This week the State of Virginia took down the statue of a man who sacrificed his career, his family fortune and his health in its defense. The photos remind me of Gulliver in Lilliput, a giant in a diminished world ensnared by little men. Today’s culture warriors are so convinced of the absolute rightness of their convictions that they will not trouble themselves to learn more about a man who opposed both slavery and secession and yet fought a war in support of both.
They might at least pause to hear the testimony of the Rev. Wm. Mack Lee, a Baptist minister who began life as Lee’s slave, was freed by him ten years before Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and yet continued to serve him through the Civil War and until the general’s death. “I was raised by one of the greatest men in the world,” the Reverend Lee later wrote. “There was never one born of a woman greater than Gen. Robert E. Lee, according to my judgment.”
Even if they knew more of the man behind the statue it’s unlikely the iconoclasts would change their minds about him, since the principles that guided his life — duty, personal responsibility, self discipline, courage in adversity and faith in God — are denigrated in today’s world. Certainly the bemedalled careerists at the top of our current military bureaucracy would benefit from studying Lee’s life and career. At least he knew how to lose a war with dignity.