Figure 1.-- Gilbert Stuasrt painted John Randoplh as an important Congressman (1805). Randolph was a Congressional leader, a unique figure in the early Congresses of the Republic. A boyhood disease left him beardless and with an unchanged voice. He never married. He did live a very active life. He was asuasive orator in an age that was very importasnt. He was regarded as one of the most effective debaters in the House of Representatives. Stuart's potrrait captures his deceptively youthful appearness.

John Randolph (U.S., 1773-1833)

John Randolph was an important American statesman. He was born 1733 in Cawsons, Virginia. He was related to Edmund Randolph, Aide de Camp,to General Washington and Indian Princess Pocahontos. He was a major force in Congress during the early-19th century as Chairmman of the Ways and Means Committee. While a Republican, he broke with President Jefferson over the precrived drift away from early Republican principles. He was involved in impeavtment efforts targeting Federalists judges. He was also involved in the trial of former Vive President Aaron Burr.


Randoplh was related to Edmund Randolph, Aide de Camp,to General Washington and Indian Princess Pocahontos. His father was a wealthy tobacco planter, John Randolph (1742–75). His mother was Frances Bland (1744–88).


John was born Cawsons, Prince George County, Virginia (1773). He was commonly known as John Randolph of Roanoke to distinguish him from kinsmen. An unusual boyhood illness lrft John beardless and with a high, child-like voice. Some have speculated that it was Klinefelter's syndrome.

Boyhood Clothes and Hair

John as a boy he appears to have worn adult-styled close and thde specialized boys' styles were just beginning to take hold. I'm not sure how he wore his hair as a young boy, but by the mid 1780s he was wearing it short, without a wig or queue. From boyhood he was a natty dresser. As a Congressman he was often see in smarth clothes, surronded by his slaves and hunting dogs.


John as a boy studied under private tutors and at private schools. He attended the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University), and Columbia College, New York City. He studied law in Philadelphia. He also studied law under his cousin Edmund Randolph. He never actually practiced law.

Congressional Career

Randolph was elected to the Sixth Congress and to the six succeeding Congresses (1799-1813). He was a Republican and began his Congressional career as a strong supporter of fellow Virginian Thomas Jefferson. Randolph was a contradiction. He ws a Republican who supported democracy, the common man, and individual rights, but considered himself an aistocrat and had little regard for the common man. He was noted for saying, "I am an aristocrat. I love liberty, I hate equality." He became the Democratic leader in the House of Representatives as a result of his chasirmanship of the Ways and Means Committee. He was a clever debater and most of his Congressional passions were confined to the floor of the House. He did, however, engage in duels. His most notable duel was with War Hawk and Whig natiionalist Henry Clay. The animosity between the two men finally led to a duel as a result of the impasse in the Electoral College vote of 1926. Henry Clay and John Quincy Adams reached a deal which kled to Adams becoming president even though General Jackson has received thelargest vote. Jackson supporters were outraged. Randoph was one of the most virulent critics. This led to auel with Clay. Senator Thomas Hart Benton, a dueleer himself and present at the duel, described it as the last high-tined duel he witnessed. He also quarled with fellow Virgininian, President Thomas Jefferson. He broke with the President (1805-06). From that point he was never a member of a working national majority. His role became to criticize the iniatives of both presidents and Congressial majorities. His mostv vehement criticism was directed at the Adams family which he called the American Stuarts (referring to the British royal dynasty). Interestingly, one of the most insightful biograophy of Randolph would be written by Henry Adams. Randolph latter quarled with two other Virgian presidents, John Madison and James Monroe. He opposed the War of 1812 and briefly lost his House seat as aresult. It was Randolph who coined the term War Hawk. When Randopph returned to Congrss, he opposed the second Bank of the United States, the Missouri Compromise, and the high tariffs. He esentially became an outspoken Southern sectiionalist using the Constitution and states' rights. He became one of the early vocal defenders of slavery in early Congresses raiing the issue of states's rights. Randolph combined his outspoken belief in individual liberty with the defense of slavery. His views became a central thesis in the southern cause that would eventually lead to the Civil War. His opposition of the Missouri Compromise which most historians agree put off the Civil War for a generation. He was a string supporter of states rights. When he returned to Ciongress afterthe War of 1812 he sensed administrations attempting to restrict thec expansion of slavery and promoting emancipation schemes. While ininiattly a Jackson suppotrter, he opposed Jackson on the nulification issue. He was appointed to the Senate (1825) and appointed ambassador to Russia (1830).

Impeachment Proceedings (1804-05)

He was one of the managers appointed by the House to conduct the impeachment proceedings against Judge John Pickering (1804). Pickering was a judge of the United States District Court for New Hampshire and the House did pass a bill of impeachment. He was also involved in the impeachment effort against Supreme Court Justice Samuel Chase. Critics clain than Randolphed mishandled the proceeedings.

Burr Trial (1807)

Aaron Burr is ceetainly the most controversial Vice Presidemt. He began by attempting to deporive Jefferson of the office. This meant tht Jefferson would have nothing to do with him. He killed Revolutionary War hero and former Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hasmilton in a duel (1804). The two developed a mutual loathing because of their involvement in New York politics. It was Hamilton that prevented Burr from grabbing the presidency from Jefferson. Burr then got involved in a military adventure in the West which has never been fully explained. President Jefferson wanted him tried for treason. Randoplph became the foreman of the Grand Jury in Richmond Virginia which considered the indictment of Burr and others for treason (1807). During the priceedings, he becamne outraged that Jefferson was supporting General Wilkinson, Burr's chief accuser. Randoplh found Wilkinson to be dishonest and lcking in character.


Randolph in his will manumitted his numerous slaves, but insisted they leave Virginia. He provided for their settlement in a free state--Ohio.


Adams, Henry. John Randolph (1882. Reprint of 1898 ed. New York: Chelsea House, 1981).

Dawidoff, Robert. The Education of John Randolph. (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1979).


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Created: March 14, 2000
Last updated: 12:18 PM 7/22/2009