Of Roanoke Randolph John, an American orator, born at Cawsons, Chesterfield co., Va., June 2, 1773, died in Philadelphia, June 24, 1833. He was educated at Princeton, at Columbia college, New York, and at the college of William and Mary, and studied law at Philadelphia, but never practised. In 1799 he was elected a representative in congress, and soon became conspicuous, in the language of Hil-dreth, as "a singular mixture of the aristocrat and the Jacobin." He was reelected in 1801, and was made chairman of the committee of ways and means. In 1803, as chairman of a committee, he reported against a memorial from Indiana for permission to introduce slaves into that territory in spite of the prohibition of the ordinance of 1787, which he pronounced to be "wisely calculated to promote the happiness and prosperity of the northwestern country." In 1804 he was chief manager in the trial of Judge Chase, impeached before the senate. (See Chase, Samuel.) In 1806 he assailed President Jefferson and his supporters with great virulence. He attacked Madison's administration, and opposed the declaration of war against Great Britain in 1812. His opposition caused his defeat at the next election.
He was reŽlected in 1814, and again in 1818, having declined to be a candidate in 1816. In the congress of 1819-20 he opposed the Missouri compromise, stigmatizing the northern members by whose cooperation it was carried as "doughfaces," an epithet adopted into the political vocabulary of the United States. In 1822, and again in 1824, he visited England. From 1825 to 1827 he was a senator of the United States, and during that time fought a duel with Mr. Clay. (See Clay, Henry.) He supported Gen. Jackson for president in 1828. In 1829 he was a member of the convention to revise the constitution of Virginia, and in 1830 was appointed minister to Russia; but soon after his reception by the emperor Nicholas, he departed abruptly for England, where he remained for nearly a year, and returned home without revisiting Russia. He was again elected to congress, but was too ill to take his seat. Exhausted with consumption, he died in a hotel at Philadelphia, whither he had gone on his way to take passage again across the ocean. During his life his speeches were more fully reported and more generally read than those of any other member of congress. He was tall and slender, with long, skinny fingers, which he was in the habit of pointing and shaking at those against whom he spoke.
His voice was shrill and piping, but under perfect command and musical in its lower tones. His invective, sarcasm, and sharp and reckless wit made him a terror to his opponents in the house. At the time of his death he owned 318 slaves, whom by his will he manumitted, bequeathing funds for their settlement and maintenance in a free state. His "Letters to a Young Relative" appeared in 1834. - See "Life of John Randolph," by Hugh A. Garland (2 vols. 8vo, New York, 1850).