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aka John Randolph of Roanoke; Congressman, Senator
John Randolph was born in Cawsons, Virginia, on June 2, 1773, the son of John and Frances (Bland) Randolph. He was educated by private tutors and at private schools, and studied briefly at both the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) and Columbia College. He subsequently studied law in Philadelphia, but never practiced.
Randolph was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1798, and was subsequently re-elected five times (serving from March 4, 1799 to March 3, 1813). In January 1804, he was one of the managers appointed to conduct the impeachment proceedings against Judge John Pickering. He held a similar position in December of that same year, this time against Supreme Court Justice Samuel Chase. In June 1807, Randolph was the foreman of the Grand Jury in Richmond that was charged with considering an indictment of Aaron Burr and others for treason. By the end of the review he was angry with President Thomas Jefferson for supporting General James Wilkinson, Burr's chief accuser, whom Randolph considered a less than a reputable and honorable person.
An ardent opponent of the War of 1812, Randolph lost his bid for another term in 1812, but was returned to the House in 1814, and served from March 4, 1815 to March 3, 1817. He was not a candidate for re-election in 1816, but was again returned to the House in 1818, serving this time from March 4, 1819 to December 26, 1825, when he resigned from the House to accept appointment to the Senate seat vacated by the resignation of James Barbour. During his tenure in the Senate he talked for several days in opposition to a series of measures proposed by President John Quincy Adams that he argued would advantage the emerging industrial powers of New England at the expense of the Southern states. This series of speeches was the first Senate filibuster. He lost his bid for a full term in the Senate in 1826, but was returned to the House, serving this time from March 4, 1827 to March 3, 1829. He was not a candidate for re-election in 1828.
Randolph was a member of the Virginia constitutional convention at Richmond in 1829. He was subsequently appointed United States Minister to Russia by President Andrew Jackson, in which capacity he served from May to September, 1830, when he resigned. He was returned to the House in 1832, and this time served from March 4, 1833 until his death in Philadelphia on May 24, 1833. Originally buried at his estate in Charlotte County, Virginia, he was later reintered at Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond.
Throughout his career Randolph was a firm believer in states' rights. Like John Calhoun, he opposed the national bank and protective tariffs. Bitterly opposing the Missouri Compromise of 1820 on the grounds that the law amounted to federal intrusion into areas where it lacked a constitutional mandate, he became a lifelong enemy of Henry Clay. Their dispute over the Missouri Compromise and Clay's support of John Quincy Adams in the election of 1824 led to a bloodless duel in 1826. Although he professed to dislike slavery, Randolph owned hundreds of slaves and maintained that the federal government had no constitutional right to legislate on the institution of slavery. He did, however, free all of his slaves in his will.
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This page was last updated on December 23, 2017.