George Washington Papers

[Diary entry: 30 December 1774]

30. At home all day. In the Afternoon Genl. Lee, & Mr. Jno. Ballendine came here.

Charles Lee (1731–1782) was a veteran English soldier, who, having recently embraced the American cause, was publicly defending the rights of the colonists and encouraging them to believe that they could successfully fight British or other professional troops if war came. A member of the English gentry by birth, he had served with distinction during the Seven Years’ War in America and Portugal, but at the end of the war he had been retired on half pay with the rank of major. His title of general derived from later service under the king of Poland, who had commissioned him a major general in his army in 1769. After returning to America in the fall of 1773, Lee had traveled extensively, talking to many colonial leaders. At this time he was on the way to Williamsburg, having come from Annapolis where, according to his former army friend Josiah Martin, now royal governor of North Carolina, he had been “employed in diciplining or rather drilling a set of people to arms . . . and by the most extravagant discourse exciting contempt of the Troops and power of Great Britain and of every character and act related to Government sparing not the most sacred” (Martin to the earl of Dartmouth, 10 Mar. 1775, N.C. COL. REC. description begins William L. Saunders, ed. The Colonial Records of North Carolina. 10 vols. Raleigh, N.C., 1886–90. description ends , 9:1155–59). GW had seen Lee in Philadelphia while attending the First Continental Congress but may have met him first during the Braddock expedition of 1755 in which both men participated. Their conversation during Lee’s stay at Mount Vernon probably included a discussion of a plan that Lee had devised for organizing American troops into battalions and may have touched on the subject of western lands, in which Lee was also much interested (ALDEN description begins John Richard Alden. General Charles Lee: Traitor or Patriot? Baton Rouge, La., 1951. description ends , chaps. 1–5).

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