Biden, Entire Senate Once Voted In Favor Of Restoring General Lee’s Citizenship

(Biden, Reuters handout, Robert E. Lee, Reuters Jay Paul)

Mike Brest Reporter
Font Size:

Former Vice President Joe Biden was a part of the 94th Congress that voted to restore Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s citizenship over 100 years after his death, and yet Biden attacked President Donald Trump’s support of the general in his campaign announcement video earlier this week.

On Thursday, Biden entered the presidential race, and he used Trump’s words about a statue of Lee and the people who attended the Unite the Right rally in August 2017 as the focal point for his announcement video. (RELATED: Joe Biden Launches 2020 Presidential Campaign)

“I was talking about people that went because they felt very strongly about the monument to Robert E. Lee, a great general,” Trump said to reporters on Friday in response to Biden’s video. “Whether you like it or not, he was one of the great generals.”

“White nationalists had long planned a demonstration over the city’s decision to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee,” The New York Times reported that day, seemingly supporting Trump’s claim. “But the rally quickly exploded into racial taunting, shoving and outright brawling, prompting the governor to declare a state of emergency and the National Guard to join the police in clearing the area.”

The statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in Richmond, Virginia, U.S., September 16, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

The statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in Richmond, Virginia, U.S., September 16, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Following the death of Heather Heyer, 32, in Charlottesville, the president stood before reporters and issued a statement, which has been reported on extensively in the years since it took place. The infamous line from that presser was when he said, “There were good people on both sides.”

But, as CNN’s Jake Tapper pointed out on his show Friday, Trump’s comment was not directed at the Neo-Nazis who were shouting slurs like “Jews will not replace us.” Instead, the president was discussing the “people protesting alongside those neo-Nazis and white supremacists,” who were there to protest the removal of the General Lee statue.

“He was a general that led a treasonous rebellion and fought for the right of people to own African Americans as slaves,” Tapper said of Lee.

While many have began criticizing the dead former Confederate leader, in 1975 the Senate, which included freshman Democratic Delaware Sen. Joe Biden, unanimously approved the reinstatement of General Robert E. Lee’s citizenship to the U.S.

U.S. President Donald Trump talks to reporters as he departs for travel to Indianapolis, Indiana from the White House in Washington, U.S., April 26, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Following his surrender to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House, Va., on April 9, 1865, Lee wrote to then-President Andrew Johnson and asked for a pardon so his citizenship could be restored, according to a New York Times article from 1975. One part of the process was to swear his allegiance to the president, but when Lee did submit it to the president, it never got to Johnson.

The allegiance reads:

I, Robert E. Lee, of Lexington, Virginia, do solemnly swear, in the presence of Almighty God, that I will henceforth faithfully support, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States and the union of the states thereunder, and that I will, in like manner, abide by and falthfully support all laws and proclamations which have been made during the existing rebellion with reference to the emancipation of slaves, so help me. God.

Lee died in 1870 without citizenship.

Independent Virginia Sen. Harry F. Byrd spearheaded the push for reinstating Lee’s citizenship posthumously, and it passed through both chambers after the House, voting 407 to 10 in favor of the reinstatement on July 23, 1975.

Follow Mike on Twitter