West Point       16 Sept 1853


I have read with much pleasure My dear Markie your good long letter of the 13th which although I Cannot return in kind I Can answer to the full extent in feeling. I must take up that part relating to a school for Orton first, as action in this world goes farther than Sentiment, & as there is no telling how soon I shall be obliged to terminate my conversation. It is a difficult question to answer & I know of no school without its objections, & it is fair to suppose that like other things in this world, they have their advantages & disadvantages. I have had the whole subject before me for years & have attentively considered it & that is my conclusion. The one you mention at Sing Sing, of which Mr Malborough Churchill is principal is said to be a very good one. I thought of sending Roony there, when ordered here, not knowing of one better that was so near me. Profr Church & Profr Bartlett have each had a son there. They speak well of the school & of Mr C—who is a graduate of this acady (1836) & was afterward asst Engr of the Croton Waterworks. Profrs Mahan & Bailey on the Contrary, who know Mr C—& are acquainted with all the Northern schools, give the preference to St. James College Md: & send their sons there. They have visited the college & examined the course instruction, discipline, &c for themselves, & speak in the highest terms of the whole organization. It is also moderate in expense. From what I myself know of it, I should have sent Rooney there, but for its distance from me. He requires to be near me & to feel that he is so. Indeed as a general thing I think it better that a boy should be near his friends. He recognizes their superintendence & feels their influence more than when at a distance. On the score of economy it is important. The travelling to & fro, procuring clothing &c swells the expense. The Virga Mil. Institute at Lexington, I consider an excellent school. It is under the charge of Col. Smith, a graduate of West Point, & for many years in the Army. Profr Mahan was one of the visitors there this year & he speaks very highly of it. I believe that, & Wm & Mary, about which Bishop Johns can tell you, are both moderate in necessary expenses – My friends in Alexa – Mr Dana especially, give me favourable accounts of the High school near that place. I know nothing of it personally, except from what I can judge from the scholars themselves. I believe it to be a good school in every respect. Dr Maguire, is less rigid than Mr Dalrympal, & is therefore more popular with the scholars. He has good teachers & the principles of the pupils are attended to with care. All things being equal I prefer a school in the Country, though for Certain Considerations I have placed Rooney in the City of New York & shall keep him there this year. Young men must not expect to escape contact with evil, but must learn not to be contaminated by it. That virtue is worth but little that requires Constant watching & removal from temptation. Still never uselessly place it in the way of temptation. What more can I say Markie, except that the nature & disposition of the boy himself ought to be considered with other circumstances by which he is surrounded, in the choice of a school. Of those that I have mentioned these & the circumstances would decide me in Ortons case, & of them you can judge better than I. In reference to Ortons Coming to W.P. his having had a brother here, will make it more difficult to procure an appointment. The Regns say there shall not be two brothers here at the same time. That is the only restriction. But I can advise no young man to enter the Army. The same application. The same self denial, the same endurance, in any other profession, will advance him faster & farther. Nothing but an unconquerable passion for military life, would induce me to recommend the Military profession. Notwithstanding my experience & advice, all my sons desire to enter the service—The tears stream down Rooneys cheeks, when I tell him of the almost insuperable difficulties to his procuring an appt to W. P. & of my disapprobation of his application. I have had however to give my Consent to his making the attempt at the proper time, if he still Continues to desire it. Even Robt—thinks he can be nothing but a soldier! You see all have their troubles Markie. We are all well & unite with me in much love to you & all around you. M is going with her father next week to New York to accompy him to the Crystal Palace &c. I shall only be able to carry them there. I fear Mr C—when that far on his way, will go on to A[rlington]. He is very desirous now of returning. Says his business requires his presence. I have proposed to him if he will wait till Novr that M. will go on with him & make him comfortable for the winter. But he does not Consent. I have no doubt he will be glad to see you Markie, & all at Tudor. Tell cousin Britt that Thos & Fanny Turner are here to see Elwyn—I must say good bye—


Affly yours

R E Lee        




Source: Letters of Robert E. Lee to Martha Custis Williams, 1844-1870, Huntington Library. San Marino, California

Transcribed y Colin Woodward, 2017 August 31