Wednesday, December 11, 2002

I recently finished The Lady of Arlington: The Life of Mrs. Robert E Lee. (Actually, I'm still going through the end notes which aren't as helpful as one might like - I haven't figured out how to match up the notes with the text - no footnotes in the text! - I think they're page numbers, but [shrug] I'll survive.)

Growing up in Ohio, I was taught to have little sympathy for the "uppity" South, although I understood that he had a hard time choosing between Virginia and his country. And I hadn't put my modern support of a small, limited, federal government and States Rights into the context of the American Civil War.

I enjoyed the book, learning about Mrs. Lee's relationship with George Washington (she was the great-granddaughter of Martha Washington), Arlington, Mrs. Lee's children, her anti-slavery beliefs along with her ownership of slaves. (She did teach her slaves to read against Virginia law; she had a "paternalistic" view that her slaves needed her help before freeing them. Although, certainly they weren't equal. There is no record of her personally purchasing slaves, and her father's will stipulated that they be freed within a period of time after his death. So many dichotomies that are hard to reconcile!) The book argued that Mrs. Lee has been misrepresented through history as a mean, frightful lady, by looking at her prayer journal and correspondence.

By far, my favorite chapter was where he described, through her journal, her conversion to Christianity. She had been raised with morning and evening devotions in an Anglican home, but her heart was stirred by the Lord through the death of an uncle. The unfolding and growth of her faith as described throughout the book was an encouragement that growth and change will happen and reminds one that the change is not always (or perhaps even often) instantaneous.

A great deal of the end of the book was about her attempts to reclaim Arlington, the home she had been left as an only child. It was, of course, turned into Arlington National Cemetery during the Civil War after she abandoned it to go South where she might be safe.

I'm glad I read it. It was pretty well written, and easy to read. Beyond that, though, it made me consider my own blind-spots regarding the events around the Civil War and even my political leanings. I'm sure I'll continue to have much to chew upon. Maybe I'll pick up my copy of Roots of the Republic and look through some of the Federalist and Anti-Federalist papers again.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for commenting! I love and reply to comments because I love building community with my readers!