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Francis Lightfoot Lee

Signer of the Declaration of Independence

 

FRANCIS LIGHTFOOT LEE was born in Loudoun County, Virginia on October 14, 1734. He was the fourth son of Thomas Lee and by the order of his birth, Francis did not enjoy all the advantages his father endowed on his older brothers, who were sent to England for their education. He was educated at home by a tutor named Craig, under whose care he rapidly acquired an appreciation of reading, science and literature. Lee's father's fortune made the study of a profession unnecessary and from his early years "was addicted more to pleasure than business". Yet he did serve for a decade in the House of Burgesses, and although usually quiet and reserved, he did show his strong resistance to the British after the Stamp Act all the while insisting, "What damned dirty work is this politics!"

Francis Lightfoot Lee married in 1772 when he was thirty-five. His wife, Rebecca Tayloe was a daughter of Colonel John Tayloe, and they moved to a plantation in Richmond County, Virginia, where his wife had been reared. In 1775, at the age of forty-one, he was sent to Congress where he sat silently creating neither flurry nor argument. Still, those who were in his company were impressed by his voting and by his private conversations. "I thought he possessed," said one member, "a more accurate and correct mind than his brother, Richard. I never knew him wrong eventually upon any question. He often opposed his brother's vote, but never spoke actively on the floor of Congress."

Francis Lightfoot Lee came to Congress and cast his vote for freedom without anxiety or worry about the future of independence in America. "Let us, my dear friend, do the best we can for the good of our country, and leave the event to fate." Francis Lightfoot Lee was not flamboyant, boisterous or obtrusive but rather a "gentleman" a steady, firm supporter of the Declaration of Independence.

Lee retired from Congress in 1779, desiring to return to the pleasures and comforts of his home. However, he was not permitted to enjoy his retirement for long. He was elected to the Virginia legislature and although reluctantly, he took his seat and fulfilled his obligations. He was characterized for his integrity, sound judgment and his love of his country. He was not content for long however, and relinquished the duties of public life to enjoy his retirement.

Lee had no children that required his care and attention so he devoted much of his time to the pleasures of reading, farming and the company of his friends. He had suffered occasionally from pleurisy and on April 3, 1797 at the age of sixty-three he died from it. His wife also became infected and she died within a few days of her husband.





Source: Centennial Book of Signers

For a High-resolution version of the Original Declaration

  For a High-resolution version of the Stone engraving

 We invite you to read a transcription of the complete text of the Declaration as presented by the National Archives.

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The article "The Declaration of Independence: A History," which provides a detailed account of the Declaration, from its drafting through its preservation today at the National Archives.  

   

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