The Home of American Intellectual Conservatism — First Principles

October 16, 2018

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Randolph, John
Russell Kirk - 03/26/12

Unmarried, living solitary much of each year at his Roanoke plantation in a cabin, he was loved by some and feared by many. He made three trips to England, and from May 1830 to the autumn of 1831 was American minister to the Court of St. Petersburg. Possessing what was said to be the finest library in Virginia, he was an omnivorous reader (intimately familiar with the collections of the Library of Congress) and a master of English prose style. His Letters to a Young Relative, published at Philadelphia the year after his death, illustrate both his literary talents and the complexity of his character. “They will never love where they ought to love,” Edmund Burke had written, “who do not hate where they ought to hate”: Randolph both loved and hated earnestly. He fought at least two duels (one with Henry Clay, a combat memorably recorded by Senator Thomas Hart Benton); also he was capable of compassion and generosity.

Further Reading
  • Kirk, Russell. John Randolph of Roanoke: A Study in American Politics, with Selected Speeches and Letters. 3rd ed. Indianapolis, Ind.: Liberty Press, 1978.
  • Randolph, John. Collected Letters of John Randolph of Roanoke to Dr. John Brockenbrough, 1812-1833. Edited by Kenneth Shorey. New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction, 1988.
  • Risjord, Norman K. The Old Republicans: Southern Conservatism in the Age of Jefferson. New York: Columbia University Press, 1965.
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