Memorial Addresses on the Life and Character of William H. F. Lee (A Representative from Virginia)
Memorial Addresses on the Life and Character of William H. F. Lee (A Representative from Virginia)
Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), That there be printed of the eulogies delivered in Congress upon the Hon. W.H.F. Lee, late a Representative from the State of Virginia, eight thousand copies, of which number two thousand copies shall be delivered to the Senators and Representatives of the State of Virginia, which shall include fifty copies to be bound in full morocco, to be delivered to the family of the deceased, and of those remaining two thousand shall be for the use of the Senate and four thousand for the use of the House of Representatives; and the Secretary of the Treasury is directed to have engraved and printed a portrait of the said W.H.F. Lee to accompany the said eulogies.
Agreed to in the House of Representatives March 23, 1892.
Agreed to in the Senate March 22, 1892.
PROCEEDINGS IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ANNOUNCEMENT OF DEATH
December 23, 1891.
Mr. Meredith, of Virginia: Mr. Speaker, I rise to make the painful announcement to the House of the death of Hon. William H.F. Lee, a Representative in the Fiftieth and Fifty-first Congresses of the United States and a Representative-elect to the Fifty-second Congress.
He died at his home, in Fairfax County, Va., on the 15th day of October last, after a lingering illness. Later in the session I shall ask this House to fix a day when his colleagues and friends can do justice to his memory and express their appreciation of his high character.
It is only meet and fitting on this occasion that I should say that in the death of Gen. Lee the State of Virginia has lost the services of one of her most chivalrous and noble sons, and the district he so well represented a faithful guardian of the interests of all its people.
I send to the desk and ask the adoption of these resolutions:
The Clerk read as follows:
Resolved, That the House has heard with deep regret and profound sorrow of the death of Hon. W.H.F. Lee, a Representative from the State of Virginia.
Resolved, That the Clerk be directed to communicate a copy of these resolutions to the Senate.
Resolved, That as a further mark of respect the House do now adjourn.
The resolutions were unanimously agreed to.
And accordingly (at 12 o'clock and 37 minutes p.m.) the House adjourned until Tuesday, the 5th day of January next.
February 6, 1892.
The Speaker. The Clerk will report the special order.
The Clerk read as follows:
Resolved, That Saturday, February 6, beginning at 1 o'clock afternoon, be set apart for paying tribute to the memory of Hon. William Henry Fitzhugh Lee, late a member of the House of Representatives from the Eighth district of the State of Virginia.
Mr. Meredith. Mr. Speaker, I offer the resolutions which I send to the desk.
The resolutions were read, as follows:
Resolved, That the business of the House be now suspended, that opportunity be given for tributes to the memory of Hon. William Henry Fitzhugh Lee, late a Representative from the State of Virginia.
Resolved, As a further mark of respect to the memory of the deceased, and in recognition of his eminent ability and distinguished public services, that the House, at the conclusion of these memorial proceedings, shall stand adjourned.
Resolved, That the Clerk communicate these resolutions to the Senate.
The resolutions were adopted.
Address of Mr. Meredith, of Virginia
Mr. Speaker: This day having been set apart for the purpose of paying a last tribute to the memory of one who so lately was a loved and honored member of this House, I shall, in the brief remarks which I propose to make, attempt nothing but a plain and truthful narrative of some of the characteristics and public services of a Christian gentleman, who in my judgment measured fully up to that standard which makes man the noblest work of God.
On the 15th day of October, 1891, at Ravensworth, his beautiful home in Fairfax County, Va., surrounded by those loved ones whose constant care and tender nursing had done all that human power could do to stay the hand of the fell Destroyer, all that was mortal of Hon. William Henry Fitzhugh Lee passed from this earth, and his noble spirit returned to the God who gave it.
If the earnest supplications to Almighty God, offered by the good people of his native State upon their bended knees night and morning, during the period of his lingering illness, could have availed, he would have been restored to health and usefulness, and these melancholy proceedings postponed for many a long year.
The great sorrow which made the heart of Virginia heavy and bowed in grief the heads of her true sons and daughters when the sad intelligence of his death was flashed over the electric wires was more genuinely spontaneous than were the loud lamentations of the Roman populace (so graphically described by Tacitus) when they beheld the widow of Germanicus, with her weeping children entering the gates of the imperial city. Nor was this sorrow confined to those of his own political faith. Men of all parties vied with each other in their expressions of regret at his death and in their sympathy for his bereaved family.
