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Randolph, Edmund

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Summary Article:Randolph, Edmund from The Columbia Encyclopedia

Randolph, Edmund, 1753-1813, American statesman, b. Williamsburg, Va.; nephew of Peyton Randolph. He studied law under his father, John Randolph, a Loyalist who went to England at the outbreak of the American Revolution. He served briefly in the Continental army as aide-de-camp to George Washington. He was a member of the Virginia constitutional convention of 1776, state attorney general (1776-86), a delegate to the Continental Congress (1779-82), and governor of Virginia (1786-88). Randolph was prominent at the Constitutional Convention in 1787, presenting the Virginia, or Randolph, Plan, which favored the large states. He at first vigorously opposed the Constitution as finally drafted, although his plan, more than any other, closely resembled it; later he urged its adoption in the Virginia ratifying convention (June, 1788). First Attorney General of the United States (1789-94), he left that post to succeed Thomas Jefferson as Secretary of State. Like Jefferson, he had difficulties because of Alexander Hamilton's constant pressure to secure a favorable treaty with England rather than one with France. In 1795 the British captured dispatches of the French minister to the United States, which implied (falsely) that Randolph would welcome French money, whereupon President Washington forced his resignation. Randolph returned to the practice of law in Virginia, and many years passed before his name was entirely cleared. In 1807 he was chief counsel for Aaron Burr in his trial for treason.

  • See M. D. Conway, Omitted Chapters of History Disclosed in the Life and Papers of Edmund Randolph (1888, repr. 1971).
  • H. J. Eckenrode, The Randolphs (1946).
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