Facts and Events
John Randolph (June 2, 1773May 24, 1833), 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 (1825–1827), and also as Minister to Russia (1830). 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. His belief in the importance of a landed gentry led him to oppose the abolition of entail and primogeniture, "The old families of Virginia will form connections with low people, and sink into the mass of overseers' sons and daughters". 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. All his life Randolph was opposed to slavery. Although elected as a Congressman of a slave state, he believed that African Americans deserved to be free. However, he also believed that slavery was a necessity in Virginia, saying, "The question of slavery, as it is called, is to us a question of life and death ...You will find no instance in history where two distinct races have occupied the soil except in the relation of master and slave" Contrary to his beliefs, Randolph remained dependent on hundreds of slaves to work his tobacco plantation. But, he provided for their manumission and resettlement in the free state of Ohio in his will, providing monies for the purchase of land and supplies. They founded Rossville, now part of Piqua, Ohio.
Randolph was admired by the community and his supporters for his fiery character and was known as a man that was passionate about education and equality for all. He applied rousing electioneering methods, which he also enjoyed as a hobby. Randolph appealed directly to yeomen, using entertaining and enlightening oratory, sociability, and community of interest, particularly in agriculture. This resulted in an enduring voter attachment to him regardless of his personal deficiencies. His defense of limited government appeals to modern and contemporary conservatives, most notably Russell Kirk (1918–1994).