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Edmund Randolph

Edmund RandolphAKA Edmund Jennings Randolph

Born: 10-Aug-1753
Birthplace: Williamsburg, VA [1]
Died: 12-Sep-1813
Location of death: Millwood, VA [2]
Cause of death: unspecified
Remains: Buried, Old Chapel Cemetery, Millwood, VA

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Politician

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: First Attorney General of the US

The American statesman Edmund Randolph was born on the 10th of August 1753, at Tazewell Hall, Williamsburg, Virginia, the family seat of his grandfather, Sir John Randolph (1693-1737), and his father, John Randolph (1727-84), who (like his uncle Peyton Randolph) were king's attorneys for Virginia. Edmund graduated at the College of William and Mary, and studied law with his father, who felt bound by his oath to the king and went to England in 1775. In August-October 1775 Edmund was aide-de-camp to General George Washington. In 1776 he was a member of the Virginia Convention, and was on its committee to draft a constitution. In the same year he became the first Attorney General of the state (serving until 1786). He served in the Continental Congress in 1779 and again in 1780-82. He had a large private practice, including much legal business for General Washington. In 1786 he was a delegate to the "Annapolis convention", and in 1787-88 was governor of Virginia. He was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1787, and on the 29th of May presented the "Virginia plan" (sometimes called the "Randolph plan".) In the Convention Randolph advocated a strongly centralized government, the prohibition of the importation of slaves, and a plural executive, suggesting that there should be three executives from different parts of the country, and refused to sign the constitution because too much power over commerce was granted to a mere majority in Congress, and because no provision was made for a second convention to act after the present instrument had been referred to the states. In October 1787 he published an attack on the Constitution; but in the Virginia convention he urged its ratification, arguing that it was too late to attempt to amend it without endangering the Union, and thinking that Virginia's assent would be that of the necessary ninth state. In 1788 he refused re-election as Governor, and entered the House of Delegates to work on the revision and codification of the state laws (published in 1794.) In September 1789 he was appointed by President Washington first Attorney General of the United States. He worked for a revision of Ellsworth's judiciary act of 1789, and especially to relieve justices of the supreme court of the duties of circuit judges, and advocated a Federal code; in 1791 he considered Alexander Hamilton's scheme for a national bank unconstitutional; and in 1792-93, in the case Chisolm v. Georgia before the supreme court, argued that a state might be sued by a citizen of another state. On the 2nd of January 1794 he succeeded Thomas Jefferson as Secretary of State. In 1795 he wrote thirteen letters (signed "Germanicus") defending the President in his attack on the American Jacobin or democratic societies. He was the only cabinet member who opposed the ratification of the Jay treaty (his letters to the President on the subject are reprinted in The American Historical Review, vol. xii. pp. 587-599), and before it was ratified the delicate task of keeping up friendly diplomatic relations with France fell to him. Home despatches of the French minister, Joseph Fauchet, intercepted by a British man-of-war and sent to the British minister to the United States, accused Randolph of asking for money from France to influence the administration against Great Britain. Although this charge was demonstrably false, Randolph when confronted with it immediately resigned, and subsequently secured a retractation from Fauchet; he published A Vindication of Mr. Randolph's Resignation (1795) and Political Truth, or Animadversions on the Past and Present State of Public Affairs (1796). He was held personally responsible for the loss of a large sum of money during his administration of the state department, and after years of litigation was judged by an arbitrator to be indebted to the government for more than $49,000, which he paid at great sacrifice to himself. He removed to Richmond in 1803, and during his last years was a leader of the Virginia bar; in 1807 he was one of Aaron Burr's counsel. He died at Carter Hall, Millwood, Clarke county, Virginia, on the 12th of September 1813.

[1] Tazewell Hall, Williamsburg, VA.

[2] Carter Hall, Millwood, VA.

Father: John Randolph
Mother: Ariana Jenings Randolph
Sister: Susannah Beverley
Sister: Ariana
Wife: Elizabeth Nicholas
Son: Peyton
Daughter: Susan
Son: John Jenings
Daughter: Edmonia
Daughter: Lucy

    University: College of William and Mary

    US Secretary of State (2-Jan-1794 to 1795)
    US Attorney General (Sep-1789 to 1794)
    Governor of Virginia (1787-88)
    Delegate to the Continental Congress (1779 and 1780-82)
    Mayor of Williamsburg, VA (1776-77)
    Society of the Cincinnati

Is the subject of books:
Life and Papers of Edmund Randolph, 1888, BY: Moncure D. Conway

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