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‘…sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments…’ President Donald J. Trump


In a letter to the New York Times three years

before the war General Robert E. Lee

described slavery per se as ‘a moral

and political evil’ and, in the States,

‘a greater evil to the white man’

than the black. In 1857 Lee

had been his father-in-law’s executor.

George Custis had manumitted his slaves

on his death bed there and then but ‘no white man

was in the room’. Lee promised them freedom

in five years. Three escaped but were caught.

The plantation’s overseer refused

to whip them. The local constable agreed.

They were stripped and lashed many times –  the men

fifty, their sister twenty. ‘Lay it on well!’

the General ordered. After the war

Lee refused an invitation to join

senior officers from the Blue and the Gray

at the site of the Battle of Gettysburg

to mark key moments with granite monuments.

‘I think it wiser,’ he replied, ‘not to keep

open the sores of war.’



Note: The poem, with here the addition of an extra line, was first published on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter on 31.8.17.




© Copyright David Selzer
2 Responses
  • Clive Watkins
    November 25, 2017

    We have just watched Gary Younge’s powerful documentary about the rise of the alt.right in the USA. In the course of it, one supporter of Robert E. Lee in New Orleans claimed that Lee had owned no slaves. It was said that some he inherited he immediately freed. Though Younge did not correct the speaker on camera, he did correct her bad history in his subsequent commentary. Your poem touches the same sore, David.

  • Alan Horne
    January 9, 2018

    I liked this when you first published it, and still do now, mainly because of the way the facts are allowed to speak for themselves.

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