LIFE AND CHARACTER
WILLIAM H.F. LEE,
(A REPRESENTATIVE FROM VIRGINIA.)
DELIVERED IN THE
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES AND IN THE SENATE,
FIFTY-SECOND CONGRESS, FIRST SESSION.
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PUBLISHED BY ORDER OF CONGRESS.
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WASHINGTON: GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE. 1892
Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), That there be printed of the eulogies delivered in Congress upon the Hon. W.H.F. LEE, late a Representative from the State of Virginia, eight thousand copies, of which number two thousand copies shall be delivered to the Senators and Representatives of the State of Virginia, which shall include fifty copies to be bound in full morocco, to be delivered to the family of the deceased, and of those remaining two thousand shall be for the use of the Senate and four thousand for the use of the House of Representatives; and the Secretary of the Treasury is directed to have engraved and printed a portrait of the said W.H.F. LEE to accompany the said eulogies.
Agreed to in the House of Representatives March 23, 1892.
Agreed to in the Senate March 22, 1892.
PROCEEDINGS IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES.
ANNOUNCEMENT OF DEATH.
DECEMBER 23, 1891.
Mr. MEREDITH, of Virginia: Mr. Speaker, I rise to make the painful announcement to the House of the death of Hon. WILLIAM H.F. LEE, a Representative in the Fiftieth and Fifty-first Congresses of the United States and a Representative-elect to the Fifty-second Congress.
He died at his home, in Fairfax County, Va., on the 15th day of October last, after a lingering illness. Later in the session I shall ask this House to fix a day when his colleagues and friends can do justice to his memory and express their appreciation of his high character.
It is only meet and fitting on this occasion that I should say that in the death of Gen. LEE the State of Virginia has lost the services of one of her most chivalrous and noble sons, and the district he so well represented a faithful guardian of the interests of all its people.
I send to the desk and ask the adoption of these resolutions:
The Clerk read as follows:
Resolved, That the House has heard with deep regret and profound sorrow of the death of Hon. W.H.F. LEE, a Representative from the State of Virginia.
Resolved, That the Clerk be directed to communicate a copy of these resolutions to the Senate.
Resolved, That as a further mark of respect the House do now adjourn.
The resolutions were unanimously agreed to.
And accordingly (at 12 o'clock and 37 minutes p.m.) the House adjourned until Tuesday, the 5th day of January next.
FEBRUARY 6, 1892.
The SPEAKER. The Clerk will report the special order.
The Clerk read as follows:
Resolved, That Saturday, February 6, beginning at 1 o'clock afternoon, be set apart for paying tribute to the memory of Hon. WILLIAM HENRY FITZHUGH LEE, late a member of the House of Representatives from the Eighth district of the State of Virginia.
Mr. MEREDITH. Mr. Speaker, I offer the resolutions which I send to the desk.
The resolutions were read, as follows:
Resolved, That the business of the House be now suspended, that opportunity be given for tributes to the memory of Hon. WILLIAM HENRY FITZHUGH LEE, late a Representative from the State of Virginia.
Resolved, As a further mark of respect to the memory of the deceased, and in recognition of his eminent ability and distinguished public services, that the House, at the conclusion of these memorial proceedings, shall stand adjourned.
Resolved, That the Clerk communicate these resolutions to the Senate.
The resolutions were adopted.
ADDRESS OF MR. MEREDITH, OF VIRGINIA.
Mr. SPEAKER: This day having been set apart for the purpose of paying a last tribute to the memory of one who so lately was a loved and honored member of this House, I shall, in the brief remarks which I propose to make, attempt nothing but a plain and truthful narrative of some of the characteristics and public services of a Christian gentleman, who in my judgment measured fully up to that standard which makes man the noblest work of God.
On the 15th day of October, 1891, at Ravensworth, his beautiful home in Fairfax County, Va., surrounded by those loved ones whose constant care and tender nursing had done all that human power could do to stay the hand of the fell Destroyer, all that was mortal of Hon. WILLIAM HENRY FITZHUGH LEE passed from this earth, and his noble spirit returned to the God who gave it.
If the earnest supplications to Almighty God, offered by the good people of his native State upon their bended knees night and morning, during the period of his lingering illness, could have availed, he would have been restored to health and usefulness, and these melancholy proceedings postponed for many a long year.
The great sorrow which made the heart of Virginia heavy and bowed in grief the heads of her true sons and daughters when the sad intelligence of his death was flashed over the electric wires was more genuinely spontaneous than were the loud lamentations of the Roman populace (so graphically described by Tacitus) when they beheld the widow of Germanicus, with her weeping children entering the gates of the imperial city. Nor was this sorrow confined to those of his own political faith. Men of all parties vied with each other in their expressions of regret at his death and in their sympathy for his bereaved family.
The blameless life he had led, his high character, his gentle and unassuming manners, won for him not only the respect but the admiration of all with whom he came in contact.
As gentle as a child and as tender as a woman, with the courage of a hero and a faith that never faltered, he proved himself a worthy descendant of that race of famous men from whom he sprang, and most worthily bore a name which will be honored as long as a liberty-loving people shall find a dwelling place upon the earth.
WILLIAM H.F. LEE was the son of Gen. Robert E. Lee, and was born at Arlington, on the 31st day of May, 1837.
He was educated at Harvard, where he ranked not only as a good scholar, but on account of his splendid size and strength became quite famous in athletics, being "stroke oar" of the University Rowing Club.
His great ambition was to follow the profession of his father and to go to West Point; but having had an older brother there, that fact was considered in those days an insuperable obstacle. While still at Harvard, completing his education, he was, through the interest taken in him by Gen. Winfield Scott, who made the request as a special and personal favor to himself, appointed in 1857 a second lieutenant in the Sixth Regiment, United States Infantry, and inaugurated his military career by taking a detachment of troops to Texas by sea and then by land up the country to San Antonio.
In 1858 he accompanied his regiment, under the command of Col. Albert Sidney Johnston, in the expedition to Utah against the Mormons, taking an active part in that campaign, marching from Fort Leavenworth to Salt Lake City, and then, when the troubles were quelled there, traveling on foot to Fort Benicia, Cal. While on the Pacific coast he received a letter from his father, written January 1, 1859, in which he said:
I can not express the gratification I felt in meeting Col. May in New York, and at the encomiums he passed upon your soldiership, zeal, and devotion to your duty. But I was more pleased at the report of your conduct. I always thought and said there was stuff in you for a good soldier, and I trust you will prove it.
Resigning his commission in the Army, he came home to be married to his cousin, a Miss Wickham, and settled down as a farmer at the "White House" (where Washington met Martha Custis and was married), a large estate on the Pamunkey River, left him by his maternal grandfather, G.W. Park Custis, of Arlington.
When that irrepressible conflict of 1861 was upon us, and Virginia called upon her sons to defend her soil, he, sharing the faith of his fathers, in the belief that his allegiance was due to his State, quickly raised a company of cavalry, and was attached to the Army of Northern Virginia. Serving in every grade successively from captain to major-general of cavalry, he led his regiment in the famous raid around McClellan's army, and was an active participant in all those brilliant achievements which made the cavalry service so proficient.
In that terrific fight which occurred at Brandy Station, in June, 1863, he was most severely wounded, and taken to the residence of Gen. William C. Wickham, in Hanover County, where he was made a prisoner by a raiding party, and was carried off, at the expense of great personal suffering, to Fort Monroe. From the latter place he was conveyed to Fort Lafayette, where he was confined until March, 1864, and treated with great severity, being held, with Capt. R.H. Tyler, of the Eighth Virginia Regiment, under sentence of death, as hostages for two Federal officers who were prisoners in Richmond, and whom it was thought would be executed for some retaliatory measure.
Exchanged in the spring of 1864, he returned, to find his young wife and children dead, his beautiful home burned to the ground, his whole estate devastated and laid waste by the ruthless hand of war; and yet almost his first act on reaching Richmond was to go to Libby Prison, visit the two Federal officers for whom he had been held as hostage, and who, like himself, had been under apprehension of being hung, and shake hands with and congratulate them.
Immediately joining his command, he led his division in every engagement from the Rapidan to Appomattox, where, with his father, the greatest soldier of modern times, he surrendered to the inevitable.
In a letter written by one of the most brilliant cavalry generals of the late war, in speaking of Gen. W.H.F. LEE, he uses this language:
He was a zealous, conscientious, brave, and intelligent soldier, who fully discharged all of his duties. He was one of those safe, sound, judicious officers, and you always felt when you sent instructions to him that they were going to be obeyed promptly and to the letter.
What greater tribute could be paid a soldier?
Having been married to one of the most accomplished ladies in Virginia, Miss Bolling, of Petersburg (who, with two sons, survives him) he removed in 1874 to Ravensworth, and was the next year elected to the senate of Virginia, where he made an honorable record.
He was elected to the Fiftieth and Fifty-first Congresses, and served his State with that fidelity which had characterized his every act through life—faithful, conscientious, and painstaking—ever alert to the interests of his constituents and seeking only how he could serve them.
