Never Had Mother a Nobler Son

On a quiet autumn morning, in the land which he loved so well, and, as he held, served so faithfully, the spirit of Robert Edward Lee left the clay which it had so much ennobled, and traveled out of this world into the great and mysterious land. The expressions of regret which sprang from the few who surrounded the bedside of the dying soldier and Christian, on yesterday, will be swelled to-day into one mighty voice of sorrow, resounding throughout our country, and extending over all parts of the world where his great genius and his many virtues are known. For not to the Southern people alone shall be limited the tribute of a tear over the dead Virginian. Here in the North, forgetting that the time was when the sword of Robert Edward Lee was drawn against us, — forgetting and forgiving all the years of bloodshed and agony, — we have long since ceased to look upon him as the Confederate leader, but have claimed him as one of ourselves; have cherished and felt proud of his military genius as belonging to us; have recounted and recorded his triumphs as our own; have extolled his virtue as reflecting upon us; for Robert Edward Lee was an American, and the great nation which gave him birth would be to-day unworthy of such a son if she regarded him lightly.

Robert Edward Lee was an American, and the great nation which gave him birth would be to-day unworthy of such a son if she regarded him lightly.

Never had mother a nobler son. In him the military genius of America was developed to a greater extent than ever before. In him all that was pure and lofty in mind and purpose found lodgment. Dignified without presumption, affable without familiarity, he united all those charms of manners which made him the idol of his friends and of his soldiers, and won for him the respect and admiration of the world. Even as, in the days of his triumph, glory did not intoxicate, so, when the dark clouds swept over him, adversity did not depress. From the hour that he surrendered his sword at Appomattox to the fatal autumn morning, he passed among men, noble in his quiet, simple dignity, displaying neither bitterness nor regret over the irrevocable past. He conquered us in misfortune by the grand manner in which he sustained himself, even as he dazzled us by his genius when the tramp of his soldiers resounded through the valleys of Virginia.

And for such a man we are all tears and sorrow to-day. Standing beside his grave, men of the South and men of the North can mourn with all the bitterness of four years of warfare erased by this common bereavement. May this unity of grief — this unselfish manifestation over the loss of the Bayard of America — in the season of dead leaves and withered branches which this death ushers in, bloom and blossom like the distant coming spring into the flowers of a heartier accord!

In person General Lee was a notably handsome man. He was tall of stature, and admirably proportioned; his features were regular and most amiable in appearance, and in his manners he was courteous and dignified. In social life he was much admired. As a slaveholder, he was beloved by his slaves for his kindness and consideration toward them. General Lee was also noted for his piety. He was an Episcopalian, and was a regular attendant at church. Having a perfect command over his temper, he was never seen angry, and his most intimate friends never heard him utter an oath. He came nearer the ideal of a soldier and Christian general than any man we can think of, for he was a greater soldier than Havelock, and equally as devout a Christian. In his death our country has lost a son of whom she might well be proud, and for whose services she might have stood in need had he lived a few years longer, for we are certain that, had occasion required it, General Lee would have given to the United States the benefit of all his great talents.

— New York Herald, 12 October 1870.


Videte enim vocationem vestram, fratres, quia non multi sapientes secundum carnem, non multi potentes, non multi nobiles: sed quæ stulta sunt mundi elegit Deus, ut confundat sapientes: et infirma mundi elegit Deus, ut confundat fortia: et ignobilia mundi, et contemptibilia elegit Deus, et ea quæ non sunt, ut ea quæ sunt destrueret: ut non glorietur omnis caro in conspectu ejus.

1 Cor. i. 26-29.

Not Really English

I spoke to Ld M. about the numbers of Peers present at the Coronation, & he said it was quite unprecedented. I observed that there were very few Viscounts, to which he replied “There are very few Viscounts,” that they were an old sort of title & not really English; that they came from Vice-Comites; that Dukes & Barons were the only real English titles;—that Marquises were likewise not English, & that people were mere made Marquises, when it was not wished that they should be made Dukes.

Queen Victoria’s Journals 4. Buckingham Palace, Princess Beatrice’s copies. 1 June – 1 October 1838. p. 84.

A Royal Pedigree to Half the Population of the Country

Detail of The Downsitting of Parliament, from Chatelain's "Atlas Historique" of 1720, showing a graphic scheme of the opening of the Estates of Parliament of Scotland about 1680 - 1685.
Detail of The Downsitting of Parliament, from Chatelain’s “Atlas Historique” of 1720, showing a graphic scheme of the opening of the Estates of Parliament of Scotland about 1680 – 1685.

