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Page 2

Richard Henry Lee

1732-1794


   The influence of this association, and of other associations of a similar kind, rendered the execution of the stamp act difficult, and even impossible. It was a measure to which the Americans would not submit; and the ministry of Great Britain were reluctantly forced to repeal it. To Mr. Lee, as well as to his countrymen, the removal of the stamp act was an occasion of no small joy; but the clause accompanying the repealing act, which declared the power of parliament to bind the colonies fit in all cases whatever, was a dark cloud, which in a measure obscured the brightness of the prospect, and foreboded an approaching storm
   In the year 1773 Mr. Lee brought forward in the Virginia house of burgesses his celebrated plan for the formation of a committee of correspondence, whose object was to disseminate information and to kindle the flame of liberty, throughout the continent; or, in other language, "to watch the conduct of the British parliament, to spread more widely correct information on topics connected with the interests of the colonies, and to form a closer union of the men of influence in each." The honor of having first established corresponding societies is claimed both by Massachusetts and Virginia; the former placing the merit to the account of her distinguished patriot, Samuel Adams; and the latter assigning it to Richard Henry Lee. It is probable, however, that each of these distinguished men are entitled to equal honor, in respect to originating a plan which contributed, more than most others, to a unity of sentiment and harmony of action among the different leaders in the respective colonies. Without concert between them, each of these individuals seems to have introduced the plan, about the same period, to the legislatures of their respective colonies. It is certain, however, that in respect to Mr. Lee, the plan of these corresponding societies was not the result of a few days reflection only. It had occupied his thoughts for several years; had been there forming and maturing, and, at length, was proposed and adopted, to the infinite advantage of the cause of liberty in the country.
   Of the distinguished congress which met at Philadelphia in 1774, Mr. Lee was a delegate from Virginia, with Washington and Henry. In the deliberations of this celebrated body. Mr. Lee acted a conspicuous part, and served on several committees; and to his pen is attributed the memorial, which the continental congress authorized, to the people of British America. In the following year, Mr. Lee received the unanimous suffrage of the district in which be resided to the assembly of Virginia, by which he was deputed to represent the colony in the second congress, which was to meet on the tenth of May of that year. At the same time, he received an expression of the thanks of the assembly, "for his cheerful undertaking, and faithful discharge of the trust reposed in him, during the session of the last congress."
   On the meeting of this second congress, it was apparent that all hope of peace and reconciliation with the mother country was at an end. Indeed, hostilities had actually commenced; the busy note of preparation was heard in all the land. Washington was summoned by the unanimous voice of congress to the command of the American armies ; and his commission and instructions it fell to Mr. Lee to furnish, as the chairman of a committee appointed for that purpose. During the same session, also, he was placed on committees which were appointed to the important duties of preparing munitions of war, encouraging the manufacture of saltpeter and arms, and for devising, a plan for the more rapid communication of intelligence throughout the colonies.
   The period had now arrived, when the thoughts of the American people were turned, in solemn earnest, to the great subject of American independence. Most of the colonies were already prepared to hail with joy a measure which should declare to the world their determination to be accounted a free and independent people. Most of the provincial assemblies had published resolutions in favor of such a declaration, and had even instructed their delegates to urge upon congress the importance and necessity of this decisive step.
   Mr. Lee was selected to move the resolution in congress on this great subject. This he did on the seventh of June, 1776, in the following words. "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 connexion between them and the state of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved."

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Last modified January 2, 2004