1. I am indebted for a verified copy of the above letter to Mr. E. P. Mitchell, of the Editorial Staff of the New York Sun. After stating that the letter is taken from the third column of the editorial page, Mr. Mitchell continues: “From what I have observed of the editorial methods of that time, 1864, and considering the place on the page, the manner of exhibition, and the class of matter similarly displayed in the same place on other days, I should personally be slow to assume, without other evidence, that this was the earliest appearance in print of the forged letter. It looks, introduction and all, quite as much like reprint of current matter in other publications as like first hand and previously unedited news.”
It is probable that the question here raised will never be settled. It does not seem important. It is certain, I think, that the Richmond (Va.) Whig (as to which see post) copied The Duty Letter from the Sun. It gives no credit to any paper, but prints the letter with precisely the same heading and introduction as the Sun. Besides this, the Whig prints The Duty Letter verbatim et literatim as it appears in the Sun, even to reproducing the erroneous spelling Devenport for Davenport, the right name.
At the time of the publication of The Duty Letter, the editor and proprietor of the New York Sun was Moses S. Beach. Mr. Charles A. Dana bought and took over the Sun in 1868. If the astute Dana had been editor of the Sun in 1864, it is probable that the forged letter would not have passed his scrutiny.
2. In this connection, it may be permitted the writer to say that, while repudiating The Duty Letter as not written by General Lee, he yields to no one in loyalty to that great name. In the writer's opinion loyalty to Lee requires repudiation of a letter falsely masquerading under his name.
If a personal allusion may be pardoned here, the writer will state that he became a student in Washington College, Lexington, Va., (now Washington and Lee University) in 1865, soon after the accession of General Lee to the Presidency, and received his degree four years later from General Lee's hands. He is, therefore, one of “General Lee's Boys,” as the students of that period delighted to call themselves. The last year of General Lee's life (he died in October, 1870, the writer was an assistant professor in Washington College, reporting weekly to General Lee, and receiving his admonition and advice. His connection with Washington and Lee University continued unbroken until 1899, thus covering the whole of the twenty-six years during which General G. W. Custis Lee was President.
3. Letter to the writer, July 22, 1914.
4. This credit is erroneous, as a thorough search (for which I am indebted to Mr. A Estoclet, of the editorial staff of the Inquirer), has failed to discover the letter in that paper. It was no doubt taken by the Sentinel from the Sun or the Whig.
5. The laudatory comment is as follows: “The habit of publishing private letters, without the owners' consent, merely because they have chanced to fall into the hands of some unworthy person, is so much to be condemned that we are always reluctant to treat as public what has thus become so. The following letter we shall be pardoned, we hope, for making an exceptional case. It is so excellent a letter, and so full of admirable sentiments, that every father in the Confederacy will be most happy, if his sons shall consider it as addressed specially to themselves. In the hope that it will be thus received, and thus become universally profitable, we throw ourselves upon the author's indulgence for our readers' pleasure and benefit.”
6. The Sentinel's confession of imposition is as follows: “We have received the following from a source entitled to know, in reference to the letter imputed to General Lee, which lately appeared in this paper, into which it had been copied from a United States print. It seems that it was a Yankee forgery. In this characteristic act, the Yankees, while illustrating their own depravity, paid the only tribute of which they were capable to General Lee's worth. They knew that to give vraisemblance and credibility to the fraud, it was necessary to fill the letter with elevated sentiments, borrowed where they could find them. The defects of style they took care to guard against, by pleading haste of composition. We are not often deceived by forgeries of this sort, whether in the manufactured correspondence which is a part of the ‘enterprise’ of the Northern journalism, or in the clumsy imitations which are occasionally ventured upon by such Confederate newspapers as are willing to copy after such teachers. A glance usually suffices to detect the trick. But in the instance to which we are now referring, in common with many other Confederate journals, we were imposed upon.”
7. I am indebted for a copy of The Duty Letter as it appeared in the Whig and Sentinel, and of the Repudiation Letter as it appeared in the Sentinel, to Mr. H. R. Mcllwaine, the courteous and efficient Librarian of the Virginia State Library, Richmond, Va. This is only a small part of the cheerful and unremunerated service rendered by the Virginia State Library in my quest for information concerning The Duty Letter, for all of which I owe thanks Mr. Mcllwaine and to his assistants.
