FLL in 2012 – Cast your vote for Francis Lightfoot Lee

Tired of presidential candidates? Weary of the “approved messages” bombarding you from television ads? Longing for a fresh face to breathe hope into our political melee?

You are in luck. Frank has cast his hat into the political arena and is looking for your vote.

In this Presidential Election year, we thought it might be fun, educational and enlightening to examine the life of this 18th-century “politician” to see how he stands up to today’s candidates in character, record and opinion (both about
him and by him).

What Kind of Man Was Francis Lightfoot Lee?

Francis Lightfoot Lee is what one might call a “forgotten revolutionary.” Described by his niece as the “sweetest of all the Lee race” and as possessing a temper “as soft as the dove’s,” Lee, his memory now nearly hidden beneath the rubble of his Virginia mansion, had a life that was “most useful and worthy,” the life of a patriot of the American Revolution.

With thirty years of an active political life, a life in which he opposed British measures, sought independence, and served the nation through a number of committees as a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses, the Second Continental Congress, and the Virginia State Senate. Lee was certainly not an “inconspicuous” man, nor was he merely “soft as a dove.” Rather, Lee was a true patriot, not only according to standards held by his contemporaries, but also to his own.


Is Frank Lee the kind of man that could run for President in 2012? If so, could he win?

Resume

• In 1758, he took his seat as representative of Loudoun County to the Virginia House of Burgesses, having moved there to maintain his lands inherited from his father.

• He became an opponent to taxation without representation and other British offenses, which he protested not only through personal letters, but also in signing his support to important documents, including the Westmoreland Resolves of 1766.

• As a member of a committee appointed to protest British policies toward the colonies in 1768, Lee maintained an active role in opposition to the British.

• Lee continued to serve as a Burgess from Richmond County until elected as a Virginia delegate to the Second Continental Congress in August 1775. He fully supported American Independence throughout most of his political career, signing the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.

• Lee remained a member of Congress until 1779, serving on a variety of committees including the Board of War, Committee of Secret Correspondence, and other ad-hoc committees.

• In 1779, Francis Lightfoot Lee retired from the Second Continental Congress due to the three-year limit that had since been imposed by the Revolutionary Government.

• In 1780, Lee again entered Virginia politics, having been elected to serve as a member of the Virginia Senate, until 1782 when he retired from politics. He did, however, remain interested in the political scene, and is purported to have supported the ratification of the Constitution.

This man’s life-work was so inconspicuous, that his name would now be wholly forgotten, but for one thing- he signed the Declaration of Independence. Yet his life was a most useful and worthy one. It was a good and profitable voyage, though it left no phosphorescent splendors in its wake.

–Mark Twain on Francis Lightfoot Lee, 1877


Character

Not a lot is written about Francis Lightfoot Lee, as he was certainly overshadowed in the political arena by his outspoken older brother, Richard Henry Lee. Yet those that did pause to put their thoughts about him on paper seem to agree that he was a quiet, thoughtful yet passionate man.

Lee has not been granted his proper place in history, for his involvement with the
founding of the country lays not only in his signature on a document, but with thirty years of an active political life, a life in which he opposed British measures, sought
independence, and served the nation through a number of committees as a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses, the Second Continental Congress, and the Virginia State Senate. Lee was certainly not an “inconspicuous” man, nor was he merely “soft as a dove.” Rather, Lee was a true patriot, not only according to standards held by his contemporaries, but also to his own.

He dealt in no shams; he had no ostentations of dress or equipage. He was educated. He was more than that – he was finely cultivated. Mr. Lee defiled himself with no juggling, or wire-pulling, or begging, to acquire a place in the provincial legislature, but went thither when he was called.

–Mark Twain, from the Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, I, no.3, 1877


As for whether or not Francis Lightfoot Lee had “the right stuff” to be a political leader of the 21st century, perhaps his own words shed the greatest light on that question.

This is not the time for men of abilities with good intentions to be only spectators, if we can’t do all the good we cou’d wish, let us at least endeavour to prevent all the mischief in our power.

–Lee to Col. Landon Carter, 21 October, 1775

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