George Will writes what amounts to a review of Allen C. Guelzo’s biography, Robert E. Lee: A Life in the Washington Post. The review and apparently the book are disparaging of Lee. Considering who Lee was and the fruitful historical mindsets who have lionized him, both black and white: (Churchill, Eisenhower, both Roosevelts as well as Booker T, Washington to name but a few) it is no small wonder that an old tired reader-less student like Will would cast irreverence (more like comedic) at Lee.
“Lee was the noblest American who had ever lived and one of the greatest commanders known to the annals of war.” Winston Churchill
From The Macon Telegraph: “Dr. Edward C. Smith, respected African-American professor of History at American University in Washington, D.C., told the audience in Atlanta, during a 1995 Robert E. Lee birthday event, “Dr. Martin Luther King and Robert E. Lee were individuals worthy of emulation because they understood history.”
But the shock is moreover supposed to be that Will is one of the lions of conservatism. Therefore conservatives, especially Southerners, should cry out in shame as one of their gods (Lee) is revealed as a monstrous cad by such a conservative giant as Will—George and the beanstalk. But taking Will at his studious best as a conservative is like calling Pete Rose (a baseball analogy for Will) a stalwart of baseball’s hall of fame. He played as one thing but his character was dark and his lines were false. And with age, the more apparent it becomes.
A quote from one of Sam Francis’s articles best describes the character and company of the likes of George Will:
“But Burnham (James) also remarked that ‘much of conservative doctrine . . . also is, if not quite bankrupt, more and more obsolescent,’ and the failure of conservatism and its eventual displacement by neoconservative formulas is closely related to its bankruptcy. The survivors of the ‘Old Right’ today spend a good deal of their time complaining about their dethronement by pseudo-conservatives, but those Old Rightists who survive are only the hardiest of the species, ever vigilant for camouflaged predators who slip into their herds.”
Will (and apparently Guelzo -I’ve not read the book) fed off the seldom understood word, and political ruse, of “presentism” in analyzing the results of Lee’s life and association with the C.S.A., not to mention Lee’s home of Virginia.
Presentism is the tired, worn, illogical, ill-conceived, and thoroughly discredited process by honest academics and historians who work as historians once worked. That is by the meticulous study with or as close as achievable to primary or original source. If Will’s review of the biography is any indication, then Guelzo’s work is in the same fractured studies and comic book histories as the Brian Kilmeade or Victor Davis Hanson types et al; That is, they don’t bother (or are deliberately dishonest) to check and end up with partial truths—which often is far worse than a lie.
Will, historical dilettante (a modest knowledge of baseball, perhaps), stated flat out that Lee was a traitor. Then in the fire-breathing sputtering of a lazy, tasteless neocon, quotes the only crime actually described in the Constitution—treason. That treasonous act of Lee’s according to Will was “making War Against the United States.”
If Lee had been a citizen of one of the states of the United States (prior to 1861, a republican union) this would have been true. But Lee was a citizen of Virginia which had removed itself from the old republic and joined the Confederate States of America (C.S.A.). Virginia had done this in accordance with their ratification of the United States Constitution in 1788.
In her “Ratification of the Constitution by the State of Virginia; June 26, 1788,” the state of Virginia included this express provision: “Do in the name and in behalf of the People of Virginia declare and make known that the powers granted under the Constitution being derived from the People of the United States may be resumed by them whensoever the same shall be perverted to their injury or oppression and that every power not granted thereby remains with them and at their will.”
This is the sort of thing real (honest) historians find when they look to primary sources—not Fox News histories nor George Will write-it-on-the-fly history reviews.
Tepid, timid little fellows like Will are often the characterless and clueless legerdemain artists of the Constitution. These are the same gang of wine-sippers who get a sick enjoyment from losing to government- privateers like Barack Obama so they may have these same corrupt political hacks from nowhere (community organizer from Chicago–wow!) over for a quaint dinner party.
For the record, Robert E. Lee ate and slept from the same billeted accommodations as his men.
Perhaps Will the atheist could learn from Lee, the Christian–doubtful, however.
But it is the pseudo-conservatives like Will proposing national and federal as the same, who live in Washington right on top of Lee’s stolen land at Arlington. It is these who know so little about so much. Therefore, when they read anything or hear anything about secession or Davis or Jackson or Lee they scream of CIVIL WAR DEMONS.
This is, of course, was the biggest lie of all. At least the biggest: that the North loved the slaves and fought to free them. Of course, the battle for Lee and the C.S.A. was over national vs. federal. A civil war it was not.
So, sit back George, have a glass of Pinot Noir, and invite your old buddy Barack over for a good old pork dinner (this little piggy went to market, this little piggy stayed at home).
But lay off Lee. You got the short shrift if what you wrote is what you were taught. Try the funny papers. More in your line of work.
Wee, wee, wee, all the way home.
I want to offer my condolences to Mr. Yarbrough on the passing of Mrs. Yarbrough.
Great article. I have always thought George Will to be a Trojan Horse conservative as are others in the MSM. Glad you put him in his place.