Monday, May 02, 2005

A True Patriot Few of Us Know

I am down here in Williamsburg, VA for a few days, visiting the incredible living museum that is Colonial Williamsburg. It is so amazing to get to walk on the same streets and inside the same homes that Jefferson and Washington and Henry and so many others did.

But one great patriot who lived here that few of us know much about was Peyton Randolph, Speaker of the Virginia House of Burgesses and President of the Continental Congress.

If Randolph hadn’t died during the Second Continental Congress, it would have been he and not John Hancock who first signed the Declaration of Independence. And it very well may have been Randolph and not Washington who served as our first president. He was an immense figure in our Independence, and was truly beloved and admired by the other patriots.

The fact that, for many of us, Randolph has faded into the shadows of history reminds us that a lasting legacy is not the measure of a man’s importance. We hear too much today about how a leader will be remembered when the real question is, what has the leader achieved. Like many of those who fought for our independence, Randolph was not possessed of a desire for fame. He was possessed of a desire for freedom.

And, you know, I think that’s what a patriot is. Someone who believes in the promise of this country and is willing to give of themselves without promise of reward, even when the stakes are high.

So here’s to Peyton Randolph. An American we should all try to be more like.

1 Comments:

At 10:55 AM, Anonymous Jim Bradley said...

In addition to being the great patriot that Peyton Randolph was, his inestimable talents persevered through the pre-Revolutionary period.
A cousin of Thomas Jefferson, Randolph preferred to attempt to settle the colonies' differences with Great Britain through peaceful means and his skills in negotiation extinguished several small fires of contention before they burst into the blazing flames of armed rebellion.
The American Revolution eventually tore apart the Randolph family. Peyton's brother, John, was a Loyalist who moved his own family to England after the War of Independence began.
Even the Library of Congress can trace its roots to Peyton Randolph. When he died in 1775 during the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia, Peyton bequeathed his collection of books to Thomas Jefferson. While President, Jefferson donated the books to begin the Congressional collection.

 

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