Primary Resource

"Confederate Women Resent Thrust at Lee," Charlottesville Daily Progress (January 29, 1909)

In "Confederate Women Resent Thrust at Lee," published in the Charlottesville Daily Progress on January 29, 1909, the paper reprints a report from the Richmond Times-Dispatch on a controversy involving a United Daughters of the Confederacy essay contest.

Transcription from Original

Richmond

Chapter, U. D. C., Censures Committee Which Awarded Prize For Essay.

Resolutions censuring Dr. E. A. Alderman, president of the University of Virginia; Dr. C. Alphonso Smith, professor of history at the University of North Carolina, and Dr. Finley, president of the New York City College, for their action in awarding the prize of $100, offered by the United Daughters of Confederacy to the students of Columbia University for the best historic essay on the South and its people, to Miss Christine Boyson of Minnesota, on a paper in which she characterized General Robert E. Lee as a "traiot," will be adopted by the Richmond Chapter, United Daughters of the Confederacy, this morning at its annual meeting in Lee Camp Hall, says yesterday's Times-Dispatch.

These resolutions have been drafted by a special committee appointed at the last last meeting of the chapter, and it is understood that they will embody a demand that the three judges of awards make public their reasons for giving the prize to Miss Boyson.

The action of the judges has been severely criticized throughout the South, and in some sections of the North. Several of the chapters of the Daughters of the Confederacy in North Carolina and other States have adopted resolutions censuring the judges, and it is certain that the matter will be taken up at the next annual meeting of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

The members of the local chapter are very much exercised about the affair, and no doubt some rather harsh criticisms will be heard at the meeting of the chapter today.

When seen by a Times-Dispatch reporter at her home last night, Mrs. Norman V. Randolph, president of the Richmond Chapter, spoke very freely regarding the matter. Sh declared that she could not understand how such eminent scholars as Dr. Alderman, Dr. Smith and Dr. Finley could have awarded the prize on an essay that contained so little historical truth as that written by Miss Boyson.

Dr. Finley, she said, might possibly be excused, but Dr. Alderman and Dr. Smith, both being Southern men, must have known that the essay was historically incorrect.

"North Carolina has been claiming Dr. Alderman, along with many other things, for some time, and I think we should readily surrender him to that State now," said Mrs. Randolph.

"Two years ago this same committee awarded the prize offered by the Daughters of the Confederacy on a very complimentary article on the South, and Dr. Alderman called especial attention to the statement in that essay that of the six colleges in the United States at the time with which the essay dealt, five of them were located in the South.

"Now, in her essay, Miss Boyson says that during the period leading up to the Civil War the South was 'intellectually dead.' Surely that is not an historical fact, and it was stipulated that this essay should be a historical one, and should be judged for its truthfulness to history rather than for its literary merits.

"Of course, we do not blame Miss Boyson for anything she wrote about General Lee. She has studied the perverted histories by Northern authors, and therefore knows very little of the true history of the South. However, we certainly do blame Dr. Alderman for giving away our prize on an article that censured our beloved general. I do not believe that he could have read that essay.

"The young lady said in her paper

that General Lee was better known and more universally loved for his life after the war than for his reputation as a general during the war.

"Why, every one knows that such is not the case. The highest military authorities of the United States and England even now regard General Lee as one of the ablest generals the United States has ever produced."

When asked what action would be taken today by the Richmond Chapter, Mrs. Randolph said that it would adopt resolutions reprimanding Dr. Alderman, Dr. Smith and Dr. Finley for their action and probably would ask them to give some of their reasons for adjudging Miss Boyson's essay the best of all those entered in the contest.

In the course of her essay, Miss Boyson said: "He (General Lee) was a traitor in that he was sacrificed all to aid the enemies of his country. But things which are technically of the highest criminality may at times be of the least disgrace.

"To do what he did then, now would be treason, for Civil War has since then taught what is right in this regard."

Again she says: "He (General Lee) differed from the greater Washington only in choosing the wrong side." Again: "The slave system with which he (General Lee) thus took sides was vastly different from the general institution of the South."

Speaking on education in the South before the war she said: "Intellectually the South was practically dead. Most of the people were densely ignorant, hence the great religious and educational movements which in the North had built a church and a school house at every cross roads had swept by them unheeded."