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Omitted Chapters of History; Disclosed in the Life and

Papers of Edmund Randolph; Governor of Virginia;
First Attorney-General United States; Secretary of State.
By MONCURE DANIEL CONWAY, author of "Pine and Palm,”
“The Wandering Jew,” etc. New York and London: G.
P. Putnam's Sons, The Knickerbocker Press, 1888.

This handsome volume presents the life, character, and career of one who, if tried by the highest standards, makes good his title to rank among the very ablest and permanently influential statesmen of our country, one whose efforts were directed to the highest tasks, whose career was varied and prolonged, whose fields of effort and duty were lofty and conspicuous, and whose fortune and glory it was to have laid a strong, wise, and compelling hand on the helm of our American ship of state in the first decade of her career. It is too, the portrait of a noble, engaging, and withal pathetic, personal figure and character.

The story which so well deserved to be told, is well told by Mr. Conway,—not without an evident ardent purpose to set right his subject against misjudgments and wrongs which he believes him to have suffered,—“slings and arrows of outrageous fortune”—but in frank and entire reliance on the authentic materials which he has found and gathered, and certainly for the most part with moderation of judgment and fairness of treatment towards all with whom his work and narrative deal.

The stage of national development which we have now reached, and the needs and dangers of our times, make the work of rescuing from forgetfulness the personal as well as the public lineaments of our early statesmen and leaders, specially valuable and patriotic. Hurried and absorbing as is our current life, intelligent citizens have, and ever will have, an open eye and ear for the portraits and achievements of the individual men who illustrated the early days of our Republic. Among such men, few better deserve study, for charm of personal interest or value of public service, than the man whose fame Mr. Conway has here sought to rescue from the conventionalized disfigurement” in which it has been left to posterity. To follow Mr. Conway in this effort turns attention to a period, —to scenes and actors,-of the highest patriotic interest to Americans.

To Edmund Randolph might be applied the language in which Mr. Burke painted his son,“He was made a public creature, and had no enjoyment whatever but in the performance of some duty." His descent was from three generations of the best blood of Virginia,—a race of high-minded, cultivated, public-spirited gentlemen, worthy to share in laying the foundations of States. His paternal grandfather was Sir John Randolph of the second generation of American Randolphs, “perhaps,” says Mr. Conway, “the only native of this country ever knighted.” His father was the close friend of Jefferson, and like him a skeptic in religion, of literary tastes, and an eminent lawyer.

The youth of Edmund Randolph was cast in days and scenes of almost unexampled charm and interest in our history. Born in 1753, he was graduated at William and Mary College at Williamsburg in 1771. His father, the king's attorney for Virginia, though doubtless sympathizing with the cause of the colonies, seems to have been unable to break his allegiance to the king, and in 1775, seeing a revolution at hand, he sailed for England with his family, where he remained until his death in 1784, leaving, as his only bequest to his son, the shadow of his apparent Toryism. Edmund, who had remained in Virginia, ardently supported the American cause, and in August, 1775, joined the military family of Washington at Cambridge as aide-de-camp. Early in 1776, at the age of twenty-three, he was chosen a delegate for Williamsburg to the Virginia Convention which met May 6 of that year, and of which Randolph was the

youngest member. Here his public career may be said to have begun, and from this time until his retirement from the Cabinet of Washington, in August, 1795,-a period but little short of twenty years,—he bore a leading part in the great course of civil events which carried the country to independence and led on to the foundation of the nation by the Constitution of 1789 and to the successful establishment of the government under it by the administration of Washington.

In the Virginia Convention of 1776, which numbered among its members Patrick Henry, George Mason, James Madison, Henry Lee, and the long roll of their compeers,—the flower of the intellect and character of the State, an array of talent probably never surpassed, if equalled, in any local public body in America, -young Randolph bounded to influence and favor; and became by the election of the first Legislature of the State in 1776, Attorney-General. His appearance at this time is thus described by a contemporary:

“His noble stature, his handsome face, his unfailing address, insensibly arrest the attention. .... He spoke with a readiness, with a fullness of illustration, and with an elegance of manner and expression, that excited universal admiration." p. 38.

