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.
1. Did Peyton Randolph accept the Williamsburg volunteers' services?
2. From whom or what did the volunteers think that Randolph needed protection?
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?
Reardon, John J. Peyton Randolph, 1721–1775: One Who Presided. Durham, N.C.: Carolina Academic Press, 1982.