Francis Lightfoot Lee (1734-1797), was an American statesman and one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. A member of the famous Lee family of Virgina, he was the son of Thomas Lee, the brother of fellow patriots William Lee, Richard Henry Lee, and Arthur Lee, and the cousin of General Lighthorse Harry Lee.
Born in the town of Stratford in Westmoreland County, Virgina on October 14, 1734, Francis Lee was educated at home by a series of private tutors, training in classical studies. Called "Frank" by his brothers, Francis Lee was widely accounted the smartest of all the brothers, and was said to have the calmer and more thoughtful disposition.
In 1758, at the youthful age of 24, he was elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses, where he would serve until 1775. In 1769 while in his mid 30s, he married a 16-year-old girl, Rebecca Tayloe of the wealthy Tayloe family, who would become the love of his life. Their surviving tender love letters attest to the strength of their attachment and the pain of their separation due to Lee's political career.
At first only a reluctant statesman, pressured into running for office by the weight of his family name, Lee gradually became an increasingly ardent and radical patriot, forming a close association with Thomas Jefferson and supporting Patrick Henry (of "Give me liberty, or give me death!" fame) in opposing the Stamp Act of 1775.
Later in 1775, Lee resigned from the House of Burgesses since he had been elected to the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia, which he served in until 1779, becoming one of the 56 signatories of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 along with his brother Richard Henry, who was also a member of the Congress.
Tired of being so far from his beloved wife, Lee left the Continental Congress in 1779 and returned to Virginia, but he still felt bound by duty and patriotism to serve in politics, so he spent another five years serving in the new Virginia State Senate.
He finally retired from politics for good in 1782, returning to his estate to living out the remainder of his years with Rebecca. The two died only 10 days apart in 1797, and were buried together in the Tayloe family crypt at the Tayloe estate of Mount Airy.
Today the remains of the home Lee built with his wife in Richmond County, Virginia, known as "Menoken," is preserved as a National Historic Landmark, and is the site of the annual Menokin Bluegrass Festival, a popular event which raises awareness and money for what is hoped will be an eventual restoration of the Menoken estate.