Recollections and Letters of General Robert E. Lee

Chapter XVII: The Reconstruction Period: His moral influence in the college

The Document

"Nor was it a moral influence alone that he exerted in the college. He was equally careful of the intellectual interests. He watched the progress of every class, attended all the examinations, and strove constantly to stimulate both professors and students to the highest attainments. The whole college, in a word, felt his influence as an ever-present motive, and his character was quietly but irresistibly impressed upon it, not only in the general working of all its departments, but in all the details of each. Of this influence General Lee, modest as he was, was perfectly aware, and, like a prudent ruler, he husbanded it with wise economy. He preferred to confine his direct interposition to purely personal acts, and rarely--and then only on critical occasions--did he step forward to present himself before the whole body of students in the full dignity of his presidential office. On these occasions, which in the latter years hardly ever occurred, he would quietly post an address to the students, in which, appealing only to the highest principals of conduct, he sought to dissuade them from threatened evil. The addresses, which the boys designated as his 'general orders,' were always of immediate efficacy. No single case ever occurred in which they failed of instant and complete effect; and no student would have been tolerated by his fellow-students who would have dared to disregard such an appeal from General Lee." [Professor Joynes in "University Monthly".]

Next: Playful humour shown in his letters

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How to cite this article

Lee, Robert E. jr., The Recollections & Letters of Robert E. Lee,, webpage created by Rickard, J (8 June 2006),

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