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James Barbour

Gov. James Barbour

  • January 4, 1812 - December 11, 1814
  • Democratic-Republican
  • June 10, 1775
  • June 7, 1842
  • Virginia
  • Married Lucy Johnson; five children
  • Succeeded
  • Senator, Cabinet secretary, Ambassador


JAMES BARBOUR was born in Barboursville, Virginia. He was admitted to the Bar in 1794 and served in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1809 to 1812 before being elected by the state legislature to fill the gubernatorial vacancy caused by the death of George William Smith. During his administration, the United States was at war with Great Britain, and he called out the Virginia Militia and pledged his personal fortune to cover expenses. He also recommended that the state legislature approve a connection from the Upper James River to the Ohio River, road improvements, and the establishment of a university. He left the governorship after being elected to the U.S. Senate, where he served until 1825. He also served as Secretary of War from 1825 to 1828 and as U.S. Minister to Great Britain from 1828 to 1829. Although Barbour gained a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates in 1830, the election was contested and a decision was made in favor of his opponent. After his retirement from politics, he served as President of the Virginia Agricultural Society and founded the Orange County Humane Society.


Duke University Libraries. James Barbour Papers, 1812-1855. Duke University Libraries, Durham, NC.

Garraty, John A. and Carnes, Mark C., eds. American National Biography, Vol. 2. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Johnson, Allen, ed. Dictionary of American Biography, Volume I. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1943.

Kneebone, John T. et al., eds. Dictionary of Virginia Biography, Vol. 1. Richmond: The Library of Virginia, 1998.

Library of Virginia. James Barbour. Letter, 12 December 1827. Accession 41311. Personal Papers Collection, Library of Virginia, Richmond, VA 23219.

Library of Virginia, Virginia Governor (1812-1814: Smith) Letters received, 1813. Accession 36923. State Government Records Collection, Library of Virginia, Richmond, VA 23219.

Library of Virginia. James Barbour. Letter, 31 June 1829. Accession 31779. Personal Papers Collection, Library of Virginia, Richmond, VA 23219.

Long, William S. James Barbour. John P. Branch historical papers of Randolph-Macon College, Richmond, Virginia.

Lowery, Charles D. James Barbour, a Jeffersonian Republican. University, AL: University of Alabama Press, c1984.

Lowery, Charles D. James Barbour, a Politician and Planter of Ante-Bellum Virginia. Thesis submitted to the University of Virginia, 1966.

Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 4. Westport, CT: Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols

New York Public Library system, hsm Manuscripts and Archives Division. James Barbour correspondence, 1792-1848. Control No.: NYPW89-A311.

New York Public Library, 5th Avenue and 42nd St., New York, NY 10018. MssCol 205.

Smith, Margaret Vowell. Virginia, 1492-1892: A History of the Executives. Washington, D.C.: W. H. Lowdermilk & Co., 1893.

Tyler, Lyon Gardiner. Encyclopedia of Virginia Biography, Vol. II. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1998.

Virginia Biographical Dictionary, Vol. 1. St. Clair Shores, MI: Somerset Publishers, Inc.

Virginia Historical Inventory - Barboursville

The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. 5. New York: James T. White & Company.

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