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Richard Henry Lee

Male 1732 - 1794  (62 years)


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  • Name Richard Henry Lee 
    Born 20 Jan 1732  Stratford Hall, Westmoreland Co., VA Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Gender Male 
    Died 19 Jun 1794  Chantilly, Westmoreland Co., VA Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Person ID I8103  MyTree
    Last Modified 15 Aug 2009 

    Father Thomas Lee,   b. 1690, Mt. Pleasant, Westmoreland Co., VA Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 14 Nov 1750, Mt. Pleasant, Westmoreland Co., VA Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 60 years) 
    Mother Hannah Harrison Ludwell,   b. 5 Dec 1701, Rich Neck, Bruton Parish, James City Co., VA Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 25 Jan 1749, Stratford Hall, Westmoreland Co., VA Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 47 years) 
    Family ID F4121  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family Ann Gaskins 
    Married Jul 1769  Westmoreland Co., VA Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Last Modified 17 Jul 2017 
    Family ID F4128  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Event Map
    Link to Google MapsDied - 19 Jun 1794 - Chantilly, Westmoreland Co., VA Link to Google Earth
     = Link to Google Earth 

  • Notes 
    • Richard Henry Lee b. 20 Jan 1731/32, Stratford Hall, Westmoreland Co.,
      VA, d. 19 Jun 1794, Chantilly, Westmoreland Co., VA, m. (2) Jul 1769,
      Anne Gaskins (daughter of Col. Thomas and Sarah (Eustace) Gaskins, V).
      After the course of private tuition at home, Richard was sent to the
      Wakefield Academy, in Yorkshire, England; on leaving that school, he
      made a brief tour of northern Europe, and returned to Virginia, being
      then only 19 years old. For some years, prior to his marriage, he
      resided with his eldest brother at Stratford Hall, and passed the time
      in diligent reading of the ancient classics and modern histories. His
      taste for the classics was constantly displayed in after life by the
      frequent and appropriate quotations he made from them to enrich his
      diction or to fortify his argument. The greater part of the estate
      left to Richard by his father, was in Prince William Co., but he
      continued to live in Westmoreland County even after he married. It is
      said that his eldest brother was so devoted to him, that he insisted
      that he should build near Stratford, and leased for him, the estate
      called Chantilly. It appears that this name was given by Richard Henry
      and that the estate was formerly known as Hollis’ Marsh; it was
      situated about 3 miles below Stratford, and was also on the Potomac
      River. Later in life, Richard paid a rental for it to General Henry
      Lee, and mentions in his own will that he only held the estate on a
      lease. When Richard was 23, he raised a company to join General
      Braddock in his ill-fated expedition against the French and Indians;
      their aid was declined by the haughty Englishman, who had no use for
      provincials. When Richard was 25, he was appointed as Justice for
      Westmoreland, a position of influence and much sought after in those
      days. It was about this time that he made his first appearance in the
      political arena [1757], by being chosen member of the House of
      Burgesses; he continued a member of that body, when not in Congress,
      until 1792, when he retired from active public life. His first effort
      in that body was a speech against the importation of slaves to the
      Colony; the proposition was “to lay so heavy a tax upon the
      importation of slaves as effectually to put an end to that iniquitous
      and disgraceful traffic within the Colony.” When the proposed Stamp
      tax was under discussion and before its full purport was understood,
      Mr. Lee applied for the position of collector under it. For this he
      was afterwards censured; he defended himself in a letter published in
      the Virginia Gazette on 25 Jul 1766, stating in one portion it: “….I
      considered that to err is certainly the portion of humanity, but that
      it was the business of an honest man to recede from error as soon as
      he discovered it, and that the strongest principle of duty called upon
      every citizen to prevent the ruin of his country, without being
      restrained by any consideration which could interrupt the primary
      obligation….” As stated in his long letter Mr. Lee was the one to
      bring before the Assembly the Act of Parliament, claiming their right
      to tax America, and he served on the special committee appointed to
      draft an address to the King, a memorial to the House of Lords, and a
      remonstrance to the Commons. He was selected to prepare the first and
      last of these three papers. Shortly afterwards, he organized the
      “Westmoreland Association” of patriots and wrote their resolutions.
      The articles were chiefly a direct protest against the Stamp Act, and
      expressed their determination to “exert every faculty to prevent the
      execution of the said Stamp Act in any instance whatsoever within this
      Colony.” In 1773, the Virginia Assembly appointed a “Committee of
      Correspondence,” of which Richard was a member. The first voice raised
      was that of Patrick Henry; who in a speech it is said, of impassioned
      eloquence, unfolded to his anxious listeners the perils and duties of
      the hour. The second speaker was Richard Henry Lee, who supplementing
      and enlarging on Henry’s words, impressed the members with his wisdom
      and sagacity. Such evidently was the result of his eloquence, for he
      immediately took a leading place in that body. Mr. Lee was an active
      and energetic member of many of the leading committees of this
      Congress; from his pen emanated the memorial of Congress to the people
      of British America, which has been generally considered a masterly
      document. His most important and distinguished service was rendered on
      the 7th of Jun 1776, when, in accordance with the instructions of the
      Virginia Convention , and at the request of his colleagues, he
      proposed the resolution for the independence of the colonies. The
      motion was seconded by John Adams, of Massachusetts; the discussion
      upon its adoption continued until the 10th of June, when a committee
      was appointed to prepare a declaration, in accordance with this
      motion. It is a uniform rule of all deliberative bodies to appoint the
      member who has offered a resolution the chairman of the committee
      selected to report on that motion. In this case, therefore, Mr. Lee
