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The truest wealth of nations consists in the character and deeds of their great men. It is these, which impart to their histories more interest than any other subject which they present to our contemplation. The histories of the republics of ancient times, especially those of Greece and Rome, continue to this distant day to be read with intense interest. Who does not recognise the pleasure imparted to his mind, by an acquaintance with the characters and actions of their heroes? The mind delights to dwell on the characters of the “mighty dead,” and glows with pleasure at the remotest allusion to any event, which recalls to the recollection, Solon and Socrates, Leonidas and Philopemon, Decius and Cincinnatus, Cicero and Thrasca ! The glory of the “ nursing mother of the 4th Henry and the 12th Lewis, will henceforth burnish into brighter light, at the name of Lafayette.” How proud is the Briton of his Newton and Locke, his Hampden and Chatham! How shall the consciousness of freedom and glory throb in the heart and glow on the cheek of an American, at the name of a revolutionary worthy! Distant nations exult in whatever approximates them to the fame, or characterizes them with a feature of the country of Washington!”
To accumulate the examples of great and good citizens; to revive and perpetuate a just sense of their services; to excite and cherish national sentiments and sympathies, and thus to add to the glory (the moral wealth) of our country, is no unworthy task. These are prevalent motives with one, who, with diffidence submits to his fellow-citizens a memoir of the life of Arthur Lee, one of the useful and distinguished men of the great era of our nation. These motives will be justly appreciated by every intelligent, and cheered by every
Of biography it may be said, as truly as of history, that it is “philosophy teaching by example.” The force of example is known to have a powerful influence in impressing the heart; and is thus effective in producing laudable emulation and virtuous imitation. If the author of this memoir of a great and distinguished patriot shall have succeeded in presenting his character in a light so pleasing and impressive, as to produce, in any degree, the designed effect of biographical writing, he will have accomplished the end of his labours, and enjoy their best reward.
Birth and parentage of Arthur Lee—Is sent to England—He goes through the Aca
demic course of study at Eton-He becomes a student of the University of Edinburgh—His literary and professional studies at the University—He obtains a Diploma, and the degree of M.D., and the Botanical Prize-His Botanical Treatise in Latin is published by a Decree of the University-He travels through Holland and Germany, and returns to Virginia and commences the practice of MedicineLeaves the practice of physic, and returns to England—Studies law in London, Becomes a practitioner of law with Dunning, Glynn, Alleyne-His literary and scientific friends, Jones, Burke, Price, &c.—Is made a member of the Royal So. ciety—Becomes a popular writer on “ American Questions”-His Letters Junius Americanus, and Monitor's Letters—Is made a Member of the “Society of the Bill of Rights” –Writes their Address to the People of England— His Address to the English People, signed
“ An old Member of Parliament”-His controversy with Junius
, on the right of Parliament to tax America—Letter to his brother on public Affairs.
Arthur Lee was the youngest son of Thomas Lee and Hannah his wife, who were of the county of Westmoreland, and colony of Virginia. He was born on the 20th of December, in the year of our Lord 1740.
His ancestors were English ; and the first of them, who came to Virginia, were among the earliest emigrants to that colony. Arthur was brother of Richard Henry Lee, of whose character and services his country is informed. Arthur was the youngest son of the family; and, according to the customs of that day, in regard to
the younger sons, was left, until an advanced period of boyhood, with the children of his father's slaves; to partake of their fare, and to participate in their hardy sports and toils. Hence his body was early inured to hardship, and his mind accustomed to unrestrained exercise and bold adventure.
His father dying, when he was only ten years of age, Arthur was left to the care of his eldest brother. His early education was conducted by a private teacher, who, at the same time, taught his brothers, Richard Henry, Francis, and William, who, like himself, acted conspicuous and useful parts in our revolutionary struggle. His eldest brother, who had been educated in England, and was acquainted with the literary institutions of that country, sent him while yet quite young to Eton College, then considered the best grammar school in England. In this school, some of the greatest statesmen and scholars of England received their fundamental education. Many of them were cotemporaries and friends of Mr. Lee. It was at this time, and probably still is customary at the English seminaries, with the nobility and rich commoners, to employ the teachers to give their sons private lessons, on the subjects taught in the public course. Young Lee had not this advantage when he commenced his studies; but such were the eagerness and success with which he pursued them, that one of the principal teachers proposed to him to superintend his studies. He gratefully accepted the kind offer; and of the advantages it afforded him, he diligently availed himself. His father having always intended him for the medical profession, he was sent, as soon as he had completed his studies at Eton, to Edinburgh, and became a student of the University at that city. The chairs of this celebrated institution were then filled by the most learned men of their age. Among the most prominent stood Cullen, Munro, Black, &c.; imperishable names ! Arthur Lee went through the course of general science and polite literature prescribed in that institution.
He subsequently devoted himself to the several branches of the medical department. Among the many studious and
accomplished scholars, who were graduated with him,
The literary honour of a diploma conferred by the University of Edinburgh, at all times a great one, was particularly valuable and honourable at this period. On this diploma are the names above mentioned, together with those of Gregory, Young, Hope, Hunter, the two Robertsons, Ferguson, Blair, Stewart, &c.* The course of learning taught in this university was extensive, and was required to be thoroughly studied. The candidates for graduation and honours were strictly examined by the most eminent professors of their day.
While Mr. Lee resided in Edinburgh he became intimately acquainted with Lord Cardross, afterwards Earl
* It is deposited with the rest of Mr. Lee's MSS. in Cambridge University, Mass, The names are autographic.