8. The Duty Letter bears date April 5, 1852, more than three years before General Lee became Lieut. Colonel of the Second Cavalry. The first part of The Duty Letter referred to is as follows: “I am just in the act of leaving home for New Mexico. My fine old regiment has been ordered to that distant region, and I must hasten to see that they are properly cared for.”
9. It is suggested by some who contend for The Wrong Date Theory, that, besides changing the date of The Duty Letter to fit the facts, the name of the addressee may also, if necessary, be changed. Instead of “G. W. Custis Lee” as the addressee, as was printed in the Sun, why, they argue, may not this be a mistake for “W. H. Fitzhugh Lee” (often called “Rooney” Lee), General Lee's second son, the letter being written to him, at a later date, while he was a student at Harvard University? But as is shown in the text, no date can be found which will reconcile the statements in the first two sentences of The Duty Letter with the actual facts, and this is equally true whether the letter be supposed to have been written to the addressee, “G. W. Custis Lee,” or to his brother, W. H. Fitzhugh Lee, or to anybody else.
10. “In reply to your letter of the 24th instant, I have the honor to inform you that the Second Cavalry did not serve in New Mexico at any time prior to the Civil War.” Letter to the writer, from the Adjutant-General's office, dated July 27, 1914.
11. I have had access to these letters and to the Memorandum Book, through the kindness of Colonel Robert E. Lee, of Ravensworth. The Memorandum Book is really a diary, with almost daily records of General Lee's movements.
12. It may be remarked here that to preserve the integrity of the body of The Duty Letter it is necessary, not only to change the year 1852, to some other year, hut also to change the month from April to February, as both in 1856 and in 1860 General Lee left for Texas in February. But this change encounters an obstacle in the third sentence of The Duty Letter, where General Lee is made to say, “I have but little to add in reply to your letters of March 26, 27 and 28.” For if the date be changed to February, in any year, how can General Lee in that month reply to letters received by him as late as the latter part of March?
13. “It appears from the records of this office that the Second United States Cavalry left Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, for Texas October 27, 1855, Lieut.-Colonel Lee being absent on Court Martial duty at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.” Letter to the writer, August 22. 1913, from the Adjutant-General's office, Washington, D.C.
14. See “Life of General Albert Sidney Johnston,” chapter 12, pp. 187–189.
15. Letter to the writer from the Adjutant-General, August 28, 1913.
16. On February 9, 1860, General Lee records in his Memorandum Book: “Received general orders, assigning me to duty according to my Brevet rank, and directing me to assume command of the Department of Texas.” General Lee received the brevet rank of Colonel, September 13, 1847, for gallant and meritorious conduct, in the battle of Chapultepec, Mexico. (Letter to the writer from the Adjutant-General, July 27. 1914. But he was still Lieut.-Colonel in the Second Cavalry, when, in 1860 he returned to Texas.
In his letter of resignation from the United States Army. April 20, 1861, General Lee Wrote to the Hon. Simon Cameron, Secretary of War: “I have the honor to tender the resignation of my command as Colonel of the First Regiment of Cavalry.” The explanation is that shortly before Virginia seceded General Lee was commissioned Colonel of the First Cavalry, succeeding Colonel E. V. Sumner, who was made Brigadier-General. But events moved so rapidly that General Lee never assumed command of the First Cavalry. (Letter to the writer from the Adjutant-General).
17. Since this paper was read before the State Bar Association, and while it is being revised for publication, the death of Captain Lee is announced. He passed away, after a lingering illness, on October 19, 1914. No braver or more chivalric man ever lived, and his death is lamented by his surviving comrades of the war, and by a host of friends. His “Recollections and Letters General Robert E. Lee” exhibits the most ideal relations between a father and son to be found in literature.
