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Randolph, Edmund J.

Born: 1753-08-10 Virginia

Died: 1813-09-13 Virginia

Flourished: Virginia

Edmund P. Randolph was an attorney, politician, military officer, and first attorney general of the United States. Spending his early years in Williamsburg, Virginia, Randolph matriculated to the College of William and Mary. After graduating from William & Mary, he read law, earned admission to the Virginia bar, and commenced a legal practice in Williamsburg. The onset of the American Revolution interrupted his practice, and in August 1775, Randolph became aide-de-camp to George Washington. After a short stint in the army, he returned to Virginia and entered politics. In 1776, he became mayor of Williamsburg, participated in the framing of the Virginia constitution, and served as the commonwealth's first attorney general. From 1779 to 1782, he represented Virginia in the Continental Congress. In 1786, he became governor of the commonwealth. He was a prominent member of the Constitutional Convention, working to secure the omission of the word "slavery" from the document. He refused to sign or endorse the Constitution as adopted, but urged Virginia to ratify it, reassuring his fellow Virginians that amendment of the document would make it more palatable. Randolph resigned as governor in 1788 to lead the committee created to codify Virginia's laws. In September 1789, President Washington appointed Randolph the first attorney general of the U.S. He remained attorney general until January 1794, when he succeeded Thomas Jefferson as secretary of state. He served as secretary of state until August 1795, when Randolph's opposition to Jay's Treaty and revelations from a captured dispatch written by the French Minister Joseph Fauchet, which suggested that Randolph had disclosed secrets of the American government to the French and had requested a bribe, forced him to resign. Randolph returned to Virginia and his law practice. In 1807, he served as principal defense counsel for Aaron Burr when the latter was tried for treason.

Biographical Directory of the American Congress 1774-1996(Alexandria, VA: CQ Staff Directories, 1996), 1705; "Randolph, Edmund," The National Cyclopæpedia of American Biography (New York: James T. White, 1893), 1:12; Stanley Elkins and Eric McKitrick, The Age of Federalism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 425-26; Gravestone, Old Chapel Cemetery, Millwood, VA.