The blameless life he had led, his high character, his gentle and unassuming manners, won for him not only the respect but the admiration of all with whom he came in contact.
As gentle as a child and as tender as a woman, with the courage of a hero and a faith that never faltered, he proved himself a worthy descendant of that race of famous men from whom he sprang, and most worthily bore a name which will be honored as long as a liberty-loving people shall find a dwelling place upon the earth.
William H.F. Lee was the son of Gen. Robert E. Lee, and was born at Arlington, on the 31st day of May, 1837.
He was educated at Harvard, where he ranked not only as a good scholar, but on account of his splendid size and strength became quite famous in athletics, being "stroke oar" of the University Rowing Club.
His great ambition was to follow the profession of his father and to go to West Point; but having had an older brother there, that fact was considered in those days an insuperable obstacle. While still at Harvard, completing his education, he was, through the interest taken in him by Gen. Winfield Scott, who made the request as a special and personal favor to himself, appointed in 1857 a second lieutenant in the Sixth Regiment, United States Infantry, and inaugurated his military career by taking a detachment of troops to Texas by sea and then by land up the country to San Antonio.
In 1858 he accompanied his regiment, under the command of Col. Albert Sidney Johnston, in the expedition to Utah against the Mormons, taking an active part in that campaign, marching from Fort Leavenworth to Salt Lake City, and then, when the troubles were quelled there, traveling on foot to Fort Benicia, Cal. While on the Pacific coast he received a letter from his father, written January 1, 1859, in which he said:
I can not express the gratification I felt in meeting Col. May in New York, and at the encomiums he passed upon your soldiership, zeal, and devotion to your duty. But I was more pleased at the report of your conduct. I always thought and said there was stuff in you for a good soldier, and I trust you will prove it.
Resigning his commission in the Army, he came home to be married to his cousin, a Miss Wickham, and settled down as a farmer at the "White House" (where Washington met Martha Custis and was married), a large estate on the Pamunkey River, left him by his maternal grandfather, G.W. Park Custis, of Arlington.
When that irrepressible conflict of 1861 was upon us, and Virginia called upon her sons to defend her soil, he, sharing the faith of his fathers, in the belief that his allegiance was due to his State, quickly raised a company of cavalry, and was attached to the Army of Northern Virginia. Serving in every grade successively from captain to major-general of cavalry, he led his regiment in the famous raid around McClellan's army, and was an active participant in all those brilliant achievements which made the cavalry service so proficient.
In that terrific fight which occurred at Brandy Station, in June, 1863, he was most severely wounded, and taken to the residence of Gen. William C. Wickham, in Hanover County, where he was made a prisoner by a raiding party, and was carried off, at the expense of great personal suffering, to Fort Monroe. From the latter place he was conveyed to Fort Lafayette, where he was confined until March, 1864, and treated with great severity, being held, with Capt. R.H. Tyler, of the Eighth Virginia Regiment, under sentence of death, as hostages for two Federal officers who were prisoners in Richmond, and whom it was thought would be executed for some retaliatory measure.
Exchanged in the spring of 1864, he returned, to find his young wife and children dead, his beautiful home burned to the ground, his whole estate devastated and laid waste by the ruthless hand of war; and yet almost his first act on reaching Richmond was to go to Libby Prison, visit the two Federal officers for whom he had been held as hostage, and who, like himself, had been under apprehension of being hung, and shake hands with and congratulate them.
Immediately joining his command, he led his division in every engagement from the Rapidan to Appomattox, where, with his father, the greatest soldier of modern times, he surrendered to the inevitable.
In a letter written by one of the most brilliant cavalry generals of the late war, in speaking of Gen. W.H.F. Lee, he uses this language:
He was a zealous, conscientious, brave, and intelligent soldier, who fully discharged all of his duties. He was one of those safe, sound, judicious officers, and you always felt when you sent instructions to him that they were going to be obeyed promptly and to the letter.
What greater tribute could be paid a soldier?
Having been married to one of the most accomplished ladies in Virginia, Miss Bolling, of Petersburg (who, with two sons, survives him) he removed in 1874 to Ravensworth, and was the next year elected to the senate of Virginia, where he made an honorable record.
He was elected to the Fiftieth and Fifty-first Congresses, and served his State with that fidelity which had characterized his every act through life—faithful, conscientious, and painstaking—ever alert to the interests of his constituents and seeking only how he could serve them.
He was again reëlected to the Fifty-second Congress, and though by the will of Divine Providence he was not permitted to take his seat, he will ever be held in grateful remembrance by his late constituents, and when the long roll of Virginia's noble and heroic dead is called, the name of William H. Fitzhugh Lee will be mourned by his mother Commonwealth as one of her noblest and truest sons.
