Monday, December 22, 2008

John Randolph, "prevaricating, base, calumniating scoundrel, poltroon and coward"

John Randolph of Roanoke fought a number of duels, but on at least one occasion he declined to so, apparently because he did not consider the challenger his equal. As Kenneth S. Greenberg explains,
James Wilkinson, disgraced by involvement in Aaron Burr’s schemes to detach the Western states, practically begged John Randolph for a duel in 1807. “I have no hesitation,” he wrote, “to appeal to your justice, your magnanimity and your gallantry, to prescribe the manner of redress.” Randolph denied his request. “I cannot descend to your level,” he wrote.

Spurned, Wilkinson publicly “posted” Randolph as a coward by
printing handbills and posting them all over the District of Columbia. “Hector unmasked,” he announced. “In justice to my character, I denounce John Randolph, M.C., to the world as a prevaricating, base, calumniating scoundrel, poltroon and coward.”

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