George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Henry Lee, Jr., 29 January 1799

From Henry Lee, Jr.

Richmond 29th Jany [17]99.

dear sir.

In our late session the views of opposition to govt have been disclosed with more than usual frankness.

That you may possess an accurate copy of the address on the part of the minority I beg leave to forward to you the enclosed.1

If the people will generally read the proceedings of the legislature I console myself with the hope that the disposition of Virga will change respecting congressional politics. I have the honor to be most respectfully Sir [your] real friend

H. Lee


1On 23 Jan. 1799, a little more than a month after adopting James Madison’s famous Virginia Resolutions opposing the Alien and Sedition Acts, the Republican majority in the Virginia legislature adopted a second attack on the acts, entitled “Address of the General Assembly to the People of the Commonwealth of Virginia.” The Federalists in the Virginia legislature, for their part, drew up and promulgated the minority’s defense of the acts and a rejection of the principles of Madison’s Virginia Resolutions. Since the nineteenth century historians have identified James Madison as author of “Address of the General Assembly” attacking the Alien and Sedition Acts and John Marshall as author of the address defending the acts. The editors of the new edition of Madison’s Papers demonstrate that Madison in fact was not the author of the assembly’s address, and the editors of the new edition of Marshall’s Papers argue persuasively that it was not Marshall but Henry Lee who wrote the minority’s defense of the Alien and Sedition Acts (“Note on the Virginia Resolutions, 10 January 1799, and the Address of the General Assembly to the People of the Commonwealth of Virginia, 23 January 1799” in Mattern, Madison Papers, description begins William T. Hutchinson et al., eds. The Papers of James Madison, Congressional Series. 17 vols. Chicago and Charlottesville, Va., 1962–91. description ends 17:199–206; “Congressional Election Campaign: Editorial Note,” in Stinchcombe and Cullen, Marshall Papers, description begins Herbert A. Johnson et al., eds. The Papers of John Marshall. 12 vols. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1974–2006. description ends 3:494–502). For an account of the various addresses proposed, adopted, and rejected by the Virginia legislature in December 1798 and January 1799, see Risjord, Chesapeake Politics, description begins Norman K. Risjord. Chesapeake Politics, 1781–1800. New York, 1978. description ends 538–42.

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