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John Randolph of Roanoke

Randolph as he appears at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.
Personal data
Date of birthJune 2, 1773
Place of birthCawsons, Virginia
Date of deathMay 24, 1833(age 59)
Place of deathPhiladelphia, Pennsylvania
Political partyDemocratic-Republican
ProfessionPlanter
ReligionEpiscopalian
8th United States Minister to Russia
In officeMay 26, 1830 - September 19, 1830
PresidentAndrew Jackson
Succeeded byJames Buchanan
Preceded byHenry Middleton
In officeDecember 26, 1825 - March 4, 1827
Succeeded byJohn Tyler
Preceded byJames Barbour
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Virginia's 5th district
In officeMarch 4, 1833 - May 24, 1833
Succeeded byThomas T. Bouldin
Preceded byThomas T. Bouldin
In officeMarch 4, 1827 - March 4, 1829
Succeeded byThomas T. Bouldin
Preceded byGeorge W. Crump
In officeMarch 4, 1823 - December 26, 1825
Succeeded byGeorge W. Crump
Preceded byJohn Floyd
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Virginia's 16th district
In officeMarch 4, 1819 - March 4, 1823
Succeeded byJames Stephenson
Preceded byArchibald Austin
In officeMarch 4, 1815 - March 4, 1817
Succeeded byArchibald Austin
Preceded byJohn W. Eppes
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Virginia's 15th district
In officeMarch 4, 1803 - March 4, 1813
Succeeded byJohn Kerr
Preceded byJohn Dawson

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John Randolph (June 2, 1773 - May 24, 1833), known as John Randolph of Roanoke, was a planter and a Congressman from Virginia, serving in the House of Representatives (1799 1813, 1815 1817, 1819 1825, 1827 1829, 1833), the Senate (1825 1827), and also as Minister to Russia (1830). After serving as President Thomas Jefferson's spokesman in the House, he broke with Jefferson in 1803 and became the leader of the "Old Republican" 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, 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 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 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. While opposed to the slave trade, Randolph remained dependent on hundreds of slaves to work his tobacco plantation. He provided for their manumission 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 (1918 1994).


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