Thomas Jefferson Papers

Peyton Randolph (d. 1828) to Thomas Jefferson, 16 July 1816

From Peyton Randolph (d. 1828)

Richmond July 16. 1816


I hope the subject of this letter will be deemed a sufficient apology for the liberty I have taken in writing to you.

M. Delaplaine, who has undertaken to publish the biography of the eminent men of America, has requested me to furnish him with some facts respecting my uncle Peyton Randolph. I have felt great regret at not being able to gratify his desire in a manner worthy of the subject and of his work; for altho’ I hold the memory of my uncle in great reverence, my age will not enable me to contribute any thing more than family anecdotes. Written documents cannot be referred to for1 more than a few public and notorious acts. In this dilemma I have seen no other means of rescuing his life from total oblivion, but to apply to the few of his remaining cotemporaries, who, knew him personally, acted with him in public life, and may have treasured up incidents which would throw light on his biography. In all these particulars, I believe that you Sir are more competent to give satisfactory information than any person now living. The points to which M. Delaplaine calls my attention are the following;—his birth—parentage—education—profession—offices—times of holding them—public & private life generally—and any other facts which I may think proper to furnish. If you can find leisure to communicate to me your knowledge on any of these subjects, it will be duly appreciated and most thankfully recieved by   Sir

Yr. mo. ob. servt

Peyton Randolph.

RC (MHi); endorsed by TJ as received 24 July 1816 and so recorded in SJL. RC (MHi); address cover only; with PoC of TJ to David Gelston, 19 Sept. 1816, on verso; addressed: “Thomas Jefferson esqr Monticello Near Charlottesville” by “Mail”; franked; postmarked Richmond, 18 July, and Charlottesville, 24 July.

Peyton Randolph (d. 1828), attorney and public official, was the son of Edmund Randolph, the first attorney general of the United States, and the grandnephew of Peyton Randolph (ca. 1723–75), the first president of the Continental Congress. Randolph attended the College of William and Mary in 1798 and by 1804 had established his residence in Richmond, where he joined a Masonic lodge and practiced law. TJ considered but decided against nominating him as the federal district attorney for Virginia in 1803. Randolph sat on the Virginia Council of State, 1809–12, and when Gov. George W. Smith died on 26 Dec. 1811, Randolph, as senior member, was the acting governor until 2 Jan. 1812. He served as the official reporter for the Virginia Court of Appeals, 1821–28, and in this capacity authored vols. 22–27 of the Va. Reports description begins Reports of Cases Argued and Adjudged in the Court of Appeals of Virginia, 1798–  (title varies; originally issued in distinct editions of separately numbered volumes with Va. Reports volume numbers retroactively assigned; original volume numbers here given parenthetically) description ends , 1823–29 (Jonathan Daniels, Randolphs of Virginia [1972], xviii; Robert Isham Randolph, Randolphs of Virginia [1936], 197–8; R. Gaines Tavenner, “Peyton Randolph,” in W. Hamilton Bryson, ed., Virginia Law Reporters Before 1880 [1977], 47–8; William and Mary Provisional List description begins A Provisional List of Alumni, Grammar School Students, Members of the Faculty, and Members of the Board of Visitors of the College of William and Mary in Virginia. From 1693 to 1888, 1941 description ends , 33; TJ to John Wayles Eppes, 19 Nov. 1803, letter not found, but with its subject noted in SJL as “Peyton Randolph to be distr Atty v. T. Nelson decd”; Proceedings of a Grand Annual Communication of the Grand Lodge of Virginia [Richmond, 1804], 42; David Robertson, Reports of the Trials of Colonel Aaron Burr [Philadelphia, 1808], 1:374; The Richmond Directory, Register and Almanac, for the Year 1819 [Richmond, 1819], 64; Richmond Enquirer, 6 Dec. 1821, 30 Dec. 1828; Washington Daily National Intelligencer, 31 Dec. 1828).

1Randolph here canceled “any thing.”

Index Entries

  • books; biographical search
  • Delaplaine, Joseph; Delaplaine’s Repository search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Writings; Biography of Peyton Randolph (ca.1723–75) search
  • Randolph, Peyton (ca.1723–75); and J. Delaplaine’sRepository search
  • Randolph, Peyton (ca.1723–75); TJ’s biography of search
  • Randolph, Peyton (d.1828); and J. Delaplaine’sRepository search
  • Randolph, Peyton (d.1828); identified search
  • Randolph, Peyton (d.1828); letter from search
  • Repository of the Lives and Portraits of Distinguished Americans (J. Delaplaine) search