Lexington Va: 2 Apl 1869


My dear Mrs. Cater

I have seen with regret for some time that your son W. E. Cater has been neglectful of his studies, & have tried through his Professors to urge him to greater application. I have endeavoured in my interviews with him to ascertain the cause of his attention but his reply is that he cannot study. He does not Seem to be unwell & I am not aware of his indulging in any bad habits. In fact as far as I Know he conducts himself very well.

He now says though that he is going to turn over a new leaf & will study faithfully till the end of the Session. I hope that he may be able to keep his good resolution, and I assure you that nothing will be wanting on my part to aid him in doing so. If you could promise him a visit before commencement & remain with him till the close of the exercises I think it would make him so happy as to cause him to forget his troubles & it might be interesting to you to be here at that time. We should all be glad to see you. It is true as you say that an education cannot be forced on a boy: but I think every boy can be persuaded & led to do what is right by an affectionate & judicious mother. Your Son Seems to be well disposed & apparently desires to do his duty, & I hope that he will acquire the necessary self Controul to enable him to accomplish it. But to do so you & his father must encourage him to persevere in his efforts till he succeeds. If he fails now to obtain the self controul & self denial which he will be called on to exercise in life, I fear it will be difficult, unless under some great necessity for him to acquire it.

With my best wishes for your happiness

I am very respy

Your obtservt

R E Lee


Mrs. F. S. Cater




Source: Photocopy of original letter, Robert E. Lee Collection, 1835-1869, Stuart A. Rose Manuscript Archives & Rare Book Library, Emory University

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2018 November 30