Quotation from letter to Lt. Col. Charles Marshall, September 1870

on history

Writing immediately before his death, Lee carefully articulates his opinion of men and of history. Despite the intense pain that characterized the last few years of his life, Lee's thoughts are calm and, above all, hopeful.
My experience of men has neither disposed me to think worse of them nor indisposed me to serve them; nor in spite in spite of failures which I lament, of errors which I now see and acknowledge, or of the present aspect of affairs, do I despair of the future.

The truth is this: The march of Providence is so slow and our desires so impatient; the work of progress so immense and our means of aiding it so feeble; the life of humanity is so long, that of the individual so brief, that we often see only the ebb of the advancing wave and are thus discouraged. It is history that teaches us to hope.

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