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[AUTOGRAPH LETTER, SIGNED, FROM RICHARD HENRY LEE TO A YOUNG RELATIVE, GIVING ADVICE]
Nassau. April 19, 1787.. 6pp. Quarto. Old fold lines. Light wear at edges, minor soiling. Very good. I a half morocco and cloth clamshell case, spine gilt. Letter written by Richard Henry Lee, a Signer of the Declaration of Independence, to a nephew or other young relative - "my dear Carter" - offering advice. Lee writes from the Bahamas, where he has been recovering his health, although he is hopeful of embarking for home by way of South Carolina or Georgia within a few days. Lee offers Carter career advice very much modelled on his own life: "I find your mind is charmed with eloquence & I infer that the bar is the theatre selected for its display. The rank of man as established by the concurring judgement of ages stands thus - Heros, Legislators, orators, & poets. The most useful & in my opinion the most honorable is 'Legislator' which is far from being incompatible with the profession of law is congenial to it. Generally, mankind most admire the Hero, of all the most useless only when the safety of a nation demands his saving arm." The letter then takes a long tangent on the topic of classical generals, speaking of Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, and Hannibal, whom Lee considers "the first soldier of the three" because more than the others, he "had a justifiable cause of war." Lee then develops at length his thesis that "the constant exercise of the mind struggling to maintain freedom & independence of the state brings forth that superb display of genius which seizes in a little time the highest rank in literature & the arts." He believes this to have been the case in ancient Greece and Rome, as well as more recently in France and England, citing as proof the appearance of William Harvey, Robert Boyle, Sir Isaac Newton, John Milton, Samuel Johnson, and John Dryden. Nor is the United States exempt: "Even our own country never exhibited such a display of genius before or since as she did during her eight years war." In concluding, Lee asserts, "It may therefore be considered as a truth demonstrated by the history of man that continued & arduous excitement of the mind especially in regaining lost, or in defending menaced rights, places man in that train of mind and body which brings forth the greatest display of genius, particularly after the storm has subsided, & the mind reposing with security in the sweets of tranquility, meditates without fear." Richard Henry Lee (1732-1794) was a Virginia statesman and leading figure in the American Revolution. He was a persuasive orator, and during the Second Continental Congress famously moved that Congress should declare the colonies to be "free and independent states." He signed the Articles of Confederation and the Declaration of Independence. He later had strong Anti-Federalist leanings.
      [Bookseller: William Reese Company - Americana]
Last Found On: 2013-07-20           Check availability:      Biblio    

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