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Peyton Randolph Returned to Williamsburg

  • <em>Virginia Gazette</em> Article, Peyton Randolph Returned to Williamsburg, June 1, 1775
The Williamsburg volunteers offered protective services to Peyton Randolph on his return from the Second Continental Congress in June 1775.
Related documents:
  • 1774 Resolution
    Resolution to Summon a Convention in Williamsburg, May 30, 1774
  • Finis Document
    Final Meeting of the House of Burgesses (“Finis” Document), May 6, 1776
  • Act for Raising Army Volunteers
    Act for Raising Volunteers to Join the Grand Army, May 1778
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Virginia Gazette Article, Peyton Randolph Returned to Williamsburg, June 1, 1775

When Peyton Randolph returned to Williamsburg from Philadelphia at the end of May 1775, he was welcomed home and proclaimed "THE FATHER OF YOUR COUNTRY." Randolph was the most prominent resident of Williamsburg, having been attorney general of the colony and Speaker of the House of Burgesses. Because he was the presiding officer of the House of Burgesses, he served as moderator, or president, of the convention in August 1774 that elected the delegates who represented the colony in the First Continental Congress, where Randolph was unanimously elected president. Randolph also presided over the second Virginia Convention, which met in Richmond in March 1775, to elect delegates to the Second Continental Congress. The convention reelected Randolph chair of the Virginia delegation and also adopted Patrick Henry's resolution to put Virginia into a posture of defense, which meant raising an army to protect the colony from Indians on the frontier, potentially rebellious slaves, and the British Army and Royal Navy. Randolph was reelected president of Congress in May 1775, but he resigned soon thereafter when the royal governor summoned a meeting of the General Assembly. Randolph returned home in triumph and presided over the last meeting of the House of Burgesses in June 1775.

The "volunteer company in Williamsburg," an informal military unit, met Randolph at the Pamunkey River and escorted him into the city as he returned. The volunteer companies had been formed earlier in the year once the colony's militia law expired. After the royal governor removed the colony's gunpowder from the magazine in Williamsburg, several companies of volunteers marched to Williamsburg. Rumors that the British planned to arrest Randolph and some of the other leaders in order to try them for treason led the Williamsburg company to welcome Randolph back from Congress and escort him into the capital. They arrived in Williamsburg to much fanfare: ringing bells and cheering inhabitants. Randolph then joined other gentlemen at a tavern where they drank patriotic toasts. The next morning, the volunteers reassembled at Randolph's house where they delivered their message and received his reply.

For Educators

Questions

1. Did Peyton Randolph accept the Williamsburg volunteers' services?

2. From whom or what did the volunteers think that Randolph needed protection?

Further Discussion

1. Pay attention to the language used by the Williamsburg Volunteers. What famous founding documents employ the same kinds of words and usages? What does that tell us about the popular culture?

Suggested Reading

Reardon, John J. Peyton Randolph, 1721–1775: One Who Presided. Durham, N.C.: Carolina Academic Press, 1982.

To the honourable PEYTON RANDOLPH, esquire.
 SIR,
WE, the members of the volunteer company in Williamsburg, embodied, to support the constitutional rights and liberties of America, are exceedingly alarmed to hear, from report, that the same malevolent dÆmons, from whom have originated all the evils of America, are now exerting their utmost treachery to ensnare your life and safety. The friends of liberty and mankind have never escaped the fury of arbitrary despots. No wonder, then, that you should be selected, as a proper victim, to be sacrificed to the malice of the present administration.
 Permit us, therefore, attached to you by the noble ties of gratitude and fellow citizens, to entreat you, in the warmest manner, to be particularly attentive to your own safety, as you regard the interests of this country. We now proffer to you our services, to be exerted at the expense of every thing a freeman ought to hold dear, as you may think most expedient, in the defence of your person, and constitutional liberty, and will most chearfully hazard our lives in the protection of one who has so often encountered every danger and difficulty in the service of his countrymen. MAY HEAVEN GRANT YOU LONG TO LIVE THE FATHER OF YOUR COUNTRY, AND THE FRIEND TO FREEDOM AND HUMANITY!
To which his HONOUR was pleased to return the following
ANSWER.
 GENTLEMEN,
 The affection you have expressed for me demands the warmest returns of gratitude. I feel very sensibly the happiness resulting from the kind attention of my worthy fellow citizens to my security and welfare. Your apprehensions for my personal safety arise from reports, which I hope have no foundation. Such unjust and arbitrary proceedings would bring on the authors of them the resentment and indignation of every honest man in the British empire. I shall endeavour to deserve the esteem you have expressed on this occasion, and shall think it the greatest misfortune that can attend me if ever my future conduct should give you any reason to be displeased with the testimony you have now offered of your approbation.