An Antislavery R. E. Lee?

byron ed

Sergeant Major
Joined
Mar 22, 2017
Messages
2,479
Location
Midwest
#81
I agree the letter really isn't news. We do need a source to show "his" slaves were whipped for disobedience, however. They we're his father-in-laws, not his, if we're talking of the same bunch.
By the war's initiation, Lee was managing his estate's slaves (i.e. including delaying the terms of their emancipation, deciding their personal futures, and occasionally having them disciplined or even whipped, etc.). No one said he owned any of them but it didn't make a whit of difference to those slaves at the time.

It's such a small point but an oft-repeated irritant; employed in the attempt to try and soften that the primary tenant of Secession and the Confederacy was slavery. It goes like this: "because Lee didn't own any slaves it means that for him the war wasn't about slavery." Edited.
 

(Membership has it privileges! To remove this ad: Register NOW!)

cash

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Messages
33,528
Location
Right here.
#82
By the war's initiation, Lee was managing his estate's slaves (i.e. including delaying the terms of their emancipation, deciding their personal futures, and occasionally having them disciplined or even whipped, etc.). No one said he owned any of them but it didn't make a whit of difference to those slaves at the time.

It's such a small point but an oft-repeated irritant; employed in the attempt to try and soften that the primary tenant of Secession and the Confederacy was slavery. It goes like this: "because Lee didn't own any slaves it means that for him the war wasn't about slavery." Edited.
It's also based on a falsehood. Lee had slaves of his own apart from the Custis slaves he managed due to his father-in-law's will.
 
Joined
Oct 22, 2012
Messages
7,812
#83
By the war's initiation, Lee was managing his estate's slaves (i.e. including delaying the terms of their emancipation, deciding their personal futures, and occasionally having them disciplined or even whipped, etc.). No one said he owned any of them but it didn't make a whit of difference to those slaves at the time.

It's such a small point but an oft-repeated irritant; employed in the attempt to try and soften that the primary tenant of Secession and the Confederacy was slavery. It goes like this: "because Lee didn't own any slaves it means that for him the war wasn't about slavery." Edited.
Edited. He was burdened with having to execute his father-in-law's Last Will and Testament, yes. There are existing threads about these circumstances on this forum.

Lee communicated clearly to his son that Custis Parke's slaves were a problem for him. I've never said and I don't think anyone else has, that Robert Lee was, "anti-slavery." Only that he was dubious of the institution. Edited.

It's also based on a falsehood. Lee had slaves of his own apart from the Custis slaves he managed due to his father-in-law's will.
You've claimed this before but I'm not aware you've ever produced any actual evidence. If you've got it, please share it with the rest of us.
 

byron ed

Sergeant Major
Joined
Mar 22, 2017
Messages
2,479
Location
Midwest
#84
...I've never said and I don't think anyone else has, that Robert Lee was, "anti-slavery." Only that he was dubious of the institution...
Yet not dubious enough that he would free the estate's slaves as directed in the will. imho Lee's actions are far more pertinent to this thread than his opinions. So I join with you and whoever the "anyone else's" are in denying that Lee was anti-slavery.

I also join with you in wanting to see Cash's evidence of Lee owning slaves of his own.
 
Last edited:
Joined
Oct 22, 2012
Messages
7,812
#85
Yet not dubious enough that he would free the estate's slaves as directed in the will. imho Lee's actions are far more pertinent to this thread than his opinions. So I join with you and whoever the "anyone else's" are in denying that Lee was anti-slavery.

I also join with you in wanting to see Cash's evidence of Lee owning slaves of his own.
You don't seem aware that Parke Custis left cash "legacies" for some of his female heirs for which the cash did not exist. Lee was stuck trying to create the cash to satisfy his father-in-law's will. That is why he tried to extend the emancipation order in the will.

It's also true that a Confederate States Court refused Lee's proposal to keep the slaves longer than was called for in the will. A Confederate States Court ordered the Commander of the Army of Northern Virginia to release his father-in-law's slaves, in the middle of the War.
 

cash

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Messages
33,528
Location
Right here.
#86
Edited. He was burdened with having to execute his father-in-law's Last Will and Testament, yes. There are existing threads about these circumstances on this forum.

Lee communicated clearly to his son that Custis Parke's slaves were a problem for him. I've never said and I don't think anyone else has, that Robert Lee was, "anti-slavery." Only that he was dubious of the institution. Edited.



