The Flag Fight continues to rage across the South. One question that is not always asked is "What would General Robert E. Lee do? He is praised and hated yet his thoughts on the matter are rarely discussed. Here are some quotes of General Lee from various works:
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. Column by Robert E. Lee author David Cox.
I think it wisest not to keep open the sores of war, but to follow the example of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife, and to commit to oblivion the feelings it engendered. P. 213, Personal Reminisces of General Robert E. Lee (1875)
To a mother, who brought him her two sons, loudly expressing her hatred of the North, he said, " Madam, don't bring up your sons to detest the United States Government. Recollect that we form but one country, now. Abandon all these local animosities, and make your sons Americans."
Here again is a charming incident, which will well illustrate his goodness : One of his friends, on passing by Lee's garden-gate, found him conversing with a man poorly clad, to whom he had just given something, and who appeared exceedingly happy at the general's courteous welcome. Presently the man saluted him and withdrew. " That is one of our old soldiers in want," explained Lee. Naturally enough the friend thought he meant some Confederate veteran, when Lee, lowering his voice, added : " He was not on our side, but that doesn't signify." P. 331 of Life and Campaigns of General Lee (1875)
Then there is this Daily Beast column by Robert E. Lee biographer and former White House speechwriter Jonathan Horn. Mr. Horn wrote:
Almost 150 years after the end of the Civil War, the skirmishing over how to remember the most famous rebel general continues even at a Virginia college named, in part, for him. About half the students and alumni polled by a campus magazine opposed the decision to remove the flags this summer. Fortunately, the university officials who made the call can draw on the example of an improbable and imperfect champion: Lee himself.
Shortly after surrendering the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia in April 1865, Lee became president of a war-torn school known then only as Washington College. The same day he took office, he took an oath to “henceforth” support the U.S. Constitution. He advised fellow former Confederates to do the same.
Far from being relics of Lee’s tenure, the Confederate battle flags only arrived in the college chapel decades after Lee’s death and were later replaced with the historically meaningless reproductions that hung until recently.
Lee did not want such divisive symbols following him to the grave. At his funeral in 1870, flags were notably absent from the procession. Former Confederate soldiers marching did not don their old military uniforms, and neither did the body they buried. “His Confederate uniform would have been ‘treason’ perhaps!” Lee’s daughter wrote.
So sensitive was Lee during his final years with extinguishing the fiery passions of the Civil War that he opposed erecting monuments on the battlefields where the Southern soldiers under his command had fought against the Union. “I think it wiser moreover not to keep open the sores of war, but to follow the examples of those nations who endeavoured to obliterate the marks of civil strife and to commit to oblivion the feelings it engendered,” he wrote. Rest of column.
In the Good Book it is written that Christ used parables to teach his message in a language people understood. Those who want to remove all flags Confederate in nature might want to consider using the words of someone respected by their opponents as Congressman James Clyburn did recently. Such will not happen as those who want to obliterate it are so blinded by their hatred and immaturity that this idea will probably never cross their politically correct minds. However, the question of what General Lee would recommend is worth asking if we are to have this debate and have it honestly.