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|Bio in Brief: Francis Lightfoot Lee|
|Written by Reverend Steve Williams|
Francis Lightfoot Lee was born on October 14th, 1734, in Westmoreland county Virginia, at Stratford-on-Potomac. He was the son of Thomas Lee who was called the president of Virginia due to his work with the Colonial Council of which he had been president of and was practically considered the Governor of the Colony at his death. Lightfoot Lee, on his father’s side, was preceded by nearly one hundred and fifty years of distinguished service by his great-grandfather, grandfather and Thomas Lee; these men were men of influence, who were trusted in the Colony. His mother, Hannah Ludwell came from no less a worthy family; his ancestors maternally were the Corbins, the Harrisons and the Ludwells. Hannah was the granddaughter of the Governor of the Carolinas, Philip Ludwell.
Francis had five brothers, Philip Ludwell, Thomas Ludwell, Richard Henry (deserving of his biography), William and Arthur; and his sisters Hannah and Alice. In 1738 the Lees built what was truly one of the finest Colonial homes in all of Virginia, notable for the Great Hall, considered one of America’s most beautiful rooms, and it’s chimney-clusters which gives the home such a distinctive character. Stratford Hall was passed to Richard and Lightfoot, truly an illustrious home, of a more distinguished family.
Francis, his father having passed away, did not enjoy the same advantages of his older brothers, instead of traveling to Europe for his education, he was tutored at home. The Reverend Mr. Craig, a minister of Scottish decent was employed to teach young Francis; Rev. Craig was a man of good character, with an understanding of science and classic literature. It is clear from all accounts, that the clergyman was successful in his duties for the boy grew in a good, easy mannered way, with a kindly disposition, wit that amused those in his company, knowledge that was diverse and choice; all commanding his well adapted and charming voice. Men and women alike sought out his acquaintance and friendship knowing that his society was cultured and polite. By the end of his studies with the Reverend Craig, Mr. Lee had developed a fondness for the classics and reading in general, which would follow him all the days of his life, along with his innate inquisitiveness.
Francis Lee revered his older brother, Richard Henry, of this, there can be no doubt, for he sought his counsel and the policies that Francis advanced and championed were closely associated with that of Richard Henry. It appears that young Mr. Lee was stirred by the speeches that he heard his brother deliver, for soon Francis would abandon his pursuit of pleasure and learning in earnest, and began his career as a public servant.
Francis Lightfoot Lee, moved to Loudoun County settling on the lands which were left to him by his father. Francis along with his brother Philip are mentioned among the founders of Leesburg, Virginia, in Loudoun County. In 1765 he offered himself and was selected as a Burgess of Virginia, representing his home county. This, his beginning also saw the first fruits of the British design upon the colonies, in the stamp act. Mr. Lee was reelected each year through 1772.
In that same year, 1772, Francis married Rebecca Taylor the daughter of Colonel John and Rebecca Taylor of Richmond, Virginia; whereupon the young couple moved to Richmond and there made their permanent and final residence. Although living more than one hundred and twenty-five miles south of Leesburg, Francis continued his representation of Loudoun County until his term was ended.
Between 1772 and 1775, Mr. Lee, along with his brother Richard and Patrick Henry was busied with the work of rousing his fellow countrymen to the dangers and designs of the British. Their goal was to disturb and impede the influence that England was having upon the citizenry. In 1775 Colonel Bland resigned as a delegate to the Continental Congress for the Colony of Virginia and the seat was offered first to George Mason, who in turn refused the offer and recommended Francis Lightfoot Lee in his place and Francis made himself available, and he was chosen.
Mr. Lee was reelected 1776, 1777 and again in 1778. Congressional records do not show Francis as leaving a distinguishing mark in his debates or speeches, in either Virginia or in congress; however, he was a valued member of both bodies. He sat on several important committees, and presided as chairman on some. Of course what Francis Lightfoot Lee is best remembered for, is as a signer of the Declaration of Independence.
In the Spring of 1779, Francis did not seek reelection and retired from public service, to return home and spend his days in pleasurable pursuits and in the felicity of his companions. This period was interrupted for a short time, when his neighbors called him to serve in the Virginia senate, and he accepted, but he quickly grew tired of the duty and made his final exit from public life.
The next eighteen years were spent as Mr. Lee had intended, in forging good friendships, staying at home, reading and simply being with his lovely wife, Rebecca. It was in January of 1797, on the eleventh day, that Francis Lightfoot Lee died at home, just a few days after his beloved wife. They are both interred at the Taylor family burial ground, the plots supplied by Rebecca’s family, at the Mount Airy plantation, near Warsaw Virginia.
Francis Lightfoot Lee, a patriot, confirmed Christian, statesman, signer of the Declaration of Independence, a Founding Father of the United States of America.
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