You've claimed this before but I'm not aware you've ever produced any actual evidence. If you've got it, please share it with the rest of us.
I've produced the evidence several times. Do me a favor and pay attention so I don't have to repeat myself again.

Douglas Southall Freeman found a will of Lee's filed in Rockbridge County in 1846 showing he owned a woman named Nancy and her children and directing they be freed after his death.

Lee actually ended up with just less than a dozen he owned outright. His mother had thirty slaves distributed among the three sons. He sold some of the slaves and kept the others, renting most of them out. He had Nancy and her children, Letitia, Nat, Billy Gardner, and Philip Meriday.

Lee rented Billy Gardner out to his cousin, Hill Carter. The receipts are in the Shirley Plantation Papers.

The papers have a receipt dated 20 Mar 1827 from Charles Carter Lee "for Ann H. Lee to Hill Carter for hire of a slave named Gardner for 1826." The "H." appears to be a typo in the papers.

There's another receipt dated 1 Jan 1830 [after the death of Lee's mother] for hire of "Gardener" for the years 1829 and 1830, signed by Williams Carter, the executor of Mrs. Lee's will.

Another receipt is there dated 5 Jan 1831 for a check from Hill Carter to Williams Carter, "executor for Anne C. Lee," "for the hire of Gardener."

After that the receipts are from R. E. Lee. There's a receipt dated 10 Feb 1836 from Robert E. Lee to Hill Carter for hire of Gardener for the years 1833-1835.

There are additional receipts in other years from Robert E. Lee to Hill Carter for the hire of Gardener.

Also in the papers is a letter from R. E. Lee to Hill Carter dated 25 Jan 1840 in which Lee writes, "if you have collected any wages for Gardeners of sufficient importance send them to me before I start if convenient, or deposit them to my credit in the Bk. of Va."

There is another letter in the papers from R. E. Lee to Hill Carter dated 1 Feb 1845 in which Lee writes:

"My Dear Cousin Hill[,] I have just re'ce your letter of the 30 ulto: forw'g a check in my favour on the Bank of Virg'a for $30, for the hire of Gardener for the year 1844, for which I am much obliged. The amt. is perfectly satisfactory to me if it is to you & G & you know you have full authority to fix his hire at what you please. Hereafter, if it will be more convenient to you, you can deposit the amount of his hire to my credit in the Bank of Va: & at your leisure notify me of the amt. I can always include it in a draft I make upon them about the beginning of the year on a/c of dividends. The check you have sent me I can no doubt dispose of very conveniently.

We are very glad to hear that you are all well at Shirley. Cousin Eliza Turner left us last Wednesday for Middleburg. Wms. Carter has come down from Baltimore to spend a few days. Chas: Henry brought over his eldest daughter Eugenia to see us since his return from Richm'd. She has grown very tall. Dr. Mason has returned from the West & they were all well at the V.Y. [Vine Yard] whence last heard. I saw Warrington as I passed through.
Rec'd, Arlington 1 Feb 1845, from Hill Carter Esq. of Shirley, thirty dollars in
payment of the hire of my man Gardener for the year 1844 in full to 1845. $30.00 R. E. Lee"

There's also an 1852 letter where Lee was hiring Philip Meriday out.
 

cash

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Messages
33,528
Location
Right here.
#87
You don't seem aware that Parke Custis left cash "legacies" for some of his female heirs for which the cash did not exist. Lee was stuck trying to create the cash to satisfy his father-in-law's will. That is why he tried to extend the emancipation order in the will.

It's also true that a Confederate States Court refused Lee's proposal to keep the slaves longer than was called for in the will. A Confederate States Court ordered the Commander of the Army of Northern Virginia to release his father-in-law's slaves, in the middle of the War.
If Lee was truly antislavery, he would have done right off the bat what he eventually had to do anyway--sell land to raise the legacies.
 

