Peyton Randolph

Peyton Randolph by John Wollaston

QUICK FACTS
BORN:
10 September 1721 in Williamsburg, Virginia
  DIED:
22 October 1775 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Buried in the chapel of the College of William and Mary.

Peyton Randolph, American lawyer and politician, was born at Tazewell Hall, Williamsburg, Virginia, in 1721, a son of Sir John Randolph (1693 – 1737), the king's attorney for Virginia. He graduated at the College of William and Mary, studied law at the Inner Temple, London, and in 1748 was appointed the king's attorney for Virginia.

Randolph wrote the Address of Remonstrance to the king in behalf of the Burgesses against the suggested stamp duties in 1764. His policy was conservative and moderate, and in May 1765 he opposed Patrick Henry's radical Stamp Act Resolutions. In 1766 he resigned as king's attorney and was succeeded by his brother John (1727 – 84). In 1769 he acted as moderator of the privately convened assembly which entered into the non-importation agreement; in May 1773 he became chairman of the first Virginia intercolonial Committee of Correspondence.

He presided over the provincial convention of August 1774, and was a member of the First Continental Congress, of which he was president from 5 September to 22 October 1774. He was re-elected for the Second Congress in March 1775, and on 10 May was again chosen to preside, though he left on the 24th to attend a meeting at Williamsburg of the Virginia Burgesses. He then returned to Congress, where John Hancock had meanwhile been made president. Randolph died of apoplexy in Philadelphia in 1775.

He was provincial grandmaster of the Masons of Virginia, and was an intimate friend of George Washington.

ADAPTED FROM:
Encyclopedia Britannica, 1911 ed.

As in the case of his career as commander-in-chief, Washington’s most important act as president was his giving up the office. The significance of his retirement from the presidency is easily overlooked today, but his contemporaries knew what it meant. Most people assumed that Washington might be president as long as he lived, that he would be a kind of elected monarch like the king of Poland. Hence his retirement from the presidency enhanced his moral authority and set a precedent for future presidents.

Gordon S. Wood
Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789–1815 (2009)