A website from the Massachusetts Historical Society; founded 1791.


Richard Henry Lee

20 January 1732 - 19 June 1794

Richard Henry Lee was born to a prominent family in Westmoreland County, Virginia. Elected to the House of Burgesses in 1758, he became a principal opponent of British taxation policies in the 1760s, and a promoter of non-importation efforts in Virginia. Together with Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry, he proposed a system of intercolonial committees of correspondence in 1773. As a delegate to the First Continental Congress, he helped implement the Continental Association, a plan to halt trade with Great Britain. At the Second Congress, he introduced a resolution on 7 June 1776 moving that the colonies should be 'free and independent states,' which prompted the writing of the Declaration of Independence. His congressional term ended in 1779, but Lee returned in 1784 and was elected president. He declined to attend the Constitutional Convention of 1787, and was critical of the new Constitution because of its provision for a strong central government and because it lacked of a bill of rights. While serving as a U.S. senator from Virginia, 1789-1792, Lee proposed several resolutions that were later adopted in the Bill of Rights (1791).