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William Randolph I

Member From: 1684 - 1710

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  • Birth Date: 1650 Birth Place:Warwickshire, England
  • Death Date: April 11, 1711
  • Gender: Male Race: Caucasian
  • Spouse: Mary Isham
  • Children: William "Councillor", Jr. (1681)
    Thomas (1683)
    Isham (1684)
    Richard (1690)
    Henry (1687)
    Edward (1690?)
    "Sir" John (1693)
    *See More Information
  • Religion:
  • Education:
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  • Additional Info: ​His additional children include:
    Mary (1692?)
    Elizabeth (1695)

    William Randolph was born in Warwickshire, England about 1651. Arrived in Virginia in approximately 1674. Around 1680 he married, Mary Isham, the daughter of Henry Isham of Bermuda Hundred and his wife Catherine (maiden name unknown).
    [in 1699 was elected for Henrico but was chosen Clerk, so he vacated his seat], Randolph died before the 1711 session (Nov. 7-Dec. 24, 1711) and was succeeded by Francis Epes.
  • Bio: WILLIAM RANDOLPH I was Speaker of the House of Burgesses at the assembly of 1698. Randolph had represented Henrico County in every assembly between 1684 and 1698; he served as clerk of the House from 1699 to 1702 and was returned as a burgess to all the assemblies between 1703 and 1710.
    Randolph was born in Warwickshire in 1650. His uncle Henry Randolph, who had been a member and clerk of the House of Burgesses, visited England in 1669, and, his parents and grandparents having died, Speaker Randolph seems to have come to Virginia with his uncle by March 1670. In 1673 he was named clerk of the Henrico County Court, an office he held until 1683 when he was appointed to the county bench. In 1674 Randolph patented 591 acres on Swift Creek, in the part of Henrico County that lay south of the James River. After his marriage to Mary Isham in 1678, he sold this property and in 1680 bought 150 acres at Turkey Island. In four subsequent purchases, the last in January 1705, Randolph acquired the entire Turkey Island tract. There he built his first home, "a story-and-a-half high, with gabled roof and enormous outside chimneys almost as wide as the house itself. ' ' Later he bought Curles, the forfeited estate of Nathaniel Bacon, Jr.; a 3,256-acre tract at Tuckahoe Creek; and 5,142 acres at Westham. By his death he had accumulated 10,000 acres in the vicinity of modern Richmond. Like most other members of the Virginia gentry, he had commercial interests as well, and described himself as '' a considerable dealer in the tobacco trade. ''