      would have been chosen chairman of the committee for the drafting of
      the Declaration of Independence, had he been present. On the evening
      of the 10th of June, he received word of the serious illness of his
      wife; he left Philadelphia to visit her on the very day this committee
      was appointed. Thus an accidental sickness in his family probably
      deprived him of the signal honor of being the author as well as the
      mover of the Declaration of American Independence. It is said that the
      English papers, which gave the first intelligence of the adoption of
      the DOI, headed their columns with this line: “Richard Henry Lee and
      Patrick Henry have at last accomplished their object: The colonies
      have declared themselves independent of the mother country.” Mr. Lee
      continued to serve in Congress for many years, being a member in
      1778-80-84-87, and was one of the signers of the articles of
      confederation in 1778. During the session of 1784, he occupied the
      chair as President, being, it is said, the unanimous choice of all the
      delegates present. He served some 100 committees during the sessions
      of 1776-77. Mr. Lee opposed the adoption of the Constitution of 1787;
      in this opposition, he was in agreement with George Mason, Patrick
      Henry, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Jefferson and others, in Virginia,
      and many of the ablest patriots of the time in other States. But,
      after the ratification of the Constitution, he consented to serve as
      one of the Senators from Virginia, mainly for the purpose of urging
      some amendments which he believed to be needed; many of these he was
      instrumental in securing. After many years of active service in
      Congress, and all the while a member of the Virginia Assembly, he
      finally, in 1792, retired from public life. Of Richard Henry Lee’s
      personal appearance and the style of his oratory, William Wirt wrote:
      “His face was on the Roman model; his nose Caesarean; the port and
      carriage of his head, leaning persuasively and gracefully forward; and
      the whole contour, noble and fine. He had studied in the classics in
      the true spirit of criticism. His taste had that delicate touch which
      seized with intuitive certainty every beauty of an author, and his
      genius that native affinity which combined them without effort. Into
      every walk of literature and science he had carried this mind of
      exquisite selection, and brought it back to the business of life,
      crowned with every light of learning and decked with every wreath that
      all the muses and all the graces could entwine. Nor did these light
      decorations constitute the whole value of its freight. He possessed a
      rich store of historical and political knowledge, with an activity of
      observation and a certainty of judgment which turned that knowledge to
      the very best account. He was not a lawyer by profession, but he
      understood thoroughly the Constitution, both of the mother country and
      of her colonies; and the elements also of civil and municipal law.
      Thus, while his eloquence was free from those stiff and technical
      restraints which habits of forensic speaking are apt to generate, he
      had all the legal learning necessary to a statesman. He reasoned well,
      and declaimed freely and splendidly. The note of his voice was deep
      and melodious. It was not the cancerous voice of Cicero. He had lost
      the use of one of his hands, which he kept constantly covered with a
      black silk bandage, neatly fitted in the palm of his hand, but leaving
      his thumb free; yet, notwithstand- ing this disadvantage, his gesture
      was so graceful and highly finished that it is said that he acquired
      it by practising before a mirror. Such was his promptitude that he
      required no preparation for debate. He was ready for any subject as
      soon as it was announced; and his speech was so copious, so rich, so
      mellifluous, set off with such bewitching cadence of voice and such
      captivating grace of action that, while you listened to him, you
      desired to hear nothing superior, and indeed thought him perfect. He
      had a quick sensibility and a fervid imagination.” Dr. Rush said of
      him, “I never knew so great an orator whose speeches were so short.
      Indeed, I might say that he could not speak long. He had conceived his
      subject so clearly, and presented it so immediately to his hearers,
      that there appeared nothing more to be said about it. He did not use
      figures to ornament discourse, but made them the vehicles of
      argument.” Mr. Lee died two years after retirement. He was troubled
      much with gout, “which attacked his abdominal viscera, and caused him
      great suffering, but, though his body became feeble, his mind retained
      its vigor.” His will was dated 18 June 1793, and probated in
      Westmoreland Co., VA the 24th of June, 1794. He died at Chantilly on
      the 19th of June, 1794, and was buried in the old family burial-place,
      at the Burnt House Fields, Mt. Pleasant, as he desired in his will. Of
      the home of Richard Henry Lee, little is known. Thomas Lee Shippen,
      when describing his visit to Westmoreland, wrote his father that
      Chantilly “commands a much finer view than Stratford by reason of a
      large bay into which the Potomac forms itself opposite Chantilly…..The
      house is rather commodious than elegant. The sitting-room, which is
      very well ornamented, is 18x30 feet, and the dining-room, 20x24.” From
      the inventory and appraisement of the furniture, etc., it is learned
      that there were a dining room, library, parlor, and chamber on the
      first floor. The hall being, as was usual, furnished as a
      sitting-room, contained: a mahogany desk, twelve arm chairs, a round
      and a square table, a covered walnut table, two boxes of tools, and a
      trumpet. On the second floor there were four large chambers, and a
      smaller one at the head of the stairs; two rooms in the third floor;
      store rooms, and closets. The outbuildings mentioned were: kitchen,
      dairy, blacksmith shop, stable, and barn. The enumeration of books in
      the library showed about 500 which were appraised at L229 10s.7d. Of
      money in the house at the time of his death, there were $54 silver,
      valued at L16 4s.; in bank at Alexandria, L181 19s.7d.; “Tobacco
      notes” for 13,907 pounds, nett. In 1783, Thomas Gaskins, Sr., of
      Westmoreland, executed a gift deed to his “daughter Anne Lee, now
      intermarried with Richard Henry Lee.” [Anne was the widow of Thomas
      Pinkard, by whom she had at least one child].