In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, I shall read, as the most fitting tribute I have seen, an editorial from the Alexandria Gazette written the day after the death of Gen. Lee:
Gen. William Henry Fitzhugh Lee, second son of Gen. Robert Edward Lee, is dead. The bells here tolled late yesterday evening. A few hours before the general had crossed over the river and was at rest under his roof tree at Ravensworth, the southern sun lighted his deathbed and the autumn breeze sang his requiem. Afterlife's fitful fever he sleeps well. He was sick a long time, and as his disease was incurable, death was a relief. No more pain for him now, but the long and peaceful sleep of the just. His sorrowing family were at his bedside, but he told them not good-bye, preferring to greet them when they shall rejoin him in a better world. His death is regretted by all the many who knew him; the more so by those who knew him well.
Gen. Lee, like his father, was naturally quiet and retiring, and in his intercourse with others, when right and principle were not involved, invariably acted in accordance with the rule of noblesse oblige, but when they were involved he was as firm in support of his convictions as any other man could be. He stood foursquare to all the winds that blow, but always with the propriety that characterizes the perfect gentleman. He did his duty to his God, his family, his State, and his country, and did it well, and executed faithfully all the trusts committed to him in both military and civil life. He liked the old manners and customs of Virginia, but tried to conform to the new order of things with becoming grace, and did so with no audible complaint and no useless repinings. He served his State efficiently in her senate and in the national Congress, and in the Confederate army he filled, by merited promotion, every position from captain up to major-general of cavalry. It was different once, but Virginia can ill-afford to part with such a man now, and in his death, as in that of his illustrious father, she has lost a true and gallant son, who when not on duty was as gentle as a woman. Her fame has been increased by having had such a son. May she have many more; like him.
Address of Mr. Edmunds, of Virginia
Mr. Speaker: It is not my purpose to attempt any extended remarks upon the life and character of Gen. William H.F. Lee, late a Representative from the Eighth Congressional district of Virginia, yet I can not permit this occasion to pass and my hand and heart to fail to pay my humble tribute to his memory. Gen. Lee's life had been spent after manhood in arms or as a tiller of the soil. In early life he saw military service as lieutenant in the Sixth Regiment, United States Infantry, and was with Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston in the expedition in 1858 against the Mormons.
Resigning from the Army, he returned to his native State of Virginia and engaged in the pursuit of agriculture. Early in the late civil struggle he raised a cavalry company, and rose from the position of company commander to that of major-general, and followed the cause in which he had enlisted until the end at Appomattox. There two great military chieftains met, and one, his illustrious father, gave up to the other his sword and the mutilated remnant of an army which had fought with the utmost bravery and fortitude under a leader of unsurpassed skill and fidelity.
Gen. Lee, after the struggle had ended, resuming his citizenship in peace, returned to his farm and occupation of agriculture.
He was elected by his people from his senatorial district to the legislature. He served one term in the senate of Virginia and declined a renomination. He was afterwards elected from the Eighth Congressional district of his State to the Fiftieth and Fifty-first Congresses and again returned by his constituency to the present Congress; but the hand of death interposed, and he did not live to again take his seat in this legislative hall.
The name of Lee, Mr. Speaker, has been an illustrious one in Virginia. No one can with safety challenge the assertion that that old Commonwealth has furnished, from the time of the Revolution, as many great men, in peace and in war, as any of the States of our Union. When the foundations of this great Republic were laid and constitutional principles evolved, whether the sword of the warrior or the mind and philosophy of the statesman were needed, you will find the marks and handiwork of some son of that State.
Among those great men the ancestry of Gen. Lee were conspicuous. He inherited from his great father a disposition that was frank, manly, and chivalrous. Although with these distinguished surroundings, Gen. Lee had no undue pride, reserve, or self-assertion. His nature, on the contrary, was eminently amiable, generous, and sympathetic, and at the same time he was dignified, manly, brave, and ever courteous.
Identified with the agricultural interests of his State, at one time president of the State society, and himself a practical and successful farmer and proud of his occupation, he mingled freely and congenially with that great class of our citizens upon whose shoulders repose in great measure the preservation and safety of the institutions of our common country. While he was especially devoted to the interests of the farmer, he was essentially a patriot, and loved his State and all its diverse interests with an enthusiastic devotion and yearned for her prosperity.
