Alexander Randall

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The Honorable

Alexander Randall
22nd United States Postmaster General
In office
July 25, 1866 – March 4, 1869
PresidentAndrew Johnson
Preceded byWilliam Dennison, Jr.
Succeeded byJohn Creswell
3rd United States Minister to the Papal States
In office
June 6, 1862 – August 4, 1862
PresidentAbraham Lincoln
Preceded byJohn P. Stockton
Succeeded byRichard Blatchford
6th Governor of Wisconsin
In office
January 4, 1858 – January 6, 1862
LieutenantErasmus D. Campbell
Butler Noble
Preceded byColes Bashford
Succeeded byLouis P. Harvey
Wisconsin Circuit Court Judge
for the 2nd Circuit
In office
April 1856 – December 31, 1857
Appointed byColes Bashford
Preceded byLevi N. Hubbell
Succeeded byArthur MacArthur, Sr.
Member of the Wisconsin State Assembly
from the Waukesha 4th district
In office
January 10, 1855 – January 9, 1856
Preceded byJesse Smith
Succeeded byCharles S. Hawley
Personal details
Alexander Williams Randall

(1819-10-31)October 31, 1819
Ames, New York, U.S.
DiedJuly 26, 1872(1872-07-26) (aged 52)
Elmira, New York, U.S.
Resting placeWoodlawn Cemetery
Elmira, New York
Political partyRepublican (1855–1872)
Whig (Before 1838, 1849–1855)
Free Soil (1848–1849)
Democratic (1838–1848)
Spouse(s)Mary C. Van Vechten
(died 1858)
Helen M. Thomas
(died 1918)
ChildrenSarah Adaline Randall
(b. 1843; died 1852)
MotherSarah Beach
FatherPhineas Randall
Professionlawyer, politician

Alexander Williams Randall (October 31, 1819 – July 26, 1872) was a lawyer, judge and politician from Wisconsin. He served as the sixth Governor of Wisconsin from 1858 until 1861. He was instrumental in raising and organizing the first Wisconsin volunteer troops for the Union Army during the American Civil War.

Life and career[edit]

Randall was born in Ames, New York, on October 31, 1819.[1] His father, Phineas, was judge of the court of common pleas there from 1837 to 1841. Randall attended Cherry Valley Academy in New York then studied law with his father.[2] He was admitted to the bar in New York at age 19.[1] Shortly after that, he moved to Wisconsin Territory. He opened a law practice in Waukesha in 1840, where he became postmaster in 1845.[1][2]

Randall was a delegate to the state's first constitutional convention in 1846. There he successfully advocated for a resolution that would put the question of "Negro suffrage" to a statewide referendum.[3] He was elected to the Wisconsin State Assembly for the 1855 session and was the Republican Party's first candidate for Attorney General of Wisconsin, running unsuccessfully in the 1855 election.[1][4] From 1855 to 1857, he was a circuit judge in Milwaukee.[1]

Randall was elected governor in 1857 as a Republican, and won re-election in 1859.[1] He was a dark horse candidate in 1857. The two principal candidates in the convention that year were Edward D. Holton of Milwaukee and Walter McIndoe of Wausau. Holton's abolitionist passions and his connections with the Milwaukee elite gave him strong support, but McIndoe's more rough-hewn personality resonated better with the frontier character of the state at the time. As such, they split the vote, neither able to garner a majority for the nomination. When it became apparent that the convention was at an impasse, and the delegates were released from their obligation, the votes eventually were cast in favor of Randall, the obvious compromise candidate.[5]

Prior to the beginning of the Civil War, he was an ardent abolitionist and proposed that Wisconsin secede from the Union if Abraham Lincoln did not win the presidency.[6]

As governor, Randall conducted an investigation of fraud in the distribution of federal railroad land grants in Wisconsin perpetrated by his predecessor, Republican Governor Coles Bashford.[2][7]

Civil War[edit]

Once war began Randall raised 18 regiments, 10 artillery batteries, and three cavalry units before leaving office, exceeding Wisconsin's quota by 3,232 men. The Union Army created a military camp from the former state fairgrounds in Madison, Wisconsin, and named it "Camp Randall" after the governor. Camp Randall Stadium is now located on the site of the military camp.

In 1861, President Abraham Lincoln appointed Randall U.S. Minister to the Papal States.[2] He was succeeded by Richard Milford Blatchford, and, in 1863, accepted appointment as Assistant Postmaster General.[1] President Andrew Johnson appointed him United States Postmaster General in 1866 and he remained in that position until 1869.[1] When Johnson was impeached, Randall remained loyal, testifying on Johnson's behalf and contributing to his defense fund.[2]

After leaving the federal government, Randall moved to Elmira, New York, where he resumed practicing law. He died there July 26, 1872.[1] He is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery.

Electoral history[edit]

Wisconsin Attorney General (1855)[edit]

Wisconsin Attorney General Election, 1855[8]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
General Election, November 6, 1855
Democratic William R. Smith 37,312 51.22% -5.81%
Republican Alexander Randall 35,533 48.78%
Plurality 1,779 2.44% -12.00%
Total votes 72,845 100.0% +31.03%
Democratic hold

Wisconsin Governor (1857, 1859)[edit]

Wisconsin Gubernatorial Election, 1857
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
General Election, November 3, 1857
Republican Alexander Randall 44,693 49.63% -0.23%
Democratic James B. Cross 44,239 49.12% -0.95%
Scattering 1,126 1.25%
Total votes '90,058' '100.0%' +24.05%
Republican hold
Wisconsin Gubernatorial Election, 1859
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
General Election, November 8, 1859
Republican Alexander Randall (incumbent) 59,999 53.21% +3.58%
Democratic Harrison Carroll Hobart 52,539 46.60% -2.53%
Scattering 83 0.07%
Total votes '112,755' '100.0%' +25.20%
Republican hold


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Wisconsin Historical Society, Dictionary of Wisconsin History, "Term: Randall, Gov. Alexander W. (1819–1872)". Retrieved December 20, 2012.
  2. ^ a b c d e Wisconsin Historical Society, Wisconsin Historical Images, "Governor Alexander Randall". Retrieved December 20, 2012.
  3. ^ Michael J. McManus, Political Abolitionism in Wisconsin, 1840–1861. Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 1998, p. 28.
  4. ^ Caryn Hannan (ed.), Wisconsin Biographical Dictionary. 2008–2009 ed. State History Publications, 2008, pp.334–335.
  5. ^ "State Convention of 1857". The Milwaukee Sentinel. March 18, 1896. Retrieved January 7, 2016.
  6. ^ Gayle Soucek, Chicago Calamities: Disaster in the Windy City. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2010, p.54.
  7. ^ National Governor's Association, "Wisconsin Governor Alexander Williams Randall". Retrieved December 20, 2012.
  8. ^ "The Official Canvass". Daily Free Democrat. Milwaukee, Wisconsin. December 19, 1855. p. 2. Retrieved August 7, 2020.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Party political offices
New party Republican nominee for Attorney General of Wisconsin
Succeeded by
Mortimer M. Jackson
Preceded by
Coles Bashford
Republican nominee for Governor of Wisconsin
1857, 1859
Succeeded by
Louis P. Harvey
Political offices
Preceded by
Coles Bashford
Governor of Wisconsin
1858 – 1861
Succeeded by
Louis P. Harvey
Preceded by
William Dennison
United States Postmaster General
1866 – 1869
Succeeded by
John Creswell
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
John P. Stockton
United States Minister to the Papal States
Succeeded by
Richard Blatchford