He was again reelected to the Fifty-second Congress, and though by the will of Divine Providence he was not permitted to take his seat, he will ever be held in grateful remembrance by his late constituents, and when the long roll of Virginia's noble and heroic dead is called, the name of WILLIAM H. FITZHUGH LEE will be mourned by his mother Commonwealth as one of her noblest and truest sons.
In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, I shall read, as the most fitting tribute I have seen, an editorial from the Alexandria Gazette written the day after the death of Gen. LEE:
Gen. WILLIAM HENRY FITZHUGH LEE, second son of Gen. Robert Edward Lee, is dead. The bells here tolled late yesterday evening. A few hours before the general had crossed over the river and was at rest under his roof tree at Ravensworth, the southern sun lighted his deathbed and the autumn breeze sang his requiem. Afterlife's fitful fever he sleeps well. He was sick a long time, and as his disease was incurable, death was a relief. No more pain for him now, but the long and peaceful sleep of the just. His sorrowing family were at his bedside, but he told them not good-bye, preferring to greet them when they shall rejoin him in a better world. His death is regretted by all the many who knew him; the more so by those who knew him well.
Gen. LEE, like his father, was naturally quiet and retiring, and in his intercourse with others, when right and principle were not involved, invariably acted in accordance with the rule of noblesse oblige, but when they were involved he was as firm in support of his convictions as any other man could be. He stood foursquare to all the winds that blow, but always with the propriety that characterizes the perfect gentleman. He did his duty to his God, his family, his State, and his country, and did it well, and executed faithfully all the trusts committed to him in both military and civil life. He liked the old manners and customs of Virginia, but tried to conform to the new order of things with becoming grace, and did so with no audible complaint and no useless repinings. He served his State efficiently in her senate and in the national Congress, and in the Confederate army he filled, by merited promotion, every position from captain up to major-general of cavalry. It was different once, but Virginia can ill-afford to part with such a man now, and in his death, as in that of his illustrious father, she has lost a true and gallant son, who when not on duty was as gentle as a woman. Her fame has been increased by having had such a son. May she have many more; like him.
ADDRESS OF MR. EDMUNDS, OF VIRGINIA.
Mr. SPEAKER: It is not my purpose to attempt any extended remarks upon the life and character of Gen. WILLIAM H.F. LEE, late a Representative from the Eighth Congressional district of Virginia, yet I can not permit this occasion to pass and my hand and heart to fail to pay my humble tribute to his memory. Gen. LEE's life had been spent after manhood in arms or as a tiller of the soil. In early life he saw military service as lieutenant in the Sixth Regiment, United States Infantry, and was with Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston in the expedition in 1858 against the Mormons.
Resigning from the Army, he returned to his native State of Virginia and engaged in the pursuit of agriculture. Early in the late civil struggle he raised a cavalry company, and rose from the position of company commander to that of major-general, and followed the cause in which he had enlisted until the end at Appomattox. There two great military chieftains met, and one, his illustrious father, gave up to the other his sword and the mutilated remnant of an army which had fought with the utmost bravery and fortitude under a leader of unsurpassed skill and fidelity.
Gen. LEE, after the struggle had ended, resuming his citizenship in peace, returned to his farm and occupation of agriculture.
He was elected by his people from his senatorial district to the legislature. He served one term in the senate of Virginia and declined a renomination. He was afterwards elected from the Eighth Congressional district of his State to the Fiftieth and Fifty-first Congresses and again returned by his constituency to the present Congress; but the hand of death interposed, and he did not live to again take his seat in this legislative hall.
The name of Lee, Mr. Speaker, has been an illustrious one in Virginia. No one can with safety challenge the assertion that that old Commonwealth has furnished, from the time of the Revolution, as many great men, in peace and in war, as any of the States of our Union. When the foundations of this great Republic were laid and constitutional principles evolved, whether the sword of the warrior or the mind and philosophy of the statesman were needed, you will find the marks and handiwork of some son of that State.
Among those great men the ancestry of Gen. LEE were conspicuous. He inherited from his great father a disposition that was frank, manly, and chivalrous. Although with these distinguished surroundings, Gen. LEE had no undue pride, reserve, or self-assertion. His nature, on the contrary, was eminently amiable, generous, and sympathetic, and at the same time he was dignified, manly, brave, and ever courteous.
Identified with the agricultural interests of his State, at one time president of the State society, and himself a practical and successful farmer and proud of his occupation, he mingled freely and congenially with that great class of our citizens upon whose shoulders repose in great measure the preservation and safety of the institutions of our common country. While he was especially devoted to the interests of the farmer, he was essentially a patriot, and loved his State and all its diverse interests with an enthusiastic devotion and yearned for her prosperity.
He was a faithful, able, and vigilant Representative, and had in the greatest degree the confidence of his constituents and the people of his entire State. No one who ever knew him could fail to implicitly trust him. His State has lost a pure and noble son; the country a wise, conservative, and faithful Representative. We who knew him here can recall his manly robust form, his genial kindly face, his frank accessible address, his unfailing gentleness of manner, his cheerful friendly voice, as he walked along the aisles of this Hall.
A man of his character and bearing could but wield an influence for good wherever his presence was.
In a republic, where the people are the state, the advice, the suggestions, and the example of a citizen so high-minded and incorruptible are of great value not only in the councils of the nation, but in the everyday walks and details of life, in his beautiful rural home, surrounded by and mingling with his country people; and it was ever the pleasure and practice of Gen. LEE to associate freely and unrestrainedly with the great body of the people. His generous and noble heart had a sympathetic touch with them and their struggles, their callings, their work.
But he has passed from us under the decree of the great Master to the great hereafter, leaving the record of a life of singular purity, directness of purpose, and freedom from guile; the record of a character unblurred, untarnished, unshadowed by the least stain; the record of a man high, noble, honorable, faithful to all the duties and relations of life.
Mr. Speaker, Virginia, one of the oldest of the Commonwealths, within whose borders lie the remains of many great names, and the energies and reserved forces of whose people in times gone by have risen to great heights, receives to her bosom her dead son and bows with sincere grief over his grave; for to her, whether her hand wore the mailed gauntlet or followed the gentler pursuits of peace, he had ever been faithful, loyal, and true.
ADDRESS OF MR. TUCKER, OF VIRGINIA.
Mr. SPEAKER: I shall leave to others the task of portraying the life of Gen. LEE in its diversified pursuits, and shall content myself with the effort of giving to the House my conception of some of the characteristics of our deceased friend which made him throughout his life, wherever placed, a conspicuous actor in private and public affairs.
In the early period of Virginia's history lived William Randolph, of Turkey Island (a plantation some 15 or 20 miles from the city of Richmond, near the scene of the terrific battle of Malvern Hill). He was the ancestor of all of that name in Virginia, and from him was descended in direct line Thomas Jefferson, John Marshall, and Robert E. Lee; the last-named the father of our departed friend. How could he have manifested in his life less patriotism, justice, and courage with such exemplars of these virtues ever before him?
His mother, as is well known, was a descendant from the wife of Gen. Washington by her prior marriage with John Parke Custis. Sprung from such a lineage; trained in a school where the amenities of life as well as "the humanities" were taught in their highest excellence, he practiced from his earliest childhood a scrupulous regard for the rights and feelings of others, and an indulgence to all faults except his own.
With a self-control and equipoise which were never disturbed under the most trying circumstances, and a graciousness of manner which broke down all barriers, giving to the humblest as well as to the highest the assurance of his friendly consideration, and a mind well disciplined by education in the highest schools, it was impossible that he could have been other than a man of mark and influence in his State.
It is not claiming too much to say that Gen. LEE was the natural product of the civilization existing in Virginia during his boyhood and early manhood, which, alas, except here and there in certain localities, is fast passing away. The home, not the club, was its center; the family, not each "new-hatched, unfledged comrade," its unit. The father was the head of the family, not the joint tenant with the wife of a house nor the tenant at will of his wife. The wife and the mother was the queen of the household, not merely a housekeeper for a husband and the family. Obedience to those in authority was the first lesson exacted of the boy. Inculcated with tenderness, it was enforced with severity, if need be, until the word of the father or the expressed wish of the mother carried with it the force of law as completely as the decree of a court or the mandate of a king.
Reverence for superiors in age and deference to all, rather than arrogant self-assertion, was magnified as a cardinal virtue, not as teaching humility and enforcing a lack of proper self-respect, but rather to exalt high ideals and stimulate an admiration for "the true, the beautiful, and the good."
Fidelity to truth, the maintenance of personal honor, deference for the opinions and feelings of others, without abating one's own or aggressively thrusting them on others; a kindliness of manner to dependents, a knightly courtesy to all, but with special and tender regard in thought, word, and action toward woman, were in turn patiently taught in all the lessons of the fireside and at the family altar, and earnestly insisted upon in the formation of the character of a true gentleman. "Any man will be polite to a beautiful young woman, but it takes a gentleman to show the same respect to a homely old woman" was the stinging rebuke of a father to his son who failed to remove his hat in passing a forlorn old woman on the public highway.
The old-field school, the private tutor, the high school, whose excellence in Virginia I can not praise too much, the college, the university, led the young mind by easy stages to its full intellectual maturity.
