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Richard Henry Lee


Richard Henry Lee, Independence National Historical Park
Richard Henry Lee
Independence National Historical Park
Richard Henry Lee, a descendant from an ancient and distinguished family in Virginia, was born in Westmoreland county, of that province, on the twentieth of January, 1732. As the schools of the country for many years furnished but few advantages for an education, those who were able to meet the expense, were accustomed to send their sons abroad for instruction. At a proper age, young Lee was sent to a flourishing school, then existing at Wakesfield, in the county of Yorkshire, England. The talents which he possessed, industriously employed under the guidance of respectable tutors, rendered his literary acquisitions easy and rapid; and in a few years he returned to his native country, with a mind well stored with scientific and classical knowledge.
   For several years following his return to America, he continued his studies with persevering industry, greatly adding to the stock of knowledge which he had gained abroad, by which he was still more eminently fitted for the conspicuous part he was destined to act in the approaching revolutionary struggle of his country.
   About the year 1757, Mr. Lee was called to a seat in the house of burgesses. For several years, however, he made but an indifferent figure, either as an orator or the leader of a party, owing, it is said, to a natural diffidence, which prevented him from displaying those powers with which he was gifted, or exercising that influence to which be was entitled. This impediment, however, was gradually removed, when he rapidly rose into notice, and became conspicuous as, a political leader in his country, and highly distinguished for a natural, easy, and at the same time impressive eloquence.
   In the year 1765, Patrick Henry proposed the celebrated resolutions against the stamp act, noticed in the preceding sketch of the life of Mr. Wythe. During the debate on these resolutions, Mr. Lee arrived at the seat of government, soon after which he entered with great spirit into the debate, and powerfully assisted in carrying these resolutions through the house, in opposition to the timidity of some, and the mistaken judgment of others.
   The above strong and spirited resolutions served, as has already been noticed in a former page, to rouse the energies of the Americans, and to concentrate that feeling, which was spending itself without obtaining any important object. Not long after the above resolutions were carried, Mr. Lee presented to his fellow citizens the plan of an association, the object of which was an effectual resistance to the arbitrary power of the mother country, which was manifesting itself in various odious forms; and especially in that detestable measure, the stamp act. The third article of the constitution of this association will show the patriotic and determined spirit which prevailed in the county of Westmoreland, the people of which generally united in the association. "As the stamp act does absolutely direct the property of people to be taken from them, without their consent, expressed by their representatives, and as in many cases it deprives the British American subject of his right to be tried by jury, we do determine, at every hazard, and paying no regard to death, to exert every faculty to prevent the execution of the stamp act, in every instance, within the colony."

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Last modified January 2, 2004