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    Dear Kevin, I’m going to listen to last night’s Q & A again once it’s up because I was distracted with learning how to navigate the new forum while it was live. I am also going back to listen to some of your U.S. history course–as I’m writing this I hear you mention Randolph of Roanoke in what, I would say, a praiseworthy manner. Somehow I remember Calhoun being more recognized in the course–and I believe the book I’m reading will talk about him, too, as a “Southern Conservative” (what are your thoughts on that?) but I’m not there yet. Anyway, the book I’m reading is The Conservative Mind–I have been reading it for some time because I tend to get interested in other works before I finish a book. More early on in the book I got annoyed with the conservative philosophy and juxtaposed the book with Murray Rothbard’s essay, Left and Right: The Prospects for Liberty. At times I get annoyed with liberalism and go back to a more conservative philosophy to find solace. Anyway, when the Conservative Mind delves into the framers of the Constitution and others of the time, I get interested; and, last night I began reading about John Randolph of Roanoke and was quite pleased. Every time I get enamored with someone I find a reason to temper my excitement which is okay because I prefer to be a thorn in the side of everyone and every idea (I guess it’s just my nature). So, to what works would you point me to put Randolph in a less than ideal light and how do you value him? Clearly, the use of slavery shadows these personalities and I’d love to hear his rationalization of the institution. Thank you for your time and insight. Patricia


    Kirk wrote a wonderful biography of John Randolph which included many of his speeches. It is well worth reading.


    I agree with Brion about Kirk’s Randolph, with the caveat that he makes Randolph pretty much a Catholic–an idea that Randolph himself could have been expected to find either humorous or insulting, I think. Then again, he found many things either humorous or insulting. You can glean an idea of the outline of Randolph’s career from Kirk’s book, and particularly read his selection of Randolph’s speeches. William Cabell Bruce’s two-volume Randolph biography includes extensive excerpts from Randolph’s writings too; he’s just hard to resist.

    Henry Adams’ Randolph biography is only appropriate for people who already know Randolph well, as it is essentially Adams family retribution against the man who dubbed John and John Quincy Adams “The American House of Stuart.” Do read it in the end, however, because Adams is a fabulous writer.

    My favorite John Randolph biography is THE EDUCATION OF JOHN RANDOLPH by Dawidoff. It’s detailed and even-handed. The best short description is the introduction to him in Coit’s Calhoun biography, where she paints him pacing around the House chamber followed by his dogs and a slave.

    Kirk edited Randolph’s letters to Dr. John Brockenbrough, a leader of the Richmond Junto whose house later became the Confederate White House. That book gives the flavor of Randolph’s personality. Again, however, read Dawidoff first. Bouldin, his nephew I think, wrote a Randolph biography over a century ago. It’s not what you want.

    I’m not just yammering: these are all on my bookshelf. Randolph is my favorite congressman. He was funny, brilliant, and a good friend, and he had the right principles. Of course, the laudanum sometimes clouded his brain.

    One more thing: in the illustrations section of JAMES MADISON AND THE MAKING OF AMERICA, you’ll find a sketch of Randolph that had never been published before (except by me in an obscure magazine many years ago). Take a look at that, and you’ll see what his illnesses did to him.


    We last find J.R. leaving Phila for Bizarre in July 1792 at the age of 19. He proceeded as far as Richmond, VA and was there afflicted with a severe illness…letter. “In this town on my way to Williamsburg, I was taken with scarlet fever and brought to the brink of death. …A few years after this, it was widely known in Va that he was impotent. …This frustration, this profound humiliation undoubtedly produced bitterness of spirit. This physical disability unquestionably found vent its suffering in unprovoked assaults upon both friend and foe. Page12 At Christmas 1787 Theo and John went to New York for the holidays but the trip was cut short by the news of the illness of Mrs. Tucker. (Their mother) Her death in 1788 was John’s second great misfortune. …and immediately there began to appear in Randolph’s life an errancy, inconstancy and lack of purpose which were to become its mark and its tragedy. Pages 4 &5. He passed through that critical period of life (16-17Yo) without missing a single vice in which gentlemen of that period indulged. P6 In Feb. 1792 Theo died, by July he had decided to go back to Va. P7 J.R. lashed men who deserved his nather his admiration and praise, so he has come down in history with one of the most terrible reputations ever attached an American Politician who was never convicted of murder, or treason or theft. He was in public life 1/3 of a century. P8 It is not for these services he is remembered, but for carrying the wickedest tongue ever hung in the head of an American congressman, P9 “When I speak of my country, I mean the commonwealth of Va.” he wrote to his friend Francis Scott Key, in 1818. P9 This development (Va becoming a mere geographical expression) Randolph saw clearly but without knowing any effective means of combating it other than dogged opposition to every extension of the power of the Federal government, no matter how obvious the need for the specific extension under consideration. PP 9,10 Randolph was the most powerful influence in transforming the South from the mother of the republic into the frantic opponent of the republic and the first shot of the Civil War was not fired by South Carolina at Ft. Sumpter but by John Randolph of Roanoke. P10 His malice was more feared than that of J.Q. Adams. His violence was greater than that of Andrew Jackson….In one of his aphorisms he said “Life is not as important as the duties of life.” P11 His (J.R.’s) childhood worship of his brother (Richard) had increased to a profound love and admiration. In his will Richard freed his slaves and set aside an Estate for their support: and the reasons he set down for this act constitute an attack on the institution on human slavery as ferocious and far better aimed than the effort of any Northern abolitionist. P13.

    A Brief Sketch of John Randolph of Roanoke by A RandolphWilson my grandfather For a copy call my MagicJack 205-255-8554 and leave voicemail.
    For the rest of the story Unwise Passions by AlanPellCrawford


    John freed his slaves in his will and provided an estate for each. I’m not sure which “specific extension” of federal power you think was “obvious[ly] needed.” There is no “Ft. Sumpter.” What is meant by saying his violence was greater than Jackson’s, I haven’t the foggiest idea. Most of the rest is just name-calling.



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