Big Brother is watching out for you….

After the death of his father Thomas, Philip Ludwell Lee of Stratford—Thomas’s eldest son—was responsible for the education of two of his younger brothers.  According to Thomas Lee’s will, his executors (Phil was one of them) were to maintain and educate his two youngest sons out of his estate “in such manner as they think fitt Religiously and virtuously and if necessary to bind them to any profession or Trade, soe that they may Learn to get their Living honestly.” 

William Lee

William Lee

Philip Ludwell put younger brother William to work as a clerk in his office to prepare him for a position in the mercantile business.  This may have been prompted by the fact that the Lees had had members of the past two generations working as merchants in London, where they looked out for family interests. William resented working years for Col. Phil while learning how to deal in the tobacco trade, and he finally left Stratford for London.  William eventually became a London merchant, owning his own ship, but often complained that Col. Phil consigned his tobacco with competing merchants who were also kinsmen.

Col. Phil had a different plan for his youngest Lee brother, Arthur, just 14 years old.  Phil evidently recognized Arthur’s scholarly nature and chose to send him to Eton where he himself had been taught.  Eton, located near Windsor Castle, was (and is) a boarding school for boys ages 13 to 18 and was, along with Winchester School, one of the top educational choices for elite Virginia families.  Phil made all of the arrangements, contacting Eton’s headmaster and another master, Thomas Dampier, who was a relative.  To the Rev. Mr. Dampier, Philip wrote: “I chuse he [Arthur] should learn everything that is taught at the school.  I intend him to be a Physician which is what he now chuses but when he is fit to leave your school I shall be greatly [o]bliged to you to inform me what Profession you shall think him fittest for.”[i]

Arthur Lee

Philip sent Arthur to London in 1764 in his own ship, the Lee, with orders for Captain Snow to deliver him to merchant James Russell, whose wife was Philip’s cousin.  Col. Phil’s instructions to Russell included: “If he chuses to be inoculated for the small Pox, you may have it done, the surgeon I should chuse would be Mr. Sharpe who is the most famous.  If he should want a physician Dr. Fothergil I should like…I desire my brother may have a suit of plain cloaths made as soon as he gets to you of such as is fit for a boy of his age and other things for his dress proper to wear with it.  I chuse he should only have one plain winter suit and one plain summer suit in a year and the other parts of his dress suitable to them.  He will have occasion for little or no pocket money as he is to get his living by his head and has not an estate to support him as a Gentleman without a profession, so the more he minds his studys the less time he will have to spend money.[ii]

Eton, 1690 engraving

Arthur Lee performed well in his studies and, after Eton, attended the University of Edinburgh for final training as a physician.  However, Col. Phil’s investment in Arthur as a medical student was unfruitful, since Arthur decided that he wasn’t cut out for practicing medicine and turned to the study of law.  Although his methods often seemed stingy and heavy-handed, Phil carried out his responsibility to his brothers.  Both William and Arthur Lee had successful careers and, while across the Atlantic during the Revolution, helped to advance the cause of American independence. 



[i] Philip Ludwell Lee to the Rev. Mr. Thomas Dampier, dated November 28, 1754.  Letterbook from the Ingrid Westesson Hoes Archives of the James Monroe Museum & Memorial Library

[ii] Philip Ludwell Lee to James Russell, dated November 28, 1754.  Letterbook from the Ingrid Westesson Hoes Archives of the James Monroe Museum & Memorial Library