Author: J. Kent McGaughy

a professor of history at Houston Community College, Northwest.

Richard Henry Lee (1732–1794)

Richard Henry Lee was a planter, merchant, politician, and a member of the prominent Lee family of Virginia. Son of Thomas Lee, Richard Henry Lee pursued his father’s interest in westward expansion and was a key political figure during the American Revolution (1775–1783): it was Lee who, at the Second Continental Congress in 1776, made the motion to declare independence from Britain. Lee began his career as a justice of the peace for Westmoreland County (1757); he later served as a member of the House of Burgesses (1758–1775), the House of Delegates (1777, 1780, 1785), and the United States Senate (1789–1792). He also represented Virginia at the two Continental Congresses (1774–1779, 1784–1787) and served as president of Congress in 1784. In 1792 Lee retired from public service, citing his poor health. He passed away two years later at Chantilly-on-the-Potomac, his estate in the Northern Neck of Virginia. Lee was mired in controversy throughout his political career, and his legacy has been influenced in part by his enemies. But Lee’s prominent role in the events that shaped Virginia and the nation in the mid- to late seventeenth century cannot be denied; it places him high on the list of America’s forgotten founders.


Francis Lightfoot Lee (1734–1797)

Francis Lightfoot Lee, known as Frank, was a member of the House of Burgesses (1758–1774), the Continental Congress (1775–1779), and the Senate of Virginia (1778–1782). Born into the Lee family of Stratford Hall, Lee was a dedicated if reluctant public servant for most of his life. He is best known for signing the Declaration of Independence and for representing Loudoun and Richmond counties in the House of Burgesses; he also provided political and emotional support to his controversy-prone brothers, Richard Henry Lee and Arthur Lee, throughout their careers. (Arthur Lee wrote of Francis Lee, “He was calmness and philosophy itself.”) He died on January 17, 1797, at his estate, Menokin, in present-day Warsaw, Virginia.