The surviving descendants of General Robert b. Lee are Miss Mary Custis Lee, his eldest daughter; Colonel Robert E. Lee and Dr. George Bolling Lee, his grandsons, sons of General W. H. Fitzhugh (Rooney) Lee; and Misses Anne Carter Lee and Mary Custis Lee. his granddaughters, daughters of Captain Robert E. Lee.
18. We have seen that General Lee left Arlington to join his regiment in Texas twice only, viz.: on February 20, 1856. and February 10, 1860. This is shown conclusively by his letters and Memorandum Book. He returned to Arlington November 11, 1857, called home by the death of his father-in-law, C. W. Parke Custis, which occurred on October 21, 1857.
It is stated by several of General Lee's biographers that after coming home in the fall of 1857, he returned soon after to his regiment, and was at home again on a second furlough when John Brown's Raid (which he suppressed) occurred in October, 1859. That this is error is shown not only by General Lee's letters and Memorandum Book, covering fully the period from 1857 to 1861, but by the records of the War Department, In a letter to the writer, July 24, 1914, the Adjutant-General says: “According to the records, General Lee left San Antonio, Texas, October 24, 1857, on leave. He rejoined there, February 20, 1860, and assumed command of the Department of Texas on that date. During his absence from Texas, 1857 to 1860, his leave was extended several times, and in the meantime he was engaged at various times on special duty—as a member of a court of inquiry at West Point in 1858, member of an equipment board in 1859, and on detached duty at Harper's Ferry in November–December, 1859.” General Lee's Memorandum
Book shows that he was ordered to Harper's Ferry October 17, 1859.
19. The letter of Mr. Montgomery Wright, above referred to, is noteworthy as the first publication, now extant, since the Repudiation Letter in the Richmond (Va.) Sentinel in 1864, in which the anachronism in the first two sentences of The Duty Letter was pointed out as casting doubt on its authenticity. But the Repudiation Letter was forgotten after the war until found by Mr. L. K. Gould, in May, 1913, and is now republished for the first time in this paper. The letter of General Custis Lee to the writer, dated October 23, 1910, showing that General R. E. Lee did not write the first two sentences in The Duty Letter, for the identical reasons given by Mr. Wright, is published for the first time in this paper. Dr. J. William Jones, as far back as 1874, in his “Personal Reminiscences of General Robert E. Lee,” pronounced The Duty Letter “undoubtedly spurious”; but no reasons were given by him in this book, nor in his second book, “Life and Letters of Robert E. Lee,” published in 1906. But some time between 1874 and 1904 Dr. Jones did give reasons for his denial of the genuineness of The Duty better, in a published article, which the writer has not been able to find. See as to this a fuller statement hereafter.
20. The occasion for Mr. Wright's letter to the Sun was the republication of The Duty Letter in that paper, on February 22, 1913, soon after the death of General Custis Lee. The Duty Letter was sent to the Sun by Mr. Robert E. Kelly, now of Jersey City, N.J., but a native of New Orleans, La. Soon after The Duty Letter appeared in the Sun, it was copied by the Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch, the Boston Transcript, and no doubt by other papers. Mr. Kelly states that it was published in the New Orleans Picayune, as far back as October 22. 1872, about one year after its first publication after the war, in 1871, in John Esten Cooke's “Life of General R. E. Lee.” Between
the dates 1871 and 1913, The Duty letter has continued to appear, from time to time, in the public press, printed with high commendation, but with communications questioning its authenticity following hard on its publication.
As showing the intensity of feeling in the South in respect to The Duty better, I venture to copy, without permission, a few lines from a letter dated June 5, 1913, from Mr. Robert E. Kelly, to whom I am much indebted for assistance in my researches in re The Duty better. After stating that the letter was sent to him—a mere lad at a boarding school—by his father in 1873, he says: “Ever since that now far-off time of my happy boyhood that letter been to me and mine a vade mecum, friend, and philosopher.” And he adds: “You can never know, or even remotely feel, the acute and deep chagrin a d bitter disappointment which pierced my innermost soul when I saw a doubt cast on the authenticity of that which I had so reverenced and held sacred for so many years.”
