John Randolph of Roanoke

John Randolph of Roanoke

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John Randolph known as John Randolph of Roanoke, was a planter
Plantations in the American South
Plantations were an important aspect of the history of the American South, particularly the antebellum .-Planter :The owner of a plantation was called a planter...

 and a Congressman
United States Congress
The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C....

 from Virginia, serving in the House of Representatives
United States House of Representatives
The United States House of Representatives is one of the two Houses of the United States Congress, the bicameral legislature which also includes the Senate.The composition and powers of the House are established in Article One of the Constitution...

 (1799–1813, 1815–1817, 1819–1825, 1827–1829, 1833), the Senate
United States Senate
The United States Senate is the upper house of the bicameral legislature of the United States, and together with the United States House of Representatives comprises the United States Congress. The composition and powers of the Senate are established in Article One of the U.S. Constitution. Each...

 (1825–1827), and also as Minister to Russia (1830). After serving as President Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson was the principal author of the United States Declaration of Independence and the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom , the third President of the United States and founder of the University of Virginia...

's spokesman in the House, he broke with Jefferson in 1803 and became the leader of the "Old Republican
Tertium quids
The tertium quids refers to various factions of the American Democratic-Republican Party during the period 1804–1812. In Latin, tertium quid means "a third something"...

" or "Quids" faction of the Democratic-Republican Party who wanted to restrict the role of the federal government. Specifically, Randolph promoted the Principles of '98
Principles of '98
The Principles of '98 refer to the American political position that individual states could judge the constitutionality of central government laws and decrees, and could refuse to enforce laws deemed unconstitutional. This refusal to enforce unconstitutional laws is generally referred to as...

, which said that individual states could judge the constitutionality of central government laws and decrees, and could refuse to enforce laws deemed unconstitutional.

A quick thinking orator with a wicked wit, he was committed to republicanism
Republicanism in the United States
Republicanism is the political value system that has been a major part of American civic thought since the American Revolution. It stresses liberty and inalienable rights as central values, makes the people as a whole sovereign, supports activist government to promote the common good, rejects...

 and advocated a commercial agrarian society throughout his three decades in Congress. Randolph's conservative stance, displayed in his arguments against debt and for the rights of the landed gentry, have been attributed to his ties to his family estate and the elitist values of his native Southside Virginia. Randolph vehemently opposed the War of 1812
War of 1812
The War of 1812 was a military conflict fought between the forces of the United States of America and those of the British Empire. The Americans declared war in 1812 for several reasons, including trade restrictions because of Britain's ongoing war with France, impressment of American merchant...

 and the Missouri Compromise
Missouri Compromise
The Missouri Compromise was an agreement passed in 1820 between the pro-slavery and anti-slavery factions in the United States Congress, involving primarily the regulation of slavery in the western territories. It prohibited slavery in the former Louisiana Territory north of the parallel 36°30'...

 of 1820; he was active in debates about tariffs, manufacturing, and currency. With mixed feelings about slavery
Slavery
Slavery is a system under which people are treated as property to be bought and sold, and are forced to work. Slaves can be held against their will from the time of their capture, purchase or birth, and deprived of the right to leave, to refuse to work, or to demand compensation...

, he was one of the founders of the American Colonization Society
American Colonization Society
The American Colonization Society , founded in 1816, was the primary vehicle to support the "return" of free African Americans to what was considered greater freedom in Africa. It helped to found the colony of Liberia in 1821–22 as a place for freedmen...

 in 1816, to send free blacks to a colony in Africa. While opposed to the slave trade, Randolph remained dependent on hundreds of slaves to work his tobacco
Tobacco
Tobacco is an agricultural product processed from the leaves of plants in the genus Nicotiana. It can be consumed, used as a pesticide and, in the form of nicotine tartrate, used in some medicines...

 plantation
Plantation
A plantation is a long artificially established forest, farm or estate, where crops are grown for sale, often in distant markets rather than for local on-site consumption...

. He provided for their manumission
Manumission
Manumission is the act of a slave owner freeing his or her slaves. In the United States before the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which abolished most slavery, this often happened upon the death of the owner, under conditions in his will.-Motivations:The...

 and resettlement in Ohio in his will.

Voters enjoyed both his fiery character and his lively electioneering methods. Randolph appealed directly to yeomen, using entertaining and enlightening oratory, sociability, and community of interest, particularly in agriculture, that led to an enduring voter attachment to him regardless of his personal deficiencies. His defense of limited government appeals to modern and contemporary conservatives, most notably Russell Kirk
Russell Kirk
Russell Kirk was an American political theorist, moralist, historian, social critic, literary critic, and fiction author known for his influence on 20th century American conservatism. His 1953 book, The Conservative Mind, gave shape to the amorphous post–World War II conservative movement...

