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whilst future generations shall hail the name of Richard Henry Lee, as having first raised his voice in support of our independence, the name of Francis Lightfoot Lee, as his brother, his colleague, and his aid in this great work, will not be forgotten.
Whilst a member of the continental congress, Mr. Lee also assisted in framing the old articles of confederation, which, although subsequently found incompetent to the purposes of union, and to the promotion of the prosperity of a growing people, were nevertheless the cement which at that time bound the states together in one common cause, and finally gave success to their views. So much wisdom, fortitude, justice, and disinterestedness, marked the conduct of congress, that the obedience of the states was voluntarily and cheerfully given to their calls. Indeed, the annals of the world can hardly afford greater proof of pure and honest patriotism, than the whole conduct of the continental congress, at that period, exhibited; nor of a people, whose love of liberty, and estimation of talents and worth, caused them more contentedly to submit to privations, and obey the wishes of those in whom they confided.
During Mr. Lee's term of service, the questions respecting the fisheries, and the navigation of the Mississippi, wero also warmly debated in congress. To the people of the northern states, the fisheries were an object of primary importance; and to those of the west, the navigation of the Mississippi was of no less value. The fixed opinion of Mr. Leo was, that no peace should be made with Great Britain, without both these objects being secured to the United States. Some of the members of the middle and southern states, maintained that they ought not to be made a sine qua non of the negociation, but that, if a recognition of our indepen
dence could not otherwise be obtained, those points ought to be abandoned. But, on the other hand, it was strongly urged, that rights so important to a great portion of our citizens, should not be relinquished whilst we possessed power to contend for them. These rights were finally secured in the treaty with Great Britain, acknowledging our independence.
Whilst Mr. Lee served in congress, a question was agitated which has given rise to some unjust suggestions of a late writer, respecting the conduct of the “ Lees of Virginia," as he styles them, whom he charges with being inimical to general Washington. It is to be lamented that he should have suffered his opinion to be swayed by vulgar prejudice. Had he consulted the journals of congress, be would have seen that the only one of the name at that time in the house, was the subject of the present sketch; and that he voted for a confirmation of the sentence of the court martial, which suspended general Lee from the service, for improper language used to his commander in chief: in consequence of this general Lee would never afterwards speak to, nor visit him. Francis Lightfoot Lee is well known to have been uniformly a great admirer of, and strongly attached to, general Washington, as a virtuous patriot; a great, a good, and an honest man; and it is a fact, which evinced this opinion as powerfully as possible, that he was the only one of his family who always avowed himself a friend of our present system of federal government, principally upon the ground of its having been approved of, and sanctioned by one he so highly esteemed.
An anecdote is related of Mr. Lee, about that time, which supports our assertion. Being at the county court house, on a court day, just after the federal constitution was pub
lished, and was of course the subject of general conversation, many of his countrymen, who held his opinions in high estimation, asked him what he thought of it. He told them with an air of gravity, that he did not pretend to be a judge of these things now-that he was old, and did not read muchbut that there was one thing which satisfied his mind, and that was, “that general Washington was for it, and John Warden against it.” Mr. Warden was a Scotch lawyer of considerable celebrity, but known to be unfriendly to Amcrican independence: he had just finished an harangue to the people in opposition to the system.
In the spring of 1779, Mr. Lee retired from congress, and returned to the home to which both his temper and inclination led him, with pleasure and delight. He was not, however, long permitted to enjoy the satisfaction it conferred ; for the internal affairs of his native state were in a situation of so much agitation and perplexity, that his fellow citizens insisted on his representing them in the senate of Virginia. He carried into that body all the integrity, sound judgment, and love of country, for which he had ever been conspicuous. and his labours there were alike honourable to himself, and useful to the state.
He did not remain long in this situation. His love of ease, and fondness for domestic occupations, now gained the entire ascendency over him, and he retired from public life with the firm determination of never again engaging in its busy and wearisome scenes : and to this determination he strictly adhered. In this retirement, his character was most conspicuous. He always possessed more of the gay, good humour, and pleasing wit of Atticus, than the sternness of Cato, or the eloquence of Cicero. To the young, the old, the grave, the gay, he was alike a pleasing and interesting companion. ployment he remained until the end of the war; as a soldier he was indefatigably active and coolly intrepid ; resolute and undejected in misfortunes, he towered above Distress, and struggled with the manifold difficulties to which bis situation exposed him, with constancy and courage. In the memorable year 1781, when the whole force of the southern British army was directed to the immediate subjugation of this state, he was called to the helm of government ; this was a juncture which indeed “ tried men's souls.” He did not avail himself of this opportunity to retire in the rear of danger, but on the contrary, took the field at the head of his countrymen ; and at the hazard of his life, his fame, and individual fortune, by his decision and magnanimity he saved not only his country but all America from disgrace, if not from total ruin. Of this truly patriotic and heroic conduct, the renowned commander in chief, with all the gallant officers of the combined armies employed at the siege of York, will bear ample testimony; this part of his conduct even contemporary jealousy, envy, and malignity were forced to approve, and this, more impartial posterity if it can believe, will alınost adore. If, after contemplating the splendid and heroic parts of his character, we shall inquire for the milder virtues of humanity, and seek for the man, we shall find the refined, beneficent and social qualities of private life, through all its forms and combinations, so happily modificd and united in him, that in the words of the darling poet of nature, it may be said,
" His life was gentle; and the elements
FRANCIS LIGHTFOOT LEE.
FRANCIS LIGHTFOOT LEE was born on the fourteenth day of October, 1734. He was the fourth son of Thomas Lce, for many years president of the king's council under the colonial government of Virginia, and of Hannah Ludwell, sister of colonel Ludwell, a member of the same council. The offspring of this union are particularly celebrated in the annals of their country, for superior talents and usefulness. Philip Ludwell, the oldest son, was a distinguished member of the king's council, and died at the commencement of our revolutionary struggle: Thomas Ludwell, a finished gentleman, and long a useful member of the Virginia assembly, died about the same period: Richard Henry, universally known as the dauntless champion of freedom, has been the subject of a previous memoir: Francis Lightfoot, whose services are related in the present sketch, participated largely in the events of the revolution: William was sheriff and alderman of the city of London, and subsequently commercial agent for congress in Europe, and their commissioner at the courts of Berlin and Vienna: Arthur, the youngest son, as a scholar, a writer, a philosopher, a politician, and a diplomatist, was surpassed by nonc, and equalled by few, of his contemporaries. The paternal and maternal ancestors