Talk:Robert E. Lee
Wikiquote no longer allows unsourced quotations, and they are in process of being removed from our pages (see Wikiquote:Limits on quotations); but if you can provide a reliable and precise source for any quote on this list please move it to Robert E. Lee.
- We made a great mistake in the beginning of our struggle, and I fear, in spite of all we can do, it will prove to be a fatal mistake. We appointed all our worst generals to command our armies, and all our best generals to edit the newspapers.
- I would rather die a thousand deaths than surrender.
Lee on Slavery
The quotation from Lee's 1856 letter on slavery is selective, and so presented is deceptive about Lee's views on slavery. The letter from which it is taken is not a condemnation of slavery; it's a condemnation of abolitionism, and Lee's comment on the "evil" of slavery is followed by claims that it is a necessary evil, that it is worse for the white slavers than for the Black slaves, and that the "painful discipline" of slavery is necessary for Blacks' "instruction as a race". (For more on Lee and slavery, see Robert E. Lee owned slaves.)
Here is the Lee quote put into proper context:
- In this enlightened age, there are few I believe, but what will acknowledge, that slavery as an institution, is a moral & political evil in any Country. It is useless to expatiate on its disadvantages. I think it however a greater evil to the white man than to the black race, & while my feelings are strongly enlisted in behalf of the latter, my sympathies are more strong for the former. The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially & physically. The painful discipline they are undergoing, is necessary for their instruction as a race, & I hope will prepare & lead them to better things. How long their subjugation may be necessary is known & ordered by a wise God.
I have supplemented the quote so as to add the context of Lee's remarks, and to add the citation of the source.
"Fold it up and put it away" - Not verified.
I changed the source for this quote to an earlier one and added that that source says the quote is not verified. Since this is a sensitive topic, I thought it wise to include a more detailed explanation here. It is instructive to see how supposed facts changed rather dramatically with just a couple of re-posts:
The previous Wikiquote attribution was this:
- When asked by a woman on what she should do with a Confederate flag after the end of the American Civil War, as quoted in "Will Confederate Heritage Advocates Take Robert E. Lee’s Advice?" (July 2014), by Brooks D. Simpson, Crossroads, WordPress."
When we read the actual Crossroads article, we see it is citing a letter-to-the editor (more likely an op-ed) published a few weeks earlier: "According to David Cox, the author of the letter in question (and former rector of a Lexington church named after Lee), when someone asked Lee what she should do with a Confederate flag, he responded: Fold it up and put it away." https://cwcrossroads.wordpress.com/2014/07/17/will-confederate-heritage-advocates-take-robert-e-lees-advice/
And when we look at Cox's actual article, we see that he is not stating this as fact at all but is citing a personal letter to him -- that's right, the letter-to-the-editor is citing a personal letter -- and Cox states that he has not verified the quote: "Someone wrote me of a woman asking Lee what to do with an old battle flag. Lee supposedly responded, “Fold it up and put it away.” Though I’ve not verified the account, it is consistent with his letters and acts of his last years. He was always looking ahead." https://cwcrossroads.wordpress.com/2014/07/17/will-confederate-heritage-advocates-take-robert-e-lees-advice/
I hope we can learn more about this quote. Perhaps Mr. Cox can tell more about the letter he received, and the letter's author can shed even more light. In the meantime, according to our (currently) earliest source, it's not verified.