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Light Horse Harry Lee Asks Hamilton for a Favor
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HENRY LEE. Autograph Letter Signed, to Alexander Hamilton, August 12, 1791, Alexandria, Virginia. 1 p.

Inventory #24645.06       Price: $2,000

Complete Transcript

My dear sir

            I wrote to you this morning. I pray your attention as my friend to that party of my ler which concerns the paper I mean to send to Leroy & Bayard the moment you receive my lr & to favor me with your answer by return of post; On the political subject at your leisure I presume to hear your sentiments.

                                  Affy yours


                                  August 12th 1791.



[Address:] The hone / Alexr Hamilton esqr / Secretary of the / Treasury / Philada

[Docketing:] 12 Aug 1791 / Henry Lee

[Endorsement by Hamilton:] Henry Lee / Answered

Historical Background

Herman Le Roy and William Bayard were New York merchants with a branch in Philadelphia.  Henry Lee had “a large sum in funded paper,” and at the recommendation of Théophile Cazenove, he intended to transfer it to Le Roy and Bayard to “turn into cash.” Because Lee did not know Le Roy, he asked Hamilton to intervene personally to complete the transaction soon because “the money being soon wanted & the price allowed by me very high, disappointment in the agency will be injurious & distressing.”[1]

Lee was at this time a member of the Virginia Assembly but was elected governor later in 1791. Although he objected to some features of Hamilton’s economic policies, he remained an enthusiastic Federalist throughout his life.

Henry (“Light Horse Harry”) Lee (1756-1818) was born in Virginia and graduated from the College of New Jersey (Princeton) in 1773. He began to pursue a legal career, but with the beginning of the Revolutionary War he became a captain in a Virginia dragoon detachment. Promoted to major in 1778, he took command of a mixture of infantry and cavalry, and his horsemanship gave him the nickname “Light Horse Harry.” He later served as a lieutenant colonel in the southern theater and was present at Yorktown for the British surrender. Lee was a delegate to the Confederation Congress from 1786 to 1788. From 1789 to 1791, he served in the Virginia General Assembly, then as governor of Virginia from 1791 to 1794. In the latter year, he helped President George Washington suppress the Whiskey Rebellion in western Pennsylvania. Lee represented Virginia in Congress from 1799 to 1801, and famously eulogized Washington as “first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.”

*This item is also being offered in part II of The Alexander Hamilton Collection

[1] Harold C. Syrett, ed., The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, vol. 9, August 1791 – December 1791 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1965), 31-32.

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