How Would Southerners Have Reacted If Lee Had Supported Reconstruction?

JeffBrooks

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 20, 2009
Location
Manor, TX
As is well known, Robert E. Lee generally stayed out of politics after the war. Aside from his testimony to Congress (in favor of education for blacks, but against allowing blacks to vote) and his signing of a letter in support of Horatio Seymour's candidacy, he kept his thoughts to himself. His request for a pardon was seen by some as a symbolic act of reconciliation, persuading many Southerners to accept defeat and again embrace the United States. His quiet and dignified acceptance of the result of the war led him to be seen as a symbol of reconciliation and also contributed to his iconic status in the years since the war, during which Southerners raised him to the level of a demigod.

However, what if Lee had chosen to adopt a stronger and more public feeling in favor of Reconstruction. In other words, what if Lee had followed the course of James Longstreet and openly supported Republican policies? How would Southerners have reacted? Would they have turned against Lee in the same manner that the turned against Longstreet, or would Lee's status as the great Confederate hero have been sufficient to persuade more white Southerners to follow his lead?

I do not think that this scenario would have been especially likely, but I am curious as to how members of the board think Southerners would have responded had Lee done this.
 

Don Dixon

Sergeant
Joined
Oct 24, 2008
Location
Fairfax, VA, USA
Your posted an interesting question is historiography. While Bobby Lee was well respected in the south during the Civil War, his deification after the war was largely the result of the creation of the lost cause mythology by Jubal A. Early and the Southern Historical Society. Had Lee favored Republican policies after the war, as Longstreet did, Early and the other Lost Cause partisans presumably would have reacted toward him in the same unfavorable manner that they reacted to Longstreet for what they regarded as his betrayal of the Cause.
 

jackt62

Captain
Joined
Jul 28, 2015
Location
New York City
I'm not quite sure what the reaction to Lee would have been, but I do wonder whether Lee was astute enough to remain aloof from the major issues of the day. Did he somehow understand that staying quiet and being a highly respected military figure was a position that could only be chipped away at if he expressed any kind of controversial remarks?
 
Joined
Oct 3, 2005
They would have turned on him like they did Longstreet.

On the plus side, they wouldn't be any controversy over Lee monuments today. No Lee monuments.

I freely admit I could be wrong about this.

There was a recent book I read about Washington who, although he became disenchanted about slavery, never really put his tremendous prestige behind emancipation, and how it was a missed opportunity.
 

JeffBrooks

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 20, 2009
Location
Manor, TX
I'm not quite sure what the reaction to Lee would have been, but I do wonder whether Lee was astute enough to remain aloof from the major issues of the day. Did he somehow understand that staying quiet and being a highly respected military figure was a position that could only be chipped away at if he expressed any kind of controversial remarks?

I think this was the case. Grant expressed disappointment that Lee didn't follow the same path as Longstreet, but I think that Lee understood, as Grant didn't, that it was far better for him to remain in dignified silence that to speak out openly.
 
Joined
Sep 17, 2011
Location
mo
Not sure why he would have, or why anyone would even imply he didn't support reconstruction.

Unless one is in politics, most people keep their politics to themselves, family or friends, and aren't vocal ideologues or outspoken.
 
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