 (1918–1994).

Biography


Randolph was born at Cawsons, Virginia (now in Hopewell, Virginia
Hopewell, Virginia
Hopewell is an independent city in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The population was 22,591 at the 2010 Census . It is in Tri-Cities area of the Richmond-Petersburg region and is a portion of the Richmond Metropolitan Statistical Area...

), the son of rich tobacco planter
Planter
Planter may refer to:*A flower pot or box for plants**Jardinière, one such type of pot*A person or object engaged in sowing seeds**Planter , implement towed behind a tractor, used for sowing crops through a field*A coloniser...

 John Randolph (1742–1775) and Frances Bland (1744–1788). His family was one of the prominent First Families of Virginia
First Families of Virginia
First Families of Virginia were those families in Colonial Virginia who were socially prominent and wealthy, but not necessarily the earliest settlers. They originated with colonists from England who primarily settled at Jamestown, Williamsburg, and along the James River and other navigable waters...

, he was the grandson of Richard Randolph
Richard Randolph
Richard Randolph , sometimes referred to as Richard Randolph of Curles Neck, was a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses and a Treasurer for the Colony of Virginia...

 and the great-grandson of William Randolph
William Randolph
William Randolph was a colonist and land owner who played an important role in the history and government of the Commonwealth of Virginia. He moved to Virginia sometime between 1669 and 1673, and married Mary Isham a few years later...

. He was the nephew of Congressman Theodorick Bland
Theodorick Bland (congressman)
Theodorick Bland , also known as Theodorick Bland, Jr., was a physician, soldier, and statesman from Prince George County, Virginia...

 and Thomas Tudor Tucker
Thomas Tudor Tucker
Thomas Tudor Tucker was an American physician and politician from Charleston, South Carolina. He represented South Carolina in both the Continental Congress and the U.S. House. He later served as Treasurer of the United States.-Biography:Thomas was born in St...

, a half brother of Henry St. George Tucker, Sr.
Henry St. George Tucker, Sr.
Henry St. George Tucker, Sr. was a Virginia jurist, law professor, and U.S. Congressman .-Biography:Tucker was born in Williamsburg, Virginia on December 29, 1780. As a young man, Tucker pursued classical studies at the College of William & Mary; he graduated in 1798...

 and Nathaniel Beverley Tucker
Nathaniel Beverley Tucker
Nathaniel Beverley Tucker was an American author, judge, legal scholar, and political essayist.-Life and Politics:...

, and maternal cousin of Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson was the principal author of the United States Declaration of Independence and the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom , the third President of the United States and founder of the University of Virginia...

. His step-father, St. George Tucker
St. George Tucker
St. George Tucker was a lawyer, professor of law at the College of William and Mary, and judge of Virginia's highest court. In 1813, upon the nomination of President James Madison, he became the United States district judge for Virginia.-Early life:Born in St. George, Bermuda, near Port Royal...

, married his widowed mother in 1778.

An illness as a young man left Randolph beardless and high-voiced. First studying under private tutors, Randolph attended Walter Maury's private school, then the College of New Jersey
Princeton University
Princeton University is a private research university located in Princeton, New Jersey, United States. The school is one of the eight universities of the Ivy League, and is one of the nine Colonial Colleges founded before the American Revolution....

, and Columbia College
Columbia College of Columbia University
Columbia College is the oldest undergraduate college at Columbia University, situated on the university's main campus in Morningside Heights in the borough of Manhattan in New York City. It was founded in 1754 by the Church of England as King's College, receiving a Royal Charter from King George II...

, New York City. He studied law in Philadelphia, but never practiced.

His interment was in Richmond's Hollywood Cemetery.

