-Signers of the Declaration
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-Wives of the Signers
Francis Lightfoot Lee
Francis Lightfoot, the subject of the present memoir, was perhaps not less distinguished, although he had not the advantages, which were enjoyed by the eldersons, of an education at the English universities. His advantages, however, were not of a moderate character. He was placed under the care of a domestic tutor of the name of Craig, a gentleman distinguished for his love of letters, and for his ability to impart useful knowledge to those of whom he had the care. Under such a man, the powers of Francis Lightfoot rapidly unfolded. He acquired an early fondness for reading and mental investigation, and became well acquainted with the various branches of science and literature.
The fortune bequeathed him by his father rendered the study of a profession unnecessary. He, therefore, devoted himself for several years to reading, and to the enjoyment of his friends. He was a man, however, in whom dwelt the spirit of the patriot, and who could not well be neglected, nor could he well neglect his country, when the political troubles of the colonies began.
In 1765, he was returned a member of the house of burgesses from the county of Loudon, where his estate was situated. In this situation, he proved himself to be a gentleman of strong good sense and discriminating judgment; and to this office he was annnally re-elected until 1772; when having become connected by marriage with a daughter of Colonel John Tayloe, of the county of Richmond, he removed to that county, the citizens of which soon after elected him a member o[ the house of burgesses.
In 1775, Mr. Lee was chosen a member of the continental congress, by the Virginia convention. This was an eventful period in the annals of America. It was the year in which was shed the first blood in the revolutionary struggle. It was emphatically the year of "clouds and darkness," in which indeed the hope of better days was indulged, but in which, notwithstanding this hope, "men's souls were tried."
Mr. Lee continued a member of congress until the spring of 1779. During his attendance upon this body, he seldom took part in the public discussions, but few surpassed him in his warmth of patriotism, and in his zeal to urge forward those measures which contributed to the success of the American arms, and the independence of the country. To his brother, Richard Henry Lee, the high honour was allotted of bringing forward the momentous question of independence, and to him, and his associates in that distinguished assembly, the not inferior honour was granted of aiding and supporting and finishing this important work.
This seclusion, however, he was not permitted long to enioy. The internal condition of Virginia, at this time, was one of much agitation and perplexity. His fellow citizens, justly appreciating the value of such a man, summoned him by their suffrages to represent them in the legislature of Virginia. Although reluctantly, he obeyed the summons, and took his seat in that body. He was fond of ease, and of the pleasures of domestic life; still he was conscious of his obligations, and most faithfully discharged them. While a member of the continental congress, he had been characterized for integrity, sound judgment, and love of country. In his present office, he was distinguished for the same virtues.
He could not content himself, however, long in this situation. He became wearied with the duties of public life; and at length, relinquished them for the pleasures of retirement.
In this latter course of life, he not only enjoyed himself highly, but contributed greatly to the happiness of many around him. The benevolence of his disposition, and the urbanity of his manners, recommended him both to the old and the young, to the gay and the grave. The poor shared in his benevolence and advice. In his intercourse with his particular friends, he was uncommonly pleasing and instructive.
Mr. Lee, having no children to require his care and attention, devoted much of his time to the pleasures of reading, farming, and the company of his friends. His death was occasioned by a pleurisy, which disease about the same time, also, attacked his beloved wife, and terminated the life of both, within a few days of each other. It is said, that he had embraced the religion of the gospel, and that under its supporting hope and consolation, he made his exit in peace from the world.
Source: Rev. Charles A. Goodrich Lives of the Signers to the Declaration of Independence. New York: William Reed & Co., 1856. Pages 416-418. (Some minor spelling changes may have been made.)
Designed and Edited by John Vinci