At the recent Stephen Dill Lee institute sponsored by the Sons of Confederate Veterans, the well-respected historian and author, Robert Krick, made some insightful comments and observations regarding the distortion and revisionism that has taken place in regards to the character of Robert E. Lee in recent years. While some historians scoff at such ideas, Krick made a powerful argument that revisionists have most certainly attempted to redefine Lee, not by the facts or any reasonable logic and scholarly research, but by pseudo-history and psycho-babble. Calling some of these writers “anti-confederate” Krick went on to note that those making these false assertions about Lee—particularly that his hero status was the result of “Lost Cause” sympathies after the war—must, by necessity, fall into one of three categories:
- They are stupid.
- They are lazy.
- They are malicious.
Krick, who by his own admission is not a particularly religious man, correctly notes that evidence abounds proving that Lee’s status as an American hero, exemplary officer, and Christian gentleman was well-established long before the end of the Civil War; thus the three categories. Krick *seemed to indicate that he believed that most of these writers fell into the third category (as do I, reserving, however, the opinion that there is a distinct possibility some fall into all three) and he further noted that this indicates these writers “have an agenda” and “are not concerned with the truth.” He warned that readers should “be careful of everything else they write” as well. Again, I would agree with that conclusion.
Krick also observed that “those not interested in character won’t be interested in Lee”—another simple, yet profound, observation; although my take is more condemning. I believe those “not interested in character” are, in fact, interested in Lee, but only to try to cut him off at the knees by calling into question his reputation and character, thus allowing these same moral midgets to more easily look Lee in the eye. How miserably they have failed. This “maliciousness” as Krick describes it is, I believe, both personal and agenda driven. Thus these revisionists gain smug satisfaction on a personal level while at the same time feeling they have contributed to their own activist political cause on a broader scale. As historian and pastor Tom Dixon has written:
“Social historians are often driven by activist goals. Historical research becomes not an attempt to understand the past but a propaganda tool for use in modern political and social power struggles.” (The Death of Truth, Bethany House, 1996, p. 133.)
But these historians are ignoring the elephant in the room: Lee’s own correspondence. Anyone with a computer can search Lee’s thousands of letters and gain insight into Lee’s character and you do not need someone with a university degree and a politically correct agenda to “interpret” Lee’s letters for you. Of course, those defending the character of General Lee are dismissed as “neo-Confederates” and then the new McCarthyites blather on with their groupthink revisionism, afraid of real debate and truth. But the Year of Lee continues.
*Note: I do not assume to speak for Mr. Krick. These comments simply reflect my take on this particular lecture, which I've now heard him give on two separate occasions. See previous post.