|c/o Encyclopedia Virginia|
“The selfishness and corruption of Europe I have no doubt about, and therefore wish most sincerely that our free Republics may not suffer themselves to be changed and wrongly wrought upon by the corrupt maxims of policy that pervade European Councils--where artful and refined plausibility is forever called in to aid the most pernicious designs. It would seem as if there were a general jealosy [sic] beyond the water, of the powerful effects to be derived from Republican virtue here, and so we hear a constant cry from thence, echoed & reechoed here by all Expectants from the Treasury of the United States--That Congress must have more power--That we cannot be secure & happy until Congress command implicitly both purse & sword.
“So that our confederation must be perpetually changing to answer sinister views in the greater part, until every fence is thrown down that was designed to protect & cover the rights of Mankind. It is a melancholy consideration that many wise & good men have, some how [sic] or other, fallen in with these ruinous opinions. I think Sir that the first maxim of a man who loves liberty should be, never to grant to Rulers an atom of power that is not most clearly & indispensably necessary for the safety and well being [sic] of Society. To say that these Rulers are revocable, and holding their places during pleasure may not be supposed to design evil for self-aggrandizement, is affirming what I cannot easily admit. Look to history and see how often the liberties of mankind have been oppressed & ruined by the same delusive hopes & fallacious reasoning. The fact is, that power poisons the mind of its possessor and aids him to remove the shackles that restrain itself.”
– Richard Henry Lee, from a letter to Samuel Adams; March 14, 1785
Perhaps better known as Robert E. Lee’s great uncle, R.H. Lee was both a signer of the Articles of Confederation and the author of the Lee Resolution, by which the Second Continental Congress declared the Colonies to be independent of the British Empire. In fact the initial drive towards independence was led by an alliance known as the “Adams-Lee Junto.”