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THOMAS RANDOLPH, the poet and cotemporary of Ben Jonson, and who, before “ death put a stop to his rising genius and fame,” had gained a sterling reputation among the wits of his age, was the great-uncle of Sir John, the grandfather of Edmund Randolph. The family were high Loialists, in the civil wars, and being entirely broken and dispersed, Sir John's father* determined, as many other Cavaliers did, to try his fortune in the Western world. From his earliest childhood, Sir John evinced a great propensity to letters; to improve which he was first put under the care of a Protestant clergyman, who came over among the French Refugees. But afterwards he received a more complete education at William and Mary College, in Virginia. He finished his studies in the law, in Gray's Inn and the Temple; and having put on his Barrister's gown, returned to his native country, where, from his first appearance at the bar, he was ranked among the practitioners of the first figure and distinction. At the time of the disputes in New York relative to the establishment of a new Court of Exchequer, Sir John expressed his sentiments upon the subject, which were clear and forcible, and now form a part of tho judicial history of that State.f In the autumn of 1731, he went to England and “presented to his Majesty a state of the colony of Virginia, drawn up with great accuracy, which his Majesty was pleased to receive very graciously, and to confer the honor of knighthood on the said gentleman." | After his Return to Virginia, he was elected Speaker of the House of Burgesses, and on the twenty-eighth of August, 1734, delivered his inaugural before that body. “If I shall endeavor," he said, “ to make the established rules of our proceedings subservient to my own fancies and humors, or interests; or shall bring into this chair a restlessness and impatience about points that may be carried against my sentiments, or shall pretend to any authority of swaying any member in his opinion; I say, then I shall deserve to have no influence upon your proceedings, but do not doubt, nay, I hope, you will mortify me with the utmost of your contempt for the inconsistence of my theory and practice. And if I shall happen to succeed better, I will pretend to no other praise but that of not having deceived the expectations of so many worthy gentlemen who have continued to heap upon me such a series of favors, which, so long as I retain the memory of any thing, I must look upon as the chief foundation of the credit and reputation of my life.”
In March, 1737, Sir John Randolph died at the age of forty-four years, and was interred in the chapel of William and Mary College. According with his directions, he was borne to the place of interment "by six honest, industrious, poor housekeepers of Bruton parish, who were
• This was William Randolph, of Turkey Island, in Virginia, Little is known of him, Tradition says that he came over from Yorkshire poor, and made his living by building barns, and by his industry acquired large possessions of land.
+ Sir John's letter on this subject, is published in the appendix of Smith's History of New York. Ed. 1830. Vol. 1, page 874. New York Historical Society's Collections.
Bradford's American Weekly Mercury, Jan. 30th-Feb. 6th, 1782–3. The editor of this paper, after noticing these facts, concludes: “The public is impatient to see the contents of those papers, which are said to be designed for publio
§ A full report of this speech is published in the American Weekly Mercury, Sept. 19-26, 1734.
to have twenty pounds divided among them, and attended by a numerous assembly of gentle. men and others, who paid the last honors to him with great solemnity, decency and respect."*
Edmund Randolph was born on the tenth of August, 1753. His father early adhered to the cause of Great Britain, joined the fortunes of Lord Dunmore, and finally disinherited his sor for refusing to follow in the same course. Of the youth and early education of Edmund Ran dolph we have no particulars. At the age of twenty-two years, in August, 1775, he joined the American army at Cambridge, and was taken into the military family of General Washington as an aid-de-camp. He remained here but a short time, being recalled to Virginia in the following November, by the death of his uncle, Peyton Randolph. In 1776 he was delegated to the Virginia Convention as the alternate of George Wythe, and before the termination of the year was elected Mayor of Williamsburg, the city he represented in the Convention. Subsequently he was appointed Attorney-General of the State of Virginia, under the new constitution, and at a future session of the House of Delegates he was elected its clerk.
