Richard Henry Lee was a member of the Continental Congress and the author of the Westmoreland Resolution against the 1765 Stamp Act and the 1776 Resolution for Independence. Lee was president of the Congress under the Articles of Confederation from November 1984 to November 1985, one of eight men to serve in this one-year position. An advocate of strong states and weaker federal government, he supported the Constitution after the inclusion of the Bill of Rights.Continue Reading
Lee was born in Westmoreland, Virginia, in 1732, to a military and political family. His first public office was Westmoreland County justice of the peace in 1757. His political growth was earned through contradiction and deliberation. Although his family held slaves, his first speech in the House of Burgesses was against the importation of slaves. In 1764, he applied to work as a tax collector, but by 1765, he came out against the Stamp Act, although his efforts to collect taxes earned his censure in 1766. That same year, he wrote the Westmoreland Act, urging freedom and liberty. When the governor dissolved the House of Burgess in 1769, Lee, along with Patrick Henry, met in the Raleigh Tavern to continue to coordinate resistance to the government.
In 1774, Lee was elected head of the Virginia delegation to the Continental Congress. His single-sentence motion in 1776 called for independence from England, seconded by John Adams. Although Lee was in Virginia when the independence vote was taken on July 4, 1776, he signed the Declaration.
After independence, Lee was the fourth U.S. president under the Articles of Confederation. After the U.S. Constitution was ratified, he returned to Congress in 1789 as one of Virginia's first two elected Senators. Lee died at his home in Chantilly, Virginia, in 1794.Learn more about US History