Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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LEE, William Little, chief justice of the Hawaiian islands, born in Sandy Hill, Washington County, New York, 25 February, 1821; died in Honolulu, 28 June, 1857 He was graduated at Norwich university, Vermont, and went to Portsmouth, Virginia, as superintendent of the military academy that had been established there by Captain Alden Partridge. He then studied at Harvard law school and settled in the practice of his profession at Troy, New York Being threatened with pulmonary phthisis, he decided to try a milder climate, and in 1846 set out for Oregon. Being detained for several months at Honolulu by repairs to the vessel on which he had sailed, Mr. Lee undertook some important suits for the Hawaiian government, and soon afterward accepted the post of chief justice and chancellor, which he retained through life. Among his labors were the framing of the revised constitution of the kingdom, and the drawing up of its civil and criminal codes. He strenuously urged upon the king and chiefs the policy of giving up a third of their lands to the common people, and when a law to that effect was passed he was appointed president of the land commission to carry out its provisions; but he declined to accept any compensation for his services. Judge Lee's health, always delicate, gave way as a result of undue exposure in attendance upon the sick during an epidemic of small-pox that decimated the Hawaiian nation in 1853. This brought on a return of his early malady, and in 1855 he left for the United States in the hope of regaining his health. As minister Judge Lee negotiated a reciprocity treaty, while there, with William L. Marcy, who was then secretary of state.
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