In the spring of 1779 he was sent to Congress at Philadelphia, and retiring from this service in October of the same year, he was again returned in 1780; but early in 1782 he repaired to Richmond to aid in inducing the State to give its consent to the impost required by Congress, and to seecure their compensation to the Virginia congressmen. In connection with this service, Mr. Conway notes the interesting historical fact that in order to conciliate the Southern States which objected that their quotas of taxation as fixed by Congress were based on the enumeration of slaves, Madison induced Congress, in 1783, to adopt the rule of representing negroes, which became the rule in the Constitution of 1789. (p. 47.)

In November, 1786, Randolph was elected Governor. During the small intervals of his public employments, from his return from Washington's camp in 1775 to his election as Governor, he had assiduously pursued his profession and had reached the foremost rank at a bar then the foremost of the country, at the same time keeping in touch on all public interests with Washington, Jefferson, Henry, and Madison, and especially charging himself with the care of the legal, and to a large extent, the general, business affairs of Washington in Virginia. Among these services, the case of Hite et al. v. Fairfax, which involved Washington's estates, was carried by Randolph against Lord Fairfax. (p. 60.)

In 1785, he began that series of services which resulted in the convention of 1787 and the Constitution of 1789, and which gives Randolph his well-supported claim to the lofty honor of chief author of our Constitution. A conference at Alexandria and Mt. Vernon in May, 1785, on the condition of the Confederation, of which next to nothing is now known,—was the first step. In January, 1786, he was at the head of the Virginia delegation at Annapolis to take into consideration the commercial interests of the United States.

But greater than all other services, in these first steps, was his share in overcoming the reluctance of Washington to attend the Philadelphia Convention of 1787. The correspondence on this subject which Mr. Conway's volume contains leaves no room for doubt of Randolph's agency in influencing the retired soldier to reënter public life. To his urgent judgment, acting against the advice and influence of Madison, who suggested placing Dr. Franklin in the chair of the convention, we owe the first of the two greatest factors in securing the National Constitution and a permanent government under it,—the unequalled public influence, practical wisdom, and perfect patriotism of Washington, and the intellectual and judicial greatness of Marshall. No patriotic American should be ignorant of the evidence here given which establishes this fact. (pp. 63-68.)

Well does Mr. Conway say: "The student of our constitutional history, looking back through the vista of a century, sees in the chain of causes that led to our Union two links especially salient; one was the Annapolis Convention, which convinced men representing divergent views and interests that they should unite for mutual aid; the other was the consent of Washington to attend the Philadelphia Convention, securing for its work the sanction of his powerful name.

Both of these were primarily due to Randolph.” (p. 62.)

There is hardly a more fascinating intellectual work than the examination of the process of growth of great results in the realm of nature or reason; but the study of so consummate a result as our Constitution-a result which excites more and more as the years of its life roll into the centuries, the admiration of foreign thinkers and nations and the confidence and gratitude of Americans,-furnishes a higher than mere intellectual interest; to us, it is a grateful and patriotic duty.

Randolph was less than thirty-four years of age when the Federal Convention convened at Philadelphia, May 14, 1787. A majority of the States—seven-were not represented until May 25. On the 29th, “the main business of the convention,” in Mr. Madison's words, “was opened” by Mr. Randolph in a speech which even in the condensation of Madison's report, shows the quality and power of his mind and his complete grasp of the situation,

“He observed, that, in revising the federal system we ought to inquire, first, into the properties which such a government ought to possess ; secondly, the defects of the Confederation; thirdly, the danger of our situation; and fourthly, the remedy.”.

He then launched upon the convention these weighty and pregnant thoughts:

“ The character of such a government ought to secure, first, against foreign invasion ; secondly, against dissensions between members of the Union, or seditions in particular States; thirdly, to procure to the several States various blessings of which an isolated situation was incapable ; fourthly, it should be able to defend itself against encroachment; and fifthly, to be paramount to the State Constitutions."

Never since that same May 29, 1787, have the great ideas, the essential aims and circumscriptions, of our Constitution and government, as they exist at the end of a century, been more powerfully or accurately expressed and drawn than in these remarkable sentences.

After touching in their order upon the other topics suggested, “he then proceeded,” in the report of Mr. Madison, “to the remedy; the basis of which, he said, must be the republican principle. He proposed, as comformable to his ideas the following resolutions, which he explained one by one,”—a series of fifteen resolutions which were at referred to the Committee of the Whole House and were from May 30th to June 13th, the sole subject of discussion and consideration in the convention. On the latter day, the committee rose and reported to the House the result of the consideration of Randolph's propositions in the form of nineteen resolutions.

This was the first stage of the formation of the Constitution.

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