Nowhere was the principle "Sana mens in sano corpore" more scrupulously taught than in Virginia. The rod and stream, the gun, the "hounds and horns," the chase, with the music of the pack, the bounding steed, all lent their ready aid in developing the physical manhood of the boy. In the pure atmosphere of his country home, amid its broad fields and virgin forests, contracted houses in narrow streets had no charms for him. To join the chase was the first promotion to which the boy looked as evidencing his permanent release from the nursery. The gun and dog became his constant companions, while "Old Betsey," his father's trusted double-barreled gun of many years' usage, standing in the sitting-room corner or hanging on stag-horns or dog-wood forks on the side of the wall, was the eloquent subject of nightly rehearsals of her prowess and power in the annual deer hunt "over the mountains." Skill in horsemanship was essential, and breaking colts was naturally followed by broken limbs; but manhood found a race of trained horsemen, both graceful and skillful in the saddle, unexcelled, I dare venture to assert, by any civilized people. A child of nature, the Virginia boy communed with her as his mother, and from her purest depths drew the richest inspirations. To him no mountains were so blue as hers, no streams so clear, no forests so enchanting, no homes so sweet.
While others hailed in distant skies the glories of the Union He only saw the mountain bird stoop o'er his Old Dominion.
How vividly the picture comes to me now (never to be effaced) of a learned professor in one of Virginia's highest schools, himself three-score years and ten, a soldier of two wars, as he led the way through a quiet Virginia town on horseback, followed by two sons, distinguished ministers of the gospel, and they in turn by a younger son and the grandson of the leader, with a goodly train of friends, amid the blasts of horns and baying of hounds, who followed, eager for the chase among the beautiful hills which surrounded the town of Lexington, even as the mountains stand "round about Jerusalem."
Religion—the duty of man to his Creator, not sectarianism—was scrupulously taught, and Sunday morning found the family alive in preparations for attending religious service at Zion or Trinity, as it might happen to be the first or the fourth Sunday of the month. From this duty none were exempt from the least to the greatest. The pastor was the friend on whom all troubles both temporal and spiritual were cast, and his visits were long remembered and talked of in the life of each family. Deference to his wishes and reverence for his character were well-nigh universal.
A man he was to all the country dear, And passing rich with forty pounds a year; Remote from towns he ran his godly race, Nor e'er had changed, nor wished to change his place.
Unskillful he to fawn, or seek for power, By doctrines fashioned to the varying hour; Far other aims his heart had learned to prize, More bent to raise the wretched than to rise.
Such was the atmosphere in which our deceased friend was reared. He was a trustee in the venerable institution of Washington and Lee University at Lexington, Va., founded by Gen. Washington, and presided over by Gen. Robert E. Lee during the last years of his life; he was faithful to the trust, and ever watchful of the best interests of the school. The loss sustained by this institution in his death has been most fittingly expressed in the appended minute of the faculty of the university, adopted on the 19th of October, 1891:
At a meeting of the faculty of Washington and Lee University, held October 19, 1891, the following minute was adopted:
Upon the announcement of the death of Gen. W.H.F. LEE the faculty of Washington and Lee University unite in sorrowful sympathy with his family, bereaved of husband, father, and brother; with the Commonwealth in the loss of a patriotic citizen; and with the board of trustees of this university, of which he was an esteemed member.
He was graduated at Harvard for the life of a civilian, but took a commission in the United States Army as lieutenant, and served with fidelity to duty under Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston in the Utah expedition of 1858.
At its close he resigned and returned to his country home, where he continued to live until 1861, when he entered the Confederate army, and, rising by rapid promotion to the rank of major-general of cavalry, closed his efficient and faithful military career in 1865, when he again returned to country life, and died at the seat of his ancestors, at Ravensworth, in Fairfax County.
In the mean time his private life was interrupted by the voice of his people, which called him to their service in the senate of Virginia and for three terms as their Representative in Congress, two of which he completed, and left the vacancy in the third by his untimely death.
Truth, honor, and courage to do good and to resist evil, sincerity in all relations and fidelity to all duty, were heirlooms of his race and lineage, which he kept and left untarnished to his posterity.
With a mind strong and vigorous, a judgment sound and well-poised, a calm and self-contained temper, which impelled him to the right and restrained him from the wrong, and a moral sense which guided and controlled his purposes and his actions along the path of absolute rectitude, he lived a life adorned by noble virtues and filled with noble deeds. Gentle but firm, decided, and fixed in his convictions, but respectful and deferential to those of others, he was a model of all the splendid qualities which make up the character of a courteous and Christian gentleman.
In addition to all these natural gifts his convictions led him to the profession and practice of a simple and genuine faith in the religion of Christ.
After an honorable military and civil career, in the peace of God and in charity with his fellow-men, this worthy son of an illustrious family died the death of the righteous and in the hope of immortality through Him in whom he believed and trusted.
The faculty therefore declare—
That they have heard of the death of Gen. LEE with deep sorrow, and mourn it as a calamity to his family, his friends, his country, and to this university.
That they tender to his family these expressions of their affectionate esteem for him as a personal friend as well as for his service as a public man, and their sincere sympathy with them in their peculiar and irreparable bereavement.
A copy. Teste:
JNO. L. CAMPBELL, Clerk of the Faculty.
An intimate association with Gen. LEE in the Fifty-first Congress and as members of the board of trustees of Washington and Lee University at Lexington, Va., and in private life, enabled me to form a just estimate of his character and of those personal qualities of head and heart that made him beloved by all who really knew him. While they have been well expressed in the foregoing minute, I may add from my own observations a brief summary of his noble character. His mind was eminently practical, and arrived at its conclusions more from an unerring instinct of justice and common sense than through the exacting processes of logic. His judgment was rarely at fault, for his intellect was not swerved by passion or prejudice, but was held in perfect equipoise to receive the truth on both sides of every question. His deference to the opinions of others and his caution in seeking the views of those on whose discretion he relied suggested to some who did not know him that he was hesitating in temperament. This was not true. He sought all the light possible on every subject patiently and earnestly, and when he arrived at his conclusion no man adhered to it more tenaciously or enforced it more earnestly.
As a speaker, Gen. LEE possessed many of the attributes of the orator, a gift inherited from his grandfather, Light-Horse Harry Lee. He was graceful in delivery, persuasive in manner, and forcible in argument.
His diction was pure, unpretentious, and simple. His speeches were often embellished with references to ancient and modern history and mythology with which he seemed to be very familiar.
Dutifulness, I believe, was the most prominent trait of his character. It was the star by which his life was guided. Once persuaded that a certain measure or a certain line of policy was right, and he was unflinchingly firm in its support. No burden was too heavy, no privation too severe, if only they were borne along the path of duty.
He exemplified in his life the noble utterance of his distinguished father: "Duty is the sublimest word in the English language."
In politics he was a Democrat, but not a partisan, and he firmly believed that the supremacy of his party was necessary for the good of the country and the welfare of the people. His patriotism was exalted, and his faith in the ultimate triumph of the right never wavered.
His manly appearance, his gracious but dignified manner, his courtly bearing and pleasing conversation marked him as a gentleman of the "old school," as one of nature's noblemen.
Any sketch of Gen. LEE would indeed be imperfect that failed to mention his love for little children, and his friends will never fail to recall the tender interest he always manifested in the children of their families, especially in the youngest.
His life, Mr. Speaker, was a truly noble one. It was on the highest plane. His character had no spot or blemish upon it that sweet charity would now consign to oblivion, but it was robust, well-rounded, and symmetrical, open as day. His ambition was not to attain but to deserve the praise of the good, and that higher benediction, to be pronounced by the final Judge of the world: "Well done, good and faithful servant; enter thou into the joys of thy Lord."
He was an earnest believer in the Christian faith. The abstruse doctrines of the church formed no part of his creed. His faith was in the Christ the Saviour of mankind; a faith which illumined his pathway in life, lightening his burdens, exalting his nature, and which sustained him without fear when he met the last enemy of the race as he walked through "the valley of the shadow of death." It was the faith of a little child—
An assured belief That the procession of our fate, howe'er Sad or disturbed, is ordered by a Being Of infinite benevolence and power, Whose everlasting purposes embrace All accidents, converting them to good.
His funeral and burial, Mr. Speaker, will never be forgotten by those who witnessed it. The autumn sun was fast sinking behind the bright curtain of the west, bathing "the mellow autumn fields" of Old Virginia with its purple hues. Untrumpeted by official authority, scores of friends from city, town, village, farm, and cabin gathered at Ravensworth to pay the last sad honor to their beloved friend. White and colored, rich and poor, high and low, soldiers, citizens, and statesmen, all were there.
His body was borne from the house to the ivy-clad family graveyard by the sturdy yeomanry of the neighborhood. In the presence of that vast throng, with uncovered heads, his comrades, who had followed him on many a hard-fought battlefield, performed the last sad rites, and with their own hands filled his grave and planted upon it the "immortelles" of their affection and devotion. Faces that never blanched amid the storm of battle paled; hearts that never quailed in the presence of an enemy broke in the presence of the last enemy of us all, and the silent, pitiless tear which fell from the eye was hidden by the lengthening shadows of the evening, which were fast gathering round the scene.
