07 April 2014

The Architect Of Southern Conservatism

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.

8 comments:

ropelight said...

Note that John Randolph, one of Thomas Jefferson's cousins, was identified with Roanoke Plantation located in present day Charlotte County, not the City of Roanoke (previously known as Big Lick) which wasn't chartered till nearly 50 years after Randolph's death.

Randolph's Roanoke Plantation used slave labor (about 400 when he died in 1833) to grow tobacco for export which once cured then compressed in hogsheads was transported in shallow draft boats down the Roanoke River to North Carolina's Albemarle Sound then east to the Currituck and north along what's now the InterCoastal Waterway up to Munden's Point just over the line and back into Virginia. There it went overland in horse carts to Norlolk's deep water port. A rail spur, now abandoned, was built in 1898.

During his lifetime Randolph educated many of his slaves and he freed them in his will. He also provided $30,000 for their transportation to the free state of Ohio and for the purchase of suitable land. The story of the Randolph Slaves (type it into your search engine) and their subsequent experience is enlightening.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Hello RL. Yes, Johnson writes about all this in the biography and goes into some detail about Randolph's slaves and his views on slavery, which I found similar to Stonewall Jackson's. But, leave no doubt, Randolph was an aristocrat, but in a "broader" sense, which Johnson explains.

The Ohio aspect of the story is quite interesting as well. I'll discuss some of this when I post the review.

Robert Moore said...

Enjoyed listening, Richard... especially because of Randolph's ties to Henry St. George Tucker (who is of interest to me for the connection he had with the lower Valley). Any mention of Randolph visiting the Winchester area? Incidentally, I ran across something about Randolph, from 1844, that you may be interested in reading. I'm trying to figure out how I might post it, but if it doesn't develop, will just send it along to you.

Robert Moore said...

Enjoyed listening, Richard... especially because of Randolph's ties to Henry St. George Tucker (who is of interest to me for the connection he had with the lower Valley). Any mention of Randolph visiting the Winchester area? Incidentally, I ran across something about Randolph, from 1844, that you may be interested in reading. I'm trying to figure out how I might post it, but if it doesn't develop, will just send it along to you.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Hey Robert. Yes, I thought it was an excellent lecture. I don't specifically recall any mention of Winchester, but I'll try to remember to take another look. Yes, I would be interested in reading what you have.

Another interesting item about Randolph was his relationship with Francis Scott Key.

ropelight said...

RGW, as I was looking into the proximity of Randolph's Roanoke to Patrick Henry's Red Hill Plantation, (about 10 miles as the crow flies, more than twice that along the river) I came across the following intriguing, but unsourced, information on Wikipedia about the town of Brookneal:

On August 23, 1852, The town of Brookneal officially succeeded from the continental United States for a period of 17 days. During this period the citizens were under constant fear of being killed by surrounding towns since they were considered an "enemy of the state". In this fear, four "foreign" people were killed when trying to enter Brookneal. It was not until Abraham Lincoln appeared with two dozen soldiers demanding the town rejoin America, after what is estimated to be between 8 and 9 hours deliberating with the Brookneal President "Agusta Moorview" did he finally agree to Lincoln's orders. The compromise consisted of The Republic of Brookneal being given a total sum of two-thousand dollars and rifles for each citizen.

I'm not only skeptical, I'm more than suspicious. Any thoughts?

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

RL - I do not recall ever hearing that about Brookneal, though I've been there a number of times. Wiki also needs to use spell check - "succeeded"?

Hmmm . . .