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Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 31.djvu/91

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Statue of General Robert E. Lee. 83

majestic Washington, that together they may stand through the centuries as chiefs of our grand army of immortals.

Neither do we offer Lee because we have no others worthy to stand in that congregation of the nation's great. It is rather from such a wealth of material that we must draw, that it constitutes an embarrassment of riches. Our Jefferson, our Mason, our Henry, our Madison, our Monroe, and our Marshall; all of these and many others are worthy of that great company, but having selected Wash- ington for our representative of the Revolutionary time, it seems that the most fitting selection we can now make is to take the other from a later time and that the most stirring period of our history, and surely none can be found more " worthy of this national com- memoration" than the stainless chieftain, Robert Edward Lee.

Of the absolute legal right of Virginia to choose whom she will to represent her in statue in this National Pantheon, there can be no doubt whatever. The law gives palpable expression to this right in terms so clear and explicit that no room is left for any possible ad- verse construction. It is positively and unmistakably to the effect that every State shall have the right to select such two of its illus- trious dead for this purpose as ' ' each State shall determine to be worthy of this national commemoration." It then goes on to pro- vide that these statues when so furnished by the several States ' ' shall be placed in the old Hall of the House of Representatives, in the Capitol of the United States, which is hereby set apart, or so much thereof as may be necessary, as a National Statuary Hall." There is no provision in the law giving the authority to the Presi- dent or anyone else, to either accept or reject these statues, and passing by the question of whether Virginia was in or out of the Union at the time that the law was passed and the invitation ex- tended, I will only say that there is no question about her being in the Union now, and having the same rights under the laws of the Union as every other State. The only people, therefore, who have the right to say anything as to whose statues Virginia shall send are the people of Virginia themselves, who speak through their repre- sentatives in the General Assembly. If Kansas were to choose the statue of John Brown to represent her, would Virginia have the right to complain ? Certainly not. It is the prerogative of both Virginia and Kansas to choose whom they will to represent them, and neither has the right to interfere with the choice of the other.

These are Virginia's places that Virginia is invited to fill as she herself shall determine, and no acceptance is necessary beyond the