President Barack Obama cracks a joke regarding Confederate General Robert E. Lee


     According to CNN, last night President Obama got some laughs at a function sponsored by a Washington D.C. social club known as the “Alfalfa Club”. The club’s annual dinner was originally began as a way to celebrate Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s birthday.   Obama was quoted as saying

“I know that many you are aware that this dinner began almost 100 years ago as a way to celebrate the birthday of General Robert E. Lee. If he were here with us tonight, the general would be 202 years old, and very confused.”

     Now, I’m all for the President having a sense of humor but I don’t exactly appreciate him using it to crack jokes at the expense of one of the South’s most beloved and treasured personalities.  President Obama might want to talk to his speech writer  especially when his words can be construed as intending to say that General Lee was a racist and that he might not approve of a black president.  Most likely, Lee would have been gracious in the situation and would have sat quietly and listened to what the President had to say.  He was known for being polite and respectful above all else, something the new president decided not to be last night. 

    Though Lee owned slaves, as did most plantation owners of his time, he was not known as being particularly racist.  He is quoted as saying in a letter to his wife before the war

“… In this enlightened age, there are few I believe, but what will acknowledge, that slavery as an institution, is a moral & political evil in any Country”.

    Lee also freed the slaves that he had “inherited” from Custis Lee before the war instead of attempting to profit by their sale.  Lee also was a proponent of enlisting black soldiers in the Confederate Army saying

“he could make soldiers out of any human being that had arms and legs."

     President Obama might take a chapter from Lee’s life and start giving thought to his actions and words before they fall from his mouth.  Especially when at the expense of someone good portions of his constituents hold near and dear to their hearts.  It is my sincerest hope that these words do not portend a term full of intolerance towards those of Southern Heritage and 4 years full of attempting to tear down the memories of heroes of the Confederacy.

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11 Responses to “President Barack Obama cracks a joke regarding Confederate General Robert E. Lee”

  1. By the way, here is the rest of your quote that you took out of context:
    “ … In this enlightened age, there are few I believe, but what will acknowledge, that slavery as an institution, is a moral & political evil in any Country. It is useless to expatiate on its disadvantages. I think it however a greater evil to the white man than to the black race, & while my feelings are strongly enlisted in behalf of the latter, my sympathies are more strong for the former. The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially & physically. The painful discipline they are undergoing, is necessary for their instruction as a race, & I hope will prepare & lead them to better things. How long their subjugation may be necessary is known & ordered by a wise Merciful Providence. ”

    Freeman's analysis[18] puts Lee's attitude toward slavery and abolition in historical context:
    “ This [letter] was the prevailing view among most religious people of Lee's class in the border states. They believed that slavery existed because God willed it and they thought it would end when God so ruled. The time and the means were not theirs to decide, conscious though they were of the ill-effects of Negro slavery on both races. Lee shared these convictions of his neighbors without having come in contact with the worst evils of African bondage. He spent no considerable time in any state south of Virginia from the day he left Fort Pulaski in 1831 until he went to Texas in 1856. All his reflective years had been passed in the North or in the border states. He had never been among the blacks on a cotton or rice plantation. At Arlington the servants had been notoriously indolent, their master's master. Lee, in short, was only acquainted with slavery at its best and he judged it accordingly. At the same time, he was under no illusion regarding the aims of the Abolitionist or the effect of their agitation.

  2. So maybe a "soft racist", but a racist nonetheless.

  3. By the way, do you think that Germans should sport swastikas in support of their "heritage"?

  4. I'm well aware of the rest of the quote and was not intending to take it out of context. The reason I posted the first portion of the quote was because that was the portion of the quote that dealt with his feelings on the subject as a whole. He goes on to identify with the members of his own race and sympathize with the situation of the slaves. While I believe that slavery as a practice was indeed horrible and unjust, I can see his point of view as a Christian. He believed that slaves being here instead of Africa gave them the benefit of learning his faith and through that they would be led to salvation. While we can now look back at this as a provincial attitude, I believe at the time he felt that their situation would lead them to a Christian Salvation that would have never been found in Africa. While this idea is perhaps misguided, it was a very common perception at the time.

  5. Robert E lee was a racist. Andrew Jackson hated Native Americans. Hitler hated Jews. …Some things are obvious, . And really, what an innocent joke.

  6. Robert E Lee was quite less a racist than most of the white men of his day and certainly less racist than Abraham Lincoln who made his views on the superiority of the white race well known.

  7. I think you are comparing apples and oranges here. I believe that while slavery was a factor in the causes of the War between the States I don't believe it was the primary factor. I believe that the Southern states wish to maintain a Jeffersonian form of government based on states' rights and the subsequent invasion by the Federal Government was the basis of that war. The germans war was quite different as it was primarily about land and revenge. The germans started that war and the subsequent extermination of millions of people. The Confederate flag to me represents a defensive struggle against the aggression of a nation that no longer represented the interests of its people and the forcible occupation of their land. The swastika while it existed long prior to its adoption by the Nazi has come to represent an aggressive, invading, mass murdering force that was looking to expand its influence. (wow, that kind of sounds like the North to me too).

  8. I do not agree that the swastika should be outlawed in any form. Any symbol in and of itself is not an evil thing. Its how something is used that makes it evil which is why I wholeheartedly reject the use of the Confederate flags by those wishing to spread hate.

    If a symbol offends a certain section of society they are free to protest it. I believe those wishing to display a symbol they support should be afforded the right to exercise their freedom of speech.

    Thanks for commenting


  9. Slavery was not the starting factor of the war. General lee and his loyal men were fighting a communist idea called socialism defined in the communist manifesto written by karl marx which he presented to Mr.Lincoln as a gift and Mr. Lincoln based his entire administration on this idea. He used slavery 2 yrs after the start of the war so france and england would nolonger consider the confederacy as a soveirgn nation. Also if the war was about slavery why did lincoln exclude the 4 union states that had slaves from his emancipation proclamation?

  10. General Lee was no more a racist than Obama is.

  11. I hate to even start as I am an avid supporter of the South, Lee, Ole Pete and anyone but Bragg, but Todd is semi correct if you read the entire letter that you are quoting from you will find Lee (Now here is the important part) like the Northerners and Southerners alike felt slavery was necessary and beneficial. Why people do this (cut and paste- like the picture of black Confederate soldiers that are really yankees) I don't know, just tell the truth it makes him no less the man we love and respect. When I proved he owned slaves and Grant had freed his before the war you would have thought I had kidnapped someones kids. I don't see where either fact changes anything.

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