Date of Award

Fall 2013

Degree Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)





Committee Chair

Kyle Zelner

Committee Chair Department


Committee Member 2

Deanne Nuwer

Committee Member 2 Department


Committee Member 3

Susannah Ural

Committee Member 3 Department



On May 29, 1787, Governor Edmund Randolph took the floor of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia with a radical plan for a new federal government. Randolph was a key member of the influential Virginia delegation which paved the way for United States' Constitutionalism. An examination of his early life, legal career, and politics offers a new lens with which to view the emergence of American constitutional ideology. Building off the work ofT.H. Breen, who argues that Virginia's landed gentry inhabited a distinct culture, this work illuminates the dynamics of these elites who were absolutely pivotal in shaping a new sense of"American Constitutionalism" in the early Republic. Additionally, Shelia Skemp and Willard Sterne Randall's dual biographies of Benjamin and William Franklin illustrated that biography is a fruitful research avenue for understanding not only revolutionary politics, but also the dynamic involved in revolutionary loyalism among elite families in the era. Based on a rich trove of primary sources such as government documents, personal papers, and newspapers, this modern intellectual biography of Edmund Randolph will add a crucial element to the revolutionary politics of this era. A study of the patriot and loyalist divide, through the lens of the early life and times of Edmund Randolph, allows a richer understanding of Edmund Randolph's political education and make up. Edmund Randolph's early years make it possible to see the bifurcation of the Virginia social elite, which had important implications for the construction of a new American brand of constitutionalism.