From the 31 March 1912 issue of The New York Times.


A Sympathetic Appreciation of the Great Southerner’s Character

LEE THE AMERICAN. By Gamaliel Bradford, Jr. Houghton Mifflin Co. #36;2.50 net.

IT is almost impossible to treat so striking a character as that of Robert E. Lee from an unbiased standpoint. The writer either looks upon him as a demigod, and lauds him to excess, or he as unjustly brands him traitor, which epithet, as a brilliant author said not long ago, would become synonymous with nobility were it coupled with the name of Lee. Lee is a subject to exercise men’s emotions. That he was great no reasonable Northerner will deny, and that he was none the less great for having led and championed an unsuccessful cause must be admitted as willingly.

Nor was Lee’s greatness wholly due to the fortuitous combination of circumstances which has made him one of the most conspicuous figures in American history. “It must be recognized and insisted,” writes Mr. Bradford with rare sympathy, “that few man have guided their actions more strictly and loftily by conscience than Lee. * * * That he turned to it and consulted it in every crisis, and especially in the profoundest crisis, of his life, is certain, and whatever we may think of his judgment, it is impossible to question the absolute rectitude of his purposes.”

Many men who act with such high motives impress their associates with the opinion that they are puritancical or, in a word, priggish. Yet the general estimate of Lee has been far different from this. The high-strung and overemotional Davis, who distrusted most men with whom he came into contact, placed absolute confidence in the ability and integrity of his General in Chief. Jackson, fiery, headstrong, self-confident, said of him: “Lee is a phenomenon. He is the only man I could follow blindfold.” And his soldiers revered him, almost idolized him. “On one occasion just before battle there was heard to pass from mouth to mouth as a sort of watchword the simple comment, ‘Remember, Gen. Lee is looking at us.’ “

Such a man is made of more than ordinary metal, and in his study of him Mr. Bradford has produced a fine piece of work. His volume is neither a history nor a biography: he has simply selected certain of the more important phases of Lee’s life and discussed them. A chapter sums up Lee’s career before the war, another deals with the reasons that made him decide to adhere to the South, a half-dozen concern his relations with Davis, the Government, Jackson, his army and his qualifications for supreme command, and Lee the citizen, Lee the lover of humanity, is beautifully pictured for us in the closing pages of the book.