In the practice of his profession, which was the law, his success was eminent and extraordinary. Clients filled his office, and beset him on his way from the office to the court-house, “with their papers in one hand and their guineas in the other.” | He was a member of the Continental Congress from 1779 until 1782, and in 1786 was elected Governor of Virginia, succeeding in that office Patrick Henry. The same year he was chosen a delegate to the Annapolis Convention, and subsequently to the Convention which met at Philadelphia in 1787, to revise the articles of confederation. IIis career in that assembly was marked and effective. He afterward was a member of the Virginia Convention, summoned to ratify the Federal Constitution. President Washington appointed him the first Attorney-General under the federal system, and in 1795 he was elevated to the office of Secretary of State, as successor of Mr. Jefferson. He remained in this position but a short time, resuming the practice of the law at Richmond in the autumn of the following year. At the celebrated trial of Aaron Burr, on the charge of treason, in May, 1807, Mr. Randolph was associated with Luther Martin and other distinguished lawyers, in the defence of that unfortunate man.
He died on the twelfth of September, 1813, in Frederic (now Page) county, Virginia, in the sixtieth year of his age, leaving an extremely valuable manuscript history of Virginia, in which he occupies a prominent position. This never appeared in print, and finally was destroyed.]
* Obituary notice of Sir John Randolph, published in the Virginia Gazette, of March 11th, 1787, and reproduced in the Virginia Historical Register, Vol. 4, page 138.
† John Randolph, the father of Edmund, was attorney-general of Virginia, under the royal government. He was a brother of Peyton Randolph, president of the Continental Congress.
# Virginia Convention of 1776, by Hugh Blair Grigsby, page 76, et seq.
$ As chief magistrate of Virginia, it became the duty of Mr. Randolph to secure the attendance of Washington upon the Federal Convention. This matter he managed with great tact and delicacy; and, by the aid of other friends, he succeeded in overcoming the scruples of the illustrious patriot, then reposing in the retirement of Mount Vernon. Governor Randolph's conduct with regard to the constitution might seem to be marked by inconsistency, if we were not able to explain it by the motive of disinterested patriotism from which he evidently acted. He brought to the convention the most serious apprehensions for the fate of the Union. But he thought that the dangers with which it was surrounded might be averted, by correcting and enlarging the Articles of Confederation. When, at length, the government, which was actually framed, was found to be a system containing far greater restraints upon the powers of the States than he believed to be either expedient or safe, he endeavored to procure & vote authorizing amendments to be submitted by the State conventions, and to be finally decided on by another general convention. This proposition was rejected, and ho declined to sign the constitution desiring to be free to oppose or advocate its adoption, when it should come before his own State, as his judgment might dictate.---Curtis's History of the Constitution, Vol. 1, page 481: Madison Papers.
I While Mr. Wirt was preparing his eloquent Life of Patrick Henry, he saw and consulted this manuscript. Some years after, it was destroyed by a fire at New Orleans, while in the possession of a grandson of Edmund Randolph.-Preface of Wirt's Patrick Henry, page 11. Grigsby's Virginia Convention of 1776, page 78.
THE FEDERAL CONSTITUTION.