Beloved friend, farewell and hail! Removed from sight, yet not afar, Still through this earthly twilight veil Thou beamest down, a friendly star.
The prophet's blessing comes to thee, The crown he holds to view is thine; Forever more thy memory In heaven and in our hearts shall shine.
ADDRESS OF MR. O'FERRALL, OF VIRGINIA.
Mr. SPEAKER: These occasions of tribute-offering in this Hall never fail to impress me with extreme sadness, increase my awe and reverence of Him who holds in the hollow of His hand every moment we live and every breath we draw, and teach me the lesson of our mortality.
These scenes have become very familiar to me, and their frequency reminds me with terrible force that—
All that lives must die, Passing through nature to eternity.
Most naturally am I more than usually touched and pained by the death of him which now hangs its somber drapery around the walls of our hearts and casts its pall over this Chamber. It is a death within the representative circle of which I am a member. It is the death of a colleague, a friend, whose presence in that circle always brought sunshine and never shadow.
Tributes to his memory, clothed in language of beauty and breathing with love and burning with pathos, have already been paid, and others will follow; and now, while I can not hope to charm with the tongue of eloquence or touch the soul with the figures of rhetoric, I come with my tribute.
It will be plain and unadorned, but it will at least have the merit of sincerity, and, like the widow's mite, be all that I can give.
WILLIAM HENRY FITZHUGH LEE, of Virginia, is no more.
How the name of Lee, whenever uttered, wherever chivalry has erected her altar, sends a thrill like an electric current through every fiber of the manly man.
How the name of Virginia has been upon every tongue since Queen Elizabeth, nearly three centuries ago, gave that name to that section around which to-day historic memories linger and traditions and glories cluster as thick "as the stars in the crown of night," the section where Christopher Newport and his devoted followers "builded an altar unto the Lord and in the savage wilderness" deposited the germ of this mighty nation, "and where God blessed them as He blessed Noah and his sons, saying unto them, 'The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered.'"
Virginia! The land of legends and lays—the land where the cradle of republican liberty was rocked, and where, in 1765, the first denial was heard of the right of the British Parliament to levy taxes upon the Colonies which kindled the fire of patriotic fervor and led to the ever-living, soul-inspiring words of her Henry and the raising up of her Jefferson to heights of imperishable fame and her Washington to the pinnacle of everlasting renown.
Virginia! The land of battlefields and battle gore, colonial relics and Revolutionary monuments, spotless fame and unsullied honor; the land of patriot soldiers and heroes, and of a Yorktown, where the tyrant's head was bruised and the glorious strife ended which struck from our fathers the fetters and gave to them and their posterity a country gleaming in the golden sunlight of republican liberty, and throwing wide open her gates to the oppressed of every clime.
Virginia! The land of mountains, upon whose summits and in whose gorges the spirit of freedom roams unfettered and unconquerable; the land of valleys, which are hung like alcoved aisles with scenes of heroism and pictures of daring, self-sacrifice, and devotion to principle; the land of rivers and rivulets, which reflect like mirrors the fields upon which her blood has been poured out like water upon the ground; the land of zephyrs and breezes, and where the storm king sometimes dwells, gently murmuring or in thunder tones proclaiming her glories and her fame; the land of blue beautiful skies, radiant with the virtues of her daughters and bespangled with the deeds of her sons; the land of memorials of the past, that inspire the Virginia youth, whether born in poverty or in riches, reared in the cottage humble or in the mansion stately, with a patriotism that knows not section and yet a State love that knows not bounds.
It was in this land that Richard Henry Lee, the fire and splendor of whose eloquence burned like a hot iron into the soul of tyranny, and Francis Lightfoot Lee, both of them signers of the Declaration of Independence, were born; it was in this land that Arthur Lee, through whose instrumentality the Colonies secured the friendship and support of France, and "Light-Horse Harry" Lee, whose legion following his plume, struck the enemy in the bivouac, on the march, in the lurid glare of battle, on the flank, and in the front like a thunderbolt from the skies, were born. It was in this land that Robert Edward Lee, whose services on the fields of Mexico decked his brow with the warrior's laurel, and whose leadership of the Confederate armies in the unfortunate strife between the States made his name immortal, and whose virtues shine with the brilliancy of a polished diamond, wreath his character in moral grandeur, and draw paeans and praises from friend and foe and from every clime where exalted manhood and a spotless life find devotees, was born; and it was in this land that WILLIAM HENRY FITZHUGH LEE, whose memory we are here to perpetuate, was born—all, all of the same lineage and blood.
What a line of illustrious and distinguished men of one name for one State to produce. What a line of illustrious men to spring from the old cavalier family that under the reign of Charles I settled in the county of Northumberland, between the waters of the Rappahannock and Potomac, since glorified by the pen of the historian and the lyre of the poet.
WILLIAM HENRY FITZHUGH LEE! How sweet does that name sound to me. What recollections does it awaken. How quickly do I find my heart throbbing; how rapidly my blood rushes through its channels.
Less than a twelvemonth ago he sat in yon seat or moved hither and thither about this Hall and along these passageways, pausing here and there to speak a pleasant word or exchange a friendly greeting. His tall and commanding person, his open, frank, and benevolent face and courtly bearing marked him among the membership of this House, and would have marked him in any assemblage, whether in the glittering splendor of royalty or in the plain dignity of our republican institutions. To see him once was to remember him forever. His image is as distinct before me this moment as if he stood in the flesh with his eye beaming forth the goodness of his nature and his hand outstretched, as was his wont, to receive mine.
Mr. Speaker, his illustrious father, when the shadows of Appomattox closed round him, when the darkness of defeat enveloped him, when his soul was rent and torn and his mind was filled with anguish and his ragged and tired and worn veterans, reduced to a mere thin skirmish line, the remnant of an army that had shed unfading luster upon the American arms and the American soldier, gathered with tear-moistened cheeks about him to bid him farewell and receive his blessing, gave utterance to a sentiment just quoted by my colleague [Mr. TUCKER], a sentiment as grand and noble as was ever written upon any Roman tablet or carved upon any column of enduring marble that was ever reared in the flood light of glory:
Duty is the sublimest word in our language.
Yes, Mr. Speaker, thus spoke Robert Edward Lee, the soldier, hero, Christian, and philanthropist: and when we come to study the life and character of WILLIAM HENRY FITZHUGH LEE we are impressed with the fact that he took duty as his talismanic word, that it was the star that guided him, and that he followed it as faithfully as the "wise men" followed the Star from "the East" to Jerusalem and thence to Bethlehem.
We believe that in his youth, on the heights of Arlington, where his eyes first opened upon the light, he learned at his father's knee and by his father's daily walk and conversation the great lesson of duty which steered his course and pointed out his pathway in life.
He was born, as has been said, on the 31st day of May, 1837. In 1857 he was appointed a second lieutenant in the Sixth Regiment of United States Infantry, and served in 1858 in the then far West under Albert Sidney Johnston, whose fame Shiloh echoes and reechoes along the banks of the Tennessee. In 1859 he resigned his commission in the Army and returned to Virginia and located on his estate in the county of New Kent. In 1861, when the Southern tocsin sounded and Virginia's voice was heard calling for troops, he raised a cavalry company and joined the Army of Northern Virginia. He rose gradually from captain to major-general of cavalry; was wounded in the terrific engagement between the Confederate and Federal cavalry at Brandy Station on the 9th day of June, 1863; was captured at Hanover Court-House, and was confined at Fort Monroe and Fort Lafayette until March, 1864, when he was exchanged, and repaired to his command, and served until the flag which he loved was furled forever at Appomattox.
From that time forward he cultivated his large estate with much care, serving one term in the senate of his State, declining a renomination. In 1886 he was elected to the Fiftieth Congress from the Eighth Congressional district of Virginia, and again in 1888 to the Fifty-first Congress, and still again in 1890 to the present Congress.
It was my privilege and pleasure to form his acquaintance in the army and to watch his flashing blade amid the carnage of battle, observe his cool courage and intrepid bearing and the love and confidence of his men upon more than one sanguinary field. He was as calm when the leaden hail was rattling and as cool when the shells were shrieking and bursting as he was upon this floor. He was a leader, not a follower of his men; if they went into the jaws of death, he was at their head. He fared as his men fared; if their haversacks were empty, his was empty; if they laid down in the mud, he laid there too; if they sweltered in the summer heat or shivered in the winter blast, he sweltered or shivered too; and thus it was he kindled in the breasts of his men intense love for himself and secured their implicit confidence in his leadership.
The promotions he received, rising from a captain to a major-general, speak in terms stronger than any words of mine of his courage and valor and his qualities as a soldier and military chieftain.
