Founding Fathers: Edmund Randolph
Edmund Randolph was born on August 10, 1753, in Tazewell Hall, Williamsburg, Virginia. His parents were John Randolph and Ariana Jenings. Edmund Randolph attended the College of William and Mary and afterwards continued his education by studying the law under his father.
When the American Revolution broke out, Edmund Randolph and his father followed different paths. His father was a Loyalist who followed Lord Dunmore, the governor, to England in 1775. Afterwards, Edmund Randolph lived with his uncle Peyton Randolph, who was a prominent figure in Virginia politics. During the Revolutionary War, Edmund Randolph was an aide-de-camp to General Washington. He also attended the convention which resulted in the adoption of the first state constitution of Virginia in 1776. Here, 23 year old Edmund Randolph was the youngest member of the convention. In 1776, he married Elizabeth Nicholas.
Edmund Randolph continued to advance in the political sphere in the colonies. He became the mayor of Williamsburg as well as the attorney-general of Virginia. In 1779, Randolph was elected to the Continental Congress. In November 1786, he also became Governor of Virginia. The same year, he was appointed as a delegate to the Annapolis Convention.
On May 29, 1787, only four days after the opening of the Constitutional convention in Philadelphia, Edmund Randolph presented the Virginia Plan to the Convention for setting up a new government. This plan outlined a strong central government made up of three branches of government, executive, legislative, and judicial. The plan also enabled the legislative branch to veto state laws and apply force against any states that failed to fulfill their duties. After many revisions and debates, including eliminating the section permitting force against states, the Virginia Plan became in part the basis of the federal Constitution.
Although Edmund Randolph introduced the highly centralized Virginia Plan, he often switched between the Anti-federalist and federalist points of view. Randolph sat on the Committee of Detail who prepared a draft of the Constitution, but once the document was adopted, he declined to sign it. Randolph thought that the Constitution was not sufficiently republican, and he was worried about creating a one-man executive.
While the old Articles of Confederation were not adequate, he felt that the new plan still had too many flaws. He was also a proponent for the process of amendment. He felt that if the Constitution were sent for ratification without giving the opportunity to amend it to the states, it might be rejected and end hopes for a new government. At the Virginia convention for ratification, Edmund Randolph supported the Constitution and fought to get it approved in Virginia.
Under President George Washington, Edmund Randolph became the Attorney General of the country. After Thomas Jefferson resigned as the Secretary of State, he assumed that position between 1794 and 1795. In 1795, Edmund Randolph retired from politics and resumed his law practice. During his retirement, Randolph wrote a history of Virginia. In 1813, Randolph died at the age of 60 while visiting Carter Hall. He was buried in a graveyard at a nearby chapel.