Assuredly one assumes a great responsibility when he dares to disturb such sentiments as these. But to the writer it has seemed due to General Lee's memory to settle, if possible, before death destroyed the testimony of witnesses, the doubl thai overhung The Duty Letter, and to prevent the recurrence of disputes as to its authenticity.
21. Letter to the writer, dated June 1, 1913.
22. Letter to the writer, July 14, 1914. Dr. Joynes is now Professor Emeritus of the University of South Carolina.
23. See the Repudiation Letter, ante, from a “source entitled to know.” In a letter to the writer, Miss Mary Custis Lee declares that General Lee never wrote “Arlington House,” but that his father-in-law, G. W. P. Custis, did. The writer has scrutinized many letters, published and unpublished, of General Lee, and has never seen “Arlington House” save in the disputed Duty Letter.
24. The Old Puritan anecdote, as given in Harbor, page 403, is as follows:
“The 19th of May. 1780, was a remarkable dark day. Candles were lighted in many houses; the birds were silent and disappeared, and the fowls retired to roost. The legislature of Connecticut was then in session at Hartford. A very general opinion prevailed that the day of judgment was at hand. The House of Representatives, being unable to transact their business, adjourned. A proposal to adjourn the Council was under consideration. When the opinion of Colonel Davenport was asked, he answered, ‘I am against an adjournment. The day of judgment is either approaching, or it is not. If it is not, there is no cause for an adjournment: if it is, I choose to be found doing my duty. I wish, therefore, that candles may he brought.[’] ”
Whittier's poem entitled “Abraham Davenport” (the Old Puritan) was first published in 1866, just two years after The Duty Letter appeared in the New York Sun. It is probable thai Whittier saw this publication, and that his poem was suggested by it.
25. It is manifest thai the objections to the genuineness of the residue of The Duty Letter (after rejecting the first two sentences as “not written by General Lee”) which have been stated in discussing The Editorial Emendation Theory, apply equally to The Compilation Theory, and need not be repeated here.
It may be remarked that Dr. Jones who in his “Personal Reminiscences,” published in 1874, pronounced (p. 133) The Duty Letter “unquestionably spurious,” (with the statement, however, that the Duty Sentence “did occur in a letter to his son”), in his second book, “Life and Letters,” published in 1906, adopts (p. 436) The Compilation Theory to the fullest extent. (See the extract quoted above). It is probable that before publishing the second book he had written to General Custis Lee, and received an answer similar to that to the writer from which the above quotation is made. This is indicated by the close resemblance between the expression “as suited the compiler's fancy,” in General Lee's letter to the writer, and the expression “to his taste,” used by Dr. Jones.
26. In the years 1851 and 1852, Custis Lee was a cadet at West Point. He entered the Academy in 1850, and graduated in 1854. The letters received by him, while a cadet, were, no doubt, brought to Arlington, and left there when, at the opening of the war, he resigned his commission and came South. The dates of these letters, so close to that of the forged letter, April 5, 1852, is a strong argument that this is the true date of The Duty Letter, and that The Wrong Date Theory is untenable.
27. I am indebted to Miss Mary Lee (letter to the writer August 10, 1913), for this account of the letter by General Lee to Custis Lee, dated February 1. 1852: “He was then anticipating the return of Custis from West Point, on his furlough; but though he was stimulating him to be No. 1 in his class, (which he was), the word Duty was not mentioned.”This stimulating Custis to be No. 1 in his class is the burden of several other letters by General Lee to him, written about this time.
It has been suggested that the original of The Duty Letter may be, in existence, and may yet be returned to the Lee family. The same may be suggested of some letter containing the sentence, “Duty, then, is the sublimest word in our language.” But the evidence is so strong that The Duty Letter is spurious, that any letter now produced purporting to be its original, and to be in General Lee's handwriting, should be closely scrutinized, as probably itself a forgery. As to the sentence, “Duty, then, is the sublimest word in our language,” it is, of course, not impossible that he wrote it in some other letter, and that the letter may yet be returned. But after fifty years, if the intense interest in the authenticity of this sentence has not caused its production, it is most improbable that a letter containing it will yet be found. Like old Montaigne, one may say of this: “I believe in no miracles outside of
28. The first two paragraphs of this letter (all that were used by the forger, the remainder of the letter, a long one, being filled up with personal and domestic matters), are as follows:
Baltimore, May 4, 1851
My Dearest Son:
Your letter of the 27th ultimo, which I duly received, has given me more pleasure than any that I now recollect having ever received. It has assured me of the confidence you feel in my love and affection, and with what frankness and candor you open to me all your thoughts.
