Saturday, November 26, 2016

Robert E. Lee thinks Virginia would be better without African Americans


From the “Report of the Joint Committee on Reconstruction,” of congress, pages 135-136, testimony of Robert E. Lee before the Congressional Joint Committee on Reconstruction in response to questions by Mr. Blow, on February 17, 1866. Blow is asking all the questions and Robert E. Lee is giving all the answers.

By Mr. Blow:

Question. Has there been any considerable change in the number of the negro population?

Answer. I suppose it has diminished, but I do not know.

Question. Diminished in consequences of more negroes going south than was made up by the natural increase?

Answer. My general opinion is that the number has diminished and for the reason you give.

Question. I suppose that the mass of the negroes in Virginia, at the present time, are able to work; that there are not many helpless ones among them?

Answer. There are helpless ones, certainly, but I do not know to what extent.

Question. What is your opinion about its being an advantage to Virginia to keep them there at all. Do you not think that Virginia would be better off if the colored population were to go to Alabama, Louisiana, and the other southern States?

Answer. I think it would be better for Virginia if she could get ride of them. That is no new opinion with me. I have always thought so, and have always been in favor of emancipation—gradual emancipation.

Question. As a matter of labor alone, do you not think that the labor which would flow into Virginia, if the negroes left it for the cotton States, would be far more advantageous to the State and to its future prosperity?

Answer. I think it would be for the benefit of Virginia, and I believe that everybody there would be willing to aid it.

Question. And do you not think it is peculiarly adapted to the quality of labor which would flow into it, from its great natural resources, in case it was made more attractive by the absence of the colored race.

Answer. I do.

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