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LIFE AND CORRESPONDENCE
RICHARD HENRY LEE.
RICHARD HENRY Lee, the subject of the following Memoir, was the son of Thomas Lee, of Stratford, in the county of Westmoreland, and colony of Virginia. He was born on the twentieth day of January, 1732.
His forefathers were among the first emigrants to the colony of Virginia. Richard, the great-grandfather, emigrated from England in the reign of Charles the First; but afterwards made several voyages to England, bringing with him, on every return, a number of followers, for each of whom a certain portion of land was granted him, under the title of “ Head Rights.” He finally settled in the county of Northumberland, in that part of Virginia called “the Northern Neck,” between the Rappahanoc and Potomac rivers. He was, for a long time, secretary to Sir William Berkeley, then governor of the colony.* Richard, the second son of
During the civil war between Charles the First and the ParTiament, Richard Lee and Sir William Berkeley, being royalists, kept the colony to its allegiance, so that, after the death of the king, Cromwell was obliged to send some ships of war and troops to reduce it. Berkeley and Lee, not being able to resist this
Richard Lee, was one of the king's council, and the first to recognise the grants made by Charles the Second, and James the Second, of the Northern Neck to the Culpepper family, which were afterwards inherited by the family of Fairfax.
Thomas, the third son of the last mentioned person, was, for many years, president of the “ King's Council.” He was one of the first, of the leading men of the colony, who turned their attention to our western wilds. Having employed an engineer of eminence, from England, for the purpose of exploring them, he, with many others, took up, under the name of the “ Ohio Company," an extensive tract of land on the Ohio river. But the company never having obtained a patent from the crown, their title was made roid by the revolution. Thomas Lee retained the office of president of the council until his death; and so great was the coteem in which his services were held in the mother country, that a commission of governor of the colony had been made out for him, when news of his death reached England.*
force, but yet refusing allegiance to Cromwell, brought the commander of the squadron to a treaty, in which Virginia was styled an
independent dominion." This treaty was ratified in Eng. land, as made with an independent state. While Charles the Second was at Breda, in Flanders, Richard Lee hired a Dutch ship, and went over to the king, to know whether he could protect the colony, if it returned to its allegiance to him ; but finding no support could be obtained, he returned to Virginia, and remained quiet until the death of Cromwell. Upon this event, he, with the assistance of Sir William Berkeley, contrived to get Charles proclaimed "King of England, France, Scotland, Ireland, and Virginia," two years before he was restored to the throne of his ancestors. In gratitude for this loyalty, after the restoration, Charles ordered the arms of Virginia to be added to those of England, France, Scotland, and Ireland, with the motto “En dat Virginia quintam.” After the union of England and Scotland, the arms of Virginia, were quartered with those of England, &c. with the motto « En dat Virginia quartam." The author has in his possession an old volume of Colonial Laws of Virginia, printed in England, in the titlepage of which is the representation of the arms of England, France, Ireland, and Virginia quartered, with the motto “ En dat Virginia quartam." Hence the title of « Ancient Dominion” has been given to Virginia.--Encyclopædia Britannica, article Virginia.
The maternal ancestors of R. H. Lee were no less conspicuous for their public services. His mother was a daughter of Colonel Ludwell, of Greenspring, ' near Williamsburg, which was then the seat of the government of the colony. Both he and his son were members of the king's council, and his father had been governor of North Carolina.
At this early period of the colony, there were few seminaries of learning in which the higher branches of education were taught. The youths, whose parents were able to bear the expense, were always sent “home” (as it was then expressed) to England, to complete their studies. Accordingly, Richard H. Lee, after having received a grammatical education in his father's house, under the care of a private teacher, was sent to England, and placed at the academy of Wakefield, in Yorkshire.
