Richard Randolph’s Letter “To the Public”


MY character has lately been the subject of much conversation, blackened with the imputation of crimes at which humanity revolts, and which the laws of society have pronounced worthy of condign punishment. The charge against me was spread far and wide before I received the smallest notice of it—and whilst I have been endeavouring to trace it to its origin, has daily acquired strength in the minds of my fellow-citizens.

To refute the calumnies which have been circulated by a legal prosecution of the authors of them, must require a length of time, during which the weight of public odium would rest on the party accused, however innocent—I have, therefore, resolved on this method of presenting myself before the bar of the public.

Calumny to be obviated must be confronted—If the crimes imputed to me are true, my life is the just forfeit to the laws of my country—To meet and not to shrink from such an enquiry as would put that life in hazard (were the charges against me supportable) is the object of which I am now in pursuit.

I do therefore give notice, that I will on the first day of the next April Cumberland court appear there and render myself a prisoner before that court, or any magistrate of the county there present, to answer in the due course of law, any charge or crime which any person or persons whatsoever shall then and there think proper to alledge against me.—Let not my accusers pretend an unwillingness to appear as prosecutors against me in a criminal court. The only favour I can ever receive at their hands is, for them to stand forth and exert themselves in order to my conviction.

Let not a pretended tenderness towards the supposed accomplice in the imputed guilt shelter me. That person will meet the accusation with a fortitude of which innocence alone is capable.

If my accusers decline this invitation, there yet remains another mode of procedure which I am equally ready to meet. Let them state, with precision and clearness the facts which they lay to my charge and the evidence whether direct or circumstantial by which I am to be proved guilty, in any of the public papers.—Let no circumstance of time or place nor the names of any witnesses against me, be omitted. The public shall then judge between me and them, according to other rules than the strict rules of legal evidence.

If neither of these methods be adopted in order to fix the stigma which has been imposed on me, let candor and impartiality acquit me of crimes which my soul abhors, or suspend their opinions of my guilt until a decision thereon can be obtained in some other satisfactory mode.

Published in the Virginia Gazette and General Advertiser, 17 Apr. 1793.
Richard Randolph
Date Range
March 29, 1793