So long as I meet with such return from my children, and see them strive to respond to my wishes, and exertions, for their good and happiness I can meet with calmness and unconcern all else the world may have in store for me. I cannot express my pleasure at hearing you declare your determination to shake off the listless fit that, has seized upon you, and to arouse all your faculties into activity and exertion. The determination is alone wanting to accomplish the wish. At times the temptation to relax will be hard upon you, but will grow feebler and more feeble by constant resistance. The full play of your young and growing powers, the daily exercise of all your energies, the consciousness of acquiring knowledge, and the pleasure of knowing your efforts to do your duty, will bring you a delight and gratification far surpassing all that idleness and selfishness can give. Try it fairly and take your own experience. I know it will confirm you in your present resolve to “try and do your best,” and if that does not recompense you for your devotion and labor, you will find it in the happiness which it brings to father and mother, brothers and sisters, and all your friends. I do not think you lack either energy or ambition. Hitherto you have not felt the incentive to call them forth. “Content to do well,” you have not tried “to do better.” The latter will as assuredly follow the effort as the former. Every man has ambition. The young soldier especially feels it. Honor and fame are all that he aspires to. But he cannot reach either by volition alone, and he sometimes shrinks from the trials necessary to accomplish them. Let this never be your case. Keep them constantly before you and firmly pursue them. They will at last be won. I am very much pleased at the interest taken by the cadets in your success. Surely it requires on your part a corresponding return. They desire to see you strive at least, to gratify their wishes. Prove yourself worthy of their affection. Hold yourself above every mean action. Be strictly honorable in every act, and be not ashamed to do right. Acknowledge right to be your aim and strive to reach it. I feel, too, so much obliged to you for the candid avowal of all your feelings. Between us two let there be no concealment. I may give you advice and encouragement and you will give me pleasure.
It is a remarkable fact that since the publication of tins letter by Dr. Jones, it has disappeared, and cannot be found either among the papers of General Lee or among those of Dr. Jones. It cannot, therefore, be known whether Dr. Jones printed from a copy, or from the original. If there were both original and copy (frequently the case with General Lee's letters), then one or the other may have been left at Arlington, and used by the forger. In this case it would not be necessary to suppose that the letter was returned to the Lee family.
29. While the topics in The Duty Letter and in the letter of May 4, 1851, are the same, the language used and the treatment of the topics differ. There is, however, one parallelism of expression which attracts attention. In The Duty Letter, General Lee is made to say, “Take it for granted that you in to do right”; while in the other letter he says, “Acknowledge right to be your aim, and strive to reach it.” What significance, if any, attaches to this parallelism is left to the reader's judgment.
30. “The motives of the literary forger are commonly mixed, but they may perhaps be analyzed roughly into piety, greed, ‘push,’ and love of fun. Occasionally it has happened that forgeries begun for the mere sake of exerting the imitative faculty, and of raising a laugh against the learned, have been persevered with in earnest.” Andrew Lang's “Books and Bookmen,” pp. 16, 17. See also J. A. Farrer's “Literary Forgeries,” p. 1.
31. Letter to the writer. September 26. 1913.
32. As to the statement that The Duty Letter is “unquestionably spurious,” Dr. Jones, I am informed by both Captain R. E. Lee, Jr., and Captain W. Gordon McCabe, published a letter giving his reasons for pronouncing it a forgery. Captain Lee (letter to the writer, January 18, 1911), says that the article was exhaustive, and caused him to exclude The Duty Letter from his “Recollections and Letters.” Captain McCabe defter to the writer, January 27, 191 11), says: “I quite forget his (Dr. Jones') line of argument to prove the spuriousness of the letter, but I suppose it was the obvious one, as indicated in General Custis Lee's letter.”
