Lee as a Slaveholder: Reputable Primary Sources?

Piedone

Sergeant
Joined
Oct 8, 2020
I think Britain had more in common with the North than the South who by this time had formed its own unique way of living and seemed to be getting more and more isolated from the rest of the world however this didn't stop Britain buying cheap cotton or sugar from the South or Caribbean so some double standards were at work.
Convincing! I am very much of the same opinion - but (please excuse)... well.... the idea of racial superiority should have been quite prevalent in the British empire in those times too... -
but regarding the idea of trading and owning people outrightly you are right...

but then....it was so extremely profitable in the antebellum South....

...as colonization turned out to be extremely profitable too...

and then other ways (like blackbirding) were found to exploit people....

But please do understand me: I didn’t wanted to deliver a strawman argument (the South was of course unique as it was the only modern nation who outrightly defended the precise idea of slavery) - just wanted to say that western civilization up to maybe the 1970‘s generally had some really dark spots....
 

Piedone

Sergeant
Joined
Oct 8, 2020
I think Britain had more in common with the North than the South who by this time had formed its own unique way of living and seemed to be getting more and more isolated from the rest of the world however this didn't stop Britain buying cheap cotton or sugar from the South or Caribbean so some double standards were at work.
Could it have been that different classes of british society had a differing attitude here - or was it a more general attitude in Britain then?
 

Piedone

Sergeant
Joined
Oct 8, 2020
I read the book published by the slave who accompanied Lee in the war and later became a minister, Rev. Wm Mack. One thing that struck me as kind of sad and funny was when William killed Lee's pet hen that he kept because he liked a fresh egg for breakfast. Lee was going to entertain some generals for supper, but all William had to make food was flapjacks, so he killed Lee's pet hen and made chicken dinner. Lee said nothing during dinner, but cornered William later and asked him where he got the chicken for that fine dinner. He admitted he killed his hen. Lee got a tear in his eye because he grieved over the death of a hen or a soldier and told William sadly, that he was very disappointed and he was just going to have to tell Mary what he had done.
I remember having read something in another thread that William Mack was maybe not a very reliable source...alas...I do not know anymore why,
just remembering that there was some proof presented that he most probably was not Lee‘s cook as he said and also was probably no eye witness regarding Lee during the war.
Do you (or anybody) know more about him?
 

GwilymT

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 20, 2018
Location
Pittsburgh
Lee wrote letters to editors long before the war opposing slavery. This is a matter of record regardless of what was taught in church, his feelings are published.
Could you kindly direct the group to these anti-slavery letters to editors penned by Lee prior to the war?

The letter oft cited is one he penned to his wife where he does say he thinks slavery a moral and political evil but goes on to say it’s worse so for the white race than the black race. He expounded that it was a burden on the white race but necessary instruction for the (lesser in his eyes) black race instituted by Divine providence.

Is this the letter you refer to or is there a trove of letters to the editor where Lee goes on about how much he opposes slavery?

Thank you in advance for your response in directing me to these letters.

Edit- spelling
 
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Scott1967

First Sergeant
Joined
Jul 11, 2016
Location
England
Lee's preferred method of dealing with recalcitrant slaves was to send them elsewhere. The slaves at Arlington could read and they seldom broke up families if it could be helped. This is in records, not sentimental drivel.
Regardless Lee would have followed Virginia state law when it came to slaves , it was illegal to teach or educate slaves and any caught while trying to escape were punished accordingly i find it extremely hard to believe Lee did not abide by the Law.
Lee wrote letters to editors long before the war opposing slavery. This is a matter of record regardless of what was taught in church, his feelings are published.
Yes and he never practiced what he preached always contradicting himself , After all this is a man that allowed his army to capture free slaves and send them South.
The terms of the will were that the slaves were to be freed not sold regardless of what their value was. As soon as the property was solvent and the terms of the will fulfilled
My heart bleeds for him after all he was not exactly bankrupt compared to your average immigrant fresh off the boat earning 7 dollars a month please put the violins away.

He put profit over human decency.
Could it have been that different classes of british society had a differing attitude here - or was it a more general attitude in Britain then?
Britain and the North were both industrialized many wealthy Britain's had invested heavily in Northern industries and many Britain's had emigrated to the North not the South.

Trade between Britain and the USA was at an all-time high even during the war with grain being the biggest US export in return the US was importing high grade steel from Britain and other European nations.

Of course it was not all one way traffic many titled men felt a kindred spirit to the men of the South.

50,000 Britain's fought in the war including 2 MOH winners one from my home town over 90% for the Union does that answer your question?.
 

