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Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations. 1989.

AUTHOR: Robert Edward Lee (1807–70)
QUOTATION: Duty, then is the sublimest word in our language. Do your duty in all things … You cannot do more, you should never wish to do less.
ATTRIBUTION: Attributed to ROBERT E. LEE, in a letter to his son, G. W. Custis Lee, dated April 5, 1852, and published in the New York Sun, November 26, 1864, p. 2.

Although accepted as authentic by many nineteenth century writers, and used for the inscription under Lee’s bust in New York University’s Hall of Fame in 1901, repudiation of its authenticity began shortly after its publication, beginning with articles in two Richmond, Virginia, newspapers. The most complete summary of evidence indicating the letter was spurious may be found in Charles Alfred Graves, The Forged Letter of General Robert E. Lee (1914) and its Supplementary Paper (1915).