With all the attacks on Robert E. Lee, it is good to remember some of the good qualities that he had, qualities that are worthy of a statue or monument or two.
In the one volume abridgement of Douglas Southall Freeman’s biography of Robert E. Lee, the introduction states that Freeman described Lee as “one of the few, the very few of her sons, whom America offers at the altar of the ages as worthy by reason of his character to be exempted from the else-universal sentence of death.” It adds, “After reading this biography, we are almost prepared to believe it.”
The foreword states that Freeman portrayed a Lee almost without blemishes or warts. It says:
In the index of the original four-volume biography is the entry “Personal Characteristics,” which include: abstemiousness, alertness, amiability, boldness, calmness, charm of manner, cheerfulness, courage, courtesy, dignity, diligence, fairness, faith in God, friendliness, generosity, goodness, good judgment, good looks, grace, heroic character, humility, integrity, intelligence, justice, kindness, mercy, modesty, patience, poise, politeness, resourcefulness, sincerity, tact, thoughtfulness, wisdom. All of these characteristics stand out with even more clarity in this one-volume abridgment, which of necessity strips away much of the verbiage of the original but retains the essence.
Freeman, Douglas Southall. Lee (Kindle Locations 95-97). Scribner. Kindle Edition.
I think there is probably something to the accusations against Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore. It’s not clear to me how much of a criminal act it was. One of the Sunday talk shows made a big point of the fact that the victim was 14, which would make this a lesser offense than if she were younger. It was probably not a felony, and the statute of limitations has probably run out, although I’m not sure. In any case, it’s messy unless it’s an outright lie.
Assuming it’s not a complete lie, one thing concerns me. Did the Washington Post delay publishing this story until after the primary election? If it had come out before the election, it would have improved the chances of Moore’s Republican opponent, Luther Strange. If Strange had been elected, he almost certainly would have beaten his Democratic opponent, Doug Jones. Now, the story greatly benefits Jones. It remains to be seen whether it will swing the election in Jones’ favor.
If Moore is elected despite the story, I suspect that he will be seated in the Senate. It does not look like he is a criminal, whatever his morals. Other Senators may treat him as an outcast, but he will be there and will be able to vote. Under those circumstances he may be even more obstreperous than he would have been before the story.
Another effect of this story may be to keep many basically good people out of politics. Almost everyone has some blot on their record, something they did in a weak moment and wish they had not done. In the old days, some indiscretions were overlooked or hushed up, but that is almost impossible today. The fact that so many basically good people eliminate themselves from politics is at least partly responsible for the horrible political scene we have now. We get people who run who don’t care about moral failings, people consumed by a lust for power or publicity, or on the other hand, people who are completely colorless, who have never done anything interesting in their lives. Neither type produces the best politicians or leaders.