On June 21, 1776, Edmund Randolph was caught in a whirlwind in Williamsburg. A member of the 5th Virginia Convention, he had already voted for the resolution for independence from Great Britain and adopted the Virginia Declaration of Rights. But then the hard work had to begin. Randolph was at the center of building a new nation, with everything that tends to entail, from political infighting to fighting a war to constructing a whole new government. And meanwhile, the remains of the old nation–of everything that Lord Dunmore and his family had left behind, including slaves, when they fled Williamsburg a year before–had to be dealt with. It’s no wonder that the 22-year-old saw “confusion beyond parallel” in the opening months of the American Revolution, on this date 237 years ago.
We are in confusion beyond parallel: no government is in existence but such as is vested in the hands of the Convention. This august body yesterday elected delegates for Congress, and rejected Colonels Harrison and Braxton. It was first determined we should have only five. The fortunate candidates were Wythe, Nelson, Jefferson, R. H. Lee, and T. L. Lee. We are engaged in forming a plan of government. God knows when it will be finished. It is generally thought that the contest will be between President Nelson and Mr. Henry, who shall be governor. Hunter’s gun manufactory has turned out twenty or thirty excessively fine guns, upon which the Convention made a contract with him for all the guns he can make in the course of a twelvemonth, at the price of 6 each. I know not what to add, except that Lord Dunmore’s estate is ordered by Convention to be sold.
SOURCE: Edmund Randolph to George Baylor, 21 June 1776, printed in Moncure Daniel Conway, Omitted Chapters of History Disclosed In the Life And Papers of Edmund Randolph (1888), 29.