The Spectator

Letters | 24 August 2017

Also: prostitution is medieval; what did for the Garden Bridge; graduates, osteopaths, racism and Pepys

In defence of General Lee

Sir: In your leader ‘America’s identity crisis’ (19 August) you state that ‘When General Lee emerged as a leader of that rebellion [the secession of the Southern states], we said that he had no cause that stood up to scrutiny.’ The irony is that Lee did not disagree with that view. Unlike Jefferson Davis and other Confederate leaders, he was opposed to secession and believed that the Union should be kept intact.

Nor was he an enthusiast for slavery. A slave owner by proxy, he appears to have loathed the experience. In 1856 he wrote to his wife saying that ‘In this enlightened age, there are few I believe, but what will acknowledge, that slavery as an institution, is a moral & political evil in any Country.’ He supported his wife and her mother in their campaign to liberate slaves, and helped his wife and daughter to set up an illegal school for slaves at Arlington. All the Arlington slaves were freed in 1862.

These factors, his military genius and his reputation as a fine ‘Southern gentleman’ meant that Lee was admired almost as much in the North as in Dixie and was a unifying force after the war. In 1962 a Barracks at West Point was named for him.

So it is all the sadder, as you argue, that Lee has become politicised and a victim of ‘identity politics’. As ever, you have to ask how much history those on either the right or the left of these arguments actually know.
Patrick Brooks

Chudleigh, Devon

A medieval practice

Sir: Julie Bindel’s article (The ‘sex worker’ myth, 19 August) underlines the fact that men are prostitution’s driving force and that they have society’s protection, unlike the women they use. What kind of message does legalising prostitution send? That it is perfectly acceptable for women to sell their bodies.

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