Front Page Titles (by Subject) Preface to the Liberty Fund Edition - Empire and Nation: Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania (John Dickinson). Letters from the Federal Farmer (Richard Henry Lee)
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Preface to the Liberty Fund Edition - John Dickinson, Empire and Nation: Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania (John Dickinson). Letters from the Federal Farmer (Richard Henry Lee) 
Empire and Nation: Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania (John Dickinson). Letters from the Federal Farmer (Richard Henry Lee), ed. Forrest McDonald (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund 1999).
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Preface to the Liberty Fund Edition
A minor problem arises in connection with the decision to reissue the classic essays in this volume, one that at first blush may seem not minor at all. Richard Henry Lee’s authorship of the Letters from the Federal Farmer has been questioned. It had, indeed, been challenged even before my first edition appeared in 1962. William W. Crosskey, an erratic and controversial constitutional historian, declared flatly in a 1953 book, Politics and the Constitution, that Lee was not the author, but he did not develop the assertion. He promised to discuss the matter fully in a subsequent work, but he died before that work was finished. More recently, in 1974, Gordon Wood published an article in the William and Mary Quarterly, in which he analyzed the internal logic of the letters and compared them with other examples of Lee’s writings. Wood concluded that there is no definite proof that Lee is the author, despite historians’ repeated attribution of the letters to him.
Although Lee apparently never claimed authorship—which was not uncommon among anonymous pensmen—he never denied it, either. Moreover, he was widely assumed at the time to have been the Farmer. At least ten writers (themselves anonymous) asserted in newspapers from New England to Georgia that the letters were Lee’s. Conceding that the question cannot be definitively answered unless new evidence turns up, I nonetheless share the view of his contemporaries.
I said that the point is a minor one. In a sense, it does not matter if the author is Lee or someone else. The Richard Henry Lee I describe in the introduction was a real person, but he was also a type that was especially widespread among Virginians of the revolutionary generation: my words could be applied to scores of public men; the names of James Monroe, William Grayson, Arthur Lee, George Wythe, and most of the more ideological anti-Federalist members of the Virginia ratifying convention come immediately to mind. The very fact that the mode of thinking and the ideas about government expressed by the Federal Farmer were in common currency helps explain why the letters were so influential at the time—and why they are of enduring value to those who would understand the framing.
Another prefatory note wants making. In the introduction, I depict John Dickinson and Richard Henry Lee as being poles apart in their approaches to politics and government. And so they were; but viewed from a different perspective they appear as one. Like other leaders during the founding of the American nation, they were imbued with an abiding love of liberty and a concomitant wholesome distrust of government. Those attributes guided their every public word and deed, and we owe them mightily.