Skip to comments.President Eisenhower Letter-Honor Robert E. Lee
Posted on 10/17/2006 5:18:26 PM PDT by bushpilot1
Eisenhower letter regarding Robert E. Lee
President Dwight Eisenhower wrote the following letter in response to one he received dated August 1, 1960, from Leon W. Scott, a dentist in New Rochelle, New York. Scotts letter reads:
Dear Mr. President:
At the Republican Convention I heard you mention that you have the pictures of four (4) great Americans in your office, and that included in these is a picture of Robert E. Lee.
I do not understand how any American can include Robert E. Lee as a person to be emulated, and why the President of the United States of America should do so is certainly beyond me.
The most outstanding thing that Robert E. Lee did was to devote his best efforts to the destruction of the United States Government, and I am sure that you do not say that a person who tries to destroy our Government is worthy of being hailed as one of our heroes.
Will you please tell me just why you hold him in such high esteem?
Leon W. Scott
Eisenhower's response, written on White House letterhead on August 9, 1960 reads as follows:
August 9, 1960
Dear Dr. Scott:
Respecting your August 1 inquiry calling attention to my often expressed admiration for General Robert E. Lee, I would say, first, that we need to understand that at the time of the War Between the States the issue of Secession had remained unresolved for more than 70 years. Men of probity, character, public standing and unquestioned loyalty, both North and South, had disagreed over this issue as a matter of principle from the day our Constitution was adopted.
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 Lees 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 nations 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.
Such are the reasons that I proudly display the picture of this great American on my office wall.
Dwight D. Eisenhower
My opinion of Ike just went up.
The letter writer obviously did not know his history.
The CSA never sought to destroy the US government,only to secede from it.Had the South won, the US would still have existed....but somewhat smaller.
I always knew there was good in that man (Ike)
If he had only treated Gen. George Patton better. Eisenhower and Bradley used Patton and then threw him away when he spoke the truth about the Soviets.
This letter from Ike is just a Rove plot to get votes in the South [/DU moonbat tinfoil hat mode]
I liked Ike, but, not as much as Patton or MacArthur.
I think you might be being a bit harsh on Ike on that one. Ike and Patton were counter parts to each other in many ways. Ike, the consummate politician, but possibly a weak field commander. Patton, the ultimate field commander and a terrible politician.
Recall that after the notoriously overblown 'slapping' incident, it was Ike and others who fought hard to save Patton's job and get him back into the fight. That was done for one primary reason: Ike recognized Patton as being the best we had.
After the War to do what Patton proposed would never have been unacceptable to Truman, Congress and the American people. If Ike had not reined him in, Truman would have, just like he did Mac.
Ike read the writing on the wall, Patton was just a better predictor of the lack of character in the Soviets.
Remember also, Patton believed he was a man of destiny, born to serve one primary purpose: to defeat a strong opponent thus preserving that which he was fighting for. He achieved that, and I am sure, departed the world content with what he had achieved.
Robert E. Lee was a solid soldier from the time he graduated from West Point. Legend has it that his first officer efficiency report as a 2LT was - "He seen his duty, and he done it." That was it - short and sweet.
You are accurate in all you say. I just love Patton and was defending him in a general (no pun intended) way.
Its interesting Ike used the correct term "War Between the States" and not American Civil War.
Be like Lee......President Eisenhower could offer no better counsel to Americans than this.
Ike, was from Texas, and a Southerner.
Dittoes. My opinion of Ike just went up too.
Very nice letter.
Pattons grandfather served in the 22nd Virginia Infantry of the Confederate States of America.
Patton's mother kept paintings of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson in their living room; Patton admired them as she read to him from her rocking chair. He is quoted as saying, "Until I was old enough to know better, I thought those were portraits of God the Father, and God the Son."
His Grandfather fought many of battles here in my state of West Virginia
Perhaps. But it was more political than that, and Patton was not a politician, he was a warrior.
When you have Roosevelt/Truman & Churchill sitting down to powwow with Stalin regarding a World War, you tend to not want to alienate one of your partners, regardless of your feelings towards him or his government, at that time. [the enemy of my enemy, is my friend.]
Patton's problem wasn't so much what he thought, but what he said. Open mouth, insert foot.
Don't misunderstand; I have great admiration for Patton, and I suspect, underneath it all so did Ike and Bradly, or at least shared some of his thoughts on the Soviets, whether they publicaly admitted it (at that time) or not. As a warrior - a pure warrior - there was no equal to Patton. They had to know that.
The German's sure as hell did.
"The letter writer obviously did not know his history.
The CSA never sought to destroy the US government,only to secede from it.Had the South won, the US would still have existed....but somewhat smaller."
How true but most likely the letter writer wasn't taught the truth.
(I'm 1/2 through "A Soldier's Story" by Gen Bradley).
I agree with Leon Scott. Lee fought for evil.
How are Wrong you are Lee fought for honor and for his home
By the way 94% of the people of the south did not own slaves
Southrons, hear your country call you! Up lest worest then death befall you! For faith, and pledges broken, Wrongs inflicted, insults spoken, Cut the unequal bonds asunder! let them hence each other other plunder!
Swear upon your country's alter never to submit or falter, Till the spoliers are defeated, Till the Lord's work is completed.
If the admirers of the CSA would recognize the validity of Ike's words, we'd have a lot less Civil War discussions here on FR.
"I felt...sad and depressed at the downfall of a foe who had fought as long and valiantly, and had suffered so much for a cause, though that cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought."
