Richard Henry Lee: Wikis


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Richard Henry Lee

In office
March 4, 1789 – October 8, 1792
Preceded by None; first
Succeeded by John Taylor

In office
April 18, 1792 – October 8, 1792
President George Washington
Preceded by John Langdon
Succeeded by John Langdon

Born January 20, 1732
Westmoreland County, Colony of Virginia
Died June 19, 1794 (aged 62)
Westmoreland County, Commonwealth of Virginia
Political party Anti-Administration
Spouse(s) Anne Aylett (died 1768)
Anne (Gaskins) Pinckard
Profession Law

Richard Henry Lee (January 20, 1732 – June 19, 1794) was an American statesman from Virginia best known for the motion in the Second Continental Congress calling for the colonies' independence from Great Britain. His famous resolution of June 1776 led to the United States Declaration of Independence, which Lee signed. He also served a one-year term as the President of the Continental Congress, and was a U.S. Senator from Virginia from 1789 to 1792, serving during part of that time as one of the first Presidents pro tempore.


Early life

Lee was born in Westmoreland County in the Colony of Virginia on January 20, 1732. Richard was the son of Col. Thomas Lee, Hon. (1690–1750) and Hannah Harrison Ludwell (1701–1750). He was the great-uncle of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. His nephew, "Light Horse Harry" Lee earned minor fame during the Revolution, and is now mainly remembered as the father of Robert E. Lee.

Richard was sent to England and educated at Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, Wakefield in Yorkshire. In 1752 he returned to Virginia, where he began to practice law.

Early career

In 1757, Lee was appointed justice of the peace for Westmoreland County. In 1758 he was elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses, where he met Patrick Henry. An early advocate of independence, Lee became one of the first to create Committees of Correspondence among the many independence-minded Americans in the various colonies. In 1766, almost ten years before the American Revolutionary War, Lee is credited with having authored the Westmoreland Resolution which was publicly signed by prominent landowners who met at Leedstown, Westmoreland County, Virginia on 27 Feb 1766. This resolution was signed by four brothers of George Washington as well as Gilbert Campbell.

American Revolution

In August 1774, Lee was chosen as a delegate to the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia. In Lee's Resolution on the 7th of June 1776 during the Second Continental Congress, Lee put forth the motion to the Continental Congress to declare Independence from Great Britain, which read (in part):

Resolved: That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.

Lee had returned to Virginia by the time Congress voted on and adopted the Declaration of Independence, but he signed the document when he returned to Congress.


"To preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms, and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them."[1]

"The first maxim of a man who loves liberty, should be never to grant to rulers an atom of power that is not most clearly and indispensably necessary for the safety and well being of society."[2]

Lee Family Coat of Arms

Political offices

Marriages and children

Richard married first on December 5, 1757, Anne Aylett (1738–1768), daughter of William Aylett and Elizabeth Eskridge (1719), who married secondly, Dr. James Steptoe, Col. (1709–1757). Anne died December 12, 1768 at Chantille, Westmoreland Co., Virginia. The couple had four surviving children:

  1. Thomas Lee (1758–1805).
  2. Col. Ludwell Lee, Esq. (1760–1836), who married Flora Lee (1771–1795), daughter of Hon. Philip Ludwell Lee, Sr., Esq. (1727–1775) and Elizabeth Steptoe (1743–1789), who married secondly, Philip Richard Fendall I (1734–1805).
  3. Mary Lee (1764–1795), who married Joshua Logan Younger (1752–1834).
  4. Hannah Lee (1765–1801), who married Hon. Corbin Washington (1764–1799), son of Col. John Augustine Washington (1736–1787) and Hannah Bushrod (1738–1801).
  5. Marybelle Lee (1768), who died in infancy.

Richard re-married in June or July of 1769 to Anne (Gaskins) Pinckard. The couple had five surviving children:

  1. Anne Lee (1770–1804), who married Hon. Charles Lee (1758–1815), U.S. Attorney General under John Adams. Charles was the son of Maj. Gen. Henry Lee II (1730–1787) and Lucy Grymes (1734–1792).
  2. Henrietta "Harriotte" Lee (1773–1803), who married Hon. George Richard Lee Turberville (c. 1770), son of Hon. George Richard Turberville, Jr. (1742–1792) and Martha Corbin (1742).
  3. Sarah Caldwell "Sally" Lee (1775–1837), who married Edmund Jennings Lee I (1772–1843), son of Maj. Gen. Henry Lee II (1730–1787) and Lucy Grymes (1734–1792).
  4. Cassius Lee (1779–1850).
  5. Francis Lightfoot Lee II (1782–1850), who married Jane Fitzgerald (d. 1816), daughter of Col. John Fitzgerald and Jane Digges. (grandparents of Francis Preston Blair Lee)
  6. ? Lee (1784), who died in infancy.
  7. ? Lee (1786), who died in infancy.