He was a faithful, able, and vigilant Representative, and had in the greatest degree the confidence of his constituents and the people of his entire State. No one who ever knew him could fail to implicitly trust him. His State has lost a pure and noble son; the country a wise, conservative, and faithful Representative. We who knew him here can recall his manly robust form, his genial kindly face, his frank accessible address, his unfailing gentleness of manner, his cheerful friendly voice, as he walked along the aisles of this Hall.
A man of his character and bearing could but wield an influence for good wherever his presence was.
In a republic, where the people are the state, the advice, the suggestions, and the example of a citizen so high-minded and incorruptible are of great value not only in the councils of the nation, but in the everyday walks and details of life, in his beautiful rural home, surrounded by and mingling with his country people; and it was ever the pleasure and practice of Gen. Lee to associate freely and unrestrainedly with the great body of the people. His generous and noble heart had a sympathetic touch with them and their struggles, their callings, their work.
But he has passed from us under the decree of the great Master to the great hereafter, leaving the record of a life of singular purity, directness of purpose, and freedom from guile; the record of a character unblurred, untarnished, unshadowed by the least stain; the record of a man high, noble, honorable, faithful to all the duties and relations of life.
Mr. Speaker, Virginia, one of the oldest of the Commonwealths, within whose borders lie the remains of many great names, and the energies and reserved forces of whose people in times gone by have risen to great heights, receives to her bosom her dead son and bows with sincere grief over his grave; for to her, whether her hand wore the mailed gauntlet or followed the gentler pursuits of peace, he had ever been faithful, loyal, and true.
Address of Mr. Tucker, of Virginia
Mr. Speaker: I shall leave to others the task of portraying the life of Gen. Lee in its diversified pursuits, and shall content myself with the effort of giving to the House my conception of some of the characteristics of our deceased friend which made him throughout his life, wherever placed, a conspicuous actor in private and public affairs.
In the early period of Virginia's history lived William Randolph, of Turkey Island (a plantation some 15 or 20 miles from the city of Richmond, near the scene of the terrific battle of Malvern Hill). He was the ancestor of all of that name in Virginia, and from him was descended in direct line Thomas Jefferson, John Marshall, and Robert E. Lee; the last-named the father of our departed friend. How could he have manifested in his life less patriotism, justice, and courage with such exemplars of these virtues ever before him?
His mother, as is well known, was a descendant from the wife of Gen. Washington by her prior marriage with John Parke Custis. Sprung from such a lineage; trained in a school where the amenities of life as well as "the humanities" were taught in their highest excellence, he practiced from his earliest childhood a scrupulous regard for the rights and feelings of others, and an indulgence to all faults except his own.
With a self-control and equipoise which were never disturbed under the most trying circumstances, and a graciousness of manner which broke down all barriers, giving to the humblest as well as to the highest the assurance of his friendly consideration, and a mind well disciplined by education in the highest schools, it was impossible that he could have been other than a man of mark and influence in his State.
It is not claiming too much to say that Gen. Lee was the natural product of the civilization existing in Virginia during his boyhood and early manhood, which, alas, except here and there in certain localities, is fast passing away. The home, not the club, was its center; the family, not each "new-hatched, unfledged comrade," its unit. The father was the head of the family, not the joint tenant with the wife of a house nor the tenant at will of his wife. The wife and the mother was the queen of the household, not merely a housekeeper for a husband and the family. Obedience to those in authority was the first lesson exacted of the boy. Inculcated with tenderness, it was enforced with severity, if need be, until the word of the father or the expressed wish of the mother carried with it the force of law as completely as the decree of a court or the mandate of a king.
Reverence for superiors in age and deference to all, rather than arrogant self-assertion, was magnified as a cardinal virtue, not as teaching humility and enforcing a lack of proper self-respect, but rather to exalt high ideals and stimulate an admiration for "the true, the beautiful, and the good."
Fidelity to truth, the maintenance of personal honor, deference for the opinions and feelings of others, without abating one's own or aggressively thrusting them on others; a kindliness of manner to dependents, a knightly courtesy to all, but with special and tender regard in thought, word, and action toward woman, were in turn patiently taught in all the lessons of the fireside and at the family altar, and earnestly insisted upon in the formation of the character of a true gentleman. "Any man will be polite to a beautiful young woman, but it takes a gentleman to show the same respect to a homely old woman" was the stinging rebuke of a father to his son who failed to remove his hat in passing a forlorn old woman on the public highway.
The old-field school, the private tutor, the high school, whose excellence in Virginia I can not praise too much, the college, the university, led the young mind by easy stages to its full intellectual maturity.
