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John Randolph of Roanoke Paperback – February 1, 1997

ISBN-13: 978-0865971509 ISBN-10: 0865971501 Edition: Fourth Edition

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 594 pages
  • Publisher: Liberty Fund; Fourth Edition edition (February 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0865971501
  • ISBN-13: 978-0865971509
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.9 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #703,541 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 32 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 31, 1999
Format: Paperback
John Randolph of Roanoke, a distant cousin of Thomas Jefferson (whose mother was a Randolph), cut one of the outstanding figures in American politics in the first third of the nineteenth century. Virtually nothing in his life was uninteresting. From leader of the Republican Party in the House in Jefferson's first term as president, Randolph went to leader of a new opposition party after his notorious break with Jefferson. Later, his famous speaking style (the speeches here are worth the volume's price and more!) and acerbic wit made him the terror of administrations of both parties. His duel with Secretary of State Henry Clay is immortal, his imbroglios with the young John C. Calhoun are mesmerizing, and the story of his death fascinates. Not included here is the controversy over his will: in the end, one of Randolph's wills was probated and the other failed, with the result that Randolph freed more than 400 slaves! He also bought them land in "free" Ohio, where the natives ran them off; I don't know what became of the land (or of the Randolph money that had bought it for them). Randolph's long-standing insistence that the Yankees were hypocrites when it came to slavery and emancipation finds some support here, to say the least.
Kirk, unfortunately, has a tendency to make every conservative he admires into a bygone Russell Kirk. Randolph, for one, was not nearly so religious as Kirk would have him, and what Christianity he had was -- as one might expect -- of an eccentric variety. Still, the text here is a nice entre' to Randolph's life, and the speeches and letters are priceless. We don't have politicians of this intellectual level, or with this grasp of the English language, anymore. Nor, alas, do we have any who are so consistently, insistently conservative.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By colinwoodward on January 18, 2009
Format: Paperback
I hadn't read much about this book before I got it. I thought it was going to be a biography. Instead, it's an analysis of Randolph's political philosophy, including his thoughts on slavery. Roughly 2/3 of the book contains Randolph's letters and speeches. They certainly are worth reading. This book, then, serves as something of a primary source.

Kirk clearly admires his subject, who was a Republican's Republican--a guy who was true to his conservative values, whether or not doing so made him popular. Randolph, for instance, was opposed to the War of 1812 because he was an isolationist. Nor did he like the federal government meddling in the economy, even though he lived in a time when the federal government was relatively small. For Randolph, he was ever fearful of the country slipping into despotism. His was the spirit of the Stamp Act opponents: they thought a small measure by the government might mean impending tyranny.

When it came to slavery, Randolph was in the gradual emancipation school. But unlike Jefferson, he freed his slaves, who then moved (per Virginia law) out of state. His servants migrated to Ohio, where they encountered hostile northerners who did not like free blacks in their neighborhood.

Randolph was an unusual man, who remained politically consistent in a way a man who had little contact with the "common man" only could. He could never have risen much higher than Congressman, because he lacked the compromising spirit that makes for great executives. His persistent defensive stance toward change, however, made him a model for American conservatism. One can see much in Randolph that Pat Buchanan would admire.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Efrem Sepulveda on August 16, 2012
Format: Paperback
John Randolph's sixty years on Earth has been little-noticed by the people of today. That is a shame, for the life of this man from southern Virginia expresses the genuine spirit of the Old South as nobody else could. Russell Kirk gives a brilliant overview of his life and beliefs over a span of just 191 pages. The rest of the book consists of various speeches of Randolph and letters that Randolph wrote over his lifetime and which still survive.

Many things stood out in reading this book. The first one was his abhorrence to the centralization of government and he had the fear that the states would give up many of their powers to the general government. He was also adverse to the conduct of war by the United States. He believe, as he stated in 1812 that that liberty was in great danger if those freedoms that made up that liberty were given up in a moment of passion and that once the passion takes over then the liberty is gone. We see in our modern times that the numerous wars that we have endured in the past 100 years has led to a great loss of our freedom. Randolph was an opponent of the slave trade but thought slavery itself was a necessary evil. He witnessed the uprisings of the slaves in Haiti and thought that abolition via forced mandate was unwise and that slavery should gradually fade away over time. Randolph was an "Old Republican" in the tradition of Thomas Jefferson, but broke with Jefferson over the Embargo Act and the Yazoo scandal. Randolph was a person who did not believe in radical change in government. He was true to his belief that "change is not reform." He was averse to changing the Constitution by amendment.
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