Career


At the unusually young age of 26, Randolph was elected to the Sixth and to the six succeeding US Congresses (1799 to 1813). Federalist William Plumer
William Plumer
William Plumer was an American lawyer and Baptist lay preacher from Epping, New Hampshire. Born in 1759 in Newburyport, Massachusetts, he represented New Hampshire as a Federalist in the United States Senate from June 17, 1802 to March 4, 1807...

 of New Hampshire
New Hampshire
New Hampshire is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. The state was named after the southern English county of Hampshire. It is bordered by Massachusetts to the south, Vermont to the west, Maine and the Atlantic Ocean to the east, and the Canadian...

 wrote in 1803 of his striking presence:

Mr. Randolph goes to the House booted and spurred, with his whip in hand, in imitation, it is said, of members of the British Parliament. He is a very slight man but of the common stature. At a little distance, he does not appear older than you are; but, upon a nearer approach, you perceive his wrinkles and grey hairs. He is, I believe, about thirty. He is a descendant in the right line from the celebrated Indian Princess, Pochahontas. The Federalists ridicule and affect to despise him; but a despised foe often proves a dangerous enemy. His talents are certainly far above mediocrity. As a popular speaker, he is not inferior to any man in the House. I admire his ingenuity and address; but I dislike his politics.


Randolph was chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means
United States House Committee on Ways and Means
The Committee of Ways and Means is the chief tax-writing committee of the United States House of Representatives. Members of the Ways and Means Committee are not allowed to serve on any other House Committees unless they apply for a waiver from their party's congressional leadership...

 in the Seventh through the Ninth Congresses, acting as the Democratic-Republican party leader. After breaking with his cousin the President Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson was the principal author of the United States Declaration of Independence and the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom , the third President of the United States and founder of the University of Virginia...

 in 1806, he founded the Tertium quids
Tertium quids
The tertium quids refers to various factions of the American Democratic-Republican Party during the period 1804–1812. In Latin, tertium quid means "a third something"...

, a faction of the Democratic-Republican Party that called for a return to the Principles of 1798
Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions
The Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions were political statements drafted in 1798 and 1799, in which the Kentucky and Virginia legislatures took the position that the federal Alien and Sedition Acts were unconstitutional...

 and renounced what it saw as creeping nationalism
Nationalism
Nationalism is a political ideology that involves a strong identification of a group of individuals with a political entity defined in national terms, i.e. a nation. In the 'modernist' image of the nation, it is nationalism that creates national identity. There are various definitions for what...

.

Although he greatly admired the political ideals of the Revolutionary War generation, Randolph, influenced by Southern anti-Federalism, propounded a version of republicanism that called for the traditional patriarchal society of Virginia's elite gentry to preserve social stability with minimal government interference. Randolph was one of the Congressional managers who conducted the successful impeachment proceedings against John Pickering
John Pickering (judge)
John Pickering served as Chief Justice of the New Hampshire Superior Court of Judicature and as Judge for the United States District Court for the District of New Hampshire...

, judge of the United States District Court
United States district court
The United States district courts are the general trial courts of the United States federal court system. Both civil and criminal cases are filed in the district court, which is a court of law, equity, and admiralty. There is a United States bankruptcy court associated with each United States...

 for New Hampshire
New Hampshire
New Hampshire is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. The state was named after the southern English county of Hampshire. It is bordered by Massachusetts to the south, Vermont to the west, Maine and the Atlantic Ocean to the east, and the Canadian...

, in January 1804. Critics complained that he mismanaged the failed impeachment effort in December of the same year against Samuel Chase
Samuel Chase
Samuel Chase was an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court and earlier was a signatory to the United States Declaration of Independence as a representative of Maryland. Early in life, Chase was a "firebrand" states-righter and revolutionary...

, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
Supreme Court of the United States
The Supreme Court of the United States is the highest court in the United States. It has ultimate appellate jurisdiction over all state and federal courts, and original jurisdiction over a small range of cases...

.

In June 1807 Randolph was the foreman of the Grand Jury in Richmond
Richmond, Virginia
Richmond is the capital of the Commonwealth of Virginia, in the United States. It is an independent city and not part of any county. Richmond is the center of the Richmond Metropolitan Statistical Area and the Greater Richmond area...

, which was considering the indictment of Aaron Burr
Aaron Burr
Aaron Burr, Jr. was an important political figure in the early history of the United States of America. After serving as a Continental Army officer in the Revolutionary War, Burr became a successful lawyer and politician...

 and others for treason. By the end of the review he was angry with Thomas Jefferson for supporting General James Wilkinson
James Wilkinson
James Wilkinson was an American soldier and statesman, who was associated with several scandals and controversies. He served in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War, but was twice compelled to resign...

, Burr's chief accuser. He considered Wilkinson less than a reputable and honorable person.

Defeated for re-election in 1812 due to his opposition to the War of 1812
War of 1812
The War of 1812 was a military conflict fought between the forces of the United States of America and those of the British Empire. The Americans declared war in 1812 for several reasons, including trade restrictions because of Britain's ongoing war with France, impressment of American merchant...

