Arthur Lee (1740
), a member of the famous Lee family
patriots, was an American diplomat in Europe during the American Revolution
Educated in Great Britain, Lee briefly came back to Virginia to practice medicine, but returned to London in 1768 to study law, becoming a follower of John Wilkes and a political pamphleteer. In 1770 he became agent for Massachusetts in London, and upon the outbreak of the Revolution, was commissioned by the Continental Congress to seek foreign aid.
In 1777 Lee traveled to Spain but failed to secure a formal treaty and was also refused recognition by the Prussians. Lee had greater success in France working with Benjamin Franklin and Silas Deane to persuade Pierre de Beaumarchais to supply aid to the revolutionaries. Beaumarchais succeeded in getting arms and supplies sent to the colonials in time to help win the Battle of Saratoga, and paved the way for the later alliance of the French with the Colonies.
Lee later quarreled with Franklin and Deane, however, and his unfavorable reports to Congress resulted in Deane's recall and an end to the understanding with Beaumarchais. In 1779 Lee was recalled as a failure, although he later served in the Continental Congress.