Lee, Arthur, 1740–92, American Revolutionary diplomat, b. Westmoreland co., Va.; brother of Francis L. Lee, Richard H. Lee, and William Lee. Educated in Great Britain, he returned to Virginia to practice medicine, but soon decided to study law and went (1768) to London. There, like William Lee, he became a partisan of John Wilkes and a political pamphleteer. In 1770 he became agent for Massachusetts in London. After the outbreak of the American Revolution, he was made a commissioner for the Continental Congress to seek foreign aid. In 1777 he went to Spain, but was unable to obtain a formal treaty; he was also refused recognition at the Prussian court in Berlin. With Benjamin Franklin and Silas Deane he helped persuade Pierre de Beaumarchais to act as agent for supplying aid to the rebellious colonials. In Paris, however, he quarreled with Franklin and Deane, and his unfavorable reports to Congress resulted in the recall of Deane and a halt on payments to Beaumarchais. In 1779 he was recalled. He later served in the Continental Congress.
See B. J. Hendrick, The Lees of Virginia (1935).
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