Sunday, 18 November 2007

Southern Gentleman: General Robert E. Lee

General Robert E. Lee is often regarded as the epitome of the Southern Gentleman, as almost all commentators, even hostile ones, agree.

What did Lee consider the essential hallmarks of a gentleman? What did Lee consider made a gentleman in the broad sense? How does one think and act and speak to be such? He gives us a flavour from one of his speeches:

"The forbearing use of power does not only form a touchstone, but the manner in which an individual enjoys certain advantages over others is a test of a true gentleman. The power which the strong have over the weak, the employer over the employed, the educated over the unlettered, the experienced over the confiding, even the clever over the silly -- the forbearing or inoffensive use of all this power or authority, or a total abstinence from it when the case admits it, will show the gentleman in a plain light. The gentleman does not needlessly and unnecessarily remind an offender of a wrong he may have committed against him. He cannot only forgive, he can forget; and he strives for that nobleness of self and mildness of character which impart sufficient strength to let the past be but the past. A true man of honour feels humbled himself when he cannot help humbling others."

Not a bad guide!

He has other bon mots for us:

"All that the South has ever desired was that the Union as established by our forefathers should be preserved and that the government as originally organized should be administered in purity and truth."
Robert E. Lee

"We could have pursued no other course without dishonour. And as sad as the results have been, if it had all to be done over again, we should be compelled to act in precisely the same manner."

Robert E. Lee

"I am nothing but a poor sinner, trusting in Christ alone for salvation."
Robert E. Lee

Requiem aeternam, dona ei Domine.

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