Quotation from letter to Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard, October 1865

on his efforts to regain US citizenship


This passage, quoted by Southern schoolchildren for more that 100 years, identifies Lee's highest goal as "the desire to do right"-a desire that supercedes all worldly loyalties.
I need not tell you that true patriotism sometimes requires of men to act exactly contrary, at one period, to that which it does at another, and the motive which impels them-the desire to do right- is precisely the same. The circumstances that govern their actions, change, and their conduct must conform to the new order of things. History is full of illustrations of this: Washington himself is an example of this. At one time he fought in the serviceof the King of Great Britain; at another he fought with the French at Yorktown, under the orders of the Continental Congress of America, against him. He has not been branded by the world with reproach for this, but his course has been applauded.



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