, Randolph was elected in 1814 and 1816. He skipped a term, then was re-elected and served from 1819 until his resignation in 1825. Randolph was appointed to the US Senate in December, 1825 to fill a vacancy, and served until 1827. Randolph was elected to the Congress in 1826, chairing the Committee on Ways and Means.

Randolph was a member of the Virginia constitutional convention at Richmond in 1829. He was appointed United States Minister to Russia by President Andrew Jackson
Andrew Jackson
Andrew Jackson was the seventh President of the United States . Based in frontier Tennessee, Jackson was a politician and army general who defeated the Creek Indians at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend , and the British at the Battle of New Orleans...

 and served from May to September, 1830, when he resigned for health reasons.

Elected again in 1832, he served until his death in Philadelphia on May 24, 1833. He is buried at Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia
Richmond, Virginia
Richmond is the capital of the Commonwealth of Virginia, in the United States. It is an independent city and not part of any county. Richmond is the center of the Richmond Metropolitan Statistical Area and the Greater Richmond area...

. He never married.


John Greenleaf Whittier
John Greenleaf Whittier
John Greenleaf Whittier was an influential American Quaker poet and ardent advocate of the abolition of slavery in the United States. He is usually listed as one of the Fireside Poets...

's poem "Randolph of Roanoke," although written after the Virginian had become a symbol of "slave power," captures his strange brilliance:
Mirth, sparkling like a diamond shower,
From lips of life-long sadness;
Clear picturings of majestic thought
Upon a ground of madness
While others hailed in distant skies
Our eagle's dusky pinion,
He only saw the mountain bird
Stoop o'er his Old Dominion!
All parties feared him; each in turn
Beheld its schemes disjointed,
At right or left his fatal glance
And spectral finger pointed

Eccentricity and outsider status


Despite being a Virginia gentleman, one of the great orators in the history of Caroline, and House leader, Randolph after five years of leadership became (1803) a permanent outsider. He had personal eccentricities as well, which were made worse by his lifelong ill health (he died of tuberculosis
Tuberculosis
Tuberculosis, MTB, or TB is a common, and in many cases lethal, infectious disease caused by various strains of mycobacteria, usually Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Tuberculosis usually attacks the lungs but can also affect other parts of the body...

), his heavy drinking, and his occasional use of opium
Opium
Opium is the dried latex obtained from the opium poppy . Opium contains up to 12% morphine, an alkaloid, which is frequently processed chemically to produce heroin for the illegal drug trade. The latex also includes codeine and non-narcotic alkaloids such as papaverine, thebaine and noscapine...

. According to Bill Kauffman
Bill Kauffman
Bill Kauffman is an American political writer generally aligned with the paleoconservative movement. He was born in Batavia, New York, and currently resides in Elba, New York, with his wife and daughter....

, Randolph was “a habitual opium user [and] a bachelor who seems to have nurtured a crush on Andrew Jackson.” He once fought a duel with Henry Clay
Henry Clay
Henry Clay, Sr. , was a lawyer, politician and skilled orator who represented Kentucky separately in both the Senate and in the House of Representatives...

, but otherwise kept his bellicosity to the floor of Congress. He routinely dressed in a flashy manner, often accompanied by his slaves and his hunting dogs. "[W]hen Clay had set about making the speakership a position of true power upon his first election to that post in 1811, he had unceremoniously ordered Randolph to remove his dog from the House floor—something no previous Speaker had dared to do."

Together with Henry Clay, Randolph was one of three founders of the American Colonization Society
American Colonization Society
The American Colonization Society , founded in 1816, was the primary vehicle to support the "return" of free African Americans to what was considered greater freedom in Africa. It helped to found the colony of Liberia in 1821–22 as a place for freedmen...

 (ACS) in 1816, a collaboration of slaveholders and abolitionists that planned to transport and resettle free blacks in a colony in Africa (this territory became Liberia
Liberia
Liberia , officially the Republic of Liberia, is a country in West Africa. It is bordered by Sierra Leone on the west, Guinea on the north and Côte d'Ivoire on the east. Liberia's coastline is composed of mostly mangrove forests while the more sparsely populated inland consists of forests that open...

). Like some other slaveholders, Randolph had long been opposed to slavery in theory. In the two decades after the Revolutionary War, so many planters freed slaves that the proportion of free blacks
Free people of color
A free person of color in the context of the history of slavery in the Americas, is a person of full or partial African descent who was not enslaved...

 in Virginia increased from less than one percent in 1782 to 13.5 percent in 1810.