As a civilian, pursuing the quiet walks of rural life and devoting himself to agriculture, the noblest of all arts, he was honored by all the people and drew to him his neighbors, binding them with the steely bands of constant friendship. His word was as good as his bond, and the dusky son of toil as well as the intelligent tenant on his wide possessions relied upon it with absolute faith; and the most beautiful tribute that could be paid to his memory was the deep sorrow which manifested itself in a meeting after his death of those whose brawny muscle had held the plow-handles and whose toil had made the corn and the wheat grow on his rich and fertile fields.
In politics he was a Democrat, and he was as pure in the political arena as in private life. He scorned the ways of the demagogue and the timeserver, and believed that "men should be what they seem." In the councils of his State and in the councils of the nation he was found at all times in full accord with the principles and policy of his party.
As a Representative he was as true to his constituents as any subject to his sovereign, laboring in season and out of season to serve them, and even when his strong frame began to weaken and the germs of disease had been planted in his system he disregarded the warning calls for rest and continued to bend all his energies in the discharge of his trust, and I but speak the truth when I say that he fell a martyr to duty.
But, Mr. Speaker, while he was grand as a soldier, pure as a man, exalted as a citizen, and faithful as a Representative, it was in the home circle, as husband and father, and not on the battlefield, in civil life, or in the halls of legislation, that the beauty and loveliness of his character drew a halo around him.
He loved home, and it had a charm for him which neither pleasures, honors, nor fame could pluck from his bosom. Blessed by the companionship of one worthy of all adoration, and who presided like a queen over his household, entering into all his joys, sharing all his sorrows, and encouraging all his aspirations, he loved the breezes that kissed her cheeks, the birds that made sweet music to her ear, the rivulets that gently murmured her name, the flowers that shed their fragrance in her bowers, and the stately oaks under which the children of their union had prattled and the pebbled walks upon which they had played and gamboled.
Yes, he loved home, and in its sacred circle his presence was like a sunbeam, brightening every face and warming every heart. He was all patience, gentleness, kindness, and love, and if there ever was a home which was a fit emblem of heaven it was Ravensworth, the home of this distinguished man.
Mr. Speaker, he is gone. He lives now only in memory. In October last, when the frosts were blighting and the leaves were falling and the autumnal winds were sighing, after patient waiting for the fatal hour it came, and God's finger touched him, and the brave soldier, honored citizen, faithful Representative, devoted husband, and affectionate father was dead.
He passed away quietly, strong in Christian faith and in the hope of a blissful eternity.
WILLIAM HENRY FITZHUGH LEE! His State mourns his death. Within the bosom of her soil he rests—peacefully rests. In his ancestral land near by Arlington, historic, revered Arlington, the scene of his childhood and early manhood, he sleeps—sleeps the sleep that knows no waking.
Earth, that all too soon hath bound him, Gently wrap his clay! Linger lovingly around him, Light of dying day!
Bending lowly, Still a ceaseless vigil holy Keep above his dust.
ADDRESS OF MR. WISE, OF VIRGINIA.
Mr. SPEAKER: In accordance with a beautiful and impressive custom we put aside for to-day our legislative duties to pay a tribute of respect to the memory of Hon. WILLIAM H.F. LEE, of Virginia. In November, 1890, he was elected to serve as a member of this Congress from the Eighth district of that State, receiving in that action of his devoted constituents a merited indorsement of his conduct and services as their Representative for the two preceding terms. But when the day of our assembling arrived my colleague was not present to answer to the call of his name. He had passed over the river and was resting under the shade of the trees on the other side. He was beloved and honored by all the people of Virginia, and the announcement of his death, which occurred on the 15th day of October, 1891, was received everywhere within her borders with expressions of the deepest sorrow. He was born at Arlington, on the Virginia heights, opposite this beautiful city, on the 31st day of May, 1837, and at the time of his death was in the fifty-fifth year of his age.
In 1857, when he was pursuing his studies in the University of Harvard, in preparation for the active and serious duties of life, he received from the then President of the United States the appointment of brevet second lieutenant in the Sixth Infantry. At that time the spirit of resistance to the authority of the National Government was being exhibited to such an extent in Utah as to call for measures of repression. Assassinations and outrages of all kinds were common, and the officers of the United States were powerless either to prevent or punish their commission.
When Mr. Buchanan became President the resolution was formed that the insubordination and conflict of authority existing in that Territory should cease, and the necessary executive and judicial officers having been appointed for the enforcement of the laws of the United States and the preservation of the public peace, it was determined to send a detachment of the Army to protect them against violence and to assist them as a posse comitatus, when necessary, in the performance of their duties. Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston became the commander of this military force, and Lieut. LEE had his first experience of the service in this expedition. As the occasion does not call for a recital of the events of that period, I will content myself with the remark that he was then, as on every occasion in after years, faithful to the obligations of duty. His term of service in the Army was of short duration, and from that fact we may infer that he was not enamored with the life of a soldier in time of peace.
In 1859 he resigned his commission, and soon thereafter was married to Miss Wickham, the daughter of a family distinguished in the annals of Virginia. They went to reside at the White House, on the Pamunkey River, in the county of New Kent. It was at this old historic country home that the marriage of George Washington with the Widow Custis was celebrated. It descended to Gen. LEE from his mother, who was the great-granddaughter of Washington's wife.
Here he devoted himself to the tillage of the soil and became engrossed with the pursuits of a plain and unostentatious farmer. His condition and surroundings at this time were such as to invite contentment and encourage the cultivation of those pure and lofty sentiments for which he was ever distinguished.
Being in the flower and strength of his young manhood and blessed with affluence and the love of an accomplished wife, there seemed wanting nothing to make his home an earthly paradise.
But the course of this peaceful and happy life was not to run thus smoothly to the end. Dark and threatening clouds of war soon lowered upon our land, and the political conflicts and antagonisms, which had grown in intensity and bitterness with the flight of years, ripened into civil war in 1861. The crisis then arrived when the appeal to arms was inevitable, and with it the necessity that all men should decide whether allegiance was first due to the State or General Government. There were honest differences of opinion on this question, which had existed from the very foundation of the Republic.
He was connected by blood with a long line of illustrious men, who had borne a conspicuous part in the events which led to the declaration of American independence and the establishment of this constitutional Government. It was Richard Henry Lee who offered in the Continental Congress, in June, 1776, that stirring resolution which proclaimed to the world "that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown; and that all political connection between them and Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved."
It was his own grandfather, known in history as "Light-Horse Harry Lee," who, in the long struggle which followed this bold declaration, struck such sturdy blows for the liberties and rights of his countrymen as caused him to receive the special commendation of George Washington, of whom in turn he uttered those memorable words: "First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen." Bearing a name thus associated with all the glorious achievements of the past, it was but natural that he should have felt an ardent attachment to the Union. But he was a son of Virginia, "where American liberty raised its first voice and where its youth was nurtured and sustained."
There the doctrine of the sovereignty of the State was accepted as the true interpretation of the Constitution almost without division of sentiment. Her people held that allegiance was first due to their State, and while all deplored the necessity for, few, if any, doubted as to the right of separation. When in April, 1861, a convention representing her people passed the ordinance of secession, he felt no hesitation in adopting his course. He resolved at once to consecrate himself and his sword to the sacred duty of defending her homes and firesides.
Having raised a company of cavalry, he was made its captain, and was rapidly promoted from rank to rank until he reached that of major-general. Soon after his entry into the Confederate service he became associated with the command of Gen. J.E.B. Stuart, and participated thereafter in nearly all the movements of that fearless and dashing leader, whom the brave Gen. Sedgwick, of the United States Army, pronounced "the best cavalry officer ever foaled in North America." On June 3, 1862, Gen. Robert E. Lee, the father of my deceased colleague, assumed the command of the Army of Northern Virginia three days after the retiracy of Gen. Joseph E. Johnston, caused by a wound received in the battle of Seven Pines.
The plans of the Federal commander for the capture of the capital of the Southern Confederacy had been well chosen. His army, according to his own report, numbered 156,000, of whom 115,000 were ready for duty as fighting men. All the vast resources of his Government were being employed to enable him to prosecute his campaign with efficiency and vigor. His troops had been furnished with artillery and small arms of the most approved description and best pattern. They had abundance of ammunition of the finest quality and ample supplies of food and clothing. Gen. McDowell, then at Fredericksburg with 40,000 men, and Gens. Banks and Fremont in the valley of Virginia, were expected to cooeperate in the movement. A line of fire was slowly but steadily being drawn around Richmond. These plans, as I have said, had been well conceived and were being executed with great precision and skill.
To oppose this formidable advance there were less than 100,000 fighting men in Virginia, and they were greatly inferior to the enemy in both equipments and supplies. Gen. Johnston, penetrating the designs of his adversary, commenced operations to prevent their accomplishment. The bloody and stubbornly contested battle of Seven Pines was fought in part execution of his plans. When Gen. Robert E. Lee succeeded to the command it was apparent that some decisive blow must be struck to save the Southern capital from a state of siege. Surveying the whole field with a keen and practiced eye, he saw that the left wing of the Union army, which had been thrown across the Chickahominy and advanced to within four or five miles of Richmond, occupied a strong and almost impregnable position. An attack upon the center promised no better results.
