The Civil War, 1861-1865

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Author: Robert E. Lee  | Date: 1865

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Robert E. Lee’s Attitude After the War

I HAVE received your letter of the 23rd ult. [August, 1865], and in reply will state the course I have pursued under circumstances similar to your own, and will leave you to judge of its propriety. Like yourself, I have, since the cessation of hostilities, advised all with whom I have conversed on the subject, who come within the terms of the President’s proclamations, to take the oath of allegiance, and accept in good faith the amnesty offered.

But I have gone further, and have recommended to those who were excluded from their benefits to make application under the proviso of the proclamation of the 29th of May, to be embraced in its provisions. Both classes, in order to be restored to their former rights and privlleges, were required to perform a certain act, and I do not see that an acknowledgment of fault is expressed in one more than the other. The war being at an end, the Southern States have laid down their arms, and the question at issue between them and the Northern States having been decided, I believe it to be the duty of every one to unite in the restoration of the country, and the reestablishment of peace and harmony.

These considerations governed me in the counsels I gave to others, and induced me on the 13th of June to make application to be included in the terms of the amnesty proclamation. I have not received an answer, and cannot inform you what has been the decision of the President. But, whatever that may be, I do not see how the course I have recommended and practiced can prove detrimental to the former President of the Confederate States.

It appears to me that the allayment of passion, the dissipation of prejudice, and the restoration of reason, will alone enable the people of the country to acquire a true knowledge and form a correct judgment of the events of the past four years. It will, I think, be admitted that Mr. Davis has done nothing more than all the citizens of the Southern States, and should not be held accountable for acts performed by them in the exercise of what had been considered by them unquestionable right. I have too exalted an opinion of the American people to believe that they will consent to injustice; and it is only necessary, in my opinion, that truth should be known, for the rights of every one to be secured. I know of no surer way of eliciting the truth than by burying contention with the war.

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Chicago: Robert E. Lee, "Robert E. Lee’s Attitude After the War," The Civil War, 1861-1865 in America, Vol.9, Pp.13-15 Original Sources, accessed December 9, 2019, http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=JR4J2LJKKV4MC3G.

MLA: Lee, Robert E. "Robert E. Lee’s Attitude After the War." The Civil War, 1861-1865, in America, Vol.9, Pp.13-15, Original Sources. 9 Dec. 2019. originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=JR4J2LJKKV4MC3G.

Harvard: Lee, RE, 'Robert E. Lee’s Attitude After the War' in The Civil War, 1861-1865. cited in , America, Vol.9, Pp.13-15. Original Sources, retrieved 9 December 2019, from http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=JR4J2LJKKV4MC3G.