Mr. Randolph delivered the following speech | itors wearied with the tedious procrastination in the Convention of Virginia, on the sixth of of your legal process—a process obscured by
legislative mists? Cast your eyes to your seaJune, 1788—the first and second sections of the
ports, see how commerce languishes: this counfirst article of the Constitution being under
try, so blessed by nature with every advantage consideration.*
that can render commerce profitable, through
defective legislation, is deprived of all the benMe. CHAIRMAN: I am a child of the Revolu- efits and emoluments she might otherwise reap tion. My country, very early indeed, took me from it. We hear many complaints on the subunder her protection at a time when I most ject of located lands-a variety of competitors wanted it; and by a succession of favors and claiming the same lands under legislative actshonors, prevented even my most ardent wishes. public faith prostrated, and private confidence I feel the highest gratitude and attachment to destroyed. I ask you if your laws are revemy country; her felicity is the most fervent renced? In every well regulated community, prayer of my heart. Conscious of having ex- the laws command respect. Are yours entitled erted my faculties to the utmost in her behalf, to reverence? We not only see violations of if I have not succeeded in securing the esteem the constitution, but of national principles in of my countrymen, I shall reap abundant con- repeated instances. How is the facts The solation from the rectitude of my intentions: history of the violations of the constitution exhonors, when compared to the satisfaction ac- ends from the year 1776, to this present time cruing from a conscious independence and rec- violations made by formal acts of the legislatitude of conduct, are no equivalent. The un- ture; every thing has been drawn within the wearied study of my life, shall be to promote legislative vortex. There is one example of this her happiness. As a citizen, ambition and violation in Virginia, of a most striking and popularity are no objects with me. I expect, shocking nature; an example so horrid, that it in the course of a year, to retire to that private I conceived my country would passively permit station which I most sincerely and cordially a repetition of it, dear as it is to me, I would prefer to all others. The security of public seek means of expatriating myself from it. A justice, sir, is what I most fervently wish-as Iman, who was then a citizen, was deprived of consider that object to be the primary step to his life, thus: from a mere reliance on general the attainment of public happiness. I can de- reports, a gentleman in the House of Delegates clare to the whole world, that in the part I informed the House, that a certain man (Josiah take in this very important question, I am actu- Phillips) had committed several crimes, and ated by a regard for what I conceive to be our was running at large, perpetrating other true interest. I can also, with equal sincerity, crimes; he therefore moved for leave to atdeclare that I would join heart and hand in re- taint him. He obtained that leave instantly. jecting this system, did I conceive it would pro- No sooner did he obtain it, than he drew from mote our happiness : but having a strong con- | his pocket a bill already written for that effect; viction on my mind, at this time, that, by a it was read three times in one day, and carried disunion, we shall throw away all those bless to the Senate: I will not say that it passed the ings we have so earnestly fought for, and that same day through the Senate; but he was ata rejection of the constitution will operate dis- tainted very speedily and precipitately, withunion-pardon me if I discharge the obligation out any proof better than vague reports! I owe to my country by voting for its adoption. Without being confronted with his accusers We are told that the report of dangers is false. and witnesses; without the privilege of calling The cry of peace, sir, is false : say peace, when for evidence in his behalf, he was sentenced to there is peace: it is but a sudden calm. The death, and was afterwards actually executed.* tempest growls over you-look around—where- Was this arbitrary deprivation of life, the soever you look, you see danger. When there dearest gift of God to man, consistent with the are so many witnesses, in many parts of Amer- genius of a republican government? Is this ica, that justice is suffocated, shall peace and compatible with the spirit of freedom? This, happiness still be said to reign? Candor, sir, sir, has made the deepest impression on my requires an undisguised representation of our heart, and I cannot contemplate it without situation. Candor, sir, demands a faithful ex- horror. position of facts. Many citizens have found. There are still a multiplicity of complaints justice strangled and trampled under foot, of the debility of the laws. Justice, in many throagh the course of jurisprudence in this instances, is so unattainable, that commerce country. Are those who have debts due them, may, in fact, be said to be stopped entirely. satisfied with your government? Are not cred- There is no peace, sir, in this land: can peaco
* Ante, pp. 18–164.
* Mr. Wirt has satisfactorily shown that this statement is founded in error. Life of Patrick Henry, page 291, et seq.
exist with injustice, licentiousness, insecurity clared my determination to give my vote for it and oppression? These considerations, inde- yet I shall freely censure those parts which appendent of many others which I have not yet pear to me reprehensible. The trial by jury, in enumerated, would be a sufficient reason for criminal cases, is secured; in civil cases it is the adoption of this constitution, because it se- not so expressly secured as I could wish it; but cures the liberty of the citizen, his person and it does not follow that Congress has the power property, and will invigorate and restore com- of taking away this privilege, which is secured merce and industry.
