Richard Henry Lee, a tall man among giants.

On Friday, June 7th 1776 Richard Henry Lee rose from his chair and addressed his fellow delegates to the Second Continental Congress at the State House in Philadelphia. The tall, trim and often theatrical Virginian delivered his brief resolution with great reverence as befit the occasion.

Resolved; That these United Colonies are, and of a right ought to be, free and independent states, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.

Immediately after Lee had finished reading the resolution, the motion was seconded by John Adams and the question of independence was opened for debate. A subsequent motion was passed requiring that independence could not be declared unless by unanimous consent, therefore a delay of twenty days was granted to allow time for a number of delegates to receive instructions from their colonial legislatures prior to the final vote. A committee (John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Robert Livingston, Roger Sherman and Benjamin Franklin) was assembled to produce a formal declaration of independence and Thomas Jefferson was given the task of writing the document.

By July 4th, the Declaration of Independence had been debated, amended and prepared for a formal reading before the Congress. Once the reading had been completed, the Second Continental Congress formally voted on the resolution presented by Richard Henry Lee nearly a month earlier and the United States of America was officially born.

Richard Henry Lee continued to serve in congress, where he was instrumental in the drafting of the Articles of Confederation and later was elected as president of congress. During the debate over ratification of the Constitution, Lee found himself among those arguing against adoption. Drawing upon his experience with the Committees of Correspondence during the revolution, Lee began writing and circulating a series of letters arguing against adoption of the Constitution.

Richard Henry Lee‘s "Letters from a Federal Farmer" eloquently expressed the concerns of many within the new country that the Constitution needed additional safeguards to protect the rights of the people. Lee wrote that.

People, and very wisely too, like to be express and explicit about their essential rights, and not be forced to claim them on the precarious and unascertained tenure of inferences and general principles, knowing that in any controversy between them and their rulers, concerning those rights; disputes may be endless, and nothing certain. [2]


It is fit and proper to establish, beyond dispute, those rights which are particularly valuable to individuals, and essential to permanency and durations of free government. [3]


There is often a great rage for change and novelty in politics, as in amusements and fashions. [4]

In his wisdom, Richard Henry Lee understood that rights which are seemingly secure in the present given the mutual respect and interests of the leadership and the people may not always secure in the future unless specifically reserved.

It is true, we are not disposed to differ much, at present, about religion; but when we are making a constitution, it is to be hoped, for ages and millions yet unborn. Why not establish the free exercise of religion, as part of the national compact. There are other essential rights, which we have justly understood to be the rights of freemen; as freedom from hasty and unreasonable search warrants, warrants not founded on an oath, and not issued with due caution, for searching and seizing men‘s papers, property and persons. [5]

Richard Henry Lee knew that for the United States to become a free Republic which would thrive and endure for generations to come, the Constitution must be written with great care to provide not only the framework of governance, but also the inviolable protection of the rights of it's citizens.

We must consider this constitution when adopted, as the supreme act of the people, and in construing it hereafter, we and our posterity must strictly adhere to the letter and spirit of it, and in no instance depart from them. [6]

The "Letters from a Federal Farmer" along with the impassioned argument from patriots such as Patrick Henry were instrumental in the development and inclusion of the first ten amendments to our Constitution, which are commonly known as the Bill of Rights.

Among the giants of our nation's founding; including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Paine, Samuel Adams and Patrick Henry there stood other men and woman whose legacy lives on in the freedoms we still enjoy today. Richard Henry Lee was a tall man indeed and a man to be remembered, studied and honored.

Today we celebrate our Independence Day. This year more than any other in my lifetime there is a genuine interest in our founding fathers and a new understanding of the causes which brought them together to forge a new nation. Many of us have felt a new inspiration and urgency in reading and reflecting upon our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution. These times will require the hard work and dedication of a new generation of American patriots if our Republic is to remain the beacon of hope and freedom that our founders intended.

[1] David McCullough, John Adams. (Simon & Schuster. 2001.) p.118

[2] Kenneth M. Dolbeare, American Political Thought. (Chatham House Publishers, Inc. 1989.) p.148
[3] Ibid. p. 153
[4] Ibid. p. 153
[5] Ibid. Pp. 144-5
[6] Ibid. p. 150