Grant was simply under-educated, and therefore ignorant and unfamiliar with the peoples, politics, and events of the times. Here is a quote with the understanding of a witness, not the rhetoric of a general turned politician:
From the Charleston Mercury, December 21, 1860:
The State of South Carolina has recorded herself before the universe. In reverence before God, fearless of man, unawed by power, unterrified by clamor, she had cut the Gordian knot of colonial dependence upon the Northcast her fortune upon her right, and her own right arm, and stands ready to uphold alike her independence and her dignity before the world.
Prescribing to none, she will be dictated to by none; willing for peace, she is ready for war. Deprecating blood, she is willing to shed it.
"Valuing her liberties, she will maintain them.
Neither swerved by frowns of foes, nor swayed by timorous solicitations of friends, she will pursue her direct path, and establish for herself and for her posterity, her rights, her liberties and her institutions.
Though friends may fail her in her need, though the cannon of her enemies may belch destruction among her people, South Carolina, unawed, unconquerable will still hold aloft her flag, ANIMIS OPIBUSQUE PARASSTI (the South Carolina state motto, Ready in soul and resource).
That "worst...cause" was Liberty, the same cause that led the South to victory over the British 80 years earlier.
The most outstanding thing that Robert E. Lee did was to devote his best efforts to the destruction of the United States Government, and I am sure that you do not say that a person who tries to destroy our Government is worthy of being hailed as one of our heroes."
Perfect! Dr. Scott has a Ph.D. which means the BS that's been fed to suckers has been piled that much higher and deeper in his brain.
As for Eisenhower, pfooey, pfooey pfooey. He is simply mimicking what Presidents are instructed to say. He knows very well what a scummy administration policy Lincoln had toward the South. But in order to protect the long-held and praised powers that Lincoln bestowed upon all succeeding administrations he continues the farce.
...Lincoln would be quite proud of him...
But what did Virginia and the Confederacy stand for?
The split came because the south knew that if slavery did not extend to the territories, they would lose their power in Congress, and would eventually be outvoted and then lose the ability to control their way of life in the South. What was their way of life? Sitting on the veranda sipping cold beverages? Well, yes. Good manners and chivalrous behavior? Yes. A strong honor code? Yes. Love of family and loyalty to the extended clan? Yes.
An economic system based on two main cash crops, tobacco and cotton? Yes. An economic system that depended on slave labor in order to function? Yes. A system that the people who fought for the Confederacy fought to preserve from extinction through expansion of the Union into the west? Yes.
Did it matter that most people didn't own slaves although their economy was dependent on slavery? I don't know, did it matter to the Germans that most Americans don't own factories when we fought to defend free market capitalism against fascism? Our way of life, personal freedom, leads to a large middle class and a smaller group of very rich people who are among the best entrepreneurs, or who got lucky, or who were born to the right parents. In any event, we like our way of life, and have fought to protect it in recent generations even when we weren't the ones who controlled the economic levers.
So did Confederate soldiers. They liked their way of life in the south. They had a large degree of personal freedom, they had a cultural heritage, including but not limited to slavery and concern with social status, that differed significantly from the North's, and they weren't going to have Yankee values and moralizing imposed upon them. They had an economic system that they wanted to maintain, whether it benefitted them or not. Small farmers, artisans, backwoodsmen, merchants, professionals, all fought for their county, and their state. Their states fought to preserve the "freedom" of the southern states to oppose the gradual destruction of the insitution of slavery, which is what they saw coming in 1861. They knew they had to get out of the Union then or eventually be outvoted in Congress. So they got out. The North demurred, and war ensued.
We can argue until the cows come home over whether the Southern states had the legal right under the Constitution to secede. But the reason they wanted to secede was to preserve something that was inherently evil. And when Lee made his choice which side to fight for, he chose to lend his considerable talents to the forces that sought to preserve evil in this world. For that, he is still explaining his actions to his maker, who may or may not have forgiven him. The several hundred thousand dead American soldiers who Lee played a part in killing may not be so forgiving.
Being magnanimous in victory is different from honoring the cause of the loser. Eisenhower's correspondent understood this better than Eisenhower did. Lee should be remembered as a great general for an evil cause (like Rommel?), a man therefore of flawed character, a man who could not rise above the morays of his time to achieve a higher destiny. Like Lincoln did.
"Lee should be remembered as a great general for an evil cause (like Rommel?), a man therefore of flawed character, a man who could not rise above the morays of his time to achieve a higher destiny"
The fact we yet debate this is testament to the integrity of the issue and cause. That it has been fought and resolved, has preserved and stregthened as a country to this day. That you cannot grant this or see this, is your decision to be that much less of an American.
"That you cannot grant this or see this, is your decision to be that much less of an American."
Perfect words. The whole lot of them quite willingly choose to believe that Lincoln was utterly righteous in his campaign to slaughter the South. Oh yeah, he put many Northerners in the grave too! All to make himself the, "Emperor" of the Union, and to let all succeeding administrations do the same...
We can agree that war is not a legal solution to a legal problem. Madison argued that the states could arm themselves against the federal armies, and the convention voted down proposals allowing the use of force against a state.
I see. If I don't grant the "integrity of the issue or the cause" then I am less an American, than, by implication, you are, in your wisdom for seeing the truth of the matter. The truth of the matter is that, to this day, nearly150 years after that war, after all the emotions should have been erased and it can be viewed in the clear light of history, you remain an apologist for evil and evil-doers. It disgusts me that you can't have pride in your heritage without recognizing that Lee and the Southern cause were evil. We should be beyond that as a country. I think you and other such apologists must have some other issue muddying your thinking.
Apparently most of the Founders believed it was a right, if you say they didn't then why then did they write their beliefs in the Declaration of Independence, and why did they put the 9th and 10th Amendments in the Bill of Rights? Keep in mind at the time the Bill of Rights was written, it was viewed as a prohibition against the Federal Government, and remained so up until 1867.
Please tell me a little more about yourself.