Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Robert E. Lee: Anything but the South's Savior: Unfinished

[This is a history paper I wrote for 10th grade History class back in 1993. 
Unfortunately, all I have left of it now are the first 3 paragraphs.  (That was all I get get out of my old computer discs. )  The original paper of course was much longer.]

 Joel Swagman
                                           6th. Hour History
  November 8, 1993

Many books about Lee portray him as an American hero, on equal footing with Ulysses S. Grant, Douglas MacArthur, or Benjamin Franklin.  This credit is obviously falsely given to someone who not only fought against the United States, but almost destroyed it.  In the South, he is even more such a hero, even though General Lee harmed the South more then he helped it then he helped it.  Robert E. Lee does not deserve the respect he is given today.

History, although some may claim otherwise, seems to be obsessed with putting people into the two fundamental categories, good or bad.  One desiring proof of this statement needs only to think of a famous historical person, and observe how quickly their mind places him or her into one of the two categories.  If someone, like Christopher Columbus, fails to slip neatly into this classification system, that person becomes the subject of spirited debates.  Julius Caesar or Lenin are other examples.  As any school child can tell you, Lee is a prominent figure in American history, and important people get categorized all the more.  So why was Lee categorized as a "good" person.
To start with, it's hard to put someone with family rich in patriotism, like Lee's. into the "bad" category.  Two of Lee's relatives had signed the declaration of independence.  Lee's father, Henry Lee, was known as Light Horse Harry.  Light Horse Harry was a friend of Marquis de Lafeyette and a student of George Washington.  He was governor of Virginia three times, and even came close to being the second President of the United States.  In 1830, Lee married Mary Custis Washington, the granddaughter of none other then George Washington.

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