Peyton Randolph - a man of great influence

The British wanted to hang Peyton Randolph. Who was this man who made the British so angry?

Born in 1723 to a prominent Virginia family, Peyton Randolph went to Oxford University in England but returned  to the College of William and Mary to study law. Before long he was the Attorney General of the Virginia colony and later became a member of the House of Burgesses.  In 1774, he traveled to Philadelphia to attend the Continental Congress and was elected the president. This is what made him an enemy of Britain. He was present when Patrick Henry made his impassioned speech against the Stamp Act and was one of the first to support the colonies stance. He was in charge of drafting protests to the king stating the colony should have the power to tax themselves, not the king.

Peyton Randolph house

While not popular when the protests began, Randolph did approve the passage of the resolves against the Townhend Duties.  Unfortuntely, Governor Botetourt did not and he dismissed the group.  Along with Randolph, the men met at Raleigh Tavern and led a rebel meeting there. They decided to boycott British goods and Randolph was the first to sign. Because of the actions of these men, the House of Burgesses was dissolved in 1774.  The men gathered again at Raleigh Tavern to form their own association.  They decided to send men to Philadelphia for the Continental Congress.  Randolph, Richard Henry Lee, George Washington, Patrick Henry, Richard Bland, Benjamin Harrison, and Edmund Pendleton were elected to attend the 1st Continental Congress.

Patrick Henry - Randolph's cousin

When he was 24 he married Elizabeth "Betty" Harrison in 1746. His cousin was Thomas Jefferson. When he left for Philadelphia, he wrote his will and left all his possessions to his wife. Because he was placed on list, he was escorted back to Virginia under guard. Unfortunately, Peyton Randolph died before independence was declared. Not long after he died, Thomas Jefferson purchased his books and records of Virginia history.  They are now part of the Library of Congress.

The Peyton Randolph house is one of the oldest homes in Williamsburg.  It was built in 1715 and was restored in 1938.  Built by his father, it was willed to Peyton after his father's death. There are three parts to the house - a west wing built by William Robertson, and east wing built later on, and finally a two story central section joining the two sections together. The east wing may have been an office.  It is not joined to the west wing by doors on both floors like the west wing. A beautiful staircase in the central section has some of the most beautiful paneling and brass hinges.   Several outbuildings still remain - a brick kitchen, a stable, a coach house, and a dairy.

stairwell - look at the wallpaper

Randolph bedchamber

walkway linking kitchen to house

Mrs. Randolph's bedchamber

Mr. Randolph's desk

Randolph's dining room

Randolph's kitchen

lady's sitting room

Randolph's laundry

Notice netting over mirror

Mr. Randolph's bedchamber

Randolph's study - imagine Washington here

The house was opened to French General Rochambeau to use as his headquarters during the revolution. General Washington and Rochambeau prepared for the Battle of Yorktown in 1781. As we all know, the Battle of Yorktown against General Cornwallis was the final battle of the war. Just imagine those two powerful generals - Washington and Rochambeau sitting down the strategize in the office. Not only was Peyton Randolph a patriot, but he instilled in his wife these same values!  Huzzah!

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