Author: Charles D. Lowery


Philip Pendleton Barbour (1783–1841)

Philip Pendleton Barbour was a member of the House of Delegates (1812–1814), Speaker of the House of Representatives (1821–1823), president of the Convention of 1829–1830, a federal district court judge (1830–1836), and an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court (1836–1841). Born in Orange County, Barbour studied law with St. George Tucker and practiced briefly in Kentucky before returning to Virginia. He served for two years in the General Assembly and then in Congress, from 1814 to 1825. His older brother, James Barbour, also was a prominent politician, serving as governor and then in the U.S. Senate, but their political philosophies diverged over time. Whereas James Barbour came to support a federal bank and federally supported internal improvement projects, Philip Pendleton Barbour remained a staunch Jeffersonian conservative, emphasizing states’ rights and limited government. Even while his brother served in the cabinet of President John Quincy Adams, Philip Pendleton Barbour loudly opposed the administration. After the election of Andrew Jackson, Barbour won appointment as an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. His time on the bench was short and devoted to undoing the work of Chief Justice John Marshall, who advocated for a broad interpretation of the Constitution. Barbour died in 1841.


James Barbour (1775–1842)

James Barbour was Speaker of the House of Delegates (1809–1812), the governor of Virginia (1812–1814), a member of the U.S. Senate (1815–1825) and its president pro tempore (1819), and the secretary of war (1825–1828) and minister plenipotentiary to Great Britain (1828–1829) in the administration of President John Quincy Adams. Born in Orange County, he read law in Richmond and married his first cousin, Lucy Maria Johnson. (Barbour’s younger brother, Philip Pendleton Barbour, married Johnson’s sister.) As a member of the General Assembly, Barbour was a states’-rights conservative, but that changed over time. He became governor after George William Smith died in the Richmond Theatre fire, and his management of state affairs during the War of 1812 made him more appreciative of the need for a strong executive. In the U.S. Senate Barbour supported a federal bank and federally financed internal improvements and served in Adams’s Federalist administration that was loudly opposed by many Jeffersonian Virginians, including Barbour’s own brother, then in the U.S. House of Representatives. After the election of Andrew Jackson, Barbour retired to his estate, Barboursville, where he focused on innovative farming techniques. He helped to organize the Whig Party in Virginia in opposition to Jackson’s policies. He died in 1842.