Under these circumstances he turned his attention to the right wing, and, in order to obtain the fullest and most accurate information concerning McClellan's position and defenses on that portion of his line, ordered Gen. Stuart to make a reconnoissance in the direction of Old Church and Cold Harbor. With 1,500 picked men that pink of Southern chivalry immediately undertook the execution of the orders of the commanding general. This daring exploit was popularly known as "Stuart's ride around McClellan." It is a fact that he did pass entirely around the Union army, and, building a bridge across the Chickahominy, reentered the Confederate lines in safety. In this perilous expedition he was assisted by his bravest and best officers, among whom were Gens. WILLIAM H.F. LEE, and his cousin, the dashing Fitz Lee.
More was accomplished than had been anticipated, and it was ascertained that the right and rear of McClellan were unprotected by works of any strength. In consequence of the information thus obtained the decision was formed to make the attack in that direction, and on the 26th of June, 1862, began that series of splendid battles which culminated in the retreat of McClellan's army to Harrisons Landing, on the James River, and the deliverance of Richmond from danger. On the 9th of June, 1863, there occurred near Brandy Station, in the county of Culpeper, Va., one of the most extensive and stubborn cavalry fights of the whole war. Two divisions of Federal cavalry, commanded by Gens. Buford and Gregg, and supported by two brigades of "picked infantry," fell upon Stuart with such suddenness and fierceness that the attack was almost crowned with victory. Nothing saved him from defeat, if not from greater calamity, but his own coolness and that of his lieutenants, coupled with the indomitable pluck and intrepidity of his troopers.
In this engagement that brave Georgian Gen. Young, formerly a member of this House, by a splendid charge with sabers, without carbine or pistol, repulsed a dangerous and gallant assault on the rear, while Gen. WILLIAM H.F. LEE, with equal courage and dash, protected the left of the Confederate position. In this encounter Gen. LEE received a severe wound, which necessitated his retirement from the field. He was carried to Hickory Hill, in Hanover County, the home of Gen. Wickham, a near relative of his wife, and here he was captured and placed in solitary confinement in Fort Monroe as a hostage, certain officers of the United States being then held under sentence of death in Libby Prison in retaliation for the execution of certain Confederate officers in the West.
Gen. Custis Lee, being then a young unmarried man, on the staff of the Confederate President, met, under special flag of truce, representatives of the Government at Washington, and begged to be permitted to take the place of Gen. WILLIAM H.F. LEE, giving as a reason for the proposed exchange his desire to save from punishment the innocent wife and children of his wounded brother. The offer was declined, and he was told that the burdens of war must fall where chance or fortune placed them.
In this incident we have a beautiful and touching illustration of the strength and warmth of brotherly love and of the knightly bearing of the Lees of Virginia. While thus detained as a prisoner of war, racked with physical suffering and those mental tortures which a sensitive and high-strung man must feel under such circumstances, there came the sad tidings of the death of his loved wife and two children; and thus was added another, the most poignant of all the griefs with which he had been afflicted. His old Virginia home, associated with so many sacred memories, had been reduced to ashes, and now there remained of the once happy family which formerly occupied it only the captive father. This weight of woe would seem too much for human endurance, but he bore it with the fortitude of a Christian soldier. He was exchanged in the spring of 1864, and returning to his division, led it in all the engagements, from the Rapidan to the Appomattox, where the curtain fell upon the stirring and bloody scenes in which he had been such an active participant.
As a soldier he was always calm, cool, and self-possessed. Those who have had experience in the ranks know that the bravest and best soldiers will falter and hesitate when they are without confidence in the ability, judgment, and foresight of their leader. The soldiers who were ranged under the standard of Lee, believing that their noble commander was equal to all emergencies, followed him with unwavering trust, and their survivors testify to the affection in which a spirit so gentle and yet so brave was held.
No higher eulogy can be pronounced upon any man than to say of him that which can be truly alleged of Gen. LEE, that he was an honored and trusted leader in that splendid Army of Northern Virginia, which only failed where success was impossible. They challenged the respect and admiration of the world, and of their great captain it has been said that "a country which has given birth to men like him and those who followed him may look the chivalry of Europe in the face without shame, for the fatherlands of Sidney and Bayard never produced a nobler soldier, gentleman, and Christian than Robert E. Lee."
These meager details of our civil war have not been given with the purpose of reviving unpleasant memories or of perpetuating sectional animosities. They have been related because they constitute an important part of the story of the life of him whom we mourn.
On both sides were displayed the highest qualities of the military leader, and illustrated as never before the pluck, endurance, and dash of the American soldier. They were Americans all, and, without distinction of sections, we can claim part of the honor of their achievements and partake in the pride of their great names. We have furnished to the world the indubitable proof that these States united are invincible. When, at Appomattox, our arms were stacked and banners furled we returned to our homes with no divided allegiance.
We believe that in the safety of the Union is the safety of the States. And we rejoice that "the gorgeous ensign of the Republic is still full high advanced, its arms and trophies streaming in their original luster, not a stripe polluted or erased, not a single star obscured, bearing for its motto no such miserable interrogatory as 'What is all this worth?' Nor those other words of delusion and folly, 'Liberty first and Union afterwards,' but everywhere, spread all over in characters of living light, blazing on all its ample folds, as they float over the sea and over the land and in every wind under the whole heavens, that other sentiment, dear to every true American heart, 'Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable.'"
But while entertaining these sentiments, we can not, we will not, forget our glorious dead. The brave men against whom we fought neither expect nor desire such unnatural conduct. Whether the cause for which they died was just or not it would be idle to discuss. It is enough for us to know that—
They were slain for us, And their blood flowed out in a rain for us— Red, rich, and pure, on the plain for us; And years may go, But our tears shall flow O'er the dead who have died in vain for us.
After the cessation of hostilities Gen. LEE resumed the occupations of a farmer on the old plantation which he had left in 1861. The implements of warfare were exchanged for those of the husbandman, and following the plow on the furrows he commenced the work of repairing the losses he had sustained. In 1868 he married Miss Mary Tabb Bolling, the daughter of Col. George W. Bolling, of Petersburg, and they continued their residence at the White House until 1874, when they removed to Ravensworth, in the county of Fairfax, where he died.
He was an able and faithful Representative, and always devoted to the interests of his constituents. As a fitting eulogy to his worth it may be truly said that it was his disposition to follow the line of duty to the end. The conscientious performance of every trust confided to him was the watchword of his life. In his conduct as a legislator he was never ruled by faction or interest, but the promotion of the public good was the motive of all his actions. While exhibiting none of the showy and sparkling qualities of the orator, he was distinguished for the possession of good judgment and strong practical common sense. He was a man of calm and even temperament, and was seldom, if ever, controlled by prejudices or swayed by passion. Those who were associated with him here remember his dignified and courteous bearing. No words of bitterness or reproach ever escaped his lips, and he never forgot what was due to others as well as to himself.
I never heard him speak an unkind word of another, and while reserved, and to a certain extent formal, in his demeanor, he was a man of infinite sweetness of disposition:
And thus he bore without abuse, The grand old name of gentleman.
Both in his public and private life he furnished an example worthy of the emulation of all who love the true nobility of humanity. We will draw aside the curtain only for a passing glance at the domestic circle, of which his beautiful and lovely wife was at once the pride and the ornament. Surrounded by this devoted helpmeet and two manly sons, there was not a happier home in old Virginia. Warmed by the love of his big and generous heart, it was the abode of contentment and peace. The dread messenger was never more unwelcome than when he entered the portals of Ravensworth and made vacant forever the chair of the husband and the father.
We can say nothing to assuage the poignant grief of the widow and children, but our hearts are filled with the fervent prayer that Heaven's choicest blessings may be showered upon them.
ADDRESS OF MR. HERBERT, OF ALABAMA.
Mr. SPEAKER: In this brief tribute to the memory of Gen. WILLIAM H.F. LEE I should be unworthy of the friendship which it was my privilege to claim did I indulge in anything else than the language of soberness and truth. In him there was no manner of affectation; he pretended to be nothing but such as he was, and it is certain that if he had been giving directions to his biographer he would have laid down the rule announced by Thomas Carlyle, in his review of the life of Lockhart, that the biographer in the treatment of his subject "should have the fear of God before his eyes and no other fear whatever."
Froude, as biographer, claims subsequently to have applied to the life of Carlyle his own rule; and all the world knows that in the portrayal of Carlyle's faults of character the biographer left many a sting in the hearts of those who had loved the great man while he lived and who felt that the failings on which the historian had dwelt ought to have been interred with his bones. The biographer who shall perform faithfully the task of writing the life of "ROONEY" LEE will not paint him as a genius like Carlyle; but, sir, if there was any single feature in the character of our friend that, laid bare to the world even by the bold hand of an Anthony Froude, would cause the faintest blush to tinge the cheek of family or friends, I, who knew him well, do not know what it was.
It is true, sir, that it was not my fortune to be thrown in contact with him in the earlier years of his life. I did not know him when his character was being shaped and molded by the generous and refining influences which surrounded him from his cradle to his manhood.
