Lee on SlaveryEdit
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.
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- 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.