Thursday, July 31, 2014

Fold the Flag?

Letter by Sherwin Dillard that appeared in, in response to a letter, Folded flags are more respectful of Lee’s wishes, by Carlton E. Knight. Jr.   Many thanks to the author for permission to reprint this awesome response here.

It has been lately suggested that Robert E. Lee had accepted with grace the outcome of the war he had waged and it has become fashionable to play paper dolls with his mind (dressing him up in modern style) regarding the Confederate flag based on what he did not say or do in Lexington. In addition to the fallacy of arguing from the negative, it ignores the realities of his precarious circumstances as well as the contemporary account related by one of his chaplains, R.L. Dabney.

Lee, during his Lexington years was a man awaiting a determination of the restoration of his citizenship rights. He had met the paperwork requirements and had taken the required allegiance oath and was awaiting the official restoration.

I know an immigrant who was awaiting her naturalization. When a political matter of intense interest to her arose, she confided that while she desperately wanted to take an active role in commenting publicly on it, she dared not until her citizenship was established. She could not involve herself in political affairs or controversies until her status was settled and fixed.

I know another young lady, a Filipina, who is in the same muzzle until she has her naturalization completed in Chicago next week.

Certainly Lee, as the foremost recognizable military leader of the Southern cause, would have to closely mind his words and deeds—and took extraordinary pains to do so—in order not to jeopardize that restoration of his right to vote and partake in everyday liberties again.

Sadly for Lee, however, he died waiting. Washington, D.C., typically, lost his paperwork for a century. Not until President Gerald Ford restored his citizenship in 1975 was Lee able to speak freely again, by which time, of course, it was much, much too late.

"General Lee had given a very polite good-morning to each man as he passed out;…he gently closed the door before me, keeping the door-knob in his left hand, and said to me, as follows: ‘Governor Stockdale, before you leave, I wish to give you my thanks… You know, Governor, what my position is. Those people (his uniform term for the Yankees) choose…to hold me as a representative Southerner; hence, I know they watch my words, and if I should speak unadvisedly, what I say would be caught up by their speakers and newspapers, and magnified into a pretext for adding to the load of oppression they have placed upon our poor people; and God knows, Governor, that load is heavy enough now; but you can speak, for you are not under that restraint…’ "

“Again, said Governor Stockdale, I thought he would dismiss me; but he still held the door closed… after a time he resumed and uttered these words: ‘Governor, if I had foreseen the use those people designed to make of their victory, there would have been no surrender at Appomattox Courthouse; no, sir, not by me.’ Then, with rising color, throwing back his head like an old war-horse, he added these words, ‘Had I foreseen these results of subjugation, I would have preferred to die at Appomattox with my brave men, my sword in this right hand.’ He then dropped his head, and, with a sad look, added, ‘This, of course, is for your ear only…" – LIFE AND LETTERS OF ROBERT LEWIS DABNEY- Thomas Carey Johnson, 1903

If Lee’s wishes are the supreme rule at Washington & Lee University today, they will, of course, hasten to evangelize their student body with the Christian Gospel, for Lee said, “Our greatest want is a revival that shall bring these young men to Christ. I dread the thought of any student going away from the college without becoming a sincere Christian. I shall fail in the leading object that brought me here, unless these young men all become consistent Christians.” Surely we may rely on Ruscio and the faculty to hold prayer meetings and special religious services to that end, since they are so careful to follow Lee’s example in all things.

We will see that about as soon as we see President Ruscio worshipping in Lee’s Chapel seat six days a week. Lee is a prop the school uses when they believe it furthers their political agenda and which they ignore entirely when they wish. They profess, “This chapel…shall not be used for any meetings or purposes not in keeping with its consecrated character and the memorial and sacred purposes to which it is dedicated.” Is that why they hosted a debate on “gay marriage” in April 2012 in Lee Chapel? Was that its sacred purpose intended in 1866? Of course not. Not according reason and not according to the Board of Trustees’ minutes, of which I have photocopies.

The pretended reverence for Lee and his wishes is a convenient sham no intelligent person believes for a moment.

Sherwin Dillard
Wygota College
Wenucanskipitin, Virginia

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