Randolph, Edmund (1753–1813)
RANDOLPH, EDMUND (1753–1813)
In 1776 Edmund Jenings Randolph, lawyer, mayor of Williamsburg, and aide to General george washington, was the youngest delegate to the convention that adopted the virginia declaration of rights and constitution. Hebecame the state's first attorney general under the new constitution and was later a delegate to Congress, where he favored amending the articles of confederation to give Congress the power to levy import duties. He was a member of the Annapolis Convention of 1786 and later the same year defeated richard henry lee to become governor of Virginia.
Randolph led Virginia's delegation to the constitutional convention of 1787, where he introduced the virginia plan. He did not, however, sign the finished Constitution, which, he believed, gave too much power to the President and so tended toward monarchy. Nevertheless, in 1788 he argued and voted in the state convention for ratification of the constitution. He argued that there was no alternative except disunion and that a second convention could be called to perfect the document.
President Washington appointed Randolph the first attorney general of the United States, making him a colleague of and mediator between thomas jefferson and alexander hamilton. When Jefferson resigned in 1794, Randolph succeeded him as secretary of state, but he was himself forced to resign the next year when British publication of captured French dispatches led to charges of treason and bribery against Randolph. This disgrace ended his political career, but he remained an eminent lawyer. In 1807 he was chief defense counsel when aaron burr was tried for and acquitted of treason.
Dennis J. Mahoney