Nowhere was the principle "Sana mens in sano corpore" more scrupulously taught than in Virginia. The rod and stream, the gun, the "hounds and horns," the chase, with the music of the pack, the bounding steed, all lent their ready aid in developing the physical manhood of the boy. In the pure atmosphere of his country home, amid its broad fields and virgin forests, contracted houses in narrow streets had no charms for him. To join the chase was the first promotion to which the boy looked as evidencing his permanent release from the nursery. The gun and dog became his constant companions, while "Old Betsey," his father's trusted double-barreled gun of many years' usage, standing in the sitting-room corner or hanging on stag-horns or dog-wood forks on the side of the wall, was the eloquent subject of nightly rehearsals of her prowess and power in the annual deer hunt "over the mountains." Skill in horsemanship was essential, and breaking colts was naturally followed by broken limbs; but manhood found a race of trained horsemen, both graceful and skillful in the saddle, unexcelled, I dare venture to assert, by any civilized people. A child of nature, the Virginia boy communed with her as his mother, and from her purest depths drew the richest inspirations. To him no mountains were so blue as hers, no streams so clear, no forests so enchanting, no homes so sweet.
While others hailed in distant skies the glories of the Union
He only saw the mountain bird stoop o'er his Old Dominion.
How vividly the picture comes to me now (never to be effaced) of a learned professor in one of Virginia's highest schools, himself three-score years and ten, a soldier of two wars, as he led the way through a quiet Virginia town on horseback, followed by two sons, distinguished ministers of the gospel, and they in turn by a younger son and the grandson of the leader, with a goodly train of friends, amid the blasts of horns and baying of hounds, who followed, eager for the chase among the beautiful hills which surrounded the town of Lexington, even as the mountains stand "round about Jerusalem."
Religion—the duty of man to his Creator, not sectarianism—was scrupulously taught, and Sunday morning found the family alive in preparations for attending religious service at Zion or Trinity, as it might happen to be the first or the fourth Sunday of the month. From this duty none were exempt from the least to the greatest. The pastor was the friend on whom all troubles both temporal and spiritual were cast, and his visits were long remembered and talked of in the life of each family. Deference to his wishes and reverence for his character were well-nigh universal.
A man he was to all the country dear,
And passing rich with forty pounds a year;
Remote from towns he ran his godly race,
Nor e'er had changed, nor wished to change his place.
Unskillful he to fawn, or seek for power,
By doctrines fashioned to the varying hour;
Far other aims his heart had learned to prize,
More bent to raise the wretched than to rise.
Such was the atmosphere in which our deceased friend was reared. He was a trustee in the venerable institution of Washington and Lee University at Lexington, Va., founded by Gen. Washington, and presided over by Gen. Robert E. Lee during the last years of his life; he was faithful to the trust, and ever watchful of the best interests of the school. The loss sustained by this institution in his death has been most fittingly expressed in the appended minute of the faculty of the university, adopted on the 19th of October, 1891:
At a meeting of the faculty of Washington and Lee University, held October 19, 1891, the following minute was adopted:
Upon the announcement of the death of Gen. W.H.F. Lee the faculty of Washington and Lee University unite in sorrowful sympathy with his family, bereaved of husband, father, and brother; with the Commonwealth in the loss of a patriotic citizen; and with the board of trustees of this university, of which he was an esteemed member.
He was graduated at Harvard for the life of a civilian, but took a commission in the United States Army as lieutenant, and served with fidelity to duty under Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston in the Utah expedition of 1858.
At its close he resigned and returned to his country home, where he continued to live until 1861, when he entered the Confederate army, and, rising by rapid promotion to the rank of major-general of cavalry, closed his efficient and faithful military career in 1865, when he again returned to country life, and died at the seat of his ancestors, at Ravensworth, in Fairfax County.
In the mean time his private life was interrupted by the voice of his people, which called him to their service in the senate of Virginia and for three terms as their Representative in Congress, two of which he completed, and left the vacancy in the third by his untimely death.
Truth, honor, and courage to do good and to resist evil, sincerity in all relations and fidelity to all duty, were heirlooms of his race and lineage, which he kept and left untarnished to his posterity.
With a mind strong and vigorous, a judgment sound and well-poised, a calm and self-contained temper, which impelled him to the right and restrained him from the wrong, and a moral sense which guided and controlled his purposes and his actions along the path of absolute rectitude, he lived a life adorned by noble virtues and filled with noble deeds. Gentle but firm, decided, and fixed in his convictions, but respectful and deferential to those of others, he was a model of all the splendid qualities which make up the character of a courteous and Christian gentleman.
