H. Lee (Henry Lee IV) to Judge Woodward (Augustus Brevoort Woodward) September 15, 1824.
Six page, double-sided letter, except for the last two pages, which are single-sided. The last page contains a note from John C. Calhoun. Letter found in Florida Supreme Court case files, Wallet 774.
This early territorial letter was found among a batch of 1850s case files from the Florida Supreme Court. In the letter, Henry Lee IV (1787-1837), son of General Henry Lee (1756–1818) and half-brother of Robert E. Lee, writes to Judge Augustus Brevoort Woodward, judge of Florida’s Middle District superior court, asking Woodward to support and file a claim on Lee’s behalf for land in East Florida.
According to Harry Lee (an historian and speechwriter for politicians, including John C. Calhoun and Andrew Jackson), his father, General “Light-Horse Harry” Lee of Revolutionary War fame, acquired the property in East Florida (the location of the property is not mentioned) from Colonel Thomas Brown (1750-1825), a British officer who led Loyalist troops in Florida and Georgia during the American Revolution. General Lee may have met Brown in the Bahamas or elsewhere in the Caribbean, where Lee spent the last years of his life, and where Brown lived after Britain’s defeat in the Revolutionary War. Harry Lee reinforces his claim to the Florida property by enclosing three documents (not found with the letter) that he believes will secure his ownership. These documents, separated from the letter at some point and believed lost, were later found in case files from the 1830s. The enclosed documents are included after the note from Calhoun. One of those documents, a copy of an original land grant from the Creeks and Seminoles to Thomas Brown, can be seen here
Lee’s correspondent, Judge Woodward (1774-1827), was one of Florida’s earliest territorial judges. Before arriving in Tallahassee in 1824, Woodward had achieved prominence as a jurist in Michigan, where he served as one of the original superior court judges, chief justice of the territory’s supreme court, and planner of the City of Detroit: Woodward drew up extensive plans for the redesign of Detroit after fire destroyed the settlement in 1805. Judge Woodward served on the Florida bench for only three years (he died in 1827), but during that time he organized Florida’s territorial court of appeals.
The final page of Lee’s letter to Woodward consists of a note from John C. Calhoun, who testifies that Henry Lee is the son of General Lee. A congressman, senator, vice president of the United States, and frequent holder of cabinet-level office, Calhoun (1782-1850) was serving as secretary of war under President James Monroe when he wrote the recommendation for Lee, who had written speeches for Calhoun.
The following transcription of Lee’s letter contains all of the original text (no changes have been made in spelling or grammar).
I must beg you to excuse the liberty I am about to take with you, and must trust to your goodness for my apology. By inspecting the enclosed papers No—1, 2, and 3 you will perceive that No. 1 is an authentic copy of a grant from the Creek and Seminole Indians of a certain territory in E. Florida to Col. Thomas Browne an officer of the British army during the American War—that No. 2 is an authentic copy