Jim Moran (D) calls Bobby Lee a patriot.

Oh, how I will get yelled at for this.

[UPDATE]: Welcome, Instapundit readers. You may find this lighter fare on vamprirism studies amusing.

I understand that the PMA thing requires a distraction; but this?

In each case, Alexandria demonstrated the kind of courage and patriotism that can be traced to the city’s roots as the home town of George Washington and Robert E. Lee.

“Courage” I will grant for General Lee, readily enough. I even think that he did what he thought was the right thing. However, speaking as someone whose home states contributed the 69th New York Infantry, the 1st New Jersey Brigade, and the 9th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry to the Army of the Potomac… I feel that we should reserve the designation of “patriotism” for those individuals who, generally speaking, do not enter into armed rebellion against the duly constituted government of the United States of America.

Although I must admit: it almost obscures the fact that the man has just volunteered his Congressional District to hold a bunch of vicious terrorists indefinitely. As I said before, that’s one heck of a distraction.

Moe Lane

Crossposted to RedState.


  • Ric Locke says:

    One of the problems we have in combatting moral relativism is that so much of it is relative. Consider Louis L’Amour: “There’s no stopping a man who knows he’s in the right and keeps on coming.” Comforting when you agree with him, less so (!) when he’s coming at you.

    Robert E. Lee was, in sober fact, a patriot. He just wasn’t patriotic on your side. We unReconstructed have much the same opinion of Sherman.


  • Mike says:

    “Oh, how I will get yelled at for this.”

    What Ric said. No wait: WHAT RIC SAID! No, wait: WHAT RIC SAID!!

    There; happy now, Moe? 😉

  • S.E.E. says:

    Really depends on what you think was the patria in question, the United States or the State of Virginia, doesn’t it?

  • old shoe says:

    Ric said…”One of the problems we have in combatting moral relativism is that so much of it is relative.”

    Nice try, Ric, but patently false. Moral relativism is one of the great sicknesses of modern Americans. Bobby Lee knew what he was doing. He knew he was turning his back on his nation to stand with his state. He was a great man, but most certainly not a patriot.

  • truthman says:

    Robert E. Lee was pardoned for his actions during the Civil War. He was quite an extraordinary man and very patriotic to the United States, he made one mistake and did, in fact, publicly acknowledge his regret. It’s all at Washington and Lee University, as well as lots of books.

  • John C. Randolph says:

    Of course Robert E. Lee was a patriot. His duty was to Virginia, and even though he didn’t want Virginia to secede, once his state had done so it was his duty to do whatever he could to defend Virginia against northern invaders.


  • Letalis Maximus, Esq. says:

    Well, I have three portraits hanging on the wall in my office. General Sherman, General Patton, and Charleton Heston.

    Robert E. Lee? Not so much.

  • Del Simmons says:

    He was certainly a Virginia patriot. And back then, affiliation with your home state carried even more weight, for most people, than affiliation with these United States did.

  • James says:

    To the extent that the secessionists were justified in taking a certain view of the Constitution (i.e. that it allowed for secession), then fighting for that view was most certainly patriotic – and, in a very real way, much less “novel” than Lincoln’s calling the army to put down the then-peaceful secession. In that way, Lee was a patriot.

    Moreover, to the extent that patriotism refers to loyalty and duty to one’s homeland, and as it is well established that the bulk of Americans in the mid-nineteenth century thought of their own states (or municipalities) as their “homelands”, then it cannot be doubted that it was Lee’s patriotic duty to serve his Virginia.

    And, coming from someone whose great-great-grandfather suffered grievous, near-mortal wounds charging Cemetery Ridge under General Kemper, it is still funny to me that the mere mention of a southern figure is so controversial, but yet we have not yet hung in effigy war criminals like President Grant, Gen. Sherman, and Gen. Sheridan. Love or hate the Confederacy, and the modern South, I think it beyond argument that the forces of the CSA by and large fought honorably and followed the Law of War, while those of the North resorted to barbarous acts that, today, easily would make them subject to prosecution domestically or by the ICC.

  • Greg says:

    Slavery was reprehensible, and it is more than unfortunate that it was the principal state’s rights that southern soldiers fought for.

    That being said, there was nothing unconstitutional, unpatriotic, or illegal about a state democratically deciding (in 19th century terms) to leave the duly constituted government, which was only a contract among the various states.

    Since then, the American government has supported the dissolution of many constituted governments when it serves our purpose.