Francis Lightfoot Lee II

Richard's youngest son was named for his brother Francis Lightfoot Lee, another signer of the Declaration of Independence.

The younger Francis married Jane Fitzgerald on 9 Feb 1810.[3] In 1811 he purchased the estate Sully in Fairfax County, Virginia from his second cousin Richard Bland Lee.[4] Jane died on 25 Jul 1816, shortly after the birth on their fifth child.

  1. Jane Elizabeth Lee (January 1, 1811 – June 25, 1837); married Henry T. Harrison
  2. Samuel Philips Lee (February 13, 1812 – June 5, 1897); Rear Admiral; married Elizabeth Blair, daughter of Francis Preston Blair
  3. John Fitzgerald Lee (May 5, 1813 – June 17, 1840)
  4. Arthur Lee (February 18, 1815 – August 3, 1841)
  5. Frances Ann Lee (June 29, 1816 – December 5, 1889); married Robinson Goldsborough


Richard was the son of Col. Thomas Lee, Hon. (1690–1750) of "Stratford Hall", Westmoreland Co., Virginia. Thomas married Hannah Harrison Ludwell (1701–1750).

Hannah was the daughter of Col. Philip Ludwell II (1672–1726) of "Greenspring", and Hannah Harrison (1679–1731).

Thomas was the son of Col. Richard Lee II, Esq., "the scholar" (1647–1715) and Laetitia Corbin (c. 1657–1706).

Laetitia was the daughter of Richard’s neighbor and, Councillor, Hon. Henry Corbin, Sr. (1629–1676) and Alice (Eltonhead) Burnham (c. 1627–1684).

Richard II, was the son of Col. Richard Lee I, Esq., "the immigrant" (1618–1664) and Anne Constable (c. 1621–1666).

Anne was the daughter of Thomas Constable and a ward of Sir John Thoroughgood.


Lee County, Georgia is named in his honor. Richard Henry Lee Elementary School in Rossmoor, California and honor as is Richard Henry Lee School in Chicago, Illinois are also named in his honor. Richard Henry Lee Elementary in Glen Burnie, Maryland is also named after him.

Representations in fiction

Richard Henry Lee is a key character in the musical 1776. He was portrayed by Ron Holgate in both the Broadway cast and in the 1972 film. The character performs a song called "The Lees of Old Virginia", in which he explains how he knows he will be able to convince the Virginia House of Burgesses to allow him to propose independence.


  1. ^ Letters from the Federal Farmer to the Republic (1787–1788), Letter XVIII
  2. ^ Letters from the Federal Farmer to the Republic (1787–1788), Introduction
  3. ^ Alexander, Frederick Warren (1912), Stratford Hall and the Lees Connected with Its History, pp. 145–146,, retrieved 2008-03-01 
  4. ^ Gamble, Robert S. Sully:Biography of a House (Chantilly, Virginia: Sully Foundation Ltd., 1973)

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Thomas Mifflin
President of the Continental Congress
November 30, 1784 – November 6, 1785
Succeeded by
Nathan Gorman
Preceded by
John Langdon
President pro tempore of the United States Senate
April 18, 1792 – October 8, 1792
Succeeded by
John Langdon
United States Senate
Preceded by
United States Senator (Class 2) from Virginia
March 4, 1789 – October 8, 1792
Served alongside: William Grayson, John Walker, James Monroe
Succeeded by
John Taylor


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Richard Henry Lee (January 20, 1732–June 19, 1794) was the sixth President of the United States in Congress assembled under the Articles of Confederation, holding office from November 30, 1784 to November 22, 1785.


  • A militia when properly formed are in fact the people themselves... and include all men capable of bearing arms. . . To preserve liberty it is essential that the whole body of people always possess arms... The mind that aims at a select militia, must be influenced by a truly anti-republican principle.
    • Richard Henry Lee, Additional Letters From The Federal Farmer, 1788, at 169
  • No free government was ever founded, or ever preserved its liberty, without uniting the characters of the citizen and soldier in those destined for the defense of the state...such area well-regulated militia, composed of the freeholders, citizen and husbandman, who take up arms to preserve their property, as individuals, and their rights as freemen.
    • Richard Henry Lee, State Gazette (Charleston), September 8, 1788
  • To preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of people always possess arms, and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them...
    • Richard Henry Lee, 1788, Additional Letters From The Federal Farmer 53, 1788


  • To say that a bad government must be established for fear of anarchy is really saying that we should kill ourselves for fear of dying.
  • The constitution ought to secure a genuine militia and guard against a select militia... all regulations tending to render this general militia useless and defenseless, by establishing select corps of militia, or distinct bodies of military men, not having permanent interests and attachments to the community ought to be avoided.

External Links

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
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