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Letter to the editor: A little historical perspective about Lee
Letter to the Editor generic


I would like to add some historical perspective to the issue of moving the statue of Robert E Lee in J F Gregory Park.

In 1807 the U.S. Congress passed the Act Prohibiting the Importation of Slaves, to become effective Jan 1, 1808 the earliest that the US Constitution allowed.

While some smuggling continued after 1808, that act plus the similar prohibition passed in England, essentially shut down the African slave trade.

In 1810 there were 1,103,700 African slaves held in bondage in the US.

By 1860, at the outset of the Civil War, there were 3,950,511. From where did those additional 2,846,811 souls (roughly 57,000 per year) originate?

Answer: They were bred on plantations. During those 50 years, slave breeding and trading became big business, providing bodies to enable Big Cotton and other labor intensive industries to expand across the Deep South.

The epicenter of the domestic slave trade was Richmond, Virginia. Strategically located on the James River, Richmond was the distribution hub.

Virginia, having depleted its farm land raising tobacco, turned to raising slaves for sale. This is the Virginia that Robert E Lee chose to join against the country he had pledged to defend when he took the Army oath at West Point.

Yes, Gen. Lee “fought on the side he thought was right.”

We should note that Lee owned slaves and managed over 200 owned by the family of his wife, the Custis/Washingtons.

He had a vested interest in slaves and slave trading. He fought on the side he thought was right, Virginia.

This makes him worthy of our honoring his memory?

He was a great military leader and his choice of sides lead to the deaths of many thousands of Americans, both Blue and Grey, who might have survived had the war ended sooner.

For this we celebrate his image on horseback? I could write another whole letter on whether “the Civil War was about much more than slavery,” but its beside the point. More to the point is the editorial by Rich Lowry about why we should honor Thomas Jefferson. He argued that Jefferson did a lot for this country. Its a long list. We should celebrate his contributions not his character. Its not an empty argument. But even if we give Mr Lowry his due, it only serves to raise the question, what accomplishments of R.E. Lee are we to celebrate?

Jim DeFelice, Richmond Hill

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