    After nine years as clerk of Henrico County, in April 1682 Randolph secured appointment as clerk to the House of Burgesses committee on propositions and grievances. The next year he became a justice of the peace, and later he served as sheriff and coroner. Henrico County elected him to the House of Burgesses for the assemblies of 1684 and 1685-1686. The elections of 1688 and 1691 were perhaps more heated, for in both years Thomas Chamberlain unsuccessfully contested Randolph's election. In March 1693 Randolph was not elected until after John Pleasant had declined to take the oaths required of members of the House. Randolph was chosen to fill the vacancy, entered the House on 10 March, and was reelected in October 1693. That same year he was named a trustee of the College of William and Mary.
    In the assembly of 1695 Randolph was chairman of the House committee for public claims, and on 6 May 1695, when "the house Resolved into a Committee of the whole house ... Mr. Randolph took the Chair." Toward the end of the session he was also chairman of the committee for proportioning the public levy. When the House reconvened in April 1696 he directed a committee for elections and privileges, and his responsibilities at the assembly of 1696-1697 were similar. Probably he was nominated for Speaker both in 1695 and in 1696.
    Henrico County returned Randolph to the House of Burgesses in 1698, and on the second day of debate he won the Speakership over four other nominees. Two members conducted him to the chair "whence he arose, and .. . made a Speech to this effect. Gentlemen. I Acknowledge it is a great Honor conferred on me by being chosen Speaker of this House, but On the Other Side, I must confess my Own Disability." The ceremony continued when the burgesses attended Governor Sir Edmund Andros '' and Capt William Randolph Acquainted his Excellancy that the House of Burgesses had made Choyce of him for their Speaker and haveing made a Speech Disableing himselfe was Confirmed by his Excellancy, and then [Speaker Randolph] prayed that what priviledges that house have usually had or ought to Enjoy might be Continued and Confirmed to them.'' Governor Andros granted the petition of privilege and outlined his objectives in a speech that began the business of the assembly.
    The assembly lasted only six days longer. "A general assembly was begun and held at James City, the 28th day of September ... 1698; and continued to the 6th day of October following, William Randolph being speaker," William Waller Hening reported, ''and then the governor sent for the House of Burgesses and told them he was concerned, upon the occasion of an act of parliament, to dissolve the assembly; and it was dissolved accordingly, without doing any business. Quere, What act of parliament was this?'' Andros based his action on a 1696 act of Parliament (which he had already construed to prevent the Reverend James Blair, a Scot, from sitting on the Council) that required "that all Places of Trust in the courts of Law, or what relates to the Treasury " of the colonies to "be in the Hands of the native-born subjects of England or Ireland, or of the said Islands [i.e., colonies]." In his opening speech Andros had told the burgesses that he had received the act and that it was "to be duely Observed in these parts." Later that Saturday the House was "informed that John Keeton [of Nansemond County] A member of the house is a forreigner." On Monday the burgesses decided that since Keeton had been naturalized according to a 1679 act of assembly he was "duely qualified to Serve.'' The burgesses did not challenge Governor Andros's assertion that the act of Parliament bore on Keeton 's case, nor did they question Parliament's authority to regulate the composition of the House. They did regard their 1679 act for naturalization as equal to the 1696 act of Parliament, however; indeed they thought it sufficient to modify the ''native-born Subject' ' provision of the English statute.
    On Thursday, 6 October 1698, Andros summoned the burgesses to say "that he is now Concerned at the occasion on account of an act of Parliament [ and] to Say that he did Desolve This Generall Assembly." The week-long meeting had produced no legislation, but apparently no one invoked the Addled Parliament precedent that Governor Effingham had used against the House over which Speaker William Kendall had presided in 1685. Andros, in fact, referred to the week-long meeting as "the late General asembly." Surely he knew the 1614 precedent, but had he admitted the applicability of a precedent from the House of Commons he might have implied that the House of Burgesses enjoyed other such privileges and a nearly equal constitutional status. Andros sought to avoid that implication because he was enforcing an act of Parliament that circumscribed the House of Burgesses' unanimous resolution of 4 April 1692: ''That the house of Burgesses are the Sole and only Judges of the Capacity or incapacity of their owne members, and that any Sherriff or other person whatsoever pretending to be a Judge of the capacity or incapacity of any member of the House of Burgesses does thereby become guilty of a Breach of the Priviledges of the said House of Burgesses.'' Speaker Randolph was a member of the committee for elections and privileges that had drafted this resolution. Like other colonial politicians, the Virginians often thought of their General Assembly as a little Parliament and sought to maintain its power, dignity, and prestige by insisting on recognition of its claim to parliamentary privilege. Andros clearly disagreed, but because he planned to leave the colony and because the political atmosphere was calm, rather than fight he simply dissolved the assembly. The dissolution enforced the act of Parliament without any more fuss and without raising broader issues.
    Speaker Randolph was elected to the assembly of 1699, but vacated his seat to accept an appointment as clerk of the House on 27 April 1699. He continued as clerk for the assembly of 1700-1702, but in August 1702 he was ill and his son acted in his place. Randolph resigned his clerkship on 19 March 1703. He returned to the House as one of Henrico County's representatives in the assemblies of 1703-1705, 1705-1706, and 1710-1712, and he died on 11 April 1711. Speaker William Randolph's son Sir John and grandson Peyton were, in their turns, elected Speakers of the House of Burgesses.
  • Other Notable Service and/or Elected Offices: Virginia Attorney General, sworn into office in April 1694, served until October 29, 1698. Resigned. Speaker of the House of Burgesses - 1698
    Clerk of the House of Burgesses - 1669 - 1702 (in the latter assembly, he was assisted by his son, William Randolph II) Royal Council of Virginia - dates unknown
Session District District Number Party Leadership Committees
1684 Henrico
1685-1686 Henrico Public Claims
1688 Henrico Public Claims
1691-1692 Henrico Elections and Privilege
Public Claims
1693 Mar Henrico Public Claims (Chair)
1693 Oct Henrico Public Claims (Chair)
Elections and Privileges
1695-1696 Henrico Public Claims (Chair)
Elections and Privileges
1696-1697 Henrico Elections and Privileges (Chair)
Public Claims (Chair)
1698 Henrico Speaker of the House
1703-1705 Henrico Propositions and Grievances (Chair)
Propositions and Grievances
1705-1706 Henrico
1710-1712 Henrico Propositions and Grievances (Chair)

*The information within this interactive and searchable application has been researched extensively by the House Clerk’s Office. As with any historical records of this age and breadth, there may be discrepancies and/or inconsistencies within records obtained from a variety of credible sources. Any feedback is encouraged at history@house.virginia.gov.

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