by the constitution of each State, and not given An additional reason to induce us to adopt it away by this constitution. I have no fear on is that excessive licentiousness which has re- this subject; Congress must regulate it so as sulted from the relaxation of our laws, and to suit every State. I will risk my property which will be checked by this government. on the certainty that they will institute the Let us judge from the fate of more ancient na- trial by jury in such manner as shall accommotions. Licentiousness has produced tyranny date the conveniences of the inhabitants in among many of them. It has contributed as every State; the difficulty of ascertaining this much (if not more) as any other cause whatso- accommodation was the principal cause of its ever, to the loss of their liberties. I have re- not being provided for. It will be the interest spect for the integrity of our legislators; I be- of the individuais composing Congress to put it lieve them to be virtuous : but as long as the on this convenient footing. Shall we not defects of the constitution exist, so long will choose men respectable for their good qualities? laws be imperfect. The honorable gentleman Or can we suppose that men, tainted with the went on further, and said that the accession of worst vices, will get into Congress? I beg eight States is not a reason for our adoption. | leave to differ from the honorable gentleman, Many other things have been alleged out of or in another point. He dreads that great inconder; instead of discussing the system regularly, veniences will ensue from the federal court; a variety of points are promiscuously debated, that our citizens will be harassed by being in order to make temporary impressions on the carried thither. I cannot think that this power members. Sir, were I convinced of the validity of the federal judiciary will necessarily be of their arguments, I would join them heart abused. The inconvenience here suggested and hand. Were I convinced that the acces being of a general nature, affecting most of the sion of eight States did not render our acces- States, will, by general consent of the States, sion also necessary to preserve the Union, I be removed; and, I trust, such regulations would not accede to it till it should be pre- shall be made, in this case, as will accommodate viously amended; but, sir, I am convinced that the people in every State. The honorable genthe Union will be lost by our rejection. Mas- tleman instanced the Swiss cantons as an exsachusetts has adopted it; she has recommend ample, to show us the possibility, if not expeed subsequent amendments; her influence mustdiency, of being in amicable alliance with the be very considerable to obtain them: I trust other States, without adopting this system. my countrymen have sufficient wisdom and vir- Sir, references to history will be fatal' in polititue to entitle them to equal respect.
cal reasoning, unless well guarded. Our menIs it urged, that being wiser, we ought to tal ability is often so contracted, and powers of prescribe amendments to the other States? I investigation so limited, that sometimes we adhave considered this subject deliberately; wea- | duce as an example in our favor what in fact ried myself in endeavoring to find a possibility militates against us. Examine the situation of of preserving the Union, without our uncondi- that country comparatively to us. Its extent tional ratification; but, sir, in vain; I find no and situation are totally different from ours; it other means. I ask myself a variety of ques- is surrounded by powerful, ambitious, and retions applicable to the adopting States, and I ciprocally jealous nations; its territory small, conclude, will they repent of what they have and the soil not very fertile. The peculiarity, done? Will they acknowledge themselves in sir, of their situation, has kept these cantons an error? Or will they recede to gratify Vir- together, and not that system of alliance to ginia? My prediction is that they will not. which the gentleman seems to attribute the Shall we stand by ourselves, and be severed durability and felicity of their connection. from the Union if amendments cannot be had ? (Here Mr. Randolph quoted some passages I have every reason for determining within from Stanyard, illustrating his argument, and myself that our rejection must dissolve the largely commented upon them; the effect of Union, and that that dissolution will destroy which was, that the narrow confines of that our political happiness. The honorable gentle-country rendered it very possible for a system man was pleased to draw out several other ar- of confederacy to accommodate those cantons, guments, out of order: that this government that would not suit the United States; that it would destroy the State governments, the trial was the fear of the ambitious and warlike naby jury, &c., &c., and concluded, by an illus- tions that surrounded them, and the reciprocal tration of his opinion, by a reference to the jealousy of the other European powers, that confederacy of the Swiss. Let us argue with rendered their union so durable; and that notunprejudiced minds. He says that the trial by withstanding these circumstances, and their jury is gone; is this so? Although I have de- / being a hardy race of people, yet such was the injudicious construction of their confederacy, I be commensurate to the object. A less degree that very considerable broils sometimes inter- will defeat the intention, and a greater will rupted their harmony. 1
