Three Vantage Points on Slavery.docx - Robert E Leeu2019s...

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Robert E. Lee’s Thoughts on Slavery The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, signed by President Franklin Pierce, established that popular sovereignty would be used to decide whether slavery would be allowed in new states. This upset Northern abolitionists and violence in “Bleeding Kansas” raged. On December 2, 1856, President Franklin Pierce delivered his State of the Union Address. This address (which Lee references at the beginning of his letter) would be printed and spread across the US. Lee wrote the following letter to his wife on December 27, 1856. In it, he expresses his thoughts on slavery. The steamer [ship] brought the President’s message to Congress, so we are now assured that the government is in operation and the Union in existence. Not that we had any fears to the contrary, but it is satisfactory always to have facts to go on. They restrain supposition and conjecture, confirm faith and bring contentment. I was much pleased with the President’s message and the report of the Secretary of War, the only two documents that have reached us entire. The views of the President and progressive efforts of certain people of the North to interfere with and change the domestic institutions of the South, are truthfully and faithfully expressed. The consequences of their plans and purposes are also clearly set forth. They must also be aware that their object is both unlawful and entirely foreign to them and their duty. [It] can only be accomplished by them through the agency of a civil & servile war. In this enlightened age, there are few I believe, but what will acknowledge, that slavery as an institution, is a moral and political evil in any Country. It is useless to expatiate on its disadvantages. I think it however, a greater evil to the white man than to the black race. And while my feelings are strongly enlisted in behalf of the latter, my sympathies are more strong for the former. The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially, and physically. The painful discipline they are undergoing is necessary for their instruction as a race and I hope will prepare and lead them to better things. How long their subjugation may be necessary is known and ordered by a wise merciful providence. Their emancipation will sooner result from the mild and melting influence of Christianity, then the storms and tempests of fiery controversy. This influence, though slow, is sure. The doctrines and miracles of our Savior have required nearly 2,000 years to convert but a small part of the human race and even among Christian nations, what gross errors still exist! While we see the course of the final abolition of human slavery is onward and we give it the aid of our prayers and all justifiable means in our power, we must leave the progress, as well as the result, in his hands who sees the end; who chooses to work by slow influences and with whom 2,000 years are but as a single day.

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