"Consensus Politics,” 1800–1805

The idea goes back to the very beginnings of our national history. Then as now, it was built upon human relationships, and these—as Mr. Jefferson found to his sorrow—make a fragile foundation.

We hear a great deal these days, during an intensely political Presidency, about “consensus politics,” but it is no novelty of modern times. It is hardly an exaggeration to say that Thomas Jefferson was its inventor and master practitioner. Time has all but canonized this Founding Father, so that few associate him with either guile, ruthlessness, or skill in political maneuver. Yet he had all three, and he knew how to use them.

Unforgiving Cousin: John Randolph Of Roanoke

John Randolph of Roanoke was a second cousin of Edmund Randolph, President Washington’s first Attorney General and second Secretary of State. It would be difficult to say which of the two careers was the more tragic. There could have been no more striking contrast than that between the two men—the elder, gentle and reflective, his endowments promising happiness and success: the other pursued from childhood by his inner furies. Edmund suffered from the sudden impact of events outside himself. John's defeat came from within. Read more »

Scandal At Bizarre

Between its grim beginning on a Virginia plantation and its surprising end at a great New York estate, the career of Nancy Randolph involved many of the famous figures of the post-Revolutionary era. The lovers, the scorned ex-suitor, the cheated wife, all four were cousins in a great southern dynasty. This tale of hate and “honor” is recounted by a descendant of Edmund Randolph, the first Attorney General of the United States

 

The story of Anne Gary Randolph, called Nancy, is strangely interwoven with that of her spectacular cousin, John Randolph of Roanoke, and touches other famous names in unfamiliar moments; it gives us a glimpse into the intimate history of the times. Her career opened with tragedy before she had come of age, pursued a course of wretchedness and poverty while she was still a young woman, and ended, as she was touching middle age, in serene happiness and contentment.

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