BLTC Press Titles

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The Count of Monte Cristo

Alexandre Dumas

The Souls of Black Folk

W. E. B. DuBois

The Characters of Theophrastus


The Picture of Dorian Gray

Oscar Wilde

John Randolph

by Henry Adams


istical doctrines and his conservative temperament, his interests as a slave-owner and his theories as an ami des noirs, and finally in the entire delusion which possessed his mind that a Virginian aristocracy could maintain itself in alliance with a democratic polity.

Perhaps these flagrant inconsistencies might have worked out ten years sooner to their natural result, had not John Adams and New England now stood at the head of the government. If Randolph could wish no better fate for his own countryman, Washington, than that he might be damned, one may easily imagine what were his feelings towards Washington's successor, whose coachman had cracked his whip over Richard Randolph. For thirty years he never missed a chance to have his fling at both the Adamses, father and son; "the cub," he said, "is a greater bear than the old one ;" and although he spared no prominent Virginian, neither Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, nor Clay, yet the only persons against whom •his strain of invective was at all seasons copious, continuous, and vehement were the two New i England Presidents. To do him justice, there was every reason, in his category of innate i prejudices, for the antipathy he felt; and especially in regard to the administration of the elder Adams there was ample gnound for honest




divergence of opinion. For one moment in the career of that administration the country was in real danger, and opposition became almost a duty. When hostilities with France broke out, and under their cover the Alien and Sedition laws were passed, backed by a large army, with the scarcely concealed object of overawing threatened resistance from Virginia, it was time that opposition should be put in power, even though the opposition had itself undertaken to nullify acts of Congress and to prepare in secret an armed rebellion against the national government.

Feeling ran high in Virginia during the year 1798. Mr. Madison had left Congress, but both he and Mr. «||fferson, the Vice-President, were busy in organizing their party for what was too much like a dissolution of the Union. They induced the legislatures of Virginia and Kentucky to assert the right of resistance to national laws, and were privy to the preparations making in Virginia for armed resistance; or if they were not, it was because they chose to be ignorant. Monroe was certainly privy to these warlike preparations; for, in the year 1814, Kandolph attacked in debate the conscription project recommended by Monroe, then Secretary of War, and said, "Ask him what he would have done, whilst Governor of Virginia, and preparing to resist federal usurpation, had such an attempt been made by Mr. Adams and his ministers, especially in 1800! He can give the answer." At a still later day, in January, 1817, Randolph explained the meaning of his innuendo. "There is no longer," said he, " any cause for concealing the fact that the grand armory at Richmond was built to enable the State of Virginia to resist by force the encroachments of the then administration upon her indisputable rights." Naturally Randolph himself was in thorough sympathy with such schemes, and it would be surprising if he and the hotheaded young men of his stamp did not drag their older chiefs into measures which these would have gladly avoided.

Seizing this moment to enter political life, with characteristic audacity he struck at once for the highest office within his reach; at the age of twenty-six, he announced himself a candidate for Congress. Both parties were keenly excited over the contest in Virginia, and the federalists, with Washington at their head, were greatly distressed and alarmed, for they knew what was going on, and after opposing to the utmost Mr. Madison's nullification resolutions, straining every nerve to allay the excitement, as a last resource they implored their old opponent, Patrick Henry, to come to their rescue. Unwillingly enough, for his strength was rapidly failing, Henry consented. Nothing in his life was nobler. The greatest orator and truest patriot in Virginia, a sound and consistent democrat, sprung from the people and adored by them, this persistent and energetic opponent of the Constitution, who had denounced its overswollen powers and its "awful squint towards monarchy," now came forward, not for office, nor to qualify or withdraw anything he had ever said, but with his last breath to warn the people of Virginia not to raise their hand against the national government. Washington himself, he said, would lead an army to put them down. "Where is the citizen of America who will dare lift his hand against the father of his country? No! you dare not do it! In such a parricidal attempt, the steel would drop from your nerveless arm!"

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