In addition to all these natural gifts his convictions led him to the profession and practice of a simple and genuine faith in the religion of Christ.
After an honorable military and civil career, in the peace of God and in charity with his fellow-men, this worthy son of an illustrious family died the death of the righteous and in the hope of immortality through Him in whom he believed and trusted.
The faculty therefore declare—
That they have heard of the death of Gen. Lee with deep sorrow, and mourn it as a calamity to his family, his friends, his country, and to this university.
That they tender to his family these expressions of their affectionate esteem for him as a personal friend as well as for his service as a public man, and their sincere sympathy with them in their peculiar and irreparable bereavement.
A copy. Teste:Jno. L. Campbell,Clerk of the Faculty.
An intimate association with Gen. Lee in the Fifty-first Congress and as members of the board of trustees of Washington and Lee University at Lexington, Va., and in private life, enabled me to form a just estimate of his character and of those personal qualities of head and heart that made him beloved by all who really knew him. While they have been well expressed in the foregoing minute, I may add from my own observations a brief summary of his noble character. His mind was eminently practical, and arrived at its conclusions more from an unerring instinct of justice and common sense than through the exacting processes of logic. His judgment was rarely at fault, for his intellect was not swerved by passion or prejudice, but was held in perfect equipoise to receive the truth on both sides of every question. His deference to the opinions of others and his caution in seeking the views of those on whose discretion he relied suggested to some who did not know him that he was hesitating in temperament. This was not true. He sought all the light possible on every subject patiently and earnestly, and when he arrived at his conclusion no man adhered to it more tenaciously or enforced it more earnestly.
As a speaker, Gen. Lee possessed many of the attributes of the orator, a gift inherited from his grandfather, Light-Horse Harry Lee. He was graceful in delivery, persuasive in manner, and forcible in argument.
His diction was pure, unpretentious, and simple. His speeches were often embellished with references to ancient and modern history and mythology with which he seemed to be very familiar.
Dutifulness, I believe, was the most prominent trait of his character. It was the star by which his life was guided. Once persuaded that a certain measure or a certain line of policy was right, and he was unflinchingly firm in its support. No burden was too heavy, no privation too severe, if only they were borne along the path of duty.
He exemplified in his life the noble utterance of his distinguished father: "Duty is the sublimest word in the English language."
In politics he was a Democrat, but not a partisan, and he firmly believed that the supremacy of his party was necessary for the good of the country and the welfare of the people. His patriotism was exalted, and his faith in the ultimate triumph of the right never wavered.
His manly appearance, his gracious but dignified manner, his courtly bearing and pleasing conversation marked him as a gentleman of the "old school," as one of nature's noblemen.
Any sketch of Gen. Lee would indeed be imperfect that failed to mention his love for little children, and his friends will never fail to recall the tender interest he always manifested in the children of their families, especially in the youngest.
His life, Mr. Speaker, was a truly noble one. It was on the highest plane. His character had no spot or blemish upon it that sweet charity would now consign to oblivion, but it was robust, well-rounded, and symmetrical, open as day. His ambition was not to attain but to deserve the praise of the good, and that higher benediction, to be pronounced by the final Judge of the world: "Well done, good and faithful servant; enter thou into the joys of thy Lord."
He was an earnest believer in the Christian faith. The abstruse doctrines of the church formed no part of his creed. His faith was in the Christ the Saviour of mankind; a faith which illumined his pathway in life, lightening his burdens, exalting his nature, and which sustained him without fear when he met the last enemy of the race as he walked through "the valley of the shadow of death." It was the faith of a little child—
An assured belief
That the procession of our fate, howe'er
Sad or disturbed, is ordered by a Being
Of infinite benevolence and power,
Whose everlasting purposes embrace
All accidents, converting them to good.
His funeral and burial, Mr. Speaker, will never be forgotten by those who witnessed it. The autumn sun was fast sinking behind the bright curtain of the west, bathing "the mellow autumn fields" of Old Virginia with its purple hues. Untrumpeted by official authority, scores of friends from city, town, village, farm, and cabin gathered at Ravensworth to pay the last sad honor to their beloved friend. White and colored, rich and poor, high and low, soldiers, citizens, and statesmen, all were there.
