first american republic
This website is designed to be an introduction to, supplement to, and companion to the book 'THE FIRST AMERICAN REPUBLIC: 1774-1789
(The First Fourteen American Presidents Before Washington)'

Chapter 11: President RICHARD HENRY LEE of Virginia 

"We Cannot Do Without You"

first american republic It is impossible to imagine the early history of the United States without Richard Henry Lee. The scion of one of America's greatest families, he was a born revolutionary long before the Randolphs and the Washingtons were converted to the cause. For five decades, he cast a giant shadow over the birth of his new nation. A "young Turk" in Virginia's House of Burgesses in the late 1750s, he became a leading colonial voice for American rights in the 1760s. It was Richard Henry Lee who introduced the Resolution for Independence in the Continental Congress in 1776 and, in the mid-1780s, served as its President. Even as the Second Republic took shape during the 1790s, Richard Henry fought for the adoption of a Bill of Rights as a founding member of the new United States Senate.

Richard Henry Lee was not only a remarkable patriot, but, unlike his presidential peers, his efforts were magnified many times over by the closely-knit political family he led. Even John Adams spoke in glowing terms of these remarkable siblings: "I believe their greatest fault is having more Men of {exalted} Merit in it, than any other Family." The Sons of Stratford--Richard Henry, Thomas Ludwell, Francis Lightfoot, William and Arthur--worked tirelessly throughout the Revolution as a unique political band of brothers. At several points, Richard Henry and Francis Lightfoot served in the Continental Congress while Thomas Ludwell was a member of the Virginia Assembly and William and Arthur held important diplomatic missions overseas. These siblings even developed their own secret Lee Family cipher for international correspondence. Given their history, it is hardly surprising that Richard Henry and Francis Lightfoot were also the only set of brothers who signed the Declaration of Independence.