The Lee-Fendall House and Museum, located in historic Alexandria, Va., has requested and will now offer to the public and visiting researchers books and research materials by East Georgia State College’s Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences Dr. H. Lee Cheek.
Located on property of Major-General Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee, one of greatest heroes of the American Revolution, ninth Governor of Virginia, and father of General Robert E. Lee, “Lighthorse” sold this town lot at the corner of Oronoco Street to his cousin, Philip R. Fendall, in 1784. Fendall oversaw construction of the wood frame mansion which was completed in 1785. Between 1785 and 1903, the house was a residence for several generations of the Lee family, and many prominent Americans visited the house, including Fendall’s close friend, George Washington. This period of residency was interrupted during the Civil War when the Union Army turned the property into a hospital for wounded soldiers.
By 1907, the house had been purchased by Robert Downham, a prominent Alexandria liquor purveyor, who resided with his family in the house for the next 31 years. In 1937, Downham conveyed the house to John L. Lewis. As president of the United Mine Workers of America and founder of the Congress of Industrial Organizations, Lewis was one of the most powerful and controversial labor leaders in American history. He lived in this house during the height of his career. Upon Lewis’ death in 1969, the future of the house was threatened until the Virginia Trust for Historic Preservation (VTHP) purchased it and opened it as a house museum in 1974.
Dr. Cheek’s contribution the Lee-Fendall Museum concerns the writings and political activities of Philip Fendall, Jr., son of Phillip Fendall and political advisor to President John Quincy Adams. In the fiercely contested, yet inconclusive election of 1824, the stage was set for one of the great debates of American political history. The emerging personal and philosophical dispute between Vice-President John C. Calhoun and President John Quincy Adams prompted the "Patrick Henry/Onslow" debate and their subsequent disengagement from each other. Adams's early initiatives alarmed Calhoun, who feared the "principles of '98" were threatened by this proposed dramatic increase of the general government's power and the erosion of constitutional integrity. On the other hand, Calhoun's lack of support for the administration's programs was a source of great and legitimate concern to Adams.
Dr. Cheek discovered the debate and related writings and edited these documents in a recent book, Patrick Henry-Onslow Debate: Liberty and Republicanism in American Political Thought, published by Lexington Books, an internationally-respected publisher. Dr. Cheek’s book contains the record of one of the most momentous political debates about the meaning of republican government in the decades before the Civil War, a discussion that remains relevant today.