That so many families claiming royal lineage should be found among our lowest classes is not astonishing. History tells us of change after change in the ruling dynasties of these islands, and of the advent of races the most varied in time and origin. During the last two thousand years enough kings and nobles have sunk from power to furnish a royal pedigree to half the population of the country. It is true that the present Royal Family, and the present aristocracy, inherit, to some extent, the blood of extinct dynasties. But only to some extent. The Prince of Wales has lawfully succeeded to various dignities; but these are of such opposite origin that they cannot possibly be typified in the person of one man. He cannot be, at the same time, a typical Prince of Wales and a typical Prince of Scotland; a genuine Duke of Cornwall and as genuine a Duke of Rothesay; a perfect specimen of the Lords of the Isles and an equally perfect Earl of Chester; he cannot be a thoroughbred Plantagenet, Stewart, Tudor, and Guelph — though a certain proportion of the blood of each may run in his veins. The circumstances that developed such titles have been matters of history for many generations; the titles themselves are now merely so many graceful honours, attaching by right of birth to the Heir Apparent.

David MacRitchie, Ancient and Modern Britons (London: 1884).

Columba’s Birth Foretold

Lough Gartan, Co. Donegal, near to the birthplace of St. Columba.

Noble, in sooth, was the kin of Colombcille as regards the world, to wit, of the kin of Conall son of Niall, is he. He had in right of kin, a choice of the sovereignty of Ireland, and it would have been given to him had he himself not put it from him for the sake of God.

It is manifest, moreover, that he was a chosen son of God, because Ireland’s elders had been prophesying of him before his birth.

Firstly, the eldest of the priests of Ireland, namely, old Mochtai of Louth, foretold Colombcille an hundred years before his birth; for once upon a time Mochta’s cook (Macrith was his name) came to him with a mess of nuts in his hand for him, whereupon Mochta said to him: ‘To me belongeth not the land whence those nuts have been brought. Keep them until he whose land it is shall come.’ ‘When will he come?’ saith the cook. ‘At the end of a hundred years,’ saith Mochta.

Mochta, again, was wont to turn his face to the north when praying. His household would ak him why he did so, and he said to them,—

  1. A manchild will be born in the north
    At the uprising of the …
    Ireland grows fruitful, (a splendid flame)
    And Scotland … his.

The father of baptism and teaching of the Gael, namely Patrick, when he was blessing Conall at Sith Aeda, then he placed his two hands on Conall and on his son Fergus son of Conall, to wit, his right hand on the head of Fergus and his left on the head of Conall. Conall wondered thereat, and he asked him why he placed his hands in that wise, so Patrick sang this stave:—

  1. A manchild shall be born of his family,
    He will be a sage, a prophet and a poet, etc.
    He will be a sage, and he will be pious,
    He will be an abbot with the King of the royal ramparts,
    He will be steadfast and he will be ever good,
    He will be in the eternal kingdom for his consolation.

Brigit foretold him and said:—

  1. Manchild of longsided Ethne,
    He is bright, he is a blossoming,
    Colombcille, clear with blemish,
    It was not over soon to perceive him.

Bishop Eogan of Ardstraw foretold him, when he said,—

  1. A son will be born unto Fedlimith,
    he will be a diadem over every train.
    Fedlimith son of Fergus,
    son of Conall, son of Niall.

At the hour of his death, Bóite son of Bronach foretold Colombcille, when he said to his household: ‘There hath been born this very night a son, splendid, venerable before God and men, and he will come here in thirty years from to-night. Twelve men, moreover, will be his company, and it is he that will make manifest my grave and mark out my cemetery, and in heaven and on earth our union shall abide.’

– On the Life of St. Columba, Anonymous.

When You Give Power, You Know Not What You Give

The wicked will be continually watching: consequently you will be undone. Where are your checks? You have no hereditary nobility — an order of men to whom human eyes can be cast up for relief; for, says the Constitution, there is no title of nobility to be granted — which, by the by, would not have been so dangerous as the perilous cession of powers contained in this paper; because, as Montesquieu says, when you give titles of nobility, you know what you give; but when you give power, you know not what you give. If you say that, out of this depraved mass, you can collect luminous characters, it will not avail, unless this luminous breed will be propagated from generation to generation; and even then, if the number of vicious characters will preponderate, you are undone.

— Patrick Henry, Virginia Ratifying Convention, June 9, 1778.