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Letter from Robert E. Lee to Mary Randolph Custis Lee (April 18, 1841)

In this letter to his wife, Mary Randolph Custis Lee, dated April 18, 1841, Robert E. Lee exchanges discusses matters related their family, including whether to change the situation of an enslaved laborer named Robert who was on a Lewis family estate.

Transcription from Original

18 April 1841

Fort Hamilton

I returned here last night my dearest Mary & found your letter of the 14th written after you had recd mine. You will see by mine of yesterdays date that I have given my opinion upon the matter referred to. If the object is to raise the funds desired by Mrs Lewis, you had better make a loan to the Major. Your plan of the purchase I think will bring you nothing but trouble & vexation & it is very problematical whether the condition ofRobert will not be injured rather than bettered. In judging of results you must endeavor to lay aside your feelings & prejudices & examine the question as thus esposed. In this matter is everything to be yielded to the servant & nothing allowed to the master? What will be the effect of the precedent upon the rest & the instruction of the example intended to be set as well as the comparisons likely to be made to the prejudice of your father & his authority. Others ought to be considered as well as Robert. If you determine to apply your money in this way I am ready to pay it. So consider well upon the matter & act for yourself.

I recd a letter from Hill saying that he had enclosed me a draft for $60 & directed his letter to Arlington. Has it arrived? If it has & is not payable to my order you can retain it for the present. But if it made payable to my order you will have to send it on for my signature. Ask Smith if he has been able to cash the note I left with him.

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As to the matters here they are like what they are everywhere else. All situations have their advantages & disadvantages. Evy one says it is healthy & I should think it was. It is open to the sea, but is more retired, that is farther removed from it than I had supposed. I am told however that the sea breezes are very cool & refreshing. The scene is very animating & interesting. Vessels of all kinds are constantly passing & the view is extensive. The country in the neighborhood is fertile & well cultivated & there are quantities of handsome country seats in all directions. The Qrs in the Forts are all casemates though & plenty of them. At Fort Lafayette you would be entirely surrounded by water & inconvenienced by few visitors. The Qrs in the Forts are all casemates though & plenty of them. At Fort Lafayette you would be entirely surrounded by water & inconvenienced by few visitors. The Qrs outside the Fort is an old building with a great many cuddies& small rooms, out of repair, & has not been inhabitable for some years. A nice Yankee wife would soon have it in fine order. I shall consider to whitewash & clean it up, but am afraid can do but little with it before your arrival, as Boss Cropsy, to whom I was shewing it, says all it wants is a woman [in] it. I have got myself a Bedstead, mattress &c a dozen chairs, Pitcher & Basin. You can get anything you desire in N. York but they shew you so many handsome things that it is dangerous to go in the stores. I take my meals in the family of a very good man Mr Church, who is Postmaster, Stage Agent, Coroner, Militia Col Skipper, Builder etc. and seems to embrace in his own person every office & agency—I receive poor encouragement about servants & every one seems to attend to their own matters. They seem to be surprised at my enquiry for help& have a wife too & seem to have some misgivings as to whether you possess all your faculties. You had better arrange all your matters & send off the boxes to ensure there being here

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when you arrive. The floors are so bad they will have to be covered. What shall it be with carpets or mats? I told you about the Boarding houses. I think they would be very disagreeable & then too we should lose the pleasure which would more than compensate for all the trouble of housekeeping, of having Mother & the Major with us.

I envy you your visits to Colross. I have seen no one here yet that I desire even to behold again. Tell Rose he is a happy fellow. I long very much to see the dear children, &especially Miss Agnes. I told you that she was the finest child that was ever seen but you would not believe me. Are you going to have her christened before you come on? I am very sorry to hear that Mother is so poorly. Tell her if she could only see the lilacs around our Qrs. I think it would revive her. Mr. Church says there are upwards of 1000plants. Shall I send her any, for as soon as I get a little time I shall make a dash at them. A lookout has been kept all day for the British steamer but she has not made her appearance yet. The tow Spanish frigates have been playing before us all day. They are fine looking vessels & work beautifully. I have been told that no pains or expense have been spared in their build & equipment. They have been built at N.Y. for the Spanish Govt. I recd a letter from Uncle Bernard saying he would sail for Europe tomorrow (the 20th). Also one from Capt. Talcott telling me that he had left Mrs T. in N.Y. until his return from Glastonbury which would be in a few days. I have been so much engaged that I have not been able to get up. I shall endeavor to go tomorrow. Remember me to every one very truly & Affy

RE Lee