|... 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.||”|
A little further investigation taught me that this opinion was not uncommon among Lee's set (religious slaveowners living in the border states). They didn't exactly approve of slavery, but they thought it was not their business to end it, either. Lee himself owned several slaves, and did not always treat them well. I am really going to have to read a biography of this man.