The . . . architect of southern conservatism grabbed headlines with his prescient comments, public brawls and clashes with every president from John Adams to Andrew Jackson.I've always been intrigued by John Randolph of Roanoke. He was the consummate Virginian - conservative, Southern, aristocratic and a descendant of Pocahontas. He was the very embodiment of Old Virginia. Some years ago, I had the privilege of meeting David Johnson online and we exchanged several emails sharing our deep love and respect for our native Virginia. Mr. Johnson was, at the time, working in the attorney's general office in Richmond, which is where he was working when the lecture below was recorded. I had initially contacted him about a piece he had written about Douglas Southall Freeman. Johnson eventually wrote a biography of Freeman - a book that should be in every Civil War buff's library. If you want to understand an important perspective of the Southern mindset, you must understand Freeman who, as most readers would know, wrote the definitive biography of Robert E. Lee. Johnson's biography of Freeman is a feast and I would highly recommend it. And don't let the fact that some elites like to trash the book's publisher - Pelican Publishing - the book is scholarly and well-researched. It's also written in a style that will keep you interested - an ability many historians lack.
"When I speak of my country, I mean the Commonwealth of Virginia." ~ John Randolph
Pay close attention at about 18:25 into the video as Johnson draws a distinction between Randolph's view of rights as contrasted with John Locke's. It's an important distinction. At about that same place, Johnson discusses the symbolism on the Virginia flag, as well as the Virginia Declaration of Rights - important topics in regards to the philosophy and purpose of what you'll find here on the Old Virginia Blog. Also pay close attention at about 37:00 as Johnson reads some of Randolph's opinions on the welfare state. The comments sound almost as though they could have been spoken on the House floor in recent debates. Many of the issues are the same, though on a much grander scale. Amazing. Randolph was a brilliant, complicated, troubled, and fascinating man. Despite his demons, it is difficult not to be an admirer.
In listening to some of the biting, critical sarcasm and insults (some quite funny) that Randolph served up to his political enemies, you'll realize he'd do very well in modern political theater. Johnson's lecture is WELL WORTH the time you'll spend watching and listening.
Only a fellow Virginian could understand Randolph as David Johnson obviously does. So grab a cup of coffee, relax, sit back, click the play button and prepare to be informed, inspired, enlightened and entertained. On a related note, I just recently completed Johnson's biography of Randolph and will be posting a short review soon.