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Favorable or Unfavorable #526: Robert E. Lee

Favorable or Unfavorable #526: Robert E. Lee  

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  1. 1. Did you read my first comment?

  2. 2. Favorable or Unfavorable #526: Robert E. Lee

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Robert E Lee of VA is most famous as the Confederate general who won several impressive early battles, but following the loss of Stonewall Jackson, he more often had phyricc victories, when he had victories at all. 

In more contemporary time, Lee has been a symbol Southern defiance, which would actually make Lee cry if you know anything about him. He opposed secession and was the icon for reconcilliation at the end of the war. I went to a Dallas TX high school that was 99% white kids from old money families (I was an exception coming from a former new money dad who had lost all his money by the time I was 8). Occasionally, you'd see kids wearing T-shirts with Confederate flags with RE Lee's face printed on the T-Shirt. Sometimes there'd be some sort of language, such as "It's a Southern Thang. Y'all wouldn't understand." Or something like that. One of these kids was itching for a new Civil War. It was strange. In high school, I knew almost nothing about contemporary politics--1990s politics. I also ashamedly had no reaction to people wearing Confederate flags on their shirts. It might as well have been a Miami Dolphins t-shirt. But I do remember that these neo-Confederate classmates had a sort of lost cause mentality of which Robert E Lee was a kind of central figure -- something he would have hated to see.

More on point, I am surprised Lee has this many actions. I was sort of thinking he wouldn't even get 5 when I typed these out, but he clearly has a few. Regarding slavery (1860 action). Lee had enslaved his own people, even though he knew it was wrong. He opposed abolitionists, but he wasn't opposed to abolition. He opposed immediate emancipation because he thought it would create chaos. And while he thought slavery was evil, he never supported votes or equal rights for blacks. One of the factors in his opposition to slavery was that he hated the paperwork in managing so many slaves. When he inherited 200+ people from his father-in-law, he was happy that the will stipulated that they'd get their freedom after 5 years, setting a freedom date for c. 1862. While hating slavery, Lee is documented to having been a rather bipolar slavemaster. He is sometimes recorded as being very considerate and kind, but I've also read that he was sometimes harsh. It seems he hated slavery but so long as he had slaves, he was going to be a slavemaster. 

Politically, Lee was a Whig. His father was a Federalist, and many Federalists became National Republicans, and then Whigs. A Southern Whig was very different from a Northern Whig, and the only real unifying factors that they had was - 1) favoring a high protective tariff, 2) favoring a weak president and a strong Congress, 3) supporting internal improvements, 4) supporting a national bank -- although some Southern Whigs only supported #1 and #2. Southern Whigs tended to be strong pro-Unionists, but with a shared pro-States Rights philosophy. You may remember that generals Winfield Scott and Zachary Taylor were also Southern Whig generals. Whigs tended to be more nationally focused, than regional or state focused. I think military figures, who are stations all over the country during their career, are probably more inclined to Whig-like politics. James K Polk hated that Whigs keps winning battles in Mexico and not a single good Democratic general could be found to compete with them. Anyway, the 1860 election seems to have turned Lee into a Democrat (Southern Democrat), although I don't think he ever registered as a Democrat. John Bell was certainly closer to his political views, but he might not have voted for him because he possibly thought Bell couldn't win. But I'm not sure of his rationale. 

On another note, Richard Henry Lee (a cousin of RE Lee) is a major US political figure, but he has only two actions, and so no poll. I think he may eventually get to 5, but part of the issue with him is that he dies in 1794. Most of his greatest actions are prior to the 1788 election. If he gets any more actions, it will be because I find something significant that he did while as Senator. For now RH Lee's actions are that he was an inaugural US Sen for VA and that he pushed for executive titles. He was also Sen Pres Pro Tempore, but this doesn't get an action because he wasn't the 1st one, and he didn't hold it for any significant length of time. In fact, this office was typically held only for a few months and someone else would take over. The rules changed when Sen Maj Ldr and etc. were created.

His actions:

Lee, Robert E 1852 Appt Superintendent of West Point
Lee, Robert E 1859 Sent to Harpers Ferry to capture John Brown
Lee, Robert E 1860 Enslaving over 200 people his wife inherited with intention of releasing them as he saw slavery as morally and politically evil
Lee, Robert E 1860 Fmr Whig votes for Breckinridge over Const Union John Bell, who is more or less a Southern Whig
Lee, Robert E 1861 Declines offer of command of the Union army by Lincoln and Winfield Scott with the rank of Maj Gen
Lee, Robert E 1861 Despite Unionists feelings, resigns from US Army and reluctantly stays with his seceded state, eventually leading the CSA army
Lee, Robert E 1865 Indicted for his role in the Civil War but not arrested; loses his right to vote
Lee, Robert E 1865 Signs the amnesty oath, but he is neither pardoned or has his citizenship restored
Lee, Robert E 1866 Begins to counsel Southerners to give up the fight and assimilate into post-war, post-slavery, pro-Union US
Lee, Robert E 1866? Opposes Radical Reconstruction, votes for blacks, but supports things like free public school for blacks; supports Andrew Johnson's policy
Lee, Robert E 1868 Backs Horatio Seymour for pres over Grant due to Radical Reconstruction
Lee, Robert E 1869 Accepts invitation by Grant to visit the White House; becomes icon of reconcilliation between North and South
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There's much that I like about him, but the fact that he waged war against the US and opposed votes for blacks and opposed Reconstruction is enough for me to vote unfavorable. 

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