Randolph, John (1773–1833)

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RANDOLPH, JOHN (1773–1833)

John Randolph of Roanoke, Virginia, congressman and sometime senator, advocated the constitutional doctrines of states ' rights and strict construction that became identified with southern opposition to the federal government and that eventuated in secession. Excepting his support for the louisiana purchase, Randolph consistently preferred the claim of state to federal sovereignty. A bitter critic of the Federalist federal judiciary, he managed or mismanaged the impeachment of Justice samuel chase in 1804.

Breaking with thomas jefferson in 1806, Randolph commenced a career of opposition to almost every sitting President and to most national policies. His principles were straightforward. He believed that the Constitution was a compact among sovereign states. Sovereignty did not inhere in the federal government, and the admission of new states was a device to weaken the original, compacting states. He espoused the southern view that regarded every attempt to expand federal power as an attack on slavery, and he regarded democracy and nationalism as leveling and centralizing invasions of ancient state privileges and mores. He viewed with especial bitterness the rulings of the marshall court.

Robert Dawidoff


Dawidoff, Robert 1979 The Education of John Randolph. New York: Norton.

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Randolph, John (1773–1833)

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