Thomas Tyler Bouldin (d. 1834)


Thomas Tyler Bouldin was a member of the General Court (1821–1829) and the U.S. House of Representatives (1829–1834). Born in Charlotte County to a prominent family, he studied law and won a seat on the General Court, riding circuit to preside over criminal cases and hear appeals. At the same time he operated a law practice and a plantation, making him very wealthy. A protégé of John Randolph of Roanoke, he ran for Congress in 1829 only to be defeated by his mentor after two terms, in 1833. When Randolph died in office, however, Bouldin returned to the capital only to himself die after collapsing in the House chamber in 1834.

Bouldin was born probably in Charlotte County, the son of Wood Bouldin and Joanna Tyler Bouldin. His father was a prominent local attorney, and his mother was a sister of Governor John Tyler, making him a cousin of President John Tyler. Bouldin read law, possibly in his father’s office, and was admitted to the bar on December 6, 1802, by which time he was presumably about twenty-one years old. He married Ann Bickerton Lewis in Richmond on December 19, 1804. They had six sons and five daughters before she died on December 25, 1823. On March 7, 1825, Bouldin married Eliza Watkins Spencer, of Charlotte County. They had four sons.

With the patronage of such local leaders as the inimitable John Randolph of Roanoke, Bouldin won an enviable reputation among the state’s legal and political leaders, and on March 27, 1821, he received an interim appointment to the General Court to fill a vacancy caused by the resignation of Peter Randolph. On December 8, 1821, the General Assembly elected him to that seat on the court. He served through 1829, riding circuit to preside over criminal cases, hearing appeals from the county courts, and occasionally meeting at the semiannual sessions in Richmond with other members of the General Court to hear criminal appeals. The few opinions Bouldin wrote are generally characterized by a spare, concise style.

Bouldin’s law practice and plantation provided comfortably for his large family. At the time of his death he owned nearly 2,300 acres in three tracts in Charlotte County. His Golden Hills mansion was filled with fine furniture, a law library of more than 300 volumes, and nearly 100 volumes of literature. Thirty slaves worked the property, and he owned an elegant carriage and thirty horses.

Bouldin was a states’ rights advocate who ran in April 1829 for the House of Representatives at John Randolph’s suggestion and was elected to represent Buckingham, Charlotte, Cumberland, and Prince Edward counties. He was reelected two years later and served from December 7, 1829, to March 3, 1833. During his second term Bouldin sat on the Committee on Revolutionary Claims. He allied himself with other southern states’ rights Democrats. Bouldin’s one major congressional speech, delivered on May 31, 1832, was a stirring denunciation of protective tariffs as not only unconstitutional but also economically foolish and wicked. In preparation for the speech, he drafted a memorandum and detailed his stance in a letter to one of his sisters. After Bouldin delivered the address, he had it printed as a twenty-nine-page pamphlet.

Second Bank of the United States

In April 1833 Bouldin lost his bid for reelection to none other than his mentor Randolph, but on August 26, 1833, he was again elected to Congress to replace Randolph, who had died. Bouldin took his seat on December 2. On February 11, 1834, he rose to oppose President Andrew Jackson’s removal of federal deposits from the Second Bank of the United States. Before beginning, however, as he started to reply to a comment from a colleague, Bouldin suddenly collapsed and died. His wife rushed down from the gallery and had to be carried weeping from the chamber. Bouldin’s funeral service was held two days later in the House of Representatives, with the president, the cabinet, and the members of the Supreme Court in attendance. John Quincy Adams recorded the death and funeral in his diary and added that “Bouldin was a man of good disposition and sterling integrity, warped sometimes into great curvature by the political prejudices of the Virginia school.” His body was interred temporarily in the Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C., and then moved to the family cemetery at his Golden Hills estate near Drake’s Branch in Charlotte County.

December 6, 1802
Thomas Tyler Bouldin is admitted to the bar in Charlotte County.
December 19, 1804
Thomas Tyler Bouldin and Ann Bickerton Lewis marry in Richmond. They will have six sons and five daughters.
March 27, 1821
Thomas Tyler Bouldin receives an interim appointment to the General Court.
December 8, 1821
The General Assembly elects Thomas Tyler Bouldin to the General Court. He serves until 1829.
December 25, 1823
Ann Lewis Bouldin, the wife of Thomas Tyler Bouldin, dies.
March 7, 1825
Thomas Tyler Bouldin and Eliza Watkins Spencer marry. They will have four sons.
April 1829
Thomas Tyler Bouldin is elected to Congress.
December 7, 1829—March 3, 1833
Thomas Tyler Bouldin serves two terms in the U.S. House of Representatives.
May 31, 1832
Thomas Tyler Bouldin delivers a speech in Congress against protective tariffs.
April 1833
John Randolph of Roanoke defeats his protégé, Thomas Tyler Bouldin, for Bouldin's seat in Congress.
August 26, 1833
Thomas Tyler Bouldin wins an emergency election to fill the congressional seat of John Randolph of Roanoke, who has just died.
February 11, 1834
Thomas Tyler Bouldin collapses and dies in the U.S. Capitol before beginning to speak.
February 13, 1834
A funeral is held at the U.S. Capitol for Thomas Tyler Bouldin.
  • Fernandez, Mark F. “Bouldin, Thomas Tyler.” 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, 121–122. Richmond: Library of Virginia, 2001.
APA Citation:
Fernandez, Mark & Dictionary of Virginia Biography. Thomas Tyler Bouldin (d. 1834). (2020, December 07). In Encyclopedia Virginia. https://encyclopediavirginia.org/entries/bouldin-thomas-tyler-d-1834.
MLA Citation:
Fernandez, Mark, and Dictionary of Virginia Biography. "Thomas Tyler Bouldin (d. 1834)" Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, (07 Dec. 2020). Web. 21 May. 2024
Last updated: 2021, December 22
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