Havana May 15th 1866

 

General

            Yours of the 15th of March reached me since my return to this place, having been forwarded from Mexico-

            I was much satisfied at its reception – While in Mexico I wrote an account of the operations of my various commands, to wit:  My own division, Hill’s corps at Spotsylvania C. H. and Ewell’s corps after leaving Hanover Junction, as also my campaign from the time I was detached at Gain’s Mill until the close in 1865 – These accounts are very thorough and I think entirely accurate – My memory is very retentive and it was aided by a diary kept by Lieut Old of Johnson’s staff, who was with me until Johnson’s exchanges, and  later kept by Captain Hotchkiss which he sent to me -  I have noticed all the outrages and depredations committed by Hunter and Sheridan in the valley & near Lynchburg – There were more on the campaign from the Wilderness to Richmond which were within my special knowledge except the burning of Bob Green Church & the plundering of two or three families near that place on the road toward the Old Church – I commenced copying my account of my operations to send you, but I was taken sick and prevented from doing so – I have now recovered from my attack, which was intermittent & --? -- from, I don’t know which, and will complete the copy as soon as I can and present it to you – My purpose is to go from here to Canada, and  I being sick be able to forward my documents before entering that country – I spent these months in the city of Mexico very quietly, observing, as far as I could under the difficulties of not speaking the language, the condition of things – I made no effort to get into employment of any kind and did not use the letter you wrote for me, and you may rest assured that I shall never use or attempt to use it in any way to cheapen it, or for any purpose you would  not approve-

            I have become satisfied that Mexico would not suit me and was not a proper place for the settlement of our people. – I had hoped to find the Empire acceptable to the Mexican people and needing their support, but I soon discovered that it had no value whatsoever when there, and was upheld entirely by foreign bayonets – Complaining as I do that a government has least imposed upon our people by military force, I could have no sympathy with a similar wrong upon another people.  I could not therefore give my assistance in perpetrating such a wrong and I could not remain in the country as a permanent settler without identifying myself with one party or the other – My curious accounts of the country have been published and many of our people misled to their great injury –

            Upon my return here I wrote a letter for publication in order to caution our people against the mistake many had made – I did not speak as fully as I might have done about the government for fear of producing more entrapment to them

who remained in the country – The last accounts from Mexico represent the prospects of the colonials there as more gloomy than when I left – The offices which Capt Manning and Gen Magruder held have been disestablished, and I presume this indicates an abandonment of the policy of colonization – The fact is that the business was badly managed, and  inept Manning, though convenient in his peculiar branch of science, (from the faded text it is impossible to read part of the sentence) at the hand of the colonization bureau-

            I have been watching very anxiously the condition of my things in the States, and I must say that I see very little hope for our people within the project of the President a trust of Congress.-  The truth is that I cannot give Johnson credit for any good intentions.  I don’t think any good ever came form a man who favors a renegade to his own people in the late struggle.  A liberal policy at the close of the hostilities might have done much towards reconciling the Southern people, but such has been the conduct of the government at Washington, through all its officials military and civil, that I regard anything like cordial in union as utterly impossible now and for all time to come- If we look at the history of the world, we will fail to find an instance in which a conquered  people ever became reconciled to the yoke imposed upon them – Ireland furnishes a most remarkable instruction upon in this subject. – There is no question but that the British government secures to its subjects the most substantial function ever enjoyed by any people, and the British flag furnishes complete protection to British subjects in all quarters of the globe-  The single subject might enjoy all these advantages, if they were extended, but they have not been, are not, and never will be entrusted, because they were originally a conquered people; and with the Union of Ireland and England is associated with the idea pf humiliation.  On the other hand, the Scotch are contrite and loyal subjects, because there was nothing humiliating in the Union of Scotland with England, for, in the very act of Union, Scotland gave the king to the whole British Empire -   There may instances which at the first glance appear to be at variance with this idea of mine, but when we come to examine them, it will be found that they are not -  Whenever a conquering government has to succeed, it has been by supplanting the conquered people by the inquirings of all.  – My opinion is that republican government is at an end in the United States, and the attempt to hold the Southern States as conquered prisoners will result in a dissolution of the government at Washington so far, and I trust that this thing is at an end.   Further restrictions can do no good, and it is sometimes the duty of a people to suffer.  If our people, after having yielded to every demand that could unusually have been made of them, will never meet further demands with the proper dignity, and avail the cause of events with firmness and patience, I truly believe that the day of attribution will yet come and with that hope I will live and it is for that alone that I care to live. – Very truly & respectfully yours  J A Early

 

P.S.  I shall go to Canada for the purpose of communicating with my brothers, and I feel uneasy about President Davis fear that he will be tried, sentenced and the sentence shall be executed – I will remain there until cold weather, when I shall probably go to South America.  Present my best regards to all my acquaintances & especially to Gov. Letcher – JA Early 

 

Genl R. E. Lee

 

Note:  I have some doubt about the accuracy of this transcription because of the P. S. inserted on page 2 and running through page 3.  This was a hard letter to transcribe because of its condition.  R. C Peniston  30 APR 2002.