and classic of their Pantheon. We turn to Robert Lee and say: There is one, who in place of taking from others every present they might offer, grandly gave all he had of mind, body and estate to others, and for others. There is one who trod the path of self-denying greatness. There is one who scaled the last heights; in whose majestic passion defeat is transfigured into victory. There behold that power and passion of self-realization through self-renunciation, which is a perennial appeal by and to a divine essence, perhaps latent in the lowest, but forever patent in the highest. With what a serene unconsciousness the destiny laid upon him was met and mastered. It is not in human misfortune, nor in human power to efface the eminence in which he abides, nor to efface us if we are not unworthy of it. Long as there is reverence for honor; long as there shall linger on honor to revere, the earnest, the fearless, the true will bow down to him, who having the option of all that this world has to give, thought of duty first; of self last. Success does not constitute his glory. His glory is enhanced, etherealized, more gloriously revealed by what the world calls his defeat. Sordid success is as dust in the balance by the side of it. Mr. Charles Francis Adams has called Lee "the quintessence of Virginia." As the figure in the forefront of the battle; as the protagonist of the Southern storm; as the embodied righteousness of the cause whereof he was captain, he requires and requites our worship. Viewing him as the concentration of our own soul; as embodying the high duty, the sacred conscience, the martyred valor, which bore aloft his standard, his fame is the proudest possession ever vouchsafed to any people of any country, in any age. We had not known the full stature of Lee, had it not been for what the world calls his defeat. Great as were his victories over enemies, the great conquest of this kingly man was his conquest of himself. Each passing year, more and more, endears him to us. He is-more than ever dear to us, for that he was the matchless hero of adversity and example for our own; for that he added to all other victory—victory over defeat—nay over outlawry by them to whom his path was a rebuke. The more he is lifted up by outlaw sentence, the more he draws us to him.
Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 36.djvu/310
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Southern Historical Society Papers.