My personal acquaintance with him may be said to have begun only when he had taken his seat by my side in this Hall. But his fame had come before him. A representative of the most distinguished family in America, he had been, by this circumstance alone, conspicuous from his birth; and yet he came among us with not a spot upon his name.
During the civil war, from a subordinate position rising rapidly to high command and always in the bright light that surrounded him as a son of the most illustrious general of modern times, he bore himself as a soldier without reproach. Neither in civil life nor in war had calumny assaulted him. Such a man, entering here upon a new career, attracted attention the moment he came into this Hall.
It soon appeared to those who watched him closely that he was singularly modest. This modesty was not diffidence. He was at all times self-poised. On this floor, addressing himself to a public question just as in a private conversation among his friends, he always had the easy, unpretentious manner of the thoroughbred gentleman, but his modesty was easily apparent in an utter lack of self-assertion. He never put himself forward except when duty prompted, and then he did nothing for display; never a word did he speak for himself, but only for his cause.
He made indeed no pretensions to oratory; he had never been trained in its arts; but his mind was broad and highly cultured, he had a vast fund of vigorous common sense, and he expressed himself readily and pointedly. With these faculties he would in time have taken rank as a strong debater.
While broadly patriotic, he had at the same time a high sense of obligation to his immediate constituency, and he was patient to a remarkable degree. His district, you will remember, Mr. Speaker, lay just beyond the Potomac.
It was an easy matter for his constituents to come to the Capitol, and naturally many of them sought office at his hands. I sat near him in the Fifty-first Congress. Often have I known him to be carded out a dozen times a day; and if he ever expressed himself to me as worried by these interruptions he never failed to show by what he said that his annoyance arose not so much from the importunities of his friends as from his inability to serve them.
In address he was remarkably pleasing. Indeed, his manner was so genial, so pleasant, so hearty and sincere, that the memory of his kindly greeting will not be forgotten until the whole generation of his friends shall pass away. Who is there among his associates on this floor that will ever cease to remember him as, morning after morning in the springtime, he came into this Hall, bringing from his home a basket of roses to distribute among his friends? He was not seeking popularity. Such a thought had not occurred to him, nor did it enter into the mind of anyone here. He simply loved his friends, and he loved flowers just as he loved all things beautiful and true.
Such a man could not but be, as Gen. LEE was, a model brother, husband, and father. In all his life nothing was more lovely and beautiful than his family relations.
He had about him none of the arts of the demagogue; he was always true to himself, and therefore never false to any man. His whole walk and conversation illustrated that he was the worthy son of his noble father; that from his youth up he had profited by the precepts and example of that illustrious chieftain, who declared, in those memorable words already quoted by my eloquent friend [Mr. Tucker], that duty was the sublimest word in the English language. And, Mr. Speaker, let me say that the idea conveyed by this word duty, as taught by the father and practiced by the son, was far higher than that ideal, lofty though it was, expounded by philosophers like Plato and Cicero. With the Lees duty meant Christian duty.
With all these characteristics Gen. LEE could not but grow and continue to grow as he did in power and influence in a body like this; and had he been spared for that long career in this Hall hoped for by his friends he would have risen to eminence as a legislator.
But this was not to be. He has passed away from us forever.
When such a man dies out from among us, let critics cavil as they may about time wasted in memorial addresses. We should do violence to our own feelings did we not pause to honor his memory; we should do wrong to the American people, whose heritage they are, did we not spread before them the lessons of his life, that the whole country may venerate his virtues and the youth of the land may emulate his example.
ADDRESS OF MR. HERMANN, OF OREGON.
Mr. SPEAKER: Of all picturesque spots on the face of the earth there is perhaps none that can rival in scenic beauty Mount Arlington, in the State of Virginia. Shaded by the primeval forest to the rear, and in front beautified by the gently sloping lawn, decorated by variegated flowers and artistically trimmed shrubbery, with the dark-green waters of the Potomac ebbing and flowing not far away and in full view the mighty nation's splendid capital city, stands the stately old mansion, with its classic columns, where nearly fifty-five years ago was born our departed friend and colleague, and one of the beloved Representatives of the people of Virginia—Gen. WILLIAM H.F. LEE. Born in Virginia, he remained a Virginian continuously to the hour of his death.
Inheriting the martial genius of his eminent ancestry, he early aspired to a career in the military service of his country, and at the comparatively early age of twenty we find him bidding adieu to his college studies at Harvard and uniting with the Army in its expedition to Utah in 1858, where he first experienced the fatigues and hardships incident to the life of the soldier in the long march over the arid plains and through the mountain canyons into the Mormon territory. The prospect of inaction, with a long period in garrison, proved a disappointment to so ambitious a spirit, and he resigned his commission and returned to the domestic welcome of his Virginia farm.
Soon, however, the indication of a long peace proved delusive, and the scene shifted. This time it was decreed that he should behold the terrible conflict in which one portion of his unhappy country was to engage in deadly array with another portion. Obeying what he conceived to be the mandate of his State, he followed the impulse of his feelings and the example of his kindred and his friends, and periled all in that belief. He participated at once, and most actively, in some of the most sanguinary engagements of the civil war. Wounded at one place, taken prisoner at another, then exchanged, and again in the van of battle, we find him following the forlorn hope until the close of the struggle at Appomattox, when he again returned to the old farm.
He possessed the undivided confidence of his constituents. He was regarded by them, as he was so long observed by us in our intimate associations with him in this Hall, and especially in the committee rooms, as an intelligent and conscientious legislator, a laborious servant of the people, a courtly gentleman, a generous and devoted companion. Loyal as he was to his political convictions, he was yet the most considerate and the most conservative in his relations with those who radically differed with him. He admired frankness; he despised duplicity. While he was obedient to the reasonable edicts of caucus and party organization, we recall occasions when he was prompt to rise above the partisan. He was as broad-gauge and comprehensive in the study and performance of his duty toward all parts and all interests of his reunited country as he was anxious for the obliteration of sectional animosity and sincere and generous of heart in his social obligations to all of his fellow-men.
The most touching remembrance we bear of Gen. LEE's goodness of heart has reference to his custom in springtime of bringing to this Hall from his farm great quantities of lovely roses, and having them distributed to his associates of both political parties on this floor with his compliments. Here we have a practical illustration that flowers are the interpreters of man's best feelings. In oriental lands the language of flowers was early studied and made expressive. As Percival says:
Each blossom that blooms in their garden bowers, On its leaves a mystic language bears.
With Gen. LEE they bore tidings of good will to partisan friend and partisan foe alike. They bespoke in mute eloquence the expansive heart of one "that loved his fellow-men." Little, however, did he think at the time that these beautiful roses were especially speaking to him as emblems of a near immortality. Awakening from their sleep of winter, they were also harbingers of a brighter day to him and of the bloom of a glorious resurrection. The Germans have a saying that "he who loves flowers loves God." If this be applied to Gen. LEE, we have the blessed assurance that he has approached close to the celestial throne.
Gen. LEE belonged to one of the most historic families of America. Looking back to the early settlement and the pioneer struggles of the peninsula and then through the plantation and colonial period of entire Virginia, we everywhere discover the genius, the dauntless courage, the independence, and the resolute patriotism of the Lees. It has been well said, sir, that Virginia is the mother of Presidents; and this is true. A momentary reflection does not suffice to demonstrate the various causes which combined to bestow upon the Old Dominion this prominence. A mature study, however, will serve a double purpose. It will teach us not only how Virginia more than any other State became the nursery for Presidents and statesmen, but how at the same time were given character and fame to its distinguished family—the Lees.
The permanency and prosperity of states and political bodies are as much due to the character of their superstructures as are the strength and stability of the material edifice to the foundation upon which it rests. The Argonauts of Virginia united in a remarkable degree the pride and culture and learning and loyalty of the Cavaliers with the conviction of purpose and martial courage and discipline of the followers of Cromwell. First came the heroic vanguard—the men like Capt. John Smith—who blazed the way through the forests of the James, the York, the Chickahominy, and Pamunkey. Then followed the refined, enthusiastic, and chivalric gentlemen of the polished court of Charles I, with many of the clergy, who brought with them their intense loyalty to the Crown, as well as to the episcopal government and Anglican ritual. Among these, too, were the proselyted royalists; old and honorable families after the defeat of Charles, seeking exile in the far distant yet faithful Virginia. Then came those who triumphed at Naseby, and overthrew the kingly office and maintained the constitution of the realm and the integrity of Magna Charta and the Petition of Rights.
The necessity for self-defense and the maintenance of order originated self-government and the assertion of individual right, and these united the widely variant elements of the community in a loyal union. It was the amalgamation of such spirits in Virginia in 1676 which demanded the right of personal liberty, of universal suffrage, and of representation; and here was fought the prelude of that great drama one hundred years later, when a Virginian, in the name of a whole nation, penned the immortal words which proclaimed to all the world the "inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Here were the Lees, the Patrick Henrys, the Randolphs, the Jeffersons, the Madisons, and the Masons of Virginia; and here, to close the drama with freedom's triumphant army, was the most illustrious of them all—George Washington. It was from such an ancestry our late colleague was descended, and it was from such teachings and such examples he imbibed his zealous convictions of right and his sturdy regard for the exalted prerogatives of a free people.
