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Documenting a Legacy:
Governor Thomas Sim Lee

Thomas Sim Lee’s long career of public service in Maryland began as a court clerk in his native Prince George’s County. In that position, Lee was responsible for the court's administrative matters and oversaw the well being of legal records for the county. Lee served in this office until the onset of the American Revolution.

With the outbreak of the American Revolution, Lee was among those who quickly moved to support the cause of independence. In the winter of 1775-76, he was commissioned a major in the Maryland Militia, and helped to organize a militia unit in Prince George’s County.

Lee was first elected Governor of Maryland by the legislature in 1779, and was reelected each of the next two years. He began his tenure during the turmoil of the American Revolution. Just a month into office, Governor Lee received this desperate plea from General George Washington, who wrote that “the situation of the army with respect to supplies is beyond alarming…we have not more that three days bread.” If the states could not provide the army with vital supplies, Washington feared “that the army will infallibly disband in a fortnight.” Ten days later, Lee replied that the Maryland General Assembly had passed legislation which, Lee hoped, offered “a well grounded hope that the wants of the Army will be speedily satisfied.”

Click to enlarge
Bond, Clerk of Prince George’s County Court, 1767
MSA S987
Click to enlarge images
Letter, Washington to Lee
December 16, 1779, MSA S991
Commission, Thomas Sim Lee, Major, 1776, MSA SC 349 Testbook, MSA S1089

The governor and members of the Council signed the oath in this Test Book, shown at right, at the start of each term in office. Thomas Sim Lee’s signature, likely as a member of the Council in 1777, appears in the middle column, third from the top. The signatures of a number of notable figures are also visible, including Maryland’s four signers of the Declaration of Independence—Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer, Thomas Stone, William Paca, Charles Carroll of Carrollton—and the state’s first elected governor, Thomas Johnson. 

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