Take the Time to Think
The February issue of Civil War Times featured an article on Robert E. Lee that quoted the general’s own words to explore his views on slavery. We received many comments about that piece and our cover line, asserting that Lee “fought like hell” to defend the institution of slavery. We’ve included a couple of representational letters (P. 9) in this issue’s “Mail Call,” though we got several more too incendiary to print.
Dozens of published Confederate soldier letters and diaries make it plain Rebels of all economic levels were motivated to fight to keep slavery. The Confederate Constitution explicitly states that no “law denying or impairing the right of property in negro slaves shall be passed.” Yet the controversy continues over the “Peculiar Institution’s” role in the struggle.
It’s ironic that during the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth, even Abe’s ardent supporters are objectively discussing the fact that he defended slaveowners as a lawyer, and for much of his life he favored colonization over abolition and held views that would be considered racist by modern standards. And he’s the guy who never owned a slave and who drafted the Emancipation Proclamation. But if you connect chattel bondage to Lee, who actually owned slaves, you’ve committed a crime in the eyes of some readers.
Civil War Times has a duty to continue adding to our knowledge of the conflict. We will continue to run articles that shed new light on the lives of great Americans such as Lee. In this issue, for example, we’ve included a thoughtful piece on George McClellan, to help us better understand one of the most controversial generals in the Union pantheon (P. 28). Our goal is not that readers will agree with everything they see in our pages, but that what they find here gets them thinking.
Originally published in the June 2009 issue of Civil War Times. To subscribe, click here.