Robert E. Lee’s Opinion Regarding Slavery

When reading this, one must remember the time it was written in.

Robert E. Lee’s Opinion Regarding Slavery
This letter was written by Lee in response to a speech given by then President Pierce.
Robert E. Lee letter dated December 27, 1856:

I was much pleased the with President’s message. His views of the systematic and progressive efforts of certain people at the North to interfere with and change the domestic institutions of the South are truthfully and faithfully expressed. The consequences of their plans and purposes are also clearly set forth. These people must be aware that their object is both unlawful and foreign to them and to their duty, and that this institution, for which they are irresponsible and non-accountable, can only be changed by them through the agency of a civil and servile war. There are few, I believe, in this enlightened age, who will not acknowledge that slavery as an institution is a moral and political evil. It is idle to expatiate on its disadvantages. I think it is a greater evil to the white than to the colored race. While my feelings are strongly enlisted in behalf of the latter, my sympathies are more deeply engaged for the former. The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, physically, and socially. The painful discipline they are undergoing is necessary for their further instruction as a race, and will prepare them, I hope, for better things. How long their servitude may be necessary is known and ordered by a merciful Providence. Their emancipation will sooner result from the mild and melting influences of Christianity than from the storm and tempest of fiery controversy. This influence, though slow, is sure. The doctrines and miracles of our Saviour have required nearly two thousand years to convert but a small portion of the human race, and even among Christian nations what gross errors still exist! While we see the course of the final abolition of human slavery is still onward, and give it the aid of our prayers, let us leave the progress as well as the results in the hands of Him who, chooses to work by slow influences, and with whom a thousand years are but as a single day. Although the abolitionist must know this, must know that he has neither the right not the power of operating, except by moral means; that to benefit the slave he must not excite angry feelings in the master; that, although he may not approve the mode by which Providence accomplishes its purpose, the results will be the same; and that the reason he gives for interference in matters he has no concern with, holds good for every kind of interference with our neighbor, -still, I fear he will persevere in his evil course. . . . Is it not strange that the descendants of those Pilgrim Fathers who crossed the Atlantic to preserve their own freedom have always proved the most intolerant of the spiritual liberty of others?

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. The Conservative Hill Billy
    Apr 03, 2012 @ 10:35:51

    And ya think that The North had the popular support vote?
    “Nearly one-half of the States had revolted against the government; and, of those remaining faithful to the Union, a large percentage of the population sympathized with the rebellion and made an “enemy in the rear,” almost as dangerous as the more honorable enemy in the front.” . . . December 5, 1876, Grant’s Last Message to Congress as President


  2. Carl D'Agostino
    Apr 03, 2012 @ 13:34:46

    Usually the textbooks present only the “they are better off here” out of context to portray Lee as a sympathizer and apologist for slavery. He is visionary in that the spread of the industrial revolution even to in agricultural south esp re mechanized farming would have rendered slavery unprofitable in a few decades. Jefferson lamented that it cost him much more to provide for the housing, feeding and care of his slaves than any profit he could possibly gain from keeping them but in freeing them they would be helpless to sustain themselves. On the other hand if I were a slave I would not want my freedom in the distant future waiting for modernization. I’d want it today.


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