Neither Captain Lee nor Captain McCabe recalled when or where Dr. Jones' letter was published, but Captain McCabe thought, probably, in the Richmond Dispatch. The time of publication must have been prior to 1904, when Captain Lee's book was published, for lie omitted The Duty Letter because of Dr. Jones' article.
For more than three years I have used every means in my power to discover Dr. Jones' letter, but without success. It cannot be found among his papers, nor in his scrap-books. For very great kindness in making search for the lost letter among Dr. Jones' papers and scrap-books, I am indebted to his four sons, Rev. Carter Helm Jones, D.D., of Seattle, Wash.; Rev. Howard Lee Jones, D.D., President of Coker College, Hartsville, S.C; Rev. M. Ashby Jones, D.D., Augusta, Ga., and Rev. E. Pendleton Jones, D.D., of Newberry, S.C.
The Southern Historical Papers and The Confederate Veteran have been carefully searched. Also the Richmond Dispatch from 1887 to 1903, inclusive. During this period, the Dispatch was considered more likely to contain the Jones letter than the Richmond Times, since Captain Lee, who read the Dispatch, saw the letter, and the writer, who read the Times, did not see it.
Presumably, Dr. Jones did not know of the publication of The Duty Letter in the New York Sun, nor of its publication in the Richmond Whig and Sentinel, and its repudiation in the Sentinel. This is to be inferred from the fact that Captain McCabe, who saw the Jones letter, did not know, thereafter, that The Duty Letter had been published in the Whig (Letter to the writer, June 1, 1913), and presumably was unaware of the other publications above referred to.
It is inexplicable that after writing such a letter, prior to 1904, Dr. Jones in his second book, published in 1906, should not have referred to it (even in a footnote), but satisfied himself with his former ipse dixit, with no further explanation than the conjecture (already quoted) that The Duty Letter is “the product of some ingenious newspaper correspondent, who got at Arlington a number of General Lee's letters; and taking extracts from several manufactured one to his taste”—thus adopting The Compilation Theory.
33. Letter of Rev. E. Pendleton Jones. D.D., to the writer, June 16, 1913.
34. The letters of General Lee to his son, W. H. Fitzhugh Lee, were carefully examined, at my request, by his widow, and by his eldest son, Colonel Robert E. Lee, of Ravensworth.
35. The Duty Letter, omitting the first four sentence?, was printed, accompanied by eulogistic comment, in John Esten Cooke's “Life of General Robert E, Lee,” which was published in 1871—the year after General Lee's death.
36. It should be borne in mind that the suggestion above that Dr. Jones had, or supposed he had, the authority of Mrs. Lee for his statement, twice repeated, that General Lee did write the Duty Sentence “to his son,” is mere surmise, without a particle of evidence to sustain it. This statement of Dr. Jones, in its emphatic form, is the unsolved mystery connected with The Duty Letter.
Dr. Jones was an honest, sincere man (the writer knew him for many years), and he would not have made the statement unless he believed it to be true. But what was the ground of his belief? It is astonishing, considering the importance attached to the Duty Sentence, that no one ever wrote (so far as I know) to Dr. Jones, demanding that he publish the reasons for his assertion. That he did not give them in his lost letter, proving by exhaustive argument that the remainder of The Duty Letter was spurious, is indicated by the fact that he did not vouchsafe any reasons in his second book (published in 1906, a few years before his death), but contented himself with the former statement—“in a letter to his son.“
We have, however, the authority of his son. Rev. Dr. E. Pendleton Jones, for the statement (already quoted): “I know that my father always said that the quotation, ‘Duty is the sublimest word in the English language,’ was not written in a letter to General Custis Lee, but was written to another son, on another occasion. I have never been able to find that letter.” (Italics mine.)
“My father always said.” So Dr. Jones did discuss the Duty Sentence with his sons. But why make such a mystery of it? Why not say to what son (General W. H. F. Lee was no doubt meant), instead of “to his son”? And why not tell his own sons where the letter could be found, if he knew; and, if not, on what authority he had asserted its existence? What is the meaning of it all? To the writer it is bewildering. It would seem probable, if Mrs. Lee was the authority, that she requested that her name be not used; and that Dr. Jones kept faith with her to the end.
