Edmund Jenings Randolph (1753-1813)

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Biographical Sketch

Edmund Jenings Randolph was born in Williamsburg, Virginia on August 10, 1753, to Ariana Jenings (1730-1801) of Annapolis, MD and John Randolph (c. 1727 - 1784) of Williamsburg. Randolph attended the College of William and Mary in 1770 [1] and studied to become a Virginia attorney under his father who was a barrister and Attorney General of Virginia from 1766-1775. [2] On the eve of the American Revolution, Edmund and his father followed different political paths. John Randolph took his wife and two daughters to England in 1775, earning him the title "John the Tory".[3]. That same year Edmund served as an aide-de-camp to General Washington, but his service was cut short due to the need to assist his aunt, Elizabeth Randolph, upon the death of his Uncle Peyton Randolph.

He attended the convention that adopted Virginia's first state constitution in 1776, and was appointed the Commonwealth of Virginia's first Attorney General. [4]

In 1776, Randolph married Elizabeth Nicholas (1753-1810), daughter of Virginia Colony and State Treasurer Robert Carter Nicholas and Ann Carey Nicholas. The Randolphs had five children, Peyton, Susan, John Jenings, Edmonia and Lucy.

In 1779 he was elected to the Continental Congress, and in November 1786 Randolph became Governor of Virginia. In 1787, Edmund Randolph presented the Virginia Plan for creating a new government. Randolph served on the committee which prepared a draft of the Constitution, but he refused to sign the final document and outlined his reasons in Edmund Randolph to the Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates (October 10, 1787).

Under President Washington, Edmund Randolph became Attorney General of the United States and then was appointed Secretary of State [5]

After resigning from politics in 1795 under rumored mishandling of public affairs, Randolph returned to Virginia where he wrote a A Vindication of Edmund Randolph Written by Himself and Published in 1795

In 1813, at age 60 and suffering from paralysis, Randolph died while visiting Nathaniel Burwell at Carter Hall. His body is buried in the graveyard of the nearby chapel. [1]

(Note: Randolph's gravestone indicates he was born at "Tazewell Hall", and there are many sources which state this is fact. That house wasn't built until c. 1762, and wasn't referred to as "Tazewell Hall" until it was purchased from John Randolph's trustees by John Tazewell in 1778. Therefore, there was no "Tazewell Hall" until at least 1778.[6]).

Available in Special Collections Research Center


  1. "A Provisional List of Alumni, Grammar School Students, Members of the Faculty, and Members of the Board of Visitors of the College of William and Mary in Virginia, from 1693 to 1888" (Richmond: Division of Purchase and Printing, 1941), accessed October 12, 2016, https://digitalarchive.wm.edu/bitstream/handle/10288/13856/provisionallist.pdf?sequence=1.
  2. "Colonial Attorney-Generals of Virginia," William and Mary Quarterly, Vol. 10. No. 1 (Jul., 1901): 34-35, accessed November 15, 2016, http://www.jstor.org/stable/1919800.
  3. Purdie, Virginia Gazette, September 8, 1775, supplement, page 2, from Colonial Williamsburg Foundation Digital Library, accessed April 14, 2017, http://research.history.org/DigitalLibrary/va-gazettes/VGSinglePage.cfm?IssueIDNo=75.P.64&page=2.
  4. Purdie, Virginia Gazette, July 5, 1776, supplement, page 2, from Colonial Williamsburg Foundation Digital Library, accessed January 20, 2017, http://research.history.org/CWDLImages/VA_GAZET/Images/P/1776/0144hi.jpg.
  5. John J. Reardon, Edmund Randolph A Biography (New York: MacMillan, 1974).
  6. Patricia Samford, et al., Archaeological Excavations of the Tazewell Hall Property, Colonial Williamsburg Archaeological Reports, 1986/2001, accessed January 27, 2017, http://research.history.org/Files/Archaeo/MajorStudies/Tazewell.pdf

Further Reading

Edmund Randolph's Essay on the Revolutionary History of Virginia 1774-1782: The History of the Revolution The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 43, No. 3 (Jul., 1935), pp. 209-232, Published by: Virginia Historical Society. Accessed February 21, 2107

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