  • Vanda says:

    Prior to the Civil War, people were “citizens” of their states, not of the United States. So one’s aliegence would most appropriately be to thier state. It was not until AFTER the civil war, that people started using the term “US Citizen” I believe.

  • Bubba says:

    Seems to me that Washington took a big hand in an armed rebellion against a duly constituted government…

    and the civil war/war between the states/war of northern agression was more about the southern states fearing a loss of effective participation as they were being steadily outnumbered in the legislature by the more populous northern states.

  • Son of the South says:

    S.E.E. Virginia is a Commonwealth, not a State.

    LM, Esq.: Patton would have served (by choice) in the CSA during the war of Northern Aggression. It’s hard to imagine a flag officer that hated central authority (i.e., federal power) more than Patton. Send my your address and I’ll send you a beautiful engraving of R. E. Lee from Christ Church, in my city of birth – Alexandria. You can use it to replace that repulsive war criminal Sherman.

  • Jake says:

    Are you people serious? Let it go.

    The COMMONWEALTH of Pennsylvania

  • Olaf says:

    Lee was a patriot–as was Hideki Tojo–but not to the United States. To call Lee an *American* patriot rather eviscerates the term of it’s actual meaning. Who’s next? Hans Haupt? (Bona-fides: born and raised in Texas)

  • kelley in virginia says:

    All the men in my family went to Virginia Military Institute so our favorite general was Thomas Jonathan Jackson “Stonewall”. However, since Robert E. Lee was our commander, we view him favorably as well.

  • John F. MacMichael says:

    For those seeking an example of a patriotic Virginian of the Civil War era, I would recommend studying the life of General George Thomas, USA. He kept his oath to “…uphold the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

  • Mike says:

    No foolin’, Moe. Over the years, I’ve found four topics guaranteed to get people’s dander up: the Civil War (or War of Northern Aggression, depending on where you were raised); barbecue (subdivided into Eastern vs Texas, and ketchup- vs vinegar-based sauces; we will leave South Carolina’s mustard-based abomination out of it for the nonce, in order to maintain a higher standard of discussion here); Macs vs PCs; and, in some elite and noble quarters, Fender vs Gibson (vs Gretsch). Most folks usually manage to maintain a sense of humor and perspective on these admittedly very serious matters, but not always.

  • Citizen Grim says:

    I do believe the Union was in the right and the Confederacy was in the wrong, *however,* I also believe Robert E Lee was a patriot.

    If rebelling against the prevailing government disqualifies you from being a patriot, it also disqualifies the Founders for their actions in the American Revolution.

    Of course, this is a silly definition of patriotism. True patriotism is simply a devotion to your homeland, which was Lee’s whole rationale for siding with the Confederacy, anyway – a reluctance to take up arms against fellow Virginians.

    On a side note, Lincoln believed that the Declaration of Independence held greater authority than the Constitution, and many in the Confederacy agreed. To this day, many (myself included) still agree. You uphold the Constitution, but not when the more important values in the Declaration are being infringed upon.

  • David says:

    Lee was a patriot of Virginia before and during the war, and was a patriot of the United States at the end of the war and afterward. His commander in chief, Jefferson Davis, wanted him to continue a guerrilla resistance that could have had the nation bogged down in war for another 20 years but he recognized that it was best for Virginia and for the US that the war end. He surrendered his troops, rejoiced in the end of slavery, and was recognized in both North and South as having done more than anyone else to heal the nation’s wounds after the war.

    So yes, Robert E. Lee was an American patriot.

  • Question says:

    Question: if Lee’s position had been correct, e.g. if the United States federal government had been in the wrong, would he be a patriot or not? Suppose the government was massively and willfully violating the constitution.

    Would it change the answer if he had fought to overthrow the government rather than to secede from it?

    What if his position had been that he was fighting to restore a proper government under the constitution, declaration, and bill of rights?

  • […] Rubin, who also commented on that Jim Moran column I raised an eybrow at earlier, reminds us that the subject has come up before… It seems Jim Moran’s hometown spoke out on […]

  • […] Moe Lane placed an interesting blog post on Jim Moran (D) calls Bobby Lee a patriot.Here’s a brief overviewOh, how I will get yelled at for this. [UPDATE]: Welcome, Instapundit readers . I understand that the PMA thing requires a distraction; but this ? In each case, Alexandria demonstrated the kind of courage and patriotism that can be traced to the city’s roots as the home town of George Washington and Robert E. Lee. “Courage” I will grant for General Lee, readily enough. I even think that he did what he thought was the right thing. However, speaking as someone whose home states co […]

  • Joe Hooker says:

    Speaking of George S. Patton, the original was Col. George S. Patton, CSA, who was mortally wounded in the battle of Winchester on Sept. 19, 1864. His brother Tazwell died at Gettysburg. His grandson? Yeah, I think he did something in WWII.

