Was Robert E. Lee an "honorable man"?

Was Robert E. Lee an "honorable man"?

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White House Chief of Staff John Kelly set off a firestorm when he claimed the “lack of an ability to compromise led to the Civil War" and called Confederate general Robert E. Lee "an honorable man." Critics like Ta-Nahesi Coates blasted Kelly's statement as shameful and racist historical revisionism. Kelly's defenders say we can't judge history through a modern lens, but others insist we have every right to judge a slaveowner who led a bloody rebellion. What do you think? 

The Votes Are In!

Ta-Nahesi Coates called out Kelly's characterization of Lee and the Civil War as an insulting and racist distortion of the truth. 

Praising Bobby Lee as an honorable man is just sad. Like some kid insisting his deadbeat dad is actually a secret agent away on a mission... Lee wasn't some agnostic pressed into War. He was a dude who thought torture was cool.

But many Southerners still revere the Confederate general.

Millions of Americans agree with Kelly's assessment of the Confederate leader, whose name emblazons streets, parks, schools, monuments and memorials all across the country.

As a general, Robert E. Lee was admired by those who fought for and against him. 
He was, in short, the consummate Southern gentleman, a pious Christian, and a model of dignity, perseverance, loyalty, humility, and gallantry.

Others say it is time for the tradition of veneration to end. Lee owned slaves and his abuse of them is documented. He fought to keep millions of human beings in chains. Enough with the romanticizing.

At the Washington Times, Cheryl K. Chumley said Kelly's assessment of Lee was brave, and argues that the Confederate General is "...part of [America's] national identity, and his service of honor and courage, challenging and conflicting as it is, should not be destroyed and tossed to the trash."

Others say people at the highest levels of our government should not be promoting discredited mythologies of American history.

Adam Serwer says the cult of personality around a decent and honorable General Lee is based on fiction.

To describe this man as an American hero requires ignoring the immense suffering for which he was personally responsible, both on and off the battlefield. It requires ignoring his participation in the industry of human bondage, his betrayal of his country in defense of that institution.
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