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"Letter to his son" By Robert E. Lee
Transcript of "Letter to his son" By Robert E. Lee
The Letter - 1861
The South, in my opinion, has been aggrieved by the acts of the North, as you say. I feel the aggression and am willing to take every proper step for redress . It is the principle I contend for, not individual or private benefit. As an American citizen, I take great pride in my country, her prosperity and institutions, and would defend any state if her rights were invaded. But I can anticipate no greater calamity for the country than a dissolution of the Union. It would be an accumulation of all the evils we complain of, and I am willing to sacrifice everything but honor for its preservation. I hope, therefore, that all constitutional means will be exhausted before there is a resort to force. Secession is nothing but revolution. The framers of our Constitution never exhausted so much labor, wisdom, and forbearance in its formation, and surrounded it with so many guards and securities, if it was intended to be broken by every member of the Confederacy at will
Connection to the Author
> Commanding the Confederate army during the Civil War was not a job that Robert E. Lee wanted. As a slaveholder, he never questioned White supremacy or black inferiority.
> Shortly before Robert E. Lee wrote “Letter to his son” he had received Edward Everett’s “Life of Washington”. Robert E. Lee enjoyed this book and it enabled him to think deep in the condition of the nation, and how the framers of the country, like Washington, would perceive this problems.
> As dispute grew over slavery , Robert E. Lee was torn. He believed in the union, and in opposed secession. At the time Lee writes his letter, he is worried about the state of the nation. He fears that the country may fall to the two evils: anarchy, or a country that has no government, and that the U.S is in the brink of a civil war.
Activity #1: Title
Create a title for this letter.
Then explain why the title you created is a perfect match based on what you learned.
Comprehend a primary source of American literature.
Connect to documents of American history.
Understand the tensions growing in the US and Robert E. Lee's purpose for writing the letter.
I received Everett’s Life of Washington which you sent me, and enjoyed its perusal. How his spirit would be grieved could he see the wreck of his mighty labors! I will not, however, permit myself to believe, until all ground of hope is gone, that the fruit of his noble deeds will be destroyed, and that his precious advice and virtuous example will so soon be forgotten by his countrymen. As far as I can judge by the papers, we are between a state of anarchy and civil war. May God avert both of these evils from us! I fear that mankind will not for years be sufficiently Christianized to bear the absence of restraint and force. I see that four states have declared themselves out of the Union; four more will apparently follow their example. Then, if the border states are brought into the gulf of revolution, one half of the country will be arrayed against the other. I must try and be patient and await the end, for I can do nothing to hasten or retard it.
. It was intended for “perpetual union,” so expressed in the preamble, and for the establishment of a government, not a compact, which can only be dissolved by revolution or the consent of all the people in convention assembled. It is idle to talk of secession. Anarchy would have been established, and not a government, by Washington, Hamilton, Jefferson, Madison, and the other patriots of the Revolution. . . . Still, a Union that can only be maintained by swords and bayonets, and in which strife and civil war are to take the place of brotherly love and kindness, has no charm for me. I shall mourn for my country and for the welfare and progress of mankind. If the Union is dissolved, and the government disrupted, I shall return to my native state and share the miseries of my people; and, save in defense, will draw my sword on none.
Activity #2: Respond
Born on January 19, 1807 in Stratford, Virginia, Robert E. Lee came to military greatness during the U.S. Civil War, commanding his home state's armed forces and becoming general-in-chief of the Confederate forces towards the end of the fight.
Though the Union won the war, Lee has been praised by many while others debate his ways and tactics.
After the war he was written down in history as one of best generals the United States had ever seen.
> During the time period, 1861, that Lee wrote “Letter to his son” there were a lot of tensions rising around the United States. Abraham Lincoln had just become the 16th president of the United States.
> Abraham Lincoln was not an abolitionist, a person who fights to end slavery, but he did want to end the spread of slavery across the country. The south believed that Abraham Lincoln’s election to the presidency threatened their way of slaves, which was exploiting slaves that they owned. Therefore, southern states--South Carolina, Florida, Mississippi, and Alabama--had decided to secede, or leave, the union. President Lincoln believed in preserving the Union and was willing to do anything. Lincoln also believed that the nation could not be ½ slaved and ½ free, but that the nation would be all slaved or all free. The north and the south had different viewpoints on slavery.
> Therefore, Robert E. Lee wrote in his letter that the United States was heading to a civil war.
Connection to time period
1. Based on the letter, what is your opinion of REL? Do you think he deserves the respect of both southerners and northerners? Explain.
2. After the Civil War, Lee applied for a complete pardon. If you were a member of Congress, would you have voted to grant it? Why or why not?
1) What were the two evils Lee was worried about? (Knowledge)
2) What facts show that the Union is breaking up? (Comprehension)
3) How would you rephrase when Lee says “We are in between a state of anarchy and civil war”? (Comprehension)
4) Can you list three people that Lee described as patriots of the revolution? (Knowledge)
5) Who does Lee believe was instigating the civil war (north or south)? (Knowledge)
6)Can you explain what is meant “I hope therefore that all constitutional means will be exhausted before there is a resort to force”? (Comprehension)
7) What is the motive for Lee to write his letter? (Analysis)
8) When did the Civil War officially start? (Knowledge)
Activity #3: Quiz
"A Letter to His Son" shows how Robert E. Lee truly feels about being a part of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War. The election of Abraham Lincoln and his beliefs of ending slavery sparked the succession of the south. Robert E. Lee showed sorrow for his country during this time and did not believe in what the Confederate States of America stood for.