  • Brian says:


    I’m a northerner, born and raised in a Maine town that has a Joshua Chamberlain Bridge, and which also has a statue of Lincoln’s first VP, Hannibal Hamlin. For the last 16 years I have been a member of the United States Navy. I have held an officer’s commission for 12 of those years. When I hear someone say “the South will rise again,” my response is “What do you mean, again?” Despite all of that, I respect the hell out of Robert E. Lee. He was a man’s man, a consummate gentleman, and the epitome of what an officer should be. I don’t discount the rebellious nature of his choice to side with his native Virginia. But I believe that Lee did what he believed was the right thing to do. In the course of following that path, he fought honorably and valiantly, and he cared about his men and the country they represented. That is all that one can ask of the professional soldier.

  • Mark in Texas says:

    Since Robert E.Lee broke his oath to the United States and committed treason as defined in the Constitution it seems kind of a stretch to call him a patriot.

    Except in this sense.

  • Robert E. Lee was a Southern patriot, or more specifically a Virginia patriot. Citing him as an example of American patriotism generally is inaccurate. Lee was a traitor to the government Jim Moran serves. Moran was simply pandering to unreconstructed Virginians, those who privately discuss the “tyranny” of Abraham Lincoln and who kind of see where J.W. Booth was coming from.

  • BigGator5 says:

    “God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion. The people cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented, in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions, it is lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. … What country before ever existed a century and half without a rebellion? And what country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.”
    Thomas Jefferson

    While the South was wrong on Slavery, they were not wrong in fighting for State Rights over the Federal Government. It corrected a wrong like Thomas Jefferson said it would, but then it created an even bigger wrong. After the Civil War, the Federal Government is now the beginning and end of power in the US. Our founding fathers would be please with the end of slavery, but they are spinning in their graves at the ultimate outcome of the Civil War. General Robert E. Lee was a patriot because he took up arms against what he saw as a oppressive governemt, as did General George Washington!

    You know as well as me, that the Federal Government under Obama is expanding like never before. Recently, Schwarzenegger and state lawmakers cut the wages of unionized home healthcare workers in February as part of the budget which will save California $74 million. California, by it’s own constitution, has to have a balanced budget. Obama has now threaten to rescind stimulus money over the wage cuts. Now the White House is threating the duly constituted government of California. If Schwarzenegger refuses Obama, who would be wrong?

    There is a reason why the founding fathers included the Second Amendment, Moe. LOOK IT UP!

  • Peter Shalen says:

    truthman: He “acknowledged his regret.” For being in large part responsible for what was the bloodiest war up to that time in the history of the world.

    It reminds me of Seymour Krelboynd’s final line in the old Roger Corman movie, “The Little Shop of Horrors”: “I didn’t mean it!”

  • tiger7_88 says:

    “… the 1st New Jersey Brigade, and the 9th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry…”

    You did notice what you wrote yourself, didn’t you, Moe?

    So YOUR forefathers were “patriotic” for lining up and volunteering for THEIR states, but the state of Virginia’s forefathers were not?

    Could you post your sliding scale so that others may understand it?

    • Moe_Lane says:

      Actually, according to family legend my ancestors weren’t patriotic at all. Mind you, we’re talking about by the British crown’s definition, which is why my paternal grandfather always laughed when I talked about tracing my family genealogy. Let’s just say that most of my ancestors had a vested interest in making sure that the Ellis Island records were thoroughly muddled.

  • Rich Rostrom says:

    At the time of the Civil War, about 13% of Americans were foreign-born. Barely half lived in their state of birth, and most of those were children. Many, like Lincoln and Davis, had moved between states several times in their lives. Of the 33 states that existed, seven were less than 25 years old.

    The notion that a man’s state was his sacred homeland was largely a creation of Southerners who rejected loyalty to any authority that could not be counted on to defend slavery.

