in selecting those persons whom it ‘may deem to be worthy of this National commemoration.’

“It is now forty-five years since the civil war closed. Robert E. Lee has come to be generally regarded as typifying not only all that was best in the cause to which at the behest of his native State he gave his services, but also the most loyal and unmurmuring acceptance of the complete overthrow of that couse. That the State of Virginia should designate him as one illustrious for distinguished military services is therefore natural; that his statue should be clothed in the Confederate uniform, thus eloquently testifying to the fact that a magnanimous country has completely forgiven an unsuccessful effort to destroy the Union, and that that statue should be accepted in the National Statuary Hall as the symbol of the acceptance, without misgivings of a complete surrender and a renewed loyalty, should surely provoke no opposition. But, at all events, independently of the question of taste, the act of Congress places no restriction upon the designation by the States of those whom they may desire to honor in this way, nor does it vest in any official any censorship concerning the designation of the costume in which a statue shall be depicted.

“Therefore, under the existing law, I am of the opinion that no objection can be lawfully made to the placing in Statuary Hall of the National Capitol of a statue of Robert E. Lee, clothed in the Confederate uniform.”