37. At the conclusion of the discussion of the authenticity of The Duty Letter, inquiry may be made as to the mode in which it has been dealt with by General Lee's biographers. Some of them, notably General Fitzhugh Lee, in his “General Lee,” published in 1894, and Captain Robert E. Lee, in “Recollections and Letters of General Robert E. Lee,“ published in 1904, have ignored The Duty Letter, not mentioning it, nor giving any reasons for its omission. Why Captain Lee omitted The Duty Letter we now know from his letter to the writer, quoted from on a former page. Presumably, General Fitzhugh Lee omitted it for the same reason, viz.: doubt as to its genuineness.
On the other hand, the only biographer of General Lee who has printed The Duty Letter in full is Edmund Jennings Lee, M.D., in his “Lee of Virginia,” published in 1895, a genealogy of the Lee family, with which he was connected. He pronounces The Duty Letter (p. 432) “a grand letter,” in blissful ignorai apparently, that it had been declared by Dr. Jones, as far back as 1874, “unquestionably spurious.” Whether he was ignorant of this condemnation, or chose to ignore it because Dr. Jones save no reasons, we have qo means of knowing.
Other biographers of General Lee who have noticed The Duty Letter have merely referred to it, or printed it in part only; and, with the exception of Dr. Bradford and Dr. Thomas Nelson Page, with no intimation that its genuineness had been questioned. Dr. Bradford, in his “Lee the American.” published in 1912, follows Dr. Jones, both as to the spuriousness of The Duty Letter as a whole (p. 211 and the genuineness of the Duty Sentence (p. 47). Dr. Page, in his “Robert E. Lee, Man and Soldier,” published in 1911, after summarizing the first three sentences of The Duty Letter, printed the remainder in his text, but appended a footnote as follows (p. 35): “It is said that this letter as a whole was made up by a clever newspaper man out of parts of different letters by Lee.” But Dr. Page does not explain why the authenticity of the letter as a whole is doubtful, nor the reasons why it is said that the letter was “made up of parts of different letters by Lee.”
The biographers who print The Duty Letter in part, but with no intimation that it is not genuine,are John Esten Cooke, General A. L. Long, and Rev. Henry A. White, D.D.
In Cooke's “Life of General R. E. Lee,” published in 1871 (three years before Dr. Jones' first book), The Duty Letter is published with high praise (p. 38), but omitting, without any indication of the fact, not only the date of the letter, but the first four sentences. Why this was done must be left to conjecture. Probably the letter was taken from the Whig or Sentinel, and the biographer adopted, seeing the anachronism, The Wrong Date Theory, or The Editorial Emendation Theory, but without taking his readers into his confidence.
General Long, in his “Memoirs of Robert E. Lee,” published in 1886 printed The Duty Letter (p. 404) precisely as it is found in John Esten Cooke's biography, which he no doubt followed. He ignores Dr. Jones' condemnation of The Duty Letter as spurious, and says of it that it is “full of aphoristic wisdom, and breathes a high sense of duty and honor.”
Dr. White, in his “Robert E. Lee and the Southern Confederacy,” published in 1898, quotes extracts from The Duty Letter, omitting the date and the first four sentences. He also omits the address to “G. W. Curtis Lee.” His introduction to the extracts is as follows (p. 49): “Lee's character breathes in the following injunctions to his son, written about the time that the father began service with the Second Cavalry.” This indicates that Dr. White adopted The Erroneous Date Theory, and possibly the theory that the letter was written to General W. H. F. Lee: but like John Esten Cooke, he does not take his readers into his confidence.
It must be remembered that the biographers of General Lee did not have all the facts which are disclosed in this paper. It is not surprising that students of the life of General Lee have refused to take as final Dr. Jones' condemnation, without reasons, of The Duty Letter, and have clung to it, and to the Duty Sentence.
38. Aphorisms on Man (ed. 1793) by Johann Caspar Lavater.