A Family’s Enduring Political Influence
Richard Henry Lee was a prominent Founding Father whose influence helped shape several key documents that made America so distinctive among the nations of the world.
He was a signer of the Declaration of Independence and became a president of the Continental Congress. After the Constitutional Convention, he was a leading influence in the movement that led to a federal Bill of Rights to protect individual rights, and as an original U.S. Senator from Virginia, he became an actual framer of the federal Bill of Rights (the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution).
Richard Henry Lee was part of a large family that was something of a political dynasty for the better part of two centuries. His father, Thomas, served as governor of Virginia prior to the American Revolution. His brother, Philip, served in the state legislature, and another brother, Henry, was governor of Virginia after the Revolution. Another of his brothers, Francis Lightfoot Lee (pictured to the right), was also a state legislator and he signed the Declaration of Independence along with his brother, Richard (the only pair of brothers to sign the Declaration).
After the American Revolution ended, and while serving as President of the Continental Congress in 1784-1785, Richard wrote to John Adams (then serving as ambassador to England), urging him to assure the Archbishop of Canterbury (the senior bishop of the state-established British Anglican church) that Episcopalian Americans would not be resistant to bishops appointed from England. This letter was enclosed with a letter sent by John Jay on November 1, 1785. On January 4, 1786, John Adams replied to John Jay with the account of his meeting with the Archbishop.
One of the many original items WallBuilders is blessed to have in our library is Richard Henry Lee’s original handwritten copy of John Adams’ January 4, 1786 letter (pictured on the left). This letter can be viewed in its entirety on the WallBuilders website.
The national legacy of Founder Richard Henry Lee is one that has spanned the generations, and even today we still feel the positive influences from his leadership.