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Richard Henry Lee
Charles Willson Peale - Richard Henry Lee - NPG.74.5 - National Portrait Gallery.jpg
President pro tempore of the United States Senate
In office
April 18, 1792 – October 8, 1792
Preceded by John Langdon
Succeeded by John Langdon
United States Senator
from Virginia
In office
March 4, 1789 – October 8, 1792
Preceded by Inaugural Holder
Succeeded by John Taylor
4th President of the Congress of the Confederation
In office
November 30, 1784 – November 4, 1785
Preceded by Thomas Mifflin
Succeeded by John Hancock
Delegate to the
Congress of the Confederation
from Virginia
In office
November 1, 1784 – October 30, 1787
Member of the
Virginia House of Burgesses
from Westmoreland County
In office
September 14, 1758 – May 6, 1776
Preceded by Augustine Washington Jr.
Succeeded by Position abolished
Personal details
Born (1732-01-20)January 20, 1732
Stratford Hall, Westmoreland County, Colony of Virginia, British America
Died June 19, 1794(1794-06-19) (aged 62)
Chantilly Plantation, Westmoreland County, Virginia, U.S.
Resting place Burnt House Fields, Lee Family Estate, Coles Point, Westmoreland County, Virginia
Political party Anti-Administration
Spouses Anne Aylett (died 1768)
Anne (Gaskins) Pinckard
Children 13
Parents Thomas Lee
Hannah Harrison Ludwell
Profession Law

Richard Henry Lee (January 20, 1732 – June 19, 1794) was an American statesman and Founding Father from Virginia, best known for the June 1776 Lee Resolution, the motion in the Second Continental Congress calling for the colonies' independence from Great Britain leading to the United States Declaration of Independence, which he signed. Lee also served a one-year term as the president of the Continental Congress, was a signatory to the Continental Association and the Articles of Confederation, and was a United States Senator from Virginia from 1789 to 1792, serving part of that time as the second president pro tempore of the upper house.

He was a member of the Lee family, a historically influential family in Virginia politics.

Early life and education

Lee was born in Westmoreland County, Virginia, to Colonel Thomas Lee and Hannah Harrison Ludwell Lee on January 20, 1732. He came from a line of military officers, diplomats, and legislators. His father was the governor of Virginia before his death in 1750. Lee spent most of his early life in Stratford, Virginia, at Stratford Hall. Here he was tutored and taught a variety of skills. To develop his political career, his father sent him around to neighboring planters with the intention for Lee to become associated with neighboring men of like prominence. In 1748, at 16, Lee left Virginia for Yorkshire, England, to complete his formal education at Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, Wakefield. Both of his parents died in 1750. In 1753, after touring Europe, he returned to Virginia to help his brothers settle the estate his parents had left behind.


In 1757, Lee was appointed justice of the peace of 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, Virginia, on February 27, 1766. Among the signers were three brothers and one close cousin of George Washington.

American Revolution

In August 1774, Lee was chosen as a delegate to the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia.

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.

Coat of Arms of the Lee Family
Lee Family Coat of Arms

President of Congress

Lee was elected the sixth president of Congress under the Articles of Confederation on November 30, 1784, in the French Arms Tavern, Trenton, New Jersey. Congress convened on January 11, 1785, in the old New York City Hall, with Lee presiding until November 23, 1785. Although he was not paid a salary, his household expenses were covered in the amount of $12,203.13.

Lee abhorred the notion of imposing federal taxes and believed that continuing to borrow foreign money was imprudent. Throughout his term, he maintained that the states should relinquish their claims in the Northwest Territory, enabling the federal government to fund its obligations through land sales.

Debate began on the expansion of the Land Ordinance of 1784 and Thomas Jefferson's survey method; namely, "hundreds of ten geographical miles square, each mile containing 6086 and 4-10ths of a foot" and "sub-divided into lots of one mile square each, or 850 and 4-10ths of an acre" on April 14. On May 3, 1785, William Grayson of Virginia made a motion, seconded by James Monroe, to change "seven miles square" to "six miles square."

The Land Ordinance of 1785 passed on May 20, 1785, yet the federal government lacked the resources to manage the newly surveyed lands. Not only did Native Americans refuse to relinquish their hold on the platted territory, but much of the remaining land was occupied by squatters. With Congress unable to muster magistrates or troops to enforce the dollar-per-acre title fee, Lee's plan ultimately failed, although the survey system developed under the Land Ordinance of 1785 has endured.

Political offices

Personal life and family

Lee's mother Hannah Harrison Ludwell died in 1750. On December 5, 1757, he married Anne Aylett, daughter of William Aylett. Anne died on December 12, 1768. The couple had six children, four of whom survived infancy. Lee remarried in June or July 1769 to Anne (Gaskins) Pinckard. The couple had seven children, five of whom survived infancy.

Lee honored his brother, Francis Lightfoot Lee (another signer of the Articles of Confederation and the Declaration of Independence), by naming one of his sons after him.

Death and legacy

Lee died on June 19, 1794, at the age of 62. Schools in Rossmoor, California, and Glen Burnie, Maryland are named after him, and Richard Henry Lee School in Chicago is named in his honor. The World War II Liberty Ship SS Richard Henry Lee was named in his honor. The Chantilly Archaeological Site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971.

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Richard Henry Lee para niños

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