subject the people to the depravity of rulers, He then continued—I have produced this who, though they are but the agents of the example to show that we ought not to be people, pervert their powers to their own amused with historical references which have emolument and ambitious views. no kind of analogy to the points under our con- Mr. Chairman, I am sorry to be obliged to sideration. We ought to contine ourselves to detain the House, but the relation of a variety those points solely which have an immediate of matters renders it now unavoidable. I inand strict similitude to the subject of our dis- formed the House yesterday, before rising, that cussion. The reference made by the honorable I intended to show the necessity of having a gentleman over the way is extremely inappli- national government, in preference to the concable to us. Are the Swiss cantons circum- federation; also, to show the necessity of con. stanced as we are? Are we surrounded by ceding the power of taxation, and of distinformidable nations, or are we situated in any guishing between its objects; and I am the manner like them? We are not, sir. Then it more happy, that I possess materials of infor: naturally results that no such friendly intercourse mation for that purpose. My intention then is, as he flattered himself with could take place, in to satisfy the gentlemen of this committee, that case of a dissolution of our Union. We are re- a national government is absolutely indispensamotely situated from powerful nations, the ble, and that a confederacy is not eligible, in dread of whose attack might impel us to unite our present situation. The introductory step firmly with one another; we are not situated to this will be, to endeavor to convince the in an inaccessible, strong position; we have to House of the necessity of the Union, and that fear much from one another; we must soon the present confederation is actually inadequate feel the fatal effects of an imperfect system of and unamendable. The extent of the country union.
is objected to, by the gentleman over the way, The honorable gentleman attacks the consti- as an insurmountable obstacle to the establishtution, as he thinks it contrary to our bill of ing a national government in the United States. rights. Do we not appeal to the people, by It is a very strange and inconsistent doctrine, whose authority all government is made? That to admit the necessity of the Union, and yet bill of rights is of no validity, because, I con- urge this last objection, which I think goes ceive, it is not formed on due authority. It is radically to the existence of the Union itself. not a part of our constitution; it has never se- If the extent of the country be a conclusive cured us against any danger; it has been re- i argument against a national government, it is peatedly disregarded and violated. But we equally so against an union with the other must not discard the confederation, for the re- States. Instead of entering largely into a dismembrance of its past services. I am attached.cussion of the nature and effect of the different to old servants. I have regard and tenderness kinds of government, or into an inquiry into for this old servant; but when reason tells us the particular extent of country, that may suit that it can no longer be retained without the genius of this or that government, I ask this thruwing away all that it has gained us, and question—is this government necessary for the running the risk of losing every thing dear to safety of Virginia ? Is the Union indispensable us, must we still continue our attachment? for our happiness? I confess it is imprudent Reason and my duty tell me not. Other gen- for any nation to form alliance with another, tlemen may think otherwise. But, sir, is it whose situation and construction of government not possible that men may differ in sentiments, are dissimilar with its own. It is iinpolitic and still be honest? We have an inquisition and improper for men of opulence to join their within ourselves that leads us not to offend so interest with men of indigence and chance. much against charity. The gentleman ex-But we are now inquiring, particularly, whether presses a necessity of being suspicious of those | Virginia, as contradistinguished from the other who govern. I will agree with him in the ne- States, can exist without the Union a hard cessity of political jealousy to a certain extent; question, perhaps, after what has been said. I but we ought to examine how far this political will venture, however, to say, she cannot. jealousy ought to be carried. I confess that a I shall not rest contented with asserting, I shall certain degree of it is highly necessary to the endeavor to prove. Look at the most powerful preservation of liberty; but it ought not to be nations on earth. England and France have extended to a degree which is degrading and had recourse to this expedient. Those counhumiliating to human nature; to a degree of tries found it necessary to unite with their imrestlessness and active disquietude sufficient to mediate neighbors, and this union has prevented disturb a community or preclude the possibility the most lamentable mischiefs. What divine of political happiness and contentment. Con- pre-eminence is Virginia possessed of, above fidence onght also to be equally limited. Wis- other States? Can Virginia send her navy and dom shrinks from extremes, and fixes on a thunder, to bid defiance to foreign nations ? medium as her choice. Experience and history, And can she exist without an union with her the least fallible judges, teach us that in form- neighbors, when the most potent nations have ing a government, the powers to be given must | found such an union necessary, not only to