Edmund Pendleton and the Scandal That Started a Revolution

Edmund Pendleton and the Scandal That Started a Revolution

Edmund Pendleton was a Virginian Revolutionary who helped propel America toward revolution.  But his most notable moment was his involvement in a scandal that almost bankrupted his colony.


Edmund Pendleton was the 45-year-old Attorney General of Virginia when his mentor, John Robinson, passed away.

Robinson was both Speaker of the House and Treasurer of the colony when he died.  As such, he was perhaps the most powerful politician in Virginia.  Edmund Pendleton was executor of the Robinson Estate.

When Pendleton began looking through Robinson’s records, he made a startling discovery.  John Robinson, whom everyone thought one of the wealthiest men in the state, was in debt.  He was deeply in debt.

The Scandal

After the French and Indian War, many colonies had slight economic depressions due to the end of wartime production.  To deal with this, Virginia printed paper money, which was meant to circulate for a limited time.  This would help colonists pay debts and taxes.

John Robinson, as Treasurer, was responsible for collecting and destroying this temporary money.  However, as many middle- and upper-class citizens came to him for personal loans, Robinson began lending the currency he was supposed to destroy.  His intention was to keep the economy afloat and, when they debts were repaid, make a tidy profit.

Unfortunately, these bills were never repaid.  When Robinson died in 1766, Pendleton found out about this scheme.  This news created a major scandal in pre-revolutionary Virginia.

And Taxes Too?

Edmund Pendleton would spend the rest of his long career trying to sell off Robinson’s estate to settle the debts.  Although Pendleton’s political aspirations were set back, they were not destroyed.  After all, almost all the wealthy men of the colony were suckered by Robinson’s scam in one way or another.

Pendleton, along with many other Virginian Founders, quickly began protesting the new British taxes that arrived at just the wrong time.  With the colony in such dire economic circumstances, the taxes simply could not be tolerated.

Revolutionary Leader

Pendleton would attend the First and Second Continental Congresses as well as sign the Articles of Association.  He would serve as President of the Virginia Committee of Safety, making him Governor of the State in all but name.  He would also serve as President of the Virginia Convention, which issued to Richard Henry Lee instructions to make the Resolution to Declare Independence.  Edmund also advised George Mason on the Virginia Declaration of Rights.

Pendleton would go on to be President of the Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals.  He would also be President of the Virginia Ratification Convention which gave its support to the US Constitution.

Despite all his revolutionary accomplishments, Edmund Pendleton was still trying to repay the John Robinson estate in 1803 when he died at the age of 82.


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While the only athoratative biography of Pendleton currently seems to be out of print, pick up  one of these books on revolutionary Virginia from our affiliate Amazon:

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