Francis Lightfoot Lee Resigns In Protest

Francis Lightfoot Lee Resigns In Protest

A Sketch of Francis Lightfoot Lee can be useful for but one purpose, as showing what sort of material was used in the construction of congressmen in his day; since to sketch him is to sketch the average congressman of his time.

-Mark Twain


The Mark Twain quote above says perhaps more about the life of Francis Lightfoot Lee than all the articles in the world. 

After digging and digging there is only a handful of ‘special’ information I was able to find regarding Lee.  But hey, let’s give it a shot.

Francis Lightfoot Lee

Francis was your stereotypical wealthy Virginian of the 18th century. 

He was born into the powerful Lee family, receiving a good education and never needing to work a day in his life.  Instead, he dedicated himself to public affairs, spending almost twenty years in the House of Burgesses leading up to the American Revolution.

A calming presence who never gave speeches and rarely participated in debates, Francis was known for one thig: patriotism.  It was agreed by all who encountered him that his love of country was his most obvious trait.

Continental Congress

Francis Lightfoot Lee signed the Westmoreland Resolves, an early protest again the King's new taxation laws.

In 1775, the colony of Virginia selected him to represent them at the Second Continental Congress.  Here, Lee was an early and active advocate of independence, albeit in his own quiet way.

The resolution to separate from Britain was first proposed by his more outspoken older brother, Richard Henry Lee.  The two worked toward nationhood and, when the time came, both signed the Declaration of Independence.

Francis Lightfoot Lee remained in the Continental Congress for four years, serving on the committee which drafted the Articles of Confederation, which he also signed.

Something Interesting

The one interesting tidbit I found regarding Lee happened because of a disagreement in France.

One of Francis Lightfoot's brothers, Arthur Lee, was serving as an Ambassador in Europe.  He argued with another Foreign Minister, Silas Deane.  Richard Henry took Arthur's side but many other Founders (notably John Adams and Benjamin Franklin) sided with Deane.  

This incident lead to Richard Henry being removed from the Continental Congress.  Loyal brother that he was, Francis resigned despite not being an active participant in the disagreement.

The resignation persuaded Virginia to send both brothers back to Congress.  This demonstrates that, thought he may have been an ordinary example of an 18th century politician, Francis Lightfoot Lee was much respected by his peers.


By 1780, Lee had retired from politics looking to enjoy a life of leisure on his plantation.

His neighbors, however, had other ideas.  They sent him to the Virginia State Senate against his wishes.  There he spent four more years creating the new State government.

By the time the United States Constitution was create, Lee was finally able to retire.  He did maintain an active interest in politics, however, splitting in opinions with his brother and supporting ratification of the new government.

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