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