<br /> Lee Letter: n492

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Richard Henry Lee
Recipient: Virginia House of Delegates


A long, laborious, and almost unremitting attendance on public business by
which I find my health decaying, renders some repose necessary, and
compels me humbly to request that the honorable house of Delegates will
accept the resignation of my appointment as a Member of Congress, and
choose another gentleman to take my place in that
Assembly.1Altho I am happy in seeing the
independency of my country so well secured, yet, until it shall be
perfectly established, I do not desire totally to withdraw from the
public service, relaxation is all my wish; that so I may be enabled to
engage again with renewed vigor of mind and body, in any manner that
the voice of my country shall please to direct.

I have the honor to be Sir your most obedient and very humble servant,

Richard Henry Lee


Receiver’s copy, Executive Communications, Library of Virginia. Addressed:
“Honorable Speaker of the Honorable House of Delegates at
Williamsburg in Virginia.”

1 Since Richard Henry had informed his brother Arthur in February that he
planned to resign his seat in April, it appears that he delayed doing
so until the recall vote on Arthur had been taken, which in fact
occurred on 3 May. The issue having been decided, he apparently felt
he could now withdraw from Congress, although the delegates had not
yet voted on the recall of his brother William. He doubtless knew his
presence on such a vote would be of little consequence for he had
“excused” himself on the vote concerning Arthur and would probably
have done so again had the recall motion on William come to a vote
before he returned to Virginia. In any event, the other three
Virginia delegates in attendance were voting solidly against the Lees
on this issue. Although he sent his resignation to the Virginia
assembly this day, he did not request leave of absence from Congress
until 24 May. He departed Philadelphia for Virginia the following
day. See Richard Henry Lee to Arthur Lee, 11 February and 23 May
1779 ; and JCC, 14:542 – 43, 643, 703 – 4.

With the receipt of Lee’s resignation on 15 May, the Virginia House of
Delegates faced the prospect of an unprecedented turnover in the
state’s congressional delegation, for only the previous week the
house had had under consideration the recent resignations of three of
Lee’s colleagues: Thomas Adams, Francis Lightfoot Lee, and Thomas
Nelson. In consequence, a move was quickly on foot to revise
Virginia’s legislation on the election of delegates to Congress, and
the revision was embodied in an act adopted on 11 June. When the
annual election of delegates to Congress took place on June 17 – 18, a
special election simultaneously resulted in the naming of William
Fitzhugh, Gabriel Jones, James Mercer, and Edmund Randolph to
represent the state “until the first Monday in November next, in the
room of Francis Lightfoot Lee, Thomas Nelson, jun., Thomas Adams, and
Richard Henry Lee, Esquires, who have resigned.” Journal of the House
of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia; Begun . . . on
Monday, the Third Day of May [1779] (Richmond: Printed by Thomas W.
White, 1827), pp. 3 – 4, 9, 13, 20 – 22, 42, 51, 54 – 55; and William W.
Hening, The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of
Virginia, 13 vols. (Richmond: J. & G. Cochran, 1809 – 23),
10:74 – 75.