James Wood Bouldin (ca. 1792–1854)


James Wood Bouldin was a member of the House of Delegates (1825–1826) and the U.S. House of Representatives (1834–1839). Born in Charlotte County, he practiced law there and served one term in the General Assembly. Then, in 1834, his brother died unexpectedly while serving in Congress and Bouldin was pressed into service as his replacement. A Democrat and ally of the Andrew Jackson administration, he won election against Beverley Tucker, finishing his brother’s term and serving two more after that. In Washington he sat on the Committee on the District of Columbia (1835–1839) and vigorously opposed the abolition of slavery in the District. He also supported the independence and eventual statehood of Texas. Bouldin died in 1854.

Bouldin was born about 1792 in Charlotte County, the son of Wood Bouldin, a prominent attorney, and Joanna Tyler Bouldin. Little is known of his youth or education before he was admitted to the bar in Charlotte County on April 12, 1813. Bouldin married Alice Lewis Jouett on December 9, 1813, and they had three sons and two daughters. On February 17, 1825, he married Martha Goode, and they had one son before her death on July 24, 1827. On July 22, 1829, Bouldin married Almeria Read Kennon, a widow with two children. Their two daughters and two sons included Powhatan Bouldin, who became a prominent newspaper editor in Danville.

Second Bank of the United States

Bouldin practiced law and managed a farm in Charlotte County. In 1825 he was elected to one term in the House of Delegates. Otherwise he took no part in politics until the sudden death on February 11, 1834, of his brother Thomas Tyler Bouldin, a member of the House of Representatives for the district composed of Buckingham, Charlotte, Cumberland, and Prince Edward counties. A meeting of Democrats in Charlotte County nominated Bouldin for his brother’s seat. Two of the other three candidates withdrew from the race, and in the special election held in March 1834 Bouldin defeated Beverley Tucker by a margin of about 300 votes out of more than 1,770 cast. During the brief campaign Bouldin came out against the rechartering of the Second Bank of the United States and in favor of President Andrew Jackson’s withdrawal of federal deposits from the bank. Bouldin opposed protective tariffs and congressional appropriations for internal improvements, and he indicated that he had disapproved of Jackson’s proclamation bolstering federal authority during the South Carolina Nullification Crisis of 1832, the only objection he made to any of Jackson’s policies.

Slave Market of America

Bouldin was sworn in as a member of the House of Representatives on March 28, 1834. In April 1835 he defeated a Whig candidate, Philip A. Bolling, to capture a full term, and in 1837 he won a second time without opposition. Bouldin did not seek a third full term in 1839. He was appointed to the Committee on Elections for the duration of the Twenty-Third Congress and sat on the Committee on the District of Columbia from 1835 to 1839, chairing the latter committee during his final term in Congress. In January 1836 Bouldin spoke forcefully against the proposed abolition of slavery in the District, warning that if such an unconstitutional seizure of property were extended farther south civil war could ensue and suggesting that American slaves were “freer, happier, and more intelligent, and more pious” than they had been before entering bondage in Africa. He subsequently addressed Congress in support of Texas independence and the state’s eventual admission to the Union and favored the policy of Indian removal even as he conceded that Native Americans were “a noble, gallant, injured race.”

Family manuscripts hint that Bouldin may have suffered from alcoholism during the 1830s, but the evidence does not indicate whether the condition contributed to his decision not to run for reelection in 1839, nor does it indicate whether it remained a continuing problem for him thereafter. Bouldin died at his home in Charlotte County on March 30, 1854, and was buried there.

ca. 1792
James Wood Bouldin is born in Charlotte County, the son of Wood Bouldin and Joanna Tyler Bouldin.
April 12, 1813
James Wood Bouldin is admitted to the bar in Charlotte County.
December 9, 1813
James Wood Bouldin and Alice Lewis Jouett marry. They will have three sons and two daughters.
James Wood Bouldin is elected to the House of Delegates, from Charlotte County.
February 17, 1825
James Wood Bouldin and Martha Goode marry. They will have one son.
July 24, 1827
Martha Goode Bouldin, the wife of James Wood Bouldin, dies.
July 22, 1829
James Wood Bouldin and Almeria Read Kennon marry. They will have two daughters and two sons.
March 15, 1834
James Wood Bouldin wins election to Congress in the Fifth District, defeating Beverley Tucker 1,038 to 737.
March 28, 1834
James Wood Bouldin is sworn in as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.
April 1835
James Wood Bouldin defeats Phillip A. Bolling for a seat in Congress.
January 1836
James Wood Bouldin speaks in Congress against the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia.
James Wood Bouldin wins an unopposed election for a seat in Congress.
March 30, 1854
James Wood Bouldin dies at his home in Charlotte County. He was buried there.
  • Golden, Alan L. “Bouldin, James Wood.” In the Dictionary of Virginia Biography, Vol. 2, edited by Sara B. Bearss, John T. Kneebone, J. Jefferson Looney, Brent Tarter, and Sandra Gioia Treadway, 119–120. Richmond: Library of Virginia, 2001.
APA Citation:
Golden, Alan & Dictionary of Virginia Biography. James Wood Bouldin (ca. 1792–1854). (2020, December 07). In Encyclopedia Virginia. https://encyclopediavirginia.org/entries/bouldin-james-wood-ca-1792-1854.
MLA Citation:
Golden, Alan, and Dictionary of Virginia Biography. "James Wood Bouldin (ca. 1792–1854)" Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, (07 Dec. 2020). Web. 28 Feb. 2024
Last updated: 2021, December 22
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