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John Randolph of Roanoke

American politician

Died when: 59 years 356 days (719 months)
Star Sign: Gemini


John Randolph of Roanoke

John Randolph (June 2, 1773 – May 24, 1833), commonly known as John Randolph of Roanoke, was an American planter, and a politician from Virginia, serving in the House of Representatives at various times between 1799 and 1833, and the Senate from 1825 to 1827.

He was also Minister to Russia under Andrew Jackson in 1830.After serving as President Thomas Jefferson's spokesman in the House, he broke with the president in 1805 as a result of what he saw as the dilution of traditional Jeffersonian principles as well as perceived mistreatment during the impeachment of Samuel Chase, in which Randolph served as chief prosecutor.

Following this split, Randolph proclaimed himself the leader of the "Old Republicans" or "Tertium Quids", a wing of the Democratic-Republican Party who wanted to restrict the role of the federal government.

Specifically, Randolph promoted the Principles of '98, which said that individual states could judge the constitutionality of central government laws and decrees, and could refuse to enforce laws deemed unconstitutional.

Described as a quick-thinking orator with a remarkable wit, he was committed to republicanism and advocated a commercial agrarian society throughout his three decades in Congress.

Randolph "attracted great attention from the severity of his invectives, the piquancy of his sarcasms, the piercing intonation of his voice and his peculiarly expressive gesticulation." Randolph's conservative stance, displayed in his arguments against debt and for the rights of the landed, slaveholding gentry, have been attributed to his ties to his family estate and the elitist values of his native Southside Virginia.

His belief in the importance of a landed gentry led him to oppose the abolition of entail and primogeniture: "The old families of Virginia will form connections with low people, and sink into the mass of overseers' sons and daughters".

Randolph vehemently opposed the War of 1812 and the Missouri Compromise of 1820; he was active in debates about tariffs, manufacturing, and currency.

With mixed feelings about slavery, he was one of the founders of the American Colonization Society in 1816, to send free blacks to a colony in Africa.

At the same time, he believed that slavery was a necessity in Virginia, saying, "The question of slavery, as it is called, is to us a question of life and death ...

You will find no instance in history where two distinct races have occupied the soil except in the relation of master and slave." In addition, Randolph remained dependent on hundreds of slaves to work his tobacco plantation.

However, he provided for their manumission and resettlement in the free state of Ohio in his will, providing monies for the purchase of land and supplies.

They founded Rossville, now part of Piqua, Ohio and Rumley, Ohio.His supporters admire Randolph's fiery character, and education was one of his passions.

On the other hand, others, particularly northern advocates of democracy, mocked Randolph for his eccentricities discussed below, as did many Virginians including Thomas Jefferson.

He applied rousing methods in electioneering, which he also enjoyed as a hobby.Randolph appealed directly to yeomen, using entertaining and enlightening oratory, sociability, and community of interest, particularly in agriculture.

This resulted in an enduring voter attachment to him.His defense of limited government appeals to modern and contemporary conservatives, most notably Russell Kirk (1918–1994).

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