Anecdotes of the juvenile years of those, who afterwards become conspicuous on the theatre of the world, when indicative of character, are both pleasing and instructive. It is related of Mr. Lee, that when a boy, knowing he was to be sent to England, it was his custom to make a stout negro boy fight with him every day. To his angry father's question, “what pleasure can you find in such rough sport,” the son replied, “I shall shortly have to box with the English boys, and I do not wish to be beaten by them.” Thus, it might be said, Providence had given him, in boyhood, an instinctive apprehension of the conflict with that nation, in which he,
An anecdote, related by a very old gentleman, who had been an intimate acquaintance of Thomas Lee, will put in a strong light his political foresight. He remembered having heard President Lee remark to one of his friends, “ that he had no doubt that this country would declare itself, in time, independent of Great Britain; and that the seat of its government would be located near the Little Falls of the Potomac river." -How nearly he came to the fact is remarkable. To evince the confidence he felt in his views, he took up large tracts of land around these Falls, which till lately were in the possession of his descendants.
in manhood, bore so prominent a part; and a spirit of resistance, which be afterwards exhibited so successfully for his dative country, and so honourably to himself.
At the academy of Wakefield, by the aid of skilful teachers, and by his own attention and capacity, he made rapid progress in the academical course of study, particularly the Latin and Greek languages : his admiration of the nervous energy of the 'one, and the grace and melody of the other, exhibited, at an early age, maturity and correctness of taste. He returned, about the 19th year of his age, to his native country, two years after the death of his father, which happened in the year 1750; and for some time resided with his elder brother. Although he, at this period, passed a life of ease and pleasure, it was not one of idleness; active, and energetic, he was always in search of knowledge and the very extensive library which his father had collected, furnished him ample means of gratifying his desire for intellectual improvement. From the works of the immortal Locke, he acquired an ardent fondness for the principles of free government; and from those of Cudworth, Hooker, Grotius, and other writers of the same class, he drew maxims of civil and political morality. He read with deep attention and admiration, the histories of the patriotic and republican ages of Greece and Rome, which animated his love of his country, and of liberty. The anarchy which too often disgraced their governments, taught him the value of well defined constitutions, to guard individuals from the consequences of the prejudices of the many, and the public prosperity from the effects of popular passion and caprice.
His taste was refined by reading the works of the classic poets, both ancient and modern. Homer, Virgil, Milton, and Shakspeare, were his favourite authors of the last he was enthusiastically fond. The best histories of every age were within his reach; and the vast fund of political wisdom derived from them, was strikingly exhibited, when, in future life, be called for its use in the service of his country.
Mr. Lee, without any view to the practice, made himself well acquainted with the principles of the civil law, and the laws of his own country. He applied his mind with particular care, to the study of the history, and the constitution, of England and her colonies. The popular features of these governments attracted his admiration. He was delighted with the free spirit of the nation from which he was descended.
The author has in his possession, the manuscript digests and synopses of the works read by Mr. Lee, during his residence with his brother; they discover the habits and mode of his study; their arrangement is new and always judicious: the subjects are well illustrated, and the views of the authors, when given, are concisely expressed, and happily condensed. To this early mode of study, he was, no doubt, indebted for that conciseness of style, of which he afterwards was as much a master, as he was of brilliant and impressive amplification.
Mr. Lee seems early to have thought too correctly to suppose, that genius can supply the place of study, or enable its possessor to dispense with the labour essential to its advantageous prosecution. He must have been conscious of the quickness and capacity of his mind; but vanity did not delude him with the absurd idea, that knowledge is intuitive. He believed the import of the adage “ veritas in puteo,” and he laboured to find it. He did not, however, devote himself exclusively to study, he mingled cheerfully in society, and transacted the various business of life with diligence and judgment. He was early remarked for the accuracy with which he conducted his concerns. Hence he was frequently, when comparatively a young man, selected as guardian to infant children of his relatives and friends. In one of his letters to a gentleman in England, to whom he was about to commit the care and education of some of his wards, there is a passage, worthy of a place here, since it contains some reflections on the course of education, as applicable now, as when they were written : "I have no doubt that your good sense will avoid the too common