John Randolph of Roanoke

U.S. Congressperson

1773 – 1833

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Who was John Randolph of Roanoke?

John Randolph, known as John Randolph of Roanoke, was a planter, and a Congressman from Virginia, serving in the House of Representatives at various times between 1799 and 1833, the Senate, and also as Minister to Russia. 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", an extreme states' rights vanguard 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.

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Jun 2, 1773
  • Episcopal Church
  • United States of America
  • Princeton University
May 24, 1833

on July 23, 2013


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