Lee, Richard Henry

Lee, Richard Henry, 1732–94, political leader in the American Revolution, b. Westmoreland co., Va.; brother of Arthur Lee, Francis L. Lee, and William Lee. He served in the house of burgesses (1758–75), where he favored ending the slave trade. An opponent of the Stamp Act (1765), he was the leader in the formation of a nonimportation organization. To help unite colonial resistance further, he advocated, and helped to form, the intercolonial committees of correspondence. As a member (1774–79) of the Continental Congress, he was most active in promoting a nonimportation agreement. Lee was a member (with John Adams and Edward Rutledge) of the committee that placed George Washington in command of the Continental Army. He was also vigorous in arguing for independence and introduced the motion that led to the Declaration of Independence, which he later signed. Lee served again in the Continental Congress (1784–87). He opposed the U.S. Constitution because he feared that it would destroy states' rights. As U.S. Senator from Virginia (1789–92) Lee was largely responsible for adoption of the first 10 amendments (the Bill of Rights) to the Constitution.

See his letters, ed. by J. C. Ballagh (2 vol., 1911–14, repr. 1970); biography by O. P. Chitwood (1967).

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