By James E. Lee
Some history to correct the current smears on the name of a great American with whom I share a surname.
Robert E. Lee was from one of the founding families of this nation.
His father, Henry Lee, had two cousins who signed the Declaration of Independence:
Richard Henry Lee and Francis Lightfoot Lee.
In fact, it was Richard Henry Lee who made the motion in the Second Continental Congress that “these colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states.”
That motion was seconded by Ben Franklin and led to the writing of the Declaration of Independence.
In the War for Independence Robert E. Lee’s father, Henry Lee was a famous General of the Continental Army and later as a US Senator was largely responsible for adding the Bill of Rights to the US Constitution.
Robert E. Lee served his country in the US Army as a civil engineer, commandant of West Point Military Academy and in the Mexican War, among other highlights of loyal service.
Before the Civil War broke out, he commanded the US Army troops that captured John Brown during Brown’s raid on the arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia.
Robert E. Lee was neither a supporter of secession nor slavery and was in fact offered command of all Union forces at the outbreak of the Civil War.
But his loyalty to his home state of Virginia led him to decline that offer and instead accepted command of the Virginia military forces.
It is factually incorrect to smear him as a racist.
In the US Civil War, he was NOT fighting to preserve slavery; he was fighting to protect his beloved home state.
If any historical record needs to be examined for racism in US history it should be that of the Democratic Political Party.
It was the Southern Democrats who brought about secession and the US Civil War when their candidate for President, John Breckinridge, lost to Abraham Lincoln.
After the Civil War, one purpose of the Ku Klux Klan was, in effect, to support the Democratic Party by keeping freed slaves, many of whom became Republicans, from voting and running for office.
It was Southern Democrats who passed the Jim Crow segregation laws to keep races separate in their states.
It was Southern Democrats who fought in the 20th century to keep racial segregation including school segregation.