ADDRESS OF MR. WASHINGTON, OF TENNESSEE.
Mr. SPEAKER: On the 15th of last October death again invaded the ranks of this House. The mysterious messenger laid the summons of his cold silent hand upon one who had immeasurably endeared himself to all whose good fortune it had been to know him. To-day we pause amid the rush of a nation's public business to mourn the country's loss and to pay a just tribute to the noble dead. When such a man as our late colleague, Gen. WILLIAM H.F. LEE, is taken from our midst, a void is made which can nevermore be filled. It is not his visible presence or his tangible body that we shall so much miss. It is the magnetism of a pure mind, the silent, potent influence of a spotless character, the power of a great, good, and noble soul to elevate and dignify all with whom it came in contact that will prove our irreparable loss. No man ever associated with Gen. LEE without feeling the better for it. To have been with him made you feel like one who had drawn a long deep inspiration of pure fresh air into his lungs after breathing the stifling atmosphere of a close room. His thoughts, his conversation, his ideas diffused about him a sound and healthy morality, that was as natural to him as its delicate odor is to the rose. Modest and gentle as a woman; sympathetic as a child; guileless as the day; a logical, well-trained, accurate mind; a horror of injustice; absolutely devoid of resentment; a benignant countenance, and a splendid physique, made him indeed a man among men.
Sir, I believe not only in early training, but in the force of early surroundings and family traditions. Sprung from an illustrious line of statesmen and patriots, who had left their impress on every page of the history, civil and military, of this country from the colonial days to the present; born on those beautiful heights overlooking this city at Arlington, where the house was filled with the sanctified relics and the very atmosphere he breathed in childhood was pregnant with the traditions and precepts of "the Father of his Country;" his mother being the daughter of George Washington Parke Custis, the adopted son of the immortal Washington; his father that world-renowned military commander, the self-poised, calm, patient, dignified, glorious Gen. Robert E. Lee, it would be unnatural not to expect to find the impress of all these on the heart and mind and character and life of Gen. WILLIAM H.F. LEE.
To some my words of eulogy may appear fulsome; but having known him in public and in private, at home by his own fireside, as well as abroad on the active field of life, I know that my poor words can but fail to do full justice to his true worth. With him the performance of duty was accompanied by no harsh word or cynical expression; on the contrary, his calmness and uniform sweetness of manner were almost poetical. I recall a notable instance in the Fiftieth Congress, when, pressing under the most trying circumstances the passage of a bill for the relief of the Episcopal high school near Alexandria, he was temperate and patient. Standing on the Republican side of this Hall, among those who questioned him, his words fell softly and evenly as snowflakes on the turbulent House, which finally by an almost unanimous vote passed his bill.
He shrank from publicity; therefore he never spoke on this floor unless it was necessary to push a measure intrusted to his charge; then he always acquitted himself with credit. In the committee and among his colleagues his influence was irresistible, because his judgment and integrity were above dispute.
With him a public office was a public trust, which he accepted and administered for his State and his constituents without regard to race, color, or party affiliation. Many times have I seen him, when coming in from his country home in the morning, met at the depot by a dozen or more of his constituents, claiming his attention to their private matters with the Departments of the Government.
The patience and tender care with which he heard and looked after each were paternal and pathetic. His love for little children was intense and beautiful. Nothing made him happier than to fill some little fellow's hands and pockets with candies and fruits, claiming only in return a shy caress. In his home is where his perfectly balanced Christian character shone in its brightest light. As father and husband he was indeed a model man.
I shall attempt no extended biographical sketch; that has already been well done by others. Yet I can not refrain from saying that in every stage of his career Gen. LEE did his whole duty, actuated entirely and solely by the loftiest motives.
A graduate of Harvard at twenty, he was appointed a second lieutenant in the regular Army. Often I have heard him tell of the wearisome march across the plains to California with his regiment, long in advance of civilization and railroads, when most of that journey through the desert was made perilous by roving bands of hostile Indians. Retiring from the Army, he married and settled at the historic White House, in lower Virginia. There he was the typical Southern country gentleman of refinement and culture, taking an active interest in agriculture and the public affairs of his community. When the war between the States summoned Virginia's sons to her defense he again became a soldier.
Throughout the struggle he discharged every duty and was equal to every responsibility placed upon him. His soldiers loved and trusted him as a father, for they knew he would sacrifice no life for empty glory. The saddest chapter in all his life was when—a prisoner of war at Fort Monroe, lying desperately wounded, with the threat of a retaliatory death-sentence suspended over his head, in hourly expectation of its execution—he heard of the fatal illness of his wife and two little children but a few miles away. Earnestly his friends begged that he might be allowed to go and say the last farewell to them on earth. A devoted brother came, like Damon of old, and offered himself to die in "Rooney's" place. War, inexorable war, always stern and cruel, could not accept the substituted sacrifice, and while the sick wounded soldier, under sentence of death, lay, himself almost dying, in the dungeon of the Fort, his wife and children "passed over the river to rest under the trees" and wait there his coming. Yet no word of reproach ever passed his gentle lips. He accepted it all as the fortune of war.
In all the walks of life—as a student at college, as an officer in the regular Army, as a planter on the Pamunkey, as a leader of cavalry in the civil war, as a farmer struggling with the chaos and confusion that beset him under the new order of things following the abolition of slavery, as president of the Virginia Agricultural Society, as State senator, and as a member of Congress—Gen. WILLIAM H.F. LEE met every requirement, was equal to every emergency, and left a name for honor, truth, and virtue which should be a blessed heritage and the inspiration for a nobler and loftier life to all those who shall succeed him.
ADDRESS OF MR. HENDERSON, OF ILLINOIS.
Mr. SPEAKER: It is not my purpose at this time to make any extended remarks upon the life and public services of the late Gen. WILLIAM H.F. LEE. Other gentlemen of the House, more intimately acquainted with Gen. LEE in his lifetime, are better prepared to do justice to his memory than I am. But having enjoyed a very pleasant acquaintance with the deceased during his four years' service as a member of this body, I desire to express the great respect which I entertained for him as a gentleman of high character and of noble, manly qualities. Descended from one of the most highly honored families in the State in which he had his birth, he was liberally educated, and at an early age entered the Army as a second lieutenant and served as such until 1859, when he resigned his commission and returned to the peaceful pursuits of civil life. In 1861 he followed his illustrious father, and entered the service of the Confederate States as a captain of cavalry. That he was a brave and gallant soldier there can be no doubt, for his military history shows that he rose step by step from the rank of a captain to that of a major-general of cavalry. In 1865 he surrendered with his father at Appomattox, and renewed his allegiance and devotion, as I am glad to believe, to the Government of the United States.
I can but wish, Mr. Speaker, that such honored names as those of Gen. WILLIAM H.F. LEE and his distinguished father had never been led into rebellion against the Government of their country. But they felt it to be their duty to follow the fortunes of their State, and let us to-day, while mourning the departure of our deceased friend, rejoice that the surrender at Appomattox has been followed by a restored Union, and that our reunited, undivided country is now one of the strongest, most powerful, and prosperous of all the nations of the earth.
As a Representative in this body, while he was not inclined to participate actively in the discussion of public and political questions, still Gen. LEE took great interest in all that pertained to the public welfare, and especially in that which, in his judgment, was in the interest of his immediate constituents. He was an able, faithful, and efficient Representative as well as a noble, manly man, and in all my intercourse with men I never met a more genial, warm-hearted, pleasant gentleman than the distinguished citizen to whose memory we pay tribute to-day. I well remember his kindly greetings, and I am sure all of us who knew Gen. LEE deeply regret his loss as a member of this body, to which he was for a third time elected by his confiding constituents, and extend to his sorrowing bereaved family our warm heartfelt sympathies.
ADDRESS OF MR. CHIPMAN, OF MICHIGAN.
Mr. SPEAKER: I have not been in the habit of speaking upon occasions of this kind, but it is one of the joys of my life, a very great joy indeed, to feel that I had a place in the heart of the gentleman whom we are now commemorating. I knew him very well, and in many respects I regarded him as one of the most fortunate men whom it was ever my pleasure to know. While many men here are struggling for fame, while many of them will leave the struggle heartsick, weary, defeated, he had that power, that charm, so precious and so lovely, of attaching men to him by the ties of affection. Little children loved him.
There was a benignancy, a sweetness of demeanor, which attracted them to him, and while his name may not be sounded in the trump of fame, yet the subtile power of his gentleness and goodness has permeated many lives, will shape many destinies, and will have a force in the history of the world greater than that which will be exerted by many who will succeed him here. He was a soldier, yet he was gentle and kind. He was a descendant of a long line of honored ancestry, yet he did not believe that mere wealth was necessary either to respectability or to greatness. He was a farmer and loved the soil. He looked upon the ripened grain as the flower of human hope and as a minister to human needs. He loved the breath of cattle, and he regarded the occupation of an agriculturist as the noblest and the best in which a man could be engaged. He was a true son of the soil—hearty, simple, gentle, true.