Our Collection

At the Institute’s core is the Gilder Lehrman Collection, one of the great archives in American history. More than 75,000 items cover five hundred years of American history, from Columbus’s 1493 letter describing the New World to soldiers’ letters from World War II and Vietnam. Explore primary sources, visit exhibitions in person or online, or bring your class on a field trip.

Lee, Richard Henry (1732-1794) to William Lee

High-resolution images are available to schools and libraries via subscription to American History, 1493-1943. Check to see if your school or library already has a subscription. Or click here for more information. You may also order a pdf of the image from us here.

Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC03719 Author/Creator: Lee, Richard Henry (1732-1794) Place Written: Virginia Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 19 June 1771 Pagination: 3 p. : address : docket ; 32 x 21 cm.

Summary of Content: Signed with initials "RHL". Describes the Regulator movement in North Carolina, a rebellion by backcountry farmers against lawyers, whose high legal fees and manipulation of debt laws were hurting them. North Carolina Governor William Tryon, although he claimed to agree with the insurgents, resorted to suppression by force: he "fell upon the unsuspecting multitudes and made great slaughter with cannons." The royal governor needed more than a thousand troops to defeat the Regulators at the Battle of Alamance on May 16, 1771.

Background Information: Richard Henry Lee was a signer of the Declaration of Independence and a leader of the patriot cause in Virginia.

Full Transcript: ...you may know, that the Lawyers, bad everywhere, but in Carolina worse than bad, having long abused the people in the most infamous manner, at length brought things to such ...a pass, that a bond of £500 was taken for a single fee in trifling causes, and this bond put in suit and recovered before the business was done for which the fee was paid. Grieved in [2] this manner without being able to obtain redress, the people were at length driven by repeated injuries to do what otherwise they would never have thought of. The Governor himself in his speech to the Assembly acknowledges the grievances and recommends enquiry & redress, but instead of accompanying the redress with an Act of Amnesty, the constant political remedy among wise and humane statesmen in like cases, [text loss] to render with fire and sword the poor abused injured people. But the story goes, that when the Parties met, after some small intercourse, it was at length agreed by the Governor to allow a certain space of time for the Insurgents to consider about laying down their Arms, and that before the allowed time was elapsed, he fell upon the unsuspecting multitude, and made great slaughter with his Cannon....See More

People: Lee, Richard Henry, 1732-1794
Lee, William, 1739-1795
Tryon, William, 1729-1788

Historical Era: American Revolution, 1763-1783

Subjects: North CarolinaRebellionMobs and RiotsGovernment and CivicsMilitary HistoryArtilleryDeathInjury or WoundLawDebtFinanceBattle

Sub Era: Road to Revolution

Order a Copy Citation Guidelines for Online Resources