Primary Resource

Letter from Robert E. Lee to Edward Lee Childe (January 16, 1868)

In this letter to his nephew Edward Lee Childe, dated January 16, 1868, Robert E. Lee discusses family matters and post–Civil War politics.

Transcription from Original

Lexington Va: 16 Jany 1868

My Dear Edward

I am very glad that my turn has come around in your epistolary calendar. I am always rejoiced to hear from you, and your letters to your Aunt are a source of gratification to all our household. She is daily expecting the rheumatic remedy you have kindly sent her, & will advise you of its efficacy after having tried it. She has suffered so long & undergone such various treatment, that she is not oversanguine now when new remedies are proposed, and if she ever receives relief I think it must come slowly & through alterations to her system. Still I never let go hope, & it is against my principle to despair. I was very sorry to hear of the death of Mrs Eustis. The intelligence first reached me through the papers, & I grieved for her father. I had known her in her girlhood & recollect with much pleasure a visit she made us at Arlington of some days duration after she had left school. Her father I have known for many years & have for him the highest esteem. He has always been generous & noble & has used his wealth, earned by his industry & good judgement, in relieving the distress of his fellow men. I sympathize with him most deeply in the death of his only child. Should you see Mr Taylor again, remember me most kindly to him. I remember him in happier times in Washington. I wish you would say to Mr Frank Corbin when you see him that I have recd his letter & have instituted the inquiries he desired. Mr. is dead, but his executor Mr Wm Barton has promised to make search for the desired documents. Mr Rives has no knowledge of them, & is positive that they were not among the Madison papers that came under his inspection. I am glad to hear that Florence & her handsome boy are well & hope that the latter will become a good & useful man & be a comfort to her & an ornament to his Country. Your recruitment to Cannes must have called up sad remininscenses. My grief (selfish I know it to be) is always unused at the thought of your dear father, mother, & my darling little Mary, yet what pain, distress & perhaps misery they have been spared! The affairs in this country are getting no better. The party in power are determined to retain its possession even at the risk of destroying the country & of putting an end to republican government. The papers keep you informed of all their measures so I need not repeat. The South is to be placed under the dominion of the negroes, that their votes at the coming Presidential election may counterbalance the Conversative votes of the whites at the north. The war originated from a doubtful question of Construction of the Constitution, about which our forefathers differed at the time of framing it.

The South recognized its settlement by the arbitrament of arms; but the purpose for which the south went to war has been perverted by the radical party. Had the present policy been then announced I cannot believe that it would have been tolerated by the country. I am very glad that you still purpose visiting us in June, & am much obliged to you for your kind offer to bring me from Europe anything I may want. I know of nothing that you can bring me, but your self; which I hope I may receive in robust health & vigorous strength. You may have heard that I have a new daughter. I was present at her marriage with Fitzhugh last month & was much pleased with her. She is very handsome & equally attractive in other respects. I expect them both today. I shall then have my three sons together again. Robert is on a visit to us & Custis you known resides with us. Mary is in Baltimore where she will spend the winter, & Agnes & Mildred with us. Your poor Aunt is about the same, & my own health is by no means good. I have probably reached that stage of life when I can no longer expect to be exempt from disease, to which my life of experience has tended to subject me. All unite with me in much love & every wish for your health & happiness. Believe me most truly & affectionately

your Uncle

R E Lee