Why the Left Despises Robert E. Lee
By Carole Hornsby Haynes November 1, 2023
Robert E. Lee, a man universally recognized by generations as the model of the Christian gentlemen, has been toppled by the woke crowd from his seat of honor among American heroes. Denounced by leftists in the 21st century as a traitor who fought the Union to preserve slavery, his monuments have been torn down or removed from multiple locations.
Only the threat by outraged alumni to end donations spared the removal of his name from Washington and Lee University. The proposed removal of his statue from a public square in Charlottesville, Virginia was one provocation behind the deadly 2017 riot in that city. Following years of lawsuits, on October 27, 2023 the statute was melted down, to be recast into Marxist “more inclusive public art that expresses the City’s values of inclusivity and racial justice.” Following the 2020 riots, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam ordered the 131-year-old Lee memorial to be removed from Richmond’s famed Monument Avenue.
The Washington Post attended the meltdown of the Charlottesville statue and gleefully published a photo of Lee’s face that has been called a “death mask.” The co-founder of the Charlottesville Black Lives Matter chapter and University of Virginia professor who attended the monument desecration called the event an “execution.”
That was precisely what the woke crowd has always wanted. They have continually fanned the flames that Lee and other Confederate leaders should have been convicted and hanged for treason for fighting to “preserve slavery.” The meltdown was their act of vengence to publicly humilate Lee and those who supported him.
Leftists may well have overplayed their hand because now there is public interest as to why anyone would hate a man and his memorials so much that a fiery furnace was necessary to destroy forever his memory. What was it about Robert E. Lee that the sight of his statue triggered such hedonistic behavior from the Neo-Marxist global feudalists?
The woke crowd has repeated the lie so often that even some Lee supporters believe he was a slave owner. The fact is he opposed slavery and never personally owned any slaves. He described slavery in a letter of 1858 as “a moral and political evil in any country.” Following the death of his father-in-law George Washington Parke Custis who was the grandson of Martha Dandridge Custis Washington, the wife of George Washington, Lee was charged with managing for five years the 200 slaves at Arlington Plantation. Lee freed the slaves as instructed in the Custis will and even stayed in touch with them. After the war Lee said, “So far from engaging in a war to perpetuate slavery, I am rejoiced that slavery is abolished.”
After the war he encouraged other Southerners to accept emancipation and treated freed blacks with respect. During a service at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Richmond, a black man walked to the chancel rail and knelt ahead of white communicants who remained in their seats in solemn silence with the priest appearing to be “embarrassed.” The tension was broken when Lee went to the chancel rail and knelt beside the black man. The other parishioners followed.
Let’s address the charge that Lee and other Confederate leaders were traitors for seceding from the Union. Those who know the history of our founding understand the 13 colonies that became 13 states would never have ratified the Constitution had states been forced to remain in the union at any cost. This was true for both Northern and Southern colonies. In pre-Civil War America, most citizens' first loyalty went to their state and the local community in which they lived. They paid taxes to those local governments. Referring to the United States of America came only after the Civil War and the federal military dictatorship over the South. Confederate generals fought for independence from the Union just as George Washington fought for independence from Great Britain. The Southern states had every legal right – under the Constitution – to secede from the Union and form their own nation in 1861.
Should we label George Washington a traitor? Great Britain’s King George III and the British parliament would have agreed just as the Union claimed Confederates to be traitors because they wanted independence.
Initially Lee opposed secession but his loyalty to his native state – the Commonwealth of Virginia – was far stronger than loyalty to an abstract Union. In a letter to his sister Ann Lee confessed, “With all my devotion to the Union and the feeling of loyalty and duty of an American citizen, I have not been able to make up my mind to raise my hand against my relatives, my children, my home.”
In an 1861 letter to his son George, Lee admitted that, “I can anticipate no greater calamity for the country than a dissolution of the Union….Still, a Union that can only be maintained by swords and bayonets, and in which strife and civil war are to take the place of brotherly love and kindness, has no charm for me.” He could not envision states forced to remain in a union against their wishes.
Abraham Lincoln asked Lee to assume command of the Union forces which would invade the Confederacy solely for “preserving the Union” rather than “freeing the slaves.” Lee resigned his commission in the Union Army after Lincoln directed troops to fire on Fort Sumter. Lee became a Confederate commander fighting to defend Virginia which, at the outbreak of the war, had the largest population of free blacks (more than 60,000) of any Southern state.
Once the Southern states formally left the union, the federal government had no authority over them. Lee and other Confederate leaders resigned their commissions in the United States Army and from Congress before they enlisted in the Confederate Army or accepted political positions in the new government.
No Trials for Treason
A few indictments for “treason” were passed down, but not a single Confederate leader was ever brought to trial for treason. The victors feared going to trial in an open court. In Secession on Trial, Nicolleti wrote that the stakes in a public trial for Confederate President Jefferson Davis were extremely high with the great possibility that secession would have been declared legal. Davis wanted to go to trial but one was never scheduled for either Davis or any other Confederate.