GwilymT

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 20, 2018
Location
Pittsburgh
I'm pretty sure I know which one you are talking about. His accounts have been refuted. For one, the woman in the story who was supposedly stripped and whipped is the sister of Mary Lee's personal slave. The Lees held a wedding for her in their home. When Lee told Mary she needed to abandon Arlington, she left Selina in charge of the home. Selina fought like a tiger to protect it and the personal property and protested to the Union commander when soldiers started stealing everything of value including many things that belonged to George Washington. I doubt she would have given a fig about it if Lee had brutalized her sister.

In addition, some of the dates are off in his statements. Plus they don't jive with the court documents of what the judge decreed in settling the will. A lady historian has researched this extensively and picks his story apart pretty thoroughly with evidence.

I read the book published by the slave who accompanied Lee in the war and later became a minister, Rev. Wm Mack. One thing that struck me as kind of sad and funny was when William killed Lee's pet hen that he kept because he liked a fresh egg for breakfast. Lee was going to entertain some generals for supper, but all William had to make food was flapjacks, so he killed Lee's pet hen and made chicken dinner. Lee said nothing during dinner, but cornered William later and asked him where he got the chicken for that fine dinner. He admitted he killed his hen. Lee got a tear in his eye because he grieved over the death of a hen or a soldier and told William sadly, that he was very disappointed and he was just going to have to tell Mary what he had done.

Lee's preferred method of dealing with recalcitrant slaves was to send them elsewhere. The slaves at Arlington could read and they seldom broke up families if it could be helped. This is in records, not sentimental drivel.
From what I understand this story of Mack and the hen has been shown to apocryphal and not backed up by anyone involved in the event.
 

DanSBHawk

Captain
Joined
May 8, 2015
Location
Wisconsin
I remember having read something in another thread that William Mack was maybe not a very reliable source...alas...I do not know anymore why,
just remembering that there was some proof presented that he most probably was not Lee‘s cook as he said and also was probably no eye witness regarding Lee during the war.
Do you (or anybody) know more about him?
Even the Confederate Veteran magazine debunked Mack in 1927.
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
As much as you may be right with your essential point (albeit it could be challenged in it´s one-dimensionality and rigour) -
I would dare to give you a demerit for your way of argumenting.

@Texasdude555 could just reply that HIS confederate relations would have laughed out loud at YOUR statement -
as THEY fought for states ´ rights (for example) - and to claim other motives would ignore everything HIS family went to war for....

Where shall this lead to?
I have no idea what you are referring to. The reasons why the states seceded was clearly stated at the time. The only issue of any significance was slavery. It is settled history & I don’t have an opinion one way or the other except to accept the participants at their word.
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Lee wrote letters to editors long before the war opposing slavery. This is a matter of record regardless of what was taught in church, his feelings are published.
I have no idea why this theme comes up regularly, as you have pointed out, everything is there in the written record. The Episcopal bishops switched from anti to pro slavery when the cotton gin made slaveholding very profitable. The Polk’s here in Tennessee were examples of the Episcopal / elite slaveholder synergy.
 

CowCavalry

First Sergeant
Joined
Aug 17, 2017
Regardless Lee would have followed Virginia state law when it came to slaves , it was illegal to teach or educate slaves and any caught while trying to escape were punished accordingly i find it extremely hard to believe Lee did not abide by the Law.
In defiance of state law, Mrs. Lee taught the slave children at Arlington to read and right. Presumably, Robert E. Lee knew about it.
 
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Piedone

Sergeant
Joined
Oct 8, 2020
I have no idea what you are referring to. The reasons why the states seceded was clearly stated at the time. The only issue of any significance was slavery. It is settled history & I don’t have an opinion one way or the other except to accept the participants at their word.
Well....I fear...we do indeed have a tendency to get our wires crossed...
 

RobertP

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Nov 11, 2009
Location
Dallas
50,000 Britain's fought in the war including 2 MOH winners one from my home town over 90% for the Union does that answer your question?.
Always follow the money. There’s your answer.
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Scott1967

First Sergeant
Joined
Jul 11, 2016
Location
England
In defiance of state law, Mrs. Lee taught the slave children at Arlington to read and right. Presumably, Robert E. Lee knew about it.
According to who exactly , If you believe the slaves at Arlington then surely you should also believe Norris otherwise were just going around in circles you cant take one as fact and dismiss the other as lies.

Always follow the money. There’s your answer.
I don't deny that but like in most wars people had different reasons for joining , But yes bounty jumping was a big issue for Lincoln however those that didn't just join for the bounty did join the Union and not the South.
 

Piedone

Sergeant
Joined
Oct 8, 2020
I don't deny that but like in most wars people had different reasons for joining , But yes bounty jumping was a big issue for Lincoln however those that didn't just join for the bounty did join the Union and not the South.
It would be real interesting to delve deeper into the matter and to investigate recruitment and motivations...maybe a new thread should be opened?
 
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