cash

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Messages
33,528
Location
Right here.
#88
Lee had slaves with him when he was stationed at Fort Monroe. [Emory M. Thomas, Robert E. Lee: A Biography, p. 68] In 1849, Lee was in Baltimore, MD and expressed concern that the slaves he brought with him might be lost. As he wrote to Mary, “the abolitionists are very active here & opportunities great [for flight]. That is the experience of all that have brought their servants here.” [R. E. Lee to Mary Custis Lee, 25 Sep 1849] Lee made sure he brought the slaves back with him when he returned to Virginia. [Michael Fellman, The Making of Robert E. Lee, p. 64] We may also have some evidence of Lee still owning at least one slave during the war in a letter he wrote to his wife in the middle of 1863, well after all the Custis slaves were supposed to have been manumitted: “Tell Mr. Caskie I gave directions for the man he wrote about to be sent under guard, & to be delivered to the Sheriff of Richmond. I hope it was done. I sent a message to him to that effect in a letter to you. I fear it has been miscarried.” [R. E. Lee to Mary Custis Lee, June 11, 1863]
 
Joined
Oct 22, 2012
Messages
7,812
#89
If Lee was truly antislavery, he would have done right off the bat what he eventually had to do anyway--sell land to raise the legacies.
I never said Lee was anti-slavery. You did, with the title on your OP.

You've still not produced evidence of his slave holding before the war, merely here say and conjecture. It's a yes or no proposition and shouldn't be that hard.
 

Harvey Johnson

First Sergeant
Joined
Oct 22, 2014
Messages
1,115
#90
Most Americans were antislavery in 1860.
On what basis can you say that ? Did they do polling at that time?
. . . Most Americans chose to live in states without slavery . . .
One could just as validly speculate that "most Americans" preferred to live in the Northern (free) states because they preferred harsh winters over mild ones.
 

byron ed

Sergeant Major
Joined
Mar 22, 2017
Messages
2,479
Location
Midwest
#91
You don't seem aware that Parke Custis left cash "legacies" for some of his female heirs for which the cash did not exist. Lee was stuck trying to create the cash to satisfy his father-in-law's will. That is why he tried to extend the emancipation order in the will.
...is that supposed ameliorate the injustice done to those slaves? "...why thas ok, suh, we sure wants ta be yo slaves fo' a while longa if'n it heps y'all ta keep' yo kin sisters in da comfort to which they's accustomed, suh"

So Lee was no anti-slaver; was clearly a slave user; and now good evidence from Cash -- actual cites -- that he had been a slave owner as well. Kind of a slam dunk really.
 
Last edited:

byron ed

Sergeant Major
Joined
Mar 22, 2017
Messages
2,479
Location
Midwest
#93
...It's also true that a Confederate States Court refused Lee's proposal to keep the slaves longer than was called for in the will. A Confederate States Court ordered the Commander of the Army of Northern Virginia to release his father-in-law's slaves, in the middle of the War.
What does that tell us about Lee's character? That he had to be ordered by the state court of his own beloved Virginia to do the right and legal thing. This supposedly was a man above such reproach. Just sayin'
 

War Horse

Captain
Forum Host
Member of the Year
Regtl. Quartermaster Gettysburg 2017
Joined
Sep 4, 2014
Messages
6,561
Location
Lexington, SC
#95
Are you forming this opinion based on the line in the letter, "I would rather hire a white man than purchase if I Could" or on some other sources as well? If it's just based on this one line in this one letter, that seems more like conjecture than fact. You may be right. Robert E. Lee may have disliked black men. He certainly wasn't the poster boy for antislavery. I would be curious to know if indeed Robert E. Lee did dislike all black people in general.
It’s not that he disliked them. He viewed the race as inferior. His reasons for this were based on his observations of uneducated slaves. Much like Lincoln he didn’t realize the potential of the race because of his exposure to uneducated slaves.
 

War Horse

Captain
Forum Host
Member of the Year
Regtl. Quartermaster Gettysburg 2017
Joined
Sep 4, 2014
Messages
6,561
Location
Lexington, SC
#96
I agree the letter really isn't news. We do need a source to show "his" slaves were whipped for disobedience, however. They we're his father-in-laws, not his, if we're talking of the same bunch.
There is a source my friend. One that states he himself wipps runaways. It included a woman.
 

War Horse

Captain
Forum Host
Member of the Year
Regtl. Quartermaster Gettysburg 2017
Joined
Sep 4, 2014
Messages
6,561
Location
Lexington, SC
One could just as validly speculate that "most Americans" preferred to live in the Northern (free) states because they preferred harsh winters over mild ones.
No, they preferred progress and opportunity. Much easier to obtain in the industrialized north. The south was the Old Dominion. Wealth was largely limited to the planter class. The rest were dirt farmer or worse. Winter had nothing to do with it. It was all about opportunity.
 



(Membership has it privileges! To remove this ad: Register NOW!)
Top