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Richard Henry Lee is Born

Today in Masonic History Richard Henry Lee is born in 1732.

Richard Henry Lee was an American statesman and signer of the Declaration of Independence.

Lee was born on January 20th, 1732 in Westmoreland County, Virginia. Until the age of 16 he lived in the family home in Virginia. He was educated in the home in a variety of skills. As part of his education his father sent him around to the planters in the area to meet and become associated with men of prominence in the area. At 16 he left Virginia for Yorkshire, England where he completed his formal education at Queen Elizabeth Grammar School which was chartered in 1591. While in England, both of Lee's parents passed away in 1750. He did not return to Virginia until 1753, when he helped his brothers settle their parents estate.

In 1757, Lee was appointed Justice of the Peace for Westmoreland county. The following year he was elected to the House of Burgesses, which was the first body of elected representatives in the Americas. It was in the House of Burgesses Lee met soon to be fellow patriot Patrick Henry.

Lee was an early advocate of independence from England. He was one of the first to create one of the Committees of Correspondence. The Committees were essentially communication hubs between the colonies. Information about plans each colony had regarding independence and timing of correspondence to England were all handled through the Committees. In 1766, Lee, almost 10 years before the Declaration of Independence, created the Westmoreland Resolution which was signed by prominent landowners in the area. The resolution was signed by four of George Washington's brothers.

In 1774, Lee was chosen as a delegate to the First Continental Congress. He was returned as a delegate in the second. He made the motion, in part, "That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved." This led to the drafting of the Declaration of Independence. Lee ended up having to return home to Virginia before the Declaration was voted on and adopted. He returned though to sign the Declaration.

Under the Articles of Confederation, Lee was elected the sixth President of Congress, he served form January 1785 until November of 1785. The Congress under Lee was very busy. Lee was concerned about the costs of the war for Independence and the fact the newly formed United States was deeply in debt. He wanted to see land in the Northwest Territory be made available for sale to settlers. He saw it as a quick and efficient way for the country to make money to pay it's debts. At the time Congress had no authority to levy a tax of any kind. The sale of the land required states to relinquish any claims to the territory. The Land Ordinance of 1785 was passed, although it was a short lived victory. Squatters had already made their way west and Native American tribes laid claim to much of the land. With no money to buy the land from the Native Americans and no resources for troops to evict the Native Americans and the Squatters from the land there was little for the Congress to do. A positive which came from the Land Ordnance Act of 1785, was the land survey system which is still in use today.

From 1789 to 1792 Lee was the first Senator from Virginia. During his time in the United States Senate he was elected the 2nd President pro tempore, serving just under 1 year.

Lee passed away on June 19th, 1794 in Westmoreland County, Virginia.

Lee was a member of Hiram Lodge No. 59 in Westmoreland County, Virginia.

This article provided by Brother Eric C. Steele.