  • Michael S. says:

    Hmm, Bobbie Lee, patriot, or rebel? So, Moe, do today’s conservatives consider themselves patriots, or rebels, in their fight against their own government’s totalitarianism when they use the Declaration of Independence, and let’s say, the 9th and 10th amendments to the U.S. Constitution as a basis for their arguments? What if secession became the only means left to accomplish their goal? They lied to you northern boys in 1861. They’re still lying. Time to wake up!

  • Mitch H. says:

    Lee would have had a lot more credibility with his “son of Virginia” routine if he hadn’t been a lifelong Whig and Unionist, with all that implied about loyalty to the Constitution and the Union. He was happy as a pig in shit so long as that meant playing civil engineer, waging war on brown people, or shooting down insurrectionary abolitionists. But in the end, all that palaver about oaths and honor and service was as nothing before his amour propre and his class interests as a slaveowning aristocrat. No, I’m not a big fan of the “Marble Man”.

  • Richard of Oregon says:

    Jim Moran appealing to his base? Otherwise inconprehensible.

  • Locomotive Breath says:

    Every time you feel the Federal Government’s hand in your pocket, or otherwise intrude in your life, you should wish that Lee had won. The Fed’s intervention to correct a great wrong opened the door for the Fed to intervene in your life whenever the hell they feel like it.

  • Scot E. says:

    This is a classic case of he who wins gets to write the history. We think of Washington as a patriot; the British considered him a rebel, and would have hung him on the spot had they captured him. Had the South won the war between the states, Sherman, Grant, and probably Lincoln could have been tried as war criminals for waging war against civilians. Everyone outside the South seems to buy into the fallacy that the war was about slavery, and everyone who was against the Union was evil by definition. Let’s remember though that the US was truly a Republic then, and this was the event that drew the distinction between loyalty to their sovereign state and loyalty to the union. We forget too easily that Lincoln’s vision of the US had little similarity with the founder’s. In the context in which this country was created, Lee was indeed a patriot. The fact is that Lee was fighting, and very reluctantly, against a tyrannical government that chose to abuse the less populated states of the south through unfair taxes by using the political might of the more heavily populated Northern states. Kind of like saying that Obama and his socialist cronies are more patriotic than the Tea Party protesters who oppose their policies. If you can make that justification, I truly pity you.

  • submandave says:

    It wasn’t until a few years before her death that my grand-ma told me and my dad that the Lee side of her family were related to Bobby. When Dad asked why she never told him before she stated, matter of factly, that some folks were still sore at him and thought he was a traitor for giving up at Appomatox, but she knew he was just doing what was right for all those poor boys he had under him.

    And, Mike, just what do you mean “Eastern vs Texas?” I heard tell that they’ll cook up a beef brisket and call it BBQ in Texas when any self-respecting Southerner knows the phrase “pork barbeque” is simply redundant. Hell, near as I can tell, the Texans invented “beef barbeque” because it is simply impossible to steal a pig while on horseback.

  • Orion says:

    Arlington National Cemetary was built on land expropriated from Lee’s plantation precisely to eternally remind the nation of Lee’s treason. They knew some simpering politician would pull this stunt someday.

  • Locomotive Breath says:

    Orion has been learning victor’s history. This petty revenge action by a single Union officer (Meigs) was eventually ruled illegal when the Supreme Court found for Custis Lee, R.E.’s descendant. The property didn’t even belong to the Lee family but came from the Custis side of the family and had been built by George Washington Parke Custis to be his home and a memorial to George Washington, his step-grandfather.

  • NV Smith says:

    -In another lifetime I was an instructor at the US Army JFK Special Warfare Center. Dealing with other cultures with implicit and most of our classes contained non-US students. On of my classes dealt with views of history; most students stated that covering their nation’s civil wars was a very touchy problem and they were amazed at our open attitudes and near deification of some rebel officers.
    -During the discussions most US students would agree with me that, yes, George Washington probably was a traitor by British standards but when I stated my belief that Robert E. Lee was a greater traitor than Benedict Arnold, lawdy, lawdy, how the fur did fly. The big dogs came down off the porch; collard greens & grits got throwed everywhere and at least one officer of the United States Army would come unglued. More than one US student had to be physically restrained from manually adjusting my attitude.
    -Needless to say this was great stuff for the non-US audience and usually, USUALLY, could be turned into a teaching point for the US students as well. Usually.

  • Mike says:

    Heh. Dave, I ain’t touching that one, buddy. 😉

  • Mike says:

    Mainly because you’re entirely correct, I should add.

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