In 1819, Randolph provided in his will for the manumission
Manumission
Manumission is the act of a slave owner freeing his or her slaves. In the United States before the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which abolished most slavery, this often happened upon the death of the owner, under conditions in his will.-Motivations:The...

 of his slaves after his death. He wrote, "I give and bequeath to all my slaves their freedom, heartily regretting that I have ever been the owner of one." Three years later, in 1822, in a codicil to that will, he stipulated that money be provided to transport and settle the freed slaves on land to be purchased in the free state
Free state
Free state may refer to:* Free state , a loosely defined term used by various states at different times and places to describe themselves...

 of Ohio. Each slave above the age of 40 was to receive 10 acres of land. He provided for the manumission of hundreds of slaves in his will. Although the will was challenged in the courts, his slaves were finally ruled to be free. After a lengthy court case, his will was upheld. In 1846 three hundred eighty-three former "Randolph Slaves" arrived in Cincinnati, before settling in Rumley, Shelby County, Ohio
Shelby County, Ohio
As of the census of 2000, there were 47,910 people, 17,636 households, and 13,085 families residing in the county. The population density was 117 people per square mile . There were 18,682 housing units at an average density of 46 per square mile...

. (See List of ghost towns in the United States).

Religion


Randolph was raised and remained within the Episcopal Church. Although he went through a phase of youthful irreligion, in 1818 he had a crisis ending in a conversion experience, all of which he recounted in letters to several friends. His life thereafter was marked with piety; for example, he wrote to John Brockenbrough
John White Brockenbrough
John White Brockenbrough was a Virginia lawyer, federal judge, educator, and the founder of the Washington and Lee University School of Law....

 that he was restrained from taking communion
Eucharist
The Eucharist , also called Holy Communion, the Sacrament of the Altar, the Blessed Sacrament, the Lord's Supper, and other names, is a Christian sacrament or ordinance...

 "by the fear of eating and drinking unrighteously."

Quotes


"We all know our duty better than we discharge it."

"I am an aristocrat. I love liberty, I hate equality."

"Time is at once the most valuable, and the most perishable of all our possessions."

(In reference to the Embargo Act of 1807
Embargo Act of 1807
The Embargo Act of 1807 and the subsequent Nonintercourse Acts were American laws restricting American ships from engaging in foreign trade between the years of 1807 and 1812. The Acts were diplomatic responses by presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison designed to protect American interests...

:) "It can be likened to curing corns by cutting off the toes."

(In reference to President John Quincy Adams
John Quincy Adams
John Quincy Adams was the sixth President of the United States . He served as an American diplomat, Senator, and Congressional representative. He was a member of the Federalist, Democratic-Republican, National Republican, and later Anti-Masonic and Whig parties. Adams was the son of former...

 in 1826:) "It is my duty to leave nothing undone that I may lawfully do, to pull down this administration... They who, from indifference, or with their eyes open, persist in hugging the traitor to their bosom, deserve to be insulted... deserve to be slaves, with no other music to soothe them but the clank of the chains which they have put on themselves and given to their offspring."

Legacy and honors

  • A modern conservative political group, the John Randolph Club
    John Randolph Club
    The John Randolph Club is a paleoconservative social and political organization founded in the 1980s and operated by the Rockford Institute. It is named after John Randolph of Roanoke , a 19th century U.S...

    , is named after Randolph.

  • Randolph-Macon College
    Randolph-Macon College
    Randolph–Macon College is a private, co-educational liberal arts college located in Ashland, Virginia, United States, near the capital city of Richmond. Founded in 1830, the school has an enrollment of over 1,200 students...

     and Randolph College
    Randolph College
    Randolph College is a private liberal arts and sciences college located in Lynchburg, Virginia. Founded in 1891 as Randolph-Macon Woman's College, it was renamed on July 1, 2007, when it became coeducational....

     also bear his name.

Ancestry





See also



Works

  • Randolph, John. Letters of John Randolph, to a Young Relative, 1834, 254 pp. (Available online.)
  • Randolph, John. Collected letters of John Randolph of Roanoke to Dr. John Brockenbrough, 1812–1833, edited by Kenneth Shorey; foreword by Russell Kirk
    Russell Kirk
    Russell Kirk was an American political theorist, moralist, historian, social critic, literary critic, and fiction author known for his influence on 20th century American conservatism. His 1953 book, The Conservative Mind, gave shape to the amorphous post–World War II conservative movement...

    , Transaction Books, 1988. ISBN 0-88738-194-4

External links