His body was borne from the house to the ivy-clad family graveyard by the sturdy yeomanry of the neighborhood. In the presence of that vast throng, with uncovered heads, his comrades, who had followed him on many a hard-fought battlefield, performed the last sad rites, and with their own hands filled his grave and planted upon it the "immortelles" of their affection and devotion. Faces that never blanched amid the storm of battle paled; hearts that never quailed in the presence of an enemy broke in the presence of the last enemy of us all, and the silent, pitiless tear which fell from the eye was hidden by the lengthening shadows of the evening, which were fast gathering round the scene.
Beloved friend, farewell and hail!
Removed from sight, yet not afar,
Still through this earthly twilight veil
Thou beamest down, a friendly star.
The prophet's blessing comes to thee,
The crown he holds to view is thine;
Forever more thy memory
In heaven and in our hearts shall shine.
Address of Mr. O'Ferrall, of Virginia
Mr. Speaker: These occasions of tribute-offering in this Hall never fail to impress me with extreme sadness, increase my awe and reverence of Him who holds in the hollow of His hand every moment we live and every breath we draw, and teach me the lesson of our mortality.
These scenes have become very familiar to me, and their frequency reminds me with terrible force that—
All that lives must die,
Passing through nature to eternity.
Most naturally am I more than usually touched and pained by the death of him which now hangs its somber drapery around the walls of our hearts and casts its pall over this Chamber. It is a death within the representative circle of which I am a member. It is the death of a colleague, a friend, whose presence in that circle always brought sunshine and never shadow.
Tributes to his memory, clothed in language of beauty and breathing with love and burning with pathos, have already been paid, and others will follow; and now, while I can not hope to charm with the tongue of eloquence or touch the soul with the figures of rhetoric, I come with my tribute.
It will be plain and unadorned, but it will at least have the merit of sincerity, and, like the widow's mite, be all that I can give.
William Henry Fitzhugh Lee, of Virginia, is no more.
How the name of Lee, whenever uttered, wherever chivalry has erected her altar, sends a thrill like an electric current through every fiber of the manly man.
How the name of Virginia has been upon every tongue since Queen Elizabeth, nearly three centuries ago, gave that name to that section around which to-day historic memories linger and traditions and glories cluster as thick "as the stars in the crown of night," the section where Christopher Newport and his devoted followers "builded an altar unto the Lord and in the savage wilderness" deposited the germ of this mighty nation, "and where God blessed them as He blessed Noah and his sons, saying unto them, 'The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered.'"
Virginia! The land of legends and lays—the land where the cradle of republican liberty was rocked, and where, in 1765, the first denial was heard of the right of the British Parliament to levy taxes upon the Colonies which kindled the fire of patriotic fervor and led to the ever-living, soul-inspiring words of her Henry and the raising up of her Jefferson to heights of imperishable fame and her Washington to the pinnacle of everlasting renown.
Virginia! The land of battlefields and battle gore, colonial relics and Revolutionary monuments, spotless fame and unsullied honor; the land of patriot soldiers and heroes, and of a Yorktown, where the tyrant's head was bruised and the glorious strife ended which struck from our fathers the fetters and gave to them and their posterity a country gleaming in the golden sunlight of republican liberty, and throwing wide open her gates to the oppressed of every clime.
Virginia! The land of mountains, upon whose summits and in whose gorges the spirit of freedom roams unfettered and unconquerable; the land of valleys, which are hung like alcoved aisles with scenes of heroism and pictures of daring, self-sacrifice, and devotion to principle; the land of rivers and rivulets, which reflect like mirrors the fields upon which her blood has been poured out like water upon the ground; the land of zephyrs and breezes, and where the storm king sometimes dwells, gently murmuring or in thunder tones proclaiming her glories and her fame; the land of blue beautiful skies, radiant with the virtues of her daughters and bespangled with the deeds of her sons; the land of memorials of the past, that inspire the Virginia youth, whether born in poverty or in riches, reared in the cottage humble or in the mansion stately, with a patriotism that knows not section and yet a State love that knows not bounds.
It was in this land that Richard Henry Lee, the fire and splendor of whose eloquence burned like a hot iron into the soul of tyranny, and Francis Lightfoot Lee, both of them signers of the Declaration of Independence, were born; it was in this land that Arthur Lee, through whose instrumentality the Colonies secured the friendship and support of France, and "Light-Horse Harry" Lee, whose legion following his plume, struck the enemy in the bivouac, on the march, in the lurid glare of battle, on the flank, and in the front like a thunderbolt from the skies, were born. It was in this land that Robert Edward Lee, whose services on the fields of Mexico decked his brow with the warrior's laurel, and whose leadership of the Confederate armies in the unfortunate strife between the States made his name immortal, and whose virtues shine with the brilliancy of a polished diamond, wreath his character in moral grandeur, and draw pæans and praises from friend and foe and from every clime where exalted manhood and a spotless life find devotees, was born; and it was in this land that William Henry Fitzhugh Lee, whose memory we are here to perpetuate, was born—all, all of the same lineage and blood.
