Primary Resource

Letter from Robert E. Lee to Robert E. Lee Jr. (March 12, 1868)

In this letter to his son Robert E. Lee Jr., dated March 12, 1868, Robert E. Lee dispenses advice on farming and politics.

Transcription from Original

"Lexington , Virginia, March 12, 1868.

"My Dear Rob: I am sorry to learn from your letter of the 1st that the winter has been so hard on your wheat. I hope, however, the present good weather is shedding its influence upon it, and that it will turn out better than it promises. You must, however, take a lesson from the last season. What you do cultivate, do well. Improve and prepare the land in the best manner; your labour will be less, and your profits more. Your flat lands were always uncertain in wet winters. The uplands were more sure. Is it not possible that some unbidden guest may have been feasting on your corn? Six hundred bushels are a large deficit in casting up your account for the year. But you must make it up by economy and good management. A farmer's motto should be toil and trust. I am glad that you have got your lime and sown your oats and clover. Do you use the drill or sow broadcast? I shall try to get down to see you if I go to Richmond, for I am anxious to know how you are progressing and to see if in any way I can aid you. whenever I can, you must let me know. You must still think about your house and

— page 306 —

make up your mind as to the site and kind, and collect the material. I can help you to any kind of plan, and with some ready money to pay the mechanics. I have recently had a visit from Dr. Oliver, of Scotland, who is examining lands for immigrants from his country. He seems to be a sensible and judicious man From his account, I do not think the Scotch and English would suit your part of the country. It would require time for them to become acclimated, and they would probably get dissatisfied, especially as there is so much mountainous region where they could be accommodated. I think you will have to look to the Germans; perhaps the Hollanders, as a class, would be the most useful. When the railroad shall have been completed to West Point, I think there will be no difficulty in getting the whites among you. I would try to get some of our own young men in your employ. I rode out the other day to Mr. Andrew Cameron's and went into the field where he was plowing. I took great leisure in following the plows around the circuit. He had four in operation. Three of them were held by his former comrades in the army, who are regularly employed by him, and, he says, much to his satisfaction and profit. People have got to work now. It is creditable to them to do so; their bodies and their minds are benefited by it, and those who can and will work will be advanced by it. You will never prosper with the blacks, and it is abhorrent to a reflecting mind to be supporting and cherishing those who are plotting and working for your injury, and all of whose sympathies and associations are antagonistic to yours. I wish them no evil in the world—on the contrary, will do them every good in my power, and know that they are misled by those to whom they have given their confidence; but our material, social, and political interests are naturally with the whites. Mr. Davis's trial was fixed for the last of this month. If Judge Chase's presence is essential, I do not see how it can take place, unless that of Mr. Johnson is to be postponed. I suppose that will be decided to-day or to-morrow, and then I shall

— page 307 —

know what to expect. I shall not go to Richmond unless necessary, as it is always inconvenient for me to leave home, and I am not at all well. Your poor mother is also more ailing than she is ordinarily, in consequence of a cold she has taken. But it is passing away, I trust. I must leave you to her and Mildred for all local and domestic news. Custis and the boys are well, and 'Powhattie,' I hope, has got rid of the chills. We hear regularly from Mary and Agnes, who seem to be enjoying themselves, and I do not think from their programme that they will get back to us till summer. All unite in much love, and I am always, Your father,

"R. E. Lee."