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ously opposed by the royal party, but it finally brought power to the patriots and security to the colony.
The shock in the political horizon raised by the assertion that the parliament was omnipotent to bind, although lost to the many, in the brightness of the prospect which the repeal illumined, escaped not the watchful eye of Mr. Lee; to him it foreboded to his country a coming storm.
The estimation of Lords Chatham and Cambden among the English nation, had aided the colonies in their late opposition, for they were friends to American liberty or opposers of the power of the ministry, and gratitude prompted or policy made it necessary to secure, for future emergencies, the support of advocates so powerful. Hence the proposal of Mr. Lee to request the latter to permit his portrait to be taken, " that it might remain to posterity a memorial of their veneration," was joyfully accepted by the inhabitants of Westmoreland; a subscription was made to defray the expense, and Mr. Lee appointed to procure it for them. But the gentlemen of Westmoreland were constrained to submit to the humiliating feeling of a mark of their respect, spurned as vile or neglected as worthless. At first Lord Cambden promised, and made several appointments with Mr. West, to sit for his portrait, afterwards he seemed to forget his promise and not to walk in the path which fair fame and honest.independence would mark out to him.
Mr. Lee was early and correctly informed of the proceedings of the British parliament, and promptly
acted on his information. The disobedience of NewYork to the law for the “quartering of the military,”? and the consequent suspension of its legislative assembly, hastened the crisis, and convinced all men of intelligence, that the union of the colonies offered the only chance of safety. To this outrage on the rights of freemen, temperate remonstrance was first opposed, and the address to the king was moved in the house of burgesses and written by Mr. Lee, stating the grievances under which the colonies laboured in consequence of the laws for imposing duties on tea, and for the quartering of the soldiery, and praying redress.
Massachusetts and Virginia, knowing the powerful influence of corresponding societies, contend each for the honour of having first established them, “ 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.” But the impartial seem to agree, that the measure was brought forward at about the same period in the year 1773, , in both legislatures, several years after a similar institution had been formed by the individual exertions of Richard Henry Lee. This last assertion rests on the faith of his letter to Mr. John Dickenson of Pennsylvania, and on the verbal testimony of Colonel Gadsden of South Carolina, who stated that in the year 1768, he had been invited by Mr. Lee to become a member of a corresponding society, “the object of which was, to obtain a mutual pledge from the members to write
for the public journals or papers of their respective colonies, and to converse with and inform the people on the subject of their rights and wrongs, and
upon all seasonable occasions to impress upon their minds the necessity of a struggle with Great Britain for the ultimate establishment of Independence.” His letter to Mr. Dickenson bears date July twenty-fifth,ʻ1768, and contains the following sentence: “ To prevent the success of this unjust system an union of counsel and action among all the colonies is undoubtedly necessary. The politician of Italy delivered the result of reason and experience, when he proposed the way to contest by division. How to effect this union in the wisest and firmest manner, perhaps time and much reflection only can show. But well to understand each other, and timely to be informed of what passes both here and in Great Britain, it would seem that not only select committees should be appointed by all the colonies, but that a private correspondence should be conducted between the lovers of liberty in every province.”
The event alone and the glorious termination of the contest, could not shield from the charge of rashness or wild ambition, Mr. Lee's scheme of severing from the parent stem the flourishing scion, before a certainty that it had yet spread its roots sufficiently wide to imbibe its own nourishment; for it is known that the issue is often directed by a power beyond our control, be it fortune, or chance, or providence, which consults better for us than we for ourselves. But
the letters of his brother Dr. Arthur Lee, convinced him of the necessity there was for making a choice, and his countrymen will approve the conduct of him who chose the probability of achieving liberty at the risk of life, before the inevitable certainty of abject and 'degrading slavery.
A love of science divided the heart of Dr. Lee with the love of his country. The faculty of the University of Edinburgh bore testimony to his acquirements by awarding him the first prize in botany, and his contest at the bar, when he made the law his profession, against Dunning and Glynn, sheds a lustre even on these distinguished advocates. The friend and favoured correspondent of Sir William Jones cannot be supposed deficient in taste, or ignorant of literature; and the attachment of Lords Shelburne and Cardross, of Barré and Wilkes, was founded on esteem and respect. His appointment to its agency in London by the colony of Massachusetts, before the revolution, his mission to the courts of France, Spain, and Prussia, are honourable testimonies from his country to his patriotism and talent. His vigilance was only equalled by his devotion to the cause of freedom, and his intimacy with the leading men of all parties in London, where he then resided, afforded facilities for observation. To his brother in 1768, he writes " that a change of men in the British Cabinet can produce no change of measures on the American question. So circumstanced here, the cause of American liberty will be desperate indeed, if it find not a firm support
in the virtuous and determined resolution of the
people of America. This is our last, our surest hope, this our trust and refuge.” Another letter, written about the same time, concludes thus, " once more let me remind
that no confidence is to be reposed in the justice or mercy of Britain, and that American liberty must be entirely of American fabric.”
On such assurances from one so competent to form a correct opinion, aided by his own deductions from the course of events, the fixed resolution of Mr. Lee to propose the independence of his country might have been characterized as virtuous and prudent, even although his measures of policy or operations of war had been frustrated, by the accidents of circumstance to which they must ever submit.
Early in the session of 1769, Mr. Lee called the attention of the house of burgesses of Virginia to the late acts of the British parliament; his resolutions in opposition to the assumed right to bind the colonies, were characterized by some, as the overflowings of a seditious and disloyal madness, and produced the dissolation of the house; but not until he had, as chairman of a committee on the judiciary and internal relations, brought in his report recommending the improvement of the navigation of the Potowmac as high as fort Cumberland, thus evincing not only devotion to the cause of his country, but a deep penetration into her best interests.
The dissolution of the house of burgesses concentrated the opposition to the English ministry; the