A graduate of Westpoint Military Academy and the only cadet to complete the Academy with no demerits, Lee later became its superintendent. After graduation, Lee served as an army engineer in St. Louis where he directed work on the Mississippi channels to improve navigability. Lee worked alongside the common laborers and ate at the same table. He later fought in the War with Mexico.
Refusal to Use Fame for Gain
Lee’s beloved Arlington estate had been seized by the U.S. Army early in the war and turned into a military camp and headquarters as well as a burial ground. Today it is Arlington National Cemetery. After the South’s surrender at Appomattox, Lee rented a modest house in Richmond for his wife and family. Lee needed a way to support his family but refused to use his name for personal gain. Ernest B. Ferguson noted the incredible opportunitites that were offered to Lee. “Lee turned down every invitation to prosper by his name—to be president of the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway; to command the Romanian army; to be governor of Virginia; to write his memoirs—or merely sign them written by someone else; to be president of insurance companies; to move into an English manor house with an annual stipend.”
Soldier Turned Educator
Lee accepted the position of president of Washington College in Lexington at a annual salary of $1,500 plus a percentage of the total tuition payments the college received. He revitalized the dying college, building it into a university with the addition of modern languages, engineering, commerce, farming, law, and the first-ever journalism school in the country. Today that small college is the renowned Washington and Lee University.
Stature Among the Great
Robert E. Lee, a man universally recognized by generations of Americans as the model of the Christian gentlemen, is a silent rebuke to the left’s monster world. For more than a century following the Civil War, the virtues of Lee were extolled by both Northerers and Southerners, each claiming him as their own. European leaders noted his military genius in leading men and his self-discipline as a man, regardless of personal cost, while many United States presidents spoke highly of Lee.
Winston Churchill called Lee “one of the noblest Americans who ever lived, and one of the greatest captains known to the annals of war.”
President Theodore Roosevelt echoed that praise, describing Lee as “the very greatest of all the great captains that the English-speaking peoples have brought forth.” He added that Lee’s post-war gestures of reconciliation helped “build the wonderful and mighty triumph of our national life, in which all his countrymen, North and South, share.”
Distant cousin President Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “We recognize Robert E. Lee as one of our greatest American Christians and one of our greatest American gentlemen.”
Field Marshall Viscount Wolseley, a British contemporary of Lee, wrote, “I have met many of the great men of my time, but Lee alone impressed me with the feeling that I was in the presence of a man who was cast in a grander mould, and made of different and of finer metal than all other men.”
When criticized for his admiration of Lee, U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower stood strong in his beliefs:
“General Robert E. Lee was, in my estimation, one of the supremely gifted men produced by our nation. He believed unswervingly in the constitutional validity of his cause, which until 1865 was still an arguable question in America. He was thoughtful yet demanding of his officers and men, forbearing with captured enemies but ingenious, unrelenting and personally courageous in battle, and never disheartened by a reverse or obstacle. Through all his many trials, he remained selfless almost to a fault and unfailing in his belief in God. Taken altogether, he was noble as a leader and as a man, and unsullied as I read the pages of our history. From deep conviction I simply say this: a nation of men of Lee’s caliber would be unconquerable in spirit and soul. Indeed, to the degree that present-day American youth will strive to emulate his rare qualities, including his devotion to this land as revealed in his painstaking efforts to help heal the nation’s wounds once the bitter struggle was over, we, in our own time of danger in a divided world, will be strengthened and our love of freedom sustained.”
Upon Lee’s death on October 12, 1870 in Lexington, Virginia, various newspapers across the country reported his passing. Not only did Southern newspapers praise the man, but even those outside of the South.
The Stark County Democrat, Canton, Ohio, October 14, 1870:“The announcement of the death of General Robert E Lee will be received with regret all over the world."
The New York Herald, October 14, 1870: “The death of General Robert E Lee has impressed the public throughout the entire country with general feelings of regret. Old prejudices and party bitterness, if any remained up to this time; seem to have been forgotten at the announcement of his demise."
Marshall County Republican, Plymouth, Indiana, October 20, 1870: “Over the death of Robert E Lee, the Democratic journals of the Union weep bitter tears.”
The New York Times, October 12, 1870: “He died as he had lived, a noble example of the sublime principles and teachings of the Christian religion."
The Evening Telegraph, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, October 15, 1870: “The death of General Robert E Lee was received with regret throughout the country and our exchanges generally from the North, as well as the South, without distinction of party, have kindly articles in which much is said of the purity and dignity of his character.”
A great civilization has its heroes – men of honor, men of integrity, men who are selfless. Robert E. Lee was one of those heroes. To establish a new feudalism in America, Neo-Marxist globalists first must erase our history and our heroes just as Chairman Mao erased 5,000 years of China’s high level of culture so that people would know only a nation under communism.
The question is whether we will allow these barbarians to determine the trajectory of our nation toward feudalism. It is imperative that Americans heed the words of President Eisenhower to teach our youth to emulate those Christian qualities of Robert E. Lee if we are to restore this nation to its founding principles.