Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
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RANDOLPH, Edward, British agent, born in England about 1620; died in the West Indies after 1694. The British government sent him to the New England colonies in 1675 to ascertain their condition. He arrived in June, 1676, with a letter from Charles II., and with complaints from Ferdinando Gorges, the lord proprietary of Maine, and from Robert T. Mason, who laid claim to New Hampshire. Randolph at once began to menace the trade and the charter of Massachusetts, demanding of Governor Leverett that the letter he bore from the king should "be read with all convenient speed to the magistrates." Leverett, however, professed ignorance of the signature of the secretary of state, whose name was affixed to the letter, anal denied the right of parliament or king to bind the colony with laws adverse to its interest, receiving Randolph only as an agent of Mason. Randolph returned to England after six weeks' stay in the colonies, and. by exaggerating their population fourfold, and their wealth to a still greater extent, induced the English government to retain him in its employment. In the course of nine years he made eight voyages to this country, each time taking back false reports of its condition and presenting stronger reasons for the taxation and oppression of the colonies. He was enrolled as collector of customs in December, 1679, and twice within the next three years visited England to assist in directing measures against Massachusetts. A writ of quo warranto was issued in July, 1683, Massachusetts was arraigned before an English tribunal, and in October Randolph arrived in Boston with the writ. In June, 1684, the charter was adjudged to be conditionally forfeited. He met Governor Edmund Andros on 20 December, 1686, when the latter landed in Boston, and at once attached himself to the governor's staff. "His excellency," said Randolph, "has to do with a perverse people." He became secretary of New England the same year, and a member of the governor's council, and in 1688 carried off to Boston, from the secretary's office in New York, the archives of the Dutch governors, where they remained till 1691. In response to the complaints of the people Randolph replied:" It is not to his majesty's interest that you should thrive." The taxes were for public purposes, and Randolph persuaded the colonists to take out new grants for their lands, with the intention that when they should possess them in fee simple they should be subjected to extortionate taxation. But when the news of the accession of William and Mary reached Boston, 4 April, 1689, there was a "grand buzzing among the people in great expectation of their old charter." On the morning of the 18th Andros and Randolph were marched to prison. When the latter was released he went to the West Indies, where he died.
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