Lee as a Slaveholder: Reputable Primary Sources?

Fairfield

Sergeant
Joined
Dec 5, 2019
can with truth charge me with bad treatment'
Sometimes truth (like beauty) is in the eye of the beholder. It seems to me that it is perfectly possible for one person to see an act as reasonable while another may view it as being beyond the pale.
 

Quaama

Corporal
Joined
Sep 13, 2020
Location
Port Macquarie, Australia
Earlier on this thread there was a lot of discussion regarding Gen. Lee and the Custis' Will. While looking for some other things I came across the following from Recollections and letters of General Robert E. Lee by his son R E Lee (see pp 89-90):
"One marked characteristic of my father was his habit of attending to all business matters promptly. He was never idle, and what he had to do he performed with care and precision. Mr. Custis, my grandfather, had made him executor of his will, wherein it was directed that all the slaves belonging to the estate should be set free after the expiration of so many years. The time had now arrived, and, notwithstanding the exacting duties of his position, the care of his suffering soldiers, and his anxiety about their future, immediate and distant, he proceeded according to the law of the land to carry out the provisions of the will, and had delivered to every one of the servants, where it was possible, their manumission papers. From his letters written at this time I give a few extracts bearing on this subject :
". . . As regards the liberation of the people, I wish to progress in it as far as I can. Those hired in Richmond can still find employment there if they choose. Those in the country can do the same or remain on the farms. I hope they will all do well and behave themselves. I should like, if I could, to attend to their wants and see them placed to the best advantage. But that is impossible. All that choose can leave the State before the war closes. . . .
". . . I executed the deed of manumission sent me by Mr. Caskie, and returned it to him. I perceived that John Sawyer and James's names, among the Arlington people, had been omitted, and inserted them. I fear there are others among the White House lot which I did not discover. As to the attacks of the Northern papers, I do not mind them, and do not think it wise to make the publication you suggest. If all the names of the people at Arlington and on the Pamunkey are not embraced in this deed I have executed, I should like a supplementary deed to be drawn up, containing all those omitted. They are entitled to their freedom and I wish to give it to them. Those that have been carried away, I hope are free and happy ; I cannot get their papers to them, and they do not require them. I will give them if they ever call for them. It will be useless to ask their restitution to manumit them. . . .".
 

Georgia

Sergeant
Do we have any sources that indicate who Lee hired his slave out too?.
Yes, there are sources which discuss locations and I believe the sort of work and the fees per year garnered by the hiring of them out. There is also a mention of a specific brother out of a trio of brothers who sadly passed away after they were freed and Lee comments that he hopes his anger hadn’t caused his passing.
If you’d like to get into this more on a different thread, I’d be glad to share information I found concerning Nancy Ruffin who had three children and came to the Lees via the Custis family. You may find it of interest that she had a child name Mack. (Reverend William Mack Lee, ring a bell.) And, yes, there is talk about other of her children possibly being fathered by Custis or by Lee.
However, I don’t feel that this is the correct location to discuss such things.
 
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eeric

Private
Joined
Apr 14, 2019
Yes, there are sources which discuss locations and I believe the sort of work and the fees per year garnered by the hiring of them out. There is also a mention of a specific brother out of a trio of brothers who sadly passed away after they were freed and Lee comments that he hopes his anger hadn’t caused his passing.
If you’d like to get into this more on a different thread, I’d be glad to share information I found concerning Nancy Ruffin who had three children and came to the Lees via the Custis family. You may find it of interest that she had a child name Mack. (Reverend William Mack Lee, ring a bell.) And, yes, there is talk about other of her children possibly being fathered by Custis or by Lee.
However, I don’t feel that this is the correct location to discuss such things.
Please do share.
 

jcaesar

Private
Joined
Aug 28, 2020
An article on Lee's support of the American Colonization Society.

"Before the Civil War, Robert E. Lee freed most of his slaves and offered to pay expenses for those who wanted to go to Liberia. In November 1853, Lee's former slaves William and Rosabella Burke and their four children sailed on the Banshee, which left Baltimore with 261 emigrants. A person of superior intelligence and drive, Burke studied Latin and Greek at a newly established seminary in Monrovia and became a Presbyterian minister in 1857. He helped educate his own children and other members of his community and took several native children into his home.

The Burkes's letters describing their lives in Liberia show that they relied on the Lees to convey messages to and from relatives still in Virginia, and the letters also reflect affection for their former masters.

Despite the hardships of being a colonist, William Burke was enthusiastic about his new life. After five years in Liberia he wrote that "Persons coming to Africa should expect to go through many hardships, such as are common to the first settlement in any new country. I expected it, and was not disappointed or discouraged at any thing I met with; and so far from being dissatisfied with the country, I bless the Lord that ever my lot was cast in this part of the earth. The Lord has blessed me abundantly since my residence in Africa, for which I feel that I can never be sufficiently thankful."

Letters from the Burkes to Mary Custis Lee, wife of Robert E. Lee, were published in the 1859 edition of The African Repository with Mrs. Lee's permission. This letter from Mrs. Burke to Mrs. Lee demonstrates personal warmth between the two women. Mrs. Burke shows concern for Mrs. Lee's health, tells Mrs. Lee about her children, and asks about the Lee children. The "little Martha" referred to was Martha Custis Lee Burke, born in Liberia and named for one of the Lee family. Repeating her husband's enthusiasm for their new life, Rosabella Burke says, "I love Africa and would not exchange it for America."

Essay on Liberia consolidated by Henry Robert Burke :: Liberia :: History :: Lest We Forget (hamptonu.edu)

stakeclaim_rosabellaburke_letter.jpg


Letter from Rosabella Burke to the Lees, February 20, 1859, in The African Repository and Colonial Journal, vol. 35, no 7, July 1859, p. 216. Library of Congress.
 

Georgia

Sergeant
An article on Lee's support of the American Colonization Society.



View attachment 382375

Letter from Rosabella Burke to the Lees, February 20, 1859, in The African Repository and Colonial Journal, vol. 35, no 7, July 1859, p. 216. Library of Congress.
For some reason, I was thinking this story was attributed to Custis and his wife as the ones who prepared those who would be returning to Africa by making sure they had trained in various areas prior to leaving this country.

Thank you for sharing as it shows I was incorrectly attributing this situation to the wrong family members.
 
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