Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Robert E. Lee for President??????????????

As I am approaching the final pages of Lee: The Last Years by Charles Flood I found something that I didn't know before. It is a little known fact but the New York Herold didn't endorse U.S. Grant for President because they were a Democratic newspaper. Back in the day, certain newspapers supported candiates and although this hasn't changed in today's world it was more implicit in 1868.The Herold couldn't come up with a general that could beat Grant in the election of 1868. After their effort went unsatisified they printed an article that nominated Robert E. Lee for president. "We will recommend a candiate...General Robert E. Lee...He is a better soldier than any of those they have thought upon and a greater man." This statement occured just thirty-eight months after Lee had hung up his sword at Appomattox Court House.Lee had molded an army from scratch, baffled Northern armies for four years and his defeat was due to the sheer numbers that Grant forced upon the Army of Northern Virginia. This is the true beginning of Lee becoming a national hero and symbol on the Northern front. In many ways, the Lee cult led by Jubal Early weren't the first to raise Lee to such a high pedestal. What the Herold didn't understand was that Lee's citzenship had not been restored and he could not become the President of the United States. I have never found any document written by the general that states his position on the matter. Grant's reputation was slightly tarnished by a corrupt presidency that was not his fault.What would the Presidency of Robert E. Lee have been like? It is hard to say because he was a general and not a politican. He was a conservative who wanted to keep things as close to the prewar era as he could. That doesn't mean that he didn't understand that society was changing and was going to continue to racially evolve. Lee did not consider the media a friend. When speaking of the war he wrote "We appointed all our worst generals to command our armies, and all our best generals to edit the newspapers." I suppose after enduring George Bush's presidency I can safely say that Robert E. Lee would have been a better fit. Oh well, I guess what might have been is forever lost to history.

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