George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Arthur Lee, 21 May 1789

From Arthur Lee

May 21st 1789


It is not without great apprehension of presuming too much on the favor you have always shown me, that I offer you my Services, as a Judge of the Supreme Court which is now establishing.

The having been calld to the bar in Westminster hall after five years study at the Temple, & having practisd the Law there for some time—are the grounds, Sir, on which I presume to ask your protection.

I quitted the line of the Law in England, where much was to be expected from the pursuit of it, & with the fairest prospects; the moment my Country calld upon me, to aid in supporting her violated rights.1 With what fidelity I dischargd the trust She reposd in me; the records of the Office of foreign affairs will shew.

To return to the profession I had chosen, in a station, not unbecoming those in which I have acted, is my most earnest desire. It woud be an additional satisfaction to be distinguishd by your appointment, Sir, & to assist in distributing equal justice to a well-governd People. I have the honor to be with the highest respect, Sir. Yr most Obedt Servt

Arthur Lee


After his return to America in 1780 from his post as one of the American commissioners in France, Arthur Lee (1740–1792) served in the Virginia house of delegates in 1781–83 and 1785 and in the Continental Congress from 1781 to 1784. In 1785 he became a member of the Board of Treasury and held that post until the establishment of the new government. In the late 1780s Lee was a supporter of a strong national government but became a critic of the Constitution and a leader in Virginia’s attempt to call a second Constitutional convention to provide a bill of rights. Lee stood for election to Congress in 1789 from Virginia’s district no. 7 but was not successful.

1In addition to his medical studies at Edinburgh before the Revolution, Lee studied law at the Inns of Court in London. He was admitted to Lincoln’s Inn in 1770 and moved to the Middle Temple in November 1773. He was admitted to the bar in May 1775. In the meantime he had been appointed colonial agent in London for the colony of Massachusetts and represented the interests of the Mississippi Company. In May 1775 he managed the successful campaign of his brother William Lee for alderman of London’s Aldgate Ward. Lee also became an agent of the Continental Congress’s committee of secret correspondence in 1775, and in October 1776 Congress made him one of its three commissioners to France.

Index Entries