What a line of illustrious and distinguished men of one name for one State to produce. What a line of illustrious men to spring from the old cavalier family that under the reign of Charles I settled in the county of Northumberland, between the waters of the Rappahannock and Potomac, since glorified by the pen of the historian and the lyre of the poet.
William Henry Fitzhugh Lee! How sweet does that name sound to me. What recollections does it awaken. How quickly do I find my heart throbbing; how rapidly my blood rushes through its channels.
Less than a twelvemonth ago he sat in yon seat or moved hither and thither about this Hall and along these passageways, pausing here and there to speak a pleasant word or exchange a friendly greeting. His tall and commanding person, his open, frank, and benevolent face and courtly bearing marked him among the membership of this House, and would have marked him in any assemblage, whether in the glittering splendor of royalty or in the plain dignity of our republican institutions. To see him once was to remember him forever. His image is as distinct before me this moment as if he stood in the flesh with his eye beaming forth the goodness of his nature and his hand outstretched, as was his wont, to receive mine.
Mr. Speaker, his illustrious father, when the shadows of Appomattox closed round him, when the darkness of defeat enveloped him, when his soul was rent and torn and his mind was filled with anguish and his ragged and tired and worn veterans, reduced to a mere thin skirmish line, the remnant of an army that had shed unfading luster upon the American arms and the American soldier, gathered with tear-moistened cheeks about him to bid him farewell and receive his blessing, gave utterance to a sentiment just quoted by my colleague [Mr. Tucker], a sentiment as grand and noble as was ever written upon any Roman tablet or carved upon any column of enduring marble that was ever reared in the flood light of glory:
Duty is the sublimest word in our language.
Yes, Mr. Speaker, thus spoke Robert Edward Lee, the soldier, hero, Christian, and philanthropist: and when we come to study the life and character of William Henry Fitzhugh Lee we are impressed with the fact that he took duty as his talismanic word, that it was the star that guided him, and that he followed it as faithfully as the "wise men" followed the Star from "the East" to Jerusalem and thence to Bethlehem.
We believe that in his youth, on the heights of Arlington, where his eyes first opened upon the light, he learned at his father's knee and by his father's daily walk and conversation the great lesson of duty which steered his course and pointed out his pathway in life.
He was born, as has been said, on the 31st day of May, 1837. In 1857 he was appointed a second lieutenant in the Sixth Regiment of United States Infantry, and served in 1858 in the then far West under Albert Sidney Johnston, whose fame Shiloh echoes and reëchoes along the banks of the Tennessee. In 1859 he resigned his commission in the Army and returned to Virginia and located on his estate in the county of New Kent. In 1861, when the Southern tocsin sounded and Virginia's voice was heard calling for troops, he raised a cavalry company and joined the Army of Northern Virginia. He rose gradually from captain to major-general of cavalry; was wounded in the terrific engagement between the Confederate and Federal cavalry at Brandy Station on the 9th day of June, 1863; was captured at Hanover Court-House, and was confined at Fort Monroe and Fort Lafayette until March, 1864, when he was exchanged, and repaired to his command, and served until the flag which he loved was furled forever at Appomattox.
From that time forward he cultivated his large estate with much care, serving one term in the senate of his State, declining a renomination. In 1886 he was elected to the Fiftieth Congress from the Eighth Congressional district of Virginia, and again in 1888 to the Fifty-first Congress, and still again in 1890 to the present Congress.
It was my privilege and pleasure to form his acquaintance in the army and to watch his flashing blade amid the carnage of battle, observe his cool courage and intrepid bearing and the love and confidence of his men upon more than one sanguinary field. He was as calm when the leaden hail was rattling and as cool when the shells were shrieking and bursting as he was upon this floor. He was a leader, not a follower of his men; if they went into the jaws of death, he was at their head. He fared as his men fared; if their haversacks were empty, his was empty; if they laid down in the mud, he laid there too; if they sweltered in the summer heat or shivered in the winter blast, he sweltered or shivered too; and thus it was he kindled in the breasts of his men intense love for himself and secured their implicit confidence in his leadership.
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