John Randolph

Randolph, John, 1773–1833, American legislator, known as John Randolph of Roanoke, b. Prince George co., Va. He briefly studied law under his cousin Edmund Randolph. He served in the U.S. House of Representatives (1799–1813, 1815–17, 1819–25, 1827–29), where he became a prominent and feared figure, and in the U.S. Senate (1825–27). After breaking (1805) with President Jefferson on the acquisition of Florida, which he opposed, Randolph lost his leadership in the House. He strongly opposed James Madison and the War of 1812, the second Bank of the United States, the Missouri Compromise, and the tariff measures. From 1820 he was a violent sectionalist. His impassioned denunciations of Henry Clay and John Quincy Adams led (1826) to a duel with Clay. Appointed (1830) by President Jackson minister to Russia, he resigned shortly after his arrival there because of ill health. Following his return he denounced Jackson's proclamation against nullification. An outspoken champion of individual liberty, he staunchly defended the Constitution and states' rights, and his views were influential in the South long after his death. A bizarre figure, Randolph numbered Pocahontas among his forebears. He became more eccentric in his later years and at times suffered from dementia. Chiefly remembered for his epigrammatic wit and caustic tongue, he also possessed a brilliant and scholarly mind and was celebrated as an orator.

See biographies by H. Adams (1882, repr. 1972) and W. C. Bruce (2 vol., 1922; repr. 1970); study by R. Kirk (rev. ed. 1964).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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