Henry Lee Quotes

We southern people must be slaves in effect, or cut the Gordion’s knot at once .

 
Context
The essential conundrum for the Southerners of the Early United States was their independence as individual states vis a vis the trust and dependence that would be required if they gave up much of their traditional authority to manage their own affairs. However, if they chose to maintain States’ rights and other States did as well, they not only lose the security and unity of a nation, but the other states were more economically powerful, better educated, with stronger infrastructures as well. The changing world politics, industrialization, and technology was making it more and more difficult for a Southern State to have it both ways. They could have a loose affiliation of states, maintain their own autonomy but would be saddled with war debt and a slave-dependent economy that was itself deteriorating. Or they would be in a strong union where they were the weaker economic and political forces and might be politically and culturally dominated by states like Pennsylvania, New York and Massachusetts which would force major social and economic reforms upon the South. The knot to which Lee referred was the mythical one so complex that non could untie it, but it could instantly be cut with a sword. Lee argued that the Southern states would have to accept the dominance of the other states (which was like political slavery) or just cut the knot and not ratify the Constitution. More negotiating and trying to untie the knot would be useless.
Citations

Henry Lee, 1756-1818, Member of the Continental Congress, Governor of Virginia, U.S. Congressman (Federalist, VA), Father of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, Quoted in Joseph J. Ellis, Founding Brothers

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Henry Lee
Henry Lee
  • Born: January 29, 1756
  • Died: March 25, 1818
  • Nationality:
  • Profession:

Major-General Henry "Light-Horse Harry" Lee III was an early American Patriot and politician. He served as the ninth Governor of Virginia and as the Virginia Representative to the United States Congress. Lee's service during the American Revolution as a cavalry officer in the Continental Army earned him the nickname by which he is best known, "Light-Horse Harry". He was the father of Robert E. Lee, commander of the Confederate army in the American Civil War.

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